Bob Franken




“I hope you are well.” The variations of that hackneyed expression are endless, but you get the idea. Even before the pandemic, this one preceded nearly every bit of modern communication — certain cliches that are not only empty and meaningless, but signal an insincerity, or even outright lies, will follow. I’d almost prefer an honest “I hope you’re suffering!”
“Thank you for asking” is another one. It sometimes really means “It’s none of your business!” My daughter and I have a word game when we text. If she uses the expression “Thank you for asking,” I’ll reply, “Thank you for thanking me.” Like most children, my daughter humors her dad.
But the newsbiz is crawling with phony-baloney expressions. The cable news channels have a slew of pundits who they pay to make controversy. But when they do and go too far — that is to say, the network’s bottom line is affected — you can bet that the one who is compensated to offend will be ordered to apologize or say he “misspoke,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
It’s a precarious occupation. Just ask former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who ran for president twice and semiretired to be a professional mudslinger on TV. But he just lost his semijob at CNN when he offended advocates for Native Americans. In a speech — not on CNN, by the way — Santorum said that when American settlers arrived from Europe, they “birthed a nation from nothing,” that “there was nothing here,” ignoring all the tribes and their civilizations. That caused an uproar, as one might imagine. Comments like “insensitive reporting directed at Indigenous people” flew through the air. See more—

You knew Santorum was in trouble when he retreated to the “misspoke” word. And then he went on to really grovel: “People say I’m trying to dismiss what happened to the Native Americans. Far from it. The way we treated Native Americans was horrific. It goes against every bone and everything I’ve ever fought for as a leader in the Congress.” That’s the equivalent of “That’s not who I am,” which an offensive offender delivers, sometimes tearfully, when he is caught with his hands in the cuckoo jar saying something utterly stupid.
CNN decided that it was too stupid for even a pundit/former senator/former two-time presidential candidate. So Santorum bit the dust. It was done quietly, no memo from upper management to “wish him well,” which is another platitude that translates to “May he burn in hell.” But Rick Santorum confirmed it himself, on Twitter, of course:
“When I signed on with CNN, I understood I would be providing commentary that is not regularly heard by the typical CNN viewer. I appreciate the opportunity CNN provided me over the past 4 years. I am committed to continuing the fight for our conservative principles and values.”
That tweet is so riddled with banalities that it belongs on the all-star roster of cliches. His comments combine to say, “Hey Fox News, or Newsmax, or OAN, please hire me.”
If you’re wondering why I have such a sensitivity to hackneyed language, it’s because I grew up in the South. When somebody is bragging and the Southerner says, “Well aren’t you something?” she is really drawling, “What an idiot!” “Why, bless your heart” translates in Dixiespeak to “Big bloomin’ deal,” or words to that effect.
Let’s sum up: “I received your inquiry. Thanks for asking. And bless your heart, I hope you are well and hope you are well going forward. And good luck in your future endeavors.”
Wrapping this up with two of my personal bests: We always welcome viewer/reader comments. (We don’t.) And the closing, Yours Sincerely. (We’re not.)

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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