WHAT IS THE DEFINITION?
Of the “vulgar” term commonly shortened to “BS”?
Merriam-Webster defines BS: “to talk nonsense to, especially with the intention of deceiving or misleading.” Wikipedia declares it is “used to describe statements made by people concerned with the response of the audience, rather than with truth and accuracy.” The Urban Dictionary, of course, keeps it real: “stupid or untrue talk or writing; nonsense… misleading, which is profited from because there are so many gullible people in our society.” Finally, the key word: profit.
“BS!” is usually a reaction, blurted out, calling out a spoken or printed assertion. But it has become much more. It has become the operating norm, by which elections are determined and society directed. Because those willing to make obscene amounts of money from the suffering of others realize being upfront about their plans would not fly, and so, the BS machine cranks up. Because it works, and there is no downside, no accountability, We are today drowning in BS.
BUT EVERYBODY THROWS THE BULL
Right? So why even mention it? Because it can destroy your beachside city, or even kill. If you are old enough, you remember the advertising campaigns by the tobacco companies in the mid-20th century, up until they were forced to sort-of tell the truth about their killer weed. The ads featured lots of reassuring doctors and nurses (or actors) in crisp white coats puffing contentedly on their preferred brand, so superior to all the other brands, and better for you. The tobacco companies knew their product caused cancer, decades before we did. Yet their disinformation campaign was so successful that one-third of real doctors, by 1980, did not believe the connection had been proven.
100 million people died worldwide of tobacco-related causes during the 20th century. One hundred million. You probably think, nobody smokes anymore, but tobacco currently kills 5.4 million per year, nearly half a million Americans. I suppose it is one way of fighting overpopulation, but a pretty painful way.
If the intentional disinformation campaign of big tobacco isn’t BS, lethal BS, I don’t know what is. Profit. If you don’t yet believe there are good ol’ American corporations willing to kill on a massive scale for profit on a massive scale, best recalibrate.
DID SOMEONE MENTION THE NRA?
Trump, Hitler and other demagogues rely on the effectiveness of BS, sometimes known as propaganda. Prof. Richard Evans: “Hitler realized that if he tells very simple messages, it doesn’t matter if they’re true or not. You have to keep repeating them, keep hammering them in. Empty slogans but carrying a message that, although vague, is very powerful.”
“Make Germany great again”? How about, we need to build thousands more housing units in Santa Monica. (Never mind no water.) Or, bikes and scooters good, cars bad. Or, we have to solve OUR “homeless” problem. We’re going to save Main Street by blocking it off. And the tried and true, from SM to Sacramento to DC: (ahem, Sen. Manchin?) — we can’t afford it.
I remember the first time I whiffed BS in SM, when I started to pay attention to why my beloved city was going to heck in a handbasket, and the argument then, delivered with a straight face, was, if we don’t take this development money it will go somewhere else! And my response was — so? Let it. Santa Monica will always be a desirable place to build, so we should be very selective who we let build what.
WE DON’T HAVE A HOUSING CRISIS
Despite the relentless Chicken Little chorus screaming that we do — we have an affordability crisis, and you can’t build your way out of that. In fact the more new units you build, the more prices rise for all stock, new and existing. We are already one of the densest coastal cities in CA, at 11,000 per square mile, BUT, that does not count the 200,000 visitors we get every day. And we currently have an estimated 4,500 empty units.
For years the accepted BS here has been, we need to build, build, build — but for whom? Workers making minimum wage, so they won’t have to commute? Get serious. It would seem pretty obvious we are building for the young high-wage techies who don’t live here yet but really want to… for a year or two. So our “strategy” has been to let developers build six stories where there was one, 300 market rate apartments and condos, in exchange for also building 30 low-cost ones. It’s just a lame excuse for handing over properties worth millions to developers.
What BS. But that has been the accepted standard here for years. I always thought all attention should be focused on some way to let residents who have been here for decades and are being forced out, by these very “strategies,” to remain here.
OUR unhoused visitors are coming from all over the country. They are not Santa Monica folks who fell on hard luck, they are snow birds of sorts who would rather spend winter on our beach than in Minnesota. Who can blame them? But it is a national problem, coming from increasing wealth disparity and lack of mental health facilities, that demands a regional solution, not just Santa Monica taking on the whole burden. Few of us who have been here for decades feel safe on our own streets anymore.
These and more are all big problems but we have no chance of solving them if we are being misdirected by those who stand to profit. We need to wade through the relentless, self-serving BS and find real, lasting solutions FOR THE RESIDENTS. And soon.
Some good things are happening. There are encouraging signs from our new City Manager and Police Chief, and our remade City Council seems to be chipping away at the mountain of problems. By golly, after nearly a year, it looks like we may be able to get the unlicensed, predatory, open-flame vendors off our historic wooden Pier. All those elected and appointed civil servants deserve our support. We’re all in this mess together.
Let’s send that bull packing and turn this city back to the residents.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org