Years ago, I read Catholic film critic Steven Greydanus’s review of Catch Me If You Can, the story of a young man who acquires money and women by creating false identities. If I remember correctly, he passes himself off as a doctor and an airline pilot, among other things.
Deacon Greydanus noted that our antihero somehow managed to convince people who actually were doctors and pilots that he was one of them, when they could have unraveled his stories with a few simple questions about their field that he couldn’t answer. But they didn’t question him because they were willing to believe him.
I thought about that tonight as I cross-examined a popular conservative Catholic social media influencer who declaimed to social media today that the founders of Black Lives Matter (BLM) are “Marxist lesbian witches.” Knowing something about witchcraft, as I spent a year researching it before writing a booklet on the subject for Catholic Answers, I asked this person to demonstrate that she knew anything about witchcraft before calumniating women she doesn’t know. I asked her three basic questions on the subject that anyone with passing familiarity with witchcraft would know the answers to.
I even offered to take the time to answer her points about BLM—since that was what she immediately challenged me to do—if she’d answer my questions. Anticipating she might answer my questions, I started the research I’d need to do to honor the bargain I’d offered.
She wouldn’t answer the questions. She obviously didn’t know the answers; rather than admit it, she became defensive and implied that even researching the answers would be problematic. (I wanted her to answer the questions without Google, to show prior knowledge of the subject, but I would have been flexible on that point had she admitted her lack of knowledge and asked for an open-book test.) I, in turn, noted I’d done some research but wasn’t going to waste my time trying to answer claims made by someone who’d posted them to social media without knowing what she was talking about.
What became particularly interesting at this point was that others viewing this discussion didn’t suddenly notice the empress has no clothes. No, they started accusing me of “boasting” (for establishing my credentials on the subject) and being “uncharitable” (for cross-examining their conservative Catholic heroine).
It got me to thinking that the con artist in Catch Me If You Can had no need to fear exposure by the knowledgeable so long as he could continue to mine the sympathy of the gullible.
(Image: Illustration of a woman standing behind a microphone, Pixabay.)