Saturday, February 10, 2018

Liars, Bullshitters, and Trumpsters

I remember a time, not too long ago, when lying was considered a bad thing. We subjected those who lied to condemnation. They were not the type of people we wanted around. It is not that we demanded that liars leave the community. Rather, we demanded that they cease to be liars. Though, if they refused, some sort of social ostracism was in order.

Perhaps I am simply longing for the good old days, but I think that the condemnation of lying and contempt for liars was a good idea. If I had a choice of moving into a town filled with liars, and a different town filled with people who had a strong aversion to lying, I would prefer the latter.

A liar is a type of social parasite.

He lives and feeds off of your intentional actions, causing you to act in ways that serve his interests while you ignore or even thwart your well-being, your health, your friends and family, and perhaps your own life. The parasite does not care what happens to you or what you care about, so long as it profits.

Among some species of ants, there is a type of fungus that take over the ant’s body. It causes the ant to climb some plant, grab onto the bottom of a leaf, then the fungus grows and matures, dropping its spores onto the ants below.

The liar, like the zombie fungus, takes over the victim in a sense. Because of the lie, the victim thinks she is advancing her own interests. However, this is not the case. She is serving the liar’s interest instead.

Let us assume that I am this sort of parasite. I want you to give me money. To get you to give me money, I tell you that will the liquid in the vial, which is tap water, will cure your cancer, cause you to lose weight, reverse baldness, or stop aging. By putting this belief in your head, you act in ways that you think advances your interests, but you actually serve mine.

When I was young, society was trying to exterminate these types of social parasites. We did not seek to exterminate them by killing them, but by getting them to refrain from lying. We tried to teach our children and others that lying was wrong and something no decent person would do. They did not always learn, but that was the goal.

The liar parasite knows that he is planting false beliefs.

There is another type of social parasite that does not care if his statements are true or false. He only cares if they are useful. When he asserts that something is true, he is pretty much saying, “It would benefit me if you believed this.” We cannot call him to be a liar because he does not believe that it is false. He does not care about that. He only cares whether your believing it is useful.

Our common term for this type of parasite is “bullshitter”.

The bullshitter parasite is just as harmful as the liar parasite. He does the same thing to you for the same reasons. The only difference is the state that the parasite is in when he engages in this parasitic behavior. The liar knows he is infecting others with a false belief. The bullshitter doesn’t care.

I fear that the vulgar nature of the term means that it is not used when it should be. Our ability to exterminate - or at least combat - this form of parasite is hindered by the fact we don’t identify them when they exist. Consequently, they grow and proliferate to our mutual harm.

We would benefit by using a new term that is not vulgar.

People often call bullshitters “liars”, but this charge often does not stick because of the requirement that the parasite know that the beliefs are false.

Historically, we have used terms such as “film-flam man” or “used car salesman.” However, bullshitters are not always male, and it is not permissible to stigmatize those who sell used cars.

I propose calling such a person a “trumpster”. He is a paradigm example of this type of parasitism. We have precedent for using a person’s name in this way.

There is precedent for names becoming words. Elbridge Gerry gave us the term “gerrymander” because of his practice of drawing legislative districts to manipulate elections. Vidkun Quisling gave us the term “quisling” to mean “collaboration with the enemy”.

A trumpster, then, is a type of social parasite that - like a liar - causes others to serve his interests by filling the victim’s head with false beliefs that the trumpster finds it useful for others to believe, without regard to whether the claims are true or false. The term originated before 2020 in reference to the politician Donald Trump.

No comments: