I have long been an enemy of bullshit language. The type employed by politicians, new-age mystics like Deepak Chopra, Postmodernists, and CEOs. I want language to be precise, or at least to MEAN something.
For now, I’ll call language “bullshitspeak” if it’s just vague nonsense that contains little actual meaning.
This video is a great example of the sort of linguistic trickery I’m talking about. It never attempts to refute the very compelling libertarian conceptions of coercion. The video is just a lot of out-of-context and haphazardly strung together pieces of bad evidence, mental gymnastics to justify his shoddy political hunches. It has a specific premise, but is justified by vague, pseudointellectual BS. Every sentence alone sounds meaningful enough, but the argument as a whole is a case of bullshitspeak.
We have a term for people who fool themselves into believing that things are better than they actually are: delusional or idealistic. We call instances of ideolistic bullshitspeak “platitudes”. Here are a few examples:
- Love is the most important thing. Follow your heart
- Everything happens for a reason
- Never, ever give up
- The important thing isn’t whether you win or loose, it’s whether you enjoyed the journey and had fun
None of these -optimistic- statements means anything.
But what about bullshitspeak that isn’t optimistic?
We sort of have a term for people who fool themselves into believing that things are worse than they actually are: conspiratorial. But we have no term for conspiratorial bullshitspeak. “Conspiratorial language” doesn’t suffice; conspiratorial claims can be (and in fact tend to be) highly specific in nature, which isn’t quite what I’m talking about.
Idealistic is to platitudes – like conspiratorial is to _______? The purpose of this post will be to address that gap in the vernacular.
A few examples of pessimistic bullshit-speak:
- America is a deeply unjust culture of oppression. The entire world is structurally and implicitly racist.
- This is problematic, inappropriate and deeply disturbing behavior.
- This is a toxic patriarchal rape culture, with the ever-penetrating male gaze.
I’m being quite anti-“SJW” in my examples, but that is because it’s a huge force of moralizing bullshitspeak. Religious institutions are another big source, but they don’t have much power in the media by comparison.
I want a term for cynical bullshit-speak. I thought about “anti-platitude”, but that may be misleading; people may mistakenly interpret it to mean not-BS, rather than not-optimistic. So I instead would like to coin the term “complainitude”. If you have a better idea, I’m open to suggestions.
The concept of complainitudes may seem weird at first; why make negative, vague statements, when you could make positive, vague statements? The answer is that there is a sort of visceral pleasure out of indignation; people like to be mad. I mean, anger isn’t pleasurable… but, isn’t it, in a twisted way? Don’t you feel in-the-right and proactive? You can deny it, but only because you haven’t been socialized to think in opposite terms.
This topic connects to something I have been thinking about for a long time: the concept of desired problems.
“Desired problems”? Isn’t that a contradiction by definition? How can someone desire what they think of as a problem?
People actually desire problems all the time, and there is a simple reason. People want to see their lives as some sort of grand struggle. People want to think in simplistic movie-logic terms: heroes vs. villains. They want to be the protagonist of their motion picture.
A life without struggle is a boring life, so people invent imaginary problems where no serious ones exist.
This could partially explain the complainitude language of social justice activists. They see bigoted oppression as a great struggle, and they want in on that fight. They are desperate for a sense purpose.
The problem is that there’s not enough actual victimization to fight. Behind every SJW is a great deal of resentment at the lack of real problems, they are being proverbially “left out of the fight”. They are getting denied the responsibility of being part of great battles! Like a soldier desperate to get on the front lines, but kept back by his commander. It’s easy to make fun at their moralizing freak-outs over trivial things. They are screaming, “hey, if you won’t give me an enemy to fight, fuck you, I’ll fight this injustice, however trivial, because that’s the most interesting enemy the world gave me! Or make me part of the real action!”
Obviously, this doesn’t entirely (or even thoroughly) explain SJWs, only a particular faucet of their psychology.
An example of a problem SJWs desire is “police brutality”, specifically the police targeting of minorities. There is not convincing evidence that police are unfairly, disproportionately targeting black people, only many an anecdote. But it is imagined that these anecdotes are as good as data.
Black Lives Matter uses the problem with empathy to make their case. Everyone talked about Colin Kaepernick’s tactics. No one talked about how the facts of what he was arguing were false. That is to say, there is no convincing data that police are unfairly targeting blacks.
Police brutality is a problem SJWs love to hate. But… don’t they also kind of love it? If true, they are part of a great struggle. It’s like they’re are in a movie.
Also, it is compatible with their complainitudes and biases. It’s a problem, but it’s a problem that fits within (as could be explained by) their world view. Like many others, it’s a problem that seems vaguely true if you are convinced by language that sounds meaningful but doesn’t actually say anything.