Loose Lips Sink Reputations Aside From Ships: The Corruption Of The Word Corrupt

It’s Sunday, a day of rest.  If the Lord could take one day off in seven, I think it is appropriate for me to do the same thing and take time to reflect.  I was thinking that if Genesis were written today, it would read something like “On the Seventh Day the Lord watched the NFL football games.” Fortunately for the N.E. Patriot fans, today is a by-week and the weather outside is beautiful in New England so they can really take a rest and spend sometime outside raking leaves rather than listening to commercials. Did you realized during a typical NFL game more time is devoted to commercials than to the actual running of plays?

I’ve heard the people on Madison Avenue are trying to figure out a way to have programs that are all commercials. They’ve developed one along the line of American Idol.  New commercials will be played in front of three judges and the public will vote for the best commercials. They’ll then be shown against others until we have an American Commercial Championship. Some suggest it could do away with the NFL and those messy concussions. The producers are not quite sure they can fool all of the people all of the time.

I just want to briefly touch on something that has bothered me and it is the misuse of our language. This became clear to me as I was writing about Billy Bulger. I have to use Howie Carr’s book where he says on the front cover that Billy and Whitey “corrupted Boston” for a quarter of century.  Then we know he  has endlessly repeating Judge Daher’s statement that Billy is a “corrupt midget.” We’ve read how Alan Dershowitz says just about everyone in public life in Massachusetts is corrupt except him and perhaps his lawyers.

But it doesn’t end there. People who comment on my blog often use the words corrupt with respect to judges, prosecutors and others. I begin to think that if so many people are corrupt no one is corrupt because corruption implies a deviation.

I’ve begun to ask myself what exactly does the word “corrupt” mean? Can I say of someone who does something I don’t like that the person is corrupt?  If that were the case all those judges who ruled against me, or lawyers who disputed with me, or people I met in public whose opinions I didn’t like, or even all the people who support a candidate I don’t like I could call corrupt. Is that what all these people mean when they say others are corrupt, that these people disagree with them.?

To me it means someone who does official acts in exchange for private gain (usually monetary), or outside public life people like Whitey or Weeks who live lives of crimes.  (I received an email telling me Kevin Weeks is going to speak at a temple in Newton tonight. What is it with these suburbanites who want to live dangerous lives by being the same room with gangsters?)

I’ve gone to the dictionary to try to find out what corrupt means.   The Merriam-Webster defined it as: ” to change (a language) in such a way that standard forms become different from earlier forms regarded as better or purer.”  That’s apparently what is happening that a word that once had significance no longer possesses it and is tossed around loosely. ” The meaning I associate with it is more like Merriam Webster’s other definition, “to become morally debased, perverted from right principles, weakened, or unsound.”  It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “Debased in character; infected with evil; depraved; perverted; evil, wicked.”

It seems to me to suggest an ongoing characteristic.  It is not that one person did one bad thing at one time, it incorporates a change for the worse in a person or institution.  To suggest Billy Bulger corrupted Boston or a politician or court is corrupt seems to me to be beyond the definition of the word which refers to a way of life, for example in politics, we have Spiro Agnew as an example.

I can’t get over the corruption of the word corrupt which is now used by many people to mean no more than the person did or does things differently than I do therefore the only explanation for that is the person is morally debased.  I’d like it if we could go back to the original meaning and if we believe a person or institution is corrupt, tell us what the evidence is for it.  Too many people have been hurt by loose language.  I hope I’m not guilty of it, which I must be at time, but I’ll try to avoid it in the future.

6 thoughts on “Loose Lips Sink Reputations Aside From Ships: The Corruption Of The Word Corrupt

  1. Corrupt also means “rotten.” What was done to John Connolly in Boston and Miami stinks, it reeks to high heaven and the perpetrators of that lynching who put known perjurers on the stand and set serial killers free to go after a lowly FBI agent are corrupt to my way of thinking. There is intellectual corruption, moral corruption, ethical rot. Abuse of power is a form of corruption. Those entrusted with upholding the law and constitution, such as judges and prosecutors, who violate the law and constitution, are appropriately considered corrupt. (See, e.g., Mike Nifong!) There should be no doubt in any reasonable person’s mind that for four years running in the St. Pat’s Day Parade case, that the Massachusetts judiciary acted corruptly in crushing the free speech rights of American citizens. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously said so. I see the same level of intellectual corruption, abuse of power, overzealousness in federal prosecutors’ offices. Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News called what Wyshak et al routinely do in granting leniency to killers and cutting deals to extract testimony from felons “legalized extortion.” Corrupt is a good word to use when government officials abuse their power. The book on the parade case, “From Trial Court to the United States Supreme Court: Anatomy of a Free Speech Case” spoke of a corruption of thought, a corruption of right thinking, a corruption of constitutional principles.
    Howie Carr corrupts thought, logic and reason. He accuses William Bulger of corruption and fails to cite one misdemeanor, one violation of a constitutional principle, one violation of a statute, of a rule, of a regulation or of a policy by Mr. Bulger. Carr scans forty years of an unblemished record, a stellar career, and all he can come up with is 75 State Street. Bulger was absolved of any wrongdoing in 75 Street by two federal investigations, one state investigation and by a Committee of Congress.
    Corruption in government and in the press exists.

    1. I look upon corruption as something that is wrongful and continuing. I don’t think one act that you disagree with by one body makes that body corrupt. There has to be a dedication to a wrongful way of doing things. It cannot be reasoning to a different conclusion than you’d like. We have five to four decisions in the US Supreme court every year where both sides given the same facts arrive at different conclusions. You can’t say one side or the other is corrupt.
      John Connolly was rightly tried an convicted in Boston. There was no corruption there. He was rightly tried in Florida, there was no corruption there. I think Wyshak as a federal agent was wrong in participating in a trial in Florida for actions he committed as a federal agent especially since he was acquitted of those charges here. Wyshak doesn’t think he is wrong. I question his judgment, not his integrity.
      The judges in the St. Patrick’s case were not corrupt. They approached the case from a point of view that the South Boston parade organizers were wrong in excluding gays from their parade. They reasoned to that conclusion and set out their reasons. They were wrong, as shown by the Supreme Court. They weren’t corrupt. The law is what the judges say it is at any one time. The philosophical background of judges comes into play in their decisions. We know that because some vote for a candidate for president based on who they believe he will appoint to the Supreme Court. If he appoints liberals, then the court will interpret things from a liberal view point and the same with conservatives. That has been the history of our nation. Judges often make the law on what they think is a fair result based on their backgrounds. As time passes the conception of what is fair changes depending on the make up of the court. This is accepted. It is not corrupt.
      Napolitano of Fox News was a judge for eight years and resigned to become a TV commentator. He is a libertarian who had called himself the “Ayn Rand of Fox News.” Ayn Rand was a Russian Atheist whose philosophy was the opposite of Christian teaching based on the idea the masses must be subservient to and not expect anything from those in power. I don’t warn to anything he has to say.
      Further, he is wrong in his statement. Sometimes it is necessary to deal with murderers to get other murderers. The federal government always did it. John Connolly had no trouble doing it.
      True corruption exists. To paint it with a too broad brush like Howie Carr and Dershowitz do makes the term meaningless. When someone says someone or something is corrupt you must think, “show me.” That’s what Harry Truman used to do. Thanks for writing.

  2. i had no idea billy bulger and john c had such defenders.the above comment from william c does provoke a different kind of thought process. however another way to look at it is how many times did john gotti go on trial? only convicted on the last one. i live her in honolulu now and i run into fellow bostonians from time to time. it is the red sox first and the pats second in the conversation. sometimes i will speak with people about what has happened since whitey was caught in santa monica in 2011. some of these comments seem like billy should still be u mass president and john c should have been boston police chief. perhaps we will see the writer of the blog comment on why ray flynn seemed to have no use for billy bulger and did not respect him or john c. it seems as if people have different information that what i thought happened. i will say i am fascinated because it really happened in a place that is a big part of american history and it is a long way from sending men to go serve the country in the white house and educate them in places like harvard and mit.

    1. Doug:
      William C is a John Connolly defender, that’s for sure. He looks at him through a different lens than I do. I don’t agree with him but I think it is important that his view be known.
      Gotti was always getting off by bribing or threatening jurors. Connolly got convicted. Gotti was eventually convicted. I’d expect most people would talk sports. It’s easy and you can have a valid opinion whether you are nine or ninety. Most people like sports because it doesn’t related to the government and when you come down to it is meaningless. I say that not so much because one should not be involved and captivated by it but if your team wins or loses no one is really personally affected by it other than feeling good or bad. It doesn’t change your life or effect your job or family. Plus, there’s always hope, there’s always next year. I’m glad you are interested in this stuff about Whitey because in a small way it does give us a view into real life and how our government functions.
      Billy was a good president of U Mass. In his six years he was beginning to build it into a strong university which was his goal to make it like the state universities in the middle of the country. He was very adept at fund raising and attracting good faculty. It is too bad that his career in doing that was cut short since he wanted to make that the crowing piece of his life in public service. It is good Connolly was not police commissioner. He was much to close to Whitey and Stevie.
      Flynn is a mystery to me. As to the bad blood between him and Billy, I really don’t have much of an insight. I’d venture to say that their closeness in Southie made them dislike each other. Billy I think thought of Flynn as a dumb guy who went to college on a basketball scholarship who didn’t have a brain in his head. They just didn’t like each other because of their dissimilar views on the role of a politician. I’m intrigued by that question and will have to learn more about it and I’ll let you know if I find out something. Thanks for writing.

    1. Henry: the FBI is corrupt in a limited way and that is how it relates to gangsters. From what I’ve seen they still partner with gangsters to do their work. If gangsters are corrupt and you work hand in hand with them over a long period of time that means you’ve become corrupt as we’ve seen in the Whitey case. Because the FBI is supposed to be under the DOJ, it too is corrupt for failing to exercise proper control over it in this area. I suppose I could stretch the point by saying that applies also to Congress because it is the ultimate boss. I limit it to this area. As a entity, it is hard to determine how much wrong the FBI does because we’ve let it become an organization that is beyond public scrutiny. The little I’ve seen of it makes me a little uneasy.
      Fast and Furious had nothing to do with the FBI. It was an ATF abomination. Jesse C. Trentadue the lawyer is an interesting fellow. His brother’s case is quite remarkable showing that the FBI killed his brother and nothing happened. That article you note is interesting. I found it difficult reading the part regarding section 16 and 17. There are so many acronymns it reads like one of those tax codes that are impossible to understand. Fast and Furious was a very bad operation dreamed up and operated by some guys whose thought processes are questionable. Unfortunately, it has become very politicized which means we’ll probably never know what really happened.

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