“Dick Cheney brings ‘gravitas’ to the ticket!”
It happened on the campaign trail of the presidential election of 2000. Five years before conspiracy theorists concluded that Dick Cheney brought explosives to the levees of New Orleans, major news organizations trumpeted that he “brought gravitas to the ticket.” No less than 16 different news commentators touted the same word-for-word hyperbolic revelation. In a society that is fed sensationalism over substance, the message became abundantly (and redundantly) stale, made perfect for quick consumption, a complicated matter watered-down to a serving-size mush.
Was this the beginning of the skyrocketing use but non-use of the thesaurus? Not really. Its roots can be traced to the early days of the internet, before the internet was on computers. When Bill Clinton and Al Gore strapped us into our car seats and gleefully drove us along the new and exciting “information super highway,” they inadvertently relegated books, and the information they contained, to the dim mists of antiquity. Spell check became the new grammar, homogenization of the news became pasteurized, information became square and non-information became hip. A crisis was brewing. (Or, at least, the news would have found it convenient if we believed there was so that more readers would tune in.)
When all the independent and impartial news professionals collectively found their thesauri at the very same moment in the autumn of 2000, the non-use crisis skyrocketed to the overuse crisis. Overnight, gravitas became the explosive catalyst to a crisis. Crisis added to crisis, leading to crises, and finally to crisii. The thesauri crisii exploded. “Independent” and “impartial” were words used only to describe the news outlets of antiquity. Sensationalism was in; accuracy was out.
I followed close behind the campaign trail to gain a grass-roots, American, cross-sectional perspective of the crisii:
“Nowhere is this crisii more prevalent than on the campaign trail,” proclaimed Tiffany Rees-Chiou, a high-ranking administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Having said that, it remains that experts are puzzled, as are our pollsters. Our polling indicates that we may not be getting our message out on the campaign trail. On the campaign trail we see that the middle class is getting squeezed with the thesaurus crisis.”
“On the campaign trail, as we advocate for the middle class,” Ms. Rees-Chiou continued, “we’ve also had to explain various self-explanatory concepts. Take the individual mandate, for instance. Our constituents are quite wary of an individual going out on a date by himself. And why just a man? Having said that, many of our constituent groups find this highly offensive. Our job is to educate. And by educating, we can build unity. Unity, of course, eliminates the need for unneeded individualism. Give them an answer, and they stop asking the questions you don’t want.”
“Language is just another quaint way of self-expression,” spoke Georges Smythe-Beuragard III, a senior level barista who was wearing Oxford shoes. “Just the other day, I was speaking with a fellow colleague from Harvard, Mass. about the crisii. Experts are puzzled, but in my opinion what is needed is more funding for research. America is ranked first in Americanism, but falls to fourteenth in thesuarisism. Frankly, I’m fraught with pessimism about the outcome. I hope in this election season we hear more from the campaign trail on this crisis! My brother-in-law, who works for Yale locksmiths, agrees that it’s puzzling. It’s a slippery slope!” Georges stared grimly out the window, an expression of sad confusion upon his face, seemingly struggling to make sense of his own revelation.
“So, having said that, we are still left with the evolving paradigm of what is to be done to rectify the thesauri crisii,” proffered G.B. Troutmouther, a senior campaign staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity. “What is to be funded? What is to be considered? It’s obvious that funding and re-investment is needed on a skyrocketing scale, even though no evidence supports it. On the campaign trail the crisii is barely given a mention,and where there’s no crisii there’s no interest.” He pushed his glasses back up his nose. “But-” he continued with index finger pointing upwards, “the crisii dominates every news cycle on every major network and news outlet, even though those involved are oblivious to their complicity. This passion, this fervor — this is what we need on the campaign trail. Non-funding is skyrocketing. Funding is non-skyrocketing! The big issues are what lose the people. The crisii is what we need.”
“I’ve been studying this phenomenon for quite some time,” spoke Professor Lester Moore, a pre-eminent expert and political scientist from Georgetown, Mass. “Frankly, my fellow expert colleagues and I are puzzled. There is a growing consensus that there is no consensus within the academic community. As we’ve advocated for standardized testing, critical thinking has skyrocketed to a new low. It would seem then that the evolving paradigm since the internet’s overwhelming pervasiveness is, ‘Why think on your own when you can click and ingest?’”
“Campaign trail? Crisis? Tell ya what ya need here is some good ole’ horse sense,” drawled Jimmy B McMann, a tobacco farmer from North Carolina. As he swept his arms and rolled his eyes, he pronounced, “You ain‘t foolin‘ nobody with all this bull pucky! Nobody! See that out there? That there’s a cow path and those there are cow pies. How ‘bout you call the campaign trail the cow pie path? Seems right to me. How ‘bout you call the slippery slope a hog trough? How ‘bout you call all these damn crisis things what they are? See that out there? That there’s the paddock for the bull. See what the bull left behind out there?”
Jimmy B gave a knowing nod, adjusted his hat to the back of his head, then gave out a long spit of tobacco juice. I looked down at my shoes……
By Kevin & Megan McCormick