Monday, May 16, 2005

Self-government for dummies

Recently a friend of mine was complaining about the "For Dummies" books. "I don't get it," he said, "Why are they so popular. Why can't they come out with a 'for regular people' series or something." I'm sure you can guess my reply--that in fact, the dummies series was for regular people, the problem being, not the book series but the population at large.

Now it seems Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt has published his tacit agreement. Boldtype's review of Frankfurt's On Bullshit includes this:
According to Frankfurt, bullshit is more potentially treacherous than its closest relative, the lie. While the lie necessarily gives a nod to the truth in the very act of denying it, bullshit doesn't bother with the truth at all. It's beside the bullshitter's point whether her statements are true or false. It is this "indifference to how things really are" that defines bullshit, making its prevalence in popular and political arenas so very frightening.

At the top of Frankfurt's bullshit list is American-style democracy. In a system that proclaims it is the duty of every citizen to vote, uninformed constituents resort to haphazard, eeny-meeny-miney-mo decisions--in other words, they bullshit their way through. And the politicians they elect, in turn, appear on television spewing political quackery and vague platitudes, feeding the entire nation with heaps of baloney.
The "book," which is little more than a glorified pamphlet is selling something like 50 copies a day and has been reprinted 10 times in a few months. The Guardian has this from Frankfurt:
"I was surprised when they said they wanted to publish it as a book because I didn't think there was enough there for a book. But my editor said: "You can do a lot with page sizes and margins."
The irony just kills me.

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." James Bovard

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