Saturday, January 24, 2009


I'm reading the new book Charlatan by Pope Brock.

It's really fascinating. As I'm reading about the foremost huckster of the 1920's I'm thinking about our current brand of hucksters. Financial hucksters. Political hucksters. Radio hucksters. What do they sell? What do they offer in return? What aspects of the human psyche did the prey upon? What was done to encourage them? Who tried to stop them? Who protected them?

The main character, Dr. J.R. Brinkley, preys on men's fear of impotency, frailness and death and women's desire for children.

I've just started but it is extremely well written with vivid descriptions of the main characters. It also works to explain some of the deeper principles that makes these flimflam artists succeed.

Of course the vivid history part of it reminds me of my friend Allison Hantschel's book "It Doesn't End with Us" about the history of the University of the Daily Cardinal, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's 115-year-old student newspaper (do you like the way I got a plug in there for one of my favorite authors? Buy her book and make an ol' Vulcan happy. It reads like a novel and has some of the same vivid details as Brock's book).

I was cogitating on the power of talk radio hosts, as I'm wont to do, and I'm struck by how much they have in common with the charlatan Dr. J.R. Brinkley. I'll probably find more parallels as I read more of the book, but I find it interesting how talk radio host programs are THE place (besides spam) to sell Viagra and Viagra-like herbal drugs. What a natural fit!

I can envision the sales reps letters to the Viagra companies now. I think they would look a little like this:

Dear Boner Pill Company:

I think that your product would be a great fit with our station. Our hosts talk about testicles all the time! Talking about testicles is such a favo activity that one of our hosts has even written a song about Hitler's testicles! (The song was requested by the other host, so you can see that the whole morning show team is really on the Testicle Town Express. In fact, one of the more sophisticated hosts often uses cojones 's in place of testicles a (although Wikipedia says that cojones is a vulgar Spanish word for testicles, corresponding to "balls" or "bollocks" he is an international traveler and he believes that saying conjones ads a cosmopolitan feel to the show. Note: he does NOT drink Cosmopolitans, that is a drink for those silly women on Sex in the City!)

If you want to advertise on our show we can guarantee at least 3 suckers listeners will buy your products. Also, could you please send some samples for our hosts? The don't need them or anything, they just want to be able to hand them to listeners they meet at the gun shows.

Joe "One's born every day and two on Sunday" Sales Rep


Blogger David Aquarius said...

As long as there are people to flim, there will be people that flam. Even the most educated and savvy amongst us can be taken in by a grifter.

The brightest of the bright can fall for the Nigerian scam.

The best answer is what we do here. Bring light to the the dim.

Get rich quick schemes work on those who want it all right now or those who have reached the breaking point. Greed and avarice coupled with desperation is another part of George Bush's legacy. Until we start to see some light at the end of this dark, economic tunnel, I'm afraid we will be seeing more of these stories pop up.

Wanna buy a bridge?

11:42 AM  

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