Political leaders of all persuasions are known to make public statements of affiliative allegiance with more form than substance, and to disavow political motivations obvious to the public. Such “ritual deceptions” are better understood in the same light as social etiquette—as partly deceptive behaviors that help to bond individuals with conflicting interests. Those who are more open and honest are often punished, more for breaking unspoken rules and taboos than for the actual content revealed. The functions of ritual deception are explicated by sociobiological theory, and the process, by understanding hypnotic transactions. Political deceptions require the active collaboration of subjects, achieved through the same skills used by experienced hypnotists. Deceptive transactions are more likely to occur in internally traumatized societies, and occur along a continuum from ritual deception to overt disinformation. Examples are taken from recent American history. That the content of ritual deception is so close to full awareness suggests its value as a focal point, both for studying the hidden determinants within human politics, and for policy intervention when appropriate.