Tuesday, May 19, 2015


One of the facts about humankind that I most enthusiastically subscribe to is that of archetypes. You may think you are original; a true one-of-a-kind, but according to sociologists, you might not be -- you might just be a personality type, a more or less typical example of someone living one story, but with enough in common with others throughout history that you may belong to a group you do not even know about.

One archetype that I have run into time and again in my life is the pseudo-expert/huckster.  It's usually someone who gets interested in a subject, quickly declares themselves an expert in it, and then begins the process of educating, promoting, and generally attempting to spread the word about their expertise to the world.

I knew an astronomer like that in the '80's, when I worked at a well-known observatory. We all knew about this guy.  Although trained as a planetary geologist, he took any chances offered to jump in front of a television camera or newspaper reporter and give his "expert" opinion on any number of science-related subjects. Nuclear war. Quantum physics. Archaeology.

My coworkers and I hated this guy.  We hated that he took attention away from legitimate scientists who had spent years studying and learning about the subject areas he was so inaccurately spouting off about on national television, just so he could get his 2 minutes of fame. We hated that the media actually called him to talk about that stuff, because they knew he was slick and knew how to make a nice sound bite. 

Some of us might have been jealous, some were just indignant at the misinformation he blurted out so regularly, and some were afraid if he ever became political it would be a bad, bad thing. But as I've gone on in years, I've met this man's fellow archetypes in a variety of situations, and it's the same thing over and over.

The hardest thing is watching what I think of as a very gullible portion of the public get duped into thinking these people know anything about the subjects they are talking about.  The so-called "cook" inevitably attempts to gain legitimacy by writing cookbooks, the so-called farmer holds workshops on farming, and the fact is, people are giving good money to a "cook" and a "farmer" who are nothing more than slick promoters.

It happens time and again. But I've realized that, other than putting the word out that there are better experts out there -- REAL experts, who have spent their lives dedicated to the exact subjects the huckster wants you to believe THEY know about -- there is nothing else you can do.  Hucksters are an archetype.  They sell a lifestyle, an idea, a subject, or a business model which they have no right to claim, but they do anyway.

But because it's an archetype, you can look at almost any field of interest and find someone like that.  And all you can do is close your wallet and watch from a distance. You can't change them and you can't ever seem to educate the gullible souls who give them their attention, their money, and their undying love.

That is a hard reality, but one I have come to see over my 53 years on this earth.


  1. Another interesting job I find out you've had! You've lived more in 53 years than some do in 100! I think the funny thing about "expertise" is that it's really a rather immature thing to declare. we've all gotten into something, learned all about it, and for a short time thought we really KNEW it. And then, the deeper you dive into any field/interest/hobby the more you realize how little you know! I remember thinking I was a prodigy in the salon world until I started actually working! I went from feeling like I was splashing around in a tide pool to feeling lost in the open Pacific. It's also been my experience that true masters never lose their openness and curiousity to brand new thoughts/ideas on their subject. As in not acting like there's an expert gate that they've been let into and now they're done!

    1. I agree; the true masters are generally humble, lifelong learners, which is how they achieve all they do -- they learn continually. It was working at the Observatory that led me into public relations, and then after that I became a teacher once my son was born, since the hours were more complementary with his school hours. I love having had a lot of different jobs; it's made for an interesting life!

    2. Oh, and the newspaper columnist thing was something I did part-time while I was teaching, since there was no way a weekly column was enough to pay the bills, lol. Writers don't make much money; someone needs to tell our friend JW that, haha.

  2. I agree with what you have written and it's very frustrating. I think the only thing you can do is put out the word and maybe a few people will notice. I really hate to see people get taken. They are usually the nice ones too - kind and trusting.

    1. Agreed. I think, in general, people don't check the credentials on their experts enough. They just want someone who sounds good and go with that. Not always a good decision!