Category: Politics

Kim, Trump reach nuclear agreement grooving to Aqua’s Barbie Girl

Pyongyang—Saying he is tired of “the whole nuclear thing and just wants to chill,” Kim Jong-un signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with US president Donald Trump while the two leaders grooved to the Danish-Norwegian dance pop group Aqua’s immortal hit, “Barbie Girl.”

“I am delighted to say Donald really got me in the mood. He brought back so many memories by playing that song in the privacy of our room in the Rugyon Hotel,” Kim gushed.

President Trump tweeted nostalgically, “Kim and me danced to AQUA’S BARBIE GIRL. Good times!”

“Barbie Girl” has been hailed by critics as a groundbreaking artistic masterpiece, at once stylistically daring due to its ingenious polyrhythmic elements and somewhat traditional because of its allusions to Mozart, Bach, and Turkish Sufi music. Now, after making the two long-time archenemies coexist harmoniously, the timeless song embodies the ethos of our new and peaceful age.

“Forget about ‘A Man Like Putin’,” said Trump. “Vladimir is frackin’ hot af and I enjoy being his bitch, but Kimmy’s on a-whole-nother level. We really got down on the floor.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Las Vegas shooter had salad before rampage

LAS VEGAS—Mass murderer Stephen Paddock had a Caesar salad before killing at least 58 people and injuring almost 500.

“He said he didn’t want croutons and that he doesn’t like Italian and would rather have room temperature water than iced water,” said Mandalay Bay hotel staff. “Hey, man. Whatever satisfies the public’s appetite for new and exciting stories, right?”

Claiming that the hotel staff is remiss to disregard such an “important piece of the puzzle,” avid television-watcher-cum-amateur-forensic-psychologist Mike T. Vie countered that the killer’s choice of comestibles can lend insight into his mind. “We’re talking about a person who’d rather have Caesar salad than, say, an egg salad sandwich. What’s wrong with him? Does he have Celiac disease or some other gluten sensitivity? Is that why he didn’t want croutons? Is that why he’s so angry? Because he is sensitive to gluten?”

A massacre survivor who preferred to remain anonymous said, “Who gives a flying fuck? You think this is an episode of Twin Peaks? I saved 30 people and took two bullets from an assault rifle. You think I give a shit about what that motherfucker ate?”

The shooter also allegedly scratched his nose with his left index finger and wiped bits of cheese off his beard with the wrong napkin.

Trump plagiarizes Gettysburg Address, delivers formal apology to nation

After his fire-breathing diatribe against the NFL, President Trump issued a formal apology to the American people. Many who heard the speech identified it as Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address, which reaffirms such fundamental principles of American democracy as human equality and liberty.

“Four scores and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” Trump intoned. He added, “Notice how I said ‘men’.”

Trump’s apology fell flat and backfired almost instantaneously. Amid jeers and general chaos outside Trump Tower, the president shouted, “I don’t understand why you sons of bitches don’t like my speech. It’s fucking patriotic.”

University of Chicago professor of political science Leo Strauss remarked, “Trump’s delivery of one of the most beloved orations in American history evinces his thoroughgoing ignorance of elementary history and disrespect for core democratic ideals as well as a low proficiency in vocabulary and logic. ‘Four score’ means 80, so the speech was made 87 years after America was founded. What year is this?”

“That’s not what ‘score’ means,” Trump replied in a recent press briefing. “‘Score’ means the football player scored, get it? And why am I even talking to you fake news reporters?”

Trump detractors commented on the inappropriateness of delivering a wartime speech during our present period of peace. They also noted that the speech does not serve well as a formal apology.

“Fuck you, bitches,” said Trump. “‘Apology’ means ‘defense for my conduct’, and I’m here to defend my so-called unbecoming conduct. We’re at war now. War is what makes our nation great. You want peace? Prepare for war. War of the people, by the people, and for the people. Do not twist the words of our great President Lincoln.”

Fifth grade girls plan to visit Edward Snowden

MOSCOW—CIA agents R, like, so focused on Eddy Snowy’s bubble-licious handwriting 4 like no reason, lolz. Wut duz the CIA want? I luv Eddy he is like, so cute and smart. Last nite me and my BFF had the bestest sleepover  everzzz. She was like, Eddy is soooo cute I want to go visit him in russia!!!! And i said yes Michelle lets go visit Eddy in russia but you hav to make sure we, like, whack all of russia’s bodyguards. Oh Michelle do u think russian bodyguards R like all cute and musclely? cuz last time when Suzie like redrummed those mossad agents she was like *OMG* those Israelis r like SOOOOOO strong with their 6pks *OMG* i know right?!?!?!?!?! So anywayz here’s our inventory *beyotches* ~~~ M16A4 assault rifle, Glockz pistolz of any size, minigun ~~~ multibarrelled 7.62 mm electrically operated gatling gun mounted on boats helicopters and vehicles ~~~ *OMG*!! WE R GOING TO B FAMOUS BEYOTCHES WE R ROCKSTAR TERRORISTS! HERE WE CUM RUSSIA!!!!! WOOT WOOT PEACE OUT!!!

ps do u think justin bieber knows how to use AK47 or M79 grenade launcher? I don’t think so…I know right lolz? He’s so lame…

Zodiac killer gets rid of FBI director, makes threats

To the FBI. This is the Zodiac speaking. I have stopped killing my beloved Americans and decided to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. I will change your healthcare. I will sexually assault your women. I will pollute the environment and approve the Keystone and Dakota pipelines and continue to lower carbon emission standards. I will I ensure I ostracize minorities and incur the wrath of Muslims, gays, transgender people, and any world leader on whim. I will incur the wrath of North Korea. I will cause a full-blown nuclear war. If you attempt to stop me, I will get rid of you anyway. I have already gotten rid of your FBI Director.

I will destroy White House records. I will do everything in my power to stop abortions, increase unsafe abortions around the world, make contraception a thing of the past, and ensure that the mothers of babies die before the babies grow up to be gassed or drowned by a naturally changing climate that is caused by Orion and non-existent Zodiac signs. You will die unless you join me and my team of white men and money-grubbing suckers. I will indoctrinate your children.

I have colluded with foreign powers and will continue to do so. I will lead you on wild goose chases and distract you by sending you more and more messages, and even tweets, and insoluble ciphers. I don’t go by one name alone. On Twitter, my name is “bigot”. I have multiple names. You can’t catch me. You can’t stop me.

I am the Zodiac.

P.S. Everyone should wear the red caps I sent you. Or I will slit your throat or bash your head in with a blunt object. It might be the special prosecutor. It might be the attorney general. It might be the national security adviser. You won’t know who it is. But you will see it on the news.

 

Stupid man who can’t play chess resorts to empty threats

WASHINGTON—Unable to win a chess game against me, a frustrated man is using empty threats and other juvenile methods of intimidation in hopes of overpowering me.

Francisco Madero, 57, gave up all hope when I took his queen early on in the game.

“He put his knight on C7 and put me in check, and I could have castled before that, but I forgot to do that,” he said. “And then the only thing I could do was to take the knight with my queen, and that’s when he took her with that goddamn bishop.”

A flustered and fuming Mr. Madero glowered at me. Caressing his now taken queen, he hissed, “I loved that woman. I loved her more than sharks love blood.”

“F. U., you dumb piece of shit,” I explained.

“A lion does not ask permission before he eats a zebra,” he retorted. “So I’m gonna eat your zebra.”

“But there is no fucking lion. Or zebra. You don’t even have your queen and bishops anymore,” I explained. “But yeah, I’ll have your antelope medium rare.”

“You’d better watch your mouth,” he hissed.

“Hey, man. If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table,” I said.

Mr. Madero complied, literally turning the table to play white instead. He said, as he shifted his chair closer to the table, “Power is a lot like real estate. It’s about location, location, location.”

Much to Mr. Madero’s chagrin, I again gained the upper hand. “Eat that, motherfucker,” I said, as I took his last rook. But he refused to back down.

“The road to power is paved with hypocrisy. And casualties,” he whispered, choking back tears. “There are two kinds of pain. The sort that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.”

I moved a piece.

“Checkmate.”