Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit


278 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-7710-7042-X
DDC 177'.3'0207





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


“No matter how cynical you become, it is never enough to keep up.”
This oft-quoted gem from Lily Tomlin sets the stage for Laura Penny’s
engaging, if somewhat diffuse, study of bullshit, “one of the growth
industries of the information age.” Individual chapters examine the
many faces of BS—hype, double-talk, exaggeration, hypocrisy, and
bafflegab, to name just a few—inflicted on hapless North Americans by
advertising and public relations, the pharmaceutical, insurance, and
service industries, big business, the media, and government.

The focus is American bullshit (with the Bush administration serving as
an especially juicy target), though there are occasional nods to
Canadian BS. The author observes, for example, that “[e]ven the most
lunkheaded Yankee ad has production values and professionalism going for
it. Canadian advertising is its own little earnest, mid- priced world of
awful.” There are suggestions of warmed-over Linda McQuaig in
Penny’s relentless catalogue of the evils of unfettered
capitalization. More attention to the mechanics of bullshit—for
instance, the abuses of the English language so gleefully skewered by
George Carlin over the years—would have sharpened the book’s focus.
At times, the author evinces a knee-jerk anti-Americanism. Her
criticisms of U.S. corporate governance and near-silence on the sorry
state of affairs north of the border are particularly galling given that
American authorities have been infinitely more zealous in their
prosecution of corporate criminals than their lame, do-nothing Canadian

At her best, Penny homes in on her targets with laser-like precision.
Here she is on the unremitting mediocrity of local newscasts:
“There’s maybe five or ten minutes of local news, and five or ten
minutes of rehashed world news, if you can make it past the forty
minutes of advertising, inane banter, chummy chuckling, grimaces of
solemn concern, promos and teasers for upcoming stories, and health and
lifestyle stores that are, more often than not, video news releases
produced by PR companies hired by companies that produce health and
lifestyle products.”


Penny, Laura., “Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,