A plague of phoniness stalks the land. Liars, cheats and hypocrites infest the public square. Can you smell it, my friends? That is the rich, redolent stink of bullshit. Everywhere you turn, someone is stepping in it.
Lance Armstrong peddles lies for a decade, gets caught, then prostrates himself on Oprah, seeking absolution through humiliation, and he still can’t tell the truth.
A young, naïve football player, looking for love in all the wrong places, finds it in a catfish. Poor Manti Te’o was hoaxed so hard he played along with the scam; the truth was too much to swallow in one gulp. He was an innocent victim turned accessory of a fraud perpetuated on himself, yet he still had to abase himself to Katie Couric. Innocence is no defense in these days of deceit; bullshit pollutes everything it touches and its reach is nearly infinite.
Shall I go on? Paula Broadwell writes a biography of David Petraeus using an unconventional research technique she perfected while staring at the ceiling. She pretended to be smitten and he pretended to be single. To this day we don’t know who was hoaxing whom. All we know for sure is that a writer’s reputation and a warrior’s lifetime of service both drowned in a fetid swamp of bullshit.
Ponzi schemes pop like soap bubbles, high-profile CEO’s get the boot as their lying resumes blow up in their faces, academics fake degrees, scientists fudge results, celebrities … well, celebrities are mostly themselves, but you get the point.
This is nothing new; the bullshit artist is a grand human archetype, built into the species. Braggarts, liars and fakes have been with us since Glorg claimed he invented the wheel to get chicks. But, until now, Glorg couldn’t pretend to be a chick. That’s new.
Technology has taken bullshit to a whole new level. It is no longer a local phenomenon where some barfly bums drinks by boring the room with tales of his secret life as a hitman for the “company.” This is an epidemic of duplicity. Bullshit has gone viral.
Sometimes I despair of humanity. I haven’t felt so betrayed since John Paul Sartre stole the idea for existentialism off me when I was taking one of his courses at the Sorbonne. I hate bullshit.
Yet every epidemic contains the seeds of hope. When viruses go viral, decimating whole populations and ravaging the host, they leave a precious gift behind.
Antibodies. The terrible disease runs its course, and those who survive are immune.
Dishonesty and deception went viral long ago. Humanity has been infected by a plague of liars pretending to be demigods, above the rules, all-powerful, beyond the reach of truth. But they weren’t gods, they were human gasbags, and, one by one, we’ve watched them deflate. I believe we’re getting immune to bullshit; the epidemic has passed its peak.
We saw it in the last election. Mitt Romney ran his Etch-A-Sketch campaign and it almost worked. I can’t blame him for trying. It’s not easy to win when your philosophy is the greatest good for the smallest number, but, in the end, it wasn’t his ideas that killed him. It was the bullshit.
An election was held and the verdict came down. He’s a phony. He’s pretending to be someone he’s not. He was trying to catfish the country, but we wouldn’t take the hook. We’d seen it all before and our immune systems rejected him.
Could that be our reward for surviving this epidemic of moral rabies? Could it be that we’re on the cusp of a time when we laugh at the dark appeals of demagogues? When candidates who use wedge issues and fake outrage reliably fail?
It is too glorious to contemplate. A politics where knee-jerk liberals no longer twitch at each bullshit buzzword, where conservatives communicate their ideals to the whole nation, instead of trying to resurrect the Confederacy. A politics of truth and trust.
Is that too much to ask? Sure it is. But in a world of bullshit gone viral, where the frauds of the past have piled up so high that even us simple folks can’t help but notice, it just might be the future.
The purveyors of pure, unadulterated bullshit have had their day. It’s been a very long day indeed.
But the sun is setting on the scammers. Suddenly, we can see right through them. It is twilight time for the false gods.