Professor Van Epps
6 March 2012
"Lifosuction": A Piece on the Human Condition by Cullen Murphy
Cullen Murphy's essay explains the term "lifosuction", its meaning, and the role that it plays in society while using many supporting details to further validate his message and opinion to his target audience. The essay attacks the topic of politicians and others in the media spotlight who omit facts about their past to appear more acceptable to the general public. Murphy discusses "lifosuction" and its role in today's society using many detailed examples to support his statements. Murphy also goes on to discuss public opinion of those who discover the use of lifosuction in the media, the hypocrisies surrounding today's culture and also expresses his opinions of the topic.
Murphy's essay defines the term "lifosuction" and explains its role in today's political and media based culture while using major points and examples of known political figures to show the issue's relevance to his readers. The term "lifosuction", as Murphy defines it, means "the removal from one's biography of innocuous yet somehow unsightly elements that happen to be true" and is a common procedure that helps those in the spotlight to "…make sure that public pose and personal background are appropriately in sync" (251). In other words, the common act of "lifosuction" is committed when public figures omit details of their private life to better fit the mold that they have set for themselves to secure positive public opinion. Murphy uses many examples throughout his essay of known public figures who have committed the act of "lifosuction" to validate his claim that the act itself is a common one. Of his many examples, Murphy mentions public figures such as the actress Sandra Bullock who attempted to further popularize herself by falsely claiming she was voted "Girl Most Likely to Brighten Your Day", the singer Jim Morrison who omitted his military-based family origins to keep up a pro-anarchy appearance, and even former presidential candidate William Henry Harrison who smoked a pipe and criticized his opponent Martin Van Buren of appearing too high class when in reality Harrison himself was born of a wealthy family and preferred cigars (251). The purpose behind the author's use of these examples is not only to show the frequency in which public figures use "lifosuction" but also to explain why. Society tends to identify with public figures that have details in common with themselves and tend to relate more positively to those who come from a humble background. Public figures are under pressure to appease their public audience and are likely to resort to "lifosuction" to achieve that goal.
Furthermore, Murphy's target audience is unspecific, seemingly directed towards society as a whole and his purpose is to give a name to a common political issue while also explaining how society views those who use "lifosuction" to achieve popularity. Murphy's target audience is not a specific group of individuals, but more society as a whole, indicating that all of society is affected by politics and other individuals in the media and the actions that they perform. He states that society reacts negatively to these omissions when discovered and points out that most individuals feel as if they have been "wronged" by the public figure's lies. Murphy also calls to light the controversial utilization of "lifosuction" not only in the media but in the lives of everyday individuals, points out that ordinary individuals also tend to omit details of their personal lives and highlights the ever present struggle that those individuals face concerning the hierocracies of right and wrong that have existed throughout the ages.
"It's easy to raise an eyebrow at lifosuction, but hard to be censorious. We all permit ourselves some degree of cosmetic suppression, but we are ambivalent about the ethics. Philosophers and theologians send mixed signals. The Sermon on the Mount cautions against hiding your light under a bushel, and an ancient philosophical tradition warns that wrongdoing can take the form of not doing --- there are sins of omission as well as of commission. But another long tradition, also going back to antiquity, justifies the sparing disbursement of truth --- an 'economy of truth,' to use the artful locution --- in certain circumstances."
-Cullen Murphy, pg. 252
Murphy feels very strongly about the term "lifosuction" and uses a quote to further develop and sufficiently support his personal opinion. Throughout his essay, Murphy begins by detailing many examples of "lifosuction" that are committed by public figures and ends on a more philosophical note. Murphy brings to light his personal opinion that instead of looking at the act of "lifosuction" as a negative one, he suggests that society should instead not only welcome it, but also take the act a step further and omit more information from the public eye. Murphy uses a quote from Edmund Burke to further embellish his opinion that stated, "I do not impute falsehood to the government, but there has been a considerable economy of truth". Murphy goes on to explain that Burke's quote, and, more specifically, the phrase "economy of truth" was meant as a synonym for temperance (252-253). Murphy's opinion that less private details should be introduced to public view is quite practical in that he is attempting to convey the theory that less is sometimes more agreeable. Society should base their opinions less on how a public figure was raised or what type of tobacco the individual smoked and more so on the deeds of the public figure and what ideals that figure stood for. Murphy points out that society has become obsessed with insignificant details and although many complain that they wish this wasn't so, society tends to be obsessed nonetheless. His solution, therefore, is to "turn the bio-vac up to 'high'" and omit as many details as possible. Although Murphy feels that "Some may see that as too great a risk" he sees "it as a sort of temperance" to society's obsession.
To summarize, the author Cullen Murphy attacks an ongoing political issue and gives it the sarcastic name "lifosuction", defines the term and manages to explain and support his topic while showing its relevance to all of society. With many references to known public figures, Murphy supports his theory that "lifosuction" is common and manages to create an interesting topic for all who read his essay. Shifting from that of the scrutiny of public figures to that of ordinary individuals, Murphy creates an interesting and (no doubt) intentional sense of guilt in his reader's minds. The guilt that he creates becomes the foundation to his later revealed supportive opinion of the act of public "lifosuction" in that the reader's own conscience validates his claim that society has become dependent on omitting details to promote acceptance among peers. Murphy's opinion that public figures should omit more rather than less is an interesting one that absolutely provides much food for thought. Would society benefit from knowing less rather than more? The question appears to be worth considering.