“President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.” — McClatchey News
In 1959, two friends of mine, Carl and Michael, staged a spy experiment at the small Ithaca, N.Y., airport. They were students at Cornell University.
Michael was coming in on a little commercial plane from New York late at night.
In the one-room terminal, Carl waited for him and paced around, wearing a British raincoat and sunglasses. Occasionally, he’d look at his watch and glance out at the airstrip.
Finally, the plane arrived.
Michael, also wearing a British raincoat, descended the steps from the plane, and Carl walked out to meet him on the tarmac. They stood, head to head, for a few minutes, talking to each other. They gestured toward the terminal.
Security personnel arrested them — on suspicion of seeming suspicious, which was the point of the experiment.
Since America is now a spy state, where everyone is expected to snoop and snitch on everyone, why not play the game?
A hundred college students walk into a large coffee shop and sit down.
They starting passing notes to each other (1950s spy-iconography).
A few of these students approach the counter, ask for the manager and, when he appears, inform him that the waiters and waitresses are doing suspicious things: staring, avoiding eye contact and lingering too long at tables while taking orders.
This little stage play is repeated every day, until media pick up on the story.
A few hundred college students gather in front of a government building. As employees come out at the end of the day, the students pull out cellphones and pretend to make calls. They talk loudly, mentioning that they’re seeing suspicious activity from government workers.
Repeat daily, until media pick up on the story.
In a small town, 100 parents bake cookies in the shape of guns. They give them to their kids to take to school on the same day.
Repeat every day until the literal robot-minds of school officials implode.
I think everyone in the United States should have a screensaver with a picture of a gun on it.
Five hundred students hold a birthday party and picnic in a park. They all wear very large badges hanging from their necks: “Citizen Spy.” They pretend to make phone calls, reporting suspicious activity, while pointing at other people in the park. It’s sure to garner some attention after two or three days.
What? You might be arrested for these activities? Oh, I see. Yes. The entire country is on lockdown. That’s right. We can’t interfere with Federal and State agencies doing their jobs, 24/7, to protect us from ourselves.
On a website, Secular Confessions, people are invited to confess their own “suspicious activity” in detail. You can add, as a bonus, a section for thought crimes.
“I thought about plotting the overthrow of Monsanto. I confess. I’m guilty; and I want expiation, if not excommunication.”
“I considered masturbating when DHS tanks rolled through my town. I don’t know why. I was suddenly gripped by an uncontrollable impulse.”
“During work today at USDA, where I inspect samples of wheat, I started feeling that I was a suspicious character. I thought about lifting the whole building in one hand and turning it upside down and dropping it on Henry Kissinger’s head. I’m a very bad person.”
Let’s all confess.
I personally am suspicious (it should be “suspect,” shouldn’t it?) because I have a lingering obsession about the Bill of Rights. I’ve tried to purge it from my consciousness in favor of the far more cogent, “we’re all in this together,” but I can’t. I need re-education.
And I have strange thoughts when I drive through an intersection outfitted with video cameras. I want to burn those cameras in a bonfire. I want to see thousands of those cameras burn together. Why does that image produce such unalloyed joy? Something must be wrong with me, right?
I’m guilty of another thought crime. I want to see Russ Tice, a longtime employee of the intelligence community, featured on page one of The New York Times. I want to see his assertion that the National Security Agency was spying on Barack Obama in 2004 plastered in a giant headline across the top of the page.
I want to see Chris Matthews, up to his Obama-tingling legs in muck, working in a giant industrial pig farm in Mexico. This thought surely marks me as a danger to the state. I must be plotting something. I just don’t know what it is yet.
I’m reporting Brian Williams, Scott Pelley and Dianne Sawyer as suspicious characters engaged in a mass hypnosis operation. I want action. It must stop. Every night, these morons appear in millions of homes and frame the news in terms even Mickey Mouse could see through.
I want the Reality Manufacturing Company to cease doing business at once.
I’m suspicious; you’re suspicious; we’re all suspicious. Let’s form a new nation based on that irrefutable premise. Let’s quit piddling around. Let’s be suspicious.
Stop smiling. Start looking at things sideways. Squint. Learn how to growl convincingly like a dog. Screw Labor Day. It should be Suspicion Day.
Paint on the back of your shirt: “We are all NSA.”
Get into it.
“We’re all NSA. We’re all suspicious. We’re all spying. We’re all guilty.”
Go for the home run ball.
It’s a game. I can spy on you faster than you can spy on me.
“Are you saying your neighbor is a suspicious character because he’s spying on you?”
“No, he’s suspicious because he isn’t spying on me enough.”
“My neighbor is growing Chinese cabbage on her front lawn.”
“Chinese? Thanks. We’ll get right on it. You just earned a gold star, Ms. Good Citizen.”
This is the era of the busybody. The scum rises to the top.
That old lady who lives down the block and peeks between her curtains at whatever is going on outside is beginning to feel like King Kong. The world is catching up to her at last.
It’s the time of the literal mind, which operates blind to context. In the middle of a conversation, a phrase like “they should be shot” or “I’d like to blow the whole thing to kingdom come” surfaces; and certain faces register a pause, a flinch. Hmm. “That might be dangerous. He shouldn’t have said that.”
One of my favorite media glosses is: “understandably nervous in the wake of.”
This is used to justify grand-slam law-enforcement officers reacting to harmless events and innocent civilians.
There is always a prior event that can used to rationalize a robot response.
“Understandably nervous in the wake of the Great Flood, officials took a man named Noah into custody today after he let two rabbits and two hamsters loose in his garden.”
The real objective of the War on Terror is the creation of literal minds, entrained to think in lowest-common-denominator terms.
“There will be no metaphors, no distinctions. Automatons forever.”
The literal mind lives, every day of its existence, guilty of obstruction of justice. It functions at the level of an insect and delivers far less.
This is what the surveillance state is meant to induce.
Operant conditioning is based on the premise that, in their native state, humans are nothing more than programmed biological machines. Therefore, replacing one program with another is perfectly apt.
When I was 5 years old, in 1943, I went to a nursery school around the corner from our apartment in New York. The first day I was there, a teacher gave me preliminary instructions. I can’t remember the specifics, although I do recall they were inane. I replied, “OK.”
She froze. Then she smiled one of those big fake smiles. “No,” she said. “We don’t say ‘OK.’ We say ‘all right.'”
From that moment on, I remained on guard because I knew I was in an alien environment.
I soon learned that the goal of this school was socialization. Pretended harmony.
Say the proper thing. Share and care. Be polite. Don’t be frank, be earnest. Smile. Achtung.
For the rest of the term, I observed this strange, cockeyed little world. I said little. I was from another planet, called 19th Street; and I wanted to understand how these lunatics at the school were operating.
On the last day of imprisonment, as we were all assembled in the yard, the head gooney bird approached me and thanked me for my “cooperation.” She thought I had surrendered.
I don’t remember whether a politeness certificate was involved, but I did recognize this was a wild misunderstanding on her part.
Homogenized America is now moving to a new level: Wherever you see cream separating, report it to the authorities and they’ll shake and stir.
See anything, say everything.
To any literal minds who may be reading this article by accident: Don’t worry your pretty little heads. There’s a flower growing over there. Report it. Report the breeze, the summer, the moon. And don’t forget the most important thing of all: Pick up the phone and dial DHS and say, “I want to turn in the Federal government. They’re committing crimes.”
You’ll be right, every day.
What’s left of the idea of a Republic is a memory. Now, the people in charge want to take the final step and turn it into a Pavlovacracy.
They want the Matrix to report to the Matrix.
The most pernicious advocates of the New Age preach that, in order to pass into next phase of evolution, humans must purify their thoughts, dispensing with all negativity. Otherwise, they’ll be left behind the iron gate of the past to suffer great pain and turmoil.
This is a quite adequate description of what the surveillance state is doing.
Self-flagellation is making a comeback. You watch. Just as people show up at police stations and confess to crimes they haven’t committed, we’re going to see a wave of demented souls reporting on themselves for “suspicious behavior.”
It’s a natural offshoot for the class of those whose aspire to victim status, but don’t possess authentic qualifications.
I welcome the phenomenon. It’s exactly what the surveillance state deserves for inventing a new category of immolation: clogged-up phone lines and email boxes.
“I want to report that I said something I shouldn’t have said.”
“No, really. I’m a suspicious person. I need to be on some kind of list.”
In the 13th century, people started walking around in long lines, beating themselves with whips. By the 14th century, the Roman church became so exasperated it excommunicated all flagellants en masse.
Too much bad press. Original sin was fine, but people were taking it to a whole new level.
It’s going to happen again in the surveillance state. Get your popcorn ready. Go to work, Dr. Phil.