Dan Korem's career has evolved from performing magic tricks to interviewing cult leaders to developing innovative profiling systems for the FBI.
UNC students witnessed Korem, who calls himself an investigative journalist and documentary producer, translate his professional experience into real-world applications Thursday night during his lecture "Lies, Cons and the Truth." The presentation was sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.
Korem captivated the audience in the almost-full Great Hall and opened the show by performing basic card tricks on randomly selected audience members. He used the tricks to outline his theories on deception and manipulation. "The very best deception is where you exert just enough influence on someone so they deceive themselves," he said.
Korem explained the audience's laughter that followed the visually deceptive tricks. "You laughed because of the way the brain is hard-wired," he said. "When you see something, it translates into an emotive response."
Visual deception is most commonly used today by cult leaders, dictators and gang members to control people, Korem said. "You go out onto the streets with these gangs, and you notice (they) like to use visuals to cause people to react out of emotions," he said.
Korem said world leaders such as Saddam Hussein use immense portraits to invoke fear in their people, which he said is the easiest way to control people's wills. "The response is, no one's going to question you," he said.
He also said sex and violence are prominent on television because they are an easy way to get the audience to react emotionally and purchase products. "A practical application is to watch less, read more."
Korem provided a method for resisting deception. "You've got to love the truth more than you fear the pain," he said. "If you don't, someone comes along with a visual and promises they will take away your pain and will control you."
CCC member Joshua Bassinger said the event served as a method for revealing the truth behind everyday deception. "We wanted to revive some of the campus spirit," he said. He said the event was not Christian-themed, however.
Junior Chaz Lusk said Korem's ideas were very convincing. "Tonight, I got a refreshing perspective from someone who is incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in his field who made real-life applications," he said. "It was a magic show without the smoke and mirrors."
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