We Are Now In Over Our Heads (In Bullshit)

 

A few years ago I heard about this guy who wrote a book (or perhaps philosophical treatise is the better word) on the subject of bullshit. His name is Harry G. Frankfurt and he appropriately titled the work “On Bullshit.” I didn’t read it – reading philosophy makes my head spin – but I’ve heard him talk about it a few times. It’s interesting stuff. The videos aren’t long, so if you’ve got 15-20 minutes, you should check them out.

Bullshit has been on the rise ever since the invention of mass media and the mastery of advertising over that platform. Until recently, it seemed mostly confined to people just trying to sell you something (whether it be a product or an idea), so it was possible – admittedly with some difficulty – to avoid stepping in any if you were savvy enough. The truth, after all, would win out. You just had to be patient or diligent or both.

But at some point bullshit started to creep past the levees of truth and began to slowly engulf other aspects of our society besides marketing and politics. Bullshit began to affect the way we interact with the world and not just the salespersons in it. In order to get a job, just as one example, it no longer is enough to be qualified and professional and somehow manage to not make inappropriate comments and lewd gestures during the interview. No! Now, you have to sell yourself. You have to push your brand.

 

"Why eat someone else's bullshit when you can sell them your own?"

“Why eat someone else’s bullshit when you can sell them your own?”

 

And after a hard day at work of continually selling yourself to your coworkers and bosses, you come home and watch TV shows that are no longer reliably fictitious and news that is no longer reliable at all. Sure, movies and TV have always been bullshit, but they never pretended to be otherwise. Now, however, we have Reality TV! That’s right! Entertainment has taken to bullshitting you about being bullshit!

As the level of bullshit rose even higher during this past campaign season, most people retreated to their echo chamber safe spaces so they’d only have to smell their own bullshit. But the bullshit level didn’t stagnate, as perhaps many of us hoped it would. Instead, it has finally overwhelmed us. We no longer can tell the difference between truth and fiction. Our comedy is our news and our news is our entertainment. This has become so much the case that we actually demand more truth in our comedy and less truth in our news.

Those links are worth checking out and considering. What have we done to ourselves that we feel we need to criticize a comedy sketch for not being factual enough? Why are we at the point where a man is so disturbed by what he has been told is true that he takes a rifle into a pizza shop to investigate fictitious reports of a child sex ring? Just how far down the rabbit hole have we tumbled? Is there yet further to go?

 

If we are Alice in this metaphor, we have to be wondering if this is a rabbit hole or a bull's... ummm... hole.

If we are Alice in this metaphor, we have to be wondering if this is a rabbit hole or a bull’s… ummm… hole.

 

People say education is the silver bullet to all the ills of the world. It’s not. Curiosity is the cure. You can’t force someone to learn. They have to be curious. A guy wrote a great piece about all of this talk about people living in “bubbles.” The only bubbles we really need to be worried about are the bubbles of the incurious. In a way, I respect that guy with the rifle. He didn’t harm anyone and indeed seemed intent on not harming anyone who wasn’t obviously raping children. What’s more, he took it upon himself to be curious enough to see with his own eyes. Obviously, I don’t think he should have discharged his weapon at all (nor even carried it into a pizza shop) but since he didn’t harm anyone and didn’t fire until people had fled, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Way to go, Clearly Misguided Dude. Keep on looking for the truth. Except, next time just leave the rifle at home when doing the reconnaissance work, OK? Only Patton was allowed to do a reconnaissance in force. Save the artillery for when the enemy has been located.

 

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I know I promised a Notes from the Self-Pubbed, but it turns out I was just bullshitting you. HA! Actually, I decided I’d hold off on doing another one until after the blog tour so we can get some comprehensive ROI data. Oh yeah! The blog tour! It starts in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation, but don’t neglect the truth.

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4 thoughts on “We Are Now In Over Our Heads (In Bullshit)

  1. It would be so easy to get political with this…in fact, I am fighting hard not to go that way, considering the election season that we just survived so easily provides so many examples. But to go to a more broad sociological point, not only is it becoming more prevalent that one espouses bullshit in everyday life, two terrible consequences have entered society in the past 40 years of this malady.

    The first is that not only do people want to state ‘news’ that is not grounded in reality, but they actually want to be fed the same. Fact checking is not desired, as reality just gets in the way of what people WANT to hear. Cable news—one in particular, but all share in this—is designed to feed their listeners with opinions and conjecture masquerading as fact that is provided just so their listeners feel confirmed in their preconceptions and prejudices, happily reinforced by their ‘news’ station. A very recent book, published two days ago, called The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis, talks to this trait. Critical Thinking was a class that I took in high school, but probably cannot be found anywhere in this ‘modern’ world, as it goes against the cultural grain. It was an elective, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if it came back as a requirement for graduation?

    The other troubling trend is that the bullshitters now believe their own bullshit. A news anchor states the first crazy thought to occur in her/his head. Her/his producer did not run out to correct the thought, therefore it must be true. More conjecture at 11. A political candidate will feel the emotional feedback of the arena crowd on a subject, and continue going more and more extreme on her/his views, smearing a wide section of humanity with bigoted remarks, and the speaker receives applause—well, it must be true, or they would have corrected him, right? The salesman, er, politician, has become drunk on his own cocktail, drinking from the same batch of lemonade that he was using to get his potential supporters emotionally attached to his campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice points, John. Critical Analysis was something I learned in college (perhaps the only consistently beneficial thing I learned there) but it was at least heavily suggested by the best of my high school teachers. I agree it should be a greater part of required education. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

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