On Bullshit.

In his 2005 essay, On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt makes clear distinctions between the liar and the bullshit artist. Frankfurt states, “When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter,however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.” Frankfurt’s description fit the character I had in mind for the CEO of my fictional social media company, Eko. I was looking for someone who could convey the elusiveness of a company whose ethos and morals are not fixed, a company which is based on the bullshit notion that they care about their users, and that they exist to serve them. For real world parallels, we need look no further than Facebook with their carefully curated personalised ‘on this day’ feature, or Instagram with their promise to show us the posts we want and deserve. Of course we know Facebook and Instagram do not care personally for us, and yet we accept the story, because….it’s bullshit, and not a lie. Back to Frankfurt again. “people do tend to be more tolerant of bullshit than of lies, perhaps because we are less inclined to take the former as a personal affront. We may seek to distance ourselves from bullshit, but we are more likely to turn away from it with an impatient or irritated shrug than with the sense of violation or outrage that lies often inspire.”

So thanks to the actor James Manser, who readily accepted the challenge of taking the part of Eko company CEO. You proudly spoke of our unpleasant beginnings, recent success, and then headed out the door as the audience was looking the other way. Almost as if you had something to hide…

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