Last May I saw a TV show which saddened me. It was of the candid camera type; a camera crew was following around a young man, David Blaine, who did magic tricks for strangers in the street.
Blaine was skillful. In addition to clever tricks with cards and coins, he demonstrated something which I had not seen before, an open air levitation to a height of three or so inches.
Obviously much of the entertainment value of the show was intended to come from the audience response. We saw the reaction to simple tricks of, quite literally, the man and the woman in the street.
This is where I was disappointed. There were the expected gasps of amazement, the running away in mock terror and the cries of, "How did you do that?" However there were also questions. "Are you a psychic?" "Can you tell me what is going to happen to me?" "Are you a guru?" "Did it take a lot of meditation to do that?"
"Look, you dunderheads," I wanted to shout, "he's an entertainer doing tricks. He's not using magic, he hasn't any mysterious powers." These were ordinary, mostly young, people. Show them a few tricks and they think you are a wonder-worker. Were the shots we saw the typical reaction? Perhaps the producer cut out the clips where the only audience response was, "Neat trick." Perhaps we only saw the extremes.
However, in the material we saw, Blaine never once assured his audience that what they had seen was only a trick. Even when discussing his abilities off-stage he attributed his card guessing skills to "intuition."
Skeptical organizations have a big job of education to do. Obviously the schools and the TV producers have dropped the ball.
Oh, that levitation. We saw more of the audience reaction than of the performer but it looked pretty good. However, the onlookers had only a rear view and they were carefully grouped together. If I can think of a couple of ways it could be done then so can you. No, it didn't take meditation!