2014-03-06

Expansion

Back when I was in school there was this class we had to take called "society, environment and corporation" or something along those lines.  Quite obviously this class was a clever prank played on the rest of the departments by the industrial economics department in which they made a good effort to round up all of their most un-gifted morons, cobble together a pathetic syllabus and then proceed to waste everyone's time for an entire semester actually teaching it.

Initially my group did take it seriously.  We labored long hours and handed in our paper on time and on spec.  The week after we were called into the TA's office where we were told that our paper barely achieved a passing grade.  I can't remember precisely what made me suspect that the teaching assistant wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but I remember that from that point on, nobody in my group took him, or the class, very seriously.

I distinctly remember my friend Finn Arne having that vague smile and tone of voice that in later years was mostly reserved for dealing with telemarketers.

The subsequent works that were handed in were all produced in the most slipshod manner imaginable: we'd skim the problem text, pick out terms with elevated TF-IDF, find the paragraphs in the textbook where these terms had similarly high TF-IDF and simply rewrite these paragraphs.  Without regard for what the problem really was.

The product was then "bullshit-expanded".

Bullshit expansion is the subtle art of expressing something with more words, yet without adding more information to it.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  At the peak of my ability I could turn a single sentence into two solid paragraphs of text.  And before you poo-poo this, people like John LeCarré have built entire careers on their ability to pump out pages of featureless fluff.

This was necessary because the halfwits who taught the class thought that a given problem solution required a certain number of words.

I'm not sure if we were called into the TA's office after handing in the second paper, but not only did we pass, the TA was impressed with us taking his class so seriously, or something to that effect.

In fact, the only negative remark we got the rest of the semester was when we noted that we had made use of IRC to communicate while solving one of the problem sets.  According to the TA "no serious business would ever use such an unprofessional mode of communication in the future".  They were truly educating the visionaries of the future here.

But I digress.

The reason I mention this is because I think Rachel Maddow has now innovated in this field.  The field of bullshit expansion.  Although her method does differ a bit.  Her technique is to take the entire body of what is known in the Chris Christie bridge scandal, add a near homeopathic amount of new information to this body of knowledge and then excrete another permutation of the discovered facts with shrill enthusiasm.

Yes, this news story is vitally important.  Which is why it would be nice if it took more than the merest speck of a comma to reiterate the entire bloody scandal with a high-pitched, shouty torrent of words. It is killing the story.

1 comment:

  1. I had the same class and asked the teaching assistant how he managed to be a teaching assistant on that class. He answered "because I am so full of bullshit".

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