“On Bullshit” and a Hint of Trump
Bullshit is everywhere. From your boss, your teacher, to your parents, your politicians, and your girlfriend/boyfriend, bullshit is all around us and we all take it dismissively. But has anyone really thought about bullshit in-and-of-itself? Like, what exactly IS bullshit, dude? Is it like a lie? Is it like bluffing? Certainly when I think of someone bullshitting to me, I think it is someone who is telling me an outright lie, something that elicits a sense of ridiculousness within my cranium. When I hear bullshit, I hear it immediately goddammit.
The reason why I bring this topic of bullshit up is that #1 I came across an essay that articulates the concept of bullshit, and #2 I think it can serve as a point of discussion in the political climate of today. Yes, after perusing the Barnes & Nobles in Union Square (because my classes ended nearby and I wanted an excuse to wander around like a meandering dunce before I had to head back home and perform the dreaded god-forsaken activity of “maintaining your responsibilities”) I had finally come across something that was able to pick my brain on this subject. “On Bullshit” by American philosopher Professor Harry G. Frankfurt tackles one of mankind’s most prevalent features in society: Bullshit. What is bullshit? Is it like a lie? Why is there so much of it? Could we ever see a day in which there will be no bullshit to be found?
In the essay, (which you could either read for free here or purchase here) Frankfurt argues that the bullshit is not a lie, nor is it trying to be a lie. Bullshit is a weird gray area around truth and falsity, as bullshit has absolutely no regard for the truth. For instance, when a liar lies that there is no relationship between your pants and the supposed obesity of your ass, he/she certainly knows the truth that your pants do indeed make your ass that big. They know for damn well those pants make your ass look huge but they will still lie to you knowing that truth. The bullshitter has no regard for the truth, and only has the regard of whatever is the most expedient to their interests. The bullshitter will not care that your pants may or may not make your butt that big, so the bullshitter will bullshit you into thinking your pants do not make your butt look big not because it will make you feel better, but because the bullshitter does not care and does not want a fight.
I know philosophy can be a real snooze to talk about (congrats for getting this far into the article), but honestly, this is an important point to talk about. The liar cares about the truth, the bullshitter does not. And because of this, bullshit is much more dangerous. The liar takes into account the clear distinction between truth and falsehood, the bullshitter does not. The possibility of truth to be found within the bullshit is completely erased.
This is where the politics come in because I feel like we have reached a critical mass in bullshit with Donald Trump, and he is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. HELP!
Trump is the undisputed king of Bullshit. The man has no regard for truth or anything that remotely resembles it as long as the bullshit could be used to advance his own campaign, and wins at it all the time. He is able to sit down for an interview, give blanket statements on immigration and healthcare that can be riddled with falsehoods, and get away with it. The man deserves a medal for the absolute craft of his bullshit as it attracts people to his rallies.
Donald Trump is a nice companion to Frankfurt’s essay, as he exemplifies bullshit to its finest degree. He makes us raise a few questions as well. Could his national presidential campaign mean a major breakdown in the realm of bullshit in politics in the future? Can bullshit be quarantined and maintained so it does not go to Trump-like levels? What about the media and its relation to bullshit? Can there be an open exchange of bullshit between the media and politics?
Or is this article bullshit?