After two years of silent marination if various forms of public lying, cheating, and observation of all forms of lying, cheating, and stealing, I am circling back to where this blog began, addressing one of the quintessential mysteries of the human mind: the puzzling question: why do so many people so enjoy being duped?
With the election of a consummate con man as our so-called President, this question has become more pressing than ever before.
It’s hardly a news flash to learn that Donald Trump is the ultimate huckster, skilled in pulling off the gigantic heist. Just this week, a senior editor of the corrupt lying media (Washington Post), Michael Gerson, complained that Trump, as is his habit, “lied about things large (election fraud) and small (inaugural crowd size), refused to allow facts to modify his claims, and attempted to create his own reality through the repetition of deception.” (Post, Feb.7, 2017, A5)
Reminiscent of Bernie Madoff, Trump is the crème de la crème of the big-time tricksters. Millions of voters knew this about him, and chose to vote for him nonetheless. They lovingly bought the scam he was peddling, even while many quietly admitted that they knew it was fakery.
At first glance, one would think that no one wants to be tricked, duped, fooled, or played. But, strange as it may seem, cognitive science, and our own experience in the entertainment world, tells us otherwise. The clearest example is magic. When David Copperfield makes an elephant disappear before our eyes, we know it’s not real. Still, we love it. We are tricked, but we enjoy it enough to pay big money for tickets to his shows. The conclusion is unavoidable: We love being duped.
Along similar lines, its clear that fake things, like Disneyland's European villages, are often more popular than real things. Professional wrestling, for example, is far more popular than real wrestling. No one makes a living as a real wrestler, but thousands of men and women worldwide make bags of money faking the fights.
Do people believe pro wrestling is real? Of course not, except for those below 5 years old. But the fake showmanship only enhances the popular enjoyment.
Our so-called President instinctively understands this human quirk.. When he promised unemployed coal miners that he would bring their jobs back, they voted for him in droves, planted Trump signs in their yards, and howled about locking Hillary up. Did they really believe him? Of course not. But they loved that he was saying what they wanted to hear, and they loved that. The fact that it was delusional was not a problem.
Did Trump really believe that he could make the elephant of coal miner unemployment disappear? Of course not. But he loved pulling off the con. It was a good show and the audience went for it, “hook, line, and sinker”, as they say in east Kentucky. On one occasion, he boasted that he could shoot a man on 5th Avenue and still get his vote.
But there’s a catch. When a magician steals your watch or gets off with your wallet, he gives it back to you after the fun part of the deception is done. When a beautiful girl is sawed in half before your very eyes, she is soon restored, her body intact and unharmed. The audience is suitably appreciative
Sometimes there is a flip side to the fun of being duped.
When a trickster dupes you and KEEPS your wallet and watch or steals your money, it’s a feces-in-the-fan situation. Take Bernie Madoff, for example. People invested with him because he was “the magic man of Wall Street,” the only person who could make steady money in good times and bad. Like Trump, Bernie said, “I am the ONLY one who can make this happen.”
Since Bernie never posted losses, investors were happy happy happy. Many were apparently sophisticated enough to realize that what the wizard was doing was totally impossible in the real world. They went along for the fun anyway. And the money. Yet, when the Ponzi scheme hit the wall, everyone was suddenly pissed.
This raises the obvious question. What happens when Trump’s tricks are exposed as frauds? Will his adoring fans turn on him?
Sadly, Donald Trump is unlikely to end up in the same cell as Bernie Madoff. Too slippery for that. Trump will place the blame on his evil enemies, the scoundrels who prevented him from making all the impossible promises he made come true: the media, the “so called judges, the Democrats, windmills, Meryl Streep, menopausal women, Alex Baldwin, the Prime Minister of Australia, the Chinese, disabled people, and the European Union. This list isThis list of Trump’s enemies grows longer with every Tweet. Every day.