HOW TO BE A CHARLATAN AND MAKE MILLIONS
A ten step programme to change your life
Dr. Jim Williams F.I.A.C.
LET’S GET STARTED
DO YOU SERIOUSLY WANT TO BE A CHARLATAN?
Adopting the Charlatan identity.
Containing the following valuable lessons:1. Do you sincerely want to be rich? 2. What is a charlatan? What is he selling? 3. Insights into the charlatan’s character 4. The con artist and charlatan contrasted: a case study 5. An overview of the charlatan’s world 6. Seize control of life – become a charlatan!
1Do you sincerely want to be rich?
I had a notion it was the title of a book by Dale Carnegie but couldn’t be sure; so I punched the words into Google and waited to see what came out.Top of the list was a page for The Little Black and White Book. A guy called Marc Stewart promised to make me rich using something called”The Cornucopia Technique”. It came with a bunch of small ads promoting more of the same thing, which made it odd that anyone should need a book because apparently making money is so easy, I’ll shortly have so much I’ll be giving it back out of embarrassment. So that isn’t your experience? Making money isn’t so easy? Well according to the website it must be because”The Little Black and White Book shows that everybody has the ability whether your IQ is 55 or 155.” Which certainly impressed me. The owner of an IQ of 55 would be functionally illiterate, and I guess would have to make his pile without the benefit of reading even Mr. Stewart’s book; so how much easier can it get? Is Mr. Stewart a charlatan? I wouldn’t care to say. Actually my lawyers wouldn’t care to say. We don’t know how touchy he is. I decided against buying his book and I pass no opinion on its merits. I decided to start on the road to riches by keeping my money in my pocket.
2What is a charlatan? What is he selling?
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says a charlatan is: ‘An empiric who pretends to wonderful knowledge or secrets.’No, I’m not sure what an ’empiric’ is either. There’s a tendency to think a charlatan is the same as a grifter or con artist, but, apart from the fact that the product they peddle is in both cases false, the two animals are different in important respects. The Dictionary tells us that a fraud is ‘a criminal deception’. By definition it’s illegal and deliberate. These or similar words don’t appear in the definition of charlatan. Read it again. There’s no suggestion that the charlatan is of necessity a criminal. In fact he may think his product is authentic and made of the finest gold. And this makes sense, doesn’t it? We don’t think of the thousands of astrologers as crooks, even if we hold no belief in the stars. The con artist is in the business for the money. His motivation is greed and his approach is rational and calculating. The charlatan too may be after money, but he’s also after much more complex satisfactions. The clue lies in the ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’ that the charlatan deals in. If you can persuade another person that they’re genuine, you’ll get not only his money but his loyalty, his admiration and his commitment *. These can be intoxicating. They feed the charlatan’s vanity and self esteem and we see them repeatedly among some of the most successful charlatans. The ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’ are what differentiate the charlatan’s stock in trade from that of the con artist. The latter is making a business proposition. He offers the mark the opportunity to gain money. But it’s a zero sum. The con artist takes the money and the victim gets nothing. He is always hurt. It’s for this reason that most confidence tricks are finite. Once the victim has lost his money, he usually realizes he’s been had. The con artist then has to move on to a new mark. The point about money is that it’s tangible: you know when you’ve gained it and you know when you’ve lost it. But knowledge? Secrets? How do you touch them or measure them? How do you even know they’ve gone missing? Perhaps you’re simply too dumb to recognize them? In short, they are ‘wonderful’ – exactly as promised. A charlatan’s scheme isn’t inevitably a zero sum game, which is why the charlatan’s victims will often continue to support him when, to the world at large, his hollowness has been exposed. To take an example: the field of complementary medicine is full of therapies that don’t work in the manner claimed but are arguably harmless and may even assist through the placebo effect. And in the meantime, the patient has the satisfaction of taking control of his life. The stark nature of the con artist’s proposition is clear in a classic contemporary scam.
* I say ‘his’ and might equally have said ‘her’. English lacks an inclusive word covering both sexes and I don’t care for alternatives like ‘they’, which can get a bit clunky when the reference is to one person rather than several.
Case Study: The Nigerian 419 Fraud
The 419 fraud is a scam on an industrial scale. It’s initiated simply by writing to names taken from the public record. It originated in Nigeria and gets its name from a section of criminal statute.The structure is always the same. The writer is a bureaucrat in an organization such as a central bank or UN agency. Due to a coup or war (the details don’t matter) a large fund of cash, typically $30,000,000 or more, lies forgotten in a blocked account. The writer – who in a nice touch tells you he has heard you are a ‘trustworthy person’ – together with his confederates controls access to the blocked account. He needs the cooperation of a foreign party, which will allow him to create the paperwork to send the money overseas. The loot will be split 60% for the writer and his associates, 30% for you and 10% for expenses (these proportions seem to be fixed in stone). Please send the writer your overseas bank account details. So that’s the deal: $10,000,000 for the use of your bank account and no need to get out of your chair. But of course, you’re not going to allow this stranger into an account full of your own money, which he can strip. No, Sir! You’ll set up an empty account for the purpose. However getting at your bank account isn’t the main aim of the scam. If you take up the offer you’ll soon find yourself flying to Nigeria (or wherever) and you’ll be taken to the bank or the agency and you’ll meet the officials, and everything will look as it should. Except that this is Nigeria – you understand – and a small bribe here and there and the payment of a fee or tax is necessary in order to square someone who is out of the loop or to lay hold of a stamped piece of paper. Of course these payments go to third parties, so you are told, and not to your newly acquired friends, who share your frustrations at the slow pace. And so it goes on. The victim is bled of bribes and fees until he realizes that this transaction is never going to go through. At which point he gives up, goes home, and in some cases wastes even more money on lawyers’ fees suing the Bank of Nigeria. I used to wonder who fell for the 419 scam, until I learned that a Scottish crook of my acquaintance had been taken for $100,000. This made me wonder about the people I sometimes drink with.
The 419 scam is brutally frank in disclosing its nature. The mark is invited to join the con artists in carrying out a fraud. The deceit lies not in disguising the criminal basis of the transaction, but in hiding the fact that the mark participates as the victim, when he thought he was one of the perpetrators. In this instance the victim is dishonest as well as stupid and deserves little sympathy.However the example serves to illustrate a point. The pitch made by the con artist is directed at the victim’s greed. And, just as the con man’s approach is rational and calculating, so is the response of his victim. The difference between them is only that the victim is ignorant as to what’s really going on. The victim goes along with it because on the information available to him it’s a rational deal. In contrast, the motives of the charlatan’s mark are as complex as those of the charlatan and mirror the charlatan’s pitch. The charlatan’s offer of ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’ works because it addresses an intangible, even spiritual need on the part of the mark. It’s this neediness and not greed that is characteristic of the relationship and determines its structure. In the world of ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’, the benefits are only obtained when they are experienced by the mark. This is very subjective: very irrational. It’s precisely because of the vagueness of the charlatan’s claims and the difficulty of deciding whether they have been fulfilled or not that many schemes of charlatanry are not illegal. To us as would-be charlatans, this is a blessing.
3Insights into the charlatan’s character
I hate to say it, but, if you plan to continue, this is who you are. It isn’t a nice picture unless you like money, fun, sex, revenge and a boost to your self-esteem.The dominance of the charlatan over his victim satisfies a range of psychological demands, which are irrational and to some degree in conflict with each other. In consequence the charlatan’s interpretation of the situation, including the truth or falsity of his own theories, is often delusional and unstable. I mean that the charlatan may believe he’s speaking the truth, or he may know he’s a sham, or he may fluctuate between the two positions or, indeed, hold to both of them simultaneously despite the contradiction. The fact that Joseph Smith faked The Book of Mormon isn’t incompatible with his being partly motivated by a sincere search for religious truth. It may seem nuts, but that’s how people are. The range of a charlatan’s motives is illustrated in the next example.
Case Study: The Girlingites 1
The Girlingites were a small nineteenth century sect of English Shakers founded by Mary Ann Girling. Their principal rules were the transference of all their property to Mary Ann; submission to her interpretation of God’s will and her leadership; complete celibacy; communism; and unpaid labour In later years she more or less openly maintained her own divine origin and immortality.
The degree to which Mary Ann Girling was motivated by greed is questionable. Although her followers were stripped of their property, there’s little evidence that Mary Ann personally benefited: rather she was reflecting a common understanding of early Christian communism. No, what marks out her rules isn’t greed but her extraordinary degree of control over the lives of her followers: property, sexual relations, work, punishment of children, beliefs, and disputes – all are to be as directed by Mary Ann. This totalitarian system isn’t characteristic of most Christian practice outside of religious cults and its origins almost certainly lay in Mary Ann’s psychopathology, which caused her to seek out power.The second feature of the Girlingite rules is Mary Ann’s claim to be the sole and infallible interpreter of God’s will. This claim to a high – even unique – mission is a strong indicator of a strain of narcissism in her character. Other small clues confirm it. It was said that: ‘”Mother” Girling… affects great care as to her own personal adornment, even allowing her natural charms to be heightened by the glittering effects of jewellery’.2 This despite the extreme simplicity of her followers’ costume. Finally, the isolation of the Girlingites shows Mary Ann to be in rebellion against the world at large; and this resentment is again characteristic of charlatans when confronted by real expertise. As often as not they will refer to the opposition as ‘so-called experts’.3 It’s a telling phrase because it goes beyond simply saying that the other guy is wrong. Instead the charlatan tries to reverse roles. He tells us that the ‘expert’ isn’t genuine: he is only ‘so-called’ i.e. a phony. And by implication the charlatan is the true expert. The charlatan, of course, isn’t an expert. Or if he is, it’s incidental and not part of the job requirement. For the con artist, however, the position is different. Because the transaction is a rational and calculating one on both sides, the mark may give the grifter’s proposed deal a cold hard stare. For this reason, a con artist will often require some genuine technical expertise in order to make the sale.
4The con artist and charlatan contrasted: a case study
Both the grifter and the deliberate charlatan are dishonest and some practitioners switch between the two operations.
Case Study: Giacomo Casanova – Con Artist or Charlatan? 4 Casanova was an eighteenth century Venetian adventurer. He was tall, handsome, charming and intelligent; and despite his dubious reputation he was always able to cultivate friendships with important people.Three of his schemes illustrate the relationship between a confidence trick and the machinations of a charlatan. Quite early in his career, Casanova was introduced to a technique of adulterating valuable mercury with much less valuable bismuth, the result of which appeared to be mercury of double the volume. The flaw was that the product wasn’t in fact mercury and couldn’t be further expanded by adding more bismuth. Casanova, however, forgot to mention this aspect when he sold the process for a handsome sum. Again while young, Casanova attracted the interest of a Venetian nobleman, Senator Bragadin, and his small circle of gay friends. Initially this was because of his ability to predict the future from a system of drawing up pyramids of numbers. The relationship developed and, for as long as the he lived, the Senator could be relied on to keep his young protégé supplied with funds. The most discreditable of Casanova’s operations was a seven yearlong fraud carried out against a French noblewoman, Mme d’Urfé. He claimed he had the power to cause her death and regeneration as a youth by magical means. The details were typically flamboyant and, at the scheme’s height, he persuaded the lady to fling a box of jewels weighing fifty pounds into the sea after first dedicating them to the planets (though he took care to substitute the same weight of rocks); and then capped the operation by having himself and his victim ceremoniously bathed by a hooker in the guise of a water spirit. Casanova’s schemes were always rational and calculating like those of a con man. He was never deluded as to the nature of what he was doing. The bismuth and mercury scheme was a simple confidence trick carried out for money and motivated by greed on both sides. And like most confidence tricks it was short lived and collapsed when it failed to deliver. The real basis of the relationship between Casanova and Bragadin’s circle was the fondness of a group of older men for a young lad on the make. The fortune telling was incidental and over time it faded from the picture. It was never the real reason why Bragadin gave Casanova money. Casanova’s motive was initially greed but his memoirs show a genuine regard for his benefactors. The latter seem to have been moved by little more than kindness. What the affair represents is Casanova in a charlatan role exploiting the paternal feelings of Bragadin. But out of this seems to have developed a real though unorthodox friendship. In the business of Mme d’UrfÉ, Casanova’s motive was overwhelmingly greed, but the flamboyance of the scheme must have been very flattering to his self-esteem. Above all the duration of the relationship and the lack of any mercenary motive on the part of the victim mark it out as a piece of charlatanry. Casanova’s pitch was in essence the classic charlatan’s proposition: spiritual progress, in this case through the world of magic.
One aspect of the Mme d’Urfé affair is worth noting. As we’d expect, Casanova’s pitch was an offer of ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’. In effect he claimed to be a magician, and the lady in turn was his pupil. This master/pupil or guru/sanyasin relationship is typical of charlatan schemes. The charlatan is the superior party – the master – because he possesses the key to the mysteries.This can also be true in the case of a con artist’s scam. But just as often it isn’t. Sometimes the grifter gains the confidence of the mark by pretending they’re equal partners, both in the same boat and having to take care of each other. If you read the case study of the Nigerian 419 scam again, you’ll see that a supposedly equal partnership lies at its heart.
5An overview of the charlatan’s world
At this point it may help to draw the elements of our lesson together in a table giving an overview of the charlatan world.
The world of con artists and charlatans
- self esteem
- power hunger
- greed not essential
- always dishonest
- often narcissistic
- may be honest
- authority in technical field
- fast talk
- technical skill
- ‘moral’ authority
- technical skill optional
- greedy (materially needy)
- spiritually needy
- Trickster as technician
- Trickster as equal partner
- Inherently finite relationship
- Zero sum
- Charlatan as guru or rebel
- Charlatan superior partner
- Long term relationship
- Not necessarily a zero sum
- Intrinsically illegal
- Often lawful
6Seize control of life – become a charlatan!
Do you seriously want to be rich?To return to where I came in. I was fifty years old and thinking about life. And, taken as a whole, it was pretty good. I was happily married, I had three children who gave me few causes to worry, I enjoyed my work, and I was living a comfortable if not lavish middle class lifestyle. Yet, I asked myself: why wasn’t I rich? You’ll understand that I took it for granted that I wanted to be rich. In fact I did want to be rich. So why wasn’t I? The implication contained in books such as Marc Stewart’s, is that wealth is primarily a matter of desire. Sure, there are certain tricks to be learned, but these are secondary and can be picked up even by morons and illiterates. And that was precisely my complaint: I wanted to be rich, I had the desire, and yet I wasn’t. Which suggested a hidden flaw somewhere between desire and fulfillment. The clue, I think, lies in that word ‘serious’. Back then when I was fifty, I asked myself: did I seriously want to be rich? What did it mean to be ‘serious’? Well, for a start, I could have read Marc Stewart’s book as a token of earnestness, I guess. And I suppose there were other life choices and life changes I might have made. Because for everything there’s a price to be paid, and even if the money is lying in the street, you have to bend to pick it up. This is a book about making money out of being a charlatan – though those readers who like to pamper their egos, dominate other people and have lots of sex should also find it interesting. In that respect it fits in a class with self-improvement books found on airport bookshelves. And, that being so, it’s right to ask yourself at the outset the question that I did at the age of fifty: do you seriously want to be rich? The reason that the sale of self-improvement books is greater than the number of readers who’ve turned themselves into multimillionaire powerhouses with fabulous bodies, irresistible sex appeal, perfect health and the spiritual insights of the Buddha is in part that we don’t seriously want these things. Not enough to pay the price. Not if it means getting out of the lounger and quitting beer and fast food – for ever. The reason we buy such works is because they answer our spiritual neediness, even though the thing they sell, the ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’, doesn’t live up to its billing. When we buy such a book, we feel we are responding to the need to change ourselves: to become better. But, in reality, all we show is that we’re receptive to a charlatan’s pitch. Yet, don’t worry about it. You’re a potential sucker, but so what? All wisdom starts with an insight. So this is my pitch. It’s time to reverse roles and, instead of being the victim of charlatans, you can assert control and become a charlatan yourself. And in this respect, there’s a crucial point of difference between my message and the stuff you’ll find in all the other books. Most programmes of self-improvement are defeated by our real inadequacies, our pathetic limitations as human beings. They encourage us to overcome such weakness by changing our nature, when in contrast the great principles of Tao state that we should sail with the current: that we should work with human nature not against it. The present course does that. It takes those things in us that are shoddy, second rate and disreputable, and out of them creates a life in which we are rich, the centre of attention, the fountain of all knowledge – and a first class stud if that’s what we want. Selfmastery has no place in this programme. Moral change is unnecessary. Some attempt to learn your chosen subject is useful, but only to a level that is fun to study and allows you to talk bullshit. Charlatanry isn’t a project of self-improvement: rather one of self-realisation because it takes the self that you already are and simply directs it to a profitable outcome. Of course, such a life isn’t without its pitfalls, but this book also tells you how to recognize and deal with them. Always provided you make the decision that this introduction calls for. First you have to assume the charlatan identity. The useful table below has been prepared in order to help you.
Should I become a charlatan?
Incidentally, if you take up the charlatan life, you may also discover the whereabouts of the Lost Ark of the Covenant, invent a perpetual motion machine and achieve immortality. But these and similar benefits assume that your bogus theories turn out to be true, which is something you shouldn’t count on.
And that’s it so far as this introduction is concerned. Do you seriously want to be a charlatan?