[November 29, 2021] No one likes a fraud; a person who pretends to be someone or something they are not. Perhaps this dislike is innate to humans, or maybe learned, but being a fraud means breaking the most critical element of humanness; trust.
A Canadian medical researcher who rose to become the nation’s top voice on indigenous health has been ousted from her government job and her university professorship — after suspicious colleagues investigated her increasingly fanciful claims of Native American heritage and learned she was a fraud.1
Many years ago, when I was a Major and part of a training unit, a Colonel turned out to be a fraud. How, we asked, could someone pull off such a high-level deception and get away with it for years? But, the man was a fraud. He was good at coordinating many different military elements, bringing them together to conduct an extensive, complex military training exercise. Someone decided one day to look into the man’s past. He was arrested for impersonating a U.S. Army officer and sent to prison.
We can all be fooled by almost anyone who poses as something they are not. All human relationships involved, at their core, an element of trust. When trust is missing, bad things happen. I’ve written on the importance of trust on many occasions (see link here, here, and here). Trust is not easy to build and yet easily lost.
Being a fraud is not something new in the human experience. We see it written about in early philosophical discussions, in the Bible, and other ancient texts. Some compare fraud to the early practices of propaganda, purposeful deception, trickery, deceit, hoaxes, scams, and even protection rackets.
Leaders build their place on being trusted to do what is right (morally and efficiently). The greatest frauds of all time are those who were in leadership positions and were discovered.
There are many infamous frauds; Charles Ponzi, Victor Lustig (who “sold” the Eiffel Tower), Kenneth Lay (Enron), and Bernie Madoff. And, it does not have to involve money. In 1908, there were false claims that Frederick Cook reached the north pole before Robert Peary. Today, there is doubt whether either man did so.
And, like the claims of American Indian ancestry, as we see in the Canadian medical researcher or Elizabeth Warren (U.S. presidential candidate), can lead to fraud. Being a fraud is as old a story as human existence. Our lesson, beware!!
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).