We live in an age where economic success can depend a lot more on hype and branding than offering actual useful things that help people. Occasionally, we see extreme examples of fakers and frauds, like Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos and Billy McFarland of the Fyre Festival. But those are the few that have seen their lies exposed and their careers come crashing down. There are others, like Tesla's Elon Musk, WeWork's Adam Neumann, and America's Donald Trump, who have reaped riches beyond comprehension by bullshitting and betraying people.
Today on the podcast, journalist and attorney Gabrielle Bluestone joins to discuss how con artists get away with it, and the way scammers succeed in getting people to believe in images that depart completely from reality. Gabrielle is the author of Hype: How Scammers, Grifters, and Con Artists Are Taking Over The Internet and Why We're Following. She also produced the Netflix documentary FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. Gabrielle's work exposes the ways that con artists take advantage of people's desire for status and fulfillment, in particular the pernicious and fictitious content produced by social media "influencers." In this interview we discuss:
- How much of what appears on social media is fake or secretly being paid for by someone
- How little meaningful accountability there is for those who rip others off, how Americans are oddly unsympathetic to the victims of scammers and sometimes even seem to root for the grifter
- The empty lives of full-time influencers, who must constantly be striving to sell their personal brands and maintain their followings
- Why we could all stand to become a little more cynical and think more critically about the ways we might be being taken advantage of. If a product has 5-star reviews, are they real? If someone posts a picture of themselves on a private jet, are they really on one, or are they in a rented photo studio designed to look like the inside of a private jet? Gabrielle reminds us that online, almost nothing can be trusted to be what it seems.