Category Archives: charlatanry

A demagogue and a terminal bore

Chávez bestrode his country like a colossus inflated with gas

Resentment, notes Dalrymple,

is the nourishing broth in which demagogues like Castro and Chávez grow and thrive. The worse they make the situation, the better their explanation for it. We were right all along! See what they are doing to us! Since resentment is self-reinforcing, the demagogues are always sure of at least some support, however obvious the disaster they have wrought.

Dalrymple says that he is not prescient, far from it, but

I knew from the moment that Chávez took power that his rule would end disastrously. Whatever the parlous state of the country at the time he took power, he could only make it worse. (I reviewed a book by one of those fools whose wishful thinking flits like a butterfly from revolution to revolution and from radical to radical, and who took Chávez at his own estimate.)

A disaster from which Venezuela will take generations to recover


was the kind of leader who could produce a shortage of saltwater in the Pacific. It was only appropriate that he should so have admired Bolívar that he named his ‘revolution’ after him, for Bolívar’s life ended miserably and his plans were utterly set at naught. ‘He who serves the revolution,’ said Bolívar at the end of his life, ‘ploughs the sea.’

Dalrymple points out that Chávez was

a charismatic nonentity, a terminal bore whose mind was stuffed with cliché, verbiage, and resentment. He bestrode his country like a colossus inflated with gas. He never said in a minute what he could say in an hour; if he had a fundamental belief, it was ‘I speak to an audience, therefore I am.’

His constant appeal

was to resentment, the most sustainable of all emotions. (It can last a lifetime and, being easily transferred, is heritable).


resentful charlatanry, his patent-medicine-salesmanship of quick political and economic solutions, was a disaster for his country from which it will take generations to recover.

Social-climbing cretins

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 05.06.50The novelist Michel Houellebecq’s theme, writes Dalrymple, is

the emptiness of human existence in a consumer society devoid of religious belief, political project, or cultural continuity.

Thanks to material abundance and social security,

there is no struggle for existence that might give meaning to the life of millions. Such a society will not allow you to go hungry or to live in the abject poverty that would once have been the reward of idleness. This lends an inspissated pointlessness to all human activity, which becomes nothing more than a scramble for unnecessary consumer goods that confer no happiness or (at best) a distraction from that very emptiness.

For Houellebecq,

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Michel Houellebecq

intellectual or cultural activity becomes mere soap opera for the more intelligent and educated rather than something of intrinsic importance or value. That is why a university teacher of economics in one of his books describes his work as the teaching of obvious untruths to careerist morons, rather than as, say, the awakening of young minds to the fascinating task of reducing the complexity of social interactions to general principles.

Dalrymple is referring here to the character Hélène in Houellebecq’s 2010 novel La Carte et le Territoire. Here is a passage from the English-language edition (tr. Gavin Bowd):

On the whole, young people no longer interested Hélène much. Her students were at such a terrifyingly low intellectual level that, sometimes, you had to wonder what had pushed them into studying in the first place. The only reply, she knew in her heart of hearts, was that they wanted to make money, as much money as possible; aside from a few short-term humanitarian fads, that was the only thing that really got them going. Her professional life could thus be summarised as teaching contradictory absurdities to social-climbing cretins.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 05.15.19Obvious untruths (Dalrymple); contradictory absurdities (Houellebecq). Dalrymple has stated:

I say, throw economics to the dogs; I’ll have none of it.

Houellebecq’s Hélène is no less disillusioned than Dalrymple:

Her interest in economics had waned over the years. More and more, the theories which tried to explain economic phenomena, to predict their developments, appeared almost equally inconsistent and random. She was more and more tempted to liken them to pure and simple charlatanism; it was even surprising, she occasionally thought, that they gave a Nobel prize for economics, as if this discipline could boast the methodological seriousness, the intellectual rigour, of chemistry or physics.

Barthes advanced learning by about as much as Madoff advanced Wall Street’s reputation for rectitude

Dalrymple on the 'abject, shallow' nonsense of the French charlatan-philosopher

Dalrymple on the abject, shallow nonsense of the French ‘structuralist’ charlatan-philosopher (2010)


Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 22.55.43Dalrymple points out that Sigmund Freud was no scientist. He was the founder of a religious sect rather than of a scientific discipline. This incestuous adulterer was

  • a money-grubbing charlatan oscillating between wishful thinking and outright lying
  • an unscrupulous manipulator who owed his success not to the truth but to the emptiness of his theories
  • a man avid for fame and fortune only too aware that he might not achieve them by more conventional means

His technique

was of no greater therapeutic value than exorcism, although much more expensive and a great deal less fun – except for those who desired to talk endlessly about themselves and were willing to pay someone else to listen to them or at least pretend to listen to them.

France and Argentina are

the last redoubt in the world of psychoanalysis (not that this prevents the French from being world-champion psychotropic medication swallowers as well, on the contrary); the bookshops are still full of volumes by psychoanalysts written in alchemical language that means something only to those who have entered their temple, and perhaps not even to them.

The exposure of Freud as a fraud

still comes as a shock in France, long after it has ceased to be such elsewhere in the Western world.

The question is

why theories so arcane, so preposterously speculative, so lacking in evidence in their favour and even in the possibility of there being any such evidence, should for a number of decades have conquered the most scientifically advanced regions.

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Leo the liar, hypocrite and grotesque egotist

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 00.22.07Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 00.34.43Lenin’s ‘little brother of the revolution’ was, to put it mildly, a deeply irresponsible man, Dalrymple points out (from 2:10).