Self-proclaimed “sententious, crypto-tendentious, slightly pedantic” scamster Adam Wheeler has been described as the shy, quiet type, not one to boast in person about his falsified straight-A’s, book-deals, lecture-invitations, and sexual prowess. After all, he managed to fool a whole parade of supposed smart people at admissions offices and scholarship committees nationwide, outwit Harvard profs and fellow classmates, and successfully beat the shitty, shitty system that is the Ivy “meritocracy.” Allegedly, his high-school classmates liked him and his Cantab buddies thought he was swell: definitely not criminal mastermind material. A humble victor for sure.
But on paper, a different story: Wheeler’s flowery self-aggrandizement is pretty staggering… At least from an SAT Vocab section standpoint, far surpassing non-English-fluent Aleksey Vayner, Wheeler reaches into pure, Shakespearean megalomania. (For the record, despite claiming perfect stores, Wheeler only got a 1220 on his second SAT try). For example, in a letter sent to his fellow Harvard transfers in September 2007, Wheeler’s lexicon-breaking verbal vomit reaches a high pitch. From the Crimson:
My own, brief, assessment of my character is that I am sententious, crypto-tendentious, slightly pedantic with a streak of contrarianism, a fascination with any pedagogical approach to Shakespeare, and a decent sense of humor…[At MIT], I was, to put it poorly, suckled upon the teat of disdain. That being said (fortified by a reflexive snort), I was inspired therby [sic] to apply to Harvard, where the humanities, in short, are not, simpliciter, a source of opprobrium.
Well, there goes the tale of the gutsy populist, breaking into the Ivory Tower. On the contrary, seems as if Wheeler has enough pretension running through his veins to rightfully earn a spot at any Ivy, all trickery aside.
But not, as it happens, at The New Republic, to which Wheeler applied for an internship and, unfortunately for his lawyer, sent his resume. Yes, the number of prizes are obviously impossible and the fakery seems really, really obvious, but what really struck us was the resume’s intense, well… Ivy-ness. The Crimson’s done a thorough fact-or-lack-thereof-checking here, but in keeping with the above, see our favorite sections below and note how many of them could have easily appeared in any given reading assignment or boring section discussion. First off, his fake lectures were all carbon copies of those delivered by a real Harvard professor, James R. Russell:
“From Parthia to Robin Hood: The Armenian Version of the Epic of the Blind Man’s Son (Köroghlu)”
“Black Milk and the Stairway to Heaven: Bedros Tourian, Paul Celan, and Anselm Kiefer”
“The Rime of the Book of the Dove: Zoroastrian Cosmology, Armenian Heresiology, and the Russian Novel”
Then there’s his manuscript descriptions, which read like totally normal course-catalogue entries/Anthropology department lecture notes… at least at Yale:
Critical work that has attempted to explain the experience of geographical and textual space in modern writing has focused predominantly on the map as an analytical tool of orientation that makes formal writing structures legible…By restoring the experience of disorientation, I argue that getting lost becomes a radical discourse that reflects back to us how we orient ourselves—what we pay attention to as we move through physical space and how we construe meaning as we move through a text from page to page…
Accordingly, each of the texts that I examine betrays an awareness of writing as a spatial activity and space as a scripted category. The critical topographies that these writers created are maps of ideology, figural territories within which social conflict and political antagonism are put into play.
If anything, this guy has mastered the art of imitation. This is exactly the kind of pseudo-intellectual, effectively contentless, buzzword-laden Humanities bullshit that the Academy thrives upon. Just throw in a couple of “isms,” Derrida references, and journal citations, and you’ve got a doctoral-candidate leading seminar discussion as a successful TA. He just played the part too well.
Yes, the loquacious and devious Adam Wheeler presents us with quite a pickle. He’s learned our language, mastered our ways, and taken the self-promotion and ambition that we’re all groomed for — yes, all — to its natural conclusion. He’s all of us through a funhouse mirror, all of our most Ivy-tacular characteristics amplified to monstrous proportions.
If it walks like an Ivy student, talks like an Ivy student then it is, without a doubt, an Ivy student. Go home folks, there’s nothing to see here.