Author notes first. There is a new page on Leg Iron Books about marketing. I have had a few magnets and mugs made, the mugs are not cheap so they won’t be a regular thing, I just wanted to see how they looked. They look good, so I’ll see about getting into cafepress or the like. The magnets are magnetic business cards, cheap, and I can get those spread far and wide.
The eighth Underdog Anthology has five authors so far and I’m expecting at least one more. I have to have this out of the way in the first week of April because of the spectre of jury service again, so write fast, folks. It’s definitely a ‘go’ though.
Right, that’s that out of the way.
I have been watching the antics of the modern politicians, in the UK and elsewhere, and they struck a chord. Back when I was ‘in character’ as Romulus Crowe, many years ago (yes, I had a blog and everything, he even wrote a ghosthunting book) I had looked into the tricks used by stage psychics and, to a lesser extent, stage magicians.
I say ‘to a lesser extent’ because stage magicians know you don’t believe it’s really magic. You watch them for entertainment and to try to work out how they do those tricks. We know, up front, it’s trickery and a big part of the entertainment is to see if you can work out how it’s done.
Stage psychics are different. They are pretending to be real. Their audience often, to a large extent, think they are really going to hear from dead relatives. This, to me, is not entertainment, this is downright cruel. Making money from the grief of the bereaved is not a pleasant thing.
It became clear early on that no stage psychic could be real. No genuine psychic could guarantee to get exactly the right number of ghostly contacts to fill a defined length of show, never draw a total blank and never get one who doesn’t fit anyone in the audience. Oh they pretend to, sometimes, but really that wasn’t a ghost. It was a cold-reading ‘miss’.
I actually became pretty good at cold reading while studying this. It’s really not difficult. All you have to do is pay attention and the subject will give you the answers they want to hear. This is made even easier when they really want to believe. The stage magician’s audience is trying to see behind the smoke and mirrors. The stage psychic’s audience wants to be lost in the smoke and mirrors.
There are more sophisticated tricks than simple cold reading. I gave away one of them in a story. Basically though, it’s down to the audience. The magician’s audience wants to see how the tricks are done. The psychic’s audience wants to believe it’s not just a trick. It is.
There is one thing that is central to stage magic and stage psychic readings. Distraction. Concentrate on the left hand waving around and you don’t see what the right hand is doing. Watch the cards in my left hand while I slip the ace from my pocket with my right. It’s a basic part of the act.
So we have a conversation, it’ll be fast because I’ll bombard you with ideas and hidden questions made up of [statement]- ‘is that right?’ and we’ll hurry past the wrong statements. The conversation will twist and turn until you can’t remember that you’ve already told me the ‘message’ you are now getting from the person whose name you gave me twenty questions ago. It’s a gentle interrogation, really, in which you supply the answers and I tell you what they are long after you’ve told me what they are.
You won’t remember telling me because of the speed of conversation, because I distracted you with many irrelevant sidetracks and because you really want to believe.
Although… I once did this with someone who was an absolute sceptic and who wanted to tell me that nothing ‘paranormal’ could be real. Not believing does not make you immune to this trick.
Distraction is the tool of the stage magician, the stage psychic and of course the conman. They are related.
The latter is also closely related to the modern politician. The difference is, the politicians don’t act alone. They don’t distract you with one hand’s movements, they act as a group in which one person is all distraction. Often, more than one.
We have in the UK a continuous stream of circus clowns in politics. There are always a few who hog the headlines for their lunatic behaviour and constant pronouncements of idiocy. Every country has them. America has the Amazing Occasional Cortex hogging the headlines with a never ending variety show of laugh-a-minute outbursts.
We all have a few. We console ourselves with ‘well, there are only a few’.
How did they even get selected for the post? They are always in a guaranteed-win seat for that party so why not put up someone with almost half a brain? Why grab the first loony and stick them in there, knowing full well your voters will vote for a badly formed turd with the right party sticker on it. Why not use that guaranteed seat to get someone sensible into government, rather than someone who is clearly going to be an embarrassment?
They are not put there to do anything useful. They are there to fill the news. They are the waving left hand that distracts attention from what the right hand is doing. Yes, they are few, but you only need a few. The news, and the opposition, will concentrate on the circus and entirely miss the ones behind the curtain.
Don’t become part of the show. Don’t listen to the fast talk, don’t watch the hand that’s waving around in the news, grabbing your attention.
What’s the other hand doing?.