The Reid Technique, Three Card Monte, and how political differences are just a shell game.

When I used teach Language Studies to college students, one of the most interesting assignments were the speeches where students had free reign over what they wanted to give their speech about to the class. I was a permissive professor in that regard, but the structure and content had to be precise and well-researched, although I gave enormous leeway should the topic provide a challenge, but would provide a big pay-off.

One student did his speech on Sledge Hockey and he was on the Special Olympic team in that sport in Nagano, Japan, complete with footage of him playing. Another student did his on breakdancing and could seemingly defy gravity, stop in mid-move, and calmly explain in detail what he was doing and the science behind the move. Two students did their speech on how to mess with people's minds and the subtle surrealist twists brought raucous cheers. One of the most popular speeches was also the absolute simplest: how to use the telephone. I had almost nixed the idea, but was glad that I hadn't: it was elegant, ingenious, and proved that we often overlook what we take for granted.

And then there was a card shark who did his on how people get scammed playing Three Card Monte, complete with demonstration.

This was my personal favourite speech in that it was a very sage lesson in looking at not just the small red flags that you are being played, but the big picture wisdom that came from someone who could do it with ease. He was a particularly bright and astute student who could pick up my subtlest hints, and was one of the smartest students I ever taught. (To wit, when two of his classmates had showed up twenty minutes late for class on the day the second part involved a test, I wanted to teach the two of them a lesson in punctuality and asked the class how hard did you find the test I just gave you? The test had not been administered yet, but the student in question said without skipping a beat, I found the second question to be really hard, causing his two tardy classmates to blanche before the rest of the class caught on and oh so very seriously agreed. There are few times when you have that kind of vigilance in a classroom and can channel it to teach other sorts of lessons, and I was grateful).

But the speech on why Three Card Monte was a guaranteed scam was something I knew well as I had researched the topic as I wanted to see how people could and did get scammed: what were the mechanisms, and how were people roped into believing they could win or even out-con the con. 

It was more than just the card shark having charm, persuasive skills, and dexterity to ensure that the pigeons never saw the card to be chosen was palmed and always off the table: he usually had more than one confederate who would "warn" the mark that the game was rigged (a truth to lure the sucker in), and then form a fake "alliance" with the mark (a lie) so they could look out for each other to win.

And that was crucial to the scam: somewhere in the equation was a truth, but then in front of it and behind it were lies to hide the more important truth. 

In short,

LIE: Easy money if you find the right card.

TRUTH: This is a scam.

LIE: You have someone watching your back.

TRUTH: The game is absolutely rigged for the pigeon to fail.

Like layers of a Dobos torte, there is a hard layer alternating with a soft layer. You can't just cut through halfway and be satisfied, you have to cut through all of the layers to get to the bottom.

Most con games worked this way of being given false assurances that there are two sides, and one side has your back while the other does not. People are primed to look for a good guy and a bad guy all at once, and they feel comfortable that they have protection that will help them defeat the bad guy.

The scam works because of the illusion of a saviour: but in the end, the false hero is a confederate who is in cahoots with the grifter. There is only a single path, and only a single goal: to fleece the pigeon. The rest of the set-up was an act.

I didn't just study con games. I studied magic, acting, art forgery, "psychic" readings, war propaganda, and military strategy, among other disciplines that required some sort of deception in order to do research for my first book.

And deceptions work best when there is an obvious truth that people can more than just recognize: but cling on to for a sense of hope. Greed scams promise riches with minimum effort. Pity scams promise to stroke out egos to assure us we are not on the bottom of a pecking order in a different way than a greed scam. Morality is exploited, as is evolutionary fears.

Truth is the bait, but the confirmation bias is the blinders to ensure that we don't see the truth we are given has been spun with a deceptive context, and that if we replace the lie with another truth, we realize we are being manipulated and exploited to our own detriment.

I didn't just research the things where lies are used for criminal reasons. Acting is performance, after all, but it still requires people to lie about their identity and feelings as they use other people's words. I had compared the Stanislavsky technique with the Chekov technique, for example, to understand the precursors to Method Acting, which I then studied to see how people get into their roles.

I had the chance to research undercover police work and even have a manual of it in my own collection, learning how police officers act in the real world where the stage is life and the stakes are life and death.

But it also led me to study another form of professional deception: the Reid Technique.

It is a controversial and disputed method of police interrogation, but why it interested me is that it can bring about false confessions. That is not a minor unforeseen consequence: getting innocent suspects to confess to something they did not do is, in essence, getting people to lie to their own detriment. Lies on one end encourage lies on the other. 

But the Good Cop, Bad Cop deception is very much in tune with the confederate scheme of Three Card Monte: there is a deliberate illusion that there is someone in your corner who is working at odds with the person you see as a personal villain and threat to you, when, in fact, they are working together against you. The triad deceives in order to lure a target, but the goals are different in nature -- but not the structure.

But it isn't confined to back alleys or police stations: war is also deception and requires blurring the lines in the sand in such a way that a target goes running to someone who offers a refuge, when their refuge is the same place as the trap of the obvious enemy. Create a mirage and an enemy at the same time, and your target sees the enemy as the person to flee and the mirage as the destination he must reach in order to avoid the danger.

Except it is not a straight line: it is a circle that leads right into the lair of the enemy who isn't standing at the front entrance of his trap, but the back of it, forcing you to take the long way round to enter the unseen front.

Religious cults practice a form of this, only they create the false enemy of the target's family and friends. Money scams turn poverty into that enemy. 

But so do political parties.

Yet in 2018, people still cling on to the idea that one political party is the enemy, while the other is the oasis.

One side does something odious, and those who pledge allegiance to the other side will cling on to the bad act as "proof" their side is more moral...

Except when you find the exact same odious deed committed by their leader and group, all of a sudden, there are excuses galore, and dismissals that it is an act of the made-up childish babble word "whataboutism".

No, that is the blinders of the confirmation bias. If a country has two or more political parties, and the same bad things happen regardless of which political party is in power, then what you have is a game of Three Card Monte with two confederates playing along -- the only difference is the two sides take turns at playing the card shark and the false saviour, depending on who waddles into the back alley, looking for a sure thing that does not exist.

It doesn't matter who is in charge because the same con games go on as people get fleeced with nothing to show for their gullibility. Should two different pigeons run into each other, they will argue which of the two grifters is the Good Guy and the Bad Guy, never cluing in that both are bad guys playing the same rigged game.

So why do people keep falling for the same con games, thinking they found the "sure thing" political ideology?

Because our social narrative is Patriarchal. The One. There is One Good Guy and One Bad Guy. They are binary, separate, mutually exclusive, and static and easily identifiable entities. We are programmed from Day One to filter reality through this inaccurate and infantile lens without a shred of proof that this filter is accurate, reliable, valid, credible, truthful, honest, or useful.

If we were raised with multiple structures, such as Matriarchal, we could actually see how childish and offensive the Patriarchal structure is. We could see that two competing interests (real or perceived) could both be Bad Guys out to get us. We could see that the illusion of five options are hiding that there is a single forced choice that works against us.

In fact, so horrific and antiquated is the Patriarchal, that society's lack of embracing the Matriarchal by now shows just how primitive our collective thinking happens to be. We see allies as enemies and enemies as allies because we are stuck on a hamster wheel and refuse to see that we are getting nowhere -- and neither are the people who we disagree with ideologically.

No matter who gets elected, the rich stay rich. The poor stay poor. Governments raise taxes. They stomp on our human rights in the name of nannying us. They are quick to bomb people and start wars. The Left is as prone to those things as the Right. Campaigns are wars. War is deception.

But it is easy to create a forced choice when your audience has been primed since birth to accept only The One, never taking the Infinite into consideration. We are told that prisons are safe havens and chains are there to keep us safe from harm because the other side's prisons and chains are horrible and deceptive.

And the worst thing is that we allow ourselves to believe it because if there are two sides, then we must pick the One -- never mind the two sides are merely a bigger one -- and out true choice comes from denouncing all those false promises as we learn to think, feel, explore, and act for ourselves...