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Redefining "BS" for Our Time
November 1, 2003

It's important sometimes to get to the root of words. But first a warning. Please, do not read on if you will be offended by my use of the term "bullshit." Suspend for the moment your distaste for the word. To make it easier, I will try to use "BS" to signify the term "bullshit." The term has a rich history.

It appears the term was first used by George Washington, referring to 'inferior quality.' You often hear it now at sporting events, when crowds make known their opinion of referee or judge calls. But most relevant here, 'Bullshit', (there, I used it again) was prominent in the sixties for a very important reason. I'll get to that.

First to the roots. Here's one writer's account of the origins of the term, BS. His account involves Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the Cedars of Lebanon: "The famous "Cedars of Lebanon" mentioned in both the Bible and the Qu'ran came from a province called "Bullita." (From where we derive the word "bullet," which were originally made of wood.)

"When Thomas Jefferson was building his home, Monticello, he built the first paneling mill in North America, staffed by slave labor, to supply cedar paneling which was in huge demand at the time for it's qualities as an insect-proof material for closets. The paneling mill soon made him the richest man in the colonies.

"As President, he gave himself the contracts for government buildings in all 13 states. Jefferson's cedar paneling was branded with his insignia and the words "Bulltish cedar" as a sign of authenticity. Jefferson also invented the mechanism that branded the paneling, an iron wheel framework with interchangeable cogs containing letters and numbers that moved across the panels, heated from within by a small dung fire.

"Sometimes illiterate slaves would set the cogs in the wrong order, as happened when George Washington obtained delivery of 14 tons of cedar paneling for his home at Mount Vernon. The paneling had all been marked 'Bullshit cedar' and was obviously of such questionable quality that Washington returned it immediately, and was a bitter foe of Jefferson from then on.

"Throughout the rest of his life Washington referred to ideas or goods of inferior quality as "Bullshit," and it rapidly came to common usage. My point is, not many people know that the source of the word "bullshit" has nothing to do with bovine effluvia, but actually comes from trees." (Ed Zeplin at "Anti-Popeye -X Fan Club")

Now, I cannot attest to this etymological account. But it will serve well for the rest of this essay. 'BS' as a term in the sixties was used to describe what anti-Vietnam protesters consider the duplicitous, fraudulent reporting by America's press, at least in the early years of the war. (Near the end of that conflict, the military would have itself characterized the media war reports as "BS.") BS meant neatly packaged untruths about the battlefield. BS meant a near conspiracy by the press to present the news Americans wanted to hear and view. Protesters, like George Washington, and at best, considered the news of "questionable quality."

It's time to reinstate the term, "BS" for the current era. Let's just say it, in all its '60's glory. "Bullshit," (I agree that will be the last time.) I say BS to the current news accounts from the Iraq post-war era. And it is post-war.

I'm including a map (
Go To Map) which shows where most of the violent incidents are occurring in Iraq. Note that it is limited to northwest Baghdad and the corridor leading to Tikrit, Saddam's old homebase. Let's put this into perspective. Iraq is roughly the size of California. The distance between Baghdad and Tikrit is about the same as between Los Angeles and San Diego. The other concentrated area of engagement - stretching between Baghdad and Al Ramadl -- is about the distance between Los Angeles and Riverside. These are limited areas.

Yet the liberal big city press, like the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times are pulling the same fraudulent, biased reporting they were criticized for in the sixties. The truth, is that most Baath loyalists are jailed, no civil war. Iraqi-dominated municipal councils govern most towns. Over 200,000 Iraqis are in uniform in the new military. Iraqi Oil output is back to prewar levels. Commercial facilities are stocked. Most utilities -including sewer, water, cell phones, internet - are operating in the larger cities.

Maybe this is why "codels" - slang for congressional delegations - returning from Iraq include converts. Previously skeptical Democrats and some Republicans who return believing in the effort, and openly criticizing the press for its biased reporting.

Some who voted last year against authorizing the president to go to war are now strong supporters of spending the money to rebuild Iraq, and they said visiting the country made the difference.

Rep. Amo Houghton, a New York Republican, and seven other lawmakers - another Republican and six Democrats - who voted against the resolution last October authorizing the president to go to war, have now voted for Mr. Bush's spending request following their trip to Iraq." (Washington Times)

That's the kind of story we read about in the '60's, but in reverse. Then, lawmakers returning from Vietnam tours, coming back saying how bad the war was going. That helped fuel the "BS" cry. Nothing like lawmakers landing at an airport telling the press they were duped. So the press is at it again. No coincidence. The '60's generation now own (primarily through inheritance,) manage, write, editorialize at many big city newspapers, at local and cable news stations, and of course, teach at our universities.

Like the generation they criticized, they are the older generation. Iraq is their Vietnam. For them, Saddam is no worse than Cuba's Fidel Castro. Pre-war Iraq is a benign nuisance. In other words, biased viewpoints. Closed minds.

And I say in response to their reporting, editorializing and whining…one last time, appropriately and deliberately… "BS."

Write to Arthur at bruzzone@rightturns.com


Arthur Bruzzone has written over 250 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political and urban issues for American and European television and radio networks.  He is an award-winning public affairs television producer/host.His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications. Mr. Bruzzone holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy from C.U.A in Washington , D.C., and a M.B.A. in real estate. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer serving two years in the Kingdom of Tonga, and the former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. He served as a California state commissioner on a major environmental regulatory agency. He presently is president of a real estate investment company headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

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