Dr Stephen Goldstein is a politically progressive op-ed columnist, writing for the conservative audience of Florida’s “Sun Sentinel.” He does not shy away from a fight. Each week, his editorials are met with a flurry of reactionary anger and personal attack from the newspaper’s readership. Not all of the responses are articulate, but almost all are hostile. So when he decided to write The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit, no one should have expected him to be coy or evasive. Goldstein takes sides. While the format of the “dictionary” is sardonically arranged to mimic its more objective counterpart, complete with phonetic spelling, it rants polemically in favor of economic and social justice through a liberal-progressive bullhorn. For example:
(de.moc.ra.cy) noun [phonetic spelling] ßmy program cannot do justice to phonetic spelling
The Democratic Republic of the United States of America is dead…what masquerades as the American system of government today is a cynical perversion of its Constitution: a plutocratic, aristocratic, oligarchic mongrel” (Goldstein, p. 61). This is a fragment of a two-page definition, but you get the idea.
Dr Goldstein does raise social issues. “States’ Rights…is bullshit for bigotry, misogyny, racism, homophobia, miscegenation, and every other imaginable form of neo-Neanderthal hate” (Goldstein, p. 191). However, his main targets are corporate spokespeople, politicians and apologists for the wealthy. It is, after all, a book about the use of subterfuge and misdirection through language. These three forces are seen by the author as designers of a lexis for their own gain and power. “Globalization is the economic equivalent of having unprotected sex, a worldwide economic orgy pimped by a coalition of mega-money interests and their government enablers at the expense of ‘you and me brothers and sisters’” (Goldstein, p. 105). The author’s purpose is to expose the techniques of lying to the public that are used by these three agencies. He hopes to educate the public. In service to this aim, he is not squeamish about holding the feet of US citizens to the fire. “The Fourth of July should become a national day of penance for modern Americans’ indifference and inertia…It’s a gift to have a Declaration of Independence, an ingratitude not to live by it” (Goldstein, p. 94).
Yes it’s a rant, and it’s frequently funny. But it’s a funny rant with a goal: to enlighten the public about how they are snowed and to activate them to participate. The reader will enjoy agreeing, disagreeing, laughing with and rolling her eyes at, Goldstein’s many heated pronouncements. In the end, she will be a little wiser, a little less trusting and armed to take on the liars.
Goldstein, Stephen L. The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit. Ashland: Grid Press, 2014.
For a political novel by Stephen Goldstein, satirizing Ayn Rand, see: