Billy was an ordinary boy. He lived in an ordinary house, in an ordinary street, and every day he’d go out and play with his ordinary friends. Billy had a happy life.
But one day, as Billy’s friends took it in turns to swap brags about how cool their houses were and which level they’d reached on the latest Xbox game, Billy was struck by a bolt of lightning. Turning him from an ordinary, everyday boy into…
Now, in his superhero guise, Billy wanders the twisting corridors of the internet, shedding what he thinks is light into anything he perceives to be darkness. In comments and on Twitter he pops up, shouting that oft-heard phrase:
“I call bullshit!”
If someone has an anecdote to share, I-Call-Bullshit Man is usually nearby. Letting everyone know that this story sounds a bit far-fetched to his ears. This situation certainly wouldn’t happen to him, so he’s just not buying it.
“Bullshit,” he types, like a brave and noble warrior. “I. Call. Bullshit.”
Should you wish to meet Billy, you must set up the equivalent of the bat-signal. Perhaps you write a fairly personal blog post, detailing an episode of sex you had this one time. If you’re lucky he’ll turn up, to rage into the abyss about the fact that your experience doesn’t come close to matching his own. Perhaps he’ll arrive on Twitter, telling you that the quote you wrote from your teenage diary couldn’t possibly be real, because you used a word that he wouldn’t have at thirteen. Maybe he’s lurking here now, in the comments on this post, ready to point out that the author of it simply has to be a man, because women never write about sex, and anyway, if the author really is a woman then she needs to get on and prove it.
But wait! You do not vanquish I-Call-Bullshit man with proof! Proof is not his Kryptonite, it is his sustenance.
Make no mistake, our extraordinary hero doesn’t seek truth in the same way as the eager scientist does: Googling for Snopes links when someone posts something factually dodgy or medically impossible. No: he’s not after the kind of proof that shows 2+2=4, he is after the proof that makes you dance and sing to his own tune. I-Call-Bullshit Man is the advanced version of those guys on forums back in the noughties, who’d tell you to prove you were a girl with a picture of your tits, or prove you liked sex by wanking him off. You can’t battle him with proof, and nor should you try, because truly there’s no way to demonstrate that your personal stories are true other than to invite him into them: via photos, video, or actually sucking his angry internet dick.
This author has met I-Call-Bullshit man many times before. In the examples above, in my email inbox, in comments and tweets and facebook posts. His most common refrain is “you’re probably a man, aren’t you?” but it takes other forms too – often boiling down to one simple yet irrelevant statement: “I don’t believe you.”
Each new story, each experience, each tiny moment of joy: for you it’s either fun or not, believable or not, enjoyable or not. You can sift and decide and just leave if it doesn’t work for you. But I-Call-Bullshit Man is not the same as you or I: it actually hurts him to see other people enjoy experiences that he lacks the imagination to conceive of as possible. I-Call-Bullshit man cannot survive while other people’s ‘lies’ go unchallenged – while fun is being had without him.
I am sad for I-Call-Bullshit man. Not because he doesn’t believe me: his blustering disbelief can’t erase the experience from my life, or pluck the memories from inside my head. I’m sad because I-Call-Bullshit man is really only Billy: melancholy about other people’s happiness and keener to squash it than enjoy it.
If I want to make him feel better, I could try to offer him the ‘proof’ he craves, but that will never make him happy. It will only cause him to redouble his efforts: ask “is that really a picture of you, though?” or “how do I know you didn’t get this from somewhere else?” I’m sad for Billy because no amount of proof will ever slake his thirst: he doesn’t want you to prove it, he wants to be right. He wants this thing – whatever it is – to never have happened. To you and I this story might just be another anecdote about fisting, or a half-remembered threesome that didn’t go as planned. But to him each new slice of life represents another mission in the ongoing war against Lies. Another reason for him to don his Cape of Truth, sit at the Keyboard of Veracity, and hammer out that fateful, vital phrase:
I. Call. Bullshit.