by Hagbard Celine
|As every thinking person has noticed, our national life has become increasingly weird and surrealistic. The waiting lines at banks and post offices are growing longer all the time, even though demographers tell us U.S. population is no longer rising. The street signs more often than not say WALK on the red and DON’T WALK on the green. You can't get a plumber on the weekends. Nobody has been able to explain the cattle mutilations yet. Every survey shows that the price of consumer goods, the number of violent crimes, and the eerie popularity of THE GONG SHOW are ominously accelerating.
I believe I have found the explanation these distressing trends. Needless to say, I cannot present, in a short article, all the evidence which I have accumulated in three decades of careful metasociological research; that will have to await the publication of my three-volume study, "Why Everybody Is Going Bonkers." Here I can only mention the thousands of depth interviews, the innumerable flowcharts and helix-matrix equations, the vast files of computer readouts, the I CHING divinations, and other rigorous scientific techniques used in developing what I modestly call Celine's Laws of Chaos, Discord and Confusion.
Celine's First Law is that National Security is the chief cause of national insecurity!
That may sound like a paradox, but I will explain it at one. Every secret police agency must be monitored by an elite corps of secret-police-of-the-second-order. There are numerous reasons for this, but three are especially noteworthy.
NATIONAL SECURITY IS THE CHIEF CAUSE OF NATIONAL INSECURITY!!!
1) Infiltration of the secret police, for the purpose of subversion, will always be a prime goal of internal revolutionaries. This is an ordinary part of the spy-counterspy game. There is nothing Weather Underground would like better than having a few agents in the FBI or CIA, for the same reasons that the FBI or CIA would like to have a few agents in Weather Underground.
2) Such infiltration will also be a prime goal of hostile foreign powers, for the same reasons.
Please note that these are simple facts of the secret-police game, well-known even to the general public, the subject of many ingenious plots in popular spy films, and not particularly alarming...yet. Nonetheless, the seeds of Chaos, Discord, Confusion, and Paranoia are already here, for the simple reason that once a human being develops the habits of worry and suspicion, he or she finds increasing justifications for more worry and more suspicion. For instance, Richard Q. (not his real initial), one of my interview subjects, became concerned, after ten years in the CIA, with the possibility of infiltration by "extraterrestrial" agents. He was eventually retired when he began to claim that demons in the form of dogs wanted him to assassinate Laverne and Shirley.
3) Secret-police officials acquire fantastic capacities to blackmail and intimidate others in government. Stalin executed three chiefs of his secret police in a row, because of this danger. One of my informants claims that every president since the National Security Act was passed in 1947 has learned how to have sexual intercourse without making a single audible sound, because of the possible electronic eavesdroppers. As Nixon says so wistfully on the Watergate transcripts, "Well, Hoover performed. He would have fought. That was the point. He would have defied a few people. He would have scared them to death. HE HAS A FILE ON EVERYBODY!” Thus, those who employ secret-police organizations MUST monitor them to be sure they are not acquiring too much power. In the United States today, the superelite that monitors the CIA is the National Security Agency. (And a group called "The Store" monitors the NSA).
Here is where a sinister infinite regress enters the game. Any such elite, second or third order secret-police agency must be, according to the above pragmatic and necessary rules, subject to infiltration by native subversives or hostile foreign powers, or to acquiring "too much power" in the opinion of its masters. (It may even be subject, if Richard Q. was correct in his anxieties, to extraterrestrial manipulation). And so, it, too, must be monitored by a secret police of the third order.
But this third-order secret-police (such as Nixon's notorious "plumbers", or more currently, "The Store") is also subject to infiltration or to acquiring too much power...and thus, with relentless logic, the infinite regress builds. Once a government has n orders of secret police spying on each other, all are potentially suspect, and to be safe a secret police of order n+1 must be created. And so on, forever.
THUS WHO EMPLOY SECRET POLICE MUST MONITOR THEM TO BE SURE THEY ARE NOT ACQUIRING TOO MUCH POWER.
In practice, of course, this cannot really regress to infinity, but only to the point where every other citizen, or until the funding runs out, whichever comes first. National Security in practice, then, must always fall short of the logically ideal infinite regress which we have shown is necessary to the achievement of its goal. In that gap between the ideal of "One nation under surveillance, with wiretaps and mail covers for all" and the strictly limited real situation of finite funding, there is ample encouragement for paranoias of all sorts to flourish. In short, every government that employs secret-police agencies must grow more insecure, not more secure, as the strength, versatility, and power of the secret-police agencies grow.
For instance, a certain left-wing nation which has employed secret-police agencies for 61 years has now reached the point where the leaders are terrified of painters and poets. In another, right-wing nation infested with secret-police agencies, several purges have been caused by three practical jokers who regularly call middle-rank officials on the phone and talk in what appears to be a code. The secret police, of course, are no fools, and are aware that this might be what it in fact is, a form of anarchist humor; but they can't be sure.
What usually happens in such cases is this: an official receives one of these mystery calls, saying perhaps "Pawn to queen rook five. No wife, no horse, no mustache. A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim." He knows immediately that surveillance upon him will be increased tenfold. In the next few days, while memories of all his mistakes, small bribes, in cautious remarks, and other incriminating events haunt his imagination, he observes the increased surveillance, and begins to suspect even the most loyal of his subordinates of watching him with eyes that miss nothing and to give a sinister interpretation to everything. Within ten days, he usually attempts to contact a foreign government to seek political sanctuary, and the secret-police net closes on him.
By the same process of worry leading to more worry and suspicion leading to more suspicion, the very act of joining a secret-police organization will eventually turn a man or woman into a clinical paranoid; in layman's terms, "bananas" or "wigged out." THE AGENT KNOWS WHOM HE IS SPYING ON; BUT HE NEVER KNOWS WHO IS SPYING ON HIM! Could it be his wife, his girlfriend, his secretary, the newsboy, the Good Humor man? For these reasons, secret-police agents develop elaborate and complex theories to account for what is actually going on.
According to one of my tables of data, there isn't a single theory held by professional conspiracy buffs which isn't also believed by many members of our various secret-police agencies. In fact, the exact percentages of believes in these extravagant scenarios are quite similar among a group of 1,000 CIA agents and a control group of 1,000 readers of the underground press, as shown in table 1.
a) Source: Gallup, Roper, and Hogtied, "WHO'S WATCHING WHOM" (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1979), p. 432.
b) All figures are percentages. Figures do not add to 100, for a variety of reasons. For a list of them, please send 25 cents and a list of suspicious persons in your neighborhood to the US
Dept. of Bedding, Washington DC 20001.
c) Includes those who blame it all on the Bavarian Illuminati; those who hold a multiconspiracy theory (e.g., the Lesbian Vegetarians are allied with the Yankees and Bilderbergers against the Cowboys, the TV Networks, and the Cattle Mutilators); those who believe it is all part of the UFO Cover-Up; and those who claim that demons in the form of dogs told them it's connected somehow with the alligators in New York's sewers.
IN RUSSIA, THE GOVERMENT IS TERRIFIED OF PAINTERS AND POETS!
Now, Table 1 clearly gives a picture of a rather schizzed-out nation. This is the result of the impossible infinite regress and its resultant of worry leading to more worry. Furthermore, if there is a secret police at all, in any nation you care to imagine, every branch and department of that country's government becomes suspect, in the eyes of cautious and intelligent people, as a possible front or funnel to the secret police. (That is, the more shrewd citizens will recognize that something titled a branch of the HEW or even PTA might actually be run by the CIA). Inevitably, the government as a whole, and many nongovernmental agencies, will be regarded by reasonable persons with fear and trepidation. Proverbs like "One can't be too careful these days" and "Better safe than sorry" become a kind of sinister folk wisdom.
But further yet: any government which already has a secret police (and a secret police monitoring the secret police, etc) will become alarmed on observing that its more hip and intelligent citizens now regard it with loathing and misgivings. The government will therefore increase the size and powers of the secret police. This is the only rational move, within the context of the secret-police game.
SOMETHING PASSING AS A BRANCH OF HEW MIGHT BE A FRONT FOR THE CIA!
(The only alternative was once suggested sarcastically by playwright Bert Brecht, who said, "If the government doesn't trust the people, why doesn’t it dissolve them and elect new people?" No way has yet been invented to elect a new people; so the police state will instead spy on the existing people even more vigorously)
This, of course, creates additional paranoia in both the governors and the citizens, because a sufficiently pugnacious secret police will eventually "have a file on everybody," including its own creators. This leads to another infinite regress: the more people will loathe the government, the more power will be given to the secret police. Thus, whether any of the hypothetical conspiracies mentioned earlier really exist or not, a system of clandestine government inevitably produces, in both the rulers and the ruled, a mood of paranoia in which such conspiracy theories flourish. This escalating sense of suspiciousness is accelerated by the fact that every secret-police organization engages in both the collection of information and the production misinformation. That is, you score points in the secret-police game both by hoarding signals (information units) ---that is, by hiding facts from competitive players---and by foisting false signals (fake information units) on the other players. This creates the situation which I call Optimum Fuckup, in which every participant has rational (not neurotic) cause to suspect that every other player may be attempting to deceive him, gull him, con him, dupe him, and generally misinform him. As Henry Kissinger is rumored to have said, "Anybody in Washington these days who isn't paranoid is crazy!"
One could generalize the remark: anyone in the United States today who isn't paranoid must be crazy!!!
"IF THE GOVERMENT DOESN'T TRUST THE PEOPLE, WHY DOESN'T IT DISSOLVE THEM AND ELECT A NEW PEOPLE?"
The deliberate production of misinformation (or, as intelligence agencies more euphemistically call it, disinformation) creates a situation profoundly disorienting to the philosopher, the scientist, and the ordinary Joe who wants to know the best time to go to the bank. The desire to discover "what-the-hell-is-really-going-on" (the definition of science
offered by physicist Saul-Paul Sirag) is totally incompatible with the circulation of disinformation; we all need to know, at least roughly, what the hell is really going on if we are not to stumble around like blind robots colliding with things we weren't told were there.
Maybe the UFO's really exist---or maybe the whole UFO phenomenon is a cover for an intelligence operation. Maybe there are black holes where space and time implode---or maybe the entire black-hole cosmology was created to befuddle and mislead Russian scientists. Maybe Jimmy Carter really exists---or maybe he is, as the National Lampoon claims, an actor named Sidney Goldfarb specially trained to project the down-home virtues that the American people nostalgically seek. Perhaps only three men at the top of the National Security Agency REALLY know the answers to these questions---or perhaps those three are being deceived by certain subordinates (as Lyndon Johnson was deceived by the CIA about Vietnam) and are as disoriented as the rest of us. Such is the logic of a Disinformation Matrix.
Personally, I find it easier to believe in UFO's than in black holes or Jimmy Carter; but that may just indicate the damage to my own brain caused by the Optimum Fuckup of the Disinformation Matrix. According to a recent survey 19 per cent of the population believe the moon landings were faked by Stanley Kubrick and a gang of special effects experts. Perhaps these archskeptics are the sanest ones left among us. Who among the readers of this file has a security clearance high enough to be ABSOLUTELY sure that these ultraparanoids are wrong?
This general tendency toward chaos discord, and confusion, once a secret police has been established, is complicated and accelerated by Celine's Second Law, to wit: "Accurate communication is only possible in a nonpunishing situation."
This is a very simple statement of the obvious, and means no more than that everybody tends to lie a little, to flatter or to protect themselves, when dealing with those who have power over them, especially the power to punish. (this is why communication between parents and children is notoriously befoolzled).
Every authoritarian structure can be visualized as a pyramid, with very few at the top and very many at the bottom, as in the flowchart of any corporation or bureaucracy. On each rung, participants bear a burden of nescience in relation to those above them. That is, they must be very, very careful that their natural sensory activities as conscious organisms---the acts of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, drawing inferences from perception, etc. ---be in accord with the wishes of those above them. This is absolutely vital; job security depends on it. It is much less important---a luxury that can easily be discarded---that these perceptions be in accord with actual reality.
COMMUNICATION IS ONLY BETWEEN EQUALS.
For instance, in the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, the agent had to develop the capacity to see godless communists everywhere. Any agent whose perceptions indicated that there were actually very few godless communists anywhere in this country would experience what psychologists call cognitive dissonance: his or her reality grid was at variance with the official reality grid of the pyramidal authority structure. To talk about such divergent perceptions at all would be to invite suspicions of eccentricity, of intellectual wiseacreing, or of being oneself a godless communist. The same would apply to any Dominican Inquisitor of earlier centuries who lacked the capacity to see witches everywhere. In such authoritarian situations, it is important to see what the authorities see; it is inconvenient, and possibly dangerous, to see what is actually there. But this leads to an equal and opposite burden of omniscience on those at the top, in the Eye of the authoritarian pyramid. All that is forbidden to those at the bottom---the conscious activities of perception and evaluation---is demanded of the master classes, the elite and the super-elite. They must attempt to do the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking, and decision making for the whole society.
But a man with a gun (the power to punish) is told only what his target thinks will not cause him to pull the trigger. The elite, with their burden of omniscience, face the underlings, with their burden nescience, and receive only the feedback consistent with their own preconceived notions. The burden of omniscience becomes, in short, another and more complex burden of nescience. Nobody really knows anything anymore, or if they do, they are careful to hide the fact.
As the national security paradigm approaches (or attempts to approach) the ideal infinite regress of spies-spying-on-spies-spying-on-spies, etc., the resultant general trepidation causes all persons to hide anything they know (if it differs from the official reality), not only from their superiors, but from peers and inferiors as well. Anybody, after all, might be part of the nth-degree secret police. "One can't be too careful these days." The burden of nescience becomes omnipresent. More and more of reality becomes unspeakable.
But as Freud noted, that which is objectively repressed (unspeakable) soon becomes subjectively repressed (unthinkable). Nobody likes to feel like a coward and a liar constantly. It is easier to cease to notice where the official reality grid differs from sensed experience. Thus Optimum Fuckup gradually becomes Terminal Fuckup, and rigiditus bureaucraticus sets in; this is the last stage before all brain activity ceases, and the society is intellectually dead. Celine's Third Law is like unto the first two, and holds that -
AN HONEST politician is a national calamity.
At first glance, this seems preposterous. People of all shades of opinion agree that at least on the axiom that we need more honest politicians, not more crooked ones. Please remember, however, that people of all shades of opinion once agreed that the Earth is flat.
Your typical dishonest politician (bocca grande normalis) is interested only in enriching himself at the public expense, a goal he shares with most of his fellow citizens, especially doctors and lawyers. This is normal behavior for our primate species, and society has always been able to endure and survive it.
NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING, OR IF THEY DO, THEY ARE CAREFUL TO HIDE THE FACT!
An honest politician (bocca grande giganticus) is far more dangerous. He or she is sincerely committed to bettering society by political action. In practice, that means by writing and enacting more laws. Indeed, many groups of idealistic citizens publish rating sheets on politicians every year, and those who have created more laws are estimated as having higher value than those who are frequently absent when bills are voted upon. The assumption is that adding more laws to statute books is a positive achievement, like adding more money to our paychecks or more art works to a museum.
A little thought, however, shows that this assumption is not tenable. Every law creates a whole new criminal class; for instance, when marijuana was illegalized in 1937, several hundred thousand formerly law-abiding citizens became criminals overnight, by Act of Congress. As more and more laws are passed, more and more citizens become criminals. The chief cause of the rising crime rate is the rising number of laws being enacted. An honest politician, who keeps his nose to the grindstone and enacts several hundred laws in the course of his career, thereby produces as many as several million new criminals.
It is furthermore mathematically demonstrable that the more laws there are, the more restrictions there are on the freedom of the individual. If there were, say, only three laws in a given society---e.g., Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not lie or defraud---there would be only three restrictions on freedom, which all rational persons would accept as obviously necessary to the maintenance of order. When there are several hundred thousand restrictions on freedom, most of which are felt as extremely irksome by large segments of the populace. In fact, it would take a brigade of lawyers several weeks, minutely examining your affairs, to determine if you are a criminal. Certainly, no ordinary citizen has the time or research facilities to discover if he or she is in violation of one out of skillions of laws currently on our statute books. In many cases, two lawyers consulted independently will give opposite opinions about whether or not a given course of action is in violation of the statutes.
And new laws are being enacted all the time. Obviously, unless there is a sudden paper shortage, the number of laws on the books will eventually reach the point satirized by T.H. White, in which "everything not prohibited is compulsory." It would then probably only take a few years or decades more for a cadre of honest politicians diligently writing even more laws to reach the complementary point where "everything not compulsory is prohibited."
EVERY LAW CREATES A WHOLE NEW CRIMINAL CLASS OVERNIGHT!
At that stage the nightmare world of Orwell's 1984 will be achieved. Crooked politicians, merely interested in the normal human activity of making themselves rich and comfortable, could never create that ultimate horror; but honest and idealistic politicians bring us closer to it every day, with every new law they enact.
These three generalizations---that national security produces national insecurity; that authoritarianism produces miscommunication and eventual idiocy; and that honest politicians
are a plague upon society---will be found to fully explain the Decline and Fall of Rome, the Decline and Fall of the British Empire, and the Decline and Fall of any country you care to name. They are as universal as Newton's laws of motion and apply to ALL cases. Of course, the American Sociological Association says I am mad. Mad, am I? They said the Wright Brothers were mad. They said Edison was mad. They said Baron Frankenstein was mad...
HAGBARD CELINE was trained in contract law and naval engineering but claims he acquired his real education playing the piano in a whorehouse. He is captain of the world's largest yellow submarine, the Leif Erikson, and president of Gold and Appel Inc., an import-export firm that has frequently aroused the suspicions of law enforcement agencies ("137 arrests and no convictions," Hagbard brags). Some claim that he is a master of disguise and has successfully passed himself off under such alternative identities as Howard Cork, Carl Cory, Hugh Crane,
Clutch Cargo, Captain Nemo, etc., and has appeared in countless epics and sagas.
I am mad.