Crap: A Guide to Politics. By Terry Arthur, Continuum, 2007. 173 pages.
Oftentimes, while plugged into the various mainstream media outlets, I find myself dissecting the rhetorical nonsense of the political class. Of course, I am never as funny or as sharp as I suppose. Luckily, there are political writers who can hit the mark, time after time. Terry Arthur is one such writer.
In his new book, Crap: A Guide to Politics (Continuum, 2007), Arthur rips through the rhetoric and sets matters straight. Witty and pointed, he nails the contradictions and lies that spin effortlessly and continuously from politicians and bureaucrats.
Taking the UK as his straight man, Arthur surveys the current issues and debates and responds in kind. His foils provide ample fodder, and Arthur spares no one.
In case anyone thinks that the spin in the US is unique, Crap will show that the spin coming out of the UK is no different from the spin coming out of the US. Spin is spin, indeed.
And, it must be so. Just like infants — who the world over begin communicating by babbling the same sounds — the political class and its eternal sidekicks in the media babble the same silly nonsense — the da and ma are evident in every country and from every government. Sophistry recognizes no boundary, no border.
Consider this tidbit from The Labor Party Election Manifesto 2005 (p. 73):
The best defense of our security at home is the spread of liberty and justice overseas.
To which Arthur replies:
Yeah right. For u2018overseas' read Iraq, where bombing for a decade is supposed to make us all safer in our beds.
Is the UK Labor Party the brother and sister of the Democrats and the Republicans? Or, the Libertarian Party for that matter? Of course, political parties read from the same playbooks, the same script, regardless of country.
Arthur does not let anything slide. He gets the best of the nonsense even when the debate is on the softer side, the youth in this instance (p. 105):
We know that parents and young people think that there should be more things to do and places to go for teenagers. We will publish plans to reform provision in order to ensure that all young people have access to a wider set of activities after the school day such as sport and the arts.
(Labor Party Election Manifesto 2005)
Arthur gets it right:
How's that for planning? And don't forget the special clothing that some of these activities will need — and new equipment, and even food for sustenance. Go on, go for broke. Except it's us that'll go broke.
Indeed, we are all going broke playing nannies at home and abroad (p. 151):
We will triple Britain's aid in a decade; aid that now lifts more than 5,000 people out of poverty every single day …
(Hilary Benn, Labor Party Conference 2006)
Arthur got them again:
But the despotic governments ruling most of the world's poor just snaffle your aid; within a day or two it's in a Swiss bank account. Government-to-government aid doesn't work. I know that, you know that. Or are you telling me that you've aided 5,000 despots?
And, it's likely we have.
Arthur — an adjunct faculty member of the Mises Institute — has the skills and breadth of knowledge to find the hidden non-sequiturs, the logical Where's Waldo of the political spin machines. He pulls the nonsense out of the wash and tears through it with his sharp pen.
Funny, witty, and topical, Crap is a book that will keep you laughing through the night, leaving you to think, "That's true, and funny. Why didn't I think of it?"
June 7, 2008