We live in an age saturated with information, and unfortunately, a fair share of that information falls under the umbrella of “bullshit.” Philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt famously explored this phenomenon in his book “On Bullshit.” He uses an anecdote about Ludwig Wittgenstein's friend, Fania Pascal, who, after having her tonsils removed, likened her pain to that of a dog hit by a car. Wittgenstein's response, “You don't know what a dog that has been run over feels like”; perfectly exemplifies the essence of bullshit.
Bullshit, according to Frankfurt, is not simply lying. It is speech intended to persuade without any regard for truthfulness. Liars at least acknowledge the concept of truth and attempt to manipulate it. Bullshitters, on the other hand, have no such concern. They readily spout untruths without any grounding in reality or evidence, solely focused on achieving their desired outcome.
Because of this disregard for truth, bullshitters arguably pose a greater threat than liars. They erode trust in communication and make it difficult to discern genuine information. Additionally, their lack of accountability allows them to promote their own agendas or opinions without fear of being challenged for factual inaccuracies.
With the explosion of communication channels and information available, the amount of bullshit being produced naturally increases. In this competition for attention, some resort to intentional lies and exaggerations, hoping to get noticed and gain recognition. The scary part is, we're all capable of becoming unwittingly involved, sharing unverified content or spreading rumors without due diligence.
I have explored this phenomenon in the sixth episode of Film Magistery, where I discuss the abundance of bullshit today around us and connect it to Coens’ underrated film Burn After Reading (2008), a tongue-in-cheek spy film about some people who know nothing, but pretend to know a lot.