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Bullshit IS different from lies and even more so mis-information

The following was posted on Mar 3rd, 2008 by Martha

It's embarrasing to admit that I've managed to live for 54 years and only this week learned the difference between lies and bullshit. But this insight has been liberating, so I'd like to share it with you guys, because maybe there's someone else out there who hasn't thought about it like this either.

Bullshit is different than lies. Lies are things that are totally untrue. Like if you tell me you checked the tire pressure, but you really didn't. Of course, I could say, "That's bullshit! You never checked the tires!" And grammatically I'd be correct. But bullshit can be a really liberating concept when used in a somewhat different way.

Now, I'm going to pick on my Dad here, which is something I never do. I truly owe my Dad my life in many ways, and wherever he is, he knows how very much I love him. And in that same sense, he knows that when I quote him as I'm now going to do, it's not lies and it's not bullshit, but rather a chance to clear up some ancient bullshit that needs cleaning up. At least from my point of view.

OK, I think I was about five, and we were talking about radio. Like how it works and where the sound comes from. And Dad says to me, "There will never be women announcers on the radio." And I asked, "Why not?" And he said, "Because radio catches a certain range of the human voice, and because of that women's voices sound harsh and grating on the radio. They don't sound pleasant, and nobody enjoys listening to them."

I thought about that for a minute, and then I said, "But women sing on the radio all the time. And they sing with women's voices, and those sounds are on the radio, and people like it. So if a woman's singing voice can be on the radio, then why not a woman's talking voice?"

"Talking voices are different than singing voices," he answered. "Women sound fine singing on the radio, but their speaking voices are grating."

"But women talk to little babies all the time," I objected. "And if their voices were so bad, wouldn't they make babies cry? But they don't. Women's voices are good at soothing babies."

"Well soothing babies is one thing, and reading the news or announcing songs is something else. Nobody wants to listen to a woman read the news."

Well, sorry to say, I took his word for it. I stopped critically thinking, and I stopped asking questions, and I just filed it away under, "People don't like to hear women's speaking voices on the radio." But what I had just done was I had swallowed a line of bullshit.

The difference is that my Dad wasn't lying to me. He was sharing his convictions in a true and open manner, but his convictions were simply a collection of biases, baseless judgments and red herrings. It's just that he had managed to convince himself of them (the regrettable situation of believing your own bullshit), and then use them to overwhelm my still tender bullshit detectors.

But now I've finally got my eyes open and I'm watching for bullshit everywhere!

And it's not that I haven't been aware of bullshit, it's just that I never had a name for it
before, because within my interior lexicon, I was wasting the term on garden variety lies. 

It's too bad that kids often grow up in entire family nets of bullshit and lies.
It makes it very hard not to have some fairly hefty issues.
Access_public Access: Public 27 Comments Print I endorse this! Flag for review views (1,306)
Mamakat : Voyager
about 4 hours later
Mamakat said

Maybe we should start a log of bullshit we discover…naw, it would probably take over the world! Thanks for this most excellent post, my dear. Keep the faith!

Just-Bliss : Let Lord Swaminarayan Triumph
about 10 hours later
Just-Bliss said

Wow i don’t think i would have answered my father the way you did at 5… that’s my point too, children are inteligent then we give them credit for… in fact i think Jesus said something about his kingdom to be open to someone who is as innocent like a child, now i think He was the representation of God, so if He says that kiddish behaviour rocks then that’s what we need to be like; kids…..

helenrscp : Joy Within
about 14 hours later
helenrscp said

I don't just like this post, I LOVE it! I've never thought of it this way, but it rings with truth. I'll never think about bullshit in the same way (or without smiling.)

martha : wildlygentle
about 15 hours later
martha said

Yes, it's liberating! Only thing is, how much of my own bullshit have I not identified and actually perpetrate and believe? :)

buddingspritelet : packing up and heading out
about 15 hours later
buddingspritelet said

I am believing your bullshit Martha :) so, is it really?

Of course, you may be believing mine :-D
hugs and dungbeetles,

about 18 hours later
Julia said

Well speaking from personal experience, the amount of bullshit we all have is directly related to just how much crap we eat on a daily basis….so…I know Im still full of it! :-)

beyourownmedicine : Stralim
about 18 hours later
beyourownmedicine said

Martha, this is a fantastic post!!! And I love the Microsoft reference of “let us help you help yourself.” I have been fine tuning my “instrument” to be able to detect the slightest hint is BS within any given moment. My Dad was an extremely gifted liar and I was able to reverse engineer most of his stories and mannerisms very quickly. The patterns became very obvious and almost entertaining to decipher. But the problem was energetically, I began to attract more bullshit artist.

The realm of lies and bullshit can get very convoluted. Acknowledging our own lies and bullshit we tell ourselves is priceless. I recently have made a conscious decision to set off a trigger in my system when ever I am perpetuating any old bs. I have to admit it was a bit jarring at first, but it sure keeps you in alignment. Good times.

Mark : Visionary
about 18 hours later
Mark said

Awesome story Martha!

Kids are so good at seeing right through the BS. My son is has an amazing bs detector and he often guides us to clear thinking…


bill : Gaia Child
about 19 hours later
bill said

Yes Martha, we've grown up in a world full of bullshit. One only has to look to George W to see how far bullshit and lies can take you. We are inundated with so much of it we can't even recognize the truth when it does exist.

Sherrilene : Living Ever Closer to Excellence!
about 19 hours later
Sherrilene said

This was a great post. Like you said, people actually begin to believe their crap, then they feel justified and righteous teaching it! Thus starts the layering and eventual torment to scrape it back off. Thanks a lot; I've really got to learn to set my radar on high for the BS also.


Goddess2day : Poet, Philosopher, Writer, Wannabe.
about 19 hours later
Goddess2day said

Wow, Martha. You've made the difference quite clear. And oh my…I am starting to see I am also guilty of this BS business. Lol. Your dad is so cute.
Amy :-)

maze : ordinary
about 20 hours later
maze said

my brother believed the same thing your dad did …so it really couldn't have been bullshit.

buddingspritelet : packing up and heading out
about 21 hours later
buddingspritelet said

My dad believed it, too, until he had 5 daughters. I think the last one did it :)

martha : wildlygentle
about 21 hours later
martha said

Wow! I'm happy to see so many wonderful people here interacting with this! Amazing! Basically, what I hear many of you saying is that, yeah, we benefit from being aware of bullshit, but hearing it in yourself is harder. Maze says well, if my brother believed this, too, then it “couldn't nave been bullshit.” Yep. There's the socially consturcted and collectively believed part, and then there's the personal stuff we tell ourselves. Clarity would be really nice, huh? Isn't that one of the things people are working to create from their spiritual practices? I hope?

Beyourownmedicine, Bill, Sherri and Goddess2day, I'm very happy to meet you! I really enjoy meeting people I haven't met before. Thank you for your thoughts!

buddingspritelet : packing up and heading out
about 21 hours later
buddingspritelet said

Martha, sometimes believing the bullshit is safer (just in case it is true) than not believing it.

buddingspritelet : packing up and heading out
about 21 hours later
buddingspritelet said

I meant to own this :)

believing the bullshit was safer for me than not believing it and it was true

martha : wildlygentle
1 day later
martha said

What was true, Sprite? The bullshit turned out to be true, or it was simply that believing it truly was easier?

buddingspritelet : packing up and heading out
1 day later
buddingspritelet said

For example, I brought my car in for new tires and was told the axel was cracked. It may or may not have been. The alternative was breaking down on the freeway. I had it replaced. Sometimes, it's better, more convenient, safer, and saves energy and time to believe (or go along with) the bs.

As for my students, I suspect some of the excuses were bs. I had a student who had three grandmothers die in one semester. Likely, no. Possible, yes. Now I drop two absences for any reason (I truly hate taking roll as these are COLLEGE students but, I also want to keep my job, and, with grade disputes, it's nice to go back and see how many classes they missed.) I happen to believe “mental health days” are just as important a reason to take a day off. The beauty, they don't have to tell me. Saves me from carrying around little notes of paper, death notices, jail summons, etc. For any ongoing issues, I handle on a case by case basis.

Now, there are cases when it is better to investigate the bullshit :) Wish I done that in some of my past relationships, could have saved me a lot of heartache, but I suppose the lessons were important.

1 day later
mimi said

Great post Martha, and I have enjoyed all the comments as much as you have. Thanks.

My Dad had an over-active bs detector. Everyone was full of it according to him and he made us wary. He learned to regret it when his 3 daughters became “Philadelphia lawyers” - that's what he called us. We questioned everything. even him, which he didn't like one bit.

I think it is important to have our BS dectors on, but not on “Stun”

JOYOUS : Contentment Spinner
1 day later

This is good. I have 2 comments. I will start with the second, first. One maxim I chanted to my six children was: “Question authority.” They do. And I am proud of them. But they question me, too. Ouch!

First comment: I never though of BS as it is being discussed here. I BS a lot. I know others who BS, too. Just for fun my brother and I would BS one another. Both knew that the other knew what each was doing.
Take a truth, fact, dogma, custom, practice or expectation. Stretch and exaggerate it until the absurdity shows through. Then laugh about it and start all over again.

We are the clowns. The truth seekers and seers. We tell and laugh.
Some even get paid for doing so.

Like cholesterol: There is good BS and bad BS. I just never called the bad “BS”.

The BS being discussed here I call malicious lies, comaflogue, blinds, trickery, scams propogated for personal and corporate gain without any sense of social responsibility.

There is no BSing about it.

Thanks for bringing up the topic, Martha.

Sandra : Inspirational Ambassador
1 day later
Sandra said

Great blog, just great.

Made me think of one of my favourite pieces - Harry Frankfurt's paper On Bullshit, a philosophical investigation of the concept!

Here is the summary from wiki:
“… the liar deliberately makes false claims, the bullshitter is simply uninterested in the truth. Rather, bullshitters aim primarily to impress and persuade their audiences. Whereas the liar needs to know the truth the better to conceal it, the bullshitter, interested solely in advancing his own agenda, has no use for the truth. By virtue of this, Frankfurt claims, “bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.” ”

And a video of him on the subject, just in case you want more!


Spirit Eagle : No trails to follow in the sky
1 day later
Spirit Eagle said

BULLSHIT !!! is one of my favorite expletives :-) Sometimes, though it's a bit fun to see how far I can bs my way just to get reactions. The problem is I start laughing at some point and the whole effort to bs someone falls apart instantly.

Thanks for a great post, Martha

martha : wildlygentle
2 days later
martha said

Yes Joyous and Gini, there is a fun kind of bullshit that's like a game. I've played that, too. And I'm sure I will again.

Sandra, I DO like that about that the bullshitter is “simply uninterested in the truth.” And from that perspective, isn't that type of avoidance actually a type of action that is motivated by fear?

Thank you all so much for coming by and reading this post. You're all the greatest! And that's not bullshit! :)

Sherrilene : Living Ever Closer to Excellence!
2 days later
Sherrilene said

I'm thinking smilingly about a situation where everyone bullshits so nicely, as a part of a culture of bullshit-ism… so that when anybody speaks truth, they are totally confused and defeated! Holy crap! How to respond… sincerely?!

This be the traditional sectors in my country.


The truth shall reign! Believe it.

Back to the fun now. Yes, this was a great exercise. Thanks M. Sherri

Satya-Seer : Luminous me
2 days later
Satya-Seer said

What a great blog, Martha. Bullshit - Lies - Bullshit - Lies … BULLSHIT ! And what interest in bullshit and lies that abounds around GAIA. This is good.

shea-bird : Weighed, measured and found wanting
3 days later
shea-bird said

Until now bullshit and lies have never been clearer ;-)

Jenny : Sparkle
3 days later
Jenny said

Great blog, love it!!!! And yeah, never thought much about the difference between bullshit and lies - to me it was all big bad lies so realizing some is just sad ignorant bullshit might make me softer in my judgements… maybe. And also watching out for it more sounds very good.
Thanks for this blog, Martha!

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Comment by Michael Grove on October 17, 2012 at 16:35

"RIGHTEOUSNESS - that almost unquantifiable, chin-out sense of doing

and saying the right thing, is something we could do with - MORE OF "





Comment by Michael Grove on June 22, 2013 at 11:32

America has the most millionaires, the most billionaires and

it's wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet's 

riches than any other group in the world. They even have 

hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as

the average US family makes in 21 years! 

Comment by Michael Grove on February 9, 2014 at 9:20

The Harvard Business School information session on how to be a good class participant instructs,

“Speak with conviction. Even if you believe something only 55 percent, say it as if you believe it 100

percent,” Susan Cain reported in her bestselling book Quiet. At HBS, Cain most succinctly noticed,

If a student talks often and forcefully, then he’s a player; if he doesn’t, he’s on the margins.”

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