The story of Anna Delvey has a long resonance. Anna supposedly came from mysterious German aristocracy and took NYC by storm, paying for everything on credit. Her foreign fortune was always tied up in mysterious litigation and bureaucracy, but it would arrive any day now. Her scam only lasted a few years, even in fake-loving NYC where impressions are everything.
Anna is a dim echo of a much more expert scam 120 years ago. MacHarrie dramatized it in ‘Can You Imagine That’. (I thought I had written about it before but can’t find it, so I’ll write about it now.)
Therese d’Aurignac lived the life of a billionaire with exactly zero money.
Therese’s father created a myth of family nobility. He kept a metal box containing the relics and documents of the family’s castles and titles. Nobody ever saw what was in the box, but most people believed him because he acted like aristocracy.
Therese expanded the tradition and monetized it. She told the story of befriending and rescuing an American millionaire, who then bequeathed his entire estate to her. She kept the will and the bonds and jewels in a metal box. She lived rich, married an important man, and never paid for anything. Merchants were happy to maintain credit forever because they “knew” she would soon inherit multimillions. Therese kept it up for 20 years until an American investigator finally determined that the millionaire was a complete myth. In the meantime dozens of merchants had gone bankrupt while running up the endless tab for Therese.
One part of the scam is universal. All descendants of the Spanish Prisoner start with a fortune or windfall in a mysterious foreign land, tied up in bureaucracy or litigation. If you will help us bribe the officials who are keeping it from us, you will receive a part of the fortune.
Bitcoin runs the same foreign fortune routine in a new form. The mysterious “value” is tied up in a “distributed ledger” that takes forever to process each transaction. You can help us to speed up the transaction by paying larger and larger “gas” fees, which unfortunately haven’t yet freed up the fortune. More fees are needed! Windfall any day now! But the transactions are not quite legal, so you’d better not call the cops!
Therese’s best invention is rarely used by money swindlers but always used by priesthoods and Deepstates. She hired two Americans, supposedly relatives of the dead millionaire, to contest the will. Both “sides” carefully modulated their appeals and counter-appeals to keep the legal ball in the air for 20 years. As long as the mysterious box was in the custody of the court, with endless arguments about the DETAILS of the will, the will was OFFICIAL. No merchant would doubt the authenticity or size of a fortune that spurred such intense legal competition.
This trick is what old Ockham was warning us about. He was trying to open up the box of the Gospel, which said that Jesus was poor. The church’s closed and litigated box said that Jesus was rich. The popes and priests inherited their aristocracy from Jesus, so they were justified in running up unpaid moral bills. If you keep paying us, you’ll get through the bureaucracy of Purgatory and reach your share of the fortune!
When two “sides” are arguing about the details of a gospel or a will or a pinhead angel or a virus, nobody ever bothers to ask if the entity EXISTS. Why would so many people be devoting so much energy and money to arguing and litigating the DETAILS if it didn’t exist?
The church never opens the Bible, and the court never opens the box, and the doctors never open their private data banks. We believe the official version of the gospel or the will or the virus BECAUSE IT MUST BE WORTH ARGUING ABOUT.