Before there was the Internet, before Facebook and WordPress and Twitter and WCAX.com’s comments section, there was Ambrose Bierce, the great American newspaperman, humorist, and Meisterslinger of political vitriol. Bierce is most famous for The Devil’s Dictionary, but his other writings are masterworks of overwrought prose. (If you are not easily offended, I suggest his joyfully over-the-top short story “Oil of Dog.”)
Bierce was, among many other things, no sufferer of fools. While writing my previous post about Gov. Shumlin’s hypocrisy toward public sector workers, I came across a Bierce essay called “The Game of Politics” that identifies, better than I ever could, the fundamental problem with the kind of politispeak practiced by Our Leader.
Every community is cursed with a number of “orators”–men regarded as “eloquent”–“silver tongued” men–fellows who to the common American knack at brandishing the tongue add an exceptional felicity of platitude, a captivating mastery of dog’s-eared sentiment, a copious and obedient vocabulary of eulogium, an iron insensibility to the ridiculous and an infinite affinity to fools. These afflicting Chrysostoms are always lying in wait for an “occasion.”
Ambrose Bierce was last seen alive more than a century ago, but to judge by that paragraph, I’d swear he had personally witnessed the political career of Peter Shumlin. By contrast, Bierce embraces the very kind of traditional American free-for-all politics that Shumlin casts as “hateful speech.”
Let us have the good old political currency of bloody noses and cracked crowns; let the yawp of the demagogue be heard in the land; let ears be pestered with the spargent cheers of the masses. Give us a whoop-up that shall rouse us like a rattling peal of thunder.
I don’t know exactly what “spargent” means, but I like the sentiment.