EP9: The Founding Grift

Lately, things have been a little too heavy on this show. Insurrections, fascism, proto-fascism, weird apocalyptic visions. That stuff is important, but let’s get serious. You don’t think the society we live is actually dominated by people who hold anything resembling strong, well-articulated ideological programs, do you?  Our society is dominated by grifters. Cheats, cons, frauds: people who don’t really believe what they tell you. They’re just what they need to do to get ahead or to sell you something. Isn’t that that really what capitalism is about? The grift! 

  • First (@4:30), Lyta Gold is a writer with Current Affairs. Each year, the magazine recognizes the most audacious grifts. This year, Lyta presented the 2020 “Griftie Awards.” She takes us into the world of the grift, the allure and the appeal, and runs down a big year for grifers: from Covid-deniers, to never-Trumpers, and on to identity thieves. 
  • Then, (@26:56), Gordon’s friend, let’s call him “Bill Faulkner,” writes papers for hire. Undergraduate term papers, master’s papers, even PhD dissertations. He talks about what his scheme tells us about higher education, and what we ought to do about it. As we might say, borrowing from Marx: ‘Thus far the grifter has only cheated the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”
  • Finally, (@58:36) Catherine Liu is a professor of film and media studies at UC Irvine and the author of the new polemic Virtue Hoarders: The Case Against the Professional Managerial Class. She takes PMCs for scolding the working class, and for upholding their big grift: meritocracy.


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Darts and Letters’ lead producer is Jay Cockburn, and our chase producer is Marc Apollonio. With research and support from David Moscrop.

Our theme song was created by Mike Barber, and our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop.

This episode received support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research, which provided us a research grant to look at the concept of “public intellectualism.” Professor Allen Sens at the University of British Columbia is the lead academic advisor. 

Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. It is also produced in Vancouver, BC, which is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

This is a production of Cited Media. We make other fine shows like Cited Podcast and Crackdown. You can find both of those and others wherever you find your podcasts.

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