On Bullshit — The State Of The Current Political Discourse

“Bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.” — Harry G. Frankfurt

Peter Burns
11 min readJul 13, 2020


“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.” — Harry G. Frankfurt

In 1986, philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt wrote a short essay with an incredibly telling title, “On Bullshit”. It was his reflection on the current state of society, and its predominant form of communication.

The definition of bullshit that he gives distinguishes it from outright lying. Instead, bullshit is a form of persuasion that is not concerned with the truth. Its only aim is to convince.

A bullshitter is someone who doesn’t care whether whatever they are saying is true or false. The only thing that matters to them is whether their audience is persuaded.

In that way, a bullshitter differs from a liar. A liar knows the truth, but wants to conceal it. A bullshitter just does not care.

What they are saying could be true, or it could be false. It does not matter. As long as it has the intended effect, it’s all good. The ends justify the means.

In many ways, Frankfurt’s essay is an incredibly powerful analysis of what is happening today. Modern politics is all about bullshit.

Bullshitter in Chief

“I would build a great wall, and no one builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great wall and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.” — Donald J. Trump

In today’s world of “alternative facts” bullshit is everywhere. Frankfurt’s treatise is best exemplified by the current US president, Donald J. Trump.

If you look at his rhetoric, you see a man who is unconcerned with whether what he says is true or false. Rather, what he looks for is the effect. Does it serve his ultimate purpose?



Peter Burns

A curious polymath who wants to know how everything works. Blog: Renaissance Man Journal (http://gainweightjournal.com/).