The ‘Greatness’ Gimmick

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, sits next to frst lady Edith Wilson. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG/ Getty Images)


Hopefully most of you have finished cleaning up after your Presidents’ Day festivities. I still have my lights up and I really need to hose off the sacrificial altar. But my wife isn’t home for a few days so I have time. 

A minor ritual of Presidents’ Day—not as consistently observed as the more familiar dances and feats—is the release of a ranking of presidents in terms of their “greatness.” 

I promise not to dwell too long on the actual list released this week, mostly out of respect for your hangovers. But I do want to make a broader point about scientism, pseudo-social-science, or what might be better described as “scienciness.” (This is a play on “truthiness” in case the weird appearance of “scienciness” throws you off.).

As one guy at the annual Presidents’ Day costume orgy said, “Let’s start with James K. Polk.” 

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