Death by Cliché

     Here’s how it started.
     My brother Rick, a science professor, sent the family an email: “If I have to read one more time someone using the phrase ‘highly unique,’ I will do something unspeakable. Hopefully to the author. Is there a cure?”
     No, Brother Rick, there is no cure.
     I replied: “It’s a really impactful phrase that should get some synergies going forward into the future in a positive direction.”
     Then our older brother Dave, a Master of Divinity (really), turned on the heat: “I think we should break into small group working cohorts to focus on some out of the box thinking so we can begin to move forward in a positive direction. Please forward comments to myself at the above email address.”
     Brother Rick responded: “A gentle reminder. Modern pedagogy informs my response here.”
     He signed off as our Assistant Associate Executive Dean for Wellness and Student Futures.
     Rick’s daughter chimed in: “Couldn’t agree more. It’s time to really unpack the meanings behind this phrase.”
     Brother Dave fought back: “My takeaway from what you have said is as yet to be determined.”
     To which I, reeling but not technically drunk, added: “Let’s do some forward pre-planning and then hold a focus group to get a consensus of opinion and brainstorm these very unique ideas.”
     Which brought us back to the original email.
     I inflict this upon you today because anyone who has “risen” to what we call “middle management” in an organization – any organization – surely has been subjected to dozens or hundreds of such Emails From the Top.
     What do you do with bullshit like this?
     Salute and carry on. But please: Don’t Become Like Them.
     Don’t regurgitate bullshit as your “duty” as a reporter, and don’t vomit it again as “analysis” on the Editorial page.
     As if you could analyze bullshit.
     The only inoculation for this is to read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”
     Internet bullshit is a big deal these days. Muslim fascists use bullshit to lure little girls to the Middle East, rape them and give them away as sex slaves.
     American entrepreneurs use it to swindle dying widows out of their life’s savings, take their houses and throw them into the street.
     And our “leading” politicians use bullshit every day to stir up hate and fear and – in their wet dreams – votes.
     It’s great that the Internet is open to anyone. Maybe not to the criminals who got past my spam filter today to send me the message: “Right your own ticket with the Degree you diserve!”
     But that’s no different than a diet-supplement spam, or an email from Nigeria, or a campaign pledge.
     So here’s my plan: Just as we license hairdressers – who, let’s face it, how much harm can they do? – we should license bloggers. Not as a prerequisite – just as a gold star, like in second grade.
     Bloggers should be ordered to read Orwell’s essay, and take a test on it. The ones who pass get a Gold Star. The ones who don’t can keep blathering on the Internet, but without the Gold Star.
     All of our universities and public schools, all our state and federal prosecutors, all the corporations who run our government today, all of the school boards, the water districts, the “public relations people” our congressmen and senators and state legislators pay with our money to feed bullshit to us: all of them should be ordered to take the test.
     Which I will be glad to write.
     Not because it would be constitutional. Because I’m tired of reading this bullshit.
     So let’s move forward with this and get some synergies going.

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