Response to magician Mark Lichtemstein on Trump’s racism.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on this post, by someone caled Mark Philip Lichtenstein, who styles himself a ‘magician’ (he’s a stage conjurer with an inflated opinion of himself) and having skimmed a long, boring article which really says very little that is eother new or interesing, I left him a comment which wasn’t rude but I knew that he, as a rabid Trump hater, would not like.

As he has now put his post behind a subscription wall (probably to keep out people who would commit the blasphemy of disagreeing with him, I’ve put most of his main post in a scrolling window, to make it easy to skip past and get to the part where I start bailing him and he, utterly convinced he’s going to make me look a twat because he’s much cleverer than me, makes himself look a twat bevauce he isn’t.

The Art of Bullshit

Perspective Of A Liar For Hire

by Mark Philip Lichtenstein

A little visual metaphor by yours truly.

I’m a political addict, but I’m also a professional magician, or as my good friend Eli used to put on his business card, a “liar for hire”. What interests me as the “most compelling evidence” of Trump’s involvement in the Russian conspiracy to influence our elections is not so much the exhibits of evidence presented by the Justice Department, Steele, et al, but how Trump reacts to them. His reactions, like the reactions of an audience at a magic show, say more about the evidence than the evidence itself.

In magic, we have more terminology than you can shake a stick at. We have terms for tiny variations of moves to the point that there are whole volumes committed to the refinements of dealing from the center of a deck of cards, or talking to an audience member you just called to the stage. There is a whole area within magic dedicated to the part of mentalism surrounding the use of language.

In this school of “psychological” magic, magicians use the same methods as psychics and con artists, only we use them purely for entertainment; not to hurt or swindle. This is literally the only difference between us: magicians have a moral compass.

Beyond the ends to which we direct these methods, we have to be careful about how we frame them, because some methods border on gaslighting. Because you never know what sort of life your volunteer is going home to, you must take care not to risk reinforcing a pattern of psychological abuse, even if it’s just a small risk.

Magicians didn’t invent these methods. We learned them, named them, and categorized them, because we’re compulsive nerds. Make no mistake: centuries of refinement have taken simple principles, honing them into techniques capable of creating a convincing mind-reading effect, or getting someone to empty their bank account. The average magician is no smarter than the average Joe, we just know things you don’t. These techniques can turn even the biggest idiot into an effective snake oil salesman.

Peter Popoff uses these methods.

Joan Quigley, Nancy Reagan’s astrologer, used them.

President Donald J. Trump uses them.

Unlike a talented magician, he isn’t very good. His mistakes mirror those of newly minted magicians. In dissecting Trump’s failures as a liar, many terms from our magical lexicon come to mind. These illustrate both his methods, and his mistakes.

Don’t run if you’re not being chased.

A mistake many magicians make starting out, is needlessly reacting to scrutiny that isn’t there. They offer unnecessary proof of legitimacy like “look at this ordinary, everyday deck of cards”, etc. No one was curious about those cards until you called attention to them, and now, even if they are innocent, everyone is suspicious of them.

In keeping with this principle, simply ignoring the glaring guilt you feel about being caught can prevent people from catching you at all.

A few years ago, I did a stage show. I don’t usually do stage magic, but I thought it would be fun, so I put together an act and went up there.

My father, a magician and my toughest critic, was sitting in the audience a short distance away. For my final effect I was to read the mind of a spectator. They were thinking of a visual artist. I was to produce a piece of art by the artist they were thinking of, complete with the artist’s signature.

I’ve done this literally thousands of times, and never made a mistake. My method and presentation are entirely my own. My father even helped me craft the presentation to make it light and funny. I’m very proud of it.

Somehow, I completely screwed up.

I got the name 100% wrong. To this day, it’s the only time I messed up this effect. As I stood there, knowing I was about to reveal the wrong name with no way back, I just pretended everything was fine and went for it. I pulled away my hand, revealing the wrong name.

No one in the audience, not even my father, who was determined to pick apart my act, realized I’d missed. After the show, a dozen people came up to me to ask me how I knew what the volunteer was thinking. I totally got away with it.

Being casual really can cover for a lot of mistakes.

A mistake made by many young sleight of hand magicians is doing all their “business” rapidly, in the hope that if the dirty work is done quickly, no one will be able to see what was done, and the illusion will succeed. Sadly, by executing moves rapidly, it draws attention to them and actually increases the odds of being spotted.

Even if an audience doesn’t see the specific “move” the magician did, they saw something really fishy, be it a sudden, violent upward gesture with the deck of cards, or an awkward turn of the body into a bizarre, clawlike grip of a coin. Here, the idea that “this is magic” is destroyed, replaced with “this is bullshit,” which is a problem because that’s exactly what it is. You have to keep things slow, and relaxed if you want people to buy your lie.

When someone’s attention is totally focused on where the “dirty work” is going to happen, it’s called being “burned”. If you are being burned because you make fast, fishy gestures to cover up sleight of hand, it’s all on you. No magician likes being burned. It makes the work hard, and when you are burned, you have to do whatever you can to redirect attention elsewhere.

Trump’s proverbial hands are being burned, and guilty or innocent, it’s all his fault. It’s also why he’s constantly picking fights with people who have nothing to do with anything of consequence: he needs to redirect attention.

Trump’s resistance to the investigation of Russia’s interference speaks volumes, because like a cub magician, he constantly overreacts; either over-proving (“I had an ordinary, every day meeting with a Russian intelligence cutout, just like you do.”) or directing attention away (“Look at those football players! Let’s talk about that instead!”).

If Trump had just allowed Comey to do his thing and thrown off suspicion by talking tough to Russia and getting out in front of this by implementing new cyber security policies, he might have deflected scrutiny, at least for a while. That he did not do this plays into “The Too Perfect Theory” which I’ll get into later.

It’s screamingly obvious that the mere fact anyone would look into the Russia affair deeply unsettles him, because he overreacts like a two bit psychic. That makes his audience try to rationalize why he would overreact, and the only plausible reason is that he has a horse in the race; he could be damaged by an investigation into Russian meddling in our elections; he was part of Russian meddling in our elections.

As to the shape his resistance takes, there’s another saying.


There’s an expression called “equivoque” or sometimes “equivoke”. Roughly speaking, it refers to the ability to alter the meaning of language on the fly, so whatever you say means whatever you need it to, when you need it to. We use it, con artists use it, psychics use it.

I won’t expose how it works (I’ve taken oaths not to), but I can assure you, our President uses this every time he opens his mouth or logs into Twitter.

Here’s how Trump’s use of equivoque works:

Trump words often mean literally nothing. As a result, he can re-task his words after the fact.

His sentences, written or spoken, don’t follow the rules of language at all, and thus cannot have any real meaning assigned to them until he says specifically “This is what I meant.” Even then he often leaves the door open to changing the meaning again, by “clarifying” his words with more verbal diarrhea.

His process is to first let the world parse out his words like looking at a Rorschach test. If people like what he said, because they’ve interpreted it to mean something positive, then he’ll stick with that. If there’s a backlash, he’ll walk back that meaning and re-interpret it as either meaning the opposite, or meaning nothing.

Because nothing he says ever actually means anything, he can always fall back on “I didn’t say that!”

Thus, he can’t be held to anything he says, and can decide he once said a thing he definitely didn’t say.

Too Perfect Theory

Finally, Trump has fallen victim to something that happens to a magic act when the deceptions are constructed in a way so “perfect” that they invite the very scrutiny that exposes them.

Imagine discovering some amazing piece of technology that allowed you to do a miracle, then performing it. The audience watching you is so blown away, that they settle on the most outrageous possible solution: that you’re using exactly the method you’re using. This doesn’t happen much, but when it does, it gets even more attention from magicians than it does from laymen (read: regular people).

Trump’s life-long business and personal dealings are very much of a pattern, and that pattern always ends with “He lied, broke the law, and paid someone off to make his problems go away.”

His (alleged) involvement with Russia, if true, so closely follows this pattern that coming to the conclusion that he is guilty is more plausible than nearly every other explanation.

If someone in a bulky jacket levitated on a stage and invited people up to touch him and look for wires, but warned people with pacemakers to stay away, you’d assume he was using a massive magnet, and you’d likely be correct. Like a shocking levitation, there are several possible explanations, but none so obviously plausible than the Russian connection, which makes everyone focus on that most unspeakable possibility; POTUS is compromised by a foreign power, the founders’ worst fear.

Worse for Trump, what pointed us to this “perfect” solution is Trump’s reactions to the evidence arrayed before him, not any one specific policy of his.

So what is the “too perfect” solution? Essentially, Trump is either working with, for, under, or in parallel with Russia, any of which is a crime before or after the fact. He could have been in on something himself this whole time (pee tape). He could have joined into something midway through the operation (like when he told Russia to “find those emails” at a press conference). He could be suffering from a “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” (Don Jr. joining with Russia on his behalf, or suggesting that Jeff Sessions should end the investigation, take your pick). Or he could be protecting the people around him who all freelanced in the Russia affair, in which case he’s conspiring to obstruct justice after the fact, to cover up the crimes committed by others.

Just the fact that our government is currently going easy on Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and Putin associate we had sanctioned, shouldn’t be news except for the breathtaking corruption oozing from the scum Trump surrounded himself with. No I’m not talking about Giuliani, or Michael Cohen, or Don Jr., or Rick Gates, or Scott Pruitt, or the dozens of other people you may be thinking of when you hear the words “Trump” and “scum” in the same sentence. I’m talking about Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager from May 19 to August 19, 2016, worked for Mr. Deripaska. Mr. Manafort is currently being tried for crimes he committed while in Mr. Deripaska’s employ, mostly cheating on his taxes. When Mr. Manafort ended up broke and deeply in debt to Mr. Deripaska, Mr. Manafort decided to work for the Trump campaign for free, out of the… goodness… of his… heart? At the same time as he was having this huge favor done by a Putin ally, his organization was getting help from the GRU and other allied Russian hackers, because… coincidence is funny that way? Today, magically, the man who holds Manafort’s debts is getting sanctions lifted by Mr. Trump. Could it be that the Trump team thinks that they can convince good old Oleg to get Manafort not to squeal? Maybe they just want to go easy on him because he has such a charming smile.

Any one of these things could be ignored, but there is just so much evidence pointing to something being afoot, and Trump’s denials are so absurd, that Trump just works himself into a vortex of suspicion.

The preponderance of evidence is so overwhelming, it’s hardly bears looking at anymore. At this point, Trump is either a willing conspirator in the Russia affair, or, if you look at him in the best possible light, he’s just a total idiot being manipulated by Russian cutouts.

That’s Trump’s “too perfect” problem.

Of course, some magicians argue that “too perfect” isn’t really a problem, and it can be addressed through techniques like equivoque, and sometimes they are correct. This is more or less Trump’s strategy.

Some magicians even call it the “Not Perfect Enough Theory”. Either way, Trump has fallen victim to this because his reactions and lies are so aberrant and over the top that their cause is implied to be equally aberrant and over the top. His only way around this problem is equivoque, and generally speaking if you have to resort to his manner of heavy-handed use of word games, you’ve already lost.

It depends on what your definition of “is” is.


What’s the most compelling piece of evidence of Donald Trump’s guilt? It isn’t so much the indictments of Russian cyber spies doing what Trump says on the day he says to do it, or Russian NRA infiltrators arranging campaign help, or corrupt, Russian-compromised businessmen in Trump’s campaign who are influencing policy, or meetings between Trump campaign officials and GRU cutouts, or an alleged tape of Donald Trump watching Russian prostitutes pee on a bed once slept on by President Obama.

It comes down to how President Trump has handled all of this. You don’t use the methods of professional liars unless you’re telling a lot of lies.


“Trump’s use of language is mostly the abuse of language, rendering it mostly meaningless.”

That’s true of any politician, and don’t try to tell me Obama was different, ‘the great orator’ and his ‘soaring rhetoric’ aka Mr. Mumbles with his highly emphasised personal pronouns would not even have made the house junior debating team at the school I went to.

Politicians spout garbage, I suppose it could be said there’s a kind of magic at work because some people actually believe it.

Brexit voter, eh?

Ah! I almost forgot, you might like this piece. I wrote it ages ago, and it covers the differences between Trump’s lies and those of other politicians.

I don’t know why you’re so bothered about Trump, Mark. To me there is no difference between Trump’s lies and those of other politicians because they all tailor their language to their target audience. They are in the business of deception, have you read much of Cicero, a master of rhetoric over 2000 years ago. Politicians have been using the same tricks even since.

And since you like to remind us you are a magician, can you produce real money from thin air (not hidden up your sleeve or anything.)

I can’t do it now, don’t have access to the right props, but when I worked as a systems analyst in City of London financial businesses I helped traders in stocks, bonds, commodities and currency pull off the trick every day.

The modern world runs on lies and deceptions. Caveat emptor.

In Cicero’s time, the internet connections were much slower, making it harder to fact check liars.

In all seriousness though, most politicians’ lies start with a kernel of truth, making the lies a cocktail of true and false. Trump and his team just say things that are patently untrue. This is where he’s a bit like a magician, except that everyone knows that when a magician says they can read minds, the magician is lying.

There are literally whole websites dedicated to fact checking his lies and laying them bare. Where most politicians might say something like “My opponent’s position on international trade is inferior to mine,” which may or may not be true, Trump will say, “My trade policies increased GDP by ten kagillion percentacles! Boom!” All this would be fine if he weren’t a) a racist, b) a puppet of a foreign power c) deeply corrupt and e) the most powerful man in the world.

You need to change your fact checker of choice Mark. Trump is:

a) Not a racist except by the bizarro world definition used by American liberlas, i.e. “ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS A RACIST, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBIC, XENOPHOBIC NAZI.”
b) Not proved to be a puppet of a foreign government, no evidence has been produced to back up this silly allegation, whereas mountains of evidence have been produced to show there are grounds to suspect his opponent and his two predecessors of unethical if not illegal dealings with foreign governments.
c) The most powerful man in the world. That distinction may belong to Augustin Carstens, head if BIS, Jacob Rothschild (or whom I wrote recently,) or maybe it’s shared between the 32 members of the Bilderberg Group steering committee. The decisions made by these people affect us all.

Deeply corrupt Trump may be, I’ve known a few very rich people and none were paragons of virtue — neither am I for that matter, even my modest wealth was acquired with the help of a few dodgy arrangements, but again you are presenting allegations as facts.

Stick to the sleight of hand, leave the rhetorical tricks to others.

As for the speed of the internet in Cicero’s time, I wouldn’t know about that but haven’t you heard a rumour can travel halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.

First of all, why the personal attacks? Is it just habit, like voting to tank your own

economy by leaving the EU?

Actually, you’re very badly misinformed. Trump was sued for housing discrimination by that well known bastion of liberalism known as the Nixon Administration. He had his company reject all proposed renters who were black, even those who were qualified. They were instructed to write a “C” on the application, for “colored” and file them in the “rejected” bin. His company settled with the government. Also, it’s worth noting that even after the “Central Park Five” were exonerated by DNA evidence and a confession by the real rapist, Trump still insisted that they be executed. See the first link in this paragraph for more on that.

If you really think there’s no evidence to back up the conspiracy allegation, either you don’t read the news at all, or you’re just an idiot. Of course, you did vote for Brexit. I’m going with the latter.

The day the Bilderberg Group has its own nuclear arsenal, I’ll revise “most powerful man in the world”.

I actually know a lot of wealthy people, very few of whom are corrupt. It’s rather impressive, actually.

You do know I’m also paid to write, correct? Rhetoric has made me quite comfortable.

As to Cordell Hull’s saying, you’re right. You’re evidence of it.

Mark,A Lie Can Travel Halfway Around the World While the Truth Is Putting On Its Shoes
When you cite a quotation it’s customary to credit it to the person usually credited with saying it first, so if you are such a diligent fact checker, why have you credited it to Cordell Hull, who may have used it but was certainly not the first to do so by at least a hundred years. Mark Twain is most often cited as the author but that isn’t true either. Jonathan Swift expressed a similar idea, but it was in the nineteenth century the boots/shoes on version evolved.
And saying I am evidence of this saying is just nonsensical.

Mark Twain? Jonathan Swift? Thomas Francklin? Fisher Ames? Thomas Jefferson? John Randolph? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? Winston Churchill? Terry Pratchett? Anonymous? Read this and
Educate yourself.

Then you go on to cite Hillary Clinton’s pathetic attempt during one of the 2016 debated to capitalise on discredited claims that Trump was found guilty of racism in a court case back in the 1970s. The truth is somewhat different to what you would have us believe, but then by your own rather proud admission you deceive people for a living, so we should not be surprised that Hillary lied and you repeated that lie although you must have known it to be such. Here’s how Time, not a publication I associate with enthusiastic support for Trump, reported the incident. You can easily find corroboration in The Washington Post report, and that’s another publication few people would accuse of supporting the Trump campaign.

Donald Trump’s 1973 Discrimination Case Really Was Part of Something Larger

from Time magazine

During the first Presidential debate on Monday night, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton asked viewers to remember that her opponent had “started his career” with a 1973 lawsuit brought by the Justice Department “because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans, and he made sure that the people who worked for him understood that was the policy,” as Clinton put it.

Republican nominee Donald Trump responded briefly, noting that his company’s involvement was merely part of something larger: “We, along with many, many other companies throughout the country … were sued. We settled the suit with zero—with no admission of guilt.”

It is true that there was no legal decision about whether or not the Trump Management Corporation did engage in discriminatory practices. It is also true that the case was part of something bigger.

full report

Echoing yet another liberal meme you suggest that Trump is some sort of Kremlin stooge. What you’re probably referring to is the speech in which he publicly asked the Russians to find Hillary’s emails? 

When Trump said  this, in the context of his full speech, it ought to have been abundantly clear that it was said in a sarcastic tone.  He was mocking those that couldn’t find Hillary’s emails from her server she had at home. You know the classified ones, some of which were also on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

The ones the Russians supposedly got their hands on were those which, as has now been admitted, were lifted from the DNC server by an insider with authorised access to the system, which was barely protected, and were later made available to Wikileaks. The culprit was probably the late Seth Rich.

However, I do understand the risk of sarcasm and why politicians rarely use  it, this is a good example.

I find it interesting that having admitted your craft relies on deception, you continue to refer to yourself as a magician which implies you are some kind of thaumaturge, rather than a show business conjurer, illusionist or prestadigitator.

I’m also fascinated by your obsession with the fact that I supported ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum (no secret, it’s easy enough to find out, but simply asking would be easier.) Apart from the irrelevance of my views on the EU to anything in the thread you are once again stating your opinions as facts when you say I voted to trash my country’s economy (another meme bouncing around the liberal echo chamber.)

If you knew what was going to happen economically after Brexit, you’d be making a fortune in the markets instead of making a fool of yourself here. I, like all wise punters, am hedging my bets. My reasons you voting the way I did go back to when I worked as a management consultant for the EU in the 1980s and are way above your pay grade so I will not discuss them here.

Oh and like I said, you should change your fact checker, as I have demonstrated above.

After I posted this comment Mark Philip Lichtensten, as if wanting to prove he is a snivelling little wuss who cannot stand to be challenged, hates it when anybody disagrees with him and has a very idiosyncratic view of what constitutes truth, blocked me from commenting on or viewing his posts.

Game, set and match to me I think.

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