Throughout the Roaring Twenties and most of the Great Depression, Dr. Clarence Little was the President of the University of Michigan. A biologist by trade, Little held a number of beliefs that were both common and in the process of being debunked at the time. For example, Little was a hardcore eugenicist – the "Hey, why don't we sterilize all of the poor people!" kind – and a firm believer that no aspect of human physiology had an environmental cause. It's all genetics, he claimed. As his public statements became increasingly controversial and his professional opinions were disproved Little was run out of Ann Arbor on a rail.

So he did what any professional who crosses the line into quackery would do: he sold out to corporate interests who were in search of a shameless quack. Thus Clarence Little became the scientific director of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, vehemently arguing that lung cancer was genetic and not conclusively linked to smoking.

Everyone got what they wanted. Little received a platform for his ridiculous views and a handsome salary. The tobacco industry got an official expert, Doctoral degree and all, to aver the safety of their lethal product. The smoking public got a rationalization to continue smoking despite the overwhelming contradictory evidence ("Science says it's OK! Cough cough cough.")

Little's story is a great example of how profitable it is to be utterly without shame. Any Ph.D.-level biologist, chemist, or so on could start making a fortune tomorrow by announcing some "research" proving that burning hydrocarbons do not pollute the atmosphere, hydrogenated fats are good for you, or condoms cause AIDS. A sociologist could make a mint with a book about how blacks and Muslims control society to the consistent detriment of white Christian males. A political scientist – and I know a few folks who will almost certainly go this route – can work the right-wing lecture and think tank circuit indefinitely with some ridiculous crap about how Alexander Hamilton believed in mandatory homeschooling or the 4th Amendment doesn't apply to Mexicans. It's almost too easy. Just earn the right credentials and proceed to tell the masses that whatever they want to believe is the indisputable truth.

Sometimes I wonder about the choices I've made and the potential alternatives to the deadening grind of the academic grist mill. At our recent professional conference the usual suspects on the right – the American Enterprise Institute is particularly active – attend in force but are largely shunned like the lepers they are in the reality-based community. Yet they are doing so much better than the rest of us – more money, higher profiles, and the easiest jobs on the planet. Just churn out scripts for Lindsey Graham in the morning and spend the afternoon golfing. Do the Sunday morning talk show rounds bimonthly and appear on the occasional Blue Ribbon Panel with Bill Kristol.

I'm not a particularly good person, but I'm terrible at pretending that I believe something. I wish I had just one utterly ridiculous belief – "The Arizona Cardinals will win a Super Bowl some day" does not count – that I could ride to financial success.

Nothing I believe is profitable. I'd never have to work again if I could write a book about people Bill Clinton had murdered or Barack Obama's secret plans for the North American Union, the Amero, and one-world government. The marketplace of ideas is a free market, after all, and nothing moves its gears like selling garbage to idiots. The longer I look at the state of my profession and this country as a whole, the more it seems like a good idea to get cracking on that book about how Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Jesus really felt about the limits of the Full Faith and Credit clause as applied to gay marriage. The only question is how large a font we should use for "Ph.D." in the cover art.

34 thoughts on “DIGNITY FOR SALE”

  • A local punk band released an ep a few years back titled "Selling Bullshit to Arseholes". They were pretty good.

    Of course, they've now broken up and all work menial jobs, while the hairspay-and-piercing partyboy punks they shared bills with way back when tour the world.

    Such is life.

  • They key is spinning your ideas to others in such a way as to make it sound like you agree with them, while secretly savaging them behind their backs.

  • Then again, you could publish your memoirs as a blogger to a cultish following of cranks. But try to get ahead of the curve — I suspect you're not the only one. The key is pitching it to the appropriate publisher. Nihil obstat, and all that.

  • What you do is have a fake Christian conversion, the full Paul on the road to Damascus deal; you explain that you were a Godless commie immigrant loving member of ACORN, but that when you felt the hand of Christ you turned your life over to God. Now write a book in which you condemn, in no uncertain terms, any sexual act you have ever imagined, the more outrageous the better. It's kinda like that Aristocrats joke, but Rick Warren makes bank!

  • I once sat in on a few lectures of a pseudoscience class, and I couldn't help noticing the similarities between that subject and the B.S. in politics.

    The more sophisticated version of all this is black propaganda.

  • Chin up, comrade.

    Magical thinking is what separates cases of arrested development and psychopathology from evolutionary progress. There will always be a hot market for fabulists to comfort those being culled from the herd during their stay in the holding pens of natural selection.

    As per our prevailing mythos, "Virtue is it's own reward." Oh well . . .

  • Ed,
    Great formula for success! As loyal readers, we won't mind if you change the format for G&T so that it has a slightly conservative bias (a la 180 degree turn) if it means you'll sell a few million books. The real beauty is that you'll be able to leverage all the cognitive bias and logical fallacy bits from this site to make the conservative Citizen Kane – something so terrifying and vilifying of the left that every conservative flocks to the book store. Plus, with a new found fortune from book sales the tax laws and business policies of the GOP will work to your benefit.

    Oh and if you really want to sell you can't forget to give the baby boomers and the greatest generation a verbal hand job detailing how great they are.

  • Recipe for success in show business, as followed by Russell Brand: Attempt to pursue a carreer as stand up comic, fail miserably with your one notable even of fame being that you were ejected forceably from a major London comedy club, descend into a spiral of drugs and sex for a number of years (one wonders how one finances such and endeavor, but male prostitution must pay well), then reappear on the comic circuit to make jokes about said years as a drug addict and male prostitute. SUCCESS!

  • "I'd never have to work again if I could write.."
    You mean writing isn't work? Oh, drat there I go again, Foxing the quotation.
    Anyway, I suppose I might sell out if the incentive was great enough, but it would have to be very great indeed to get past my sense of self-respect (not to mention my conscience), and of course my inherent bone-laziness.

  • You don't have to believe what you write. You can write a fictional book based on very little fact and lots of outrageous lies and some people will believe them (it's a conspiracy!). Or, you can write a non-fictional book full of outrageous lies and innuendos (you can even state the fact that the book is full of lies) and some people will see your book as a bible of truths. You can make lots of money pandering to the stupid; they'll just extract what they want to believe and ignore everything else.

  • I know how you feel: I often ponder these days on how much richer I would be if I had never had any ethics or honesty at all.

  • Monkey Business says:

    There was a quote I read somewhere once: "No one ever became a billionaire without doing something illegal, immoral, or both."

    So, the real question is how much of your soul are you willing to sell?

  • I've often thought how much money I could make by selling fake cures (get your DNA activated!). But the fact that I think charlatans who bilk the desperate by selling fake cures or psychic services or whatever should be thrown in jail for the rest of their natural lives prevents me from making my millions.

  • Back in law school, I told all my minority classmates (esp. the minority females) to start going hard right… attend all the meetings, talk to the right people; etc. Next time a republican is in the white house (which is probably Jan. 2013) they're going to find themselves nominated for a federal judgeship.

    Not only do you have "the credentials" as an attorney but you're the first person on the front cover of the GOP "diversity" brochure, high fiving Michael Steele and an anti stem cell research advocate in a wheelchair.

  • of course – you could go undercover for a few years, take their money, then wright an exposé book about the whole damn "Fake Scientist" industry and rake in the cash twice. Then you'll make some money and reveal that dirty practice for what it is.

    Just an idea.

  • The longer I work for a sub-living wage, the more I consider starting a fake right wing think tank. I'd probably go anti-evolution, since they love sell-out 'scientists.' I'd never have to spend hours tediously collecting data again!

    Plus, I think the National Organization for Marriage people may be a step ahead of my in the gay rights arena–NOM? Calling their campaign 2M4M? Their commercials? The whole thing is obviously an elaborate hoax perpetrated by some snarky, and now very rich, gay rights activists.

  • Paul W. Luscher says:

    Just an example of the dichotomy between what Americans profess their values to be and what they really want.

    They profess to be about Truth, Honesty and Justice, but it reality, they only want to be told what they want to hear, and are willing to pay plenty to hear it. And there are those unscrupulous enough to sell their souls for big bucks, and do the telling.

    What did you expect in a country that's all about the Mighty Dollar, when all is said and done?

  • Rule #1 of Selling Your Soul In a Buyer's Market: pick your audience carefully. When I read "Eat, Pray, Love" I thought it had to be a scam, but subsequent interviews made the author sound as shallow and self-adoring as the book had. Whether she is a consummate showman or the epitome of white privilege in love with itself, she is an excellent example of how to shear sheep.

  • It's not that easy anymore. Everything is documented. One lone player hater can absolutely ruin you. Look at James Frey. Being a bullshitter might be lucrative for a minute, but it's exhausting forever.

  • In pondering over how I, with my Ph.D. in English, could sell out and reap millions (or hundreds of thousands, let's not go nuts), I'm struck by the unnerving conclusion that I can't really sell out to the right in this field, and that I could only achieve such unconscionable success by selling out to the left–by specializing in 'empowerment'-based arguments for the disenfranchised, regardless of the intellectual merit of said arguments. "Heathcliff was black! Shakespeare was a hermaphrodite! Chaucer was almost certainly gay and even if he wasn't, he should have been! And everyone I can't categorize an advocate for/member of an abused minority is a fascist monster of oppression, and we should forbid the reading of their texts–fuck you, Dickens and Faulkner!"

    There's money to be made in making outrageous–not mention stupid–claims that are only justified by appealing to grievance. Which is the intellectual equivalent of snake-oil sales: selling people an easy palliative for what's actually killing them.

    Evil as this sounds–and is, it *would* mean a villa on the Italian riviera. I'd have to pretend to be a gay Marxist vegan, though, and I just can't pull off the vegan part.

  • "A sociologist could make a mint with a book about how blacks and Muslims control society to the consistent detriment of white Christian males."

    Kevin MacDonald is an evolutionary psychologist, but he blames Jews for white misfortunes. He lives in Laguna Nigel, but I do not think he is that rich.

  • Perhaps you should consider pulling a version of the Sokal Hoax, albeit on a grander stage–write a book in which you sing to high heaven the doctrines and beliefs of a system of thinking you know is false, get it published, and then expose it as a hoax on the PR junket by demolishing the arguments you've offered. Of course this time, instead of dozens of Derrida scholars wringing their hands, you'd have millions of people going apoplectic.

  • @A.B.A.D.B.:
    I often wonder if anyone's already doing that. A lot of the more extreme conservatives remind me of performance artists.

  • You're chipping away at my soul. Heh heh, now we know how hard it is to attempt to lead a virtuous life and not end up bitter and twisted.

  • I don't disagree with you, but for the record it should be noted that Clarence Little was Michigan's president only from 1925 to 1929, and was long gone before the Depression began.

Comments are closed.