Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Consulting Political Detective

Before I tell you the story, I have to tell you this other story.  And by "tell you" I mean copy/paste part of a Wikipedia entry about a famous bit of science fiction lore from the 1940s:
[By March 8, 1944, Cleve Cartmill's story 'Deadline'] had come to the attention of the Counterintelligence Corps, who saw many similarities between the technical details in the story and the research currently being undertaken in great secrecy at Los AlamosGregory Benford describes the incident as told him by Edward Teller in his autobiographical essay, "Old Legends"
Coming three years later in the same magazine, Cleve Cartmill’s “Deadline” provoked astonishment in the lunch table discussions at Los Alamos. It really did describe isotope separation and the bomb itself in detail, and raised as its principal plot pivot the issue the physicists were then debating among themselves: should the Allies use it? To the physicists from many countries clustered in the high mountain strangeness of New Mexico, cut off from their familiar sources of humanist learning, it must have seemed particularly striking that Cartmill described an allied effort, a joint responsibility laid upon many nations.
Discussion of Cartmill’s “Deadline” was significant. The story’s detail was remarkable, its sentiments even more so. Did this rather obscure story hint at what the American public really thought about such a superweapon, or would think if they only knew?
Talk attracts attention, Teller recalled a security officer who took a decided interest, making notes, saying little. In retrospect, it was easy to see what a wartime intelligence monitor would make of the physicists’ conversations. Who was this guy Cartmill, anyway? Where did he get these details? Who tipped him to the isotope separation problem? “and that is why Mr. Campbell received his visitors.”
Fearing a security breach, the FBI began an investigation into Cartmill, Campbell, and some of their acquaintances (including Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein).[3] It appears that the authorities eventually accepted the explanation that the story's material had been gleaned from unclassified sources, but as a precautionary measure they requested that Campbell should not publish any further stories about nuclear technology for the remainder of the war.
Campbell, in the meantime, had guessed from the number of Astounding subscribers who had suddenly moved to the Los Alamos area, that the US government probably had some sort of technical or scientific project ongoing there. He declined to volunteer this information to the FBI.

Moral of the story: A reasonably bright person with a decent imagination who pays close attention to the available literature can suss out a remarkable level of detail about almost any topic, even when that topic is a tightly guarded secret.  Because facts and logic are what they are, and if one is careful to construct a series of simple inferences each based on the previous one, it is amazing what a humble citizen of the realm with no special access to secret information can figure out.

Still, even when a world-famous consulting political detective such as myself has woven together a coherent and tightly logical series of deductions about exactly why our political media is so (as Holmes put it so eloquently in the Case of The Giant Sumatran Rat Fucker) fucked-in-the-head, it is very gratifying to have someone from inside the game poke their head outside and say, yep, that is indeed exactly how this shit goes down.

Thanks to Alert Reader "MD" for pointing this out to me: the Keepin' it 1600 podcast (which is interesting in and of itself) does a long form interview with former CNN Chief White House Correspondent for CNN, Jessica Yellin.

The fun begin at around the 39:22 minute mark...


Mike Lumish said...

Excellent story.

Two additional bits, the Brits noticed that the Germans were trying to weaponize fission when certain authors suddenly stopped publishing, and to this day a sufficiently coherent assemblage of unclassified materials will itself be classified.

Bob Muir said...

Can't site the source so this may be not true, but I do remember reading that one of the intelligence officers in Russia during World War 2 became convinced that the US was building an atomic bomb because among other things, he noticed the complete disappearance in American Scientific Journals of any papers or articles dealing with nuclear energy.

RUKidding said...

Interesting story and comments. I enjoyed the last part of the Keepin' It 1600 program (no time to listen to more but will check it out). Hat tip to "MD" and you for posting it. Jessica Yellin's comments and "reveals" certainly underline the story that you've been telling for many a year now, Driftglass. Nothing Yellin said was particularly surprising, but interesting to have final confirmations of putting two + two together.

Interesting thought that Rupert Murdoch, of all scum, did initially present some resistence to fellating Trump, but like all the rest, caved in because money, ratings, etc. Of course, I'm sure, like Sykes & Ziegler found out, Fox's heavily brainwashed (by Fox) base would've started protesting if they hadn't gotten their daily fixes of Trump, so Murdoch, effectively, had to cave anyway.

And here we are, such as it is.

Lonnie Harris said...

When the Soviets were doing atomic research, they forbid their scientists from talking to scientists in any other country, including the other Bloc states. In response, a number of them started taking a keen interest and publishing articles in astrophysics journals, which would include them making extremely technical discussions about properties of certain stars that would glaze over the eyes of any political minder who was reading it.

Of course, the stars they talked about never existed - they were describing nuclear physical issues that they wanted to discuss, instead.

bluicebank said...

Thanks for this, Drift. The dark arts of deductive and inductive reasoning never fail to raise suspicion among those who failed to buy those diagnostic tools at the local Radio Shack. As if informal logic was voodoo.

Such alchemy allowed we Liberals, in the propaganda run-up to the Iraq invasion, to figure out that Bush/Cheney were cooking the intel about WMDs, based merely on published reports. And yet, to this day, people talk about that invasion as if it were some fluke, a mistake if that. When all they had to do was go past the boom boxes and buy a fucking equalizer and pre-amp.

Mike Lumish said...

bluicebank - you bring to mind a story that has been lying dormant for these fourteen years. Back in 2002, when BushCo was studiously pounding the drums for war, I was living overseas and reading journals different from those typical for Americas.

One of the discussions held that the approximate date for the invasion had already been fixed, based on the patterns of contracts taken out for heavy sealift. Tanks can't swim to Kuwait, support equipment has to roll out on a systematic schedule, and you can't just order these things at the drop of a hat. Some dedicated hobbyists track this kind of thing for fun - which brings to mind the CIA extraordinary rendition plane that was caught because hobbyists around the globe track and trade tail numbers for fun.

Looking in from outside, I could not believe that Bush could be so dumb as to pull the trigger but he did and now the Middle East is exploded. The jist of this whole discussion is that it's not easy to put all the pieces together but it's not really that hard either.

So why don't the guys who get paid to do this get off their butts and do their jobs?

Lit3Bolt said...

Driftglass, thanks for that podcast link. For me, the Soylent Green moment was around 56:50, when Jessica blurts out "The audience for cable news IS THE MEDIA!"

The TV news managers giggle and gloat at how they can set agendas or manipulate the public into believing anything they choose, and feel politicians should be beholden to them. They primp and preen at their ratings in Nursing Homes and Doctor's offices, and smugly smile as PR flacks and campaign managers beg for airtime to scream talking points at each other, which doesn't cost them a dime.

Then the audience dies or moves away, and after the show, David Brooks will wake up in the stage alleyway, facedown in his own vomit while still clutching a bottle of Bush Brand "Compassionate" Gin, and he will slowly realize he's divorced, lonely, alienated, and has destroyed everything around him, but he can't stop talking to himself about himself because then nobody will talk to him, not realizing everyone has already stopped listening.

SamB said...

"... it is amazing what a humble citizen of the realm with no special access to secret information can figure out." Especially if you had access to the Astounding subscriber list!

trgahan said...

It also isn't that hard figure things out when the Right doesn't bother to hide much of anything it is doing...in fact, frequently it is quite open about it's overall anti-democracy authoritarian goals. The depressing part is some many millions go along with it because they firmly believe they will at least get to sit on top of the resulting ash heap.

MedicineMan55 said...

Thanks for forwarding this podcast, Driftglass. That was rather interesting.

Robt said...

Americans can benefit from having more diverse media like this, on even radio.
The conservative slaughter of anything other than the typical Rush views has taken its toll on to many.
Republicans and their big donor class forged the agenda to demolish competition in favor of right wing hate radio and made great strides in TV media.
With no counterweight available for folks to easily access. right hate media engulfed weary souls from hate right to ALT hate right.
Not a sunray of difference of opinion to pose consideration of thought.

Like union busting, they went on a rampage not to win heart and souls but to propagandize people. But a natural immune enzyme existed and still does.

We are to the point where a Trump can Pied Pipe shallow agenda's To be repeated by their listeners. But when questioned past the ice berg's water level beneath the water on their marching orders. They either move on to another subject or begin the "Libtard" name calling.
I have seen us put a man on the moon and would like to see in my life time a person on Mars. Perhaps some cures of illnesses and improvements in technology and a semblance of conscience of our planet and its resources.

But NO. We have to relive flying the Confederate Flag. Go back to the good old days when children hit in the head and killed with those fun toys "lawn darts", was never reported so never happened.

jim said...

Logic is potent indeed - but logic can be twisted into absurdity in the absence of historical context. Historical literacy goes a long way in parsing modern polity.

The effect of electronic media with an anemic time-frame on politics - & society at large - has been radical. Stories that would once last weeks now have a shelf-life measured in hours. The sanctification of the trivial as equally valid content along with the relevant is another result. TeeVee flattens affect like a charm: violence trumps peace in programming because the nature of the content is a mere footnote to the medium, as ol' Doc MacLuhan so shrewdly reasoned.