The Commons Cultural Welfare Select Committee has issued a report calling for a new levy being described by both advocates and critics as a “bullshit tax.”
“Government has long recognized the need for special taxation on items whose use brings certain inevitable costs to the wider society. Taxation on cigarettes and alcohol helps to minimize the impacts of the increased healthcare costs of smokers and drinkers on the NHS as a whole,” said select committee chairman Petroc Robertson. “The government has already taken on board recommendations for a sugar tax. The corrosive impacts of a culture saturated in bullshit are every bit as tangible- overconsumption of bullshit not only has serious mental and physical effects on its consumers, but also impacts people who don’t engage with bullshit through increased healthcare costs, an ungovernable country, and a soul destroying world of endless insincerity and banality. We’ve banned trans fats- surely we can tax Katy Hopkins”
Not all select committee members were prepared to endorse the plan publicly. “While I deplore bullshit and am prepared to look down my nose at people who expose themselves to it to excess, I do not believe this is the sort of area the government ought to be meddling in,” said MP for Snobbusry, Jacob Moest-Wurst. “I believe this is an area where industry self regulation is the way forward. It worked with foxes and hen-houses, and I’m sure it will be effective in this instance.”
The exact scope of the new tax is still unknown, and extensive debate is expected around controversial areas, such as what reform advocates call “secondhand bullshit.”
“Secondhand bullshit is no laughing matter,” said Ima Busiebodey, founder of the charity “Shitfree Minds.” “Overexposure to reality TV, talent shows and the Murdoch press has created a voting majority so apathetic, ill-informed and mentally addled that they’ve voted in a cross-party generation of cynical corporatist political leaders committed to dismantling the nation’s medical and educational infrastructure, even though education and healthcare are things that everybody in society manifestly needs. With hospitals in crisis across the country, second-hand bullshit is a clear and present danger to bullshit non-consumers across the UK.”
Across the musical world, where tastes very widely, the criteria for defining bullshit remain the subject of vigorous debate. “While not everyone can be expected to agree on what makes a great work of art,” said Arts Council chairman Anfällig Gruppendenken “I think it’s clear to everyone that a well-designed bullshit tax will apply to anything using auto-tune on a lead vocal, popular music that combines a trite recycling of formulaic clichés with an over-produced aesthetic where they compress the shit out of everything, and almost all country music.”
Pressed on whether the tax would place an unfair burden on popular music, Robertson said “Absolutely not. The work of artists ranging from Bjork to the Beatles will obviously be exempt, while, in jazz, it’s pretty clear that Kenny G will be affected, and that the work of classical composers like Percy Grainger clearly falls within the widely accepted social-scientific definition of bullshit. And we’ll certainly be taking a hard look at minimalism in due course.” Conducting is also a medium likely to be hit hard by the tax. “Research has shown that conductors range from the extremely helpful, to complete bullshit artists. Right now, a good-looking young bullshitter can do more for an orchestra’s bottom line than a person of normal appearance who actually knows what they’re doing and loves music. This tax will mean that bullshitting no longer enjoys an unfettered competitive advantage,” said Ikspeel Vals, regional vice secretary of the Musicians Union gigger division.
Religion remains a problematic area of discussion. “Governments are historically reluctant to tax religion,” said pastor William Pas de la Merde, president of the advocacy group God Doesn’t Bullshit, “but the costs of religious bullshit are particularly enormous in terms of warfare, misogyny, genocide, and social exclusion. Most religious observers consider the beliefs and attitudes of most other religions to be bullshit, anyway. It’s clear that sentiments like “love thy neighbour,” “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “thou shalt not kill” would not be affected by the tax anyway, but it is unclear the extent to which these ideas are still part of the wider religious discourse. We hope that a bullshit tax will actually incentivise religious leaders to stop protesting against gay couples’ right to marry, or advocating for World War III, and instead focus on making the human condition more bearable.”
The revenues from the tax, expected to range from 1p to 5p/consumer/minute depending on the “intensity of the bullshit” will be reinvested in art, culture and media output that helps make life worth living, or that helps human beings to become kinder, more curious or more tolerant. Support for reading, participatory music-making and community driven social initiatives is expected to benefit, as is classical music, modern jazz, documentary making and journalism not dependent on corporate sponsorship is all expected to benefit. Libraries, museums and Radio 4 quiz shows are also expected to do well, while Radio 4 comedies and the long running soap opera, The Archers, may become economically unviable.
“Let’s be clear here,” said select committee Chair Robertson, “this is not a bullshit ban. People who want it will still have unfettered access to bullshit, although I do believe we ought to urgently act to restrict minors’ exposure. Neither is this an attack on popularity, frivolity or even triviality. Even mere horsecrap remains unaffected. But the cost of bullshit is real, and it poses a real threat to society as a whole—just look at politics in America.”
Asked by a member of the press whether he was “having a laugh,” Chairman Robertson said: “Bullshit is no laughing matter. Otherwise, one would have to question whether this whole process has been a great big circle jerk to create the impression that we actually care about the future of society, when we really know that this will die a speedy death once it reaches a second reading in the House of Commons.”
How nasty is your preferred bullshit and how much will it cost?
1p/consumer/minute/ level. “Dude, that’s bullshit”
Omitting exposition repeats in Sonata- allegro movements, lifestyle documentaries, soap operas
2p/person/minute level “Sketchy bullshit”
Cuts in Rachmaninoff 2nd Symphony, reunion tours involving less than half the members of formerly great rock bands, Dan Brown novels
3 p/person/minute level “Nasty bullshit”
Most “classical crossover,” Simon Cowell, most reality television, playing Mahler without vibrato
4p/person/minute level “Odious, stinking, horrific bullshit”
Climate denial, religious persecutions of women, gays and minorities, Percy Grainger’s orchestration, Country music, the entire Murdoch press empire
5p/person/minute level “Donald Trump”