September 27, 2014
There are so many football games on television now that we often get down to the third, or fourth or fifth-string broadcast crews. Listening to those announcers, especially the color guys, brings to mind the word "bloviate," which then makes me think of political commentary. Here’s a definition: "To talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way." I especially like this one: "To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner. To pretend to understand technical subject matter and sell it to others even dumber than oneself." The latter perfectly describes some color commentators: they have only a rudimentary understanding of the game, but feel compelled to demonstrate that by offering analysis of every play.
However, that is only a temporary, if repeated annoyance; in politics, inflated, empty talk is dangerous, because it influences attitudes and votes. Consider the following examples on Fox "News" and/or by its pundits:
Up to May 2, Fox ran 1,098 segments that "included significant discussion of Benghazi, an average of roughly 13 segments each week. Having found a faux-scandal, it has blabbed about it continuously.
Andrea Tantaros personifies the phenomenon. She has become a star on Fox, having the necessary ability to have an uninformed opinion on every subject. As to Obama’s speech in ISIS, she observed, "I'm very deeply troubled by what he will say." As Stephen Colbert put it, "I couldn't have agreed more, because I also have not seen it and I am furious about what I think it will be." Ms. Tantaros also managed to find Obama at fault in the Ray Rice/NFL scandal: "I wanna know, where is the President on this one?" So, If he says anything, he’s wrong, but if he fails, in her view, to say something soon enough, he’s wrong. She claims that the government is pushing single motherhood, that it wants mother and child on the dole. Attorney General Holder has been Obama’s "cover-up guy." He’s "one of the most divisive, polarizing, controversial, dangerous men in America — unethical." "He ran the DOJ much like the Black Panthers would. That is a fact."
However, she has stiff competition. Lindsey Graham, an expert at bloviating, has outdone himself in his panic over the threat posed by ISIS: "I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq." "This is a war we’re fighting! It is not a counter-terrorism operation. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home."
Religion offers many opportunities; Here’s Mike Huckabee’s contribution to Middle East theory: "I’ve got good news for all the dispirited and disquieted Christians in America who somehow are afraid that the Sons of Ishmael who are challenging us now in the Middle East will overwhelm the Sons of Isaac," Huckabee said. "Let me assure you, I have read the end of the Book! My dear friend, we win!"
Without using the term, H.L. Mencken described bloviation, using a speech by President Harding as his foil:
It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean-soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm . . . of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
However, bloviating isn’t limited to the political right; arts reviews are perhaps the outstanding, although less sigificant, manifestation. Every week the Friday The New York Times provides a comical example of the genre. Consider this from September 26, describing a series of paintings (the one shown is all red): "Irony is now obscured by a veneer of sincerity that can seem almost apologetic. The nine paintings suggest dilutions of quasi-abstract, expressionistic, visionary styles by a painter long dead and best forgotten. Among their generic illusions are cataclysms of light, watery darknesses, a trail of sparkles worthy of Tinker Bell and a red-on-red orb so dry with pigment it looks like velvet. . . . A barely discernible back story confirms that the resemblance to generic emo-painting is intentionally superficial. . . ."
Alas for the English language, clear thinking, responsible politics and the culture.
69. http://mediamatters.org/video/2014/01/07/foxs-tantaros-obama-administration-wants-women /197473; http://mediamatters.org/video/2014/09/10/fox-host-blames-lower-marriage-rates-on-obama- p/200718
70. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/andrea-tantaros-eric-holder-black-panthers (video)
ending_doomsday_visions/ See my note of 8/24/12 for more examples of political bloviating.
72. http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/mike-huckabee-promises-christians-sons-isaac-will- defeat-sons-ishmael
73. http://www.deadlineartists.com/contributor-samples/h-l-mencken-%E2%80%93-gamalielese- %E2%80%93-baltimore-sun-%E2%80%93-3721/