left biblioblography: Marjoe – Confessions Of A Con Man

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Marjoe – Confessions Of A Con Man

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

When I went to Professor Myers’ talk at De Anza College back in January, I met a few new people. One of them was an impossibly handsome young man (tall dark and a strong likelihood that women threw themselves at him when he walked down the street – I exaggerate not, folks), who brought up the film Marjoe (several times) as he was the son of Marjoe Gortner. He recommended it, so I put it on my Netflix queue when I finally remembered it.

It was really some kind of eye-opener. Gortner describes how he was coached in signals as a little boy (3 to 4 years old), and how, if he messed them up, mommy dearest would suffocate him with a pillow or hold his head underwater (she couldn’t leave a mark now, could she?). He toured with his parents until he was fourteen (when the novelty wore off), never seeing the millions his parents culled from his showmanship. Having few other options (child evangelist doesn’t look good on a resume, I bet), he spent some of his adulthood defrauding people using the embedded skills he’d been trained in. He suffered from a crisis of conscience, and took a film crew and filmed his last hurrah, exposing the revivalist evangelistos as the hucksters they truly are.

Gortner shares a multitude of techniques designed to lull the masses and get them to part with their hard-earned money. One part charisma, one part machine gun verbiage, and ten parts gullibility will make some serious bank.

(Special note: said film was never aired in the Southern US, for fear of the reaction of the bible belt.)

One of the items that truly stuck out, was the diversity of the crowds that would attend. Young, old, black, Hispanic and white, it was truly a melting pot. Old people afraid of death, with no one to press against their flesh, young people still struggling with identity formation, it’s easy to see the appeal. One relatively toothless fellow began bellowing ‘in tongues’ during one revivalist meeting. Easy answers, cheap entertainment. One fellow came up, old, thick glasses, a goiter on his bald head, and again, easy to see the appeal. One is promised not only eternal life, but ‘unconditional’ love (there really is no such thing), and really, who else would accept someone who obviously doesn’t fit  into the culture as a ‘beautiful person’ but an imaginary friend who is always accepting of all one’s faults and foibles?

I highly recommend it, that is on the proviso that you don’t suffer from high blood pressure. It’s insightful, it breaks down the techniques used by the snake oil salesmen that peddle that old black magic, and while it was made back in the early 70’s, it still has some relevance today.

Till the next post, then.

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