The year in bullshit: top “Without Bullshit” posts of 2017
It’s been a hell of a year, and every month was filled with its share of bullshit. So let’s review 2017 through the lens of the most popular Without Bullshit posts in every month.
January: “What’s really wrong with millennials?” asks Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek has it all figured out. Millennials are screwed up because of their participation trophies and mobile phones. His video spread like a California brushfire, but all I could see was the bullshit that comes from generalizing about millions of people. In a year on this blog that had 268 posts, 400,000 views, and over 1,000 blog comments, this, the second post of the year, led them all. Fights broke out in the comments and audience cheered and applauded it in my speeches. By year-end, 28,000 people had viewed this post, making it my fourth-most popular post ever.
February: The clarity of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court
I worry about whether people are good writers, not whether I agree with them. Gorsuch is an outstanding writer, a quality that liberals and conservatives should agree on. And who wouldn’t want a jurist who can write that attorneys “are poets of the nasty gram, able to write interrogatories in iambic pentameter, yet terrified of trial” and “[S]ooner or later every case must come to an end. . . . A system of law that places any value on finality . . . cannot allow intransigent litigants to challenge settled decisions year after year, decade after decade, until they wear everyone else out.” Like many of my most popular posts, this one succeeded by timeliness and newsjacking.
March: As Uber president Jeff Jones quits, CEO Travis Kalanick ignores the toxic context
No single company was responsible for more bullshit in 2017 than Uber. I wrote eight Uber posts, each about behavior and language more outrageous than the last. Six months earlier, Kalanick had said of new Ridesharing President Jeff Jones, “I cannot think of a better person to lead us on this journey.” When Jones abruptly left, Kalanick’s statement was vacuous and explained nothing. Jones, on the other hand, said “It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber.” No kidding.
April: What really happened with Fox News and Bill O’Reilly
Fox News and Bill O’Reilly made short and meaningless statements as he left in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. I had no choice but to reveal the secret conversations that led to these non-statements. More than 2,500 of you thought I was funny — and I’m betting many were poor publicists who have been in situations just like this. Bill O’Reilly edged out the second-most popular post of April, about United Airlines’ ever-shifting and weaselly statements after dragging David Dao off a flight and knocking his teeth out.
May: I’ve figured out what “covfefe” means. It means we’re screwed.
Any questions about whether President Trump was trolling us were dispelled when he tweeted actual nonsense and implied it had a secret meaning.
June: James Comey’s statement is totally believable, but it won’t matter
Remember when we cared about former FBI director James Comey? He issued a clear, 7-page statement about what happened around the time Donald Trump fired him. It might come up in the obstruction case against Trump, but there are so many new revelations coming out every week that this seems like ancient history.
July: 10 reasons why you’re not a thought leader (and how to fix them)
“Thought leader” is one of those polarizing terms; some people hate it, others aspire to be one. I tried to put the whole concept in context, and 2,500 of you found it useful. Look for more on this topic in 2018.
August: What are you actually DOING to fight racists and Nazis? Take the pro bono pledge.
In August, listening to all the shallow protestations and social media sharing in the wake of the Charlottesville march, I suggested you take the Pro Bono pledge: “I offer my services pro bono to any group fighting hatred and intolerance.” And dozens of you did, right on my blog. This stuff spreads: 750 of you shared it on Facebook. In case you’re wondering about me personally, I did end up doing some editing for a social justice organization and would be happy to do so again.
September: Gary Vaynerchuk, the paradox of hindsight, and the corruption of the self-help industry
It’s a simple idea. You only hear from and pay attention to the gurus who succeed. Those who do the same thing and fail, you never hear about. That’s why it’s deluded to imagine that you can succeed by imitating somebody else who succeeded. Gary Vaynerchuk is just a symbol of this phenomenon, but a topical and controversial one. That’s what I found when I wrote about him and heard from my share of haters (most of whom never actually read what I wrote). In the end, 12,000 people viewed this post.
October: Amazing true facts about women at work
I’m a man. That makes it dangerous for me to write about sexual harassment. But at least I could point out that the women you work with are there for their brains, not for you to admire their bodies. Seems obvious, but I got a few haters on this one as well.
November: SoFi delivers my favorite Black Friday advertisement ever
This was one of my shortest posts ever, about a Black Friday flyer with copy like “Pay an extra $87.56: This teddy bear is super absorbent. Perfect for late-night sobbing over your credit card statements.” A brilliant and convincing ad parody that actually arrived in my newspaper.
December: Al Franken’s self-serving exit speech
Maybe Franken should have resigned. Maybe he shouldn’t. But if he was going to resign, he needed to be a bit more remorseful. Close behind this post was what I wrote about a Nazi site’s revealing and chilling style guide.
Reflections on 2017
Can you believe all this stuff happened in one year? The tide of bullshit was unabated in 2017.
There’s no reason to think that 2018 — a midterm election year in the U.S. — will be any better. But perhaps you can make yourself more aware of the bullshit that corporate and political players are creating and spreading. Vow to be vigilant. We all really need you thinking clearly.