AS an unforgivably serious journalist I signed the great writer's notebook in the sky years ago. I vowed to be as objective as possible about the issues and events of my time, regardless of their inherent foolishness. But objectivity, like winter clothes can be a burden and dull year after year.
Truth, much more colorful and risky, is not nearly as troublesome for a journalist to spot and promote. That's why columnists exist; they are merely journalists who sniff the currents of air for truth a little differently and try to avoid cynicism. The mission is not fairness, but truth told with persuasion no matter how unbelievable.
The other day while reading the sports pages of a national newspaper I jumped out of my columnist's chair. There, between Sicilian bicycling results and the horse racing hot line, I discovered a new way to tell the truth. I read the line, ``Kevin McCale (ankle) will not play again for the fifth game in a row.''
I saw the parenthesizing of the word ``ankle'' as a brilliant device in revealing an overriding truth or fact, in this case a negative truth: a basketball player benched because of an ankle injury. No embellishment, no lying, no rhetoric or lengthy excuses, just the essence of truth within the parenthesis. Used this way in reporting, manifold truths about people and issues could be revealed and identified by parenthesized words or phrases. As the Venus' flytrap is to the fly, so could the parenthesis be to the truth.
For instance, any mention of horse racing (drugged) needs a reminder that almost without exception horses raced in the US are drugged for every race. And so-called professional wrestling (pure fakery) is pure fakery.
Applied to advertising, the truth parenthesized could prowl like a junkyard dog. There is precedent for this kind of truthful barking.
In fact, the US government already requires parenthesized truth in cigarette advertising. All ads must carry health warnings from the US surgeon general. Further, the movie rating system tries to be helpful to parents by assessing content and labeling it from PG to X.
So, if Dr. Silo's Spearmint Balm promises sudden virility for $14.95, attach a (sheer balderdash) to it. The same goes for 98 percent of ads for women's cosmetics which promise the moon in drops of coconut oil. And if another kind of oil company suggests it has the best interests of the environment at heart, include the phrase: (sure, and the tooth fairy is Madonna).
Conversely, if an environmental organization claims evergreen rectitude and does not use recycled products while its executives drive BMWs and a huge percentage of the annual budget goes to salaries, I suggest: (c'mon you guys, get real).
Unfortunately, in the weedy world of politics, the acts and deeds done in the name of half-truths and to hide the truth are legion.
Perhaps all of Congress needs a (the buyer beware) anytime it alleges to conduct our nation's business, but shapes it to benefit individual members.
Nor does President Bush escape the need for parenthesized truth. He said again and again, ``Read my lips; no new taxes'' which became (a likely story). Now that he has boldly and successfully rid Kuwait of Saddam Hussein's forces, various domestic problems await his attention (quickly). For instance, his ``action agenda'' in reference to his energy policy needs a truthful (paltry funds) parenthesized to it. And the war on drugs needs a (so, this is a war?)
To be fair suddenly (awwwww), it is well-known that journalists always have the last word and occasionally abuse the advantage. Columnists, of course, start with the premise that a reader stops to read a column because he or she wants a touch of truthful bias. For a startling change, dear reader, you get the last word. The following parenthesis is waiting for the parenthesized truth as you see it: