IMBROGLIO [im-BROHL-yoh] : a confused or perplexing political or interpersonal situation

I’ve always considered the word imbroglio to mean a “battle.”   It seems that the occasional time when the word appears it is about a heated debate or even an outright fight.

But it turns out that the word has a much broader meaning, referred to a confusion or a misunderstanding.   It is derived from an Italian word which means “tangle,” which helps to clarify my misunderstanding.   I’m reminded of Sir Walter Scott’s famous quote:

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave

When we practice to deceive.”

To be sure, the employment of deception is the surest way to confuse or create a perplexing situation.  It doesn’t result in an outright fight as much as a situation in which true and false information confront each other.

There is no better example of this than the way in which the political campaigns have managed information.  If there ever was an imbroglio, this is it.The emergent industry in this campaign season has been fact checking.

But the amazing situation we have watched play itself on the stage of politics is the brazen embrace and promotion of untruths without correction or apology.   As recently as last evening I saw a local congressional ad in which the Republican candidate (the former Superintendent of the State Police!) accused his opponent, the incumbent, of having disgraced the people of Rhode Island by defending rapists, predators and murderers.  The fact is that the incumbent was a trial lawyer before entering public service.   The job of trial lawyers is to assure that even those guilty of the most heinous crimes are offered the best defense possible prior to judgment and sentencing.  This has been pointed out over and over again during debates and speeches, but the Republican candidate continues to press the point without apology or explanation.   It is only one of the ads in the race which is based upon false or misleading information.  And the candidate touting these ads has a strong following in a head-t0-head battle.

Such imbroglios are common in this 2012 election season, all the way up to and including the presidential race. It is embarrassing to see national figures offering confusing and perplexing information as fact when the public knows it to be a dishonest use of information.   It makes me wonder if the candidates (at all levels) think the public is stupid.   I heard that point put to a panel yesterday, and one of the panelists responded by saying something like, “Yes, a good portion of the electorate is stupid when it comes to elections.   And these candidates play into that factor.”

Every time a major election rolls around there is this moment of campaign fatigue when the electorate cries out for “election reform.”   The cry lasts until the losing voters have run out of steam, and then we slip right back into a form of democracy which is embarrassing and ineffective.   But the  infusion of billions of dollars of dirty money into this campaign, and the level of dishonesty among the candidates seems to me to be far more dramatic than I have ever seen.


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