October 19, 2008
The Mendacity of HopeBy Paul Shlichta
I am deeply indebted to Barack Obama for reminding me that hope is often used as bait in scams.
I have been writing an anatomy of hoodwinks and deceptions, dissecting them into their three essential components -- exploitation of a human weakness, a carrot and/or stick, and a method of concealment.
The weakness can be a vice, such as greed or laziness, but is just as often a virtue such as compassion, which is the basis of most charity scams. I had cataloged about thirty of these weaknesses but, until Mr. Obama came along, I had completely forgotten that hope is a wonderfully exploitable weakness that has been used for centuries to hoodwink the gullible. In fact, it was the basis of the first recorded scam:
Hope is often a good thing; indeed it is one of the theological virtues. But it can also be the basis for cruel and vicious con games, played by the unscrupulous upon the desperate.
Gambling casinos feed on hope. The worst gamblers are the ones who can least afford it, the ones who are hopelessly in debt. There's not enough in their paycheck to cover the back rent, they're going to be evicted anyway, so why not take a chance? There's nothing left to lose.
Cancer patients know false hope all too well. There is a stage in nearly all terminal cases when the patient tries herbal remedies or some Asian brew that someone in a tabloid claims is the latest miracle cure. And we understand his feelings; there's no hope anywhere else so why not give it a try? At least it will stave off facing the grim reality for another month or so.
Thus, many of the false hopes that con men exploit rise phoenix-like out of ashes of despair. When there is no reasonable hope left, we grasp at straws. But in the absence of desperation, when people are reasonably content with or resigned to their lot, the con man must create false hope, as the serpent did by suggesting to Eve the ridiculous ambition of her becoming like God.
Just as a fungus feeds on decayed matter, false hopes thrive on discontent. Therefore, in order to perpetrate a scam, the con man must first sow the seeds of discontent and water them with agitation. As Kyle Anne Shiver has pointed out,
In other words, they must be made ready to grasp at the straws of irrational hope.
A useful tool for inciting discontent is the creation of a villain, upon whom to blame the victim's real or imagined woes -- "whitey" or "the system" or whatever bogeyman is convenient to use. This can be done by simple repetition. As the ancient saying goes, "if a fool says the same thing every day for a year, we will come to believe it."
Obama and the Democrats and their media allies have done this by demonizing President Bush so as to make him the icon and focal point of everyone's discontent. For over four years, they have accused him of stupidity, lying, fascism, and dictatorship. They have screamed for his impeachment and blamed him personally for every hardship, including global warning, Katrina, and the current financial crisis.
And they have succeeded. To their everlasting shame, conservatives have succumbed to this propaganda barrage. Republican candidates have edged away from him and avoided any connection with his name -- which is just what the Democrats wanted them to do. This demonization of legitimate authority is a common feature of many scams.
Finally, lest anyone argue that Obama's inducements of hope might be sincere, let us note that Obama's campaign has all of the basic components of a classic scam:
Moreover, Obama's campaign has followed the classic "volleyball dynamics" that characterize most basic scams---bump, set, and spike. The 'bump' was his books and the 2004 convention speech that brought him into the public eye. The 'set' was his placement as a presidential candidate, including his election to the senate and his flamboyant campaign to wrest the nomination form Hillary. The 'spike' -- the dramatic event (such as the fake murder in "The Sting") that stampedes the victim into doing whatever the con man wants -- has, I think, been the curiously well-timed concatenation of events in the past few months: the petroleum bubble, the present financial crisis that has turned public discontent into panic*, and finally Oliver Stone's movie "W" and Obama's forthcoming half hour of prime time propaganda.
In summary, the complex machinery of the Obama campaign is essentially an elaborately orchestrated scam and Obama is nothing but a con man. This should come as no surprise since he is an accredited graduate of one of the world's best schools in political chicanery, the Daley machine in Chicago.
This does not contradict previous assessments, in the American Thinker and elsewhere, that Obama is an advanced narcissist. I suspect that most con men are sociopaths or narcissists, the former because they feel no guilt and the latter because they feel entitled to take advantage of others.
But what of the future? Obama has spouted out so many mutually contradictory statements and lied so many times that we can only guess at his real intentions. If God does not save us from our foolishness, and Obama is elected president, then I prophesy that he will turn out to be a master of the con man's art of bait and switch.
On the other hand, if (inshallah) Obama loses, he should be recruited to star in a remake of "The Sting". I think he would be much more convincing than Robert Redford.
* If you wanted to precipitate a financial crisis, you couldn't have a better advisor than George Soros.