77. Fakes, liars, cheats, deceivers, animals in the forest

It’s all around us. From face lifts to lux­ury cars on hire pur­chase, from inflated CVs to exag­ger­ated job titles, from com­pany pub­lic­ity mate­rial to the spin that gov­ern­ments put on their fail­ures and decep­tions. At what point does fak­ery become fraud? Would the world be a duller place with­out it?

Thor May
Bris­bane, 2014



Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is mostly a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est comes up with friends, I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.


  1. The scope of this dis­cus­sion


All’s fair in love and war, or so the win­ners have claimed from time immemo­rial, and the ani­mal king­dom seems to agree. Decep­tion has always been a pri­mary tool for get­ting the girl or the guy or the king­dom or the con­tract. It soon made a kind of sense to invent laws and reli­gion which gave spe­cial rights of decep­tion to the win­ners while the losers were sup­posed to tip their fore­locks and say humbly that “the Lord is my shep­herd”, then promise not to stray. That is, might was right, and explained as the just order of things. How­ever, this was a bit dis­cour­ag­ing for those out of luck.

When self-help books started arriv­ing, their first and biggest mar­ket turned out to be giv­ing the depressed sheeple per­mis­sion to fake-it-till-they-made-it, what­ever mak­ing it might mean to them. In rel­a­tive moder­nity, an early starter in this line of woo was the Rev­er­ent Vin­cent Peale with his “The Power of Pos­i­tive Think­ing” (1952). He must have been onto some­thing because it is still sell­ing, and has count­less imi­ta­tors. For every action, there is also a reac­tion – now even an anti- pos­i­tive think­ing move­ment (Ehren­re­ich 2010).

Fak­ing it to make it is all very well, almost old fash­ioned. A harder trick may be to fake it to keep mak­ing it. Think of the legions of mid­dle aged work­ers who sin­cerely hate their jobs but have to fake want­ing to be there since there’s not a snowflake’s chance in hell they will ever get another job (Courte­nay 2014). The same might be said for count­less soured mar­riages, pre­served for the sake of chil­dren. And then we have those at the top of their game, but scared of falling over. At Pres­i­dent Bar­rack Obama’s inau­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony in 2009 the mari­nes hon­our band pre­tended to play while their own pre-recorded per­for­mance came over the loud­speak­ers. The per­former, Bey­once, sang flaw­lessly.. um, well she actu­ally lip-synched her own pre-recorded voice (Younge 2013). And the Pres­i­dent of course spoke mov­ingly … read­ing from an autocue out of sight from the TV cam­eras. So where are the bor­ders of real­ity now? We live in a haze of man­i­cured vir­tual rela­tion­ships (May 2013b: “The 541st Face­book Friend”).  

Of course, any­one who is not patho­log­i­cally naive and who has encoun­tered the cor­po­rate-speak of today’s urban liv­ing knows that the fake-it meme is already in the DNA of most insti­tu­tional crit­ters, large and small. The only news is that this virus might also be deployed by bus dri­vers and check-out girls. With this in mind, the essay takes the fake-it topic beyond some sim­ple self-trick­ery sold as pos­i­tive think­ing, and looks at var­i­ous extended muta­tions inside and out­side of the law. The read­ing list reflects this.


  1. The shift­ing sands of moral judge­ment on decep­tion


One inter­est­ing issue is the red lines of accept­abil­ity and the green lines of um-OK which peo­ple set up in their minds when cop­ing with deceit/fakery/fraud etc. I’ve per­son­ally come to the con­clu­sion that while we assume that oth­ers share our red and green lines, in behav­ioural prac­tice there is only very lim­ited con­sen­sus about what is or is not OK in mat­ters of decep­tion. This can be even be played upon in the mass media when peo­ple are socially and pro­fes­sion­ally lured into admit­ting or invent­ing trans­gres­sions for pub­lic enter­tain­ment (Younge 2013). Although I’m a lousy faker myself, my own gold stan­dard for moral judge­ments is whether the deceit was done with good inten­tions, and whether self or oth­ers are likely to be hurt or helped by the act. That’s a judge­ment call, and not always easy to make.


  1. Accept­able ranges of per­sonal decep­tion


The most gen­er­ous con­ces­sions we make to test­ing the lim­its of fak­ery are those we apply to our own needs and fail­ings. Every­one wants to be a hero in their own movie. It tends to work out­wards from there, to fam­ily, inti­mate part­ners, friends, acquain­tances, and so on. At this prox­im­ity we may be direct though not vicious in call­ing out a decep­tion in those we know well, or we may joke about it. In fact, we may cul­tur­ally expect a plain girl to wear makeup, or a man to bar­rack for a foot­ball team he pri­vately cares noth­ing about.

When life seems espe­cially grim or hope­less we may con­jure up and project a degree of illu­sion (or self-delu­sion) about a nicer future, on the prin­ci­ple that all the world loves a win­ner, so given suf­fi­cient chutz­pah it can all come true. The per­son­ally timid, depressed, angry or fear­ful indi­vid­ual may be per­suaded to put on a happy and con­fi­dent face to help with future real­i­ties. Appar­ently this actu­ally does change out­comes at least some of the time, and has spawned the afore­men­tioned del­uge of self-help books and courses. It has also spawned many work envi­ron­ments of fake and there­fore stress­ful bon­homie. We may not be entirely per­suaded when the shop assis­tant with dead­pan eyes says “have a happy day”.

At the per­sonal level, decep­tion may be entirely pri­vate (self-decep­tion), or it may be to coolly present a cer­tain invented per­sona socially or pro­fes­sion­ally, or it may involve self-decep­tion for the pur­pose of pub­lic decep­tion.

The propagandist’s first tar­get is him/herself. Smith (2014) notes that effec­tive politi­cians endeav­our to per­suade them­selves of causes, whether or not the causes are cred­i­ble. The same is true of any sales­man. I once had a very brief career cold call­ing to sell type­writer rib­bons and car­bon papers. I was an abject fail­ure, being quite unable to con­vince myself or my hoped-for cus­tomers that the prod­ucts were of value. Yet the promis­cu­ous promises and decep­tions of sales talk can be intox­i­cat­ing for some who make a career of it.

Decep­tion is usu­ally thought of as rais­ing expec­ta­tions falsely. How­ever, it may also be used to lower expec­ta­tions. Keep­ing a low pro­file dis­arms pos­si­ble attack. Show­ing appar­ent weak­ness may mis­lead a com­peti­tor into care­less error. Ambigu­ous agree­ment leaves no space for coun­ter-argu­ment. And so on. Even as a pri­vate game, this tech­nique can yield a cer­tain kind of empow­er­ment. The only job inter­views I have ever man­aged well were those where I per­suaded myself that the out­come didn’t mat­ter ter­ri­bly much after all. Want­ing some­thing too much can be a sev­ere hand­i­cap. In ret­ro­spect, I might have had more luck with romance if this lesson had been learned ear­lier …


  1. Com­mu­nity atti­tudes to pub­lic deceit 


In con­trast to our tol­er­ance for a lit­tle pri­vate cheat­ing, as a com­mu­nity we are usu­ally cen­so­ri­ous about fake behav­iour or prod­ucts, or other decep­tion where we have least real con­trol. Politi­cians are widely regarded as hav­ing morals lower than a grass snake, and abused in their phys­i­cal absence accord­ingly (see the out­stand­ing analy­sis by War­ick Smith, 2014, Parts 1, 2 & 3; also Lyon 2013; Mil­man 2014).

Com­pa­nies are not even human, and can there­fore both act with­out regard to the pub­lic inter­est, and expect to be tar­geted by the pub­lic for infrac­tions, but have teams of lawyers to avoid real con­se­quences (e.g. see Fer­gu­son 2014a,b,c,d; Yeates 2014, West 2013 & 2014, Planet Plu­to­crat 2014, Lip­tak 2014, Lawrence 2014, Kanamori 2014, Davey 2013, Adonis 2013, Feath­er­stone 2014). Indeed, those who expose cor­po­rate and insti­tu­tional malfea­sance, whistle blow­ers, are the ones most at risk (MCT 2013, Pas­coe 2014, Remeikis 2013, Donna 2010; and of course the pur­suit by power elites of indi­vid­u­als who have exposed the world­wide mass sur­veil­lance recently of whole pop­u­la­tions in the name of “secu­rity”).

Mis­chief from the dog that didn’t bark : the gen­eral idea of laws or rules is usu­ally that cer­tain things are for­bid­den, but that oth­er­wise the legal agent, human or insti­tu­tional, is free to act and profit from the envi­ron­ment. (Con­tra: a wry Chi­nese per­son once explained to me that in the PRC, every­thing not explic­itly allowed by law was for­bid­den). The free range idea gives rise to whole indus­tries and pro­fes­sions, some of which in com­mon par­lance would prob­a­bly qual­ify as fake, decep­tive, anti-social, against the pub­lic inter­est, and so on. Lawyers feed in these rich pas­tures. Tax avoid­ance is an exam­ple which quickly comes to mind. Parts of fringe med­i­cine might be another.

Some fea­tures of mod­ern orga­ni­za­tional life almost seemed designed to encour­age adher­ence to the let­ter but not the spirit of fair play. I am think­ing here of com­pli­ance regimes, which deal in ever more min­ute detail with tick-box require­ments. Such require­ments some­times can and do save lives – as for exam­ple, in hos­pi­tal safety rou­ti­nes.

Yet com­pli­ance framers often over­look crit­i­cal fea­tures of human psy­chol­ogy. Where good judge­ment and expe­ri­ence were once needed and val­ued, dog­matic but sim­ple minded com­pli­ance require­ments can give an false illu­sion of tasks well-done, and actu­ally provide worm holes for the lazy or ill-inten­tioned to escape respon­si­bil­ity. I have seen a lot of this in mass edu­ca­tion insti­tu­tions. Any­thing to do with money is a honey pot for sly decep­tion. For exam­ple, a lit­tle research on the accoun­tancy audit­ing indus­try will throw up dam­ag­ing and per­sis­tent instances of com­pli­ance require­ments ruth­lessly warped. The net effect of cyn­i­cally exploited com­pli­ance rou­ti­nes can be to under­mine pub­lic trust in insti­tu­tions.

Since actual humans have to work in the some­times toxic envi­rons of com­pa­nies and insti­tu­tions, insti­tu­tional staff might also accu­mu­late cer­tain com­pany or insti­tu­tional cul­tural attrib­utes of deceit (Alexan­der 2013, Burns 2014, McKen­zie 2013, Schnurer 2013, Simons 2014, Wilkins 2014, Yiu 2014).

As rel­a­tively free agents, pro­fes­sion­als are expected to act with pro­bity. Where they fail the inter­ests of clients through fake, fraud or other decep­tion the penalties are sup­posed to be sev­ere. The real­ity may be some­thing else. (See Silva 2014, Shaw 2014, Rush­ton 2013, Medew 2012, McCoy 2014, Freed­man 2012, Fer­gu­son 2014a,b; Cosslett 2013, Duffin 2013, RT Novosti News 2013, Traveller.com 2011, Yim 2011, Onishi 2014).

One inter­est­ing fea­ture of pro­fes­sional fail­ure is that fake qual­i­fi­ca­tions + actual oper­a­tional com­pe­tence is con­sid­ered out­ra­geous and may earn jail time (Bloomberg News 2014, Duffin 2013). On the other hand, appro­pri­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions + oper­a­tional incom­pe­tence or even fak­ery tends to be seen as a sad but com­mon fea­ture of the human con­di­tion, usu­ally cen­sored by lit­tle more than a loss of busi­ness or rep­u­ta­tion, if that (Briffa 2012, Freed­man 2012).


  1. Para­doxes of belief and under­es­ti­ma­tion


In the never end­ing accel­er­a­tion of our ever more com­pli­cated civ­i­liza­tion, the largest part of what we “know” comes from what some­body else told us. For wiser indi­vid­u­als, such know­ing is forever con­di­tional, and tested again and again against out­comes over a life­time. That is what sci­en­tific method is sup­posed to be about, yet even amongst sci­en­tists it is a minor­ity habit.

For most peo­ple most of the time, infor­ma­tion is accepted as knowl­edge if the giver has some kind of author­ity. The mechanic is sup­posed to know best about mechan­ics, the lawyer about law, the doc­tor about med­i­cine, and the pro­fes­sor about his spe­cial­iza­tion. If it is printed in a book, the cred­i­bil­ity of the infor­ma­tion is mul­ti­plied.

When we look at actual out­comes, such com­mon faith in author­ity is very, very often mis­placed. To chal­lenge it is to invite not only doubt about the chal­lenger, but often hos­til­ity as well.

My par­tic­u­lar child­hood envi­ron­ment, in a poor and itin­er­ant fam­ily, prob­a­bly had a good deal to do with early and life­long scep­ti­cism about the claims of author­ity. No doubt that scep­ti­cism has kept me an out­sider, and for the most part an auto­mat­i­cally dis­cred­ited out­sider. From time to time of course, I have been wrong and the author­ity of the moment has been right, or partly right. But where I have been right, the right­ness was fre­quently resented as pos­ing a threat, or not com­ing from a wor­thy source. Nowa­days, as one embell­ished with a PhD, the con­tempt is more muted, yet the owner has not become more nor less wise, and the doc­tor­ate is irrel­e­vant to most of what turns up in my writ­ing. It often seems that brand and rep­u­ta­tion is every­thing, not the worth of a propo­si­tion. There is noth­ing unique about this sit­u­a­tion. For 1500 years the wise men of Europe told each other that the sun revolved about the earth, and were eager to incin­er­ate any­one who sug­gested oth­er­wise.

The point of the para­graphs above is that fak­ing belief in the accepted wis­dom of the day (when fak­ing is needed), and pub­licly admir­ing those who dis­sem­i­nate it, is prob­a­bly the surest path to worldly suc­cess. It helps enor­mously if your mind is not crit­i­cal enough to see the flaws in the accepted wis­dom of the day. You will be a true believer and feted above all oth­ers. My hand­i­cap has been a moral inabil­ity to play this kind of fak­ing game. Put it down to poor upbring­ing. Some cul­tures make the whole process rather eas­ier by for­mally cre­at­ing pri­vate and pub­lic behav­iour roles. Within the bound­aries of these roles even con­flict­ing beliefs may be played out with appro­pri­ate enthu­si­asm. The Japan­ese dis­tinc­tion of honne (true feel­ings) and tatemae (pub­lic façade) is a good exam­ple.


  1. The invin­ci­ble shields of sta­tus, rep­u­ta­tion and qual­i­fi­ca­tions


The Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury has recently announced that he some­times doubts the exis­tence of God, and can­not defend belief in this god to non-believ­ers (Bing­ham 2014). As leader of the Angli­can faith, this would seems a some­what star­tling rev­e­la­tion. Yet it is unlikely that his posi­tion will be seri­ously chal­lenged. What he rep­re­sents is, as it were, too big to fail. Too much social (and finan­cial!) cap­i­tal would be lost if the lead­ers of that reli­gion sim­ply packed up and retired to a nearby unem­ploy­ment office. The inter­est­ing thing is that this arch­bishop no longer feels a need to fake it. As an alter boy or newby priest with ambi­tion, he cer­tainly would not have the lib­erty of such insou­ciance.

For those who wish to exer­cise power, or to be believed, or at least to be employed, any tool which gives them claim to some author­ity will be pur­sued relent­lessly. That tool may be as crude as a gun, or as pre­ten­tious as a job title, or as gauche as an aca­d­e­mic cre­den­tial. In all of these cases the temp­ta­tion to seize the tal­is­man by guile and fak­ery is immense.

The code word for the firm belief that some­thing is of value to the indi­vid­ual, an orga­ni­za­tion or a coun­try is con­fi­dence , and magic tal­is­mans like uni­ver­sity degrees are of high value in the con­fi­dence game. How­ever, any kind of brand­ing – even a beer bot­tle label – is bet­ter than no brand­ing. Even the value of money depends upon con­fi­dence, and that con­fi­dence turns on the country’s “brand”, or rep­u­ta­tion. As this essay has noted already, most of our con­fi­dence is founded on accept­ing the worth of infor­ma­tion which is not val­i­dated by per­sonal expe­ri­ence. Brand­ing, for the uncrit­i­cal mind, is a lazy short cut for val­i­dat­ing indi­rect knowl­edge, and is there­fore an irre­sistible tar­get for every level of fak­ery.

Reli­gious con­fi­dence may be based on accept­ing faith itself as a value beyond chal­lenge. A lot of peo­ple seem to find that suf­fi­cient, although, as the Angli­can arch­bishop real­ized, not all. Ide­ol­ogy trades on a sim­i­lar approach, and is sim­i­larly vul­ner­a­ble. As with brand­ing, so with the impri­matur of faith: value comes with rep­u­ta­tion, and rep­u­ta­tion, while it may be well earned, can just as eas­ily be built of foun­da­tions of deceit by the unscrupu­lous.

The defence of faith against dis­be­liev­ers and the indif­fer­ent many may depend upon selec­tive quo­ta­tion from a revered text like the Bible, trad­ing upon the trust­ful­ness of chil­dren, or tar­geted social approval and rewards for those drawn into the com­mu­nity of the faith­ful. In the last resort the defence of faith may well also entail vio­lence. The defence of faith in an ide­ol­ogy typ­i­cally fol­lows a sim­i­lar path to the reli­gious strat­a­gems, but tends to be less durable since the promised rewards are rarely super­nat­u­ral.


  1. Trust, con­ceal­ment and betrayal from the agents of gov­ern­ment and busi­ness


Busi­nesses, and most gov­ern­ments, have only a lim­ited resort to reli­gion or ide­ol­ogy as tools to fos­ter faith in their processes. As com­plex insti­tu­tions, their lead­ers know that they can­not please every­one all of the time, even with the best of inten­tions (and his­tor­i­cally their inten­tions have not always been the best). They must there­fore resort to the manip­u­la­tion of opin­ion and the cul­ti­va­tion of desir­able “needs” in their tar­get pop­u­la­tions. Adver­tis­ing, pub­lic rela­tions, the selec­tive release of infor­ma­tion, the obses­sive col­lec­tion of infor­ma­tion and the reluc­tance to share infor­ma­tion (usu­ally called “secu­rity”), are almost uni­ver­sal fea­tures of gov­ern­ments, insti­tu­tions and busi­nesses of all kinds. That is, the tools to con­trol pub­lic con­fi­dence almost always imply a level of decep­tion, and with­out such tools the insti­tu­tions are naked, as they see it, to attack.

It is true that the gen­eral level of cyn­i­cism, and its oppo­site, trust, go through cycles in the pop­u­la­tions of par­tic­u­lar coun­tries. National pop­u­la­tions tend to come together in the face of trau­matic cir­cum­stances, and for a while old doubts and vendet­tas will be buried to con­front a com­mon enemy, or fol­low a new hope.

World War II was a defin­ing expe­ri­ence for huge num­bers of peo­ple, and in coun­tries as diverse as the UK, Ger­many, Aus­tralia, Japan and South Korea, close observers will con­firm that the pub­lic val­ues of ordi­nary peo­ple in the post-war period were markedly dif­fer­ent from more recent gen­er­a­tions. A sim­i­lar gen­eral shift in psy­chol­ogy can be seen across gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple in Rus­sia and China. In every case, politi­cians and sundry car­pet-bag­gers have betrayed nascent pub­lic trust and the public’s will­ing­ness to self-sac­ri­fice in con­di­tions which extremely threat­ened gen­eral wel­fare. In every case, the cyn­i­cal self-inter­est demon­strated by elites has even­tu­ally infected gen­eral pop­u­la­tions. The ero­sion of trust and hon­esty has extra­or­di­nar­ily broad con­se­quences, from the qual­ity of work­man­ship to the qual­ity of mar­riages, from civic par­tic­i­pa­tion to the ethics of busi­ness prac­tice.

Per­haps the sin­gle most impor­tant pro­tec­tion for hard won free­doms and civil insti­tu­tions is access to unbi­ased infor­ma­tion. Infor­ma­tion of pub­lic inter­est with­held or dis­torted is direct nour­ish­ment for every kind of fraud and malfea­sance and a short step from tyranny. Our gen­er­a­tion has seen an expo­nen­tial growth of infor­ma­tion dis­tor­tion in the pub­lic sec­tor, the pri­vate sec­tor, and then inevitably at the level of per­sonal behav­iour.

Our per­sonal auton­omy and full scope to develop our poten­tials depend in many ways on opti­mum access to unbi­ased infor­ma­tion, and the free­dom to chal­lenge accepted truths. There will there­fore always be a con­stant ten­sion between free minds and the secre­tive objec­tives of orga­ni­za­tions and their agents. The price of lib­erty is eter­nal vig­i­lance.


  1. The tan­gled ways of edu­ca­tion for profit


At this point I will take a small detour into the murky world of deceit, fraud and gen­eral self-delu­sion which seeps from the cracks in edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions. I hap­pen to have had a par­tic­u­larly extended expe­ri­ence of pur­su­ing aca­d­e­mic cre­den­tials (in ret­ro­spect, a fool­ish jour­ney trav­elled with a prob­a­bly fool­ish lack of guile). I have also been in the busi­ness of per­form­ing those teacher cir­cus tricks which are sup­posed to val­i­date aca­d­e­mic cre­den­tials. Along the way I have seen fak­ery on a grand scale in seven coun­tries, played in an infini­tude of ways, and mostly with impunity (e.g. see May 2006, 2008a, 2012). The edu­ca­tion process itself is often a sim­u­la­tion, sup­pos­edly of real life prospects, and the diplo­mas which accom­pany it are less claims on past achieve­ment (dubi­ous as those might be) than as promises of future poten­tial.

In this sit­u­a­tion it is hardly sur­pris­ing that pos­sess­ing diplo­mas by what­ever means becomes more impor­tant for many (most?) aspi­rants that what­ever mas­tery of knowl­edge they claim to guar­an­tee. In China and South Korea, where I spent twelve years in ter­tiary insti­tu­tions, there is often a scarcely con­cealed con­spir­acy between teach­ing staff and stu­dents: “you pre­tend to learn and I’ll pre­tend to teach”. The cul­tural and mon­e­tary rewards of the sys­tem sus­tain this fak­ery. In so-called West­ern coun­tries such as Aus­tralia pla­gia­rism and ghost writ­ing by stu­dents is an ever ris­ing threat, yet staff are under enor­mous pres­sure to ignore all but the most bla­tant of such fraud, espe­cially as 60% of ter­tiary teach­ers are on short term ses­sional con­tracts, and con­se­quently neutered in any insti­tu­tional con­flict.

Many uni­ver­si­ties accu­mu­late a long his­to­ries of dis­crim­i­na­tion against aca­d­e­mics who raise awk­ward ques­tions about pro­bity, although they prefer not to pub­li­cize such events. My own alma mater, the Uni­ver­sity of New­castle, NSW, could serve as an exam­ple here (Donna, New­castle Her­ald 2010). For sim­i­lar rea­sons, grade infla­tion is endemic. Uni­ver­si­ties, which are now essen­tially mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tions, have every incen­tive not to look too hard at the real qual­ity of teach­ing and learn­ing.


  1. So when have we “made it” any­way?


In the restau­rant at the end of the uni­verse, when all ambi­tion has come to naught, the race is done and noth­ing is left but to tell of times past, will we embell­ish our sto­ries and claim to be heroic sur­vivors from events lost in the mists of time? Of course we will. For those with brains not cau­ter­ized by TV and vir­tual lives which for­got to actu­ally live, sto­ries are a nour­ish­ment for the soul. Sto­ries are built on selec­tive mem­o­ries and imag­i­na­tion. We tell them to val­i­date our­selves and to please oth­ers. Since actual daily expe­ri­ence is apt to be nei­ther so fas­ci­nat­ing nor so kind to our egos as a well told tale, we are likely to cre­ate a some­what fic­tional account of worlds which might have been. That is, we fake it, and the fak­ing is well loved.

At each stage of a life, short term and long term goals mutate. As chil­dren we can’t prop­erly imag­ine what is to come. Mak­ing it in a play­ground may mean bluff­ing a bully while you quake in your boots. Mak­ing it as a teenage boy may mean fak­ing street cred’ as a bad boy, which is what hot chicks seem to want. The hot chicks have their own ver­sions of decep­tion. Stretch­ing out ahead of these tricky begin­nings is the eter­nal saga of scrap­ing through col­lege, bluff­ing through job inter­views, play­ing the whole reper­toire of cor­po­rate decep­tions to sur­vive in the shark pool of a career, and being tipped into obscu­rity at fifty as a has-been.

Of course, all this fak­ery may not be what you are about. You may play a straight bat from start to fin­ish. Depend­ing on luck, intel­li­gence, your good looks, your con­nec­tions, the job niche you choose, you may be a scin­til­lat­ing suc­cess renowned for never being drawn to the dark side. Or you may be pasted as a naïve imbe­cile. There are many kinds of ani­mals in the forest. Which kind are you?


Ref­er­ences & Read­ing List


Adonis, James (Octo­ber 11, 2013) “Bribery: a nec­es­sary evil?”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/small-business/finance/blogs/work-in-progress/bribery-a-necessary-evil-20131010-2vb8s.html#ixzz2hMQNXLIw

AFP (Sep­tem­ber 21, 2012) “Psy­chopaths have poor sense of smell”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/psychopaths-have-poor-sense-of-smell-20120921-26a7z.html#ixzz274JyM2a1

Alexan­der, Michelle (Feb­ru­ary 2, 2013) “Why Police Lie Under Oath”. New York Times online @ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html?pagewanted=2&ref=general&src=me&_r=0

Asso­ci­ated Press (Decem­ber 1, 2013) “Lon­don mayor Boris John­son claims poor have low IQs and greed is good”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/london-mayor-boris-johnson-claims-poor-have-low-iqs-and-greed-is-good-20131130-2yio2.html#ixzz2mAfzl5jP

Bat­tersby, Lucy (Novem­ber 11, 2013) “Love scams send­ing $7m a month to west Africa”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/love-scams-sending-7m-a-month-to-west-africa-20131111-2xca3.html#ixzz2kMvdUeQD

Bing­ham, John (Sep­tem­ber 19, 2014) “Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury Justin Welby ques­tions the exis­tence of God”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/archbishop-of-canterbury-justin-welby-questions-the-existence-of-god-20140919-10jary.html#ixzz3DkI56hxp

Birm­ing­ham, John (Feb­ru­ary 14, 2013) “Three bil­lion rea­sons why cheat­ing is rife”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/blogs/blunt-instrument/three-billion-reasons-why-cheating-is-rife-20130213-2ed5i.html#ixzz2Kp75NEFM

Blaszczak-Boxe, Agata (August 08, 2014) “Sex­ting Lies: The New Orgasm Fak­ing?”. Live­Science web­site, online @ http://www.livescience.com/47254-sexting-lies-are-new-fake-orgasm.html

Bloomberg News(September 17, 2014) “Wal-Mart spokesman resigns after fib­bing about his CV”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/walmart-spokesman-resigns-after-fibbing-about-his-cv-20140917-10hyf0.html#ixzz3DYZtvk3A

Bochen­ski, Natalie (une 30, 2014) “Doc­tors not look­ing after own men­tal health”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/doctors-not-looking-after-own-mental-health-20140629-zsq7f.html#ixzz364d7S4kF

Bran­son-Potts, Hai­ley and Jack Leonard (April 4, 2013) “Wife of Rock­e­feller impos­tor hired detec­tive to look into his back­ground”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/wife-of-rockefeller-impostor-hired-detective-to-look-into-his-background-20130404-2h8wz.html

Briffa, John (Jan­u­ary 17th, 2012) “Don’t believe every­thing you read (includ­ing in sci­en­tific jour­nals)”. Dr John Briffa blog, online @ http://www.drbriffa.com/2012/01/17/dont-believe-everything-you-read-including-in-scientific-journals/

Bucholz, Chris (May 19, 2012) “The 6 Most Effec­tive Ways to Lie on Your Resume”. Cracked web­site, online @ http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-6-most-effective-ways-to-lie-your-resume/

Burns, Robert (Feb­ru­ary 6, 2014) “US Navy nuclear force rocked by exam cheat­ing scan­dal”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @   http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-navy-nuclear-force-rocked-by-exam-cheating-scandal-20140206-3226q.html#ixzz2sUTlYO8z

China Daily (2014–02-28) “Asset theft is top eco­nomic crime in China”. China Daily online @ http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014–02/28/content_17311512.htm

Con­nolly , Kath­leen Groll (n.d) “Fak­ing It: Can Job Appli­cants ‘Out­smart’ Per­son­al­ity Tests?”. Per­for­mance Pro­grams, Inc. web­site, online @ http://www.performanceprograms.com/surveys/Can_Applicants_Outsmart

Cosslett, Rhi­an­non Lucy (10 Octo­ber 2013) “Bar­ris­ter Den­nis O’Riordan was caught out over his phoney cre­den­tials. He should have just stuck to ‘I am a highly moti­vated and enthu­si­as­tic employee’”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/10/cv-lies-dennis-o-riordan-harvard

Courte­nay, Adam (July 16, 2014) “Get­ting a job after 50”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/small-business/growing/getting-a-job-after-50–20140411-36h6a.html#ixzz37aJcZwH0

Davey, Melissa (April 6, 2013) “Drug com­pa­nies ‘put prof­its over lives’”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/health/drug-companies-put-profits-over-lives-20130406-2heco.html

Donna, New­castle Her­ald (2010) “Ask­ing for Trou­ble”. New­castle Her­ald online @ http://newsstore.fairfax.com.au/apps/viewDocument.ac;jsessionid

Duff, Eamonn (June 1, 2014) “Jailed sur­geon Suresh Nair may be deported after release”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @   http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/jailed-surgeon-suresh-nair-may-be-deported-after-release-20140531-39azc.html#ixzz33M0szLSk

Duffin, Claire (May 13, 2013) “Fake pilot flew Air­bus A320 into Lon­don”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/travel/travel-incidents/fake-pilot-flew-airbus-a320-into-london-20130513-2jh2q.html#ixzz2TAN1u466

Dunn, Claire (July 7, 2014) “How to spot a fake job ad”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/small-business/trends/how-to-spot-a-fake-job-ad-20140501-37jk2.html#ixzz371Tw1us2

Feath­er­stone, Tony ( April 10, 2014) “How many job ads are fake?”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/small-business/managing/blogs/the-venture/how-many-job-ads-are-fake-20140409-36crh.html#ixzz2yTO5RlhC

Fer­gu­son, Adele (Sep­tem­ber 20, 2014d) “Mac­quarie Group file shows cheat­ing on finan­cial adviser exams must be stamped out”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/macquarie-group-file-shows-cheating-on-financial-adviser-exams-must-be-stamped-out-20140919-10j91e.html

Fer­gu­son, Adele and Ben But­ler (Sep­tem­ber 20, 2014c) “Penske File exposed: Mac­quarie Group’s cheat sheet made pub­lic”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/penske-file-exposed-macquarie-groups-cheat-sheet-made-public-20140919-10j8yu.html#ixzz3DoEAQfr2

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Fer­gu­son, Adele and Ben But­ler (August 16, 2014a) “Cheat­ing rife in finan­cial plan­ning”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/cheating-rife-in-financial-planning-20140815-104gkn.html#ixzz3AYOfXWKn

Freed­man, David H. (13 Feb­ru­ary 2012) “Lies, Damned Lies, and Med­ical Sci­ence – Much of what med­ical researchers con­clude in their stud­ies is mis­lead­ing, exag­ger­ated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a strik­ing extent—still draw­ing upon mis­in­for­ma­tion in their every­day prac­tice? Dr. John Ioan­ni­dis has spent his career chal­leng­ing his peers by expos­ing their bad sci­ence.” The Atlantic, online @ http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269/2/

Good­man, Nadia (June3, 2013) “Fake It Until You Make It: How to Believe in Your­self When You Don’t Feel Wor­thy”. Entre­pre­neur web­site, online @ http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226814

Gough, Deb­o­rah (June 10, 2013) “Scam­mers mimic gen­uine online retail­ers”. The Age online @ http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/scammers-mimic-genuine-online-retailers-20130610-2nzc3.html#ixzz2VrP6OeWZ

Hagan, Kate (Jan­u­ary 16, 2012) “Medicare rorts ‘cost $3bn’”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/medicare-rorts-cost-3bn-20120115-1q1fy.html#ixzz1jZrKfeeR

Har­rison, Dan (April 23, 2014) “Crack­down on Medicare rort­ing by doc­tors falls $128 mil­lion short”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/crackdown-on-medicare-rorting-by-doctors-falls-128-million-short-20140424-zqy11.html#ixzz2zmoCD2Kt

Hyde, Marina (7 Decem­ber 2013) “Fol­low Mandela’s exam­ple, and roar with laugh­ter at all this rightwing fawn­ing. Nel­son Man­dela not only made his­tory, he did so in such a way that made oth­ers – from David Cameron to Elton John – want to rewrite their own”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/06/follow-nelson-mandela-laugh-rightwing-fawning?CMP=ema_632

Jaksch, Mary (2008) “Why Fak­ing It Can be Soul-destroy­ing”. Goodlife Zen web­site, online @ http://goodlifezen.com/why-faking-it-can-be-soul-destroying/

Kanamori, Mayu (March 28, 2014) “Flight Cen­tre fined $11m for price fix­ing”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/aviation/flight-centre-fined-11m-for-price-fixing-20140328-35mxt.html#ixzz2xDi5MJVO

Kather­ine Feeney, Kather­ine (Octo­ber 16, 2012) “Con­fes­sions of a troll: ‘Trolling is an art’”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/confessions-of-a-troll-trolling-is-an-art-20121015-27n3f.html#ixzz29PhuLE00

Kramer, Andrew E. (Sep­tem­ber 3, 2013) “Via­gra spam indus­try earns Rus­sian crime gangs tens of mil­lions a year”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/viagra-spam-industry-earns-russian-crime-gangs-tens-of-millions-a-year-20130903-2t2ay.html#ixzz2dsU2wbGi

Krebs, Brian (Novem­ber 21, 2013) “Cupid Media hack exposes 42m pass­words”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/cupid-media-hack-exposes-42m-passwords-20131121-hv3ok.html#comments

Lawrence, Felic­ity (8 Feb­ru­ary 2014) “Fake-food scan­dal revealed as tests show third of prod­ucts mis­la­belled – Con­sumers are being sold drinks with banned flame-retar­dant addi­tives, pork in beef, and fake cheese, lab­o­ra­tory tests show”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/07/fake-food-scandal-revealed-tests-products-mislabelled

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Mar­tin, Lau­ren (Oct 16, 2013) “Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How To Bullsh*t Your Way Through Life”. Elite Daily web­site, online @ http://elitedaily.com/life/how-to-bullsht-your-way-to-success/

Maugham, Som­er­set (1924) The Ant and the Grasshop­per”. Things blog, online @ http://things-ap.blogspot.com.au/2009/02/ant-and-grasshopper-william-somerset.html

May, Thor (1998) “Find­ing Truth: The Human Mind as an Error-Check­ing Mech­a­nism”. The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site, online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/errorcheck.html

May, Thor (1999) “Birth of a Sales­man”. The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site, online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/salesman.html

May, Thor (2003) “The Case for Favoritism”. The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site, online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/favoritism.html

May, Thor (2006) “ Is Assess­ment a Satire?  –  The Con­spir­acy of South Kog­gle­bot”. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/1919347/Is_Assessment_a_Satire_-_The_Conspiracy_of_South_Kogglebot

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May, Thor (2008b) “The End of Cap­i­tal­ism is Announced”. Thor’s New China Diary, online @ http://thormay.net/ChinaDiary2/the-end-of-capitalism-is-announced

May, Thor (2012) “ Hid­den Bound­aries: – A Joint-Ven­ture Edu­ca­tion Pro­gram in China ” . Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/2291935/Hidden_Boundaries_-_A_Joint-Venture_Education_Program_in_China

May, Thor (2013a) “The Con­test for Com­pe­tence”. Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/1958933/The_Contest_for_Competence

May, Thor (2013b) “The 541 st Face­book Friend”. The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site online @ http://thormay.net/literature/timepassing/FacebookFriend.html

May, Thor (2014a) “Crime with­out Pun­ish­ment – the jour­ney from means to ends”. Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/6807011/Crime_without_Punishment_-_the_journey_from_means_to_ends

May, Thor (2014b) “The Pur­pose of Edu­ca­tion – a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy?”. Academia.edu online @ http://www.academia.edu/7976327/The_Purpose_of_Education_-_a_hitchhikers_guide_to_the_galaxy

McCoy, Ter­rence (April 2, 2014) “Ris­ing Japan­ese sci­en­tist faked her­alded stem cell research, lab says”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/rising-japanese-scientist-faked-heralded-stem-cell-research-lab-says-20140402-zqpin.html#ixzz2xg7VwXUp

McKen­zie, Nick and Richard Baker (Octo­ber 25, 2013) “Insid­ers stole and leaked secret ten­der doc­u­ments”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/insiders-stole-and-leaked-secret-tender-documents-20131024-2w4eu.html#ixzz2igW1cl9z

MCT (Sep­tem­ber 8, 2013) “Lie detec­tor coach jailed”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/lie-detector-coach-jailed-20130907-2tbvh.html#ixzz2eFTgJgrg

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Menkes, Justin (July 4, 2012) “Nar­cis­sism: The Dif­fer­ence Between High Achiev­ers and Lead­ers”. Har­vard Busi­ness Review, online @ http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/narcissism_the_difference_betw.html

Mil­man, Oliver (18 Sep­tem­ber 2014) “‘Bud­get emer­gency’ denied by 63 lead­ing Aus­tralian econ­o­mists”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/18/budget-emergency-denied-by-63-leading-australian-economists

Mueller, Paul K. (March 20, 2014) “Com­put­ers see through faked expres­sions of pain bet­ter than peo­ple”. Sourced from Mar­ian Stew­art Bartlett, Gwen C. Lit­tle­wort, Mark G. Frank, Kang Lee. Auto­matic Decod­ing of Facial Move­ments Reveals Decep­tive Pain Expres­sions. Cur­rent Biol­ogy, 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.009 . Sci­ence Daily, online @ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140320121902.htm

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Rush­ton, Kather­ine (Decem­ber 9, 2013) “Wolf of Wall Street: Reformed but far from sheep­ish”. Bris­bane Times online @   http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/money/investing/wolf-of-wall-street-reformed-but-far-from-sheepish-20131209-2z0wx.html#ixzz2n1S0zpJR

Savulescu, Julian (June 17, 2012) “Label with care – Even those who are not sick can ben­e­fit from med­ica­tion”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/label-with-care-20120616-20gvv.html#ixzz1y0HOUKFK

Schnurer, Eric (Aug 15 2013) “Every­thing You Think You Know About Gov­ern­ment Fraud Is Wrong. Gov­ern­ment pro­grams, from food stamps to Medicare, don’t have unusu­ally high fraud rates — and the cul­prits are usu­ally man­agers and exec­u­tives, not ‘wel­fare queens’”. Dis­qus Web­site, online @ http://disqus.com/embed/comments/?f=theatlantic&t_i=mt278690&t

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Shaw, Claire (Fri­day 4 Octo­ber 2013) “Hun­dreds of open access jour­nals accept fake sci­ence paper. Pub­lish­ing hoax exposes ‘wild west’ world of open access jour­nals and raises con­cerns about poor qual­ity con­trol”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2013/oct/04/open-access-journals-fake-paper?CMP=ema_632&et_cid=51722&et_rid=8392866&Linkid=http%3a%2f%

Silva, Kris­tian (July 11, 2014) “Bris­bane doc­tor sus­pended after fak­ing let­ters, mak­ing lewd com­ments”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-doctor-suspended-after-faking-letters-making-lewd-comments-20140710-zt35l.html#ixzz376nKlC7A

Sim, Melissa (Sep 12, 2014) “Ex-NUS pro­fes­sor in resume fraud scan­dal in US”. Straits Times Sin­ga­pore online @ http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/education/story/ex-nus-prof-resume-fraud-scandal-us-20140912#xtor=CS1-10

Simons, Jake Wal­lis (Sep­tem­ber 17, 2014) “US Navy-cre­ated ‘dark net­work’ lets users buy drugs and child porn and get away with it”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/us-navycreated-dark-network-lets-users-buy-drugs-and-child-porn-and-get-away-with-it-20140916-10hisi.html

Smith, War­wick (27 August 2014) “Part 1: Why politi­cians must lie – and how sell­ing ice-creams is like an elec­tion cam­paign”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/27/why-politicians-must-lie-and-how-selling-ice-creams-is-like-an-election-campaign

Smith, War­wick (11 Sep­tembe 2014) “Part 2: Part 2: Polit­i­cal dona­tions cor­rupt democ­racy in ways you might not realise”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/11/political-donations-corrupt-democracy-in-ways-you-might-not-realise

Smith, War­wick (18 Sep­tem­ber 2014) “Part 3: If democ­racy is bro­ken, why should we vote?”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/if-democracy-is-broken-why-should-we-voteStopFake.org (2014) “Strug­gle against fake infor­ma­tion about events in Ukraine.” StopFake.org web­site, online @ http://www.stopfake.org/en/

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Trais­ter, Aaron (2014) “Is Fak­ing It Ever Okay? (This Guy Says Yes)”. Red­book­mag blog, online @ http://www.redbookmag.com/love-sex/advice/lying-to-spouse

Traveller.com (Mar 24 2011) “Fake pilots: nose-first land­ing unrav­els full-blown scan­dal”. Traveller.com web­site online @ http://www.traveller.com.au/fake-pilots-nosefirst-landing-unravels-fullblown-scandal-1c87d

Web­ster, Bayard (Feb­ru­ary 19, 1985) “Guile and Decep­tion: The Evo­lu­tion of Ani­mal Courtship”. New York Times online @ http://www.nytimes.com/1985/02/19/science/guile-and-deception-the-evolution-of-animal-courtship.html

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West, Michael (Sep­tem­ber 21, 2013) “Cor­po­rates can’t lose in the wel­fare state”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/corporates-cant-lose-in-the-welfare-state-20130920-2u56q.html#ixzz2fZOZ4qJp

West­head, Rick (Mar 23 2011) “Air India pilots bought fake licences; 57 oth­ers showed up for work drunk”. Toronto Star online @ http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2011/03/23/air_india_pilots_bought_

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Yiu, Pak (Jan­u­ary 31, 2014) “Fake cus­tomer reviews prompt inves­ti­ga­tion”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/fake-customer-reviews-prompt-investigation-20140130-31pjs.html#ixzz2rvRNIlPd

Younge, Gary (Jan­u­ary 28, 2013) “Where the truth really lies: who knows any­more?”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/where-the-truth-really-lies-who-knows-anymore-20130128-2dfnd.html#ixzz2JJgijcRA



Source of this essay 

mee­tup group: Bris­bane Active Think­ing Mee­tup http://www.meetup.com/Brisbane-Active-Thinking-Meetup/

top­ics already dis­cussed: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm

com­ments: Thor May – thormay@yahoo.com 


Pro­fes­sional bio: Thor May has a core pro­fes­sional inter­est in cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics, at which he has rarely suc­ceeded in mak­ing a liv­ing. He has also, per­haps fatally in a career sense, cul­ti­vated an inter­est in how things work – peo­ple, brains, sys­tems, coun­tries, machi­nes, what­ever… In the world of daily employ­ment he has mostly taught Eng­lish as a for­eign lan­guage, a stim­u­lat­ing activ­ity though rarely regarded as a pro­fes­sion by the world at large. His PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, Lan­guage Tan­gle, dealt with lan­guage teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Thor has been teach­ing Eng­lish to non-native speak­ers, train­ing teach­ers and lec­tur­ing lin­guis­tics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven coun­tries in Ocea­nia and East Asia, mostly with ter­tiary stu­dents, but with a cou­ple of detours to teach sec­ondary stu­dents and young chil­dren. He has trained teach­ers in Aus­tralia, Fiji and South Korea. In an ear­lier life, prior to becom­ing a teacher, he had a decade of find­ing his way out of work­ing class ori­gins, through unskilled jobs in Aus­tralia, New Zealand and finally Eng­land (after back­pack­ing across Asia in 1972).

con­tact: http://thormay.net thormay@yahoo.com

aca­d­e­mic repos­i­tory: Academia.edu at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay

dis­cus­sion: Thor’s Unwise Ideas at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/unwisendx.html



Fakes, liars, cheats, deceivers, ani­mals in the forest © Thor May 2014

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