Thursday, July 02, 2015

Hey, Rube!

In the days when carnivals and circuses roamed across America, the rides and the side-shows were the primary draws. And while the rides were generally legitimate, the same could hardly be said of the side shows. Bearded ladies, turtle boys, rubber men, and two-headed cows drew huge crowds. Barkers in bowler hats and brightly wide-striped jackets would stand in front of the "show" tents and lure people in with wildly extravagant descriptions of the wonders to be found inside. The pitch never lived up to the expectation. Hucksters and shills, all effervescence and promises, encouraged the crowds to part with their money.

People stood in line to throw hoops over bowling pins, or toss a baseball through a hole in a backdrop for a chance to win a Kewpie doll or stuffed animal. Very few, of course, did. Without exception, the games were rigged in the carnival/circus's favor, just as are gambling casinos today—though today the rigging is perhaps a bit more subtle.

Among the carnies, as they called themselves, the gullible people who flocked to their shows were known as "Rubes."

Circuses and carnivals and side show tents have largely disappeared from our culture. But the barkers and the hucksters and the rigged games most certainly have not. Nor have the Rubes.

I readily and constantly admit that I am not the brightest button in the jar. When any degree of manual or physical dexterity is involved, you can count me out before we start. I am incapable of following an instruction manual. I am incredibly easily confused, and even more easily frustrated. But I can recognize a side-show huckster at forty paces.

Computer Spam folders are perhaps the most egregious of latter day equivalent of the circus/carnival freak show. Every single item in a spam folder might as well be a "Half-Man/Half-Woman!" crossdresser sitting on the platform in front of the tent, or a scantily-clad young lady kissing the boa constrictor wrapped around her shoulder. With so few exceptions as to be totally disregarded, every item in my spam folder, and yours, is there for one purpose and one purpose only: to lure you in and get your money. No matter how attractive their offers may appear, no matter what their come-on may be—sympathy, the promise of untold wealth, or health, or success without a single bit of effort on your part—the goal is the same; to get your money. The assumption is that you are astoundingly gullible (a far kinder word than the more accurate "stupid") and, regrettably, that assumption seems to be justified.

Internet spammers are not the only morally undead out there from whom every ounce of compassion, dignity, or honor have been drained. Almost without exception today's hucksters tend to be a far more mean-spirited, malevolent lot; they do not even pretend that there is any pleasure in their pitches. Self-appointed pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck; an army of late night televangelists; Michele Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and other politicians of their ilk all use negativism as stepping stones to power and fortune. They seldom smile, and dwell exclusively on what is wrong with whatever/whoever it is they are opposing without even bothering to offer positive, workable alternatives.

How, how, do they succeed as frighteningly well as they do? How can anyone, anyone with the I.Q. of a baked potato possibly believe a word they say? There's not a dime's worth of logic among the lot of them. I see them for what they are. You see them for what they are (oh, please do); why can't those who, like pigs at a trough, eagerly scarf up the mounds of garbage these cretins spew out, take even one second to say, "Does that really make any sense at all?" The answer is of course "no."

So next time you hear, see, or read something that doesn't sound or look quite right, rather than automatically believing whatever it is, listen closely for a small voice calling "Hey, Rube!" and be sure it isn't talking to you.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

I've come to the conclusion recently that carnivals may have actually terrified me a little when I was growing up. There was the allure of the colorful lights and the rides, but the folks working there...they made me uneasy.

As for the hucksters, D, I think perhaps it's because we work with words and understand their power, but when someone opens their mouth, we know when they're BSing. I can't for the life of me understand with everybody else in the world can't tell.