Sanctioned Con Men

I came across an interesting line in a book so uninteresting I don’t even remember the title or what the story was about. I wouldn’t have remembered the line, either, except that I was so taken with it (and so untaken with the story) that I set the book aside to jot down the words: Beyond the reach of thought police and sanctioned con men . . .

What came after those few words, I don’t remember. And it doesn’t matter. Those last three words explain so much — to me, anyway — about the world we are living in.

Most of us are familiar with the thought police — we encounter it every day in places like Twitter and Facebook, where anything posted that goes beyond their “guidelines” is censored. You can still think whatever you want, but if goes against “groupthink,” then you darn well better keep it to yourself or suffer the consequences. As of right now, the only consequences are being censured by fellow users or by being put in FB jail and banned from posting anything for a certain number of days. (Unless, of course, one of their bots label your blog as spam — which is what happened to me — in which case it is banned for all time with no recourse and no possibility of a review by a real person.)

But “sanctioned con men”? That is a new one on me, though I know exactly what is meant by the term. I feel the effects of their con all the way down to my belly and sometimes back up again. The con is so insidious, few people call it a con, and yet it is. And not just con men, but also con women. I think the women are worse because they are better at portraying not just sincerity but also sympath.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about the news we are fed on television. The sanctioned news. The “legitimate” press as it is called. The non-fake news (which is actually faker than the fakest fake news.) I’m sure it’s the same in the print news, but I haven’t seen a real newspaper in ages, and the only reason I am aware of broadcast news is that the woman I help care for likes to watch it.

Does anyone really believe they are being told the truth when they watch the news? Do they really believe they are being given a glimpse of the truth that lies in the dark underbelly of national or international politics? If so, it’s understandable because it’s hard not to believe that what we are being told is the truth when we see photos of unvaccinated people sick with The Bob; medical personnel sobbing about unnecessary deaths; cities being bombed by evil emperors; pretty and personable people telling us horrific tales with oh, so much compassion.

I’ve spent too many years of my life studying the truth behind the old headlines to believe any headline that I now read or hear. I can’t even begin to guess what is truly going on anywhere in the world, nor do I care to delve as deep as I would need to in order to find out the truth (though a few articles by alternate presses elsewhere in the world paint a different picture from what the sanctioned con men and women are portraying). All I know is that somehow, some way, we are being conned about all sorts of different things, and that current events fit someone’s agenda. Because what I learned during all those decades of study is that history doesn’t just happen. Someone (or a group of someone’s) make it happen.

I have no idea what got me on my soap opera tonight, especially since I realize few people agree with me (the best cons convince people the con is not a con), but I’m going to post this commentary about sanctioned con men anyway (nonspecific though it might be) because I spent so much time writing it that I now have no time to write something different.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

5 Responses to “Sanctioned Con Men”

  1. Estragon Says:

    It seems to me there are two essential elements to a “con”.

    The first is in the word “con”, short for confidence. The perpetrator of the con has to instill confidence in the victim. Broadcast news (and to a lesser extent, print) does that simply by being what they are. Historically, broadcast bandwidth was a limited resource, and it was given only to those deemed worthy of the privilege of using a scarce public resource. The bandwidth limitations are largely gone, but there’s a vestige of legitimacy attached to these sources. Enough so that I agree this element of a “con” applies.

    The second element is a gain for the perpetrator at a cost to the victim. It gets more complicated for me on this element. The gain for broadcasters has historically been viewership to deliver to advertisers and/or fees for carriage. The content was (and probably still is) just bait. Some media are arguably vanity outlets for people with way too much money, but most are businesses trying to do what works given their model. They can be accused of telling their audience what they want to hear, but I’m not so sure they can be accused generally of telling their audience what someone else wants them to hear just because the someone else says so. I read a lot of stuff about “MSM” lying about this or that, but it really doesn’t seem to fit. More likely, the someone else has figured out how to use “MSM” effectively to deliver a message.

    Then there’s the “sanctioned” part, which is where I really have difficulty. In my experience, life is far too complex and chaotic for there to be anyone or any small group of anyones to sanction much of anything. Maybe it’s our desire to make sense of the chaos that leads us to think (or hope) there’s a power in control. Random is scary. Almost anything else is less scary.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t necessarily think the newscasters are lying; in fact, they are probably sincere in what they are reporting, but they are still adhering to the party line. Maybe to keep it simple. I don’t know.

  2. mickeyhoffman Says:

    There is a line between skepticism and paranoia? I was watching Chinese TV this morning. They said the US wants China and Russia to play on their game board or war game board and that the US has been opressing Russia since the end of World War II. The Chinese, on their part have not gotten over the Opium Wars so they don’t trust the western powers. I guess Russia has it’s own fears about NATO countries. But bottom line, no one trusts anyone, ever. Still, I am pretty sure that I can tell when what I’m being told is a lot of BS. The only way to prevent the world from being run by a bunch of con artists is to make sure they don’t get the power but as a book I read recently so well explained, our systems are designed to reward just that sort of person.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It helps to sort through the bs when you watch other news than just the USA-slanted news. And yes, our systems are designed to reward a certain type of person. As for the difference between skepticism and paranoia? The only thing I can see is that one is based on what is real and the other on what is not real. Telling the difference between those two — if you can — is the key.

  3. Judy Galyon Says:

    I’m with you on this!

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