Tag Archives: Kellyanne Conway

Can We Believe Anything We Read?

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In a piece for the Huffington Post titled “Why Does Goodreads Tout Fake Quotes?” Lev Raphael takes aim at the most popular George Eliot quotation on the site:

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

According to Mr. Raphael, and apparently verified (or not, as seems to be the fact in this case) by more rigorously fact-checking people/sites, George Eliot never said or wrote this statement. Per the article:

“I poked around the Internet, and though it’s inescapable, there’s no attribution whatsoever. Nobody who knew her records it as a comment she made; it’s not something she wrote in her diary; and it doesn’t appear anywhere in her published work or letters.”

Now, I’m not personally blaming Goodreads – the site must have more than a million quotes listed on its site, if even a cursory glance is anything to go on – but in an age of “alternative facts,” it certainly does raise an interesting question: If educators have been scouring Wikipedia since the site’s launch in 2001 to check for glaring cases of plagiarism on the part of students, do we as readers/Internet users need to be equally as vigilant when referring to well-established (and generally trustworthy) books/websites?

I suppose the easy answer is yes. Of course you should. But that’s when things get murky and discombobulated and confusing and weirdly weird. If Penguin Classics publishes Aristotle’s Poetics, am I supposed to email the director of the non-existent Museum of Aristotle in Athens and have him or her confirm the authenticity of said statements?

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It’s all Greek to me?

That might prove futile, because as our good friends at Wikipedia point out:

The extant works of Aristotle are broken down according to the five categories in the Corpus Aristotelicum. Not all of these works are considered genuine, but differ with respect to their connection to Aristotle, his associates and his views. Some are regarded by most scholars as products of Aristotle’s “school” and compiled under his direction or supervision.

Hmm. Now we’re really in a jar of pickled pickle brine. Really, if we can’t trust Penguin to be quoting Aristotle, who on earth is safe to be quoting? Perhaps the answer is not as easy as we once thought, and at the very least we can thank Kellyanne Conway for one thing: putting this debate square in the cross hairs of public debate.

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Kellyanne Conway’s Future Book Reviews?

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Not surprisingly, The New Yorker has managed, once again, to combine literature, politics and humour. Sorry, humor.

Writing for that rag of a magazine that the REAL media uses to wipe their arses with, Bob Vulfov (@bobvulfov) imagines what book reviews written by Donnie T.’s Counselor to the President – and co-author of What Women Really Want (no joke) – might look like in a piece called “Kellyanne Conway Spins Great Works of Literature.”

Although all of the reviews are literary gold, this one just might be my favourite. Sorry, favorite.

“Moby-Dick”

Time after time, I see the land media refer to Moby Dick as the embodiment of evil, and, frankly, this sort of coverage disappoints me. If they keep this up, partisanship will continue to divide creatures of the sea and creatures of the land. Throughout his campaign, Captain Ahab constantly blamed someone else for his own despair, but sometimes you just have to take a look in the mirror. All the polls said that Moby Dick had no shot against Captain Ahab, but look at what happened. Ahab’s ship was destroyed in a nautical landslide. The land media, the pollsters, the crew aboard the Pequod—they all got it wrong. Now it’s time to let the large whale-beast govern.

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Everybody’s Dictionary (& Other Semantic Debacles)

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A little over 10 years ago, I wrote a short story, a political satire, in homage to President George W. Bush called “Everybody’s Dictionary.” While going over it recently, I realized little had changed in the U.S. since the time of G-Dubs, and that if I tweaked it just a little here and there, I could actually make it an homage to President Donald J. Trump. How exciting, I thought!

I originally posted it on Wattpad, the leading English language short story site, a couple of years ago, and then kind of forgot about it until January 20, the day Donnie T. was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

However, it wasn’t until Kellyannegate a couple of weeks ago, when the term “alternative facts” entered the lexicon of the American media, that I decided to go back to “Everybody’s Dictionary” and see if it was still relevant eight years later. And wouldn’t you know it! Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (TRANS.: If you beat around a bush, you will always be trumped.)

So, to all those logophiles out there who still think semantics are important, I dedicate this updated version of the story to you.

Click here to read “Everybody’s Dictionary (& Other Semantic Debacles)

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Lessons Learned from “My American Journey”

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I first read Colin Powell’s My American Journey in 1997, two years after it came out and three years before he would become George W. Bush’s very first Cabinet appointee. Before 1990, I knew little about Powell except that he was Reagan’s National Security Advisor, a four-star general, and the first African-American to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and soon after the Persian Gulf War broke out. Powell quickly ascended to international fame as one of  the chief architects of the Allied victory, and the Powell Doctrine – which basically says if you’re going to go in, go in with absolutely overwhelming force, but with concurrent public support (oxymoron?) – became a commonly used term among and within the American military brass and politicians.

By the time he retired in 1993, Colin Powell was arguably the greatest military rock star in American history since General Douglas MacArthur – but without the controversy. Powell’s reputation was sterling, his resume impeccable, his years of service and sacrifice to his country unparalleled by any general in the modern era.

When I finished the last page (after voraciously tearing through the book), it felt like I had even more respect for him than before. In some ways, it was like an American general’s Long Walk to Freedom.

And then February 5, 2003 happened. Powell took George W. Bush’s (i.e. Messrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) case to sell the UN Security Council on the “evidence” that Iraq had biological weapons and had the “capability to rapidly produce more, many more.”

Everyone knew it was bullshit. What confounded pundits – almost like a star falling from the sky – was that it seemed as if you were watching a superhero succumb to the Dark Side. Except this wasn’t a movie. The U.S. was still thirsty for blood after 9/11 and you just knew this was going to turn into a blood bath.

Later, Powell would disclose in an interview that it was a “blot” on his service record and that “It will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now.”

But this blog is  (mostly) about books and literature, so let me finally get to my point. In reviewing some of my notes from My American Journey earlier today, something struck me, forcing me to read and reread this passage and wonder if this was not presaging the rise of today’s Trump Doctrine.

Per Mr. Powell:

Release facts slowly, behind  the pace at which they are already leaking out to the public. Don’t tell the whole story until forced to do so. Emphasize what went well, and euphemize what went wrong. Become indignant at any suggestion of poor judgement or mistakes. Disparage any facts other than your own. Accuse critics of Monday-morning generalship. Finally, accept general responsibility at the top, thus clearing everybody at fault below.”

What haunts me most about this passage is that he inadvertently set the table for Kellyanne Conway’s now infamous “alternative facts” comment, yet ends it with a true Powellism: If you drop the ball, don’t blame the quarterback.

Although Mr. Powell’s speech to the UN in 2003 will never be forgotten by students of history, it should not serve as a blemish on his remarkable career and his selfless service to his country. He’s just proof that in a politically charged climate, even the best of us can make mistakes.

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