This week’s word is charlatan — in other words, a fraudster who pretends to be something he or she is not, typically to gain some type of advantage. This advantage can be monetary, increased (or simply maintained) power, some form of narcissistic self-aggrandizement or realization of some other (likely sociopathic) quest.
In my world, a charlatan can be anyone who deploys the outward trappings of social graces to behave rudely — the person delusional enough to think his/her uttering “excuse me” as she/he aggressively pushes past me for no apparently justifiable reason actually ticks off the boxes of consideration and politeness. No, I will not excuse you simply because you demand I countenance such barbarism. “Excuse me,” doesn’t mean “get out of my way, me first” and is no substitute for sincerity and patience. Wait your turn.
When most people familiar with the term hear charlatan what they conjure is some Elmer Gantry or Tartuffe hiding behind religious trickery for nefarious purposes. Trust me, I’ve encountered personally enough flamboozlery in this regard, it’s a wonder I haven’t gone full-borne atheist. I haven’t, and won’t, but I’ve witnessed more than my fair share of fraudulent banana-heads attempting to curry trust and subsequent rewards with hollow pronouncements featuring some variant of “God bless” and “in Jesus’ name.”
Check your wallet, and beware wolves in sheep’s clothing. Remember: It’s a lot easier to pick a man’s pocket when he’s kneeling and focusing his concentration outside the worldly plane. Just the other day, a fella offered and requested my prayers for a business deal between we two — a deal that went south for good reason. It turns out he was attempting the “you have to be trusted by the people that you lie to/So when they turn their backs on you/You’ll get the chance to put the knife in” gambit. Thank you, Roger Waters, for warning me off the transaction so succinctly.
When it comes to institutional charlatanism, the top tier is a toss-up between the Catholic Church hierarchy, the journalism profession and, of course, politicians. Let’s begin with the individuals seemingly so intent on destroying the church from within through sexual abuse, monetary chicanery and concomitant cover-ups. For too long, charlatans have exerted control over the church’s levers, and used it to forward their own degenerate agendas.
Shame as well deserves to be heaped upon the journalists who breathlessly tell their reading public that somehow the behavior of the Catholic hierarchy serves as an indictment of the church herself. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the mere mention of church corruption is intended to be the mic-drop against organized religion in general and Catholicism specifically. The church hierarchy should certainly be held legally responsible for the misdeeds of certain individuals and their bosses who covered up for them. And, let me be clear, they should be held responsible to the fullest extent the law allows. These individuals not only violated secular law but as well centuries of church social and moral teaching.
This brings me to political charlatans, of which space prohibits more than a perfunctory list. You can count certain Republicans in West Virginia for comments and actions decidedly contrary to true conservatism recently directed against homosexuals and Muslims. Or the purported voice of the people authoritatively crowing that critics of the Green New Deal are merely “shouting from the cheap seats” while she and her cronies are “in charge.” All this grandstanding charlatanism includes copious mentions of morality with nothing but callous consideration given for the unborn up to and including delivery. Such flagrantly consistent inconsistency is the mark of a true charlatan.
Bruce Edward Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Morning Sun columnist, contributor to The Federalist, the Capital Research Center, St. Michael’s Media and the Acton Institute. He is a former Journalist in Residence at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal.