On “Calling BS” – Shouldn’t We Do It More Often?

May 16th, 2018

Just after the terrible school shootings in Parkland, Florida earlier this year, a young woman named Emma González made a passionate speech, in which she challenged the gun lobby and lawmakers. She described the attitudes and expressions of apathy and inaction by politicians, and their justification of gun ownership and violence, repeatedly punctuating her comments with her own rallying cry:

We call BS!

If you have not watched this moving speech, it is worth eleven minutes of your time.

What Ms. González meant by “BS” in this context was hypocrisy. My question is really: Why aren’t we “calling BS” more often? We are surrounded by it, day after day.

Emma Gonzalez can't take any more BS.

Emma Gonzalez can’t take any more BS.

Two things struck me recently. One of them was an article entitled: Why BS Hurts Democracy More Than Lies.  The writer suggests that what is so insidious (even clever) about President Trump’s way of dealing with those opposed to his views is his habit of using BS: obfuscation, blurring the lines, talking but saying nothing, interjecting meaningless phrases (“everybody knows”; “we’ll see”). This flummoxes the opponent. It confuses anyone trying to argue the facts. The facts almost become irrelevant. It is not lies; it is sheer dishonesty, and ultimately disrespect.

But it works. Yes, BS is very effective.

Moreover, anyone who rejects the BS being fed to them, and who “calls it out,” as Ms. González and her colleagues do, is regarded as not sharing the same “moral worldview,” notes the writer. This opens up a deep, murky gulf between the two opposing views. This has nothing to do with who may be right or wrong in terms of facts and information. It has more to do with youth and age, for example, or the haves and have-nots; those who have different expectations, aspirations, lifestyles. And never the twain shall meet. The facts simply don’t come into it.

The second thing was a personal experience, which left me feeling irritated. BS can often be quite simple and straightforward – like excuses, for example. I have come across countless examples of this, so this is one of many. As our garbage was being collected from our house recently, I was approached by a young man, who asked me for money. When I refused, he then asked me for a drink – an alcoholic one. I said No, I did not think that was appropriate. As the young man was talking to me, a colleague was lighting up his spliff at my gate. I asked them both to leave.

When I reported this via Twitter to the responsible Government agency, it immediately responded that if these young men were, in fact, its employees, such behavior was unacceptable. The agency asked me to provide more details. Before I had a chance to respond, it sent me another message, saying that it had “investigated” and could confirm that these young men were definitely not its employees. I had not told the agency when or where this happened nor had I given them any description of their clothing, etc. When I responded that I was curious as to the nature of the “investigations” when I had given them no background information, I received no reply. The agency had simply given me some BS, and I had to be satisfied with that.

How many times, in our everyday lives, are we expected to accept BS? Call it “mediocrity,” if you like.

Again, I felt disrespected and offended. What makes you think that you can BS to me, and I won’t recognize it for what it is?

Young people like 19-year-old Ms. González (and even those considerably younger) have a way of detecting BS. They can sniff it out, and reject it out of hand. Is it that, as we get older, we become more tolerant of it? Or are we just too tired, so we let it all wash over us?

Just look at social media. Listen to radio talk shows. They are full to overflowing with BS, day and night. We need a filter for it – a very fine filter, that will catch all the tiny granules. In our relationships with each other, it creeps in, too. It is shallow, it is trite, it is sometimes amusing – but, I would agree with the writer of the article: it is also dangerous. Because we are not really talking to each other honestly. We don’t really want to listen to each other’s point of view. So we mix it up, deflect, distract and frustrate. It doesn’t matter what the truth is, or is not.

Once we are caught in the thick haze of BS, like air pollution, it will smother us. It stifles any kind of vibrant dialogue or understanding.

We – politicians, journalists, lawyers, influencers, ordinary citizens – need to purify the air around us until there is not a whiff of BS remaining.

We would all be so much healthier, breathing that clean air. Truth, lies, facts, inaccuracies. Give me those, any day. No BS.




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