CSotD: Legerdemain

This xkcd (Ind) illustrates a lesson I learned a few decades ago, when I attempted to raise money at Denver’s St. Patrick’s Day parade for a non-sectarian job training center in Belfast that was making inroads in defusing the violence there.

All I asked for was a quarter. A quarter from one-twentieth, even one-fortieth, of the crowd would have been a significant gift to the place. I had appeared on a popular Denver radio show and been featured in a column in the Rocky Mountain News, and I carried letters from both the Irish and British embassies endorsing the organization.

I’ve never heard so many lame excuses from people clad in green who had turned out because of their love of Ireland.

Or perhaps their love of getting drunk.

A quarter was far less than the price of a glass of green beer, but they had no intention of parting with one, even to help end the death in Northern Ireland.

xkcd is right: People will twist themselves into knots to avoid helping anyone else, and I’m sure the Jewish priest and the Levite not only passed by the man who had been mugged and left in the ditch, but that they probably crossed the road to avoid having to see him or hear his feeble pleas for help.

There are far more of them in the world than there are Good Samaritans.


Jen Sorensen (Ind) reminds us that there are many “bigger problems” in this year’s election, making it far more than a contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

But, just as people would rather make elaborate excuses than drop a quarter in the bucket, so, too, people will explain why Biden is not this or not that and somehow fails to meet their exacting standards.

They cannot possibly be that stupid; they are simply that self-centered and unwilling to extend themselves.

Or else they are in favor of people dying of covid, women being deprived of control over their own bodies, government censorship of the media, the loss of health insurance and the Earth being gagged in toxins and overheated by climate change.

It’s possible.


About the time I was getting that St. Patrick’s Day lesson, my son was getting another. He was working  for Larry “Zeezo” Campbell at a magic shop in exchange for magic tricks and equipment, since, at 14, he was too young to be legally employed there.

One of many, many things that Zeezo taught him was that, in doing close-up magic, you could gain an advantage through mildly insulting patter — “Give me your hand. No, the clean one.” — because annoying the subject would increase his desire to outwit you, which would distract him from seeing what you were actually doing.


The application here being that, as Nick Anderson (AMS) frames it, if you perform before an audience that is naturally inclined to turn away from those in need, whose instinct is to avoid going out of their way, who only want an excuse to not care and to do nothing, you can pose as the most charitable people in the world and get away with it.

Particularly if you reinforce the illusion with distractions and annoyances that will keep potential critics focused on outwitting you by concentrating on your patter rather than paying close, analytical attention to what you are actually doing with those tiny, slippery, clever little hands.

You don’t have to be honest. Just distract them with outrage.

And even if you get caught lying, it only proves that “they” (social media, mainstream media, whoever) are prejudiced against you and are hiding the truth.


You certainly don’t have to be consistent in being a champion of life and a protector of the innocent, no matter what Steve Brodner (Ind) and the NYTimes may say about you.

After all, your supporters have never heard of Steve Brodner and they don’t read newspapers; certainly not “the failing NYTimes.”


Though, of course, when something good does happen for children, you need to be certain, as Paul Fell (Artizans) notes, to make sure you get credit for it.

Even if you had nearly nothing to do with it in the first place.

Just raise your hands and shout “Ta Da!” and bask in your audience’s applause.


It’s all magic. Asking for proof simply spoils the illusion, as Michael de Adder (Ind) points out.

And we wouldn’t want to do that. As Ann Telnaes (WashPost) notes, Dear Leader is back and rarin’ to show us more of his amazing tricks.

Don’t ask a lot of disloyal questions. Just enjoy the show!


Looking for something more uplifting?

October is Black History Month overseas, and Nigerian cartoonist Tayo Fatunla has created a series celebrating black heroes from throughout the world.

Africartoons has the link and it’s well worth going through his collection, which contains some people you’ve surely heard of and some you most likely have not.

The guy leading this song falls into that first category:

4 thoughts on “CSotD: Legerdemain

  1. A few syllables,
    Seasonal reference,
    And you have haiku


    Not to be that guy
    But linguistically speaking,
    Not two buds but three

    I won’t quit my day job.

    It’s funny, because Google actually suggested the CDotD where you discuss “Irregardless” and it reminded me that you and your readers would probably very much enjoy the Andrea Vernon audiobooks (they are, ironically because the content is ABOUT comic book style superheroes, pretty much the exact opposite of comics, but the format works). The second one in particular is very relevant to the modern republican party and its co-parrasitic relationship with business. It’s a good read, and perhaps cathartic.

  2. Anderson’s elephant guy in his cartoon is perfect—I’ve seen that fake sanctimonious mug on every single one of my elected “representatives” of late.

  3. Jeff Sessions went so far as to use the Bible as a justification for separating children at the border. The GOP gets away with this because most people don’t know the Scriptures well enough to dispute their arguments. Even if you are not a Christian, and have no intention of becoming one, get a Bible and read it. Knowlege of the Bible will at least allow you to shred the flimsy arguments the Religious Right puts forth, on their own turf. You’ll also see that, on most issues, they’re more hypocritical than you think.

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