A few weekends ago I saw The Informant! It starts off entertainingly enough about an oddball executive spying/entrapping on behalf of the Feds against his agribusiness employer. The second half of the movie takes an unexpected shift in focus as you find out how much of his narration and the character he made for himself is a lie. A few days later I saw this post at Mind Hacks linking tohere on the inventor of the (quite wrong) “disease model” of addiction, who apparently faked his doctorate. That got me to start writing this post, but I didn’t have time to finish until some more impostors popped up. Before then I was already planning on mentioning serial-bullshitter and liberal hero William O. Douglas, particularly well known for getting a grave in Arlington without the service record to merit it. Two new scandals involve the Army again, with some faker attaining NCO rank through a made-up military history. You are more likely to have heard of Linda MacMahon’s opponent for the Connecticute Senate, who had been making claims about service in Vietnam when he actually made all the right moves to avoid said service. Then of course there is the undocumented studier at Harvard. The old story of the retired illiterate teacher will always have a special place in my memory though. Only the best for the children, who are our future.
Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life” spent a surprisingly large amount of space on con-men. I guess he had a fascination with them and how they take on a role especially subversive relative to the everyday two-facedness Goffman thought we all take part in. I wanted to provide a good quote, but my pdf of an early version of the book isn’t searchable. In searching for a good quote I came up with this, which isn’t quite on topic but interesting anyway.
Some other people in the news for getting fired are Jonathan Katz and Dennis Blair (surprise no mention is made of Chas Freeman in reference to the latter). Michael Bellisles, who was previously fired for fakery, is now back with a new book and being promoted as victim of a “swiftboating”.