Baffle them with your bullsh*t: A pseudo-intellectual’s guide to the classroom

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By Jackson Harwell
Contributing Writer

Tired of looking like a plebe in your Philosophy course? Need to sharpen your class discussion skills? Want everyone to know you have kind of read Noam Chomsky and loved it? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, look no further; you are in the right place. I extend to you this simple, easy to follow guide, perfect for your next seminar group or Infinite Jest book club discussion. Listed below are a variety of tried and true tips and tricks, trusted by thousands of experienced pseudo-intellectuals all around the globe.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that pseudo-intellectualism is all about image, about looking the part. If you walk into class dressed like a complete dork, chances are, people are going to think you’re a complete dork. The best place to begin your journey as a pseudo-intellectual is the dressing room.

One word: TWEED. Tweed is the best possible fabric for the endeavors of a pseudo-intellectual, no contest. Understated, yet provocative, tweed suggests much more than meets the eye, perfect for the brooding philosopher type.

Ideally, a pseudo-intellectual should have in their possession tweed pants, a tweed sport coat, tweed vest, tweed undershirt, tweed socks, tweed fedora, tweed necktie, and tweed suspenders. Accent your look with a variety of different accessories: fake eyeglasses (the kind without lenses), an all-leather satchel, a pocket watch, a pencil positioned vicariously in the crook of your ear, et cetera.

A quick note on the satchel: preferably, the contents of your bag should include a thermos full of straight black coffee and no more than three mugs, at least one of them emblazoned with some kind of flaccid political statement (i.e. “Stay woke” or “Shop #Indie”). Make sure to throw in a pencil roll full of oil pastel markers, an abacus, moleskine notebook, fountain pen, and a pack of inappropriately long cigarettes.

Of course, you can’t forget an unopened copy of The Communist Manifesto, one fully functional antique typewriter, an alligator skin case for your lens-less glasses, the unfinished manuscript of your screenplay that just isn’t where you want it yet, and a variety of vinyl records.

Now that you’re properly dressed, with all the necessary items in check, learning how to wear the look, not just the clothes, is the next step.

Let’s say you’re attending a philosophy class. Before you enter the room, carefully survey its contents from the doorway, as if you were an explorer about to enter the habitat of underdeveloped primates. Adjust your coat and tie and clear your throat. Make your way to your seat and assume your position.

Take out your notebook, fountain pen, and thermos with mugs. Proceed to pour yourself a drink. It’s a scientific fact that drinking straight black coffee makes you better than everyone else, so be confident when you partake. Give the opportunity for your classmates to smell your beverage,  your superiority wafting into the air.

Posture is key. When sitting, don’t simply sit. When standing, don’t just stand. You must command the room with your presence. While positioned in a chair, assume the complexion of a skeptical museum goer, perplexed by a particularly outlandish piece of art. Place a fist at your chin, occasionally stroke your lower lip, stretch your legs out as far as you can, crossing them at the ankles, throw in the occasional gingerly nod.

Now, on the particulars of the verbal aspect of pseudo-intellectualism, first, and, most crucially, begin every one of your comments with, “We live in a society…” You cannot, I repeat, cannot go wrong if you begin your comment in this way; the possibilities are now endless.

Everything you say from here on out will be all-the-more poignant, so be bold and get creative with your ideas. Remember: you are here to “wow” them, to flash your learned smile, not to simply contribute to the discussion.

Once you’ve begun your thought, continue building the structure of your idea in the most vague, circuitous fashion possible. It is important to remember that you should not concern yourself with others understanding what you’re saying, or if you even make sense at all; you know you’re better than them. You drink black coffee and you’ve kind of read Noam Chomsky. If they don’t get it, that’s not your problem.  

Vocabulary is the bread and butter of the pseudo-intellectual, so make good use of it. Utilize all the key terms: proto-Capitalism, patriarchy, neoliberalism, imperialism, proletariat, petty-bourgeois, the works. You don’t need to actually know what any of these words mean. Frankly, nobody does. What’s important is that you use as many of them as you can in as long of a sentence as you can compose.

While not intended to be exhaustive, this small catalog of techniques will certainly get you started on the right track. With any luck, and a lot of tweed, you’ll be on your way to becoming the most impressive member of your class and/or friend group in no time.