Ignoring The Signs

1 January 2019

Superficial Powers: Meet The Illiterati

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Avid Reader; photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash

In this hive of scum and villainy we call the Internet, you’ve likely met all shades of dubious characters: trolls, stalkers, spies, Republicans. Here’s one group that’s not nearly as harmful but just as annoying…

The Illiterati are people who refuse to read yet act like they do. They fall into one or more of the following categories:

1. Twitter users who share articles they haven’t read.

I once endured a terrible marketing article — pure drivel — shared by someone I followed. Since he seemed like a smart guy, I asked why he shared it. He confessed that he hadn’t read it, but the headline contained good keywords to attract new followers. So, of course, I unfollowed him. You’ll find millions of such illiterati on Twitter, constantly tweeting out articles without comment — articles they clearly had no time to read. Contrary to what they might believe, that doesn’t make them “experts”; it makes them professional regurgitators. And that title just doesn’t look great on a resumé.

2. Social media users who like or comment on posts they haven’t read.

These illiterati were baited by a 2014 April Fools joke by National Public Radio, which posted a link on Facebook to an article entitled, “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” The post garnered 1,700 comments, even though the article itself encouraged readers NOT to comment on it. Rumor has it that those who commented on the post eventually went on to vote for Trump.

3. Self-proclaimed experts in topics they haven’t formally studied.

You’ll find these illiterati infesting conversations throughout LinkedIn. They often anoint themselves with titles such as “thought leader,” “visionary,” or “guru.” As management educator Peter Drucker once said, “We are using the word ‘guru’ only because ‘charlatan’ is too long to fit into a headline.” (The Drucker Institute quotes him saying that we use “guru” because “charlatan” is too hard to spell.) In some circles, this type of illiterati is known as a “Gary Vaynerchuk.”

On that note, here’s a double martini toast to everyone who does take the time to read — and yes, that means you, dear readers. You rule (or you should be ruling), and I salute you!

Atomic Tango

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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Rick Sanchez
Rick Sanchez
5 years ago

Would that be a double vodka martini with olives or a cajun martini with jalapenos?

Mark Armstrong
5 years ago

Loved the Drucker quote(s), and I’m predicting you’ll be getting a connection request from Gary Woodchuck very soon– thanks for the martini and the laughs!! ??