On Bullshit and David Granger

On Bullshit and David Granger


About a decade or so ago, the philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s book, with the seemingly most non-philosophically sounding title, “On Bullshit”, became a New York Times bestseller. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it seems he was presciently offering Americans a vocabulary to analyse the utterances of their new president, Donald Trump and a new type of political leader that includes Guyana’s own Caretaker President David Granger. We might just be living in the “Age of Bullshit”.

The blurb to Frankfurt’s slim book summarises the concept of “bullshit”: He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all. Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms (like in our rum-shop gyaafs), excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner’s capacity, to tell the truth in a way that lying does not.

“Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are”. This last feature of bullshit is what makes bullshit so dangerous: very soon truth becomes irrelevant.
Let us look at the utterances of David Granger ever since he was parachuted into the leadership of the PNC in 2011. Bullshitters just want to show they have the answer to whatever they’re asked, or whatever subject comes up. It doesn’t matter they are later shown to be “wrong” – what matters as is that “his people” believed them when they spoke. Bullshitters are basically speaking to those with similar mindsets who then are predisposed to accept their claims.

Let us consider the Cummingsburg Accord which was signed and announced by APNU and the AFC rather floridly on Valentine’s Day 2015. Granger agreed that if they were to win the elections, he would have his Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, chair the Cabinet and handle “governance” matters. When they did, in fact, win – on the back on the AFC Indian Guyanese voted they snagged from the PPP in Berbice – Granger exclaimed, “Ooops!! I didn’t realise the Constitution doesn’t permit that.” Now we all know this was pure, unadulterated bullshit since there was no Damascene epiphany needed to have opened up Granger’s eyes to constitutional interpretation.

Then think of the APNU/AFC manifesto back in 2015. They had been in Opposition for three years and controlled Parliament with access to all the necessary information – financial and otherwise – in real-time through their membership in the Sectoral Committees and their parliamentary majority. What else but bullshit in the Frankfurtian sense when they yet promised government workers “substantial salary increases” and later claimed they had no money? And we can follow through with all the other promises such as “Constitutional Change” or a “Code of Conduct” for Ministers. These were not lies: they simply had to tell the people something on these issues that they could get away with because the latter were predisposed to believing them.

Finally, there is the No-Confidence Motion and its dénouement. The morning after the vote of Dec 21, 2018, this was the release by the DPI: “Gov’t will abide by constitutional requirements following No-Confidence Motion, President Granger: President David Granger, this morning, said the Government of Guyana, following the passing of the No-Confidence Motion last night in the National Assembly, will abide by the stipulations which have been imposed on it”.

So what else but bullshit was it when, as President, due to a 33-32 majority in the National Assembly, he suddenly announces that 33 was not a majority in the 33-32 vote. What made his bullshit worse, was that Granger could not care less about the consequences of his denial of a critical rule of parliamentary democratic rule: the NCM. He made his supporters declare a vote of conscience as an “Act of Judas”.
Tomorrow Guyanese can stop the bullshit.

Leave a Comment