2005/03/16

Programmed upchucking... right on cue

Good Evening Boys and Girls.

Last night I watched the Daily Show with John Stewart. The guest was Harry Frankfurt, Professor Emeritus in Psychology from Princeton. An essay he wrote 20 years ago called "On Bullshit" has been released as a tiny little book.

It's probably completely silly of me to write about a book I haven't even read yet, but just listening to the interview and having this fellow differentiate between "lies" and "bullshit" was so interesting and disturbing I wanted to throw in my two cents.

Professor Frankfort defines lying as the act of telling an untruth when you know the real facts to be different.

Bullshit, (the more pervasive and scarier problem, in his opinion, practiced by more and more individuals, people representing organizations, and governments) is when you say something not really even knowing or caring whether it's true or not. A good example that which comes immediately to mind is Rush Limbaugh and most of the statistics he uses to back up his opinions, which in far too many cases, he pulls out of his ass*. They are usually very easy to check, which many people do, and when confronted by the real facts he always sloughs it off by saying it didn't make his point any less valid - whatever that point happened to be.

Yeah I know Rush is old news, but he came to mind the instant I'd started to understand what Professor Frankfurt was saying...and it leads to my point.

As I said, I haven't read the good professor's essay so I don't know whether he addresses a third category that concerns me a great deal. A category, in fact that has become a huge problem in these here U-ni-ted States of A-mer-reee-ka. That third category, rather than being an act exactly, instead are people. I'm talking about the millions of people who listen to liars and bullshitters, believe them, and then go on telling what they now believe to be "the truth" in earnest and frank ways to the people over whom THEY have influence.

They're not lying or bullshitting really, because they believe what they are saying is true, often fervently - which is what makes it so very infuriating to try to talk with them about anything substantially meaningful. It's pointless. And every time I discover that someone I've respected has ingested any one of the Jim Jones Brand Kool-Aid products out there in the land, I am saddened beyond all understanding. Dare I get specific? Nah. It would be preaching to the choir.

These folks, "the regurgitators" I'll call them, not only swing elections, but represent the stock pond from which the next generation of fanatics and religious zealots will be fished, the hook having been already set.

Be good to everybody.

*thanks to Al Franken and his radio show for that term regarding Rush.

4 Comments:

I just watched that Daily Show too, surrogate. He put an even finer point on the definition of "spin."
As for the "regurgitators" as you so eloquently describe them... therein lies the crux of our American journalistic problem. 

Posted by Sarah
3/16/2005 04:32:00 am  
I wonder if journalism schools are seeing a drop in registrants? The rules no longer seem to apply in journalism and one is certainly not required to think. Just stay logged in and keep up with the spin. 

Posted by Dianne
3/16/2005 11:18:00 am  
Even NPR practices the loathesome false attempt at balance: "he said, she said" journalism. 

Posted by Sarah
3/16/2005 07:18:00 pm  
Great post - The "regurgitators" is a perfect description for those Bill O'Reilly/Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh fans.  

Posted by erinberry
3/17/2005 01:25:00 am  

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