What is this?
It’s a free newsletter about bullshit.
Could you be a little more specific?
It’s a free newsletter about bullshit in the Harry Frankfurt sense, which is different from lying. When you lie, you knowingly misrepresent the truth. When you bullshit, you don’t know or care about the truth; you just say whatever you need to say to get what you want.
Why is “everything” bullshit?
According to decades of psychological research, we don’t really know why we do anything—we’re just guessing. We walk around flailing our limbs and moving our mouths, oblivious to the unconscious forces guiding our behavior (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
Yet when we’re asked to explain ourselves, we don’t say, “I don’t know—talk to my therapist.” Instead, we bullshit. We cook up convenient excuses and glib rationalizations, saying whatever we need to say to look good, fit in, or get what we want. And we don’t just bullshit about ourselves; we bullshit about everyone. We spin even more dubious explanations about other people’s behavior, designed not for accuracy, but for achieving our social goals, like flattering our friends or dunking on our rivals.
Most of what we talk about is why we and other people do things; therefore, most of what we talk about is bullshit. Most of the bullshit reasons we give for our behavior are wrong and self-serving; therefore, most of what we do is bullshit. “Most of what we talk about…” “Most of what we do…” That’s pretty close to “everything.”
Who are you?
I’m David Pinsof.
And what do you know about bullshit?
I have a PhD in Psychology from UCLA, where I studied the evolutionary origins of political bullshit. I wrote a handful of academic papers, one of which has been cited 152 times, and another of which was quoted in the New York Times. I directed this humorous public opinion poll about political bullshit, which was hailed by Christopher Chabris (of invisible gorilla fame) as “one of the best polls I’ve ever read.” I’m one of the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity (where I currently work), which is a company that literally sold bull feces to thousands of paying customers.