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"The Convincing Business"

November 17, 2001

Satire by
Lauren Weinstein


Some people always know how to make a buck. The ongoing turmoil in world events seems to have created income opportunities in merchandise lines somewhat off the beaten (so to speak) track. Don "Sebastian" Medina, founder of "Convincing Apparatus Enterprises" is a living case in point.

"Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Sebastian," I said.

"A pleasure, Lauren. You never need a thumbscrew to get me to talk up the 'convincing apparatus' biz!"

"Well, Sebastian, let's start right there. I've never heard the term 'convincing apparatus' before. Wouldn't most people call your products simply torture devices? Your Web site seems to feature all sorts of gruesome items."

"Ouch! Lauren, first off, we never use the word 'torture' in this business. It's like an undertaker calling the client a 'stiff' in public. Secondly, you have to remember that 'convincing' is in the eyes of the beholder. If you've got a righteous cause, it's perfectly reasonable to employ 'extreme convincing' techniques. Oh, I'll admit it makes some people a bit, uh, uncomfortable, but ya' know, no pain, no gain!"

"Do you cater to particular types of clients?" I asked.

"Our clientele tends to fall into two broad categories," said Sebastian. "It's a mix of governmental agencies around the world, and wholesalers specializing in entertainment for the bedroom. You'd probably be surprised at some of the countries, companies, and folks on our customer list!"

"Sebastian, I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I first heard about your firm."

"Hey, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Ha, I just love using that line! Seriously, ours is a family business going back hundreds of years to the old country. Convincing apparatus sales may have their sharp and dull periods, but there's always a market for quality convincing."

"I don't want to seem like a fuddy-duddy or anything, but outside of the obvious ethical issues involved in using such things on anyone, don't you worry that your tort ... I mean, 'convincing' devices could easily be used on innocent people and just generate false information and bogus confessions?"

"Lauren, we just make the stuff. Would you blame a gun manufacturer for misuse of firearms? I rest my case."

"So I assume you expect business to continue booming?"

"Well, given all that hopeful talk about bringing torture into the American law enforcement system we were getting pretty excited, but now we're having some doubts."

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"It's this new military tribunal thingie that President Bush has set up. Historically, once you have secret, 'make up the rules as you go along' trials, the market for convincing apparatus falls off significantly," said Sebastian.

"How so?"

"Well, you just don't have to really convince people anymore. All you gotta do is think they're guilty, or maybe you just don't want them around for any old reason, so you just convict and march them off to the noose! No need for rules of evidence, appeals, or even confessions. No muss, no fuss! As professionals, we can certainly see the sophistication of that approach. But as manufacturers, it has us a bit worried about our bottom line."

"I can imagine. Even the Salem witch trials were mostly public weren't they?"

"Right," said Sebastian. "And confessions were still important back then, so the convincing apparatus market was, shall we say, red hot!"

"You've certainly convinced me that you have a complicated sales situation to deal with," I said. "Let's talk more about this sometime soon."

"Lauren, I'm always glad to chat -- you won't have to twist my arm!"

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Lauren Weinstein

For information about the author, please see: http://www.vortex.com/lauren

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