Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eschew Obfuscation; or, Politics as Usual?

One of my all-time favorite humorous bits is one that I first saw in Mad Magazine when I was 14 (does it cause you to think less of me that I read Mad Magazine when I was 14?).  Just in the interest of giving credit where it's due, I found it here.  It's a wonderfully obfuscatory piece of vocabulary-stretching brilliance (although I promise you, when I was 14, I had no idea what 'obfuscatory' even meant).

Since 2012 is a presidential election year, we are already well into 'all politics, all the time'.  So, as a brief, subversive respite from the exaggerated self-importance of all things political, I offer it here for your enjoyment and edification.  (OK, 'edification' might be a stretch; but I hope you'll find it enjoyable. . .)


Guaranteed Effective
 All-Occasion Non-Slanderous Political Smear Speech
(By Bill Garvin; MAD #139, December 1970)

My fellow citizens, it is an honor and a pleasure to be here today. My opponent has openly admitted he feels an affinity toward your city, but I happen to like this area. It might be a salubrious place to him, but to me it is one of the nation's most delightful garden spots.

When I embarked upon this political campaign I hoped that it could be conducted on a high level and that my opponent would be willing to stick to the issues. Unfortunately, he has decided to be tractable instead -- to indulge in unequivocal language, to eschew the use of outright lies in his speeches, and even to make repeated veracious statements about me.

At first, I tried to ignore these scrupulous, unvarnished fidelities. I can do so no longer. If my opponent wants a fight, he's going to get one!

It might be instructive to start with his background. My friends, have you ever accidentally dislodged a rock on the ground and seen what was underneath? Well, exploring my opponent's background is dissimilar. All the slime and filth and corruption you could possibly imagine, even in your wildest dreams, are glaringly nonexistent in this man's life. And even during his childhood!

Let us take a very quick look at that childhood: It is a known fact that, on a number of occasions, he emulated older boys at a certain playground. It is also known that his parents not only permitted him to masticate excessively in their presence, but even urged him to do so. Most explicable of all, this man who poses as a paragon of virtue exacerbated his own sister while they were both teenagers!

I ask you, my fellow Americans: is this the kind of person we want in public office to set an example for our youth? Of course, it's not surprising that he should have such a typically pristine background -- no, not when you consider the other members of his family:

- His female relatives put on a constant pose of purity and innocence, and claim they are inscrutable, yet every one of them has taken part in hortatory activities
- The men in the family are likewise completely amenable to moral suasion
- My opponent's second cousin is a Mormon
- His uncle was a flagrant heterosexual
- His sister, who has always been obsessed by sects, once worked as a proselyte - even outside a church
- His father was secretly chagrined at least a dozen times by matters of a pecuniary nature
- His youngest brother wrote an essay extolling the virtues of being a homosapien
- His great-aunt expired from a degenerative disease
- His nephew subscribes to several phonographic magazines
- His wife was a thespian before their marriage and even performed the act in front of paying customers
- And his own mother had to resign from a women's organization in her later years because she was an admitted sexagenarian

Now what shall we say of the man himself?

I can tell you in solemn truth that he is the very antithesis of political radicalism, economic irresponsibility, and personal depravity. His own record proves that he has frequently discountenanced treasonable, un-American philosophies and has perpetrated many overt acts as well.

- He perambulated his infant son on the street
- He practiced nepotism with his uncle and first cousin
- He attempted to interest a 13-year-old girl in philately
- He participated in a seance at a private residence where, among other odd goings-on, there was incense
- He has declared himself in favor of more homogeneity on college campuses
- He has advocated social intercourse in mixed company -- and has taken part in such gatherings himself
- He has been deliberately averse to crime in our streets
- He has urged our Protestant and Jewish citizens to develop more catholic tastes
- Last summer he committed a piscatorial act on a boat that was flying the American flag
- Finally, at a time when we must be on our guard against all foreign "isms", he has unashamedly announced his belief in altruism -- and his fervent hope that some day this entire nation will be altruistic!

I beg you, my friends, to oppose this man whose life and work and ideas are so openly and avowedly compatible with our American way of life. A vote for him would be a vote for the perpetuation of everything we hold dear.

The facts are clear; the record speaks for itself.

Do your duty!


And, just because I'm kind of a geek on history, and my home state. . .

Please join me in raising a celebratory glass in observance of the 175th anniversary of Michigan statehood, this past Thursday.  January 26, 1837; God bless Andy Jackson, for signing the statehood bill just before he left office (and even though we got jobbed out of Toledo, the Upper Peninsula is more than sufficient compensation; just imagine if it had taken two governors, and two state legislatures agreeing, to build the Mackinac Bridge. . .)


  1. Reminiscent of Mark Twain, his tongue-in-cheek humor continues to amuse. Nice find!

  2. think less of you because you read mad magazine at 14? are you kidding? i watched laugh-in and the smothers brothers from the time i could walk. (explains a lot about me, huh?)

    excellent piece to share in this season of political stupidity.

  3. Toledo? You're not missing much there!

  4. Sailor - I LOVE Mark Twain; and not just his humor. . .

    X - What, me worry?

    Lime - Verrrrrrry Interesting. . . And I bet Mom always liked you best. . . Or did you get your love of poetry from Henry Gibson?

    I'm tempted to say that 'political stupidity' is redundant, but I don't think I'm quite that cynical. . . yet. . .

    Bijoux - Well, it would be the second-largest city in Michigan (depending on how many people are left in Detroit on a given day. . .) And, you know, 'Mudhens' is just one of the great team names ever. And I hear the zoo is pretty nice, too. . .

    But yeah. . . On the whole, I think I'd rather have the UP, anyway. . .

  5. I know I think too much, but as someone who absolutely loves when you find the perfect word that carries along exactly the implication you want, one line in that article just didn't seem to have used the right word.

    "Most explicable of all, this man who poses as a paragon of virtue exacerbated his own sister while they were both teenagers"

    Exacerbated means make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse. And as the intent of the article seemed to be to use a positive word to imply it was negative, this doesn't fit.

    Call me picky but that inconsistency is going to bother me all day!

  6. Me - If you take it as a rough synonym for 'aggravated' or 'irritated', it makes sense. . .

    Hope this helps improve your day. . .


  7. oh, i am easily that cynical. and i'll sock it to them.

  8. Laugh in? We did that for our senior play! And the Smothers' were a Summit Staple as well .... I got to 'catch up' with Tommy several times at the local PGA tournament ProAms over the years. Sadly in all my years of watching the show he coulen't recall my face ... ;-)

  9. X - Did he ever do any yo-yo tricks for you?

  10. Somehow, the mention of MAD Magazine is directly linked in my mind to the GarbagePailKids trading cards. Add a glass bottle of Crush Orange pop and it's a perfect trifecta of childhood.

    Wordver: pardime

    You're excused.

  11. Hi, Flutter!

    I vaguely recall Garbage Pail Kids, but from my own kids playin' with 'em; they weren't around when I was a kid. . .

    (See? I just told you how unbelievably youthful you are. . .)


    Orange Crush is cool, tho. . .

    Your WordVer reminds me of one of those wacky 'unit conversion' charts that got passed around my university science classes, where

    "2 paradigms = 8 nickels"

    I know, right? Those science nerds are just off-the-rails hilarious. . .

  12. Yeah, Tommy did some yo-yo bits one year. Never did break out in song, though, that was disappointing ....

    Still, shaking his hand and chatting were true delights.

  13. You remind me of someone...?

    I KNOW!!!!

    Rodger Kaputnik from Potrzebie!!!

  14. Xavier - I bet. . .

    G-Man - Hey, I've been to Potrzebie!

  15. ... oh, and he was a surprisingly decent golfer as well.

  16. Great stuff. I recall reading it in its initial appearance in the mag (and building my vocabulary because I had to look up a few of the words.) MAD was radical literature for its day, and if someone tells me it was one of their "must reads" as a kid, then, independent of all other information concerning that person, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and trust them.

  17. X - Well, I imagine the celebs that show up for Pro/Ams are at least decent golfers, but I suppose they wouldn't have to be. . .

    Suldog - And you were only 13!

    And yeah, us Subversive MAD types need some kind of salute, or secret handshake, or something. . .


  18. And just because I just remembered that I wanted to say this before, but didn't (and the fact that this will get me to 20 comments has nothing to do with it!). . .

    It's almost as much fun to try to figure out the scurrilous allusion behind the big words. I.e., the actual word is pretty tame, but what nasty word is it supposed to sound like?


    heh-heh-heh. . .