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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Bullshitization of Everything

Last weekend I began watching the BBC's documentary Ted Hughes: stronger than death. To be honest his poetry leaves me cold, but when I went to school he was one of the "modern poets" we were supposed to "respond" to.  How was I supposed to respond to  poems about hawks and  jaguars,  animals I had never  seen in the flesh, not even in a zoo?  To me they were just words.

Roughly two and a half minutes into the documentary the following text appears on screen: This major documentary explores how Ted Hughes's life shaped his vision as a poet. Is this what it has come to? The gratuitous self-puff.  Surely it is for the viewer to decide how "major" it is not for the maker to so describe it. And what utter triteness. Do we really need to be told that a poet's life shapes their vision? For G...'s sake, what else is going to do it?

And so bullshit routinely consumes everything. Of course you could  say, don't take it so seriously, it's all just a game you know, nudge, nudge, wink, wink... But that is to miss the point. Bullshit once it becomes established is not optional, it becomes coercive. Not agreeing to "play the game" becomes a black mark against you. 

It now seems compulsory to describe every academic event, meeting or institution in PR speak as "vibrant" and if you refuse to play along you are immediately suspected of being at best a kill-joy and at worst subversive. If you think that personal and professional authenticity is important and that the words we use actually matter, you should be concerned. The signs that bullshit and the bullshitters have won are all around us. The fact that we have come to take Newspeak for  granted is the biggest victory. 

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