Conversation: A Word Signifying Nothing

The favorite word of journalists and politicians these days is the word conversation. Now, when I was a kid in the 50s, conversation typically meant a pleasant exchange between people in which there was nothing discussed that would lead to acrimony or anger. So, politics, religion, and sex were verboten in those days if you were having a conversation with someone. Conversations were a nice way to get to know people on a safe, social level. They weren't debates or lectures or arguments.

Fast forward to 2012. Now, conversations take on a whole new meaning in the media and political universes. It has become a euphemistic term that can really mean almost anything, but more than likely in Washington, DC, and in the media centers, it means having had either an inconsequential talk or an exchange of rhetoric in which there were no deals made, no paths agreed upon, and no solutions to pressing problems discussed. The seriousness surrounding the word, however, is intended by the news anchor and the senator, for example, to deceive the public, to make them think that something was actually delved into deeply and achieved.

Politicians just love to have conversations, usually with the American people but also with their constituents as well. Why? Because nothing gets accomplished, and nobody gets hurt in a political or reputational way. Everybody wins, and yet nobody wins. No harm, no foul, but no wisdom as well-by wisdom meaning the wisdom that comes from an honest debate about the issues using facts and a willingness by everyone participating to be open about those facts and to potentially change their minds.

Journalists reporting on politics use "conversation" all the time as a substitute for the word debate. In reality, though, "conversation" describes the fact that in these times of polarized politics, the powers that be talk at one another, obfuscate the facts, and don't actually debate an issue. The viewers and listeners think that, "Hey, they are having a conversation. That's good." No, it's not. It's just words and airing agendas and nothing ever happens. The word debate has the implication that there is a winner and a loser, anathema to the majority in Congress and most in the media who abhor any kind of winning, take fairness to the extreme, and bow down to the gods of equality of outcome and moral equivalency.

So, next time you hear a politician or a news analyst use the word "conversation," be very afraid. That word has become the weapon of choice used by the propaganda specialists in politics and media to bamboozle the American people. You will know that in that "conversation" no one won the debate with a vigorous defense of the facts, no minds were changed, and nothing of significance happened. Oh, and by the way, the bamboozled went away happy.