(@2AM – promoted by On The Bus)
There’s a fascinating article about black-ops programs squirrelled away in the science section of tomorrow’s New York Times.
The article is about a book titled I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me by Trevor Paglen. The book’s subject is, nominally, the uniform patches worn by members of various black ops.
Black-ops in bomb design, radar evasion, spy satellites, and much more. The Times has a slide show of some of the various patches worn on the uniforms of people in these programs here.
“It’s a fresh approach to secret government,” Steven Aftergood, a security expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said in an interview. “It shows that these secret programs have their own culture, vocabulary and even sense of humor.”
One patch shows a space alien with huge eyes holding a stealth bomber near its mouth. “To Serve Man” reads the text above, a reference to a classic “Twilight Zone” episode in which man is the entree, not the customer. “Gustatus Similis Pullus” reads the caption below, dog Latin for “Tastes Like Chicken.”
The stuff about the patches is fascinating. Paglen’s thesis is that the patches can tell us something about the intent, culture, and goals of the various programs. Sort of a culture-studies study on Cheney’s “dark side” of government operations.
But even more interesting is a comment Paglen makes at the very end of the article:
Mr. Paglen plans to keep mining the patches and the field of clandestine military activity. “It’s kind of remarkable,” he said. “This stuff is a huge industry, I mean a huge industry. And it’s remarkable that you can develop these projects on an industrial scale, and we don’t know what they are. It’s an astounding feat of social engineering.”
“An astounding feat of social engineering.” I take it that Paglen means that it is astounding that our government could condition us so to accept that fact that we, as taxpayers, lavishly fund black-ops projects without knowing or thinking that we should know what exactly it is we’re funding.
The classified budget of the Defense Department, concealed from the public in all but outline, has nearly doubled in the Bush years, to $32 billion. That is more than the combined budgets of the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
That Paglen chose to call our agreeableness a result of “social engineering” is particulary interesting. I think about the movies we watch, the Tom Clancy-type books we read, the news we consume, that all tells us black-ops is cool, and is something we should want — and pretends to tell us something about what we’re funding. When in fact, we don’t have the slightest idea. We think we’re paying for James Bond. Maybe we’re paying for Caligula. We don’t know. The amazing thing is the extent to which we don’t think we ought to know.