“Atanga Nji Paul is Not a Liar. He is Something Worse: A Bullshit Artist.” Kwoh Elonge
Minister in charge of Special Duties at the Presidency (whatever that means), Atanga Nji Paul began trending after he shocked, angered and embarrassed the country, his culture and ethnic group with a caustic, intensively annoying and indignant interview on CRTV while addressing the ongoing anti-discrimination protest taking place in Anglophone Cameroon. Falsehood flew out of his mouth with such unstoppable fluency that many have described him as a liar. He is worse than a liar, he is a bullshit artist.
Prominent philosopher, Harry Frankfurt draws an important distinction between liars, truth tellers and bullshitters–a distinction which is particularly important in gleaning into the malignant impact that the likes of Atanga Nji have on public life. Frankfurt explains that liars know and understand the truth. They choose to respond contrary to its authority. In this extent, liars are respectful of the truth.
The bullshitter, by contrast, does not care what is true or not. He does not reject truth’s authority as the liar does. Actually, he pays no attention to it at all. By his bluffing, dissimulation, and general dishonesty, the bullshit artist works to erase the very possibility of knowing the truth. Consequently, bullshit is more dangerous than lies since it erodes even the possibility of truth existing or being found.’
In his B.S, Atanga rejects the slightest suggestion of an Anglophone problem, dismisses concerns of threats to common law and anglophone education while describing all those who say otherwise as anarchists, impostors, and the protest as illegal and masterminded by crooks. In defense of his B.S he confidently declared that he had carried out statistical research which showed that 95% of schools were functioning unperturbed in SW and NW and that concerns over threats to English education were ‘senseless’ because most of his friends in francophone Cameroon had children studying in Buea and Bamenda. He concludes that we should appropriate their admiration of our educational system. He says the killing of protesters is by protesters not the military. All of this he says while citing what he considers to be undeniable statistical analysis he has personally done.
Bullshit artists say things with high degree of confidence while, at the same time, having inadequate support for what they are saying, making their statements B.S. To the Atangas of this world, subjectivity is much more important and reality is measured by what they say, think and feel, not what is observable, verifiable or true.
But the more pertinent question is why Atanga is such a bullshit artist. Many have suggested reasons such as sycophancy and power hunger. There is more. Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the ventilation of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. It is very plausible that Atanga is so far removed from Anglophone reality that he just doesn’t get it. Etoudi seems to have this effect on anglophones.
On the other hand, Atanga’s artistry for bullshit should not be looked upon as an aberration. Over the past three decades, those within the regime have increasingly adopted positions that are not just politically untenable but also in vehement defiance of truth, facts, common sense and even most infuriating history! Remember the celebration of 50 years of reunification with banners hanging in Buea with words like “…welcomes Paul Biya…father of our reunification” etc. The type of bullshit that is meant to distort historical truths. People were asking me whether Paul Biya was a British Southern Cameroonian who voted for reunification.
So Atanga’s bullshit sprouts from seeds planted by a league of conspiring politicians who have showed how far they could go in uttering outright untruths which their supporters drink greedily. It took a circle of liars to make Atanga’s forays into outright bullshit even remotely possible.