adding page because of The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit – feb 2016 – notes below.. but also to david graeber‘s bullshit jobs ness..

wikipedia small

Bullshit (also bullcrap) is a common English expletive which may be shortened to the euphemism bull or the initialism BS. In British English, “bollocks” is a comparable expletive, although “bullshit” is more common. It is mostly a slang profanity term meaning “nonsense”, especially in a rebuking response to communication or actions viewed as deceiving, misleading, disingenuous, unfair or false. As with many expletives, the term can be used as an interjection or as many other parts of speech, and can carry a wide variety of meanings.

It can be used either as a noun or as a verb as in the question “are you bullshitting me?”. While the word is generally used in a deprecating sense, it may imply a measure of respect for language skills, or frivolity, among various other benign usages. In philosophy, Harry Frankfurt, among others, analyzed the concept of bullshit as related to but distinct from lying.

Outside of the philosophical and discursive studies, the everyday phrase bullshit conveys a measure of dissatisfaction with something or someone, but often does not describe any role of truth in the matter.


“Bull”, meaning nonsense, dates from the 17th century, while the term “bullshit” has been used as early as 1915 in American slang, and came into popular usage only during World War II. The word “bull” itself may have derived from the Old French boul meaning “fraud, deceit”. The term “horseshit” is a near synonym. TheSouth African English equivalent is “bull dust”.

The earliest attestation mentioned by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary is in fact T. S. Eliot, who between 1910 and 1916 wrote an early poem to which he gave the title “The Triumph of Bullshit”, written in the form of a ballade. The word bullshit does not appear in the text of the poem, and Eliot himself never published the poem.

As to earlier etymology the Oxford English Dictionary cites bull with the meaning “trivial, insincere, untruthful talk or writing, nonsense”. It describes this usage as being of unknown origin, but notes that in Old French, the word could mean “boul, boule, bole fraud, deceit, trickery; mod. Icel bull ‘nonsense’; also ME bull BUL ‘falsehood’, and BULL verb, to befool, mock, cheat.”

Although there is no confirmed etymological connection, it should be noted that these older meanings are synonymous with the modern expression “bull”, generally considered and used as a contraction of “bullshit”

Another proposal, according to the lexicographer Eric Partridge, is that the term was popularised by the Australian and New Zealand troops from about 1916 arriving at the front during World War I. Partridge claims that the British commanding officers’ placed emphasis on bull; that is, attention to appearances, even when it was a hindrance to waging war. The foreign Diggers allegedly ridiculed the British by calling it bullshit.

In the philosophy of truth and rhetoric

Assertions of fact

“Bullshit” is commonly used to describe statements made by people more concerned with the response of the audience than in truth and accuracy,

such as goal-oriented statements made in the field of politics or advertising. On one prominent occasion, the word itself was part of a controversial advertisement. During the 1980 U.S. presidential campaign, the Citizens Party candidate Barry Commoner ran a radio advertisement that began with an actor exclaiming: “Bullshit! Carter, Reaganand Anderson, it’s all bullshit!” NBC refused to run the advertisement because of its use of the expletive, but Commoner’s campaign successfully appealed to theFederal Communications Commission to allow the advertisement to run unedited.

As a form of propaganda

The backcronym Biased Unverifiable Lax Logical Substantiation of Hegemonic Ideological Truths was created to describe a form of novel propaganda that has developed in the workplace. The ease of data collection emerging from the IT revolution and a lack of control on its use has led to the widespread adoption of this propaganda tool. This focuses upon the questionable use of data by workplace managers to give ‘rationales’ or ‘evidence’ to what are essentially opinions and ideology. The essay/artwork notes how this form of propaganda contradicts traditional forms of propaganda which utilized emotionally evocative imagery to overcome rational thought. This form of propaganda uses lax data analysis to overcome emotional thought. i.e., when management provide supposed data to support unpopular decisions. The term Unverifiable in the acronym refers in great part to the ‘bullshit law of asymmetry’ referred to below. The author suggests the backcronym brings the idea of this form of propaganda back to earth and is an exercise in bringing working-class common speech into academic discourse rather than excluding it. Concerned about the rise of bullshit in the workplace, the author wished to provide workers with a means to label such behavior as ‘bullshit’ when they saw it by legitimizing the term with a clear definition.

Harry Frankfurt’s concept

In his essay On Bullshit (originally written in 1986, and published as a monograph in 2005), philosopher Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The “bullshitter”, on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking to impress:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

Frankfurt connects this analysis of bullshit with Ludwig Wittgenstein‘s disdain of “non-sense” talk, and with the popular concept of a “bull session” in which speakers may try out unusual views without commitment. He fixes the blame for the prevalence of “bullshit” in modern society upon anti-realism and upon the growing frequency of situations in which people are expected to speak or have opinions without appropriate knowledge of the subject matter.

Several political commentators have seen that Frankfurt’s concept of bullshit provides insights into political campaigns. Jeet Heer, a senior editor at The New Republic, has employed Frankfurt’s analysis to explain Donald Trump’s many false campaign statements and Trump’s lack of concern when challenged on those statements. Heer notes that Trump often replies by claiming that there is no evidence to demonstrate the truth of his claims—or the rebuttals of his critics. This position “takes us to a post-truth world where Trump’s statements can’t be fact-checked, and… reality is simply what he says.” Heer considers that Trump is not a liar, he “is something worse than a liar. He is a bullshit artist.”

Gerald Cohen, in “Deeper into Bullshit”, contrasted the kind of “bullshit” Frankfurt describes with a different sort: nonsense discourse presented as sense. Cohen points out that this sort of bullshit can be produced either accidentally or deliberately. While some writers do deliberately produce bullshit, a person can also aim at sense and produce nonsense by mistake; or a person deceived by a piece of bullshit can repeat it innocently, without intent to deceive others.

Cohen gives the example of Alan Sokal’s “Transgressing the Boundaries” as a piece of deliberate bullshit. Sokal’s aim in creating it, however, was to show that the “postmodernist” editors who accepted his paper for publication could not distinguish nonsense from sense, and thereby by implication that their field was “bullshit”.

In everyday language

Outside of the academic world, among natural speakers of North American English, as an interjection or adjective, bullshit conveys general displeasure, an objection to, or points to unfairness within, some state of affairs. This colloquial usage of “bullshit”, which began in this 20th century, does not assign a truth score to another’s discourse. It simply labels something that the speaker does not like and feels he is unable to change.

Bullshit asymmetry principle

Publicly formulated the first time on January 2013 by Alberto Brandolini, an Italian programmer, the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle (also known as Brandolini’s law) states that:

The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

It became especially popular after a picture of a presentation by Brandolini at XP2014 on May 30, 2014 was posted on Twitter.

Similar thoughts were formulated in the past but they mostly focused on the speed of propagation of bullshit, whereas Brandolini’s statement focuses on the difficulty of debunking it.


adding page (on the day) be\cause of this essay by Brian D Earp (shared by @surreallyno )

The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit – feb 2016


At the same time, as the psychologist Gary Marcus has recently put it, “it is facile to dismiss science itself. The most careful scientists, and the best science journalists, realize that all science is provisional. There will always be things that we haven’t figured out yet, and even some that we get wrong.” But science is not just about conclusions, he argues, which are occasionally (or even frequently) incorrect. Instead, “It’s about a methodology for investigation, which includes, at its core, a relentless drive towards questioning that which came before.” You can both “love science,” he concludes, “and question it.”


And it is with that in mind that I bring up the subject of bullshit.

There is a veritable truckload of bullshit in science. When I say bullshit, I mean arguments, data, publications, or even the official policies of scientific organizations that give every impression of being perfectly reasonable — of being well-supported by the highest quality of evidence, and so forth — but which don’t hold up when you scrutinize the details. Bullshit has the veneer of truth-like plausibility. It looks good. It sounds right. But when you get right down to it, it stinks.

There are many ways to produce scientific bullshit. One way is to assert that something has been “proven,” “shown,” or “found” and then cite, in support of this assertion, a study that has actually been heavily critiqued (fairly and in good faith, let us say, although that is not always the case, as we soon shall see) without acknowledging any of the published criticisms of the study or otherwise grappling with its inherent limitations.

proof ness..


But there is one example I have only recently come across, and of which I have not yet seen any serious discussion. I am referring to a certain sustained, long-term publication strategy, apparently deliberately carried out (although motivations can be hard to pin down), that results in a stupefying, and in my view dangerous, paper-pile of scientific bullshit. It can be hard to detect, at first, with an untrained eye—you have to know your specific area of research extremely well to begin to see it—but once you do catch on, it becomes impossible to un-see.

seen too much to not..


since Lord Voldemort has mastered the art of using “objective” sounding scientific rhetoric to mask objectively weak arguments and data), they end up becoming a part of the published record with every appearance of being legitimate critique.

what does published record even mean .. no?

hearing myself questioning blockchain for validation.. hearing 09 rhodes scholar questioning a nother person’s book/narrative (not as is… but as ultimate)


As the programmer Alberto Brandolini is reputed to have said: “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” This is the unbearable asymmetry of bullshit I mentioned in my title, and it poses a serious problem for research integrity. Developing a strategy for overcoming it, I suggest, should be a top priority for publication ethics.




notes from

David Graeber‘s bullshit jobs ness

an 2015 – pointless jobs – 200 tube posters:


I remember being very struck by Dostoyevsky, who was in a Russian prison camp, and he said if you really want to destroy someone psychologically, much worse than through physical torture, just make up a completely meaningless form of work. You know, have them take water from some giant vat and then move it back to the first vat again. Have them do that all day and before long even the most hardened criminal will be utterly despairing of life, because there’s nothing more horrible than devoting one’s life to something completely meaningless. I mean, you know, sure, there will be some freeloaders, but we’ve got more freeloaders right now.

..work is valuable if it makes other people’s lives better.

mar 2015 – Paris on David:

Stop fighting for bullshit jobs // Paris Marx: Propaganda [003]

end of meaningless work april 2015:


..in 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by the end of the century technology would have advanced sufficiently that in countries such as the UK and the US we’d be on 15-hour weeks. “In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more.

Huge swaths of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they believe to be unnecessary.

The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.”


In 2011, at New York’s Zuccotti Park, he became involved in Occupy Wall Street, which he describes as an “experiment in a post-bureaucratic society”. He was responsible for the slogan “We are the 99%”.

99 and 1

“We wanted to demonstrate we could do all the services that social service providers do without endless bureaucracy. In fact at one point at Zuccotti Park there was a giant plastic garbage bag that had $800,000 in it. People kept giving us money but we weren’t going to put it in the bank. You have all these rules and regulations. And Occupy Wall Street can’t have a bank account. I always say the principle of direct action is the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.”


He is suggesting that, instead of being rule-following economic drones of capitalism, we are essentially playful. The most basic level of being is play rather than economics, fun rather than rules, goofing around rather than filling in forms. Graeber himself certainly seems to be having more fun than seems proper for a respected professor.


@chriscaple I look forward to the day when most of my work is profoundly irrelevant

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/600353107302862848


on bullshit jobs – david graeber:

i did this with my debt book tour.. i decided to do the opposite (of having to tour with a repeated script).. turn all those crazy rants and get them out there…

2 min – you keep meeting people who are embarrassed by what they do… and this is exactly what capitalism isn’t supposed to do… private firms making up jobs.. paying people for things for not doing anything… ie: all these industries.. that if they disappeared .. no one would notice… ie: telemarketing; corp lawyers; armies; middle management who organize meetings, fill out form, create paperwork/reports…. this is why people aren’t working

6 min – you have all these people administering other people... how does this happen… it’s not consumerism.. seems to be the idea that work is a value of itself..

– –

purpose of job rushkoff

we should figure out a way to get through this world w/o needing a job..

indeed: a nother way


from bullshit jobs (book):


(end notes) interestingly enough ‘bull’ is not an abbreviation for ‘bullshit’ but ‘bullshit’ is an early 10th cent elab on ‘bull’.. the term is ultimately derived from french bole, meaning ‘fraud or deceit’.. the term ‘bullshit’ is first attested in an unpublished poem by ts eliot.. ‘bollocks’ is another derivation from ‘bole’

‘bullshitting’ is after all a form of dishonesty.. i would have said ‘lying’ but the philosopher harry frankfurt (2005) famously argued that bullshitting is not the same as lying..




the realest thing in our lives via Seth (same day)


The realest thing in our lives

Are the stories we invent.

We live with these stories, we remind ourselves of them, we perfect them.

And, happily, if you don’t like the story you’re telling yourself, you can change it.

we sit in our stadiums (thousands of thousands of us) yelling at manufactured players and/or online yelling at our yelling.
while – syria.. kampala.. solitary.. suicide.. et al goes on alongside
what might happen .. if instead of our story being that of our child being a future player (nevermind the less visible dying via body/brain/soul abuse) making tons of money/popularity and/or a future politician/official person making tons of money (nevermind the less visible dying via body/brain/soul abuse) … we changed the story to be that of our child being the one seeking refuge, answers, …
would that change things
B & b ness.. too much

a nother way

for (blank)’s sake