Borrowing a line from Mel Brooks — “I’ve been accused of vulgarity. I say that’s bullshit.” As a card-carrying member of the brain baffling B.S. fraternity known as “Merda taurorum animas conturbit,” I rarely miss the chance to weigh in on liars and lying.
I used to keep a paper-weight on my desk with the nicer half of what Jean Giraudoux said about the law and lawyers, “There is no better way of exercising the imagination than the study of law.”
But it was really just to remind me that the rest of Giraudoux’s aphorism was his observation that “No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth.”
Giraudoux wasn’t alone in his thoughts. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes also opined that “Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.”
So little wonder that as an imagination-exercising student of the law, the news that a 30-year old former political speechwriter namedhad given a commencement speech against “the Culture of Bullshit” — well, that was just too much temptation to resist.
Lovett, a guy no one’s ever heard of but all the same, a former Hillary Clinton and Obama wordsmith delivered “Life Lessons in Fighting the Culture of Bullshit” to Pitzer College’s Class of 2013’s gaggle of gaga-eyed graduates.
Maybe Pitzer couldn’t get someone of the caliber of James Franco who almost keynoted UCLA’s Class of 2009 until he dropped out, presumably to sort his sock drawer.
At times like this I wonder if Cormac McCarthy wasn’t right “that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.”
Lovett not Lovitz.
As for young Jon Lovett, I did a double take on the name. For a moment, I confused Lovett with another guy named “Jon” — but with a similar sounding last name, Saturday Night Live’s – Jon Lovitz a.k.a. Tommy Flanagan.
That’s rich, I thought, Jon Lovitz — better known from his appearances as the pathological liar, giving life lessons to college graduates on how to fight bullshit.
But it was a different guy.
Nonetheless, the guy named Lovitz might have been available — although he’s an anti-Obama outlier in a world where the vast majority of 2013 college graduation speakers are Liberals,
The other more famous “Jon” — Jon Stewart, a fellow coincidentally extolled by Lovett for his “intellectual honesty” was probably unavailable. Too bad, too, since Stewart has ‘mucho’ to say about “bullshit mountain,” even if he’s just a Comedy Central Television satirist and stand-up comedian.
The biggest lies are those we tell ourselves.
But give the less famous “Jon” — the politician’s word-slinger — props for shameless ‘pot calling the kettle’ chutzpah. The biggest lies are those we tell ourselves. As though of all occupations — a speechifying political spin doctor can remain ‘sacred and aloof from the vulgar herd of men.’
Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. was right about political rhetoricians when he wrote they make us “too plodding and earthbound, too blind to the seduction of art, too stubbornly wedded to some vestigial notion that intellectual honesty matters, to walk past a steaming pile of bovine excreta without calling it a steaming pile of bovine excreta.”
So while decrying “the Culture of Bullshit” and at his day job, hollowing out pretty sentences for politicians, Lovett wanted to make us forget that “We hate our politicians so much that even if they tell us they lied, we don’t believe them.”
“America’s Most Fraudulent Entertainment.”
And the truth is that the biggest culture of B.S. are commencement addresses themselves — ‘America’s Most Fraudulent Entertainment.’ “Commencement speeches are the surest proof of the old truism that the more brazen a lie is, the more likely it is to succeed.”
Three life lessons.
As for Lovett’s speech, Shakespeare was more elegant and succinct: “To thine own self be true.”
Lovett, on the other hand, gave the students three exhortations. First, “Don’t cover for your inexperience.” Second, “If you see something, say something.” (Despite your callow youth, he implied, you may be sometimes right about something).
And third, “Know that being honest — both about what you do know, and what you don’t — can and will pay off.” As though that last one worked out so well for Donald Rumsfeld — a guy who is still ignoring his “unknown unknowns” — “the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
How I wish that instead of shopworn platitudes, Lovett had told the Pitzer Collegians which end of the pig makes the mess.
Joking aside, the most honest thing besides worthless sheepskins, sky-high debt, and unemployment, would have been a proclamation that “college-for-all is a destructive myth” and that truth suffers in the ‘Ivory Tower.’
At the very least, rather than absurdly citing the alleged “raw sincerity” of stand-up comedian Louis C.K. or of actress Lena Dunham or worse yet, the oxymoronic “authenticity in public life” of a politician — Lovett should’ve stopped “BSing” himself, too. And I don’t mean that his message could’ve been better served by equal time to millennial role models like “Real Housewife” Phaedra Parks or Jersey Shore’s Snooki Polizzi.
Instead of the usual commencement B.S., why didn’t Lovett just echo instead that other important truth? The one revealed by David McCullough Jr. to a different assembly of graduates: ‘You Are Not Special‘
Photo Credits: Vache de la race Aubrac Aubrac cow, by Jean-Luc Bailleul
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