Friday, May 27, 2005

Marc Salem's Mind Games

Yuter, who's back from the dead, I guess, points us to Marc Salem, a talented magician who makes his living pretending to have special powers and psychic talents. Here's how Salem describes his show:

Mind Games is a captivating excursion into the power and possibilities of the human mind. Using psychological techniques, a sharp eye, a quick wit, and 20 years of training, Salem engages the audience in a series of mesmerizing and mystifying Mind Games. Through the course of these humorous interactive exercises, Salem unlocks the minds of audience members and encourages them to figure out how he does it

He further describes himself as "student of the human mind" and an "academic" and "authority" and a "researcher"

On Sixty Minutes last Sunday night, he was given the full treatment, hailed as a "mind-reader" with "special skills."

I've seen Marc Salem. He's an excellent performer, but I have a serious beef with his approach: He deliberatly encourages people to believe that he uses psychology to read minds, when really, he's using tricks, tricks you can learn yourself, and teach yourself how to do.

The two tricks he did on Sixty-Minutes, for example, are both famous magic tricks, performed by many other entertainers, entertainers who don't pretend to have special psychological expertise. One of them, the Book Test, is a trick I've often done. If you use Google, you'll easily find people willing to tell the secret behind these tricks, or to sell you the gimmicks that Salem, likely, uses.

In other words, Marc Salem's a fraud. A talented fraud. An entertaining fraud. But a fraud, doing the dangerous and dishonest work of encouraging people to beleive that "psychic powers" are real, when they are not.