MEDIA WHORES: The Charlatans


CHAPTER THREE: The Charlatans

The easiest way to understand the difference between a media courtesan and a media charlatan is to consider the two heads of the Clinton co-presidency.  Like Hillary, the courtesan is a true believer who truly buys into the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, that the demands of the collective must always take precedence over the rights of the individual and that it is a moral imperative of the governing elite “to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, is an exemplary charlatan.  The charlatan’s primary belief is a fundamentally anti-ideological loyalty to himself alone; he sees himself not only the measure of Man but also as a human epicenter of political moderation, the pivot around which the entire political spectrum revolves.  Personal advancement is all, like Wilde, he is capable of containing multitudes and there is no contradiction his mind cannot encompass since the only question he considers relevant is which side of an issue will serve him better at that particular moment.

The structural biases of the media cabal being what they are, it can at times be difficult to ascertain the difference between a true media courtesan and a charlatan who is only playing the role in order to move up within the brothel.  Charlatans are more common on the commentary side, as the adversarial nature of bipartisan infotainment requires a certain ideological flexibility and the ability to turn on a dime and swap sides from show to show, depending upon who is playing the role of the opponent on a given evening.


Scortus medius veniatus

Description: Pasty white to dark brown, often with white-tipped hairs, giving grizzled appearance. Dark suit with white shirt and red tie.  Facial profile usually clean-shaven. In some areas, individuals may appear brownish or blackish, rarely bronze.  Single pair of prominent incisors.  Ht about 6′ 0″ (180 cm); Wt 175–250 lb (77–112 kg); some individuals to 300 lb (133 kg). Female has blonde hair, usually dark at the roots.  Ht about 5′ 4″ (130 cm); Wt 115–135 lb (47–68 kg)

Breeding: After 4-year gestation in second-rate university, young are forced out into the wild on their own, where they are dependent upon the scraps to be found on Internet publications, small-market radio shows and local newspapers.

Habitat: Urban centers.  Favors think-tanks, universities, wellness centers, radio booths, publishing houses.

Range: Entire U.S.  Follows migratory pattern dependent upon primary food source: speaking invitations.  Always to be found at college campuses between May and July.

Subsistence: Favors speaking engagement fees, but can make do with freelance writing gigs if necessary.

Usually operating as nominal independents outside the media cabal’s infrastructure, the charlatan is necessarily forced to develop an ability to camoflauge its true colors, assuming they exist at all.  This is because the media’s commitment to diversity is one of skin color, gender and sexual orientation, not of thought.  There are only two intellectual orientations considered permissible, the courtesan position and, to a lesser extent, the loyal opposition position; anything outside those two is considered extremist, marginal and therefore unfit to print.

This creates a real problem for the would-be media star, who must necessarily tailor his views to suit those of his prospective employer and clients.  For example, I can testify from personal experience that if one’s goal is employment as a newspaper columnist, submitting a sample piece on the evils of publicly-financed sports stadiums the very week that the paper runs a three-part series on the extreme desirability of state financing for a new football stadium intended for the sole use of the Minnesota Vikings is counterproductive.  In a broader market, this need to tailor one’s views would not necessarily be a problem, but in a typically monolithic city, which features three newscasts and two newspapers, the reality is that tomorrow’s media star either plays along today or does not play at all.

The specifics of playing along will mean different things to different people, but the act of compromise is the same.  Whether it involves a moderate Democrat penning a “Bush is Hitler” ode to curry favor with the Move-On crowd, a Christian conservative swearing his blood-allegiance to President Bush in order to appease the Three Monkey Republicans, or a financial commentator pretending to take the latest inflation numbers at face value, the same forces are at work.

The temptation to sell out one’s principles, consciously or unconsciously, can be tremendous.  This is why those who make it to the top of the heap so often appear to have no principles at all.  They don’t. Or, to be more precise, their only principle is their immediate self-interest. Principles are a tremendous handicap to the would-be media star; much more useful is the ability to speak to the producer first and the audience second.  And the broader the potential audience, the better, which is why the vanilla-flavored moderate is almost always preferred by producers and editors over the spicier idealogue even when the idealogue happens to be more popular and more talented.

I once had a conversation with a fellow columnist who was undergoing a crisis of conscience.  He admitted that for three years, he had engaged in no independent thinking or research and instead had simply followed the quasi-official consensus that happened to prevail at the time he was writing.  That he had done so did not surprise me, that he was candid enough to admit it to himself, let alone to me, certainly did. (1)

The charlatan’s instincts are fearful and instinctively servile.  Since veniatus usually lacks the job security of washingtonia, a tendency towards obsequious posterior-smooching is ubiquitous and can serve as a useful identifying characteristic.  This is most notable in the charlatan’s attitude towards other media figures, towards whom it behaves reverentially even in the most absurd circumstances.  Bill O’Reilly’s infamous column in defense of Dan Rather, in which he bizarrely claimed that criticism of the now-retired CBS anchor’s credibility-destroying decision to pass off forged documents as real was tantamount to “sliming”, is perhaps the most notable example.

This servile attitude also infests the blogosphere, unfortunately, and is one of its more unattractive elements.  Many political bloggers dream of making it big, and the difference between the blogwhore and the media charlatan is largely one of degree.  Even the biggest bloggers, who straddle the increasingly blurred line between media and blogworld, are subject to this unseemly genuflection. For example, my acquaintances at the very popular conservative blog Powerline nearly blew a gasket when I committed the outrageous faux pas of daring Michelle Malkin to defend her assertion of the military necessity for Japanese internment(2) on the Northern Alliance Radio Show(3).


(1) Yes, I was referring to Ben Shapiro here. I hope you will note that I correctly ID’d him as a charlatan back in 2005, long before he had a career that anyone could possibly be considered “jealous” of. His subsequent “success” has not surprised me in the least. Nor will his eventual fall from the high horse.

(2) As I demonstrated in a series of columns and blogposts, Malkin is not only hopelessly wrong, but the factual errors on which she bases her case indicates that she did not even do a modicum of research into the question.  Malkin, to no one’s surprise, failed to appear even though she’d been on the same show only a month previously promoting her ridiculous book

(3) The Northern Alliance Radio Show is a weekly show featuring the minds behind the Powerline, Fraters Libertas and Captain’s Quarters blogs broadcast in the Twin Cities on the Patriot 1280.