Rappoport, Jon

 SEPTEMBER 30, 2010.  I'm taking this opportunity to present a backgrounder. 

 A backgrounder on bullshit.

 First of all, I realize that millions of people online prefer pictures to words.  To them, all I can say is: "You're damned."  I can't work my way around that problem. 

 Okay.  Bullshit comes in layers.  That's the first thing you need to know.  Finding one layer is just the beginning, and if you keep pointing to that layer like a braying donkey and saying, "See?  That's bullshit!", you're going to make a tiresome bore out of yourself, and anyone has the right to shoot you.

 Bullshit comes in layers.  You can see this when a politician is caught with his shvance in the cookie jar.  He says, "I made a serious error in judgment." 

 He didn't make an error in judgment.  He wanted to stick his shvance in the jar and he did.  Simple.  Of course, he can't say that, because everybody is waiting for a dishonest, full-of-shit excuse from him.  That's what they expect.

 If the pol said, "Look, I shacked up with the woman because she was beautiful and I could afford it," people wouldn't know what to do.  They'd wander around in circles like drunken parakeets.

 Anyway, then the pol goes into sex-addiction rehab, which is a combination country club and two-a-day AA-type meetings.  Another layer of bullshit. 

 And if he gets religion, that's another one.  If he attaches himself like a leech to a preacher, that's another one.

 But-and this is the interesting point-if he moves through these layers with reasonable haste, the public tends to accept his "repentance" because THEY KNOW IT'S BULLSHIT AND THEY WANT BULLSHIT.

 Do you see?  In these times, bullshit is the most convenient navigational tool at everyone's disposal.  Losing it would put too many people at sea.  There would be too much confusion.

 We all recognize bullshit.  It's the common coin of the realm.  So we maintain the social contract with it.

Can I quote the contract?  Ah, that's not an easy thing, but I'll try:

"We, the undersigned, recognizing that truth is a volatile and unpredictable material, which may cause considerable disruptions in the fabric of public life, opt instead for a relatively inert substance: bullshit.  Being intimately familiar with its forms and uses, we are able to pretend that those events which are being referenced by bullshit are real, when they are not.  In this regard, we are facile and practiced. 

"Furthermore, we openly confess our happy addiction to bullshit.  Among other advantages, it lubricates our inclination for constructing a multi-front fairy-tale world in which we can exercise our ideological preferences and ignore contrary evidence. 

"We recognize that this contract will permit many criminal statements and actions to fly beneath the radar.  To put it bluntly, this is the price we pay for a (hopefully) easier passage through life."

We elect public officials and support media commentators and religious leaders so they can provide us with some favored brand of bullshit.  We expect them to broadcast it.  Furthermore, our reactions to it are bullshit, as well.  This is called Cooperative Bullshit.

Some blowhard bloviating, day after day, month after month, on his usual theme in the most preposterous way is music to our ears.  It's Reliable Bullshit.  We can always count on the creature to sing the same few notes.

Occasionally, when we consider the alternative to this overall way of being, we glimpse subtlety, nuance, and God forbid, even art.  We quickly shrink from the prospect.  It would be troublesome, whereas The Way of Bullshit is transparent and widely supportable, like the foundations of a bridge.

Finally, there not only layers of bullshit, there are also what could be called orders or multiples of bullshit. 

For example, in a corporate conference room, the CEO asks a question which everyone in the meeting immediately perceives to be a piece of self-serving bullshit.  A person at the table answers that question, and of course his answer is bullshit, too.  Another person tacks on a further piece of bullshit.  This prompts the CEO to float a related question-more bullshit.  And so the process goes.

No one in the room would even think of trying to interrupt it, because they are feeling the exhilaration of a long ride down a snow-covered hill in a sleigh.  It's Christmas.