When 'Taking Responsibility' is Anything But

David Frum’s How We Got Here: The 70s The Decade That Brought You Modern Life — For Better Or Worse, published in 2000, does a thorough job of documenting the strange twists in illogic and liberal fads that dominated that rancid decade, not the least of which was Werner Erhard’s est (short for “Erhard Seminar Training”).  Erhardt was  born Jack Rosenberg, a former Philadelphia-area used car salesman who went west in the early 1960s, and created what would become one of the strangest and most ubiquitous cults of the 1970s.


The est movement became particularly fashionable amongst the Hollywood crowd, but eventually, Frum writes, “Erhard was hit by accusations of sexual molestation from one of his daughters, a colossal IRS tax lien, and a tough story by 60 Minutes. He fled the country in 1991. The tax case was eventually settled, but Erhard’s empire never recovered.” But the legacy of est lives on, particularly in its additions to the Newspeak Dictionary:

Every time someone says “I take responsibility for that,” or when we assure a friend who has got into trouble that we “support” him, or ask to be left alone by saying that we “need our space”—we are chatting away in est-speak. The essence of est-speak is its clever packaging of moral evasion as moral responsibility. What, after all, does it mean to “take responsibility”—as Attorney General Janet Reno ostensibly did after the conflagration of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, that left eighty-six people dead? She was not defending her action as right or proper under the circumstances, but neither was she apologizing or expressing remorse. Certainly she was not resigning. What she was saying, evidently, was that the action she took was taken by her. Beyond that, she had nothing to add. In a similar vein, we might wonder what it means when we tell an errant friend that we “support” him? That we condone what he has done? Probably not. That we will forgive him if he makes amends? Then we should emphasize not our support, but our expectations. That we will remain his friend no matter what he has done and whether he apologizes or not? But that’s a contemptible thing to say, isn’t it?


Not if you’re in the Obama Administration — or the MSM, judging by this headline at ABC: “Energy Secretary Chu Takes Full Responsibility for Solyndra.”

As the Professor writes, “But doesn’t resign,” the Professor adds. “He’s accepting ‘responsibility,’ but not the blame.”

The Obama’s obsession with the dated policies of corporatism and crony socialism, aging technology such as solar, and dated liberal psychobabble are yet more examples of an Administration cocooned in the past — specifically, the Carter-era seventies. They’re permanently trapped there; the rest of us can escape less than a year from now — if we want to.

Related: “Chu just said he didn’t know the Bush DoE had turned down Solyndra’s loan. Didn’t he?”

Update: Welcome Kathy Shaidle’s readers!


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