The magic of politics

Watching the news coverage over the last few years, I’ve come to see politicians as magicians. Not because they’re entertaining in any way, but rather because they’re so good (with the help of the media, their attractive assistants) at misdirection – making you look over here while they do something elsewhere that they don’t want you to see.

Take a look as master pickpocket, Apollo Robbins, demonstrates the principle of misdirection:

As Apollo notes, we can only focus on so many things at a time, so if a politician can keep you focused on one thing, it allows him or her to do – or not do – the things that they really would rather you not think about. For example:

  • The histrionics about Russia “stealing” the election for Donald Trump have reached a fever pitch, despite officials acknowledging that there’s no proof available at all. This circus prevents us from focusing on important issues – when is the last time you heard the media talk about the national debt level for example?
  • Congress will make a big show about passing critical legislation, like the omnibus spending bill, while sneaking all kinds of things into these bills (which run thousands of pages) under cover of darkness. The 2015 master bill, for example, saw language inserted that prevent the SEC from asking companies about their political spending, as well as the full text of a much-hated government surveillance rule.
  • They’ll wait for weekends and holidays to pass the worst bills, when they know you’re “tuned out” of the world at large. For example, the Senate waited until Christmas Eve to pass the Affordable Care Act into law.
  • Another trick is to pour as many words into a bill as possible in order to make it impossible for people to get a thorough understanding. The Affordable Care Act clocks in at 2,700 pages; when the Supreme Court had to rule on its Constitutionality, Justice Scalia implied that forcing them to read the entire thing would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
  • The name bills in ways that appeal to our patriotism and common sense, even when the bills do the exact opposite of what we want. The Patriot Act, for example, is one of the most oppressive, liberty-reducing bills you can imagine.

They may not be entertaining, but politicians have certainly picked up some tricks from magicians – unfortunately they’re all used to prevent us from knowing what they’re doing in Washington.

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