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 Post subject: Fraud or Miracle - Where's the line?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 1:40 am 
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As I sit down to write this essay, I do so with reservation. I believe what I'm about to say is going to start controversy and debate. Also, as I write this I know my view on this subject is going to evolve and change with each response to this essay, but even with these hesitations I fell the need to express a concern I have, so I'm going to fulfill this need.

Where is the line in our art where our trickery and demonstrations become a fraud, when do our miracles cease to be miracles and become acts of evil, and lying deceit? In this essay I'll try to answer this question.

Let me explain where this concern comes from. As I peruse around these forums, I notice this debate about certain characters such as Criss Angel, and Uri Gellar, and Blaine, and numerous others. In this debate people argue that aren't they all essentially doing the same thing, when they perform a trick and then say it's magic. I believe there is a line and please bear with me as I try to explain where it exists.

I believe that as magicians we have to create a certain mystique and mystery around what we do. We don't want to come right out and say, this is just a trick, but at the same time we can't lie about what we're doing, we have to allow the understanding that what we do as magicians is accomplished through trickery to exist. We nor the spectator have to openly admit this, but we can't kill this understanding. It is when we try to destroy this understanding that I believe we have crossed the line.

I hate to call out anyone in this essay, but there are those out there who have crossed this line. They have said what they are doing is not a trick, it is purely supernatural, and they won't back off this idea. I believe here is a case where that miracle has become a fraud. On the other hand, we have those who perform magic, and during their performances keep up the persona that they're magical, but when truly pressed, or just simply asked, are willing to admit they use tricks, and that its not real. I believe these are the true magicians.

So we now have a quandry, how far can we push our persona and magic, before we become frauds? As I said before, its when we try to purposely destroy the understanding that we are simply doing a trick. If we leave that understanding alone and take no direct action against it we are honest magicians, but when we through our words and claims try to destroy that understanding, we are frauds, and no longer deserve the title of magician.

In my opinion, frauds should be called out. They don't help the public, or the magii. Even if they're not taking money for their fraudulent actions, they're doing harm to our art. We can't allow this.

So please for the sake of the art dont' cross the line. And dont' defend or support those who do, because they're simply destroying the art.

I hope I was able to convey my ideas clearly here. If not just ask for clarification. And I welcome all responses, both those that agree and disagree, just stay polite please.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 5:02 pm 
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I enjoyed reading your essay, and I agree that we shouldn't cross that very thin line that we so often walk. However, I don't think we should call each other out in most instances. For example, if it is simple someone's character that they claim to have powers, that is fine to me, but it's when they take advantage of people for personal gain, wealth, and fame when I think we should call them out and put a stop to their nonsense.

For example (again), if a magi has a character that he likes to live all the time, and claims that, as his character, his "powers" are real, but he is not gaining from it, or taking advantage of it, I honestly think that's fine... that's just his performances style.

However, take someone like Sylvia Brown. She says that she can help the FBI with her "psychic powers" that are supposedly real. If she's so confident in her powers, why does is she constantly hiding from James Randi? Because she's a fraud, and she knows it. The said thing is, she has everybody else convinced that she can see how people are murdered, where they are murdered, and even who murdered them. She is taking advantage of people, and this is wrong! Yes, I realize she is not a magician, but I was just using it as an example.

A funny story that I wanted to mention that has to do with Sylvia Brown is one from my Elements of Culture person. We were supposed to find someone that we thought was a "Renaissance Person", and a girl in my class chose Sylvia Brown. She went before, so in a spur of the moment kind of thing, I crumpled up my paper and did an oral report on James Randi. I wanted to let the poor girl know that Brown doesn't really have powers, and that she is a fraud, so I told them that she runs from Mr. Randi. That is a real life example I have of people being taken advantage of by someone who claims to have "powers." I know, it was kind of off subject, but I felt like telling a story. :lol:

Good essay, though... it was a fun read.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 5:58 pm 
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born to perform.

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Well stated and I couldn't agree more. I'm going to avoid talking about personalities and specific (and living) magicians because that is covered in other threads.

Magicians or mentalists who claim supernatural powers will, in the end, tarnish the art as a whole. The vast majority of people understand that magicians do not have real magic powers. People understand that magicians can not really manipulate the laws of physics. They understand that magic tricks are an illusion and they like to be entertained and amazed.

However, there are a substantial number of people that believe that some "gifted" people are psychic or can channel the dead. There has never been any scientific study or empirical evidence that people have these abilities yet there are 1000s of people who make a living off of cold readings and such scams. There have always been a handful of magicians that cross the line of which you speak; from entertainment into immoral deception.

The Davenport brothers are one of the most famous examples of magicians that provided spirit-filled entertainment in the 1800s. But even the Davenport brothers never claimed to be mediums. If they had claimed that they really contacted the dead then that would have gone beyond the boundary line.

For me, if a magician doesn't claim supernatural powers he hasn't crossed the line; it's still just entertainment. It's when a magician or medium claims supernatural powers that they are playing off of the superstititions of gullible people and that is morally wrong.

I think you could even make an argument that knowingly allowing someone to think you have powers is immoral as well. Look at the Davenports again; they were a big reason for the world wide Spiritualism movement. Thousands of people were financial and emotional victims to this hoax. We now know that the Spiritualism movement was based a girl's ability to loudly crack her toes (the Fox sisters).

Personally, I wouldn't even come close to crossly the ethical boundary line as it conflicts with my Christian faith - if fact, I use magic to demonstrate to my kids how easily people can be fooled. That's a powerful lesson that magic can provide to young people.

Good essay. With the recent rise in popularity of TV shows that portray spirtualism, ghosts and psychic readings as real, it is good that people like you raising the ethics issue.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 7:44 pm 
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Great essay. I agree with you. But I have to bring up something on the Davenports.

I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Davenports NEVER claimed to be supernatural. But yet, people went out trying to expose them. They did do seance-type routines, but never really claimed to be able to contact the dead. So is it right to expose people like that? I'm very interested to hear your opinions on this.

Again, a very well-written essay. :)


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 9:01 pm 
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born to perform.

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At my senior prom, they had a tarot reader in a small tent that was paid to be there. At first I was outraged, but then I saw a sign right next to the "Tarot Reader" sign that said "All readings are for entertainment only". This to me was a responsible performer as they openly stated that what they do is entertainment.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2007 1:38 am 
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born to perform.

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PJHMarine1 wrote:
Great essay. I agree with you. But I have to bring up something on the Davenports.

I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Davenports NEVER claimed to be supernatural. But yet, people went out trying to expose them. They did do seance-type routines, but never really claimed to be able to contact the dead. So is it right to expose people like that? I'm very interested to hear your opinions on this.

Again, a very well-written essay. :)


Yes, the Davenports never really claimed to be supernatural throughout most of their career. I think that they entered an ethical gray area because their silence allowed people to think they did have the ability to contact the dead and that perception spurred a massive movement that we now know was based on a really cool trick - the Spirit Cabinet.

People did try to expose them by putting ink on the strings of the musical instruments in the cabinet and such attempts at exposure. So when the "spirits" played the violin, the brothers would end up with ink on their fingers. But the brothers didn't comment one way or the other. I think they were just happy to be making money.

These are not easy ethical questions to answer. I would say that they should have come out with a statement once the Spiritualism movement got out of hand. However, it would have likely killed their career as they were a one-trick pony act.

Mediums, psychics, astrologers and card readers are outright frauds in my opinion - or at least they are fooling themselves into thinking they have powers. To me, magicians are highly-skilled entertainers. They can use these skills to advance the art or they can use their skills to take advantage of the weak minded or superstitious.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:48 pm 
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I was very pleased when I read your essay. I've been waiting for quite some time to have a proffesional discussion about this widely talked about subject. In my opinion I am in complete agreance with adjones: in the case of entertainment purposes , there is no reason to frown on those who have claimed of the "supernatural" as long as it is in character. What i mean by this is that for say in a movie ,a boy could claim to see ghosts, and as far as we can tell with our own senses, this is true, however the boy in the movie is only a clever character presented very well by the actor. As long as we keep these characters for entertainment purposes only , and not claim to have "powers"(Criss Angel) ehem, and as long as we dont cross this imaginairy line, its fine.

-Nexx


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