If you believe that deceivers are colorful folk who mislead with elaborate
lies and tall tales, you are greatly mistaken. The best deceivers utilize a
bland and inconspicuous front that calls no attention to themselves. They
know that extravagant words and ge stures immediately raise suspicion. Instead, they envelop their mark in the familiar, the banal, the harmless. In
Yellow Kid Weil's dealings with Sam Geezil, the familiar was a business
deal. In the Ethiopian case, it was Selassie's misleading obsequiousnessexactly what -Balcha would have expected from a weaker warlord.

 LAW 3 27
28 LAW 3
Once you have lulled your suckers' attention with the familiar, they
will not notice the deception being perpetrated behind their backs. This
derives from a simple truth: people can only focus on one thing at a time. It
is really too difficult for them to imagine that the bland and harmless person they are dealing with is simultaneously setting up something else. The
grayer and more uniform the smoke in your smoke screen, the better it
conceals your intentions. In the decoy and red herring devices discussed in
Part I, you actively distract people

; in the smoke screen, you lull your victims, drawing them into your web. Because it is so hypnotic, this is often
the best way of concealing your intentions.
The simplest form of smoke screen is facial expression. Behind a bland,
unreadable exterior, all sorts of mayhem can be planned, without detection.
This is a weapon that the most powerful men in history have learned to perfect. It was said that no one could read Franklin D. Roosevelt's face. Baron
James Rothschild made a lifelong practice of disguising his real thoughts behind bland smiles and nondescript looks. Stendhal wrote of Talleyrand,
"Never was a face less of a barometer." Henry Kissinger would bore his opponents around the negotiating table to tears with his monotonous voice,
his blank look, his endless recitations of details; then, as their eyes glazed
over, he would suddenly hit them with a list of bold terms. Caught offguard, they would be easily intimidated. As one poker manual explains it,

 "While playing his hand, the good player is seldom an actor. Instead he
practices a bland behavior that minimizes readable patterns, frustrates and
confuses opponents, permits greater concentration."
An adaptable concept, the smoke screen can be practiced on a number of levels, all playing on the psychological principles of distraction and
misdirection. One of the most effective smoke screens is the noble gesture.
People want to believe apparently noble gestures are genuine, for the belief
is pleasant. They rarely notice how deceptive these gestures can be.
The art dealer Joseph Duveen was once confronted with a terrible problem. The millionaires who had paid so dearly for Duveen's paintings were
running out of wall space, and with inheritance taxes getting ever higher, it
seemed unlikely that they would keep buying. The solution was the National
Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., which Duveen helped create in 1937 by
getting Andrew Mellon to donate his collection to it. The National Gallery
was the perfect front for Duveen. In one gesture, his clients avoided taxes,
cleared wall space for new purchases, and reduced the number of paintings
on the market, maintaining the upward pressure on their prices. All this
while the donors created the appearance of being public benefactors.
Another effective smoke screen is the pattern, the establishment of a series of actions that seduce the victim into believing you will continue in the
same way. The pattern plays on the psychology of anticipation: Our behavior conforms to patterns, or so we like to think.
In 1878 the American robber baronJay Gould created a company that
began to threaten the monopoly of the telegraph company Western Union.
The directors of Western Union decided to buy Gould's company up-
they had to spend a hefty sum, but they figured they had managed to rid
themselves of an irritating competitor. A few months later, though, Gould
was it at again, complaining he had been treated unfairly. He started up a
second company to compete with Western Union and its new acquisition.
The same thing happened again: Western Union bought hirn out to shut
hirn up.

 Soon the pattern began for the third time, but now Gould went for
the jugular: He suddenly staged a bloody takeover struggle and managed
to gain complete control of Western Union. He had established a pattern
that had tricked the company's directors into thinking his goal was to be
bought out at a handsome rate. Once they paid hirn off, they relaxed and
failed to notice that he was actually playing for higher stakes. The pattern is
powerful in that it deceives the other person into expecting the opposite of
what you are really doing.
Another psychological weakness on which to construct a smoke screen
is the tendency to mistake appearances for reality-the feeling that if someone seems to belong to your group, their belonging must be real. This habit
makes the seamless blend a very effective front. The trick is simple: You simply blend in with those around you. The better you blend, the less suspicious you become. During the Cold War of the 1950s and '60s, as is now
notorious, a slew of British civil servants passed secrets to the Soviets. 

went undetected for years because they were apparently decent chaps, had
gone to all the right schools, and fit the old-boy network perfectly. Blending in is the perfect smoke screen for spying. The better you do it, the better you can conceal your intentions.
Remember: It takes patience and humility to dull your brilliant colors,
to put on the mask of the inconspicuous. Do not despair at having to wear
such a bland mask-it is often your unreadability that draws people to you
and makes you appear a person of power.
Image: A Sheep's Skin.
A sheep never marauds,
a sheep never deceives,
a sheep is magnificently
dumb and docile. With a
sheepskin on his back,
a fox can p ass right
into the chicken coop.
Authority: Have you ever heard of a skillful general, who intends to
surprise a citadel, announcing his plan to his enemy? Conceal your
purpose and hide your progress; do not disclose the extent of your
designs until they cannot be opposed, until the combat is over. Win
the victory before you declare the war. In a word, imitate those warlike people whose designs are not known except by the ravaged country through which they have passed. (Ninon de Lenclos, 1623-1706)

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