The Class Implications of the Forbes Smiley Case

Alan Bisbort, writing in the Hartford Advocate, pokes at the class implications of the Forbes Smiley case brought out, in part, by William Finnegan’s New Yorker article (see previous entry):

Smiley was one of the elite in the antiquarian trade. With his absurdly patrician name and presumed pedigree, he’d been extended freedom to roam among the finest collections of old books and maps in the country. In short, he was given courtesies and deference that any of the rest of us, though we may be pure as the driven snow, would not be given in 10 lifetimes. That’s because, as one print and map dealer told Finnegan, the wealthy buyers of stolen goods “want to associate with old money. They’re not comfortable spending $30,000 dealing with some anonymous person. They want you to be someone.” …
Smiley was thought to be an honorable person simply because he “came from money.” But Smiley is also a common thief, a liar, a fraud. He is, in short, a scumbag, as low and common as a crack dealer.

I guess the point is that if he went as Ed Smiley rather than E. Forbes Smiley III, he would not have been nearly as successful nor as credible.

See the Map Thefts archive for previous entries on the Forbes Smiley case.