Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Carrying on from the little parable on bullshit in the last post, there's something about war that hones the bullshit skills of its proponents to fine and steely points. Once more...bullshit is different from a simple lie, though it may contain lies as part of its stream. Bullshit rather is speech with nothing more than emotional content and no consideration whatsoever as to facts. Sometimes this may be rather benign, such as a long winded streams of praise for your favourite sports team. Sometimes it is not so benign.
In a ceremony prior to last Friday's military parade in Quebec City Quebec Premier Jean Charest showed himself to be a grandmaster of the art of bullshit. My favourite quotation from his speech to the soldiers follows,
"You are the acting arm of Quebec patriotism."
Pardon me ???? Other parts of his speech were ordinary bullshit which you might think good or bad depending upon whether you approved of the emotions he was hoping to evoke. This little quote, however, deserves to be enshrined in The Hall of Bullshit Fame. It goes beyond the level of bullshit as speech that thinks facts are totally irrelevant. This little blurb is bullshit that thinks sanity and the meaning of words are also beside the point. Molly wants to start a campaign to appoint Charest as Governor General, a post where supreme command of the art of bullshit is a requirement. Charest has proven that he is perhaps the premier practitioner of the art in today's Canada.
Then, of course, there's the Canadian federal government and its own wartime bullshit. The ruling Conservatives have still to find a position of supreme unimportance for ex-leader Stockwell Day, one where he can do no harm because he does exactly nothing. His latest pronouncement on the Taliban statements supposedly "targetting" Canada is, in fact, true in that the Taliban indeed has no capacity to send fighters to attack targets in Canada. One pictures a crew of them carrying a leaky boat across a thousand miles of mountains and desert to finally reach the Indian Ocean and start paddling. True enough, but it qualifies as bullshit in Day's mouth because it was not a statement of the merely obvious. It was said as a schoolyard taunt. Fine. Good. The trouble is that the same federal government persists in trying to paint a picture that is exactly the opposite of this truth. In numerous statements the Canadian army in Afghanistan is pictured as being on some sort of "front line" defending Canada against some imaginary horde of turbanned warriors due to come ashore at Come By Chance Newfoundland and sweep on raiding their shaggy ponies to take Toronto in under a month. This qualifies as truly obvious bullshit, a little brother imitating the big American brother's rhetoric. The outstanding thing about this is that it is in direct contradiction to Day's statement. Either the only thing holding back the hordes is the Canadian troops in Afghanistan or those same hordes can't (and probably don't want to) do a damn thing to Canada itself. Both cannot be true at the same time.
No doubt some Taliban commander made a rousing speech to his troops consisting of nothing but bullshit. The Canadian government does the same thing. All governments and would be governments do the same thing during times of war -and most other times too.

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