REVERSAL No s moke screen, red herring,


No s moke sc reen, red herring, fals e s inc erity, or any other divers ionary device will s ucc eed in c onc ealing y our intentions if y ou already have an establis hed reputation for dec eption. And as y ou get older and ac hieve
s ucc ess, it often bec omes inc reas ingly diffic ult to dis guis e y our c unning.
Every one knows y ou prac tic e dec eption; pers is t in play ing naive a nd y ou
run the ris k of s eeming the rankes t hy poc rite, which will s everely limit
y our room to maneuver. In s uch c as es it is better to own up, to appear the
hones t rogue, or,

 better, the repentant rogue. N ot only will y ou be admired
for y our frankness, but, mos t wonderf ul and str ange of all, y ou will be able
to c ontinue y our str atagems.
As P. T. Barn um, the nineteenth-c entury king of humbuggery, grew
older, he learned to embrac e his reputation as a grand dec eiver. At one
point he organized a buffalo hunt in N ew Jers ey, c omplete with I ndians
and a few imported buffalo. He public ized the hunt as genuine, but it c ame
off as so c ompletely fak e that the c rowd, ins tead of getting a ngry and as king for their money bac k, was greatly amus ed. 

They knew Barnum pulled
tr ic ks all the time; that was the s ec ret of his s ucc ess, and they loved him for
it. Learning a less on from this affair, Barnum s topped c onc ealing all of his
devic es, even revealing his dec eptions in a tell- all autobiography. As
K ierkegaard wrote, " The world wants to be dec eived."
Finally, although it is wis er to divert attention from y our purpos es by
pres enting a bland, familiar exterior, there are times when the c olorful,
c ons pic uous ges ture is the right divers ionary tac tic . The great c harlatan
mountebanks of s eventeenth- and eighteenth-c entury Europe us ed humor
and entertai nment to dec eive their audienc es . Dazzled by a great s how, the
public would not notic e the c harlatans ' real intentions. Thus the s tar c harlatan hims elf would appea r in town in a night- blac k c oac h drawn by black
hors es .

 Clowns, tightrope walkers, and s tar entertainers would acc ompany
him, pulling people in to his demonstr ations of elixirs and quac k potions .
The c harlatan made enterta inment s eem like the bus iness of the day ; the
bus iness of the day was ac tually the s ale of the elixirs and quac k potions.
Spec tac le and entertainment, c learly, are exc ellent devic es to c onc eal
y our intentions, but they c annot be us ed indefi nitely. The public grows
tired and s us pic ious, and eventually c atc hes on to the tric k. And indeed the
c harlatans had to move quic kly from town to town, before word s pread
that the potions were us eless a nd the entertai nment a tr ick. Powerful peopI e with bland exteriors, on the other hand- the Talley rands, the Rothsc hilds, the Selass ies -c an prac tic e their dec eptions in the s ame plac e
throughout their lifetimes . Their ac t never wea rs thin, a nd rarely c aus es
s us pic ion. The c olorful s moke sc reen s hould be us ed c autious ly, then, and
only when the occ as ion is right

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