Saturday, June 23, 2007

Propaganda, Politicians, Magic and Illusion

This article was originally posted on Febuary 19th, 2007 at

I’ve always been interested in magic. I do know a little about it. I like to dabble in it. I’m not talking about the natural kind of magic that Wiccans and the like practice, although that type of magic does hold a certain fascination for me, but the store bought type of magic, the type of magic Harry Houdini, David Copperfield and other stage magicians like to practice. I’ve even purchased many magic gadgets in my life to learn their secrets and try to amaze my friends. The problem with many of these gadgets is that the trick took practice to perfect, which meant time, and I’ve always seemed to have better things to do with my time than practice magic.
I went to high school with a kid who was quite an accomplished magician. He must have spent hours practicing his craft. I interviewed him for the school paper. He showed me how slight of hand worked, and how deft his fingers were. He was so good at it, he could make a lit cigarette disappear in a darkened room. But there’s more to slight of hand than lots of practice and nimble fingers. Much of it is psychological. Much of what makes a good magician better is his performance skills. After all, what is magic if not entertainment? One must be able to get the audience to watch what the right hand is doing while the left hand hides the prop. When one learns these things, when one becomes adept at them, then magic becomes a science rather than a marvel. It can, in fact, lose its appeal as one sees through the façade and realizes – through critical thinking – what is going on behind the scenes. When you realize that magic is just a deception, it can actually be quite a letdown. Still, even an old magician that knows all the secrets can appreciate a good trick performed well.
In this way, politicians have become excellent magicians. They show you what their right hand is doing while hiding what’s in their left hand. Their object is to give you the illusion they’re doing something. They’ve been doing this for years, but it seems that lately it’s become more ridiculous. They debate non binding resolutions to make it look like they are against an unjust, illegal war, to make it look like they care, while they allow a commander in chief who has more than proven his incompetence remain at the helm. They argue about a “surge” of more soldiers instead of demanding the return of the troops already there. They worry about how they will be perceived if they remove funding for the war instead of truly supporting the troops by completely cutting off funding and forcing their homecoming. They want you to believe that they are for a free society, fighting for our ideals while they fail to repeal recently passed unconstitutional legislation that could be used to completely subjugate citizens of the United States and quiet dissent if it becomes necessary. They want you to believe they are working for the common American while accepting billions of dollars from special interest lobbies with agendas contrary to the interests of Americans. They want people to think they’re an opposition party while preaching the virtues of bi-partisanship. Most of all, they want us to think that we need them, that we need their protection, that we need the benefits they provide us, that we need their services, while they do nothing but take and see to it that their friends and political contributors and allies benefit from the public coffers. They cast an illusion of governance while behind the façade one sees nothing but the papier-mâché framework of nepotism.
Like a good magician, politicians need an able assistant willing to keep the secrets of their trade. They found this assistant in the main stream media. The mass media practices a slight of hand known as propaganda. They decide what it is the American people will be watching on their television sets. They decide whether the American people will be seeing pictures and film from the war in Iraq or pictures and film from the life of Anna Nicole. They decide whether to report on the deaths that occurred in Iraq or the drug bust that took place on a given day. They decide, through their commentators, what the American people should think about a given issue. They help the politicians create the illusions mentioned above. They help them create the illusion that we need big government, that we need to give up our privacy, our right to speak and other freedoms for our own protection, that we need to be the aggressor in warfare in order to protect our freedoms and our way of life, and that we need government to take care of us. Most of all, they help to create the illusion that there are only two political parties in this country. Like a good assistant to a good magician as part of a good stage show, they help make people believe that the magic is real, that something is happening which the audience knows is impossible. And it works. A few days ago a coworker and I were talking about a news story about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and I voiced my doubt as to the authenticity of the report. My coworker asked me sincerely if I felt the media would lie to us. I just walked away without answering him. I could tell he didn’t want to be let down by knowing the truth. It’s a trick, folks, an illusion, and all any of them care about is getting the money they took from you at the door to the theatre.
Unfortunately the illusion the politicians and the media has created is extremely well done. Many people are like my coworker and still believe that CNN, FOX and other network news sources would never lie to the public. They believe that every word printed in the New York Times and Washington Post must be true. For some of them, they may never come to the realization that they are being deceived. After all, that’s what a good illusion is all about, deception. Many, however, are beginning to see through the illusion. Readership in major newspapers is down. Television news is losing its viewers. More and more people are turning to the Internet to get their information and while everything there may not necessarily be true, at least it's up to the individual to decide what to believe. There is hope, if we can hold on for a couple more years, and maybe then we’ll all realize as we walk out of that theatre that he didn’t really cut that woman in half.

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