La Corrida

Posted on December 26, 2007 by


HUMBUG: deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes (Max Black, The Prevelance of Humbug)

  1. The week running up to Christmas is always rich in bullshit. Everyone’s got a message to pass on, in particular national leaders and editors of local newspapers. And those lofty messages generally centre around the words ‘materialism’ and ‘consumerism’ which have invariably ‘taken over’ their victims’ lives. If these doomsday sermons were being ‘penned’ (folks don’t simply ‘write’ in Malta, they always ‘pen’) by a barefoot, hut-dwelling Franciscan monk, I’d be all ears. But coming from il-mexxejja nazzjonali and l-edituri tal-gurnali it all sounds like so much humbug. I’m not sure who’s more cynical, but it’s a close call. Can you feel il-mexxej’s pricking conscience as he rakes in hundreds of thousands of belli liri from the annual party fundraiser-telethon-jamboree? Or perhaps you can associate with the editor’s spiritual pain as he tots up the past year’s humungous advertising revenue? There’s only one way to curtail this shameless bull: the next time you spot one of those ‘free’ glossy lifestyle magazines in your weekly paper, send it back to the editor with a cutting of his latest moralising editorial.
  2. Alfred Sant has also had a run-in with claptrap. Asked what he thought about a particular allegation, the Prime Minister- in-waiting is reported to have told a MaltaToday hack that he had “no time for this bullshit”. The fact that Sant chose to use this damaging label, as opposed to merely denying the allegation, is significant. Remember that there’s a fine but important difference between bullshitting and lying outright.
  3. On the either side of the fence, in the PN pasture, Pippo Psaila has been caught bullshitting in flagrante delicto.  It’s all rather embarassing and involves a cut-and-paste job performed by the New Nationalist candidate. Not content with being held in high esteem for his management skills and sporting achievements, il nostro Pippo nazionale thought that passing himself off as a bit of a philosophe, would earn him a few kudos with the readers of The Malta Independent. It all backfired rather badly when a Kullhadd journalist, whose feelers were probably activated by the suspiciously flowing prose of Pippo’s piece, unveiled the scam. The Kullhadd piece also provided the reader with the Maltese term for a bullshit artist: wiehed li minghalih se jimpressjona.

Since the Christmas message of kindness and peace for all mankind will soon give way to more mundane realities, in particular the vicious political battle for every last Mother-effing vote (as Uma Thurman in a yellow jump-suit might say), arming oneself for the onslaught ahead isn’t a bad idea. Below, the reader of The Malta Chronicle will find a few words that we’re likely to be bombarded with over the next few months. They have been shamelessly plucked from Nick Webb’s The Dictionary of Bullshit (Robson Books).

  • tradition. Politicians who would not dream of being caught saying ‘We’ve always done it this way so that’s how it must be done’ are happy to employ this word. It enjoys many positive connotations. Traditional values are thought to be moral, tolerant and civilised…
  • decisions [difficult] (np.) The subtext goes like this: I’ve had the guts to take a decision even though it could not please everyone. If the decision is seen later as immoral, illegal or an appalling cock-up, at least I’ve had the courage to bear the burden of difficult decision-making. Thus I turn error into heroism.
  • hypothetical (adj.) A useful term to describe the kind of searching question that will not under any circumstances be answered.
  • out of context (phrase) What a politician says when caught by the media saying something unpopular, stupid or inconsistent with party policy. ‘I was quoted out of context’. Who cares enough to check the context? Nobody. Besides, politics runs on mass amnesia.
  • social exclusion (political code) The socially excluded are the poor. Sometimes also code for young black men. Also ‘socially disadvantaged’ – the poor with grim backgrounds. Sometimes also a euphemism for the poor and the not very bright. (The rich and stupid are not so much a problem as an opportunity.) A power base would not be worth a moment’s purchase if a politician were to talk in such explicit terms.
  •  proactive (adj.) So much more chunky than just doing something…
  •  problem (n.) It’s best to avoid this word lest you be thought negative. ‘Challenge’ is handy, though on no account smirk when you utter it.
  • God (n.) A mysterious entity that some people believe created the universe. God also provides the authority for many of our behavioural rules and acts as a guarantor of post-mortem survival of the spirit. This potent hurrah word is often invoked to lend cosmic significance or moral certainty to some iffy enterprise. God is always on the side of the speaker.
  • cutting edge (n. and adj.) Applied to technology (and borrowed from the military), this is praise from nerds. In the sense of innovative, it is usually a lie or deeply silly. Do we really need an electric pepper mill, a biro that records memos or a rattan garden pig?  
  • MBA (acronym) Master of Business Administration. Otherwise known as More Bullshit from America.
  • lifestyle (n.) A decision to buy one thing rather than another is now a lifestyle choice, an existential upheaval reflecting everything about the unspeakably super person that is you. One recent ad shows a freezingly cool, preposterously good-looking male model all in black on a giant leather chair. He gazes solemnly to camera while the copy asserts that a wristwatch says more about you than anything else ever can. We do not have lives any more. We have lifestyles.
  • new (adj.) The most enduring of all the advertising words, ‘new’ (like ‘latest’) is an important claim for those people for whom it is a facet of status. It’s bound to induce neurosis given that the process of becoming not new starts immediately.
  • Public Relations/PR (np.) Satan was not so bad; he just suffered from a bad press. Corporations are similar. It’s often easier to fix the perception of the problem than the problem itself.

And for the gran finale…

  • vision (n.) Nobody wants a mere plan. It’s not grand or messianic enough. Make sure you have a vision. Don’t be like President Bush (senior) who always had trouble with ‘the vision thing’. If you simply cannot bring yourself to call your plan a ‘vision’, at least call it a strategy.


L-avukat DR DAVID FRIGGIERI (kandidat liberali fuq l-erbatax-il distrett) flimkien mal-familja tieghu jaghtu l-isbah xewqat immaginabbli ta’ Boxing day hieni u Sena mimlija risq, hena u sahha lill-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin kollha.

DF (Liberal)


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