Bullshit, an academic word you did not know.
So a few weeks back I made a tweet about how psychology needs to separate itself from bullshit like astrology, graphology and tarot cards in order to be taken more seriously in India. My intention was not to hurt anyone’s sentiments, I was merely trying to call out bullshit when I smelt it, but understandably, bullshitters don’t like being called bullshitters because it exposes their bullshit.
A lot of bullshitters took offence to being called bullshitters because apparently it is not the politically right word to say, so I decided to name them something more appropriate, Bovine Excreta Generators (BEG in short). But enough about me, I meant to use the word bullshit in a purely academic sense, after all, there is so much research that has gone into it.
Let me explain. In 2005, Harry Frankfurt released a short book titled, “On Bullshit” where he conceptually analysed ‘Bullshit’ and determined that it is speech intended to persuade with absolutely no regard to the truth. Bullshitters are different from liars. Liars try to bend the truth to suit their narrative. They try to re-interpret established facts but bullshitters on the other hand don’t give one flying hoot about reality or truth or anything in a similar realm.
Bullshit thus, as summarized by Frankfurt, is useless, insignificant and nonsense.
In the modern world we see bullshit all around us. Some bullshit is smellier than others but it is still bullshit.
Let me explain with an example, think about Neeraj Chopra who just won the gold medal for a javelin throw at Tokyo Olympics 2021. It’s a great achievement. India’s first gold in athletics at the Olympics. Now people will try and claim credit for this success. The coaches, politicians (from the local to the national level) will say that it was their efforts that led to this great success. That’s quite alright. Every single thing we do has a lot to do with the society around us, the people we are surrounded by and the power systems in place. It sounds reasonable. Not all of it may be true but it still is centred around some semblance of reality.
Now tomorrow a shaman comes up and claims that it was his mantra on the other javelin throwers that got Neeraj the medal. It seems a bit tough to believe. Your bullshit sense might be tingling and as a rule of thumb, if it smells like bullshit, looks like bullshit and tingles like bullshit, it probably is bullshit.
Or you could think of the spirit talker from last year who claimed to have talked to the soul of Sushant Singh Rajput after his death. It was only to this man that SSR’s soul talked and told him very fine details of the apparent ‘murder’.
Bullshit is famous because bullshit sells but that doesn’t make it anymore truer.
So, the next time you see some bullshit, call it out. You are not insulting anyone. You are simply labelling something academically (and making society a cleaner place.)