27 February 2014


by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 27 February 2014

"The central secret of conjuring...is a manipulation of interest." Henry Hay

Magicians entertain. The grand ones, illusionists extraordinaire, command the stage, and audience. And much of their act revolves around deception and mastery of misdirection. That is - 'hey folks, look here and not over there or look over there and not here.' In fact, misdirection is the heart of good magic. It's not uncommon for a magician to hike up coat sleeves or roll up shirt sleeves and confidently exclaim, "See, nothing up my sleeve!" Breaches of integrity are purposeful and, well, an integral part of the illusion act.

Politicians, too, entertain. The grand ones command the stage, and audience. Though entertainment and creating illusions is not their primary purpose, anymore it's their principle work. And much of their act revolves around deception and mastery of misdirection. That is - 'hey folks, look here and not over there or look over there and not here.' In fact, these days misdirection is the heart of successful, not necessarily good, politics. It's more common than not for a politician to hike up coat sleeves or roll up shirt sleeves and sheepishly deny, "See, nothing up my sleeve!" But there oft times is - something (ill-conceived; ill-gained) up their sleeve (and in their wallet, pocketbook, and bank account). Breaches of integrity, by oath, are not supposed to be part of the act, though they most definitely are.

United States Marines, on the other hand, were not created to entertain. The grand ones command their stage, the battlefield, and sometimes garner an audience. A Marine's act, other than when waging declared war, is not supposed to revolve around deception and mastery of misdirection. That is - 'hey Marines, look here and follow me is supposed to be their way.' In fact, deception and misdirection is frowned upon and rolled up under the concept of character and looked upon as a breach of integrity. (Note: There was a day, not so long ago, when Marines proudly rolled up their sleeves - it was a distinguishing mark of the camouflage uniform.)  

David Copperfield is an internationally known magician who knows a little something about secreting things up his sleeve. And elsewhere, too. He is a master deceiver through misdirection. And there's nothing wrong with that.  

President Barack Obama is an internationally known politician notorious for doffing coat and tie and rolling up his sleeves as a means of deception, misdirection, when scandal surrounds him. But, again, integrity, though expected, is hardly a practiced trait in politicians; the president is no exception. Some argue he's raised the bar. Perhaps better said he's raised the sleeve. And there's everything wrong with that.

General James Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, is somewhat known about the world. Barely more than two years ago (24 October 2011) he ordered Marines to roll down their sleeves on the camouflage uniform. Ah, but now scandal surrounds him. A huge audience of Marines, and others, is watching - not mesmerized but disgusted and embarrassed. And he has followed the magicians and politicians into the field of deception, misdirection, ordering sleeves on the camouflage uniform be rolled up (effective 09 March 2014). There's something wrong (taking the heat off?) with that while there's something right (return to tradition) with that.

The audience is suspicious, and more than a wee bit cynical, of timing - another critical factor for successful magicians, politicians, and now a Marine commandant.

Yes, timing is everything.

So why such a public gala announcing, celebrating, a uniform change? Why not passed along as a matter of routine business in an ALMAR (All Marines)?

The skeptical audience sees through the charade, the not-so-subtle misdirection.

David Copperfield, leaving audiences amazed, with sleeves up or down stands atop his trade.

President Barack Obama lost his audience long ago. Only the deaf, dumb, and blind faithful, and a Marine or two believe his act. To them, sleeves down or up matters not.

General Amos lost his audience long ago, too. There are no deaf, dumb, and blind Marines though faithful, always, to Corps is inherent. Sleeves should have never been rolled down. To roll them up is only fitting. But to roll sleeves up now and for the commandant, himself, to make a public splash about it is poor deception. It's clumsy misdirection with a shaky illusion. There's nothing magical about it; less illusionist, more clown.

Perhaps the Marine Corps Times will run a photo of the commandant with his sleeves rolled up. And Headquarters will smile and love again, if only offering more illusion.

Per Henry Hay, is the commandant attempting to manipulate interest? Look over there, Marines, there's nothing here to see.

A determined congressman not so much interested in entertaining nor being manipulated but seeking truth and justice is pressing. Investigations continue. The jury's still out whether or not the commandant has anything up his sleeve - down or rolled up. So more to come.

And the same goes for President Obama - as more determined congressmen still pursue his misdirection(s). So more to come.

Amateurs, politicians, and Marines, even cryptographers, best leave magic, deception, and the fine art of misdirection to the professionals less sleeves get wrapped around their necks.

Who knows, maybe the white short-sleeve crew neck T-shirt, once worn under the camouflage uniform, will make a comeback.  

In these days, of misdirection to hide truth - to create illusion, anything is possible.

It's all rather silly. But it's all rather serious. Seriously. And not the least bit funny is any of it.

Many, especially Marines, are disillusioned. Rightfully so for their commandant does not appear to be a commandant. The magic is gone.

Alas in magic, perceptions are reality. 

Good grief!

Post Script

The properly rolled sleeve on the Marine camouflage uniform is 3 inches wide (inside is outside) and 2 inches above the elbow.


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