Monday, April 21, 2008

Pointed Somewhere Else

Such demagogues are con artists. And they're good at it. But recognizing that is where things get tricky and difficult to talk about.

Good con artists are difficult to prosecute. This is true, in part, because getting conned is viewed differently than being the victim of other forms of crime. There's a sense of shame, or at least of embarrassment, on the part of the victims, so they're less likely than other crime victims to report the crimes. Con artists know this, and they exploit it -- sometimes compounding that embarrassment by working a con that relies on the mark's greed or chauvinism or some other trait they are unlikely to be proud of and thus making the victim feel complicit in their own victimhood.

It's never easy to tell someone they're being conned. "You've been hoodwinked. You've been had. You've been took," Malcolm X said. "You've been bamboozled." But nobody wants to hear that, even if it's true. Especially not if it's true. It sounds too much like, "You've been a sucker." Or even, "You've been stupid." It seems to add insult to injury so people reject both the message and the messenger. Even if that means continuing to subject themselves to the ongoing injury of the scam. They are, after all, accustomed to it.

Consider, for example, the state-run lotteries.
[via slacktivist]

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