moonshineWilliam Tyndale once ridiculed the poor logic of a 16th Century blowhard by writing that, “the proof of his whole conclusion…hangeth by moonshine.” Tyndale of course, ultimately became a victim of moonshine when he was condemned as a heretic and strangled by real rope – and burned as well – for translating the Bible into English.

Moonshine, a fine word for unreal or laughable lies, shines on. Our political sphere is positively aglow with it. It is never eclipsed, and its source never sets.

The debate over health care reform, for instance, has been bright with it. Just about every word uttered by the opponents of health care reform has been moonshine. Every word, and everyone knows it.  The House managed to shield its eyes from the glare just long enough to pass a health reform bill. And in retrospect, the attacks on reform look all the more ridiculous.

We were told that freedom would be destroyed by our better health. We were told health care reform was communism, or fascism, for socialism, or some other non sequiturism. We were told we’d go broke. Or maybe die. Well, at least if it makes us sick we can afford to see a doctor.


Some might prefer another word to moonshine. Bunkum, for instance, derives from a famously irrelevant and interminable 1820 speech in support of the extension of slavery to Missouri. It was delivered to the U.S. House by Felix Walker, the undistinguished representative from Buncombe County, North Carolina.  Buncombe became bunkum. Twaddle and tommyrot might also do.

Then, of course, there’s bullshit, an early attestation of which belongs to T.S. Eliot, who wrote a ballade called, “The Triumph of Bullshit.”

Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited

If you consider my merits are small

Etiolated, alembicated,

Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,

Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,

Impotent galamatias

Affected, possibly imitated,

For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass

Rhyming galamatias (or galimatias) with “stick it up your ass,” is poetic genius. Galimatias, by the way, means moonshine.

I’m afraid it’s the media who must face charges for their impotent galamatias. They consider the reporting of moonshine to be their duty. Hey, if someone said it, it’s up to the people to tell moonshine from sunshine.

Tommyrot. It’s the media’s responsibility to call a lie a lie. If you don’t want to call it muckraking, call it moonraking, with apologies to Ian Fleming.

The trouble with the media’s so-called neutrality is not that people no longer believe anything, it’s that they believe everything. Alternative realities bloom like algae. Remember the famous anonymous quote from an official of the Bush White House:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

The absolute arrogance of such a comment is, well, unreal. But it’s really just a frank statement of an ugly possibility. Since the media has abdicated its responsibilities to truths of the real world, any old moonshine will do.

Humans can’t live on moonshine, however. Millions will die for lack of health care unless health care reform is finally passed and signed into law. There’s another word that history might apply to those who abdicate their responsibility to the truth:  infamy.

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About Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”