Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

THE AIRPLANE GAME

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I have first hand experience with The Airplane Game. Don’t Google it yet. This was in the late 1980s. Ancient history to anyone born after 1985 or so. The pre-Simpsons era. (Eventually our dates will be BS or PS, Before Simpsons or Post Simpsons.) A friend was involved and invited me to a meeting. What the hell, I was curious what it was all about. And it was a big pot luck, who knows, maybe a way to meet interesting women.

So, nice suburban home in El Cerrito. We all ate in the yard, lots of nice people, great food, great fun. Then we retire to the living room, two people were running the show. A cute bubbly high energy woman, and a black fellow wearing Africanesque clothes. First they asked the crowd like three times if “Anyone was a reporter or worked for law enforcement.” Showmanship basically since, guess what, neither reporters nor cops are required to identify themselves under circumstances like this.

Then they launched into their presentation. And a lovely presentation it was. Lots of slides about Africa. And Africans. And how it was a cultural tradition in Africa for friends to pool their money for a friend to start a business. It brought tears to my eyes. OK, no, it didn’t. It certainly made a favorable impression though, because let’s face it, this is not a cultural tradition in America. The country that brought us the “Me Decade” and “Greed is Good.” So we’re all feeling positive and inspired. A big part of the crowd were witchy nature loving lesbians, the pitch was clearly tailored to the crowd.

Then, the various “captains” retire to different rooms. And my friend, who was a captain, used a chalkboard to show her “passengers” and potential passengers how it all worked. And to my dismay, she sketched a classic pyramid scheme:

Basically the captain recruits two friends, as the two co-pilots, then they recruit four people to act as crew. Then eight passengers. Everyone pays to join of course. When all eight “seats” are full, the plane splits in two and the captain finally gets paid. Hundreds to thousands of dollars. Then the two co-pilots become captains, and each set out to find eight more patsies. And patsies is the word. The vast majority of the people who buy in never get paid. Pyramid schemes are illegal in America and elsewhere because they are scams.

This scheme pretty obviously had essentially zero similarity to the African stuff in the presentation. I wasn’t particularly tempted to buy a seat. First of all, I knew it was a scam. Secondly, I knew that if had gotten down to trying to recruit me, who had no money and knew it was a scam, that the pool of patsies was just about exhausted. I went to two more much smaller and more desperate meetings before the whole thing fizzled out. Didn’t meet any interesting women either.

So, the question is, why do people fall for stuff like this? Why was my friend involved? In point of fact I found out some years later that her involvement was a key factor in her lover leaving her. Mostly I think it was she was just naive and wanted to make some easy money. I suspect that’s the case for most of the people involved. The prospect of easy money, naivety, and rationalizing that no one is forced to sign on.

The Dashiki Guy and Bubbly Lady, yeah, con artists. Criminals preying on the naivety and greed of the average Jill. There’s a school of thought that people have no one but themselves to blame if they get conned out of money. That’s the preschool level of morality. An adult knows there are huge numbers of people who for one reason or another are very vulnerable to scams. And while society obviously can’t prevent people from falling for them, it can at least try to minimize the harm. This is why usury laws exist. Why pyramid schemes are illegal. Why professional (the house takes a cut) gambling is illegal. Why lotteries are illegal. It’s called civilization, protecting the vulnerable from those who would harm them.

Note the US fails on all of these but the pyramid schemes, and even those are OK if you turn it into multi-level marketing. I’m not optimistic about the direction America is heading, who would ever have guessed? And this latest post from the good Doctor Novella is even more distressing. Fake news can create fake memories! And you better believe the powers that be are exploiting it to the hilt.

Yeah, we’re doomed.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image 1: Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa. Credit: Ken Ratcliff. Some rights reserved, used legally under a Creative Commons License.

Image 2: “Airplane Game” pyramid scheme. Credit: Wikipedia User:Stannard. Released into Public Domain by the creator.)

Written by unitedcats

August 28, 2019 at 3:52 am

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