George Carlin: Brain Droppings - National Press Club (Washington DC)
Comedy has never been a genre that moved me unless it was genuine, spontaneous and definitely not if it was soft comedy. When it comes to Black humor nobody can outperform George Carlin in his prime word-smith satire as he debunks the language of politics and euphemism at National Press Club conference held in Washington DC (1999).
Now folks, no politics or euphemism in what you're about to read. Unfortunately couldn't find any transcript of this conference, so, tailored one. Fast forwarding 10-15 minutes and George begins with his legendary rant:
Now having somewhat successfully established my Press credentials and because you and I have at-least one thing in common which is that all of us deal with language all the time, I thought it might be nice today for me to come to you with some of my language complaints, certainly not to blame them on you, although off-course you’re implicated.
And not that you can help it, I mean the problem is really with the people you cover. The politicians, the celebrities, and the lawyers, and although their level of insincerity is astonishing, its still kinda fun to hear them talk. In particular its fun to listen to Washington talk. Whenever the issue of term limits comes up, I always tell people the only term limits I'm interested in would be to limit some of the terms used by politicians. They speak off-course with great caution, because they must take care not to actually say anything. Proof of this according to their own words is that they don't actually say things, they INDICATE them:
POLITICIAN: AS I INDICATED YESTERDAY, AND AS THE PRESIDENT INDICATED TO ME...
But sometimes they don't INDICATE; they SUGGEST:
POLITICIAN: LET ME SUGGEST, AS I INDICATED YESTERDAY (LAUGHS)... I HAVEN'T DETERMINED THAT YET.
See they don't DECIDE; they DETERMINE. If it's a really serious matter, they make a JUDGMENT:
POLITICIAN: I HAVEN'T MADE A JUDGMENT ON THAT. WHEN THE HEARINGS HAVE CONCLUDED, I WILL MAKE A JUDGMENT OR I MIGHT MAKE AN ASSESSMENT. I'M NOT SURE; I HAVEN'T DETERMINED THAT YET (LAUGHS). BUT WHEN I DO, I'LL ADVISE YOU.
They don't TELL, they ADVISE:
POLITICIAN: I ADVISED HIM THAT I HAD MADE A JUDGMENT. THUS FAR, HE HASN'T RESPONDED.
They don't ANSWER; They RESPOND:
POLITICIAN: HE HASN'T RESPONDED TO MY INITIATIVE.
An INITIATIVE is an idea that isn't going anywhere! (LAUGHS)
POLITICIAN: WHEN HE RESPONDS TO MY INITIATIVE, I WILL REVIEW HIS RESPONSE, TAKE A POSITION AND MAKE A RECOMMENDATION.
See they don’t READ they REVIEW, they don’t have OPINIONS they take POSITIONS, and they don’t give ADVISE they make RECOMMENDATIONS. And so, a long last after each has RESPONDED to the others INITIATIVES and each has REVIEWED the others RESPONSES and everyone has taken a POSITION made a JUDGMENT and offered a RECOMMENDATION.......... NOW...... they have to do something! (LAUGHS)
But that would be much too direct! (LAUGHS), so instead they ADDRESS the PROBLEM (LAUGHS).
POLITICIAN: WERE ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM AND WE'LL SOON BE PROCEEDING.
That's a big activity here in Washington! (LAUGHS) PROCEEDING. they're always PROCEEDING or moving forward. A lot of that goes on:
QUESTION: SENATOR, HAVE YOU SOLVED THAT PROBLEM?
POLITICIAN: WELL, WE'RE MOVING FORWARD ON THAT.
And when they're not moving forward, they're moving something else forward... Such as the PROCESS:
POLITICIAN: WE HAVE TO MOVE THE PROCESS FORWARD SO WE CAN IMPLEMENT THE PROVISIONS OF THE INITIATIVE IN ORDER TO MEET THESE CHALLENGES. (LAUGHS)
No one has PROBLEMS anymore. CHALLENGES! That's why we need people who can make the TOUGH DECISIONS. TOUGH DECISIONS like:
POLITICIAN (PLANNING): HOW MUCH SOFT MONEY CAN I EXPECT TO COLLECT IN EXCHANGE FOR MY CORE VALUES? (CLAPS, LAUGHS)
So, that I can continue my work in Government. Off-course no politician would admit to such a lowly station as working in Government.
POLITICIAN: SERVING THE NATION. I'M SERVING THE NATION.
Another favorite distortion is Public Service.
POLITICIAN: I'M IN PUBLIC SERVICE, I LIKE AMERICA DON'T YOU? THE FOOD IS GREAT BUT PUBLIC SERVICE IS TERRIBLE. (LAUGHS)
Now, folks, a question for you. Do you think its possible that one of these POLITICIANS whose judgment is so poor that he honestly thinks of himself as serving the Nation might occasionally be expected to indulge in little patriotism... huh... What do you think? Well off-course not only is it possible its inevitable and that’s when he's at his very best and that's when he trots out the really good stuff. All across this great land of ours, the greatest nation on earth, the greatest nation in the history of the World and in times of military crisis you can be sure that someone in a suit in this town will eventually plant himself in front of a camera and carry on a great deal about the most powerful nation on the face of the earth.
Now normally during peace times the politician would refer to people in the military as:
POLITICIAN: OUR YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN STATIONED AROUND THE WORLD.
But in war times they quickly become, our brave young fighting men and women stationed half way around the world in places whose name's they(POLITICIANS) cant pronounce, wandering if they will ever see their loved ones again. For added emotional impact sons and daughters can always be substituted for men and women and so I think we can sum this up. I say that where the military is concern the extent of a POLITICIANS insincerity can be measured by how far around the world our soldiers are stationed and whether or not any of them(POLITICIANS) can pronounce it?
Incidentally, another way of expressing this sentiment is to say we're sending our young men and women to places the average American can't find on the map. I always thought it was kind of funny and someone out of character for a POLITICIAN to go out of his way to point out the low level of American intelligence (LAUGHS), when indeed his very job depends upon it. It would seem to fly in the face of that other rhetorical standby that:
POLITICIAN: THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE LOT SMARTER THAN THEY ARE GIVEN CREDIT FOR. (LAUGHS)
This is said with a straight face although it's obvious off-course that the proposition is stated precisely backwards (LAUGHS). But the POLITICIANS, god bless them or something like that, they're are at their most entertaining when they're are in trouble. When they're in trouble, their explanations usually begin simply with words like MISS-COMMUNICATION;
QUESTION: WHAT DID YOU DO WRONG, SENATOR?
POLITICIAN: WELL, IT WAS A MISS-COMMUNICATION. OR: I WAS QUOTED OUT OF CONTEXT.
Better yet, and more ironic, 'THEY TWISTED MY WORDS.' Such a nice touch. A person who routinely spends his days torturing the language complains;
POLITICIAN: THEY TWISTED MY WORDS. (LAUGHS)
Then, as the controversy continues to heat up, he moves to his next level of complaint:
POLITICIAN: THE WHOLE THING HAS BEEN BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION.
It's always the whole thing. Apparently no one has ever claimed that only a small portion of something (LAUGHS) was blown out of proportion. It has to be the WHOLE THING. That's because now he's feeling the heat and so as time passes and more evidence comes in he suddenly changes directions and tells us:
POLITICIAN: WERE TRYING TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS!
Now hes on the side of law and order, jiu jitsu really:
POLITICIAN: WE'RE TRYING TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS SO WE CAN GET THE FACTS OUT TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
That's always a nice touch, American people. In fact at this point he might even say:
POLITICIAN: I'M WILLING TO TRUST IN THE FAIRNESS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
Clearly he's preparing us for something (LAUGHS). And so when finally all the facts come out and our subject seems quite guilty he employs that sublime use of the passive voice:
POLITICIAN: MISTAKES WERE MADE. MISTAKES WERE MADE, DON'T LOOK AT ME, PROBABLY SOMEONE IN MY OFFICE. THINGS ARE MOVING FASTER NOW, MISTAKES WERE MADE.
Is rapidly overtaken by:
POLITICIAN: THERE IS NO EVIDENCE, NO ONE HAS PROVEN ANYTHING EVENTUALLY I'LL BE EXONERATED. I'VE FAITH IN THE AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM.
And that certain sign that things are closing in:
POLITICIAN: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY (LAUGHS)
Whatever happened... Well...Well he's about to find out! (LAUGHS) And we know this must be true because the next thing we hear from him is:
POLITICIAN: I JUST WANNA PUT THIS THING BEHIND ME AND GET ON WITH MY LIFE.
I just wanna put this behind me and that's an expression we hear a lot these days in all walks of lives. From people in all walks of life usually the person in question who has committed some unspeakable act.
Yes its true I strangled my wife, shot the triplets, set fire to the house and sold my young son to an old man on the train (LAUGHS) But now... I just wanna put this thing behind me and get on with my life (CLAPS, LAUGHS). That's the problem in this country too many people getting on with their lives. I think what we really need more of is ritual suicide, you know. Never mind the press conferences get the big knife out of the drawer.
You might want to listen to the complete version. Yes there's more, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx21zEdhlPQ