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The Bullshit Factor

Back on the job after a short break during which I had someone else posting pre-written

A minor sensation in the world of publishing happened early this year when the non -
fiction lists were graced for a while by an academic paper. That an academic study should
attract interest outside its specialist field is amazing in itself, even more so when the
subject of this paper is revealed. It was a study of Bullshit. Not the brown ploppy stuff
that lies around in pastures of course, which is usually cow - shit anyway, but the stuff
seems to fill up more and more of our working and leisure time, the stuff that, according
to some, that makes the world go round. Yes you can forget all that romantic nonsense
about love making the world go round and the free market capitalist mantra that money
makes the world go round. Deep in our hearts we know that without Bullshit our western
civilisation would grind to a halt.
Not so long ago people worked in factories making things, on the land growing things or
were engaged in building things, moving things around or digging holes and filling them
in again. There was bullshit then of course. Preachers would stand up in their pulpits
giving it plenty about sin and retribution. Men who knew this was bullshit got rich,
rogered their maids and indulged in various unsavoury habits. Women and gullible men
who believed that virtue is rewarded in the next life got bored and in the end just had time
to think "who turned out the lights…oh bugger I'm dead," before they thought no more.
There was not just religious bullshit of course, there was financial bullshit like the South
Sea Bubble, a sort of seventeenth century version of the dotcom bubble, patriotic bullshit
which often strayed into rather unpleasant racism, medical bullshit, intellectual bullshit of
a type that cursed the world with the idea that western civilisation started in Greece and
Rome. Actually the Romans were a bunch of ignorant barbarians who thought hot baths
made up for the fact that their society was a free market capitalist rat race and they fed
people they did not like to the lions. Civilisation started in India of course.
Nowadays most people work in the bullshit industry, the principal theory of modern
economics is that we can contracts out all the dirty hands stuff to India, China and the
third world while we all get rich by selling each other financial services, home
improvement plans or holidays. It is very reminiscent of the South Sea Bubble.
The true economic theory propping up the western bullshit economy is that there is no
money in making or growing stuff, if you want to succeed in business you must sell
something that does not exist. Self - help programs are a sure fire winner. Every day tons
of paper drops through millions of letter boxes bringing a promise that for £30 a month
you can be happier, richer, thinner, more successful, get shagged more and all you have to
do is follow a simple set of instructions - oh, and earn about a million pounds a week in
order to buy all the merchandise you will need to follow the plan properly.
Maybe you are saving for a pension and some fund manager is investing your money in
"derivatives." Now shares in a company do not truly exist but even so they are too
tangible for the finance houses to feel safe about handling them. So most likely your hard
earned is being invested on betting whether certain shares, commodities and currencies
will go up or down in the future. You might as well bet your future on a twenty to one
outsider in the 2:30 at Newmarket, in all gambling the game is rigged in favour of the
bookie but not to the extent the finance markets are now rigged in favour of Merchant
The form of Bullshit we are all most familiar with of course is Management Bullshit.
Evidence of how Bullshit has taken over the world is provided by the number of
managers there are. People who twenty years ago would have been happy to be clerks are
now administration managers, project managers, customer service managers. Anybody in
a permanent job can expect to be at least an assistant manager, junior assistant manager
of janitorial services for example. Not a cleaner mind you, but the person who
administers and documents the cleaning, which is actually done by a crew of Bosnian
illegals who work under cover of darkness.
Bullshit has given birth to a special language. We no longer screw up, instead we fail to
achieve the expected result but gain some valuable experience from the process. People
do not die in hospitals, there is merely a "negative patient outcome," people are not
sacked they are "released to pursure other opportunities" or their jobs are "relocated to
more cost efficient units," (in India and China.) On top of all this, Bullshit has spawned a
new profession, motivational speaking. Motivational speakers, who are surely
forerunners of the thought police, are hired to inspire people with clichés like "there are
no problems, only opportunities," or " and "in every situation we must position ourselves
to take advantage of our opportunity."
The main thrust of the Bullshit industry of course is that if everybody conforms to the
ethos of Bullshit then everybody will be successful. In other words it is a ruse to create a
managed society.
I will leave you with a favourite aphorism from the consultancy I used to work through:
"managing people is like herding cats."

On Bullshit by Harry G Frankfurt
Corporate Bullshit
Defining Bullshit