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“Some Rather Mischievous Speculation”

Fox News Executive Bill Sammon, on his spreading the rumor that President Obama is a socialist:

At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched.

I have another item to add to my collection of euphemisms for “lie.” Now, alongside “mis-statement,” “misspeak,” “untruth” “mislead” “exaggeration,” “stretch the truth,” “wrongly claimed,” “a casual relationship with truth,” “hyped versions,” “higher meta-truths” “‘facts,’ both true and false,” “factual relativism” and “statement did not reflect the record,” I can tenderly press a fresh blossom offered by Bill Sammons — “Rather mischievous speculation.”

Other people have done a good job of picking apart this lie. I especially like the comment by Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:

The bottom line here is that he doesn’t regret having spread an idea he personally found far-fetched, because so doing helped ensure that the far-fetched idea ultimately gained widespread acceptance.*

That pretty much sums it up, and on that point I have little to add. What intrigues me is the posturing that goes along with Sammons euphemism, the manner in which he folds in the ol’ “just kidding” wheeze. “Just kidding” has been making the rounds since the early 2000s, back when Ann Coulter was considered the worst the right wing mainstream had to offer, (oh, those naïve, innocent first five years of the 21st century!) It’s a phrase, often unspoken, that is supposed to magically render even the most horrid, inflammatory speech acceptable.

The idea behind it is that even though, for example, Ann Coulter just insulted several 911 widows by suggesting their dead husbands might have wanted a divorce anyway, she was really “just kidding.” Coulter was actually thinking compassionate thoughts about those widows as she typed it, and no doubt she added that bit about how they should hurry up and pose for Playboy before they got too old with a kindly twinkle in her eye.

In the Sammons’ case, “just kidding” is being used to present his spreading of a destructive lie as little more than a bit of Tom Sawyer-like “mischief” on the part of a news editor.

Which of course means anybody who objects is a huffing, humorless old fuss-budget.

* Sargent’s piece manages to avoid using that icky “L” word, opting instead for “act of dishonesty”, falsehood, and “far fetched idea.” Just saying. As a collector, I’m always on the lookout for these euphemisms and I always notice when they pop up.

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