Friday, February 29, 2008

The real con artists: Spengler recently wrote a column arguing that the lives of Barack "Inkblot" Obama's wife and mother reveal his true character--an anti-American huckster. America loves a conman, he says, pointing to our Elmer Gantry types.

Spengler then recommended watching Nightmare Alley (available online to subscribers at as a classic example of the American BS artist. I did watch it, and recommend it as well, but no so much for the story of the swindling psychic, but for a message that shows real wisdom for a movie made in the 1940s: the hucksters par excellence are psychoanalysts.


  1. Aren't there studies that show psychoanalysis causes measurable and statistically significant improvements to various forms of mental illness?

  2. Psychoanalysts are not scientists, so they haven't bothered to test their beliefs much. Scientists like Eysenck have discredited the approach. I'm sure that most success stories are simply due to the placebo effect, just the same as the psychic in the movie.

    Common sense suggests that talking out problems is going to help some people, but bringing in ideas like that you're sexually attracted to your mom and want to kill you father will not.

  3. This has to have been a strong selection pressure since the advent of agriculture -- all of these "spiritual advisor" niches that suddenly opened up. It meant you could earn a decent living by doing nothing productive at all, just being a charismatic bullshitter.

    You'd have to look at whether this translated into having more kids, but typically wealthier people had more kids before the early modern era. Plus if you're charismatic, that per se will make you more attractive to the opposite sex.

  4. dearieme10:02 AM

    I'm sure that in hunter-gatherer times there was some advantage in being able to charm the birds out of the trees.

  5. Actually, psychoanalysis has been largely supplanted by drugs and cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a lot more commonsensical (you are unhappy because you expect too much from life, you are afraid of rejection because you think it will be impossibly awful, etc.).

  6. Anonymous11:15 AM

    This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

  7. I don't trust Spengler, he has knowingly deceived before.

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