In order to immunize yourself against bullshit, keep in mind this one simple rule. Many websites are based on an “industry of bullshit.”
Website owners, from big companies to individual bloggers, often hope to make money from their websites. This is not bad. A person should be able to profit from their work. I seek to profit from mine, but not at the cost of intellectual honesty. In order to make more money, many pay attention to trends. Whatever is trending may be a good topic to start a website on, or a good topic to write about on a general interest website, etc. In affiliate marketing, the idea is to find a profitable “niche.”
Once a trend or niche is identified, the trick is to produce content. There is absolutely no requirement for the content to be reliable. There is no need for expertise. Only for a general sense of how to market to the trend. The intention is to “fake it till you make it.” There is, in fact, an entire industry devoted to teaching people how to fake it till you make it on the internet.
Right now, for instance, a hot trend is “stress reduction.” So, you could decide that gardening is a great way to reduce stress. Then all you have to do is mine the internet for posts on gardening, rewrite them with an added emphasis on how gardening is great for reducing stress, and publish.
Since gardening is such a broad topic you have an endless array of gardening topics to which you can add the ‘stress reduction’ angle. For example, you could target urban dwellers with “container gardening for stress reduction.” Of course, the headline would be more exciting.
Throw in some products with affiliate links, announce it gleefully on social media or your email list, and fairly soon you have begun to tap into a hot market.
Did I make the above example up? No. This is happening right now. The person who writes this material, most likely, has never gardened at all. They have no need to believe that gardening reduces stress or to care whether it will reduce your stress. They only care about the trend.
A few posts about growing superfoods for stress reduction is money in the bank! As we move forward, you will learn many different ways of spotting bullshit, and by the end of the book, you will be much better at spotting expertise, or at least true credibility.
Fitness bullshit can take many forms. Bullshit in the fitness industry at large deserves a lengthy discussion. In this book, however, I will primarily focus on fitness articles. Bad fitness articles are, after all, a nickel a dozen.
To be clear, I am not talking about bad writing, necessarily, but bad practices, designed to cover up a lack of depth or understanding.
To be clear, then, although there is much overlap between all the things I will discuss and bad writing in general, I am aiming to help you uncover bad articles, not bad writing. My writing may not always be up to even my standards for instance but while I have written articles that I would consider poorly written not very often have I written something which I consider to be bad content.
So, we are talking about, really, uncovering fitness experts who don’t know what they are talking about and who use bad practices to cover a lack of depth and knowledge. While an ineffective article can be rewritten to become an effective one, a bad article is a bad article no matter how you juggle it.
This does not mean that if someone writes a bad article we should condemn them. Nobody is perfect and everybody can have a bad day. We must be careful in “calling bullshit” when what we see it actually a simple misunderstanding or miseducation. Throughout this book, assume that when I talk about bullshit, however broad the category may seem, I am talking about behaviors that are purposeful, even if the perpetrator does not know he or she is engaging in bullshit. So there is one criterion that we must keep in mind when measuring bullshit, and I will be going much deeper into this in the later pages of this book: True bullshit has a disregard for the truth.
Every time you express disbelief, disagreement, or dissatisfaction by saying “That’s just bullshit,” you inadvertently aid bullshit and bullshitters.
Because, when we have only a vague idea what we mean by bullshit, and what constitutes it, and when we misidentify, as I mentioned, simple misunderstanding or miseducation for bullshit, we make it that much easier for the true bullshitter to ply his craft. If you can’t discern true bullshit from anything that differs from your point of view, the less able you’ll be to see the real thing, and the easier it will be for a masterful bullshitter to take you in.
The next time someone tells you that your good time is going to be ruined by rain, you may want to avoid saying “That’s bullshit.” Because it isn’t. It just sucks.
To develop a good bullshit detector, you have to become somewhat of a skeptic. People are often surprised when I tell them I can pinpoint how and when I became a skeptic. Or, at least, when I began to become one.
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