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Dusty
March 16, 2014 6:56 PM   Subscribe

"Magician Prankster" MagicofRahat gives a homeless man a 'winning' lottery ticket

(and, alas, posts it on Youtube). Previously.
posted by growabrain (54 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
So the 1000$ was real though? I hope that homeless person put it to a good use and didn't do what you might expect.

What does this guy have to do with magic?
posted by Napierzaza at 7:02 PM on March 16


Why not just give him a grand?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:09 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I'm not crazy about people taping themselves doing good acts or the element of trickery involved here but I can appreciate that $1000 is quite a bit of money and I hope that gentleman is able to use it in a way that betters his situation.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:10 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


What does this guy have to do with pranks? Pranks should be funny, not tiptoeing around being unspeakably cruel.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:13 PM on March 16 [11 favorites]


My son and I thought it was terrible what this guy did. Using this homeless guy as a dupe for entertainment purposes. You want to give him money? Give him money. Don't trick him into giving just the right emotional performance then patting him on the head so you can feel good. Jeesh!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:16 PM on March 16 [26 favorites]


Guys come on. Look. This site is so negative sometimes it really bums me the fuck out. There is a nice thing happening.
posted by tracert at 7:17 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


but they didn't give it to him in the right way

don't you see
posted by Sebmojo at 7:19 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I try not to be negative, and I don't think my heart is entirely bitter and cold yet. But there's just something so unsettling about this. The internet raised over $40,000 to give to this guy? Do we know anything about him or how he would use the money? Even $1000 is dangerous unless you're absolutely sure where it's going and where it can be safely kept. Give an addict a huge windfall and you might be writing a death sentence. Give a man $40,000 and he doesn't have a mailing address, and thus possibly can't open a bank account to put it in. He might get beaten to death for the money he's carrying on his person. Admittedly I don't know much about the realities of street life, but I can say I'm worried about this. Good intentions aren't enough sometimes.
posted by naju at 7:28 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]


Eric is a drug addict? And they are handing over $40,000 cash no questions asked? WTF Internet?
posted by stbalbach at 7:31 PM on March 16


The reason why people think this is shitty is because the medium is the message. The real profit here is the exposure the "magician" is reaping. Would this act of altruism take place outside of the gaze of social media? Should we be celebrating this act of simulated charity? The video creator is paying the homeless man for his part in this but that doesn't remove the aspect we find revolting. I'm glad the man is getting help. But he is receiving help only because the act of charity has a homologous relationship to helping the "brand" of the youtube channel. He is occupying a role the video creator made for him. And you are being emotionally manipulated by a self-serving huckster. #inspirational #prank #viral
posted by Alterity at 7:32 PM on March 16 [28 favorites]


didn't do what you might expect.

I'd expect him to buy some food and then be very worried about being robbed. Oh wait, we're supposed to be assuming all homeless people have substance abuse problems? Ok then.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:34 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]


The Fundly thing tracert linked to is nice (though I too hope he has help with it.) But the original stunt seemed rather mean to me, making him cry for our entertainment.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:35 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Why isn't the $40,000 being given to an organization that can work to make many homeless peoples' lives better?
posted by naju at 7:38 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


(I'm definitely not assuming anyone has substance abuse problems, FWIW. We don't know what the guy's story is AT ALL though, and sorry if I find that troubling.)
posted by naju at 7:41 PM on March 16


I'd expect him to buy some food and then be very worried about being robbed. Oh wait, we're supposed to be assuming all homeless people have substance abuse problems? Ok then.

I think the general assumption is that homeless folks are really bad with money. That's why they're homeless! It's their own fault.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:42 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


This site is so negative sometimes it really bums me the fuck out. There is a nice thing happening.

but they didn't give it to him in the right way

I think the people who find this gross and the people who find it nice are both picking up on genuine, but distinct, features of the story. Does the prankster have a purely beneficent will? No, he's obviously interested in receiving acclaim for his action and promoting himself. Did the prank result in a better state of affairs than not pulling the prank? Very likely yes.

We don't have to have a uniform response to the entire event, judging it overall gross or nice. A mixed, and maybe unsettled, response can be a legitimate one.
posted by Beardman at 7:44 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]


Tracert, I suspect that some of us are negative because we have asked the following question:

What agency does Eric have in this situation?

Given the financial realities of homelessness, Eric doesn't really have the same ability to decline to take part in this guy's viral video compared to someone with stable housing. In research we call this coercion, and it makes us worry about even offering small amounts of money (>$50) to homeless people. Think of what makes BumFights different from boxing.

Separate from the coercive nature of the "prank," we might also be concerned about the extent to which MagicofRahat is exploiting this homeless man for financial gain. The video currently has about 14,000,000 views. Cursory googling suggests that YouTube pays around $3 per 1,000 views, so MagicofRahat has likely already recouped and surpassed not only his original $1,000 largesse but also the $41,000 current total of his Fundly effort.

And, I mean, I get it. From a utilitarian perspective everything's gravy because in the end we've redistributed about $40,000 to an artist and another $40,000 to a guy who could probably use a break. Still, I wouldn't say we're all heartless cynics for overthinking this particular plate of beans.
posted by The White Hat at 7:46 PM on March 16 [21 favorites]


This Rahat "magician" dude seems to have a very low opinion of how sophisticated web audiences are. This is a step or two from those websites which paid homeless people to fight each other on video
posted by Bwithh at 7:47 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Isn't "cash stunts with poor people" a flagging category yet?
posted by benzenedream at 7:51 PM on March 16 [13 favorites]


This is a step or two from those websites which paid homeless people to fight each other on video

Oh, ffs, no it's not.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:52 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


So wait, with 13,000,000 views they made... more than the $1000 they gave the homeless guy?
posted by Napierzaza at 7:53 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


The people who think this "prank" is a good thing obviously didn't complete "The Lame Shall Enter First" as part of their required reading. Fail.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:54 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Tada! With a bit of slight of hand he reveals he's a douchebag!
posted by clvrmnky at 7:55 PM on March 16 [7 favorites]


What agency does Eric have in this situation?

Well, he immediately starts handing over some of the money to the prankster with a "Got to share it my man. This right here enough for me," which is probably a big chunk of the reason the video went so viral. There's that, at least.

But yeah, what Beardman said so well: a mixed response is fine here.
posted by mediareport at 7:58 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


So wait, with 13,000,000 views they made... more than the $1000 they gave the homeless guy?
posted by Napierzaza at 7:53 PM on March 16 [+] [!]


Using the 14,003,057 view count I saw just now, the video creator earned between $4,201 and $35,008 , depending on the type of contract he had with YouTube , according to this site
posted by Bwithh at 8:00 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well, we've all given a thousand bucks to somebody, for some reason, at some point in our lives.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:43 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


This is a step or two from those websites which paid homeless people to fight each other on video

Oh, ffs, no it's not.


It's exploiting the severely economically disadvantaged for entertainment and profit. So yeah, it's very much in the same ballpark.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:53 PM on March 16 [12 favorites]


That was gross and exploitative, and I can't believe I bothered to watch after I read the thread. Stupid me.
posted by graventy at 9:01 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


That was gross and exploitative and a very poor person got a chunk of money they may never have been able to get on their own. Regardless of the pranksters motivation, I'm calling that a net positive. And for those of you complaining that you don't like what he's gonna do with it, I don't like how you spend your money either. I guess both of us are just gonna have to deal.
posted by evilDoug at 9:11 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]


Man, if only we lived in a world where people had their money taken off them if they were going to spend it on dumb shit. Everyone earning anything over about five hundred bucks a week would swiftly find themselves earning only five hundred bucks a week.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:38 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


It's exploiting the severely economically disadvantaged for entertainment and profit. So yeah, it's very much in the same ballpark.

Yes, and Lolcats are the same as bear-baiting.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:39 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


That doesn't even make sense.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


Yes, and Lolcats are the same as bear-baiting.


No, but you know that, like you know that using a homeless person like this is kinda icky
posted by Cosine at 10:15 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Hey, I got my wish: I look forward to a future in which the rich pay middling amounts of money to the desperately poor for the thrill of watching them experience extreme emotions.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:23 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


My son and I thought it was terrible what this guy did. Using this homeless guy as a dupe for entertainment purposes. You want to give him money? Give him money. Don't trick him into giving just the right emotional performance then patting him on the head so you can feel good. Jeesh!

Illusion. Trickery is something whores do for money.
...
I mean cocaine.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:25 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Here's an AMA with Rahat. He doesn't strike me as being a soulless opportunist, fwiw. His channel was already super successful, and it looks like he was already experimenting with using magic tricks/pranks to help people out a bit recently: Coffee To Coins For The Homeless. The fundraiser he's sponsoring has raised over $40,000 for Eric, and it sounds like he's involved in helping to set things up with stuff like pre-paid rent on a place for him, etc. He also mentions that he may be working on something bigger for helping homeless people.

Obviously, this wasn't an anonymous selfless act, and Rahat is certainly benefiting, but I just don't get the impression that he's doing this cynically.
posted by taz at 5:01 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


The store owner wanted his face blurred out. I wonder why. Was he paid something to participate? Also, I felt bad that the guy wasn't allowed to share it. It's like "we'll give you money, but no human connection." It's a parody of capitalism.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:07 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


You know, if I was homeless and someone offered me a grand to appear in their YouTube video, I'd be all over it like white on rice.

And the fact that they'd used some kind of subterfuge to make me think I'd won said bag of sand? Wouldn't give a flying fuck.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:18 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Well, again, I'm not this guy's PR person, and obviously I cannot vouche for the state of his soul, but here's a shot with Rahat, Eric, and Rahat's camera guy/friend, together for lunch. Maybe aside from the lunch, and the $1,000, and the $40,000 from the fundraiser as a result of the video, and putting him up in a motel, he's treating this guy horribly, but it doesn't strike me that way.
posted by taz at 5:22 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Man driven into the ground by ruthless capitalism or lack of discipline or both gets a second chance thanks to a smarmy magician. That's definitely a positive thing. If you dislike the medium, I suggest not purchasing anything sold by said magician in the future.

Why isn't the $40,000 being given to an organization that can work to make many homeless peoples' lives better?

Why don't you give $40,000 to this organization you speak of?
posted by GrapeApiary at 5:33 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


The last time somebody handed me $1000 I definitely did NOT use it to better myself.

and yes, this is something from a dystopian near-future story, like Moira Crone might write.
posted by allthinky at 7:28 AM on March 17


Yeah - I'm not fond of needing charity in our society, as The Coup said

A gang of preachers screamin sermons over murmurs and sobs
Saying pray for a change from the Lord above you
They'd tear this motherfucker up if they really loved you
I'd rather "tear this motherfucker up"...

I'm also not fond of the self-promotional aspects of these things.

I also think, as others have said, that this guy has 1000 that he didn't before, and that is a net good.

Did anyone else catch him wiping his tears in the video after hugging the guy. He might be self-promoting, but I don't think he's completely oblivious/lack of empathy. He might not be as fully conscious of his privilege, but in his heart, I think he really does feel. Unless that wipe was, of course prestidigitious fakeout for us marks. I don't think so.

Asking why someone gives to one organization instead of an individual?

There's this thing. I don't like a lot of Libertarians (capital-L), and Tyler Cowen, the economist, quite often irks me to no end. But one thing I will give him credit for, and that he's got my respect for is that he supports "cash payments" to poor people, no questions asked. Now, I think there needs to be institutional support in finance management in general, to help go along with this, and this isn't blaming people for not managing their money, but rather, the fact is, we live in a society that pushes rampant consumerism on us, and it's hard to fight that off. If you don't have support around you to help change your mindset, giving you cash isn't going to help in and of itself.

BUT! The point is - while he ignores the larger issues of the framework we live in, he at least gives the recipient some fucking dignity and honor, instead of trying to milk them of the last remnants by forcing them to kowtow to a regime of piss tests and applications and forms and bureaucracy to PROVE that they really honestly deserve the money.

Now this is different, and in fact, yes, maybe making this show is the opposite of giving the guy "dignity and honor and respect" by making him a spectacle.

When he wanted to give half the money to the magician dude, and the guy wouldn't take it, I thought in some respects not taking it was condescending, not letting the guy have his own agency to give the money to who he wants to... I think it showed that Eric wanted to do the "right" thing by giving the money to the guy who gave him the ticket. I also think his tears upon being told to keep it were in a sense a statement of humanity. The fact he thought people are so cynical and selfish ("nobody has ever done that before")... Yes, it might aggrandize the ego of Rahat, and almost reinforces particular social roles/models of beneficence. On the other hand, showing that people CAN do nice things, maybe helps reinforce a bit of faith in humanity at the same time.

So - it's complex, and I can feel icky and happy at the same time, in different ways for each person involved (INCLUDING myself for being spectator to this, and commenting on it in the first place).
posted by symbioid at 8:18 AM on March 17


I saw this video a few weeks ago and had some of the same concerns naju stated above.

To be clear, even if Eric used the money solely to fund pleasure-seeking activities, be they drugs or alcohol or a warm comfy bed and a shower every day for a month, I have no problem with that. It's his money to do as he wants and that's a luxury he probably hasn't had in a long time. This is not about concern that he won't spend the money 'correctly.'

But that doesn't mean I can't be concerned for his welfare after being given that large an amount of money and (at least as we can see in the initial viral video) essentially just told 'good luck dude.' How does a homeless person secure that amount of cash and ensure he doesn't get beaten up or even killed for it? What happens when the other people he knows find out about his windfall? What if he does have or used to have a substance abuse problem? Does this amount of money entice him to overdo it and accidentally or purposefully overdose?

I hope this does end up being a net good for Eric, but I don't think it makes me a monster that I had mixed feelings when I first saw the video.
posted by misskaz at 8:42 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


after being given that large an amount of money and (at least as we can see in the initial viral video) essentially just told 'good luck dude.'

If you read the Reddit AMA, Rahat says he paid for a hotel for Eric for two weeks after the video, and then started the fundraiser (without telling Eric - he wanted it to be another surprise, but there's that agency question again).
posted by mediareport at 8:59 AM on March 17


Quite a few Voight-Kampff test failures in this thread.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:23 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them...when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."
posted by echo target at 9:29 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Ditto what echo target said.
posted by nerdler at 9:44 AM on March 17


How awful for that guy to earn $40K to be "exploited" for a few days when for most Americans have to get exploited for the better part of a year to earn the same. Better we should all starve and keep our dignity, I suppose.
posted by xigxag at 9:58 AM on March 17


It's a little different.

"Hi, you have nothing. I'm going to trick you into giving you a bunch of money you need, and I'm going to shamelessly milk recording this for profit and other peoples' entertainment."

It's grotesque. Something good may have come out of it, sure (but again, what the actual fuck is a homeless person supposed to do with $40K?), but the ends don't justify the means.

If he wanted to give this guy a thousand bucks he should have walked up to him and said "Hey, I have a thousand bucks. It's yours now. Hope this helps make your life better."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:14 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


The short version of our objection is "homeless people are not props for you to use to make yourself feel better and look good in front of other people, even if you give them money." This isn't about giving somebody money. This is about treating somebody as an object.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:29 AM on March 17 [6 favorites]


Watching this, I get the feeling I got when my toddler proudly presented me with an ugly, wilted weed-flower she picked "just for Daddy." Smiling with excitement and pride, she lovingly placed it my palm and made me promise that I would keep it forever and ever.

The emotion that I experienced again when I realized I had forgotten to place it in a book... and noticing the flower had mostly disintegrated, it went in the trash.

Or the time she raced home to put on her new fairy wings we bought from the dollar store, and just couldn't understand why they wouldn't actually make her fly. Her face upturned to the sky... I watched the emotions flicker across her face. First, hopeful and excited, then determined... and then just sad, looking to me to make them work right. Finally, a dawning realization and embarrassment that she even thought they would work. Yeah, that feeling right there. I hated those wings right then, and physics even more.

Such melancholy. Brought about by the reality that there is the possible, and the impossible. There is an objectively accepted view of pretty and ugly, treasure and trash.

And of course, the immediate mental projection into the future... She'll forget the flower by tonight (she did), She needs to know that fairy wings won't make you fly (she does, and still loves to wear them), $1,000 or $40,000 won't fix why Eric was homeless (it won't).

But for her, just moments in time... joyful and passing, full of discovery.

Let them have it while they can, I know too much.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:43 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


(and, alas, posts it on Youtube)

And then, alas, you posted it here. Making us all a little worse off.
posted by crossoverman at 3:21 PM on March 17


I regularly give money to homeless people.
Every sunday night on my way to a show on sunset I stop by the liquor store and buy a bottle of water, an energy drink, a fruit juice and maybe a couple kind bars and a lottery ticket for the guy who sleeps in the doorway.

I don't video it.

He says thanks.

If I had a youtube channel for this, I could donate more. So i think I'm the lame one for not taking videos, even if there is a moment of dignity in anonymity.

I gave $20 to a homeless guy because I saw Patton Oswalts special for free. I posted the image and immediately felt ashamed because even though I asked this guys permission, there's a stigma attached.

Conflicted.
posted by varion at 10:30 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


If I had a youtube channel for this, I could donate more. So i think I'm the lame one for not taking videos, even if there is a moment of dignity in anonymity.

You have an excellent thought here - but Rahat's YouTube channel operation isn't a charity, it's a business which he personally profits from. His lottery ticket /homeless guy video is part of promoting that business. This is not very different from reality TV shows that "help" people In ways designed to pull in audiences for advertisers and marketing dollars. His fundraiser is not so different from corporate philanthropy where a big company makes a donation to a cause it believes in but also to generate goodwill and publicity for its business (except that in the crowd funding case, the $ is at least mostly coming from others, not Rahat). So in these ways, it's quite different from your generous thoughts and activities.
posted by Bwithh at 12:01 AM on March 18


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