“Bullshit and the art of crap detection” – Neil Postman: Reponse to key reading.

It’s safe to say I finished reading this with a raised eyebrow – whilst I could appreciate and recognise some of the points that Postman identifies, it also opened my eyes to a whole new meaning of bullshit. In this reading, Postman explores the various types of bullshit we face in our day-to-day lives and the importance of learning how to detect it. He explains four different kinds of bullshit; Pomposity, Fanaticism, Inanity and Superstition.

“There are plenty of people who are daily victimised by pomposity in that they are made to feel less worthy than they have the right to feel by people who use fancy titles, words, phrases, and sentences to obscure their own insufficiencies”. This is something but I can do nothing but agree with as on numerous occasions, as I am sure many others have suffered, I have been subject to this. However it is questionable as to how just words can cause us to doubt ourselves whilst covering up the insecurities of others.

Postman states the most obvious form of fanaticism is bigotry, where opinions of others are unvalued if they differ from the opinion of oneself. This ‘bullshit’ can simply be detected as arrogance whilst Postman explains the new form eichmannism where opinions are simply obvious and boring.

Inanity stood out to me significantly as Postman explains how this form of bullshit “has given a voice and an audience to many people whose opinions would otherwise not be solicited”. This made me think of the lecture ‘Here comes everybody’ and how everyone can now access and share information which leads us to question what is actually the truth, subsequently linking to Postman saying how these ‘voices’ can spout bullshit.

It is clear Postman has a strong opinion on the bullshit of superstition following his refrain from commenting on “the religion into which you were born confers upon you some special standing with the cosmos that is denied other people”. “A superstition is a belief, usually expressed in authoritive terms for which there is no factual or scientific basis” shows that they are clearly based upon a persons thoughts and opinions. Whilst some forms or superstition are considered harmless such as walking under ladders or knocking over salt, it is clear that some people have stronger beliefs  that people will both conform to or completely disregard.

Most importantly, Postman explains in order to be able to detect crap you have to be aware of your own values. By being sure of what you believe, you can distinguish yourself what is ‘real’ and what is bull – Postman says that being able to do this becomes an art. Does it? Or does it save us a lot of hassle? I didn’t expect Postman to have the answers, but to see him write so passionately about teaching kids how to detect bullshit then at the end of the reading admit he doesn’t know how, kind of made the whole piece flat. At the end of the day, we won’t escape people’s bullshit.

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on February 28, 2014.

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