Status symbols of fakes and swindlers
Date: April 12, 2004 09:20PM
It all depends on the 'target audience' or 'niche market' the hustler has selected. Charisma is not universal, so at some point, the operator has to identify which niche market to target, and then selects his or her ideology and stage props accordingly.
If your niche market craves power and success, you'll drive a Porsche or something like it.
If you're targeting Christians who are into 'Prosperty Gospel' you'll wear the right clothes and hairdo and drive the right car--and know the Bible, backward and forward.
If your niche market is New Age, you'll claim to possess esoteric knowledge, perhaps name drop Ramana Maharshi, or say you knew Carlos Castaneda, or some other shaman. Very likely, you'll wear artful clothing with fascinating 'magical' jewelry.
And, if you're trying to impress idealistic people who are into self denial, you'll wear simple clothes, and quote Gandhi, Martin Luther King, with perhaps some Thomas Merton/Dorothy Day thrown in. And, you'll get arrested a lot. Having a long suffering spouse or community willing to put up with your frequent absences and emotional neglect is essential.
The charlatan who educated me employed a highly sophisticated version of what Hope describes --artful use of ostentatious asceticism.
X, the crook I was entangled with, was a minister. He was interested in social justice issues, and he became a star in our local peace movement. This conflux of events inflamed his craving for social adulation, though he would have sincerely denied this. It was a secret he was keeping from himself.
In the peace movement, you lose credibility if you have expensive tastes. The peace movement runs on 'anti-chic'. You get credibility by getting arrested a lot, wearing second hand clothes, by driving an old car, etc. These days, it helps to be vegetarian, preferably vegan.
X wore simple, second hand, clothes only wearing a necktie for court appearances. Though he hung around with hippies and Deadheads who made up the bulk of the activist ranks, he always fine tuned his clothing just enough to look eminently respectable, compared to them.
X was quite willing to hang out with hippies as long as no one mistook him for one. On surface X was a rebel, but deep down, he craved affirmation, even from authority figures.
Getting arrested a lot and other acts of public self denial added to his mystique, because we all craved to see a hero, and he pandered to this collective fantasy. If you dared have misgivings, you'd get a lot of cold stares. Eventually, you'd feel guilty and ashamed even to have private misgivings.
As someone later put it, 'X wears shabby clothes, but for him that is no sacrifice. His hairshirt is an Armani.'
In fairness, X did a lot of good in the public sphere, but to the detriment of his job and private relationships. He dodged accountability for the latter, and others had to clean up after him.