Took a couple of months, but I thought of a good word for this. So now when I’m trying to quickly express that Trump was a fake and gay diversion, I can refer to him as a decoy.
Other good terms related to this but don’t catch the full meaning: Diversion, chaff (as in what fighter jets throw off to distract heat-seeking missiles), red herring, sidetrack, cardboard cutout. The main trouble in finding words for this is most of them (like “pretense” or “misnomer”) refer to things that could be incidental or disinterested rather than ill-intentioned, but a “decoy” is never incidental or disinterested. Something more abstract like a fake customer service line might be better referred to as a sidetrack, a facade, a time-suck, or a black hole, as in “Stop trying to sidetrack me. Your customer service line is a pretense and you know it is.” For less formal situations, variants of fraud/counterfeit like “grift”, “fake and gay” or “vaporware” are probably still the way to go. But if you tell your grandma Trump was a grift you’re going to have to spend 15 minutes explaining.
If the simulacrum leads to positive punishment rather than just negative reward, it could be referred to as a lure, bait, a trap, a scam, or some synonym of those.
This morning, I was trying to imagine explaining to a 17th century person how to navigate the modern world full of advertisements and Nigerian princes. I imagine him reading the first e-mail in his inbox and coming to me saying we need to speak to the king about something very urgent and important, and I have to explain to him that almost nothing in the modern day is urgent or important. And not to believe 99% of what he sees, reads, or hears, everyone is selfish, everything is a distraction, and to ignore his natural emotional reactions to these provocations until he barely feels them anymore. “Most people spend their entire lives trying to inflame your passions to distract and misdirect you for their own profit, and we’ve gotten very good at it.”
In other words, I would have to train him to foster the cynicism that characterizes a modern person. And that’s because the world is 99.999% filled with decoys, and maybe the reason we’re so nihilistic is because our filters have to be turned up so high. I don’t even SEE most of the e-mails in my inbox anymore. Can you imagine training someone from scratch how to do that without creating a small-souled bugman?
I suppose the obvious follow-up question is, what do you call someone who tells you the decoys are real because they want them to be real? Other than a Boomer, I mean. Quick story for inspiration: I just met my landlord. He’s been trying to collect money from a next-door neighbor and I asked him what the dealio is. I was then treated to a 30-minute rant about how easy it is to make money if people would just try hard like he did as a kid back. Literally the same rant as every time. Every Boomer started out at $2/hr and they were happy. I’ve given up on explaining inflation to them. Did you know $2 in 1975 is $10.15 in 2021? (Mind you, that’s before the recent hyperinflation.) And you started at that with no experience, references, or interview when you were 12?
This is a great example of someone who wants it to be true that kids can go into HVAC and make six figures, because America’s so great that we don’t need to shoot all the landlords and start over. So in the context of a con job, what do you call an unwitting shill?
[Update: I’m retarded, the term of art is useful idiot.]