Funny yet deeply serious look at the “era of unprecedented bullshit production” in which we live.
Canadian grad student Penny, who embraces “cynicism, irony, and apathy,” examines the blatant untruths propagated by PR, advertising, finance, government, “big pharma,” insurance, the press and the service industry. First, she distinguishes between two major types of bullshit: the simple, which involves “the dumbed-down, the quick hit, the ad, or the blip on the cable news crawl,” and the complex, otherwise known as jargon, which is “full of feats of abstract reasoning that would astonish a medieval theologian” and often involving words such as synergy, incentivize and paradigm. Penny prefers to trust far more lucid authorities—and personal favorites—like philosopher Immanuel Kant and Founding Father Thomas Paine (“I dig him,” she writes). Among the author’s best chapters is “If You’ve Got the Money, Honey,” a broad survey of the last decades of economic boom and bust that proves she’s done her homework. But Penny is herself occasionally guilty of the kind of sloppiness she would likely bemoan. While she blithely takes to task the prevarication of politicians such as Tom DeLay and Ronald Reagan, she crams with mixed metaphors an imprecise sentence like, “It takes millions and millions of dollars, and a solid toehold in the public consciousness, to prick up my ears.” Come again? Her use of Canadianisms, moreover, can be baffling. Still, her work, clearly aimed at the younger set, has merit, helping to keep up pressure against the dehumanizing incursions into modern society by Big Brother and company.
Sharp observations passionately argued.