Entrails of deceit

Barton S. Whaley

Barton S. Whaley

Barton S. Whaley and J. Bowyer Bell once discovered they shared an interest. Then they discovered their shared interest hadn’t been studied formally or intensively enough, in spite of its obvious importance. So they tried to drum up support for studying the subject in academia and government.

Unfortunately, Whaley and Bell obvious wasn’t academic or government obvious. They found no takers. Even politicians and the military, natural consumers of their research, declined to fund Whaley and Bell’s scholarly inquiry.

J. Bowyer Bell

J. Bowyer Bell

However, Whaley and Bell eventually found a publisher who agreed to pay them real American currency to write a book on their topic. There was one condition: it couldn’t be an academic study. The book had to appeal (and sell) to a popular audience. Whaley and Bell sighed, put their heads together, and wrote Cheating and Deception.

Whaley and Bell’s shared interest was the formal and intensive study of deception:

Essentially, cheating, or deception is the advantageous distortion of perceived reality, The advantage falls to the cheater because the cheated person misperceives what is assumed to be the real world.

Whaley had written specialized studies of deception for the Central Intelligence Agency (later declassified and published as Codeword Barbarossa and Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War) as well as books on magic (Encyclopedic Dictionary of MagicWho’s Who In Magic). Bell was a painter and art critic who’d started writing about terrorism during the 1960s, especially as practiced by the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Whaley and Bell had direct experience of fields where deception was the coin of the realm. They’d picked up more experience during their fruitless efforts to get academia and government to properly study deception.

As a side-effect of their experience as well as their target audience, Cheating and Deception discusses many of the manifestations deception can take on in everyday life. It includes specific explorations of the role of deception in magic, warfare, gambling, sports, business, science, and art. True to the spirit of their topic, Whaley and Bell even manage to sneak their more scholarly theory of deception into Chapter 2.

They claim their theory is the only general theory of deception ever devised.