The Rise of Wishful Verbiage
March 22, 2024 5:11 AM   Subscribe

What we’re witnessing is the rise of Wishful Verbiage, a use of language which is replacing the old-fashioned lie. A lie was something someone said which they knew wasn’t true. Wishful Verbiage is something someone says because it sounds better than what’s true, even if it’s the opposite of the truth, and that’s OK because it conveys aspirations that are more valid than accuracy. By Armando Iannucci
posted by h00py (33 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You want to read this article? Here's your golden ticket
posted by chavenet at 5:17 AM on March 22 [8 favorites]

Or truthiness, as we said 20 years ago.
posted by transient at 5:27 AM on March 22 [23 favorites]

Is this really new? It doesn’t feel new. How would we check?
posted by eirias at 5:33 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]

It's not new for sure, eirias, but it seems particularly shameless at the moment.
posted by h00py at 5:37 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]

Jesus died for your sins.
posted by AlSweigart at 5:48 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

None of this is new.

Not one bit.
posted by AlSweigart at 5:49 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

... and I have to admit, I have a soft spot for how he words things.
posted by h00py at 5:55 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]

I'm always glad to get more Armando Iannucci. I'll just mention In The Thick of It and The Death of Stalin.
posted by doctornemo at 5:56 AM on March 22 [9 favorites]

MeFi's own Charlie Stross was bloggin' about the Wonky Wonka thing a tuthree weeks ago, but I only saw it yest.
doctornemo: always glad to get more Armando Iannucci?
He was interviewed on BBC's This Cultural Life in 2022 . . . about the turning points and cultural influences of his creative life.
posted by BobTheScientist at 6:17 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]

Or truthiness, as we said 20 years ago.

Or economical with the truth, as a well-educated mushroom taught us getting on for 40 years ago.
posted by scruss at 7:00 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

Of course bullshit is constantly trying to rebrand itself.'s bullshit.
posted by heyitsgogi at 7:20 AM on March 22 [12 favorites]

Oh no, TFG isn't lying, he's expressing wishful verbiage. So much better than truth!

Get the fuck out of here with this fascist apologia!
posted by evilDoug at 7:21 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]

Yes, just another version of bullshit: "Bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. ... Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:24 AM on March 22 [12 favorites]

If links never work for you (the one upthread hasn't timed out on me yet, but I can tell it's not going to load the page) try this instead.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:47 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, I would never think of this as apologia. This is shining a bright light on bullshit of the highest order and calling it out in no uncertain terms.
posted by h00py at 7:47 AM on March 22 [19 favorites]

It's definitely not new, but it used to be people would bullshit, and mostly know they were bullshitting, and that there might be consequences if found out.

Over the last few years, it's more a deliberate recasting of lies as truth (e.g. truthiness), but also knowing that the audience are expecting that to happen, and it's actually seen as a laudable thing to do in a number of circumstances.

Trump obviously being the exemplar of this utterly shameless bullshitting and his supporters knowing it and loving him for it, but Boris Johnson was also a big subscriber to this approach - lie through his teeth, everyone knew he was lying, and it got him *more* votes because they preferred the comfortable lies compared to the harder truth (e.g. Brexit)

WRT Influencers - shameless bullshitting is now just the standard part of building your brand that everybody does, if you're not lying about everything you're doing it wrong. (see also - all reality tv shows)

You could also compare the way anti-vaxxers have gone from being a persistent but background noise to now being seen as more reliable than actual doctors by very large numbers, and definitely more so than politicians quoting real doctors. Climate change has long had the issue where a well funded (e.g. fossil fuel backed) tiny non-expert minority opinion was given equal airtime to the vast majority of real climate scientists, but this has now spread to every area of life, where any semblance of truth, reality or real science are no more - and often less - valid than gut feelings or whatever bullshit some lobby group pushes, and any kind of shared reality is now an impossibility because so many people just largely refuse to accept _anything_ that doesn't fit with their preconceived ideas.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 7:49 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]

Pretty sure that Putin was, in fact, just lying. Same with Trump. This is not aspirational talk, this is deliberate bullshit.

Trump showed the world that if you claim a bunch of crap often enough people believe it. To never admit you made a mistake, because, turns out, that works.

This is why Frank Hester felt comfortable simply lying. It was not him being "wishful". He learned you can get away with flatly saying untrue things.

We really do not need some euphemism for what is no more than pain deliberate lying. To think otherwise is wishful thinking.
posted by Ayn Marx at 7:52 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]

It’s much too difficult to actually think about things, trying to reason out their reality. It’s much easier to just feel about them. Ooo, those scientists, they make me feel all icky with their science. Maybe that’s why “AI” is so popular, let the machines think, I just want to cuddle with the thousands of kitten pictures it makes. Their so cute with five or seven legs!
posted by njohnson23 at 7:53 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

OK, I think TFA was largely a waste of time and fortunately the number of minutes of my life I won't get back is small. On the topic of Willy's Chocolate Experience, I suggest a better read is @cstross's recent blog entry.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:53 AM on March 22

Can we not blame AI on kittens please
posted by bq at 7:54 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]

I love it! Such a great hot take!
…I want to believe it in my cerebralized outrage …

Can someone point out how it itself isn’t just feelpolitik, guilty of being cherry-picked anecdotes? I too noticed myself saying “yeah!” in those to single sentences. I got a few paragraphs in, where the meat seemed like it would be, and then it was just over. It seems like any set of studies about human willingness to believe overly “optimistic” bullshit or an increase in false claims by political or news outlets, even if cherry picked themselves, would have gotten us there. I want to FEEL outraged by this and repeat it to everyone I know… yet…
posted by rubatan at 8:16 AM on March 22

I'm finding it peculiar that apparently MetaFilter doesn't know who Iannucci is? I thought he'd been around long enough and was public enough a figure for everyone to know that he's a major political satirist who created things like Veep.
posted by hippybear at 8:26 AM on March 22 [10 favorites]

Would I need to have a TV? /sarc
posted by clew at 8:36 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Were politicians known for being particularly truthful before Trump?
posted by kingdead at 8:52 AM on March 22

Yeah I have no idea who he is.
posted by limeonaire at 9:06 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

I just want to point out that it's possible to be a "bullshitter" (delivering an emotional payload without regard for truth) and also a flat liar (deliberately, specifically misleading people, by repeating known untruth to obscure known truth) at the same time. You don't have to pigeonhole any particular actor as merely one or the other.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:08 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Were politicians known for being particularly truthful before Trump?

They got in more trouble for telling the truth, so they had to speak in platitudes and safe innuendo. Trump saw that the voting landscape had changed to pure envy so all he had to do was tell people what their inner demons were saying.
posted by Brian B. at 9:15 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

Were politicians known for being particularly truthful before Trump?

Actually, yes! I'm too lazy to fetch the links but this has been studied and the majority of politicians really do try to enact the majority of their promises. Separately, fact checkers have anecdotally noted that Trump completely changed the game for them- the sheer volume of his lies is unlike almost any other politician they've encountered.
posted by a faded photo of their beloved at 10:51 AM on March 22 [8 favorites]

In the run up to the 2016 election I was doing a lot of local, renter, and bicycle advocacy with Millennials, and there was a culture clash in some senses. The jaded and undermotivated Boomers and Gen Xers like myself were maybe a little too focused on what was possible in the realm of political support or low hanging fruit versus the millennials and especially the Bernie Sanders supporters who were extremely focused on a hard line stance on things like the language we used and the political dollars accepted (one went on to run for city council with a max $200 / no corporate donations stance). I was brought up with the idea you don't make promises you can't keep and people like Pelosi who count the votes before they make a promise earn my trust more than those with aspirational language and promises that can't be delivered, but at the same time I saw countless times that sometimes you have to ask for or promise more than you can get if you really want to push for progress. It's a balancing act and at the end of the day we need both perspectives and we need to understand each other's perspective even if we don't agree with all of it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:22 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]

Is this the birth of some type of...Brontean irony?
seriously, this is old politics being prescribed on real politics
quothe the bard:
"all my lies are only wishes"
posted by es_de_bah at 6:27 PM on March 22

While the actual merits of the article are debatable, this comment:

> Oh no, TFG isn't lying, he's expressing wishful verbiage. So much better than truth!
> Get the fuck out of here with this fascist apologia!

What the fuck happened to reading comprehension on this site? How is that comment still up? How fucked must a worldview be to actually come away from the article with anything close to this take and then post it? Jesus H., this place is going down the drain.

h00py, I'm sorry that you were subjected to this. You deserve better than sheer idiocy like that.
posted by jklaiho at 9:27 AM on March 23 [4 favorites]

What the fuck happened to reading comprehension on this site?

evilDoug quite obviously didn't read the article. That's not an uncommon illness here on MetaFilter, but it is rare that it goes quite as wrong as this attempt at contributing without context.

There should be a trophy or something.
posted by hippybear at 1:46 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]

« Older The idea that it was mostly white guys was totally...   |   Kermitops, the newly discovered prehistoric... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments