Spotting a Fake

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My friend Sam is a professional conductor with a doctoral degree and a faculty position in a music department. He shared this video recently of the Danish National Orchestra trying to play while eating hot chili peppers.

His comment was "Funny, but oy the fake conducting." The quick cuts of the conductor look a bit casual, but it is not obvious to me that his conducting is "fake." I wouldn't know how to identify it for certain. One clue is that he is the "chili pepper guy," and so probably is not a professional conductor. The point is that he knows enough about how to look like a conductor to fool a novice like me, especially when his efforts are presented in a slick manner and I'm not really looking out for fakery.

Sam has a common problem for those who have a specific area of expertise with a public-facing component. His discomfort with "fake conducting" is akin to programmers who roll their eyes at computer scenes in movies, or biblical scholars who observe bad biblical interpretation in the media. Fake conductors and fake programmers and fake biblical scholars know enough about the form of their activity to put on a convincing show for those who don't know any better. However, experts in that field can spot it instantly.

The problem we have is how to respond. Within the group of experts, there are a lot of "oys" and eye-rolling. Of course, biblical interpretation is not—and should not be—the private domain of the educated and elite. People interpret the Bible all the time, and they don't need our permission or approval. But if there are "fake conductors" out there who put on a show of knowing how to do this job, and are in positions of directing and teaching others, we have a responsibility to point out their fakery. We have to engage the public in a way that is informative and constructive.

This is not an easy job. Oy.