So Tell Me, Exactly How Great Is Glib

‘Glib’ is defined as fluent if not thoughtless with words. Does that remind you of someone…?

Give it a little thought and a great many someones will come to mind. The 10 PM news & weather readers … sportscasters… TV interviewers…Access Hollywood & Red Carpet greeters…Bill Maher…Jon Stewart….Chris Christie…and just about any grinning game-show host you have the stomach to watch. These folks, one and all, have a glibness that makes them highly saleable with the public.

Being glib is what Americans have always admired. From Ben Franklin’s turn-of-a-phrase in his publications, to P. T. Barnum selling his newest circus act, to presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan who always seem to have the right words at the right time. Never mind that lately these words are penned by behind-the-scene ghost writers.

This is not to say glibness is a bad thing. After all masters like Oscar Wilde and Robin Williams have thickened our language with a harvest of pithy masterpieces. However, it is to say that being glib is not always the same as being smart. When networks hire their early morning show teams for their witty way with words, the execs are looking for popularity not profundity. No harm done. But when voters elect presidents, members of Congress and assorted public officials because of their easy way of answering a question or pressing the flesh, well that’s like picking your airline pilot based on his ability to walk the aisles and tell a good joke.

There has always been a tradition in this country which pays deference to those among us who can find the right words on the right occasion. Professor Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man’ perfectly personifies the lovable rascality of that smiley humbug we all seem to tolerate if not actually enjoy. And yet there will be times when you and I will need to shun the clever in order to admit the cruel. The cruelty of reality in a hardscrabble world where being glib is simply not enough. [Some of us think of the presidential debates between Gore & Bush and Reagan & Carter]

Start tomorrow. Start listening to what they’re actuall saying. Not just how glibly they’re saying it. You may be surprised. No, more likely you’ll be discouraged….

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