The years from 2000 to 2009 were unified by fakeness — high-profile charlatans penetrated virtually every area of life (as Frank Rich also pointed out). From fake celebrities to fake journalists, here’s a top ten of our favorite frauds.
Fake journalism: on May 11, 2003, the New York Times published a 7,239 word article on the frauds that Jayson Blair, a staff reporter, perpetrated while under their banner. Here’s how they summed up his misdeeds:
He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.
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Those fabrications encompassed the DC sniper story, and the saga of private Jessica Lynch among 600 other pieces he wrote or contributed to. The scandal went to the top — it led to the resignation of executive editor Howell Raines. Blair is now a life coach. Which leads nicely on to:
Fake jobs: ‘Life coach’ is a job that can exist only in a decade with not one but two economic bubbles, and the frantic prosperity they led to. The job — which is basically therapy given by those with no qualifications — garners over 42 million results on Google. Creative coach gets almost 27 million. Accountant, to put that in perspective, gets 31 million. Even those at the top of their fields, like Tony Robbins, who’s even given a TED talk, have wound up in court for misrepresenting the impact of their nice words and quizzes. This year three people died when self-help ‘guru’ James Arthur Ray forced them to sit in a sweltering hot tent as a ‘spiritual ceremony’. Also: The Secret is bullshit. If you want something, go out and work for it. Thinking about it doesn’t affect the universe. Thanks.
Fake religion: It is a small step from there to a full-blown fake religion. A fact illustrated by the rise, in column inches at least, of Scientology in the last decade — fuelled by celebrity followers like Tom Cruise, Will Smith and John Travolta. The religion (or cult, or fraudulent pyramid scheme, depending on your point of view) is like a satire on a religion. Sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard made up a bunch of tenets and a lot of jargon and now vulnerable people like Tom Cruise spend millions on upholding and promoting his ideas. Here’s the religion in a nutshell: an evil galactic overlord named Xenu flew his followers to earth in DC-8 aircraft, trapped them in volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their spirits now stick to us and are the cause of human problems. Thus psychology and psychiatry are evil, and the only way to happiness is to spend hundreds of thousands to ‘clear’ yourself of these spirits. Fake.