I have been a life-long magician, both as a performer and creator of magical effects. This art of manipulation, misdirection, and deception has taught me a sobering life lesson -- be careful what you choose to believe. There is a thin line between reality and illusion, and every great trick has a flaw. The magician's task is to minimize, disguise, or justify the flaw. Be assured that every time a mind-reader puts on a blindfold, it is so the mentalist can see and the audience can't determine where he is looking. The very tool that is supposed to prevent trickery enables it.
Even the small act of asking someone to "take a card" is a dubious request. Why must the spectator remove a card and then replace it? The magician justifies this by saying "now show it to everyone." How else could the entire audience appreciate the effect, and what would happen if the person who selected the card forgot or misstated its name? It is insurance to make sure more than one person knows the name of the card. Yet this simple and justifiable protocol of taking and replacing a card allows the magician to control the selected card. If one could really do magic, the performer should be able to say to someone "think of a card," and simply name that card--without even needing a deck of cards to do so. And even then, be suspicious.
Two events in the past two days reminded me of how easily we are fooled.
Wednesday was the CNN debate among the GOP presidential contenders. Depending upon whose truth you choose to believe, they are going to repeal "Obamacare," rescind the Iranian deal, reform Washington DC, redefine the branches of government, repudiate the need for vaccinations, revitalize the economy, rewrite the tax code, dismantle Planned Parenthood, defeat our enemies, erect giant walls, deport millions of people, and make America great again. Most of this will be accomplished on "day 1" or shortly after the winner takes office. If you buy what they are selling, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that might be of interest to you. Or you could do some fact checking. Click here to do so at factcheck.org .
And by no means is this type of behavior limited to the Republicans. Both parties have their fair share of charlatans.
Thursday, I was compelled to think about something I had not thought of in many decades, the 1964 Warren Commission Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was invited by actors Doris Roberts and Jack Betts to view his portrayal of Earl Warren in a reading of a play entitled "The Commission" at the Writers Guild of America, West, in Los Angeles.
Writer William J. Gucwa has created a provocative piece that takes the audience inside the Warren Commission's private discussions and deliberations, examining the tensions and divides among its seven members and the flawed manner in which Warren conducted the inquiry.
The Warren Report was tainted by several factors, including evidence withheld or manipulated by the CIA and by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Even Earl Warren was not without fault, withholding such key evidence as autopsy photos of Kennedy. In addition, confidential deliberations were leaked by Commissioner Gerald Ford to Hoover. Like good magicians, each had their justifications for doing so.
As a result, the veracity of The Warren Report is dubious, particularly on the key questions surrounding Lee Harvey Oswald, his ties to the FBI and/or KGB, and whether he acted alone. Click here to read "9 Things You May Not Know About the Warren Commission," as summarized by the History Channel.
Ironically, The Warren Report had the unintended consequence of being the catalyst of damaging or destroying public trust in governmental institutions.
In this election season, it is good to remember Benjamin Franklin's admonition, "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
Take a card.