Over the centuries, some societies have been more susceptible to these sorts of swindles than others. Catherine the Great's Russia, for example, was positively swarming with phony English duchesses and Italian princes: Imperial St. Petersburg was aspirational enough at that time to want the company of "real" European aristocrats but far away enough from London or Naples to make it difficult to check their pedigrees. One also thinks of Edith Wharton's New York, for similar reasons: Her characters are precisely the sort who would fall into a mésalliance with a dodgy Polish aristocrat just off the boat who invariably turns out not to be what he seems.She gets bonus points for using "bamboozle."
To that notable group of societies we can now add 21st-century Washington, D.C. Like 18th-century Russia, it is a world of neophytes, a society whose members have only recently "made it" into an elite magic circle and who don't necessarily know the other members all that well. Like 19th-century New York, it is also a world where appearances matter. You get invited to the party—whether the White House Hanukkah party or the state dinner—not just because of who you are but because of what you represent, which costume you wear, which ethnic group you come from.
Posted by Steve S at 10:04 PM
This blog has, rightly I think, not yet made mention of the would-be-reality-TV-celebrities' crashing of the Obama dinner for Manmohan Singh, but today Anne Applebaum says something about it worth reading: