Bullshitters aren’t innocent. They bullshit for a reason.
If their purposes were honorable, they would be in possession of facts, of the truth of what’s really going on, and they wouldn’t need bullshit.
Resorting to bullshit proves dishonesty on a level even deeper than lying.
As Harry Frankfurt concludes in his wonderful little treatise On Bullshit, lying contradicts the truth — which means it pays attention to the truth — but bullshit is worse, because it is nothing else but disregard for all truth. The liar knows what happened and says otherwise. The bullshitter doesn’t give a fuck what happened and says whatever the hell he wants to. Frankfurt considers this a far worse problem, and he only sees it proliferating. (Full text online at http://www.stoa.org.uk/topics/bullshit/pdf/on-bullshit.pdf)
But there’s good news: There’s an easy way to expose and foil bullshit in a single move.
Bullshitters set up tar babies. We can use their own device against them.
(Watch the Uncle Remus story “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkChaSlvWe0)
Bullshitters make shit up to get you engaged and get you stuck. They want you to punch their tar babies. That’s how they trap you.
You’ll waste a lot of time trying to “prove” their tar babies are bullshit, because bullshitters have no regard for the truth of anything you might say. They use spaghetti logic: If one strand doesn’t stick, they just reach into their pots, pull out another, and throw that one at you. One might be white flour, another whole wheat flour, another rye flour, or another might be Plaster of Paris slathered in glue. There is no pattern or sense to this “logic”, which is the point: Gaslighting is supposed to be disorienting and destabilizing. Sooner or later something’s bound to stick, so they believe — and statistically, they’re right. Eventually something will “get ya”. At best, dealing with them this way is interminable and fruitless.
There’s a far easier way: Put out an alternative baby that isn’t covered with tar. Merely assert another possibility as if it’s true with the same emphatic confidence that the bullshitter just put forward his pile of sticky shit. You need do no more than that. In fact, it’s less effective if you offer more than the bullshitter did when he put his tar baby front and center.
All you need to do now is respond to his antics and watch him destroy his own baby in the process.
(The “tar” is some form of obligation or necessity. If the bullshitter can get you to believe you must or you should, he owns you.)
Here’s how to do it:
— Survival is a great example. Everyone thinks it’s the most important driver psychologically, socially, evolutionarily, LMAO! This baby sports a shitload of stinky, sticky tar. Simply put forward thriving as the primary motive force behind all life. Or, on a more personal, practical level, when someone says, “You have to X!” just say, “Or, I could just Y,” and smile — nothing more. Leave it hanging and watch what happens! 😀
— When the bullshitter objects to your baby, mention that it’s a baby much like his, no less real or valid, just not slimed and reeking of tar.
(Notice that the bullshitter will refuse to give your baby a fair hearing. Of course he won’t: It doesn’t have the tar he needs to achieve his purposes.)
— When he says you have no proof of your baby or right to put it forward, remind him you have no less than he did for his.
(Notice that it’s irrelevant whether your baby is in fact the case or advisable. The bullshitter can’t hold you to a higher standard than his own. If he just made that shit up, he can’t complain if you do similarly. Besides, the problem isn’t that your baby is false or a dumb idea. The problem is that the bullshitter refuses to consider it as a possibility before any questions of fact or prudence could honestly be raised. You can’t sincerely ask, “Is it true and good?” when you’ve already decided to reject it. Demands for “proof” from that posture are themselves bullshit. In some ways, it’s even more effective if your baby is less than credible, because it will drive home that his baby has no more claim on credibility than your poor one, and maybe less.)
— When he says his baby is better, remind him yours isn’t covered with tar.
— When he says his baby is necessary or unavoidable, ask him how he determined that. When he fails to divulge anything credible or even coherent, you can correctly point out that his claim of necessity is itself unnecessary and in fact is baseless, i.e., bullshit! 😉
There’s more, but by this point he’ll get the point: You’re not going to punch his baby. He can’t get you stuck. And your baby rivals his. He wants his to be the only one on display.
And there’s nothing civil and reasonable he can do about it.
At this juncture he’ll excuse himself.
If he’s a cordial sort, he’ll cite your misunderstanding as the reason you rejected his baby — but notice that you didn’t reject it. You just wouldn’t embrace it. He can’t tell the difference. That’s how impaired bullshitters’ faculties are. (There are psychological reasons why people resort to bullshit instead of learning what’s really going on and dealing with the truth, and none of them are good ones.)
If he’s a malicious sort, he’ll disparage you over all kinds of character failures, ill intent, and ingrained perverseness on your part for your refusal to accept the obvious wonderfulness of his baby. (sic)
Either way, civilized or asshole, he’ll terminate your relationship. He will leave. He wasn’t there for you but for what he could get out of you. So, now that he knows he’ll get nothing, you’re of no more interest to him.
This is how easy it is to get the truth out of bullshitters and provoke them into outing themselves.
If your “rejection” of their babies threatens their access to other prey, predatory bullshitters will reveal themselves red in tooth and claw and try to destroy: your credibility, your situation, and if their babies are significantly lucrative or they believe their lives depend on them, even your livelihood and life.
This is the part Jesus mentioned where dogs and swine trample your pearls underfoot and turn to tear you to pieces. Now the situation’s no longer about their bullshit tar babies, but the malevolent brutishness they fronted for. The move to get violent proves in spades that the tar babies were bullshit. With fleeces now off revealing fur, froth and snarls, bullshitters will toss aside their tar babies as they leap to attack you, proving their babies were moot, no question, case closed. It was never really about the babies at all.
It’s not hard to see that for many “believers”, especially Evangelicals, fundamentalists, and cultists, God is just a Great Tar Baby in the Sky. Even secular bullshitters like “patriots” and the politicians who goad them on have their own Great Sticky One: The National Security of Our Great Nation, in whose name we trust under whose burdens we labor, suffer, sacrifice and die.
It’s all so unnecessary. Just be honest. Tell the plain truth. Ask real questions and don’t tolerate noxious drivel in response. Achieving real freedom does not take more than this because truth is freedom, so stand in it! Stand in the light. What’s more, you know it doesn’t take more, which is why you instinctively recoil from the prospect back towards the opaqueness, murk, and darkness of innuendo, insinuation, lies and, yeah, bullshit. You might claim answers to all the woes of the world, but how can that be true if simple, unapologetic honesty and love for truth would be getting just too real for you?
I’ve yet to meet people who don’t recoil from radical honesty at least initially, often persistently, sometimes tenaciously. This is truth we’re talking about, so what are you afraid of? For many people, the honest answer would be: Just about everything.
If you tolerate or capitulate to bullshitters and their disregard for truth, let alone their terrorism, you become complicit in their fraud and violence. Even if you and everyone knows it’s bullshit, and even if your culture and your society were founded on it — and all authoritarians ones in fact were — knowing doesn’t excuse you. It just makes you a minion.
Bullshit is key to abusive relationships. They can’t form and operate otherwise. It’s how cults are born. It’s how tyrannies persist.
It’s how you enslaved yourself.