what they do is who they are

“It’s hard,” writes Thomas Harris somewhere of Starling and Lecter, “to accept that someone can understand you without wishing you well.” Life’s too slippery for books, Clarice; anger appears as lust, lupus presents as hives.

I wrote something in July about political grifters, left and right: an argument (over-compressed, over-allusive) that their adept way with words — their subtle deployment, and indeed understanding, of the elaborate shibboleths of the tribe — is by no means necessarily the conclusive tell for their motivation. The heart of a good con is that you’re hearing what you very much want to hear: the conman may or may not at some level also believe it himself (and please to note: they are by no means all men). The sentence “I love you” is not on its own proof that the speaker loves you (this powerful argument is Seth’s, by the way). Karl Rove and the Super-PAC American Crossroads; the people who built ORCA for Romney… what did these projects seem to say but “I love you” to those whose money they took, in such eye-wateringly large amounts?

This species of con is BY NO MEANS restricted to the moneyed right: though I think the equivalent on the left perhaps feeds more on moral-intellectual authority and celebrity and glamour than actual cash. (Though some of them do like cash.)

6 thoughts on “what they do is who they are”

  1. That wasn’t enough of a clarification.
    “The sentence “I love you” is not on its own proof that the speaker loves you.” It doesn’t matter who says it. That was the lesson learned.
    Conservatives repeat the same mistakes. Liberals seem able never to admit them in the first place.

    1. Yes, this was my takeaway: that there is NO discourse or discipline or tradition or faith or philosophy or profession or politics or _______ or ________ that can’t be gamed, and isn’t (somewhere) being gamed. The nature of the gaming of course varies with the specifics of the situation. Anyone who believes their own favoured realm is inherently less vulnerable is basically a mark.

        1. Keyword: “inherently”. Obviously gameability will vary between systems: but this variation also varies with time, especially once a grifter spots a system that considers itself uncrackable.

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