Sunday, November 22, 2009

kitsch, hallmarkiness, corpocration, and the official truth

If you care about the truth, especially in the arts, then you have to care about all of its second string replacement players. Kitsch, "hallmarkiness," "corpocration," and "official truth" are all varieties of bullshit that we ingest continually from all types of media and directly from each other.

Kitsch is defined by the dictionary as sentimental and vulgar, especially in the arts. But a great writer defined it more intuitively and usefully as a world envisioned as if there were no shit in it anywhere.

"Hallmarkiness" is a subcategory of kitsch and derives from Hallmark cards. "Hallmarkiness" seems more limited to scenes designed to elicit warmth in programmatic ways such as cute kids doing cute silly things at the family dinner table, children eagerly awaiting Santa Claus near a hearth hung with stockings etc.

"Corpocration" is what is spoken in a corpocracy, which is "A company characterized by top-heavy, isolated, risk-averse management, excess paperwork, low productivity, poor interdepartmental communication, and lack of imagination, especially in product development and marketing" (American Heritage Dictionary). Who speaks corpocration? Almost anyone who has ever had to give a presentation in an office setting in a corpocracy has had to learn at least basic corpocration. What's wrong with corpocration is that it feels and sounds very scripted by external corporate interests all the time. It's inhuman.

Celebrities and politicians are normally forced to say by their sponsors and donors a lot of corpocration in speeches. When they go off script and sound like people and accidentally say what they really think, it is often called a gaffe.

The "official truth" is the version of the truth that the powers that be will tolerate, and departures from this will be penalized. However, there are different sources of power in a society such as the United States of America, so the "official truth" can be claimed by multiple agencies or entities such as corporations, the federal, state or local governments, spiritual or religious organizations, professional organizations or associations etc. The one thing that all of these varieties of "official truth" have in common is intolerance for other forms of truth. Sometimes this intolerance manifests in aggression, attacks and even hate speech or propaganda. The "offical truth" is the one thing you can always count on to be wrong, at least in some fundamental way.

When you are writing, it is always helpful to remember the ways that writers go wrong. However, most writers do not go far into the fields of bullshit. The most common way any of the above will manifest is in the form of a cliche, a bit of received knowledge that seems untested or unearned.

It is sadly far more likely that when writers fail to say anything true it is because they are not saying anything that has any bearing on anything at all. Somehow they missed the lesson about the classics that said they speak to the serious problems that people face every moment of their lives.