This story was done in 2011, but it could easily have been from any era since mankind first developed. Fooling other people is an international institution that fills pockets, empties wallets and places smooth talking idiots in control of their country’s destiny.
Gullible makes the world go around
I made the mistake the other day of mentioning to a friend that I was once again stumped about a subject for my next story, and was just hoping for one word with potential to pop into my head.
“How about gullibility?” she said without hesitation.
“Any particular reason?” I asked with suspicion.
“Oh no,” she lied, “But I was thinking how easy it was to convince you last month that you don’t really look your age.”
“Oh yeah,” I said, slightly offended, “That was the same day I conned you into believing that you could pass for forty.”
Gullibility is simply the tendency to be easily deceived or cheated. A person who is easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action, and can be conned into believing unlikely propositions that are unsupported by evidence, is gullible.
Politicians could not survive without the support of the gullible.
You don’t have to be stupid to suffer from gullibility though, plenty of smart people are as easy to fool as the run-of-the-mill boobs.
There has always been a saying among con men that “There is a mark born every minute, and one to trim ‘em and one to knock ‘em.” The meaning is that the population is evenly split among the gullible victims, those who will take advantage of them and those who will protect them.
There is no scientific evidence to support that claim, but I’m guessing it is pretty close. I also know that almost all of us can occasionally be naive in some way, or take advantage of somebody else’s gullibility to pull a joke on them, but that third of the population that prospers from “weasel words” are the ones to look out for.
There it is, my new favorite term, weasel words. Words or claims that turn out to be empty upon analysis are known as “weasel words.” The phrase first appeared in a political story published in 1900, in which they were referred to as “words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell”.
It is doubtful that a weasel actually sucks an egg, but anyone with half a brain knows that advertisers, politicians, journalists, salesmen and a legion of others use “weasel words” to lull the naive into falling for their con and parting with their hard earned cash, votes or simple decency.
A shill is another interesting foe of the gullible. My first hardcore exposure to a shill was at a carnival in 1977. He was outside of a tent featuring a “Shark-boy”, and he repeated the same phrase over and over like a broken record: “He’ll meet ya, he’ll greet ya, watch out he don’t eat ya!”
Thirty-four years later and I still hear his shrill shill bleating sometimes. Now that is a successful shill. Most of them are a lot subtler, trying to help out a person or organization by pretending to be an independent customer with a heartfelt enthusiasm for whatever product is being marketed.
They thrive on the Internet, where those who are prone to gullibility can have their minds crammed with lies and their pockets emptied of cash in record time. They also pop up at some auctions, where they drive up prices with phony bids and are called “potted plants”.
“Crocodile tears” are very useful to some psychological manipulators who are trying to steer a gullible victim in a direction that is advantageous to them. Guilt tripping is also a handy tool to elicit the proper amount of sympathy for a cash-starved enterprise, and should be met with a stern “Did you learn that from your Grandma Maizie?”
My youngest brother is nine years younger than I am, and I must confess that I often took advantage of his gullibility when he was younger. We loved tea, and I would frequently heat up a teapot of water and make cups for my next youngest brother, my sister and me.
Young Nate was usually zipping around somewhere and I would holler out a “Teatime!” to which he would respond. We three older ones would sit smacking our lips, raving about the stupendous quality of the tea.
His cup was always the black one, and it was almost always filled with hot water instead of tea. Soon he would join in, sipping and raving, until he happened to notice us shooting each other sneaky glances and trying not to laugh.
At that point he would scowl, march over to the sink, and pour out just enough water to see that, “Yes!”, he had been duped once again. Howling, cackling and wrestling ensued.
I honestly don’t know how many times this same trick worked through his gullible years, but I loved every one. It was a good lesson too, because he is not one of the gullible ones now.
So gullibility is not always a bad thing. Without a little bit of it, we’d never be able to trick anyone.