This is not news for people in the UK. Objective productions, the company that has produced Derren Brown’s TV shows and TV specials, have a wonderful series about how to con people. Although I should perhaps say that it is about how to avoid being conned but knowledge is a double edged sword. Dishonest people watch TV as everyone else so it is not impossible that some of them learn some new tricks.
One of the differences between a magician and a cheat is the same as the difference between an educated person and an expert. The magician knows many more moves than the cheat but the cheat has perfected his. The audience tend to be less forgiving to a mediocre cheat than to a mediocre magician.
But even if some scoundrels learn a few more tricks I think the overall effect of the series is positive. First, con artist are specialized so they will only try a few if any of the scams. Second, to do a scam requires effort and practice; to see through the same scam and avoid being fooled you only need knowledge. So I see no reason why they could not show The Real Hustle in Sweden, though I hope they show the original British version.
The series is on its sixth season in Britain and the British version is the better one in my opinion. I do not understand why Americans always need their own version; proper English isn’t that hard to understand.
They are really good at explaining how the different scams work because there are a lot of different layers in working a con. There are the practical details of the scam and the psychology that draws the victim into the fantasy world. Appealing to emotions work quite well, especially greed. It is also great fun to watch the show and the reaction of the people that are conned.
Anyone with an interest in how con artists operate can search youtube for some practical psychology at work (and some physics as well). Unfortunately the very best youtube channel was shut down, I guess that someone did not want these shows available for free. But some places to start looking are here, though they might be shut down soon so hurry:
I think it is possible to learn a lot more from the series than only the mechanics of the plots and the specific psychological hooks that are used. In essence a good con artist let the mark fool himself. To avoid fooling oneself is perhaps something of the most difficult there is, it requires knowledge about the world and how we think and to apply it to oneself.
I guess that when a show is written (by Paul Wilson and Alex Conran incidentally) this is not what they think about; there is a clear educational angle to the series but focused more on consumer awareness than science and philosophy.
I should say something about the American version as well but I let someone else do it.
Objective Productions/Crook Productions’ new show, The Real Hustle, features a pickpocket/security consultant, a magician, and an actress hustling innocent passersby on television. Apollo Robbins, who made national news when he picked the pockets of Secret Service agents while performing for former president Jimmy Carter, heads up the team. New York City magician Ryan Oakes supplies the sleight-of-hand expertise, while Dani Marco is the actress onboard. Her credits include Law&Order The Sopranos, and most recently the Chris Rock movie, I Think I Love my Wife.
Magic Magazine, No 5, vol 17, January 2008, p.27