As any street magician will tell you, the secret to tricking someone is misdirection. Whilst they’re looking at the deck of cards in your left hand, they aren’t going to be looking at the extra card in your right. It’s one of the most basic principles of stage magic.
But, that’s not the only place it can turn up. It’s everywhere. That is, if you know where to look for it. Most people don’t.
It’s the smiling fantasy world of the adverts, dazzling you with pictures of unnaturally happy people and their perfect lives. It’s the stories you don’t get to read about in the paper when scandalous scandals grab the front pages. It’s the flashy animations and handy tips on the long loading screens of your favourite videogames. It’s that phone game that can get hordes of people to gather in one place, with the promise of a collectible creature.
Misdirection is everywhere. But, once you see it, you can never stop seeing it. It isn’t a new thing. It isn’t something that suddenly came into being when the first binary digits appeared on the first CRT monitor.
It was the flashy parades that kings put on to placate their starving subjects, it was the gladiatorial arenas of ancient Rome, it was the scary sermons from a thousand religions preached to thousands of ordinary people. It is as old as time, the universe and humanity itself. Or, at least, that’s what they’d like you to think.
But time, the universe and humanity started with a bang. A very big one to be precise. And, as the mayor of any capital city will tell you, there’s nothing like a spectacular fireworks display to distract the masses from the fact that they’ve just trudged through one miserable year and have got another one lying in wait.
And, you’ve got to wonder who needed to put on a big show like that? And, more importantly, what are they hiding?
When scientists don’t know something, they extrapolate from what they do know. There’s that famous quote about deducing the existence of oceans from a single drop of water. A desert from a grain of sand.
Something out there needed to hide something big. Something that would tear the human mind asunder were we ever to learn of it. Something that needed the carnivalesque attraction of trillions of sparkling stars and shiny planets to turn everyone’s heads the other way.
The best misdirections don’t look like misdirections. They look honest. They contain just enough truth to grab people’s attentions and keep the rest out of sight.
Who knows, they might even be silly stories that you read on the internet when you’re bored? Silly horror stories about cosmic monsters and hidden conspiracies, and all that rubbish. After all, whilst the best misdirections contain a grain of truth, a tall tale will do in a pinch.