A Theory of Bullshit II: Serious Stuff

Tim Hayward

Serious Bullshit, I suggested previously,[1] was exemplified in the justification offered for the US-led destruction of Iraq. The specific lie deployed initiating it – concerning alleged WMD – has long since been exposed. But a particular lie may be merely an instrument for a more fundamental strategy of deception.

To achieve mass deception, it is not enough simply to invent a lie, since untruth always stands to be discovered; what matters is getting the relevant people to believe the lie, at least for as long as you need them to. The capacity to generate compliant beliefs on the grand scale can require an elaborate apparatus. Ordinary individual people do not command such a thing, but states and other powerful forms of organisation do. Such entities may develop strategies of deception for a variety of reasons. They can then produce serious bullshit.

Serious bullshit can involve years of advance…

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