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THE BULLSHIT – by Walter Kirn [An excerpt]

I used to like to read the news, the middlebrow mass-market weekly news. I also used to like to write it.  Some. This was back in the 90s at Time magazine, a publication which still exists in name but whose original, defining mission – grounding the American mind in a moderate, shared reality – is dead. The whole concept seems strange now – the American mind; a cloud of ideas, opinions, and sentiments floating somewhere above the Mississippi – but at Time, in the 90s, before the internet made its approach seem sluggish and slashed its readership, it was still possible to regard our product as unifying and, in its way, definitive. Sometimes I covered tangible events such as drug epidemics and forest fires, but much of the time I stitched together interviews conducted by local stringers and reporters into feature stories on such topics as “The New Science of Happiness” and “Children of Divorce.” It was an article of faith at Time that the findings of social scientists, simplified for popular consumption, ranked with hard news as a source of public enlightenment. Until business began to suffer, requiring cut-backs, the magazine kept an in-house research library, the better for checking even the smallest facts. The burden of accuracy lay heavy on Time. Its mighty name required nothing less.

Things are different now.

Every morning, there it is, waiting for me on my phone. The bullshit. It resembles, in its use of phrases such as “knowledgeable sources” and “experts differ,” what I used to think of as the news, but it isn’t the news and it hasn’t been for ages. It consists of its decomposed remains in a news-shaped coffin. It does impart information, strictly speaking, but not always information about our world. Or not good information, because it’s so often wrong, particularly on matters of great import and invariably to the advantage of the same interests, which suggests it should be presumed wrong as a rule. The information it imparts, if one bothers to sift through it, is information about itself; about the purposes, beliefs, and loyalties of those who produce it: the informing class. They’re not the ruling class — not quite — but often they’re married to it or share therapists or drink with it at Yale Bowl football games. They’re cozy, these tribal cousins. They cavort. They always have. What has changed is that the press used to maintain certain boundaries in the relationship, observing the incest taboo. It kept its pants zipped, at least in public. It didn’t hire ex-CIA directors, top FBI men, NSA brass, or other past and future sources to sit beside its anchors at spot-lit news-desks that blocked our view of their lower extremities. But it gave in.

I’m stipulating these points, I’m not debating them, so log off if you find them too extreme. Go read more bullshit. Immerse yourself in news of Russian plots to counterfeit presidential children’s laptops, viruses spawned in Wuhan market stalls, vast secret legions of domestic terrorists flashing one another the OK sign in shadowy parking lots behind Bass Pro Shops experiencing “temporary” inflation, and patriotic tech conglomerates purging the commons of untruths. Comfort yourself with the thoughts that the same fortunes engaged in the building of amusement parks, the production and distribution of TV comedies, and the provision of computing services to the defense and intelligence establishments, have allied to protect your family’s health, advance the causes of equity and justice, and safeguard our democratic institutions. Dismiss as cynical the notion that you, the reader, are not their client but their product. Your data for their bullshit, that’s the deal. And Build Back Better. That’s the sermon.

Pious bullshit, unceasing. But what to do?

One option, more popular each day, is to retreat to the anti-bullshit universe of alternative media sources. These are the podcasts, videos, Twitter threads, newsletters, and Facebook pages that regularly vanish from circulation for violating “community standards” and other ineffable codes of conduct, oft-times after failing “fact-checks” by the friendly people at Good Thoughtkeeping. Some of these rebel outfits are engrossing, some dull and churchy, many quite bizarre, and some, despite small staffs and tiny budgets, remarkably good and getting better. Some are Substack pages owned by writers who severed ties with established publications, drawing charges of being Russian agents, crypto-anarchists, or free-speech “absolutists.” I won’t bother to give a list. Readers who hunt and choose among such sources have their own lists, which they fiercely curate, loudly pushing their favorites on the world while accusing those they disagree with of being “controlled opposition” and running cons. It resembles the old punk-rock scene, but after it was discovered, not early on. Some of the upstart outlets earn serious money, garnering higher ratings and more page-views than the regime-approved brands Apple features on the News screen of my iPhone. (A screen I’ve disabled and don’t miss.) This wilderness of “contrarianism” – a designation easily earned these days; you merely have to mention Orwell or reside in Florida — requires a measure of vigilance and effort from those who seek the truth there. As opposed to those who go there to relax, because they prefer alt-bullshit to mainstream bullshit. They can just kick their shoes off and wade in.

One reason to stick with the premium name-brand bullshit is to deconstruct it. What lines are the propagandists pushing now? Where will they lead? How blatant will they get? Why are the authors so weirdly fearless?. . . .

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper January 16, 2022, 7:19 PM

    What news?
    If there is any, you won’t find it at any of the usual places of the past.
    They have all “progressed” on, without us sane people.
    Personally, I stick to my long established clan as they are usually pretty good about picking the pepper out of the fly shit.

  • Anonymous January 17, 2022, 3:07 AM

    This was a terrific essay. And it poses as good a moment as any to remind readers that the list of entities that make up “the Media” should include our schools.

    Yes. Schools.

    It is time we recognized this. The converged format and politicized curricula of so many of our educational facilities indicate that they function as an essential organizing node in our corrupted Media-verse. The basic product schools disseminate can only be called media: scripts, lists, vocabulary, essays, texts and delivered lectures. While they may not charge subscription fees, they relabel them “tuition” and charge that instead. Where the schools are tax-funded, then property owners are billed to pay these subscription fees for other parents’ kids to consume the schools’ media.

    It’s time we stopped letting schools off the hook in our national debate over what constitutes Media in this country. They are converged media companies with real conflicts of interest and a mandated, captive audience of impressionable kids to indoctrinate. And they should suffer the same audits of content and ethics that other journalism outfits do.

    • John Venlet January 17, 2022, 6:02 AM

      Anonymous, there is no Media in this country, or any other country, these days. It’s propaganda from top to bottom.

      • Mike Austin January 17, 2022, 6:33 AM

        Even the adds are fake. If you replaced all the major media figures with Max Headroom type characters, no one would notice. You could have a laugh track, and a Mel Blanc wannabee perform all the vocals.

  • ghostsniper January 17, 2022, 4:19 AM

    “…audits of content and ethics that other journalism outfits do.”
    Since when?
    Lying is an ethical crime, the basis of ALL “journalism” now, yet no prosecutions occur.

    • steveaz January 17, 2022, 5:45 AM

      Heh! Sounds naive, huh.

      But, if you accept that the credibility of “the Media” is taking huge hits lately, then you’ll grok that in this choral defenestration of the once-hallowed institution lies America’s “audit” of it. This is one of the ways that a functioning Republic can skin that cat.

      It is public, to the point, and gaining more and more attention with every passing day, this Audit. Sure it is unofficial, but since when have free Americans required officials to referee our audits of each other’s characters and appearances? And while we could agree that it is crazy to expect real consequences to fall on the key players, if you toggle your definition of ‘consequences,’ and of ‘real,’ and squint just a little while looking slightly down and to the right, you’ll see them peeking out of the din.

      Have faith Brother.

      • Kevin in PA January 17, 2022, 12:22 PM

        “It is public, to the point, and gaining more and more attention with every passing day, this Audit. Sure it is unofficial, but since when have free Americans required officials to referee our audits of each other’s characters and appearances?”


        And don’t forget; there are more of us than there are of them.

        And growing number of people are awakening and already building alternatives. Think parallel structures. Don’t do business with those vocalizing how much they hate you. Support those businesses that you know to be on your side.

        Here in PA we learn from the Amish.

        Scriptural reference – 2 Corinthians 6:17

  • Mike Austin January 17, 2022, 6:51 AM

    I have not watched tv for 45 years. The last newspaper I read was probably in 1983 or so. I did read regularly at the library “The Atlantic”, “Harper’s” and “The New Republic”, and later “National Review”. All that ended in 1989 when I left the US for 14 years of life and work south of the Rio Grande. My news source then was the BBC and, later, the internet. When I landed once again—permanently this time—upon America’s shores the internet remained my source of information about the world.

    Nowadays when I run into any major media outlet and listen and watch for a while, it seems like an alien broadcast from Alpha Centauri. Nothing said resembles anything remotely like the realty in which I live. What sort of person would consume such nonsense? I can see watching it solely for comic value, but to actually believe what is portrayed?

    • ghostsniper January 17, 2022, 7:58 AM

      It’s all medicare, ambulance chaser, and drug ads now.

      And negro’s out the ying yang.

      Just yesterday my wife told me she was running up through the over the air channels and 17 in a row had either negro shows or negro’s in the commercials.

      She said she heard that negro’s sit at home and watch TV all day so that’s who the advertisers are targeting.

      Funny, people that sit home and watch TV all day do so because they have no money, so how are they going to buy the advertised stuff?

      If they had money they wouldn’t be watching TV, they’d be out spending it.

      This country is now at the most infantile stage it has ever been.

      • Mike Austin January 17, 2022, 8:12 AM

        The media are not targeting any negro audience, for such a thing does not exist. They are doing the “inclusive” nonsense solely for the movers and shakers of Globo-homo, to show that they are members in good standing of “wokeism”. The most absurd adds are from REI and other outdoor-style outlets. In all my decades of hiking, camping, sky-diving, rock climbing, backpacking and bikepacking, I have never once—not ever—seen any blacks. Yet they are ubiquitous in the advertising. One can also see a few Asians, and even some fat asses—and odd thing to see on an outdoor site, but there they are, huffing and puffing in outdoor gear that barely fits them.

        Of course, when I make a trip to the REI here in Oklahoma City, there are no black customers and no black employees.

  • Richard January 17, 2022, 7:51 AM

    Well, since the topic is “The Bullshit”, I’ll take a bit of liberty here.
    Submitted for your perusal and approval:
    Uhhh, no Toots. It’s entirely possible that you might be even more unpopular than your garbage “soul-mate”. Furthermore, hubby and his co-conspirators or overwhelmingly responsible for what and why “…we’ve faced so much as a nation.”
    She’s delusional if she actually believes herself to be in a healing role. Malicious if she knows it to be untrue. Of course she could be both.

    • ghostsniper January 17, 2022, 8:06 AM

      “I would want to know that my president and first lady cared about me,” (Jill) Biden said.
      What can you say about someone that comes right out and declares such a thing?

      “Maximum delusion runs deep,
      into your soul it will creep.
      It starts when you don’t accept blame,
      a finger points but the media casts it away.”

      “Stop CHILDREN what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down.”

      • Richard January 17, 2022, 8:36 AM

        What can you say about someone that comes right out and declares such a thing?>>>>>

        I’ll start with her being a raging egotist. Evidently thinks of herself as some sort of modern day czarina. She certainly has the pompous, contemptuous, condescending tone of someone who regards herself to be innately superior to the multitude of unwashed peasants over whom she rules.
        All I want from the President and his spouse is to be left alone.
        BTW, nice turn on the lyrics of a rock classic.

    • Mike Austin January 17, 2022, 8:19 AM

      When I see Jill Biden directing demented Joe first here, and then there, and then yonder, I am reminded of Shari Lewis and her puppet Lamb Chop:


      There is something beyond disturbing why Jill Biden is doing this.

    • Vanderleun January 17, 2022, 9:08 AM

      The only time I want to hear about JillOff Biden again is when she’s on fire.

      • Vanderleun January 17, 2022, 9:09 AM

        Or that she’s been ensnared by Exodus 22:18

        • Richard January 17, 2022, 9:29 AM

          That would certainly explain who recited the incantation over the golem, thus animating it.

        • Mike Austin January 17, 2022, 11:37 PM

          If we obeyed this today there would be auto-da-fés throughout Washington DC that would go on for weeks.

  • Chuck January 17, 2022, 8:35 AM

    Thanks for the link. I RTWT. “…decomposed remains in a news-shaped coffin.” Good word.
    It(“news”) is not information, not inspiration, and not motivation. It’s entertainment, it’s marketing, it’s an illusion. All of it, not just msm. Locally, it’s car wrecks, house fires, and murders. Nationally, it’s covid, covid, and covid. Oh, and race.
    As a kid I remember the local farmers who would congregate at my grandpa’s general store and get the latest and daily “breaking news updates” from the 24-hour news cycle. The spit and whittle club. Yesteryear’s equivalent to today’s “blog.” They would rant about FDR and LBJ, et al. They called it “gossip.” Which used to be a derogatory term.
    All very entertaining, but then, they had to get back to work. Actual work. Work so they could eat and stay warm, clothed, and in the dry. The “news” didn’t help them do that…

  • Doctor Septimius Pretorius January 17, 2022, 9:08 AM

    Such an excellent antidote to bullshititious that I hard copied this for future clinical reference.

  • Dirk January 17, 2022, 9:18 AM

    I spend mornings filtering thru news and trusted sites daily. I wish to remain informed, it’s a lot of work.

    Sadly I’ve discovered things that sadden me. Simply put even our “ conservative” sites are falling into a trend or style of writing, or speaking. It is rare that any site puts out the story, without their spin on it.

    The day of media, any media just putting the news out, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions are gone.

    I’m not looking for like minded folks, I’m surrounded by them. I’m looking for unfiltered straight forward news. I find often the best sources of just news to be foreign sites, folks outside looking in.

    I’ve noticed a trend of conservatives now doing pod casts. Must be ego, na not ego, we’ll maybe. Never felt the need to be heard by people, to film myself doing anything. I question the motive of these people.

    I’m sure the majority are good folk, yet question the need to produce a video blog, once it’s out their ain’t no going back. I hear a lot of self promotion, one ups men ship.

    And I hear alot of what I view as begging for money.

    Was a time I supported a few sites cuz I believed in them. Anymore I contribute to only one site, I’m done. In trying to identify what I view as the problem with all these sites, I’ve come to a understanding.

    It’s ALWAYS the same dozen folks over and over. Not unlike MSM with their expert witnesses. My problem is I find most of these men and women to be laughable. Are they informed, yes well informed.

    But like Sean Hannity they beat the drum into the ground, same shit different day. Like watching a soap opera.

    AND it’s always ALWAYS drumming the problem the same problems daily. No solutions offered, it’s always one man, asking another man or woman their opinion, which is amusing to me. Often the intensity makes me laugh with glee, their sooooo soooooo serious, as if they have a secret source buried deep inside the pentagon, or Biden’s bedroom. From gods lips to their ear!.

    Seems to me, the time given to listen to these Pod casts, is a net time loss for what’s maybe gained. That’s time you won’t get back ever!.

    There are exceptions to my view, if your an artist, a poet, or other, think it very important to share your stuff. But politics is a bitch, it’s consumed the planet, and politics is taking this planet down.

    I submitted a proposal to Trump his second yr. The Truth in Media. Since deep states literally makes the rules, I see away to take the media back. It’s kinda cumbersome, with its rules but would work.

    Each county in each state elects two folks to be truth monitors. Notice I did t mention population based locals. A one tern limit of five years, elected within every county.

    The truth in media concept allows any state to challenge truthfulness in media. These elected groups can discipline writers editors and publications whom are dishonest in their writings.

    A written warning, for rhe writer, and the publisher. A second incident from the same writer and the editor and a stiff fine is leveled against the writer and the editor. Etc etc. five issues and the writer and the publisher are sent to a supreme truth in media group, elected by counties and who can add on two years to their term after they’ve proven to the people their actively hunting liners and cheats.

    The key is counties here. Even in very liberal states the majority of the surrounding counties are conservative. This gives every community large and small a voice.

    The goal is to work themselves out of a job. And this motivates writers and publisher to honestly put just the news out.

    It’s crude, needs work. But it’s a way to take back integrity in media, and the truth


    • ghostsniper January 17, 2022, 10:24 AM

      I’m doing my best to starve them into soup lines.
      Shitcan the media, ALL of it, and 90% of the problems will be gone instantly.
      The biggest problem in this country?
      The lying assed criminal media.
      Off with their nutz!

  • Denny January 17, 2022, 10:26 AM

    It’s an excellent piece indeed, but why did I get bored about half way through with an article that begins with “The Bullshit” and ends with “Free Thoughts. Cheap”? Again and again this guy reminds us and provides us with an endless truthful summary of the lies and pandemic of despotic confusion in our wonderful post-modern world of intellectual witchcraft. All of this is, as usual, culminated by presenting absolutely no solution.

    Pontius Pilot wondered the same damn thing as this entire essay does with only three simple words two thousand years ago by asking; “What is truth?”. And what if it’s true that Pilot said this about a man who was on trial for his life by simply uttering the blasphemous words, “I am the truth and the light”?

    Personally, I came to the conclusion some forty years ago that the one and only solution to the chaotic human suffering, stupidity and misery so well identified here by Walter Kirn can be simply presented. It can be presented and personally solved not by doing, but by believing that when Jesus of Nazareth said “It is finished” on that stake, – He was not bullshitting.

    Free Thoughts. Cheap

    • Mike Austin January 17, 2022, 11:44 PM

      If a man had memorized every word written since Sumer but had no knowledge of the Bible, it would count for nothing. If a man had the Bible but nothing else, it would count for everything.

  • gw January 17, 2022, 11:02 AM

    “All the news that’s fit to print” in mass media has largely become – all the news that’s fit to print in People’s Daily (Pravda).

  • DWEEZIL THE WEASEL January 20, 2022, 4:33 PM

    I just ignore it. I keep my eye on what is happening in my A/O. The Daily Fish Wrap has been co-opted by the Hagadone Cabal and their attending useful idiots. I glean things from the police blotters, word-of-mouth, and a local website which encompasses all of CDA, PF, Hayden, Dalton Gardens, and the county area up to the state line of the Washington Soviet Republic. It helps me keep tabs on porch pirates, auto burglars, and other local problems.
    I have very little control over what goes on in Boise. I have no control over events taking place in and around Mordor-On-The-Potomac. Being old, time is precious. If someone gave me a choice between FAUX NEWS and having another crown put it, I would opt for the dental procedure. To quote the song lyrics by James Taylor: “…let it fall down, let it fall down, let it all fall down.” Bleib ubrig.