Searching for The Man
By Jay Hardwig
OCTOBER 19, 1998: It seems but a scant time ago that I took to these pages with a fevered pen, up in arms and bleeding at the ears, eager to relate the woolliest details of my disparate, desperate search for Revolution on the Internet. Comrades and apparatchiks among you may recall that the search was grounded in the one-time notion, now somewhat faded, that the Internet had genuine revolutionary potential. Voices that were previously silenced by the monied interests, say, or the government or the Masons or the CIA, would now have a forum in which to disseminate their dissent. My search, while far from uncovering genuine insurrection among the masses, did unearth a few giddy moments of true and honest subversion.
A delightful project, all in all, but terribly one-sided, and it made me wonder: Where are the voices of the silencers? The Chronicle is well-known as a paragon of objective restraint (tee-hee), open to any and all viewpoints. Surely not all the press should be given to those ardent-but-not-always-succinct revolutionaries who have peppered the web with their Maoist rhetoric, paeans to Trotsky, and recipes for fertilizer bombs. There's enough subversion out there, if you know where to look: who will speak for the status quo?
And so I set out to search for the architects of the status quo, to gauge their presence on the web, to see just what the tone and timbre of their counter-propaganda was. With revolutionaries running amok in our great land, I wanted to rest easy in the knowledge that people in positions of power were still doing all they could to obscure facts, manipulate opinion, and squash any genuine discontent. It's the American way, after all.
In short, I set out to find The Man. (Now, I realize The Man has lost some currency of late, enjoying nowhere near the vibrant cache he enjoyed in the late Sixties. That's just how The Man wants it. But I ain't fooled.) Of course, searching the media to find The Man is like going outdoors to find air; The Man is pervasive, invisible, insidious, and omnipotent. The Man knows where I live. The Man knows where I work. The Man knows what kind of cereal I eat, and why. I couldn't possibly find The Man, not in under three thousand words.
In need of reasonable limits, I decided to look for the publicly funded Man. After all, I could rest assured that private propaganda mills and market research firms would hum along nicely without my aid; what I needed to know was that some of my own personal greenbacks were going to prop up The Man and his minions. I decided to concentrate on some of our more cherished government agencies, particularly those with covert branches that could reasonably be understood within the context of the following (vastly underutilized) sentence: "It's just a plot perpetrated by The Man to keep the people down." Indeed.
I started, of course, with the CIA.
I had scarcely logged on to the site (http://www.cia.gov) before I was told, in
no uncertain terms, that I wasn't playing by my own rules anymore. Before I was privy
to any flashy government graphics or clandestine tips on wiretapping, I was forced
to click my concurrence to the following statement, which scrolled in blood-red letters
down my screen:
"You are entering an Official United States Government System, which may be used only for authorized purposes. Unauthorized modification of any information stored on this system may result in criminal prosecution. The Government may monitor and audit the usage of this system, and all persons are hereby notified that use of this system constitutes consent to such monitoring and auditing."
Not even on the site yet, and already being monitored! (The Maoists were nowhere near so impressive.) Unsure if searching for The Man was considered an "authorized purpose," I clicked on and searched around the site.
My first critique is that, graphically, the site is a little unsatisfying. There is a downloadable video of Harry Truman signing the CIA into existence in 1947, but at 2,061K I feared my computer couldn't handle it. The "virtual tour" is an unqualified bore. The CIA is regularly up to its knees in excitement, but none of this is reflected on-site. Where are the clips of successful assassinations, the plans for the latest overthrow of Castro, the maps to the CIA cocaine warehouses? Where do we sign up for the guerrilla-training camps, and what are the ideological prerequisites before we're given U.S. weapons? This handy information is nowhere to be found, my friend, and that's a sad fact. With an annual budget of $27 billion, you'd think they could do better than this. A statue of Nathan Hale? Please.
Despite such a naive insouciance, the CIA site does contain a lot of helpful information. You can link, for instance, to the statement of "CIA Vision, Mission, and Values" (if you don't think that's a contradiction in terms). There you'll find that those values include a "deep commitment to the customer," who, by dint of public funding, I can only assume is me. If so, can I sign them up to arrange a shadowy coup of, say, the local school board? How about removing that pig-headed socialist serving as secretary of my neighborhood association? And how about those Tarrytown wives who hog the tennis courts? Can we do something about them?
While waiting for my response, I browsed the Freedom of Information page, which includes declassified files on famous cases such as the Bay of Pigs, the U2 spy controversy, and the Rosenberg trial. There is even an engine designed to search the CIA database of declassified information, although I doubt its efficacy: In three attempts, I failed to turn up any documents relating to Bo Gritz, Sly Stone, or Margaret Moser.
The next link took me to the U.S. Geological Survey site, where there are declassified satellite photographs for sale. Presumably, you can get a look at your backyard via spy satellite, cloud cover permitting. Neither the USGS nor the CIA is offering any photographs of Leonid Breshnev in compromising positions, however, and as such I left the page in a huff.
My final stop on the CIA Web site was the Frequently Asked Questions page, which is a tad predictable, as the CIA dissembles information about covert action and completely denies any involvement in foreign assassination attempts or drug trafficking. The page failed to answer my burning question, which is this: Will I get my very own file in Langley just for writing this piece? Or would I have to include some sentence like "the CIA is a corrupt and fascist mafia of sinister goals and odious means"? Just wonderin'.
The official answer, of course, would be that Langley doesn't care about me: Domestic
"intelligence" is provided not by the CIA but by the FBI (http://www.fbi.gov).
The FBI page is decidedly warmer than the CIA page. You'll find a brief history of
the FBI, complete with overviews of famous cases (choose from Bonnie and Clyde, Al
Capone, or Pretty Boy Floyd) and downloadable images of "five historical firearms"
(John Dillinger's Smith & Wesson, for instance). The history is actually quite
engaging, although it does tend to paint the FBI as the patient, paternal gatekeeper
responding to a series of delusional fanatics (from early labor leaders to communist
sympathizers to Sixties radicals). You can even find this delicious quote from
The FBI site also hosts a Freedom of Information page (want the dirt on Lucille Ball? Klaus Barbie? the Animal Mutilation Project?) and a Ten Most Wanted page (ugliest fugitive: Donald Eugene Webb, without a doubt). With some industrious clicking, you can find the ransom on Eric Rudolph's head or discover that only seven of the 454 Ten Most Wanted criminals in FBI history have been women.
There's plenty here to make you pause, but in the end, the FBI just doesn't come off as nefarious as the CIA -- which is mildly disappointing but perhaps predictable. Despite the basic willies inherent in the concept of domestic counterintelligence, the FBI can at least claim to have been on the right side at least some of the time (Oklahoma City comes to mind). Still, the FBI page is a little tame, a little too sodden with bureaucratic doublespeak to be truly entertaining. (There's no "Choose the muumuu for J. Edgar" page, for instance.) This same blandness affects the ATF page (http://www.atf.treas.gov), the DEA page (http://www.usdoj.gov/dea), and the homepage of the National Security Administration (http://www.nsa.gov).
It was at this point that I gave up official channels in my search for The Man, turning instead to less conventional means, hoping that the right mix of terms entered into the search engine would yank up the right rock and leave The Man quivering, naked, and exposed. No such luck. "The Man," in and of itself, was too broad a request, and yielded a whole mound of unfiltered garbage, including more than a few Leonardo DiCaprio sites. "Government plot" was similarly scattered, hardly up to the task of unmasking The Man.
"Black helicopters" was a more fortuitous request, bringing up
over 1,000 sites, including the delightful "Little Black Helicopter Page"
The Little Black Helicopter page starts with this helpful primer:
What are the Little Black Helicopters? Quite simply, the Little Black Helicopters are aircraft used by the United Nations to prepare for a total Takeover of the United States.
Intrigued, I read further.
The privately held property inside the United States would be inter-nationalized, the citizens' weapons confiscated, and children gang-raped if we allow them to continue their covert operations.
Hmmm. The site listed testimonies from a few who have seen the helicopters, and naturally I clicked on the one from Austin, Texas. I flat-out blushed when I saw the following blurb:
The following was written to the editors of the completely Communist Austin Chronicle, a "weekly" that's free because it's not worth anything.
I was, quite honestly, touched by the mention. (The page-holder was polite enough to provide a link to our completely Communist site; we thank him for the solidarity.) The sightings, by the way, were reported to be over Highways 183 and 290, so keep your eyes peeled.
An amusing site, but deeply steeped in a paranoid conspiracy theory that leaves no room for the subtleties of The Man. Frustrated, I tried some variations on the Boolean searches that had given me such success in my search for Revolution. +Keepin' +the +people +down yielded no results. +At +what +price +freedom +?, curiously, turned up a smashing site on Christian tithing (www.ncweb.com/users/rcshouldis/index.html), but no whiff of The Man. I tried a few more Booleans (+in +bed +with +Noriega and +I +could +tell +you +but +I'd +have +to +kill +you), but only half-heartedly. I had already figured out that I wasn't going to find The Man on the web.
This is, of course, exactly how The Man wants it. The Man is elusive, transparent, diaphanous, and mute. The Man, at any rate, knows better than to be pegged on one of his own Internet sites. What Man can be found is a diluted Man, his public image a wholesome brew of unguarded patriotism, shiny graphics, and arcane bureaucracy. His presence on the Internet has nowhere near the histrionic timbre favored by the anti-Man. The Man does not often scream or kick; he does not have to. He just sits back and watches it all, and smiles archly, and wins every time. Authority, Gadamer said, lives not from dogmatic power but from dogmatic acceptance. Fair enough. You win, Man. This time.
News & Opinion: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics . Search
© 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Austin Chronicle . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch