Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Pattern of All Bullshit

When I was in college, a joke went around about test-taking, which I've always thought sums up the Platonic Form of bullshitting.

Joe, a grad student is preparing for his orals in zoology, where he will be defending his thesis on invertebrates -- specifically, worms. His dissertation adviser is the world's leading expert on worms. The PhD is a lock.

Then, a couple of days before the exam, that professor has a heart attack, and is taken to the hospital. And the university, on such short notice, can't replace him with another expert on worms. So they tap another of their famous tenured greybeards -- who happens to be the world's leading expert on elephants.

"Oh, shit," Joe thinks. "I don't know anything about elephants!"

Well, sure enough, the day arrives, the exam begins and the eminent professor asks, "Tell me everything you know about an elephant."

Joe assumes his most confident demeanor and begins: "Well, an elephant is a very large animal... [approving nods] with two tusks... [more nods] and a trunk [smiles]... and a tail that's very much like a worm. Now a worm..."

I thought of this while watching Sarah Palin being interviewed by Charlie Gibson. It wasn't pretty. It's hard to disagree with this.

How in god's name did we wind up here? (A purely rhetorical question, of course.)


kcwin said...

Palin's running for VP, a glorified apprentice position, while Charlie is throwing her questions as if McCain would croak on day one. Charlie even threw in accusation of hubris at Palin, when BO is running for President on more or less the same resume. Against BO and Biden, her BS skills will come in handy. Her only task is to distract the other team's attention and make them fumble. And I believe her when she says she doesn't blink and knows how to keep her eyes on the ball.

Gary McGowan said...

The questions were lightweight.

Everybody blinks.

This ain't no ballgame.