‘Mind trick’ not taught in journalism class

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

We once were a frivolous bunch, the five guys who get together for our annual stag trip.

As frisky pups we would pass the evening discussing life’s important topics: golf, gambling, Melanie Griffith. Years pass, men mature, interests change: gambling, golf, Sandra Bullock.

The seasoned, wiser gentlemen who gathered for the 29th annual renewal of The Trip this summer were a changed bunch indeed. They turned their attention to the critical issues of the day.

Globalization, good or bad? Should depreciation be funded? What makes an airplane stay up in the air? Domino’s or Pizza Hut?

And, then, as we sat on the deck overlooking a lake and towering pine trees, came the question. “Do you have any regrets as you look back on your journalism career?”

All eyes focused my direction. I shifted weight, stammered a bit, confessed, “I don’t know the Jedi Mind Trick.”

Uncomfortable silence. An exchange of knowing glances. Chairs scrape the deck. Finally, to my rescue, a diversion. “That big ol’ pine tree over there looks like it’s dying.”

Journalism school and more reporting seminars than I care to remember did not turn me on to this apparently critical tool, the Jedi Mind Trick, to disarm a source from whom one is trying to nail a scoop.

How many of my colleagues, I have to wonder, were similarly embarrassed by their ignorance when Matt Dillman, the press guy for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families department sent a memo to all employees to beware of “unscrupulous reporters” who will spring the Jedi Mind Trick on you.

“They’ll try to trick you, back you into a corner … whatever it takes to get you to give them something,” Dillman wrote.

Is it any wonder I’m no Wolf Blitzer? I don’t know how to do that. Determined to get me one of them Jedi Mind Tricks, I turned to the Internet. Here is what I found:

“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – Elan Sleazebaggano attempts to sell Obi-wan Kenobi a death stick. Obi-wan replies with the suggestion, ‘You don’t want to sell me death sticks. You want to go home and rethink your life.’ Sleazebaggano leaves at that point in the film and is assumed to have followed up on this suggestion – a testament to the power of the mind trick.”

Well, by golly, gosh darn. I’m ready to go out there and do some serious reporting.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Dillman wrote, “(Reporters will say) ‘Can I just ask you one thing? It will just take a second.’ Like the door-to-door vacuum salesman who used to throw dirt into a house to gain entry, some reporters will use this line just to get their foot in the door.”

OK! Got it! Jedi Mind Trick, dirt throwing. Move over, Wolf.

Dillman had dirt aplenty heaped on him when he dictated that none of the 2,000 employees were to answer a question before first checking in with him. Trying to back peddle, he said the instruction was misconstrued. Employees can talk to reporters, he told the Journal, if it’s on their own time and if they are voicing their own opinions.
I think this means you can call your local CYFD director after hours and ask her if we should withdraw from Iraq.

This to Dillman: “You want to answer all my questions. You want to go home and rethink your life.” I mean, really.

Obi-wan Kenobi Cantwell is a syndicated columnist who will stop at nothing to get to the truth. Write him at: ncantwell@charter.net