Ivy League Prof Sifts Through BS

<B>Morley Safer</B> Talks To Scholars Studying The Subject Of Bull

Prudishness prevents us from using the word, but it is one that is familiar to almost everyone, and almost everyone engages in spreading it around at one time or another.

For propriety's sake, we'll call it BS. It could be defined as hyped-up, boastful, insincere or pretentious talk. And it's so prevalent in American life that it's caught the attention of our deepest thinkers.

There is a bestseller on the stands, a phenomenon of sorts, by a leading American academic. It is called "On Bull----," and it's a serious work by a serious man about a subject that seems to inundate us at every turn. reports.

The success of philosopher Harry Frankfurt's 67-page book about truth, lies and that vast putrid wasteland in between suggests that he's touched a nerve, the BS nerve, in the American psyche.

"I think there is, in the population at large, a yearning for living in an environment in which you can really believe what people tell you, and in which people who hold responsible positions or who are aspiring to responsible positions can be trusted to tell you the truth, and not try to fool you and not to try to pull the wool over your eyes and not to try to manipulate your beliefs," says Frankfurt.

Was he surprised or shocked by the success of this book?

"I am surprised by the response, and I attribute it to a couple of things," says Frankfurt. "First of all, there's a certain titillation in the fact that an Ivy League professor is writing about a topic which is designated by this barnyard term. But I think also people are starved for the truth. And I think people are fed up with being fed bull----."

With hundreds of TV channels running 24 hours a day, with thousands of new products to be advertised each year, with political rhetoric, lobbyists, PR, spin, and phony news reports put out by the government, and with the trivialities of a celebrity-obsessed culture, BS rules the world.