On “Bullshit” and the New ‘c’atholic Red Guards

Today there is an amusing and insightful piece at First Things about the “Theory of Bullshit”… no, it’s a real thing… proposed in the 80s by the distinguished Princeton professor and philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt.

BTW… I usually write B as in B, S as in S on this blog, but in this case “Bullshit” is a technical term.  All words, even the ugly ones, have their apt applications.

I had a thought while reading the front of the article, which briefly expounds on Bullshit.  (My emphases and comments)

As Frankfurt himself notes in On Bullshit:

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. . . . In consequence we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, or what function it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, we have no theory. I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis.

Frankfurt argues that “bullshit is unavoidable when circumstances require”—or invite, or encourage—“someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic.” The bullshitter, in Frankfurt’s theory, “does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

For Frankfurt, bullshitting is not quite the same as lying. Liars must acknowledge and engage the truth even as they subvert it. By contrast, “[the bullshitter] does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it.” Rather, “he pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.”

Much like the poison of disinformation.  More on that below.

While I was reading the above, I was thinking “This is exactly what guys like Antonio Spadaro, Bobby Mickens, Massimo “Beans” Faggioli, Michael Sean Winters, Austen Iveriegh and others are doing to smear anyone who raises questions or criticisms about what’s going on in this present pontificate.   They have, without the least consideration of facts, constructed a narrative, a strawman – that conservative American Catholics are forming some sort of “schismatic” movement in the Church.  It’s total Bullshit.  But they are committed to it, synchronized (mark my words), and relentless.

That is what I was thinking as I read.  Then, the writer went there!


Note also that a new French text, Comment L’Amérique veut changer de pape (How America Wants to Change the Pope), may offer an especially promising environment for testing Frankfurt’s theory; but currently available only in French, it’s not included here. [This was the book on the papal airplane which Francis called a “bomb” at the time he said he was “honored” to be criticized by Americans.]

We can start with “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism.”[This is the product of the Jesuit, Antonio “2+2=5” Spadaro. He also maintains a site dedicated to homoerotic Italian writer Pier Vittorio Tondelli.] Now a 2017 classic of the genre, it easily meets the Frankfurt standard of speaking “extensively about matters of which [the authors] are to some degree ignorant.” Impressive in its length, turbulent in its imagination (claims of political Manichaeism; a cult of apocalypse, etc.), and generous in use of hyperbole (“ultra-literalism,” “ecumenism of conflict,” “nostalgic dream of a theocratic type state,” etc.), it embodies a peculiar kind of European anxiety about American influence and otherness. In the process, it fails to engage—in fact, seems uninterested in engaging—the real issues and actual terrain in long-term evangelical/Catholic relations.

A similar anxiety spills over into [Bobby Mickens, who lost his job at the ultra-lefty Tablet because he wished Benedict XVI dead, at] La Croix International’s “The rise of ‘devout schismatics’ in the Catholic Church.”


Get it?   He also cites Winters (aka Madame Defarge aka the Wile E. Coyote of the catholic Left – US bishops should drop everything and focus on preventing schism.) and his ravings about “schism”, ironic from someone who writes for the Fishwrap.

And check out the relentless tweeting by Beans (if you haven’t been blocked).  There are ways around that.  He’s obsessed.

Read the whole First Things piece.  It really tears the mask off the builders of the strawman.

At this point, I will also redirect you from Bullshit to Disinformation.   I wrote about this some years back.

There is a book by the highest ranking Soviet block operative ever to defect to the West, the invaluable Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism by Ronald Rychlak and Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa. US HERE – UK – HERE

Gen. Pacepa, who ran intelligence for Romanian despot and Soviet thug Nicolae Ceaucescu, fled to the West when he was asked to start killing people. He is an expert on the Soviet technique of framing, disinformation, creating false narratives and history. The book exposes the Communist background of seemingly-benign organizations and explains the treatment received by Cardinals Stepinak, Mindszenty and Wysznski and, of course, Pius XII.  It is riveting and extremely useful in understanding what the deep-state catholic Left and their New catholic Red Guard operatives (like Beans and Bobby and Madame Defarge) are up to.

Hmmm… I just remembered back in 2017 when the fights were beginning over the infamous paragraphs in Amoris laetitia. The Four Cardinals had submitted the Five Ignored Dubia.  Remember that there was a meeting in Boston, involving Jesuits such as Spadaro, who flew over from Rome, and invited journalists and key liberal bishops?  They were going to coordinate their messaging about Amoris.  I wrote about it a couple times, for example HERE.

Bullshit and Disinformation are related, but not the same.  Bullshit is more ad hoc, while Disinformation is carefully crafted, disciplined.   It seems to me that the bizarre narrative of a possible “schism” in these USA on the part of conservative Catholics is beginning to move from Bullshit to Disinformation.  It is as if, in their constant grinding away at the Faith they found a theme that got some traction and have rallied around it to push that truck full of Bullshit up that hill.  They are coordinating now, which suggests Disinformation.

It also smacks of the “große Lüge” propaganda technique.  Tell a “big lie”, but tell it so often that people start thinking that maybe it’s true after all, otherwise they wouldn’t be repeating it with such conviction.

And, as Pacepa wrote:

Soviet leader and long-time KGB head Yuri Andropov, apparently a real aficionado of dezinformatsiya, put it this way: “[ Dezinformatsiya is] like cocaine. If you sniff once or twice, it may not change your life. If you use it every day though, it will make you an addict— a different man.”

They have sniffed so much Bullshit that they can’t smell anything else.


Because we need a good eye-roll once in a while!

A fourth-grader can see what’s wrong with this.  “Oooo… someone near Chaput… wink wink nudge nudge.” Never mind the argument.  It’s Chaput, get it?  And “potty language”?  In that context?  Frankfurter’s essay on the philosophy of language?  Oh dear!  Her delicate ears!  But, no, she’s writing for a particular primed-public by now. She has to aim at the right pitch for them to catch the dog whistle.  Too bad it has come to this.  We wanted better.

Ceterum, Beans’ article deserved derision.

What a brave man Faggioli is, who teaches at a “catholic” school in Chaput’s archdiocese, to post something against Chaput shortly before he is canonically required to submit his resignation.

Brave brave Beans.  Bravely bold Faggioli.  He’s taking on the big ones!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. The Astronomer says:

    As Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa was with Communist Romania’s intelligence service, he also made a claim that South American Liberation Theology has its roots in a Soviet-bloc dsinformatisya campaign cooked up back in the 1960s, beginning as a secret Communist Party/State Disinformation Program, formally approved in 1960 by Soviet KGB chairman Aleksandr Shelepin and Politburo member Aleksei Kirichenko.

  2. khiddy says:

    David Gibson, director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture since 2017, is another bullshit artist to keep an eye on as well. He’s a fellow traveller with Spadaro, Beans and Ivereigh, MSW, and the rest. Gibson has long been a journalist agitator (his work at Religion News Service was particularly awful, but his stuff is in all the usual places like Fishwrap, Sojourners, WaPo, USCatholic, America, etc.), but now that he has an academic perch from which to pontificate (ahem), he’s much more dangerous.

  3. JamesA says:

    Father, I suspect you wrote this before Francis recently doubled down on his American criticism remarks. Hoo boy.
    You anticipated it with this post.
    Thank you for your sound, rational, measured responses to all this BS. Without you my hair would be perpetually on fire.

  4. RosaryRose says:

    “…or Russia will spread her errors throughout the world…”
    – Our Lady of Fatima


  5. Traductora says:

    FrZ, this is probably one of your best posts yet. When I read what was said by Bergoglio – whom I’ve stopped calling Francis, because he’s an insult to St Francis – in his latest airplane rant, I realized where this is going. He’s basically setting it up so anybody who raises any objections to anything that he says will be considered a schismatic, and he will make this official.

    Just in passing, I thought it was amusing that his idea of dialogue appears to include not answering questions. But of course, in his own words, “nothing in writing,” so maybe he’s doing his dialogue telepathically?

  6. GregB says:

    In a closely related subject, I can’t help but remember that Pope Francis brought up the subject of coprophagia.

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