Years ago, about age 22, I was walking down the street in New York City on a visit when I came across a small crowd of people huddled around a small table. They were yelling with excitement and glee as a dealer in the center of the crowd shuffled cards and handled cash.
Me, being curious and oblivious to how dumb I was, I let my gulliblity take over. A very friendly person from the mob invited me to check out the scene.
The whole crowd cheered me on as I was convinced to bet $60 on a card game. All I had to do was pick the right card out of three, and I’d double my money. Easy. No problem.
I threw down the cash and the dealer began moving the cards. I kept my eye on the “money card” I was sure would never escape my sight.
Someone distracted me just before I was about to pick the money card. I can’t recall what the distraction was. I think they told me I dropped my keys. When I looked away from the table, the dealer, of course, switched the card.
I just got suckered by the old three card monte scam.
My money was gone in about 45 seconds and the mob of shills took off like flies.
I stood there young and stupid.
After losing the money, another passerby who knew what happened walked by me and said “You must not be from around here. You just got scammed by all of them, Son. You got duped.”
This moment for me, while brief, was a defining moment in my life.
It was extremely hard for me to accept the fact I got fooled by a mob. They were happy, friendly people. They invited me in. They made me feel at ease and welcome.
I remember for many many weeks after this incident I felt a deep sense of shame and anger with myself.
I could NOT accept the fact I got fooled. I thought my intellect was stronger than any scammer and I never believed I’d get bamboozled.
I was in denial despite the fact I knew I lost $60.
In the days following, I would try to convince myself it was just a regular card game. Of course when I played the scenario over and over in my head, I knew deep down I got played.
Since that day, I became extremely skeptical of my environment. About six years later I’d begin my career as an investigative reporter.
Over my career, I’ve had people try to dupe me, bullshit me out of a story and lie. These people often come smiling and seem innocent.
Some of the best liars can make you feel sorry for them. They can make you believe they are victims. They can make you feel the whole system is against them and you are their savior if you just believe their lie and join their side.
The feelings of denial and anger I felt when I was 22 remind me of the people I saw breach our nation’s Capitol building.
For many many weeks they were told the election was rigged. They were invited to the table by outspoken leaders who convinced them numerous courts, judges, journalists, election officials (many Republican) and other politicians conspired together to change the outcome of the most watched election in American history.
The insurrectionists became part of a community of like-minded people who believed THEY KNEW the real truth.
In the end, the card they were sold was switched.
The election wasn’t rigged, but the narrative about it was.
I don’t know how to convince people they’ve been duped. They’re locked in, forever in matrimony with the big lie. And maybe that awful marriage with the big lie makes them feel comfort.
It’s easier to keep believing a lie, because when you admit the truth, you sometimes have to admit a personal weakness of intellect.
Nobody wants to admit they got duped.
What we desperately want to be true is often more easily accepted by us. It’s human nature. It’s comforting to keep lying to ourselves, especially when a mob of people tell us we are part of the truth.
The real truth is often a wild card nobody can manipulate or hide. It always comes into play sooner or later.