A Number of Bullshit-Related and Bullshit-Adjacent Things

Today we have a number of goals: talk about a short argument against seeing wine reviews as bullshit, some brainstorming about our next project, and some hints and tips for revising your paper, which starts with reviewing this earlier post I wrote.


First, I’ll draw your attention to this post I wrote on rhetoric, misinformation, and imagery in media representations of the war in Ukraine. Just those visuals I start with could be an interesting way to think through the role of visual rhetoric in this conflict.

Second, check out our reading for today: a short argument against seeing wine reviews as bullshit. Open your commonplace books, please! What stood out to you in this short piece?

Here’s what stood out to me:

  • The early connection to how we just some kinds of writing as jargon-laden, meaningless, obscure, or bullshit.
  • What kinds of things do we consider “art”? And how do we argue for what’s good or bad in art?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a part of “wine-drinking culture”? What about “beer-drinking culture”? Two stories from me, one about growing up and another about talking beer with a guy who works at Sierra Nevada, in which I described a SN beer as “round” and “full”
  • We don’t have to go far to think about food symbolism. What foods are markers for your family or community? What do these food choices project to others about your values, identity, or activities?

Third, I want us to have a round of brainstorming about this next project. This is a class called “Rhetoric and Writing” in which the primary forms of engaging rhetoric are analyzing the rhetoric we see all around us and making some rhetoric of our own. The first analysis paper was one of the former; the last big project more resembles the latter.

So we certainly could do another analysis paper in which you’d find some bullshit, analyze how it’s bullshit, and reach conclusions! But frankly it doesn’t sound too interesting–just a repeat of paper one.

But whatever we do, here are some ground rules. I want these projects to be smart, creative, involving us in reflection and deep thought about bullshit and rhetoric. You may not need to cite course materials, but clearly need to have been influenced by them. The assignment may not be to write a paper–but writing a paper is sometimes easier than creating something from scratch.

And while I’m open to 2-3 options for this project, “anything goes” is not an option.

With that in mind, here are some other options I’ve been mulling over:

  1. Go out into the world and bullshit someone, then write a paper reflecting on how it went: what you planned, if it worked, what that means.
  2. Another version of #1: create some bullshit on social media and try to spread it as far as possible. Reflect on how it went as in #1
  3. Networks of bullshit! Compose some kind of visual in which you trace some bullshit from its first appearance to how it spread in and around our culture, perhaps changing shape at each phase. Maybe not something like this but resembling it?
  4. “You’d think it’s bullshit but it’s not” paper. Choose something everyone might mistake for bullshit, like today’s reading, and explain why they’re wrong.
  5. Bullshit lesson plan. How would you teach rhetoric and bullshit in middle school or high school? Goals, activities, projects, assessments.
  6. What stops bullshit? Speculative paper in which you foment some set of tools to mitigate the flow of bullshit. Or in which you evaluate some of the better bullshit detection methods, like Mike Caulfield’s SIFT.
  7. Make a fake advertisement, meme, website, or other form of internet bullshit with the express purpose of bullshitting. Reflect on how it went as in #1

What other options can you imagine? Talk in your groups and report back to me.

This is serious–I’ll be choosing based on what you say!

Finally, I’ll go over some strategies for revising paper one. You all have some great ideas, really! I was taken with the breadth of texts and situations you chose to write about.

But some of you aren’t really doing rhetorical analysis yet, and many of you aren’t using the language of rhetorical situations yet. I hope this post will help you focus your analyses in different ways; we should also review the assignment sheet.

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