Category: Culture

Thai local likes tourist’s authentic elephant pants and love for Asian culture

Bangkok—After selling green curry and driving a tuk tuk for fifteen years, Thai local Terdsak Pichaironnarongsongkram professed his admiration for tourist Katie Swanson’s authentically Thai elephant pants.

“It really breaks up the monotony to see a reasonably attractive Caucasian woman for the first time in ten years, wearing elephant pants, and politely greeting me with a ‘sawadika’ before boarding my tuk tuk with a backpack and selfie stick,”  said Pichaironnarongsongkra. “I have never seen anything quite like it before.”

Locals reported that Swanson eschewed McDonald’s, opting instead for an authentic, non-spicy Pad Thai, coconut milk, and banana pancakes. “I decided to take the road not taken,” said Swanson. “People go to see this and that temple and do American things like taking a taxi. So, I said, ‘I’m gonna be different’. So, I got myself a pair of elephant pants from this sidewalk vendor and bought an authentic handmade statue of Buddha, which is a very exotic god that I adore because it, like, helps me with my aura, and, you know, with my yoga and Sanskrit and mandala or whatever.”

“It’s beautiful to see a foreigner who is so in love with our culture,” said Pichaironnarongsongkra. “I mean, even I don’t wear those authentically Thai elephant pants, and I’m Thai. But she’s just so much more Thai than me.”

elephant pants chatuchak.jpg

The authentic and rare elephant pants can be bought only in Thailand and online at http://www.theelephantpants.com

A sophomoric introduction to bullshit

In college, my adviser introduced me to elementary logic and opened my eyes to the beauty of academic philosophy, at once dispelling popular misconceptions of philosophy as mere intellectual masturbation and adumbrating the hows and whys of the bullshitty things that give philosophy a bad name. It’s been many years since I wrote my last paper on bullshit, and my life has taken numerous strange and shocking turns in the past year alone. Nevertheless, metaphysical and moral questions concerning bullshit still occasionally vex me, and if you are at all concerned about the current state of the world, then they should vex you too.

Here is the first paper I wrote on the topic way back when I first began to give a shit. This is also my first non-satirical blog post. I encourage all of you to earnestly discuss the phenomenon of bullshit and to write thoughtful blog posts about it.

A Handful of Bullshit and an Explanation of its Varieties

Perspectives on Bullshit

In common parlance, the term “bullshit” is frequently uttered, but usage of the term varies widely across situations. Sometimes, the term “bullshit” carries a connotation of insincerity (e.g., “There is so much bullshit in D.C.” or “Don’t bullshit me!”). Sometimes, the term is a pejorative dismissal of nonsense or deficiency in empirical evidence (e.g., “That’s pseudoscientific bullshit.”). Mild doses of bullshit can evoke chuckles. Large amounts of well-crafted, goal-directed bullshit, however, can be dangerous.

In this essay, I will first introduce Harry Frankfurt’s concept of bullshit. I will then contrast Frankfurt’s concept of bullshit with that of G.A. Cohen. I will explain “goal-oriented” bullshit and provide one case of how such seemingly innocuous bullshit, when abused, can be so powerfully destructive.

Frankfurt’s Bullshit

Harry Frankfurt provides an incisive analysis on bullshit in his essay, “On Bullshit”. The “essence of bullshit,” he asserts, is “a lack of connection to a concern with truth” (125)Consider Case 1:

(1) A college student must write a ten-page research paper on Latin American history, but he has only written nine pages’ worth of solid information. To meet the required page number, he changes the text font from Times New Roman to Arial, inserts a long quote by Fidel Castro, peppers his prose with space-consuming adjectives, and lengthens his title so that it covers two, instead of one, lines. He thereby satisfies the page requirement and turns in his work.

The college student in Case 1 exemplifies Frankfurt’s bullshit. Although the student has written a ten-page paper on Latin American history, he does not care about the truth or falsity of his essay’s content—he merely wants to impress his professor. To accomplish that goal, he inflates his paper. What is important here is not whether the content of the paper is flawed or unflawed, but that the student does not care about his work. The student’s attempt to hide his apathy does not necessarily render his work false ; his work is simply insincere. Frankfurt elucidates this distinction:

[…] the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony […] What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. It may be, after all, an exact copy. What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made.  This points to a similar and fundamental aspect of the essential nature of bullshit: although it is produced without concern with the truth, it need not be false. (128)

This distinction between falsity and phoniness allows us to understand another feature of Frankfurt’s bullshit: deceptiveness. One who detects Frankfurt’s phony bullshit may feel deceived, as if one has been lied to, but crucial to this issue is that Frankfurt’s bullshit is not the same as lying. Regarding this relationship between bullshit and lying, Frankfurt reasons that, while the liar attempts to deceive others about the reality (i.e., by reversing the truth value of a proposition), the bullshitter attempts to hide the fact that he does not care about the reality. The liar pays attention to the truth and defies it. The bullshitter does not care about the truth at all. By virtue of such apathy, what he utters is invariably bullshit (132).

Cohen’s Bullshit

In his essay, “Deeper into Bullshit,” G.A. Cohen explains the term “bullshit” as roughly synonymous with the term “nonsense” (332). Cohen proposes three distinguishing features of nonsensical bullshit: unclarifiable unclarity (i.e., hopelessly vague stuff), rubbish (i.e., “arguments that are grossly deficient in logic or sensitivity to empirical evidence”), and irretrievably speculative statements (Cohen quotes David Miller: “Of course, everyone spends much more time thinking about sex now than people did a hundred years ago”) (333).  Unlike Frankfurt, Cohen is less interested in the speaker’s mental state, but more in the product. By Cohen’s account, it is possible for a bullshitter to utter non-bullshit, and for a non-bullshitter to unwittingly utter bullshit (331). The latter is exemplified by Case 2:

(2) A man places his laptop on top of his lap. A child walks by. She stops. Horrified, she exclaims, “If you put that computer on your lap, the radiations will destroy your genitalia!”

 In this case, the young child utters empirically unverified bullshit about genitalia-destroying radiations. She speaks the proposition not because she is a bullshitter unconcerned about the truth, but simply because she does not know any better. By contrast, a deliberate bullshitter utters bullshit in this scenario:

(3) A cantankerous driver is stuck in traffic. Angry, the driver utters the proposition, “This traffic stinks,” followed by the conclusion, “All women are stupid.” The driver’s wife, an astute logician who happens to be in the car, asks her husband to justify his sexist proposition. The driver makes numerous specious and untenable arguments, all of which are defeated by his wife. They argue for two hours. The driver refuses to give in.

Case 3, by contrast, exemplifies a combination of Frankfurt’s and Cohen’s bullshit. The cantankerous driver has thoughtlessly uttered the proposition, “All women are stupid.” He acts like he believes in that proposition, but his wife suspects that he is bullshitting. The driver defends his arguments, which his wife obliterates. Without a tenable argument, the driver is left defending nonsense. Nevertheless, he continues to blabber. Indifferent to the authority of logic and truth, the driver is a Frankfurt-bullshitter. The product—his untenable nonsense—is Cohen’s bullshit.

Goal-oriented Bullshitters

(4) An attorney is defending his client, who is accused of murder. The attorney knows who the murderer is, so he knows that his client is not guilty. The attorney therefore wants to do everything in his power to help his client, but, at the same time, does not want to reveal the identity of the murderer. He thinks about bribing the jury, but that seems too risky. Instead, he gets several witnesses to testify in his client’s favor. He presents a great closing argument, which persuades the jury to acquit the defendant.

This case is slightly more complicated. The attorney seems to care about the truth, namely, that somebody else is the murderer, and his client is innocent. The case is not unclarifiable, illogical, empirically unverified, or irretrievably speculative nonsense—at least not from the judge’s perspective. The attorney therefore does not seem to be Frankfurt-bullshitting, nor does he seem to be producing Cohen’s bullshit. Nevertheless, I call him a bullshitter. Why?

We can decipher this scenario by heeding Cohen’s analysis on Frankfurt’s essay. Cohen notes that Frankfurt does not clearly distinguish between the bullshitter’s tactics from the bullshitter’s goal. Cohen points to Frankfurt’s example of the Fourth of July orator who “goes on bombastically about ‘our great and blessed country, whose Founding Fathers under divine guidance created a new beginning for mankind’” (121). The problem that Cohen sees is that, while the bullshitting orator is indifferent to the truth about the Founding Fathers, the orator is not necessarily unconcerned about what the audience thinks about the Founding Fathers. In fact, his goal might very well be to persuade his audience about the greatness of the Founding Fathers (Cohen 330). Cohen notes:

If the orator had been Joseph McCarthy, he would have wanted the audience to think that the “new beginning” that the Founding Fathers “created” should persuade the audience to oppose the tyranny supposedly threatened by American communism. The fact that it is not “fundamental” that “the speaker regards his statement as false” in no way implies that “he is not trying to deceive anyone concerning American history.” [emphasis added] (330)

This sheds light on our crafty attorney. The attorney is not guilty of Cohen’s bullshit because his argument is well-articulated and supported by evidence. He is, however, guilty of Frankfurtian bullshitting, because, as much as he cares about his client’s acquittal, the truthfulness of his tactic is irrelevant to him. As long as he can avoid getting caught, the attorney is just as inclined to bribe the jurors as he is to bullshit them with witnesses and rhetoric.

Conclusion

The goal of this paper is not to inveigh against bullshit, but to allow the reader to understand some of the types and subtypes of bullshit. Although the college student, the Fourth of July orator, the attorney, and Joseph McCarthy are all truth-indifferent Frankfurt-bullshitters, McCarthy and the lawyer bullshit in a less desultory, more goal-oriented manner. The lawyer bullshits to get his innocent client acquitted, and McCarthy bullshits to accomplish a hidden political agenda. The versatility and insidiousness of Frankfurt’s bullshit is quite clear.

Cohen’s bullshit—nonsense—can be uttered by both naive speakers and deliberate bullshitters. The naive speaker (in our case, the little girl) utters bullshit much like a chess novice forgetting the rules of chess.  The deliberate bullshitter—the rationalizing driver—simply cheats.

I hope this paper can serve as an informative guide to recognizing insincere or nonsensical talk. But to borrow Cohen’s words, what I have presented are only a few “flower[s] in the lush garden of bullshit” (323).

Word Count: 1,500

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Cohen, Gerald Allan. “Deeper into Bullshit.” Computational Philosophy of Science (1993): 321-44. MIT CogNet. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web.

Frankfurt, Harry G. “On Bullshit.” The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. 117-33. Print.

 

 

Uninvited guests trade heroin for hamburgers in What Country, CA, carry submachine guns

WHAT COUNTRY, CA—Park Rangers were alerted to two men who traded heroin for hamburgers at a picnic in What Country, California on Saturday afternoon. The Rangers notified What Country Police, who promptly detained a hamburger vendor for questioning.

Witnesses reported that the drug dealers at one point brandished submachine guns to threaten hamburger eaters. When witnesses screamed, the two men panicked and drove off in a 1992 Acura NSX.

“They seemed to have a peculiar obsession with hamburgers,” a witness told reporters. “One man ranted and raved about Big Kahuna burgers and said something about a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and then they pulled out guns and scared the bejeezus out of us.”

What Country Police warn that the suspects are still at large and are armed and dangerous. They were last spotted at the White Castle on 21st and Broadway.

IMG_4029

Surveillance footage from the White Castle at 21st and Broadway shows a man who resembles one of the suspects

‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’: This is not fake news

“It is the nature of satire that not everyone gets it.” United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in Farah v. Esquire Magazine (2013)

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
― Evelyn Beatrice Hall

This post is not satirical.

Regrettably, the type of healthy debate that is indispensable to any free country is oftentimes discouraged. We are afraid to verbally question authority on pain of being locked up, fined, or chastised for being cheeky schoolboys and schoolgirls.

Enough, we say. This site provides a forum in which students, writers, and readers can participate by means of satire in the free marketplace of ideas, and understand the indispensable role that free speech and expression play in a healthy democracy.

The Beagle would like to remind you of a sacrifice that all of us, as responsible citizens, must make in a true democracy. According to the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), student expression may not be suppressed unless it can be reasonably concluded that it will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.” Just as importantly, the Court expressed that an interest in suppressing student expression based on a “mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” or “an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression” does not justify suppression.

Put another way, if we wish to live in a society that protects free speech, we must be prepared to be offended.

Our role at the Beagle is to create not just humor, but to foster a deeper awareness of the thorny terrain of public discourse. Thus, students, writers, and readers are encouraged to think about a multitude of contentious and serious questions. For example, what distinguishes free speech and expression from hate speech?  What distinguishes satire from defamation, libel or slander? When, if ever, is censorship justified? What is the chilling effect? What constitutes obscenity?

In line with our desire to think with students, writers, and readers about satire and free speech, we have made this site a save haven in which anyone can disagree with anyone else about anything. Nothing is censored (for that would defeat the purpose of this site) except the blatantly illegal.

We hope that writers and visitors can benefit from this site, and encourage anyone to participate. Feel free to contact us should you have questions, comments, or suggestions, and All Hail the Beagle.

Belligerent Krav Maga master refuses to stop grabbing groins

JERUSALEM—In spite of his students’ complaints, Krav Maga master Eli Gould refused to stop grabbing his students’ groins. Gould, 35, is also a Mossad agent who allegedly killed Hamas operative Mazen Fuqaha in March 2017.

In 1976, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began a rigorous program that advocated groin-grabbing as an effective offensive strategy, proclaiming it to be indispensable to national security. Gould, who was well-aware of the strategic benefits of groin-grabbing, added that it has “much cultural significance.” He said, “This is the way my father did things. This is the way my grandfather did things. This is the way the Shin Bet does things. It’s Israeli. It’s a lifestyle that needs to be respected.”

Yet, not all of Gould’s students would agree. Bradley Sinclair, an exchange student from Pennsylvania, lamented that Gould’s “excessive groping has taken a toll on my physical and emotional health,” claiming that his coach’s  behavior is “a dishonorable and underhanded way of resolving conflicts.”

Gould apparently does not intend to heed his students’ complaints. “Any Krav Maga practitioner worth his salt has balls of steel,” he snapped. “Fight me and grow a pair.”

Zen Buddhists eat traditional Japanese donuts during meditation

EIHEIJI, JAPAN—Zen Buddhist Dōgen Zenji, 38, revealed an esoteric trick to successful meditation known as dōnatsu no michi, the practice of masticating a piece of donut until one becomes united with the cosmos.

The history of the donut is disputed. Some historians claim that it was invented by Dutch settlers in North America, while other scholars contend that it was first made in 1847 by a 16-year-old American named Hanson Gregory. Still, other experts argue that it was first made by a baroness named Elizabeth Dimsdale, who credited a local cook known only as Mrs. Fordham. Dōgen, however, disagrees. “Pace Western historians, the modern donut evolved from a Japanese delicacy known as dōnatsu, which can be properly made only by a small enclave of monks who reside primarily in the Fukui Prefecture,” he said.

To prove his point, Dōgen elegantly retrieved a small batch of dōnatsu from his black shoulder bag before silently walking into the zendo, or Zen hall, to meditate. Upon sitting down, he lifted the dōnatsu to his mouth and simultaneously chewed and chanted, while bread crumbs from the dōnatsu fell onto his rakusu, a traditional Japanese zen garment worn around the neck.

“It is lamentable how the West keeps on robbing Japan and its culture,” said Dōgen. “First, they take away our traditional Toyota vehicles and get rich selling American cars, and then they take away our food and turn it into an unhealthy junk food. Have they no shame?”

When asked how an inexperienced Westerner might learn to meditate, Dōgen replied with consummate simplicity: “Eat.”

Fourth graders stun scholars with incisive Rothko analyses

COLUMBUS, OH—A group of home-schooled fourth graders have established a new interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal entitled Midwest Journal of the Metaphysics of Art, stunning  professors and graduate students from disciplines ranging from the arts to biomedical engineering. “The problem with postmodern art is that much of it, while visually pleasing, is based on little to no understanding of basic propositional logic, let alone the rigorous philosophical methods that metaphysicians of art must employ,” said 10-year-old Tom Bruise, who received an honorary doctoral degree from The Ohio State University in 2004.

At a Rothko convention in Dayton, 10-year-old postmodernist Dustin Huffman disagreed, citing bits and pieces of Derrida and Buddhist philosophy. “A veritable comprehension of the dualism that is both inherent and negatively response-dependent within the realm of tauroscatological sufficiency cannot be attained by means of any conventional logical stratagem,” he quipped.

What followed Huffman’s incisive comment was a spirited intellectual debate among the top scholars in the field, with some even drawing abstruse evidence from chaos theory to bolster their points.

Under the supervision of their parents, the fourth graders continue to break new ground. Scores of scholars from across the nation will attend the fourth graders’ next Rothko convention in April.