On Bullshit/Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth about Bullshit

By Nuttycombe, Dave | Mother Jones, July/August 2005 | Go to article overview

On Bullshit/Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth about Bullshit


Nuttycombe, Dave, Mother Jones


On Bullshit By Harry G. Frankfurt. Princeton University Press. 67 pages. $9.95.

Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit By Laura Penny. Crown Publishers. 256pages. $21.95.

L'Epoque Bullshit

The Age of Discovery! The Space Age! The Enlightenment! To these glorious eras of history let us add the name of our own: The Age of Bullshit.

How can we see this time as anything but? When public disgrace and humiliation are but shortcuts to million-dollar book, TV, and movie deals; when a no-credibility chimera called "Talon News" is granted a seat in the White House press pool; when spinmeister Bill O'Reilly claims with a straight face that his show is a "no-spin zone"; when a war is launched and defended on blatantly fatuous claims and the perpetrators subsequently returned to office...well? Well, then we are much more than knee-deep.

So the appearance of two books on the topic of BS is more than coincidental-it is another scream from our collective unconscious that the Zeitgeist is polluted and everyone should get out of the même pool. Harry G. Frankfurt's On Bullshit is a repurposed essay from almost 20 years ago, but its newfound relevance has earned its author invitations to appear on NPR and The Daily Show. Even the "family friendly" Washington Post felt comfortable printing its full title in a review. The other book, Your Call h Important Io Us: The Truth About Bullshit, is a tirade by Canadian professor Laura Penny. That a 76-year-old (Frankfurt) and a 30-year-old (Penny) both felt compelled to confront the same issue-and that a Canadian was moved to rant!-surely means we have entered L'Epoque Bullshit.

Frankfurt is most concerned with dissecting the word's meaning; Penny with examining the deed's effect. A Princeton philosophy professor emeritus, Frankfurt lays out a scholarly analysis of crapola. His tiny tome proceeds m a measured cadence, a "tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis." Penny's is a 256-page jeremiad about, as she calls it, "one of the erowth industries of the information age." She writes that "North Americans live at the intersection of too much and too little information," a state that encourages them to "speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant," says Frankfurt. Daily life in the information society does not keep muscles toned and backs strong and the four humors in proper alignment. No, our time is taken up by such passive tasks as emailing, which, a study recently determined, actually lowers IQ. And consider, says Penny, that the service economy is built on BS, that "a long, hard day of making things is bound to produce a different sort of person than a long, hard day of greeting folks in the foyer of the Wal-Mart, asking if they want fries with their burger, or conducting phone surveys."

Frankfurt makes an important distinction between bullshit and lies, which is that while bullshit does not have to be untrue, it is always phony. Bullshit is a process, the byproduct of a person's uncaring attitude toward the facts at hand.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On Bullshit/Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth about Bullshit
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.