The Seven Signs of the Charlatan
- Redefines commonly understood words to suit his arguments.
- Prefers speaking to writing.
- Provides evasive answers to relevant direct questions.
- Utilizes his answers to self-posed questions as propositions for logical syllogisms.
- Cites secondary and tertiary sources instead of primary sources.
- Substitutes superficial knowledge about a subject for substantive knowledge of it.
- Advertises credentials and accolades and avoids addressing criticism.
Any time you see someone changing the definition of a well-defined, commonly-understood term, that’s a reliable sign that they are full of it.
The sign number two: they prefer speaking to writing. I realize this is a little ironic because here I am in a spoken medium, but you know, the genuine intellectual always prefers writing. Writing forces you to articulate more precisely. There are many things that sound pretty good, but once you put them down on paper, you realize that the argument has holes in it, you start to see the problems with it. It is much easier to baffle and dazzle and bypass people’s reason when you’re speaking to them. You know, speech is more intrinsically rhetorical than writing, and so anytime you see someone who is really big on speaking and who much prefers lecturing to writing, that’s a clue. It’s not as reliable as the first sign, but it is definitely an indicator
Sign number three: they reliably provide evasive answers to direct questions. Now, there are times when you have to avoid a direct question, you know, when someone poses you the equivalent of a “have you stopped beating your wife: type of question, it’s totally legitimate to refuse to answer it. So whenever you are dealing with somebody who is asked a relevant direct question, when you’re dealing with someone who is asked a pertinent question that is substantive, and is not a gotcha question, when it’s aimed at understanding or clarifying something the person has said, or what the person’s position is, and they respond evasively… if they respond to a question that is meant to clarify their position and their response is to try to fog it up even more, this is also a very reliable sign that you’re dealing with a charlatan.