When you think about it, the human mind is an incredible piece of wetware. It can create patterns and sense from millions of electrical and chemical signals triggered by an unlimited array of sensory inputs. Imagine how quickly insanity and madness would ensue without the mind's ability to filter and triage those signals.
But, those filters, routers, and pattern-recognition mechanisms make the mind susceptible to incredible hacks like optical illusions and practical jokes. The success or failure of mystics, magicians, psychics, and other stage performers hinges on their ability to exploit the mind's susceptibilities and convince the mind that the fantastical is reality.
Although the hacks are simple, the ability to consistently and seamlessly exploit them takes practice (and not a small measure of intestinal fortitude). But, illusionists have one big ace in the hole: once the illusion is firmly affixed, the mind resists attempts to dislodge it.
This is often expressed as, "I want to believe," but is more precisely expressed as, "I do not want to believe that I have been hacked."
Confidence-men, politicians, propagandists, salesmen, info-tainers, and everyone else who would stick their hand in your pocket are able to baffle you with bull, and return to the well again and again, because they know how your mind works better than you do.
Today's Instant Example
On December 16, 2009, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order amending a previous executive order (12425) signed by Ronald Reagan in 1983. The new amendment exempts agents of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) from certain tax and import duties.
The original executive order was titled, "DESIGNATING INTERPOL AS A PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION ENTITLED TO ENJOY CERTAIN PRIVILEGES, EXEMPTIONS, AND IMMUNITIES", and made INTERPOL one of the organizations described in the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288), with the exceptions of tax and import duty exemptions. The amendment retains the title.
If one bothers to read the references, they can plainly see that the new executive order, despite the scary-sounding title, provides additional exemptions and has nothing to do with immunities that INTERPOL has enjoyed for 26 years. These details have not deterred Austin entertainer Alex Jones, though. As his shtick is conjuring bogeymen of "New World Order elites" and shadowy puppet-masters, he has conveniently provided us with an example of how skilled psychics and propagandists react and adapt to external signals to reinforce the illusion for the benefit of their audience.
Mr. Jones commonly paints a multi-media picture involving disparate names, people, and events in such a fashion that implies connectedness where there is none. The mind-hack is the same one that mystics and psychics have used to mesmerize their audiences for eons: the cold read.
Here's a list of the different entities mentioned by Mr. Jones in that video:
|The US Constitution||"Federal" police||Local police|
|Threat Integration Centers||US Army personnel||National Guard personnel|
|National Security Agency||Cyber-security Act||Cyber-security Tzar|
|Barack Obama||UN diplomats||European Union|
|FEMA||NLE 09||Israeli police|
|Israeli military||Homeland Security||Army War College|
|Terrorist attacks||Civil Insurrections||Pentagon|
|Brigade homeland||Terrorists||MIAC report|
|Homeland Security Report||NORTHCOMM||Tea Party protest surveillance|
|Foreign offshore banks||Copenhagen summit||Public schools|
The trick, as Mr. Jones illustrates, is to throw out a list of items from A to Z and see what sticks. As the filters and pattern recognition mechanisms in your mind retain the "hits" that fit into patterns and discard the "misses", the performer appears to have pinpoint accuracy when he is really using a shotgun.
This is no different than an astrologer performing a reading. "As a Sagittarius you are detail oriented, leading you to become a doctor, teacher, businessman, housekeeper, accountant, cab driver, writer, mechanic, journalist, or similar profession."
Wow! It's just like my mind is an open book to this guy. I am in a similar profession to one of those!
Another facet of the cold-read is using rhetorical tricks to make declarations without actually declaring anything. An astrologer may say, "you are an extrovert at heart, but often fear of rejection leads you to be introverted." Wow, again!
Mr. Jones uses similar rhetorical tricks in this video. He said:
International organizations are training with federal, local, and tribal police "on how to take on terrorists inside the United States."
International organizations will "assist and work with the military to fight terrorists inside the United States."
Canada and Mexico will "use foreign assets inside the United States."
Those are all very scary things using that sentence structure. However, they lose their bite when changed slightly:
International organizations are training inside the United States with federal, local, and tribal police on how to take on terrorists.
International organizations will assist and work with the military inside the United States to fight terrorists.
Canada and Mexico have assets inside the United States that can be used to support their own operations.
If you are a "police, courts, and defense" type of small-government libertarian, suddenly they sound like things you would expect a government to do. But, in that form they don't further the narrative of an over-arching elite bound lock-step on world domination and population decimation.
It's tough to sell videos, soaps, and seed banks to the skeptical.
What's the Harm?
As Michael Shermer notes, entertainment based on pseudo-science, non-science, and just plain nonsense isn't harmful in and of itself. Entertainers like Penn & Teller or Criss Angel openly advertise their ability to mind-hack. No one honestly believes that their mind tricks are anything but tricks, although they are infinitely more skilled and refined than "serious" performers.
Alex Jones, Uri Geller, John Edwards and the like don't bill themselves as entertainers; they cultivate a following and recommend life choices that can be psychologically and financially detrimental. And whereas fellow info-tainers Chris Matthews, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Neil Boortz, et al preach hatred of reason and promote violence-by-proxy, Jones goes further to recommend alienation of friends and family if not outright hermitage through incessant evangelism.
Perhaps the most harm from Alex Jones (and other pay-triots) is the promotion of helplessness. In the fantastical world of evil elites and quagmire of legal fictions and arcane legal rituals, a person could be excused for feeling overwhelmed by circumstances outside his control. That feeling of helplessness is the difference between a free man, leading by example, and a couch potato armed with the latest conspiracy theory as an excuse for inaction or, perhaps worse, counterproductive action.
Life without entertainment would be unbearably dull, and it would certainly be unrealistic to expect mystics, psychics, info-tainers, politicians, propagandists, and other con-men to label their performances as "for entertainment purposes only". However, knowing how the tricks work doesn't ruin the magic, but rather makes the skill required to maintain the illusion all the more impressive.
To illustrate, here are the afore-mentioned Penn & Teller performing the cups and balls trick for their friend Criss Angel: