Professor Frankfurt noted that B.S. tends to bloom “whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.” But B.S. works best for victimless crimes. When the stakes are high, a gentleman plays it straight. The host of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper has a few rules for plotting a course through an ocean of uncertainty:
1. Acknowledge what you know.
2. Acknowledge what you don’t know.
“The more room you can make for nuance, the smarter you’ll sound.”
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3. Don’t engage in idle speculation.
4. Bring in experts to talk about what the facts are.
5. Avoid “magic bullet” explanations, except when discussing the Kennedy assassination.
6. The more room you can make for nuance, the smarter you’ll sound. Things are very rarely as simple as any partisan wants them to be.
7. Sometimes there can be authority in acknowledging the limits of what you know. That’s an important part of credibility and trust.
This article comes from our guide to bullshitting your way through any situation. Read the entire syllabus for an advanced course in the art of B.S. here.