How to Bullshit a Bullshitter

Posted: May 3, 2014 in Socio Defined
Tags: , , , ,

I could never help but get a little nervous whenever it came time for the professor to hand back a paper with a grade on it. Especially a big paper. Everybody gets nervous about that, right?

I suppose so. Sometimes the difference between an A and a B on a paper can make a big difference in an overall grade which could, potentially, affect something like a scholarship. My grade time anxiety has always been a little different. For me, it’s the difference between an A and being kicked out of the class. They kick you out, after all, for cheating.

Indeed.

Now I don’t claim to be morally ambiguous with regards to dishonest academic practices, not even a little bit. Ambiguity would apply my acceptance of a behavior as fundamentally wrong and my willingness to disregard this fact. On the contrary, I consider cheating on college papers to be, from a moral standpoint, completely acceptable.

I live in the south, and down here most people use the Bible, especially the Ten Commandments, as the moral baseline. Like it or not, this is the system of rules and order I have to appear to conform to in order to relate socially. So to me, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” really only applies to one type of lying and requires the intent of harm against another. What that means is the Jesus probably won’t be angry with me and I won’t have to pay extra come Sunday. Cheating at school is simply not addressed in this system of morals. In fact, I’d venture to say that plagiarism might not have been a prime concern for God, Moses or whoever’s bush they set on fire.

Legal ordinances make no mention, that I know of, regarding the paying of poor, adjunct college professors to write your papers for you. I’ve never heard of anyone being ticketed or jailed for sitting in the back of the room and simply looking up test answers on a smartphone either.

Come to think of it, the only rule books that say anything about cheating whatsoever are the ones written by the schools themselves. I don’t know about you, but my personal of system of morality is not defined by any college or school of any sort, especially when the definition really only guards the perceived value of the process they call education. That’s just plain retarded. That also means that cheating, to me at least, is a morally acceptable behavior.

In other words, it’s not wrong to do it. You just don’t want to get caught. And I never have.

Once, for a sociology course, I wrote a research paper about the prevalence of white collar crime and the differentials in sentencing of white collar criminals as opposed to blue collar. It was the last paper returned and the professor took a close look at it before he called my name. I got nervous that day for sure.

I was picking up my paper in class at least, and not in the privacy of his office. That was a good sign. He scrunched up his beard, however, and seemed to glare at me as I approached him. I figured I’d given him good reason to glare. That paper, after all, was nine pages of total bullshit. It was a well worded and finely crafted work of fiction I’d produced in two or three hours with little to no actual research.

I started out to write a decent paper, I really did. But when I discovered that information related to my topic was not readily available, I had to change my plan.

So I used the fact that information was limited as a point in my discussion.

And I made up a source.

Or two.

And I manipulated the statistics. All of them.

I even made up a quote entirely and attributed it to the director of the F.B.I. Ok, I admit it, I did bear a little false witness on that one. It was a really good paper.

There were minor errors in my bibliography. I had, in fact, intentionally used an older format. (Don’t encourage them to look for mistakes. Give them something easy and understandable to fault you on.)

When I reached out to take my project, his scowl disappeared and he told me that I had written an excellent paper. I’m pretty sure my jaw didn’t hit the floor, at least not until he asked if I intended to enroll in grad school. He also gave me an A and although no points were taken, his notes on my bibliography indicated that I needed to update my practices in the future.

I think a lot of people, after experiencing that sort of victory, might tend to lose respect for that professor, especially after watching him devour such a load of hooey. Admittedly, some part of me wanted to feel like that. But the reality is, the bullshit he swallowed was an artfully crafted pile of the such, carefully tailored to a one man audience.

The same way a hunter understands the feeding and mating habits of his prey, I made myself aware of his course load, his salary, his politics, anything I could easily gather just by standing around and listening. Watching. Paying attention and interpreting.

I am after all, a highly functioning sociopath. I study people.

My paper reflected a liberal political leaning and took the stance I felt he was most likely to agree with. This predisposition of agreement primed potential acceptance of further documentation with limited scrutiny. This, combined with a pile of other dreadful research papers he’d certainly be reading, substantially decreased the chances he’d ever bother checking any of my sources. I felt it was even likely I could make up a source entirely in that situation.

So I did.

There was not and never will be a reason not to respect that professor. He seemed to be, overall, quite competent, especially when engaged on a level playing field. We were playing, however, on my field and he didn’t realize it.

Like a deer in a spot light, he’d been hypnotized by the nine page spoonful that amounted, essentially, to a piece of propaganda, and perfectly intelligent people fall for shit like that all the time.

Good propaganda isn’t effective because the writer outsmarts or outthinks the reader. It just doesn’t work that way. Propaganda is actually an exchange between two parties that simply functions to affect an agreement between them. The idea is to agree with the reader, initially, and then covertly alter the terms of the agreement. The alteration occurs by using what the English Comp textbooks refer to as “appeals.”

The textbooks, of course, typically frown upon use of such techniques, favoring those which rely on honest research, logic and documentation. Propaganda utilizes all of these elements, both the favored and non-favored methods, to create a discourse that ultimately alters the readers perception of reality.

My sociology paper, to be honest, was only partly propaganda. I had no real goal with regards to the professor’s interpretation of my words. I wasn’t trying to change how he felt about the preferential sentencing of convicted white collar offenders. I could have convinced him, I think, that lighter sentences for white collar crooks are a good thing, but he’d certainly have scrutinized my work more closely and a made up bit of information might pique just enough curiosity to uncover its true nature.

Make no mistake, my goal was to change how he felt about taking his fancy little pen and scribbling an A on a big steaming pile of brain doo doo. I just used the issue of white collar crime to do it. That paper painted a picture that the professor was comfortable with and that bore a remarkable resemblance to an intelligent, well thought out piece of work. It agreed with his personal politics and appeared, on the surface at least, to function within the academic boundaries with which he was familiar. The fraudulent parts of the work were carefully camouflaged and provided him with an opportunity to simply believe something he wanted to believe.

The idea of an argumentative research paper is to convince the reader to agree with the writer. Such is it with all forms of propaganda. With research papers, it’s much easier to find a point of view that the reader already agrees with and work from there. More smiling and nodding from the reader equates to less scrutinization and the establishment of a discourse based upon agreement and, most importantly, belief.

A pattern of belief is established using the same premise of the old ice breaking Three Truths and a Lie game. The idea, in this game, is to hide the lie in amongst the facts, making them either appear to be equal or choosing far fetched truths to lure the opponent away from the bullshit. When playing the game, both players have knowledge of the rules. With a research paper, the reader, unless tipped off in some way, does not realize they are participating in the game. This places the writer at a serious advantage, provided the camouflage is adequate and employed effectively.

I know what you’re thinking…if someone is smart enough to understand and apply all this psychological technology, then why not just write the paper the way it’s supposed to be…why not just write an honest research paper? That’s an easy one. I’d have had an entire weekend, at least, in researching, organizing and composing an A research paper. Using my method, I spent about a half an hour reading and researching online. I thought about the plan for about a day and then sat down and wrote a final draft in a couple of hours.

The choice between giving up a couple of hours and losing an entire weekend is no choice at all, especially when the likelihood is high that the outcome will be the same.

No doubt about it, this manner of cheating isn’t for everyone. It takes forethought and some manner of an understanding as to what makes different individuals tick. It also takes the ability to write a good, solid composition to begin with. In other words, if you can’t write a good honest paper, you can’t write a good dishonest one. You’re better off getting some help or simply ripping off someone else. Personally, I am no plagiarist.

Never in my cheating career have I passed off another’s work as my own. I do consider myself above plagiarism, in a way, but not engaging in it makes practical sense as well. Educators, the way I see it, are experts at reading student work. It’s what they do for a living and they practice every day. It’s not difficult for a professor to read several pieces of a student’s writing and easily distinguish which one was purchased on the internet or stolen from an online journal.

I do know an excellent plagiarist, actually. The reason it works for him is that he is consistent in his practices. I don’t think he ever turns in his own words. This way there is no real baseline from which to draw comparisons. He camouflages the differences in writing styles by paying an editor, such as myself, to render his stolen compositions the same.

This involves creating patterns of grammatical consistencies, particularly with regards to errors, which are easily noticed and will suggest to the reader that the same person probably wrote them all. I also altered his “work” in other ways, such as adjusting the language to align with his localized dialect. It wasn’t nearly as much work as it sounds like, but as with my method, it requires planning and savvy regarding the relationship between the reader and the writer.

This guy, he already had a Master’s degree. He was working towards a certification he needed to work as a high school principal. Ever wonder how a guy who can’t spell “elephant” got hired as a principal? I don’t. I helped him do it.

He’s actually a decent principal, which doesn’t surprise me. Most professions rely on experience and aptitude and formalized education often does little with regards to true preparation for any sort of career. I realize this statement is arguable and I am, of course, speaking generally when I suggest that education is not often worth the value we place upon it.

This is not to say that education does not offer benefits. The process of education imparts a lot of different ideas and greatly increases the range of perspectives through which the student will ultimately engage not only their profession but also their greater overall existence. This being said, I think exams and research projects are, for the most part, entirely pointless.

Exams teach us to regurgitate what someone else deems to be pertinent knowledge. What is pertinent knowledge to an individual is subjective and based entirely upon that individual’s reality. Exams exist solely as a tool of measurement and are supposed to reflect learning. There is no way to determine, in a period of time as short as a semester, whether or not a student has understood and generalized the information presented simply by expecting them to recite a preprogrammed response to a question. Exams measure little more than short term retention skills and an ability to play the “education game.”

Research papers aren’t much better. I’ll admit I’ve learned from some of the assignments I’ve completed and I have done honest work. In many cases, however, I think these assignments are inappropriately utilized and amount to little more than busy work.

For example, engaging in the process of gathering, interpreting and utilizing sets of related data when completing a research project for a Statistics course is fundamental to understanding how statistics actually function in the real world. The project creates a macro-perspective with regards to the field of study. The Sociology project did not. Narrowing down an entire field of study to the microcosm of white collar crime and assigning 27 students the same topic didn’t make much sense. So far as the study of sociological concepts are concerned, I learned more from bullshitting a project on white collar crime than I did actually researching it.

Isn’t it amazing how effectively I am able to rationalize my antisocial behavior? It’s not so much an effective rationalization as it is a different perspective from which to engage interactions with others and especially with institutions. With most established systems, I detect substantial evidence of practices and tactics which are all too familiar to me. I prefer, simply because I am competent to do so, to engage such institutions on what I feel to be a more level field. Sometimes, like with the white collar crime project, I even net a free weekend in the sun from the deal.

Weekends in the sun are what life is all about, not writing research papers.

Even I know that.

Return to the Nest

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