Rupert Morgan: Let there be lite

Flattened hedgehogs on the highway of fate.
(S. 249)

Ein Abhandlung über Verschwörungstheorien, vom US-Präsidenten persönlich vorgetragen: wer, wenn nicht er, sollte es wissen. Rupert Morgan läßt seinen Präsidenten – Ockham läßt grüßen – die einfachste und menschlichste Erklärung vorlegen.

Die Szene ist folgende: Der amtierende Vizepräsident von Atlantis (USA), Mike Summerday, möchte Präsident werden. Leider ist sein designierter Vizepräsident eine krasse Fehlbesetzung: er möchte ihn loswerden, unter anderem weil seine  - Mikes - eigene Frau auf diesen Posten mit Druck reflektiert. Der Noch-Vize- und Bald-echte-Präsident unterhält sich seinem amtierenden Präsidenten Monroe (den er gar nicht mag!) über Möglichkeiten, seinen Vize-Kandidaten loszuwerden, aus dem Weg zu räumen. Dafür, so nimmt er an, hat der Präsident von Atlantis Zugriff auf die richtigen Leute „ Special ops. The fixers. The men in black ...“

Ockhams Messer steht für ein Prizip, dass Wilhelm von Ockham im 14. Jhd. vorgeschlagen hat: “`Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate'', grob übersetzt etwa: Entitäten sollten nicht ohne Not vermehrt werden. Bei der Wahl zwischen zwei Erklärungen gibt es häufig eine, die hinreichend aber weniger aufwändig ist: Bingo!

„Michael ... they don’t exist. I am telling you that.“

Summerday looked dubiously at him.

“Hey, listen,” Monroe continued, “I was as surprised as you. Before I became President, I assumed we had all manner of secret divisions and dirty-tricks departments to handle this shit. Turns out not to be so.” He put his hands on his desk, quietly confiding, “You know how each out-going president leaves a note for his successor on this desk, Mike? It’s common knowledge, although the contents of the notes are never revealed, right? Well, do you want to know what the note said when I took over from Burgess?”

Summersday leaned forward, suddenly distracted from his problems by the tantalizing offer of being let in on a secret.

“It said – and this is what I would have written to you when your turn came, but now I guess I’ll just tell you which of the interns give the best head – it said that there is no secret. I couldn’t belive it, but it’s true and it is the single most useful piece of information the guy could have passed on to me. The secret is that there is no secret.”

“Do you seriously expect me to believe that the United States of Atlantis has never used trained assassins to do its dirty work? Bullshit!”

Monroe raised a finger, chiding, “Ah-ah-ah, Mike! I didn’t say “never”. Apparently they did try it once or twice in the past. It didn’t work out. The problem with trying to run an operation like that is that everyone who is involved has to be able to trust each other, but the bottom line is that you are relying on psychopaths. They are unreliable, to say the least. A conspiracy requires cool, level-headed individuals with a clear understanding of the issues involved, but these are not going to be the people who enjoy hanging out on rooftops with rifles, are they? Assassins are by nature very strange people. Mike – they are not what you’d call your dynamic, motivated individual who enjoy working as part of a team. Things tend to go seriously awry when you start involving them in anything. To my knowledge, no such operation has existed since the assassination of President Connolly.”

Summersday raised an eyebrow- “So it was a conspiracy! Who was behind it – the Vice-President? The Feds?”

“Uh-uh!” Monroe grinned. “The fact that those guys ended up being suspected of involvement just shows how wrong these things tend to go. It wasn’t the V-P, it wasn’t the Mob or the Feds, or anyone who has ever beend fingered for it. It was Conolly.”

Eine Verschwörung verlangt kühle, besonnene Individuen mit einem klaren Verständnis der Dinge, die dabei eine Rolles spielen, aber das werden nicht die Leute die mit Gewehren auf Hausdächern rumstehen, oder? Attentäter sind von Natur aus sehr merkwürdige Leute. Mike - sie sind nicht gerade das, was du als dynamisches, motiviertes Individuum mit Spaß an der Teamarbeit bezeichnen würdest. Dinge fangen an schief zu gehen, sobald man die irgendwo mit reinzieht.

President Conolly in his car,

“Connolly conspired to have himself assassinated?”

“Well, no! That’s the point, Mike! That’s what I’m trying to explain to you! Its why we don’t use these people any more! Nobody knows exactly what Conolly was trying to achieve – he may have been trying to stage a dramatic attempted assassination, or maybe they were supposed to shoot his wife, but the psychos messed up! The V-P, who was totally innocent of any involvement, just did his best to keep a lid on the disaster afterwards and the poor sap ended up being suspected of having masterminded the whole thing! Broke his heart apparently. That’s why he didn’t run for a second term. Anyway, ever since Connolly got himself killed no one has wanted anything to do with special ops. The country’s clean, Mike, believe me.”

“So how is it that the entire country still believes they exist?”

Monroe threw his hands up in the air and shrugged.

“Because everyone wants to believe it! Because nobody feels in control of their lives. Because they look at the politics of this country and see that the government is a mess, and they need to believe that someone somewhere is in control! So they start to suspect that there is a conspiracy behind everything, that the official organs of governments are just window dressing for the real power centres whose existence are never acknowledged. It’s that basic psychology – if they believe everything they don’t understand about their lives is the product of a massive conspiracy then their lives make sense! The struggle to see through the conspiracy and discover the truth actually gives their lives purpose and meaning – it’s almost as good as a religion!”

Special ops. The fixers. The men in black ...“

Summerday looked perplexed, unconvinced by this version of reality. “But if none of it is true then why not say so? Why not prove it’s all in people’s minds?”

“How can you? How can you fight it? You can’t produce evidence proving the non-existence of something – it’s a contradiction in terms! How can you disprove the existence of a secret, Mike? There is no point whatsoever in our denying conspiracies exist because that is exactly what everyone would expect us to do! So we’d only comeuro their suspicions wouldn’t we?”

Monroe smiled as he saw the very phenomenon he was describing played out on Summerday’s face – doubt in what he believed battling with the belief that he was supposed to doubt it!

“Look, Mike …” sighed Monroe, “think about it this way: so long as there’s no harm in people thinking their way of life is being safeguarded by highly trained superagents, wha bother trying to disillusion them? If they want to believe that everything is part of some huge, incredibly complicated conspiracy, then where’s the harm in letting them? It’s better than them believing the truth!”

“Why,” Summerday asked softly, his eyes narrowing, “what is the truth?”

“The truth? God, Mike! That it’s all part of a huge, incredibly complicated series of fuck-ups, of course! Governing a country like Atlantis is an impossible task, and almost any attempt to control the way things happen is pretty well doomed to fail from the start. People just aren’t clever enough! But between the public thinking their lives are in the hands of all-powerful, Machiavellian conspirators and them thinking we are actually just a bunch of incompetent assholes, which would you rather they believed?”

Summerdady was starting to see the sense in this. Logically, if it was within people’s capabilities to organize a smooth-running, effective conspiracy then it should also be within their capabilities to organize a smooth running, effective government. Yet he knew the latter was not the case.

Die Wahrheit? Mein Gott, Mike! Natürlich daß dies alles Teil einer enormen, unglaublich komplizierten Serie von Scheißaktionen ist! Ein Land wie Atlantis zu regieren ist eine unmögliche Aufgabe, und fast jeder Versuch den Ablauf der Dinge zu kontrollieren ist von Anfang an zum Scheitern verurteilt. Menschen sind einfach nicht schlau genug! Aber wenn du zwischen einer Öffentlichkeit wählen müsstest, die denkt, daß ihr Leben in der Hand allmächtiger, machivellischer Verschwörer liegt, und einer, die uns alle für eine Bande inkompetenter Arschlöcher hält, was wolltest du, dass sie glauben?

Die These heißt: “We need laws because we have criminals, but we just as badly need criminals because we have laws.” Diesmal geht es dem Präsidenten um die Notwendigkeit des organisierten Verbrechens, um den mob. Summerday, in seiner lieberal-konservativen Anständigkeit, hat keine Ahnung, wovon Monroe spricht. Der versucht es trotzdem noch einmal:

„Michael ...“ he sighed, „there are other countries – advanced, democratic societies such as ours – that have failed to develo a prober mob. They have as much crime as we do, but it is disorganized and wasteful by comparison. They look at us and take pride in the fact that they have managed to prevent the Mob getting a permanent foothold in their economy, but do you know what they have instead?”

Summerday shifted his head slightly to the side, his neck too tense to allow a genuine shake.

“Tea shops, Michael. Their middle classes paralyse society with crass sentimentality and suffocate progress with planning laws, historical preservation and half-baked environmentalism. Their rural communities sink into a neo-fascist nightmare of arts and crafts, antiques and pedestrianization. Their city centres are crippled by a myopic aversion to tower blocks, and their airports are gagged by noise-pollution laws. Gridlock follows as road-building programmes founder in the face of suburban snobbery, and business is encouraged to relocate to ever more absurd areas by well-intentioned but ridiculous tax-break. All of this could be prevented by just a minimum of bribery, intimidation and blackmail: a healthy society needs people who will stop at nothing to make a profit, or the law becomes the lapdog of narrow-minded reactionaries. Is that what you want?”