He Would Have Been One Hell Of A Blogger

If he was born during the time of Generation-X he almost
certainly would have been at the forefront of the blogging revolution. Instead,
George Carlin preceded the age of unfiltered digital communication and had more
than his share of experience dealing with the impact of words people didn’t
want to hear and interpreting spin. One of the best examples of how Carlin
chipped away at this phenomenon was his ever-evolving bit on euphemisms.

Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality; Americans have a lot of trouble facing the truth so they invent a sort of soft language to protect themselves from it. – George Carlin

This business is far from immune to the affliction Carlin describes (maybe we should start calling it "Carlin’s Syndrome"?)). For example, we don’t fire people, we "downsize," we don’t cut budgets, we "right-size." Problems? They went extinct years ago only to be replaced by "challenges." The executive board of the Columbus Symphony hasn’t been dictating ultimatums during negotiations; they’ve been "pursuing a course of institutional responsibility."  I wish I could say that I follow Carlin’s advice but I’m just as guilty as the next when it comes to euphemistic manager-speak.

Perhaps more important than his skill for pointing out harmful jargon, Carlin regularly reminded us that what people say isn’t as important as who is saying it and the context it is being used.

They’re only words. It’s the context that counts. It’s the user. It’s the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral, the words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about bad words and bad language. Bull shit, it’s the context that makes them good or bad! – George Carlin

The video to your right is a perfect example of how Carlin managed to bring all of his ideas throughout his life together and put them in the right context (WARNING: if you don’t tolerate strong language, this is not for you). Farewell George, one can only hope the afterlife doesn’t come with parental advisory warnings…

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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