Biff America column: It’s easy to be bad
The expression “too good to be true” is an idiom. My wife told me that and she went to college. When I looked up the word “idiom” I was unable to understand the definition. So I’ll have to take it on faith.
But if the definition is murky, the concept is understandable. Though most of us know when something is “too good to be true,” criminals and con men rely of the naivete of the easily fooled. For instance, those e-mails you get from some formerly royal personage who tells a tale of having her money frozen in a Swiss bank account and if you’ll wire her $2,000 for her passage out of her country, she will transfer the half-million-dollar balance into your account and she will “trust” you to split it with her when she finally arrives in America.
Most of us have a built-in filter when it comes to pledges and promises, whether they are from Madison Avenue or strangers. We take it for granted that they might be, if not lying, at least exaggerating. When I bought a vehicle recently the salesman told me that the price was as low as he could go without his boss firing him. When I told him I would not pay that price, he lowered it some more. I went back last week and saw he was still working.
Accepting what’s Plausible
That aforementioned filter works both ways — we discount what is unbelievable while accepting what is plausible. I take this health supplement that I truly believe helps when exercising in Summit County’s high altitude. There is some unbiased scientific research that suggests this might be the case. So, as far as the capsules go, I buy them, take them and believe in them. But in the promotional literature, besides claiming that they might help with circulation and oxygen absorption, it says, “Within one week, you’ll experience greater muscular fullness, crush your current training plateaus and carry a ‘pump’ around the gym that makes other guys seethe with envy.”
I have asked around the gym, no one admits to seething.
When I researched the supplement I considered the claim that it might help with circulation as plausible, but I knew I would never be the envy of the gym. That would be too good to be true.
I don’t think I’m alone with this healthy skepticism; most of us assume that claims, promises and assessments often are a result of an addenda.
What I find interesting is while all of us filter facts from boasts when we encounter something that is “too good to be true” we don’t have that same filter in place when we hear something in the news or from columnists and pundits that is clearly “too bad to be true.”
Just as the supplement company benefits when someone believes he’ll be the envy of the gym if he buys the product, many sources of news and opinion are furthered by hateful hyperbole.
Pick a pundit — Hannity, Sharpton, O’Reilly, Maddow or Limbaugh — seldom will they come on and say, “The Republicans did this, or the Democrats did that, and it’s going to be OK. While I don’t agree with what they are doing, they are well intentioned.”
Rather you will hear, “The liberals are destroying America and stealing our guns and freedom.” “The Republicans care more about corporations than they do about the environment, the poor and the vets.” Because just like my supplement provider benefits by stroking my ego, the pundits make a living by stoking our fears.
Truth is (at least in my opinion) most progressives and conservatives want what they honestly believe is best for this nation, though they don’t agree on what that is. Now granted, there are some weasels and freaks holding public office, on both sides, and those are the only ones we hear about.
By scaring us, the pundits can get our attention and increase their ratings and readership. But what is undeniable is we have a Constitution that prevents any one person or party from doing much harm (or good) quickly.
People Mean Well
Truth is, little in life, love or politics is black or white. Most people mean well, even those who are wrong or delusional. The vast majority of us want the same things: to be healthy, comfortable and loved. To be clear, this is not a cry for apathy or blanket faith in our leaders or our system but rather a suggestion to stop believing those who speak in absolutes.
Any analyst, columnist, person or politician who constantly paints one side as all bad and the other always right is unimaginative. Any pundit or columnist who is unable to say something positive about those with dissenting views is both lazy and ignorant.
If you don’t believe me, then come to my gym, check out my pump and watch all the other dudes seethe with envy.
Jeffrey Bergeron, aka Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.