How Trump Gets Away with Lying, as Explained by a Magician
“How does he just keep lying?”
“He can’t possibly get away with this again.”
“Why do people still trust him?”
Our current Administration has shown an unprecedented disregard for the truth, and many Americans are flabbergasted at how few people are disturbed by this disregard. As a former card magician — and therefore someone with a bit of experience deceiving audiences — I have developed some strategies to catch other people in their lies.
Magicians are the best liars in the business. Not because they tell the most lies, or the biggest lies, but because they can get away with them even when you are anticipating the lies. We all know magic doesn’t exist. We all know that magicians are somehow lying to us when they are performing. And yet, the profession of magician has been around for thousands of years. It’s the same with politicians.
Here, I will reveal five tactics magicians and politicians use to gain your trust….
1. Dress for the Occasion
This may be obvious but it’s still worth mentioning because I get to add lots of pictures to this article of comically dressed politicians….
2. Separate Yourself from the Liars
I’ll defer to again to Penn & Teller, the undisputed experts at this technique. The duo fully understands that magicians are a notoriously dishonest lot, so they try their damndest to appear as if they are “rebel” magicians by occasionally criticizing “normal” magicians and revealing their secrets….
3. Divert, Divert, Divert
Everyone knows that magicians use diversions. A burst of confetti or a strange tap of the wand are easily deemed diversions by most observers. However, the best magicians use diversions so natural and comfortable that the audience can’t help but fall for them. Yet again, I will refer to the expertise of Penn & Teller….
4. Claim You Predicted the Past
To explain this, I’ll have to let you in on a magician’s secret. When you are offered a fanned deck of cards and are told to “pick a card, any card,” you might not actually have as free a choice as you imagine. This is because magicians often use a technique known as a “pack force.” When they offer you the cards to choose from, they will actually slightly manipulate the cards in order to encourage you to pick from a certain group of maybe 5–10 cards. To explain this, see the picture below.
The face value of the “key card” is known by the magician, and 5–10 cards to the right of it are also known. Usually, the key card is an ace, and the 5–10 cards right of the ace are of the same suit in ascending order. The magician keeps an eye on this key card and will encourage you to pick one of the cards in that group. Once a card in the pack is selected, the magician can simply count to the key card and they will know the value of the selected card
5. Tell People Lies they Want to Hear
“That’s ridiculous,” you protest, “who wants to be lied to?”
The answer is: Most people.
We have a whole city in California dedicated to people pretending to be what they’re not, an entire industry telling us that products it’s selling are things they’re not, and cosmetic corporations that allow us to look like people we’re not. We happily welcome these little lies because they make the world a bit nicer to live in. A spoonful of sugar helps the deception go down.
For magicians, this means they must perform effects in which people want to believe. Everyone wants to live in a world where vanishing, conjuring, transfiguring, and teleporting are possible. Raymond Teller is famous for his expertly performed effects that spur feelings of whimsy in his audience. So elegant is his magic that after seeing it, you won’t even want to find out how it is accomplished.
The first example I provide of this is his fishbowl effect, in which he transforms coins into living goldfish.
The second example of this is one of magic’s all-time most unique effects: Teller’s “Shadows.”
Fluid, exquisite, and polished. You want to be fooled because for a short time, Teller brings you into a world where the impossible is possible.
So, how do politicians tell you the lies you want to hear?
You may notice that during election season, candidates are intensely bitter about the country’s current circumstances, and they always paint a bright picture of the future. Each candidate, no matter his or her party, must denounce the current times in some way, and then promise the audience that there are better times ahead. A candidate must provide hope. Everyone wants to believe in hope.
Yet again, here is something at which Donald Trump excels. In the interview below, the then future President scorns Obama’s healthcare bill and promises some impossible word-goulash of mutually exclusive pledges which, while entirely impossible, sound wonderful.
You probably also remember Trump’s secret “Destroy ISIS in 30 Days” plan. Anyone who’s tried a “Lose Weight in 30 Days” diet knows it doesn’t work. However, people continually buy into these ideas because they sound wonderful. Trump is full of such promises, ranging from his claim that he is a great negotiator who can magically solve problems created by NAFTA and the Paris Climate Agreement, to his vow to bring back a doomed coal industry.
This is lesson five in telling lies: make sure to tell people what they want to believe.