Left Influencers: THIS IS NOT A GRIFT

Jason Myles
11 min readDec 6, 2021

“Grift’s like anything else, Roy. You don’t stand still. You either go up or down. Usually down, sooner or later.” — Angelica Huston from the movie Grifters (1990)


The movie The Grifters is a 90s homage to the film noir of the 50s. A sexy thriller the film centres around three lifelong con artists. Anjelica Huston and John Cusack play an estranged mother and son, while Annette Benning plays Cusack’s adorably conniving girlfriend. A morbid tale of seduction and murder in which the double crossers ultimately get double crossed, the Grifters speaks to the Reagan-Bush era nihilism that possessed the soul of a generation.

While the characters are, without question, morally repugnant, after thirty years of neoliberal hegemony they are oddly sympathetic. They each live lonely lives, characterized by transactional relationships that only served to nurture their distrust of all who crossed their paths. Their first-hand knowledge of the cruelty that befalls their victims does not lead them to empathy but rather works to fortify their emotional bulwarks separating them from human kindness. And, although the damage they inflicted upon their marks was detestable, their disregard for the lives of others was, on some level, an expression of the self-imposed Hell to which the grifters were consigned.

Recently I moved to Rosarito, Mexico. While the community and town are a welcome change from northern California, I frequently find myself overwhelmed by the wide array of peddlers that dot the landscape of this beautiful, sleepy border town; barking strip club doorman selling exploitative sexual fantasies, doe-eyed children hawking everything from sweets to song, and, of course, the lowly beggar who seek to elicit the guilty sympathies of the tourist and townsfolk alike.

Much like the characters in the movie, the hustlers and street vendors of the downtown boulevard are isolated in their manipulative milieu. Other than the satisfaction of divorcing a mark from his or her money, what can one truly feel when all emotions are manufactured as part of your con? Whether it’s the humble peasant with filthy hands stretched out asking for a pittance, or the adorable child with heart melting charm, it’s all a façade — even if there is a reality of economic desperation and utter…

Jason Myles

I scream/sing play guitar in Bitter Lake and host the This is Revolution Podcast. Oakland, CA born, Richmond raised. Words and thoughts from the Lower Bottoms.