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It takes two sides for a fake to succeed

If a fellow told me that he was a British knight of the highest order with a castle in Scotland, that he was friends with Prince Charles and had worked on Princess Diana's wedding cake, and that he had worked in the White House and served presidents and royalty …

Well, I probably wouldn't say much, being a polite person. I would just nod and smile and make sure I didn't get stuck with the bar tab.

And yet, the "celebrity" chef Robert Irvine got by with this for a good while in St. Petersburg, which is a place much susceptible to being flattered that it might be glamorous.

I actually feel a little sorry for him — he fudged here and there, and then it stuck to him, and the next thing you know, he was trapped.

"It was like trying to keep up with the Joneses," Irvine explained of his claimed knighthood to our reporter Ben Montgomery, who unraveled Irvine's resume in a recent article.

"I was sitting in a bar one night and that came out," Irvine said. "It was stupid."

It just "came out"! Could have happened to anybody! There has been many a night that I, too, was sitting in a bar and the claim of being a knight almost "came out."

Here is what makes Robert Irvine possible. Our modern culture does not make much difference between the real and the fake in the first place. I am convinced that the fakes often do not understand the difference themselves.

You want to be a singer? Here, try it this way. Work on it day after day, night after night, from early in life. Love singing with all your soul. Take lessons. Go to school. Perform anywhere you can for pennies, and labor for year after year in obscurity. Odds are you never make it anyway.

Or maybe you can just go on American Idol and be an instant star.

The genre of "reality" TV is instructive in the field of fakery. For a while I liked watching The Apprentice because of the parade of complete morons who didn't know the slightest thing about business, about managing people or even about not being a jerk. Yet they gaped with astonishment when they got fired by Donald Trump, who is the Elvis Presley of fakery himself.

Is there anything as satisfying as watching a business founded on a good idea, operated by smart people with good fundamentals, growing into a success? Is there anything as ridiculous as watching people jibber over Enron or Krispy Kreme or the latest 100-1 price/earnings ratio?

Fake! Our politics are fake. Here is the core truth about American politics: We are spending a buck-something for every buck we take in. We are living on credit. The national debt is $9-trillion and growing. And blowing money without paying for it with taxes is what fakes call "conservative."

Good grief. Listen: I am a gray-headed, bleeding-heart liberal. Kum ba yah. Save the whales. Let everybody marry anybody, Adam and Steve, too. Make love, not war.

So, how did it happen, that I have come to this? I want to say to America's fakes, and to their enablers:

Shut up. Go to school. Make good grades. Save your money. Pay as you go. Work hard. Don't buy lottery tickets. Quit forwarding stupid e-mails. Never praise yourself.

As for everybody else: Learn how to detect bull — in presidents, in governors, in the media, in popular culture, and especially in Commanders of the Royal Whatchamacallit. It is our only hope.

It takes two sides for a fake to succeed 03/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 3, 2008 4:08pm]
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