The coronadoom panic came to its ignominious official end last week. A panic created, embraced, exacerbated, and perpetuated by elites, rulers and Experts. Especially Experts.
I was on long drive, listening to the radio—which was playing the same songs on the same station as when I was in high school—and Fox News came on, reporting the end of the “emergency”, and the only thing these erstwhile reporters could think to mention was….
…wait for it…
…people will now have to pay for their tests! Not one word that the emergency went on far too long. Not one word that the panic was never necessary. Not one word that the official response was asinine from the get-go. Not one word about the mass idiocy, hersteria and outrageous overreaction, here, there, the world over.
Not one word on the murderous repellent Expert-led lockdowns and punishing deadly vaccine mandates.
Not one word on the massive accumulation of wealth and power by elites, silence on the incredible increase in government control. Nothing except earnest warnings that a handful of paranoid whimpering frightened fools who obsessively test will now have to pay for their tests themselves.
This sad episode reminded me, not that I needed the nudge, of how easily people are led, of how susceptible most are to propaganda. And therefore how dangerous, and useful, propaganda is.
Old-time readers will recall I have an interest in performance magic, especially mentalism, the trick of convincing people you have mental powers like ESP. I once did a mentalism mini-act, live on the strip in Las Vegas, which qualifies me as a pro. (Max Brooks, author of World War Z, opened for me. True story.) Well, my act was only one trick, so maybe I’m not a pro, but I am an interested hobbyist (I scored an autographed copy of Mind, Myth & Magic when I chanced upon TA Waters in a Hollywood magic store).
Now whenever you see a magician perform a card trick, even if you can’t figure out how it was done, you know it’s a trick. You are certain—you have no doubt—that no occult forces are at work changing the King to a Queen. (That only happens at Expert-led hospitals.)
But when mentalism happens, you’re not so sure there was a trick. Many believe what they’re seeing could be, and even is, genuine. Maybe people really do have the power to read minds!
For a performer, what’s appealing about mentalism is the relative lack of apparatus, and the slighter requirements for setting up than with ordinary magic. You don’t need many, or even any, gimmicks or gaffed decks.
This is why cold reading is popular among mentalists. This is where the performer uses nothing but his voice, but still convinces his audience, usually just one person, he has “vibrational” powers. Cold-reading “psychics” can sit you down and tell you exactly what you’re thinking, and what will happen to you. They can. I mean it.
Here is where the coronadoom panic comes into the discussion, though it won’t be immediately obvious how.
Reading magic is easy to pull off. We even have a mnemonic: CHARMED. C is career, H is health, and you can figure the rest out yourself (I can’t give away all secrets!). All the performer has to do is chat with their victim, and be sure to hit each letter in the mnemonic. It will be obvious—you’d be surprised how obvious—that one or more of the letters trigger a response.
The performer then hits just that letter. The victim will assist, giving plenty of feedback, which the performer rewords and says right back.
You will be doubt me—well, everybody doubts until it happens to them—but everybody swears that they will not fall pray to the psychic’s propaganda. But almost all do. Probably you, too.
Afterwards, the victim will say something like, “He (the psychic) knew my boyfriend’s name was Paul! And that I had just got promoted at work, even though my rival hates me. He says I don’t have to worry about that illness.” Whatever. The victim never remembers it was she who told the psychic these details. She never remembers all the many failures, those other letters that didn’t hit. If she thinks of them at all, she’ll put these down to the psychic being conversational and friendly.
Words are crucial in ordinary magic, too. A performer will be doing his thing, maybe with a volunteer from the audience on stage. He’ll be moving about, joking, and then there will come a point at which he says something like “And now the trick is about to begin.”
Then he pulls off a miracle. That nobody can guess.
That’s the because when he says “Now the trick begins,” it’s over. Long over. He’s already pulled off what he had to. There is nothing left to see. But his words conditioned you. They were an order—start watching me now. You follow that order. You won’t see anything, because there’s nothing to see. Later when you’re recalling the trick, you’ll start your reminiscence when he told you to.
And if he can’t pull off the trick until the end, because it requires some manual manipulation, he’ll use other words to misdirect you. Sleight-of-hand and all that is important and necessary, yes. But the words are the more important (even silent performers use sign language). The propaganda.
Magicians pay other magicians to teach them, or they write books (I have many), discussing what words to use and when. They will have long debates about changing a single word at one place, and argue which is more deceiving.
You won’t hear the results of all this. That is, it won’t sound like a clinical discussion when the magician is performing. It will sound like he’s talking to you like an ordinary person. This is why magic is an art. Again, yes, the physical performance, like palming objects, is crucial, but that’s just mechanics that almost anybody can learn (with vast amounts of practice). Pulling off the propaganda is the real trick, the real magic. It’s like how some can write jokes but can’t tell them.
Now I got involved in all this many years ago to show people how not to get taken in by frauds and fakes. I even wrote a book, So, You Think You’re Psychic?, a skeptical framework for testing would-be psychics. (You can download the free PDF, or buy the softcover. This was written long before I figured out the true meaning of probability, but you can ignore those bits. If I ever have time, I’ll update the book.)
I knew then, and you know now, or should after three years of panic propaganda, how easy it is to fool people, to get them to think along the lines you direct.
I just watched a video by the woman (Linda Yaccarino) who will take over Twitter. She is advocating, as strongly as she can, wearing masks. The video was shot mid-panic. Yaccarino couldn’t know anything about masks, except what she was told by propagandists. Propaganda she lapped up, with gusto. She is no different than the psychic’s customer. Most people were not.
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