More comments have been made about Stephen Carlson's book here, in particular from a lawyer, Kevin Snapp. Snapp opines that Carlson's distinction between forgeries and hoaxes may be unwarranted in the case of Secret Mark. "Smith defrauded every purchaser [of his two books on Secret Mark] of whatever he or she paid," he says, "regardless of whether Smith received any of it."
Snapp's parting remark (in his second comment) targets my own lingering doubts about hoaxes being somehow less reprehensible than forgeries:
"There's a Jewish saying that intellectual fraud is worse than monetary fraud, and tampering with sacred writings seems particularly despicable -- although that's where much of the Bible comes from, doesn't it?"
From one philosophical angle I can agree with this. Monetary fraud may be more criminal from a legal point of view, but intellectual fraud -- however prankish -- can be arguably as bad from a moral one. There seems to be a serious level of contempt involved in bamboozling people for no other reason than to show them what fools they are. I have to be careful in my judgmentalism, however, because I do think Smith's hoax is hilarious.