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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Psy War

I've been reading about a remarkable fellow named Paul Linebarger. Back in the 1950s, he was a CIA psychological warfare specialist who, under the name Cordwainer Smith, made a name for himself as a science fiction author. His SF was extremely wild and inventive.

Linebarger lived here in Baltimore, where he taught classes at Johns Hopkins. At night, in his home, he taught another type of class to a handful of American spooks selected for duty in Southeast Asia. You can read a fascinating insider account of those get-togethers here. The excerpt comes from a book by a former CIA guy, published in 1976.

One section popped out at me. As you read these words, ask yourself if the technique described here doesn't sound awfully damned familiar...
To everyone’s surprise Boston Blackie, our group anti-hero and skeptic was the one who replied....“...there was a referendum in Massachusetts on the question of birth control information...Then one of the priests got an idea. He suggested that we explain to the parishioners that if the voters approved the change in the law and permitted birth control information to be legally disseminated, this would mean that they would have to get a written permit from the government if they wanted to have a baby...

Linebarger thought this was an excellent story.
That's pretty much the entire Fox News act, right there.

If someone suggests regulation of assault rifles, the conservatives will pretend that the discussion is about rounding up all guns. If someone suggests the trillion dollar coin, conservatives will pretend that the coin would have to contain tons of platinum. If someone suggests that Americans should adopt a French-style nationalized health insurance program, the conservatives pretend that godless Bolshevism is on the way.
So the ends justify the means ... where have I heard that before?
Cordwainer Smith wrote some of my all time favorite fiction. I especially remember Virgil Findlay's (sp?) illustration of many of his stories.
Put simply, the population growth will have to be controlled and severely limited, whether folks like it or not. If left unchecked and allowed to grow at present rates, the over-population issue will be the end of humankind itself. Resources, including artificial ones such as money, cannot sustain an ever-growing and infinitely increasing population. I'm truly surprised that governments have been more forceful in limiting population growth. I'd like to share a very short experience of mine. I was up in Port Clinton, Ohio to see one of the Great Lakes with my mother and her husband. We stopped by one of the local ice cream vendors and took a seat in one of their outside areas to enjoy our chosen ice cream treat. While eating my ice cream, I sat in proximity to two middle aged upper class Republican women. I overheard them discussing the overpopulation problem and talking about various solutions. One solution, that both they and I agreed upon, was setting up a state run program that would actually pay males and females to get a vasectomy or hysterectomy, respectively. To offer such sterilization services not only for free but also to offer to pay the person a few thousand dollars to get them should, in theory, encourage sterilization. There is no need at all for population growth, as our species is not in any danger from being too low in numbers, and population should be capped until such as a time that poverty can be eliminated. If that doesn't happen, then we continue to propagate with no responsibility to take care of those we gave birth to before. We cannot even take care of the population that we have and thus, over 2 billion people live in absolute poverty and of the 196 countries in the world, over half of them are completely and helplessly impoverished and doomed.
Jay? Was I talking about that?

This blog really has attracted some odd commentary recently...

Bob, Linebarger was indeed a fascinating fellow. You should read the piece at the other end of my link.

I have theorized that Linebarger was a huge influence on L. ROn Hubbard's fantasies. They had the same agent -- the redoubtable Forrie Ackerman. Linebarger's real life history resembled, in some respects, the fake life history that L. Ron made up for himself.
I have to say, you are extremely patient with us commentators, Joseph. I am one of the worst offenders, yet you make us feel welcome.

Thanks for that.


My comment was to discuss the talking point of the quote you gave. That quote asserts a near-future where folks have to get permission from the government in order to pro-create. I'm sorry, I thought that was an open subject in this post. I really didn't believe you would interpret it as off-topic. I am sorry.
Oh, gee, my comment is surely going to get a sad shake of the head, at the very least. I love both this topic of a fore-runner to the Fox News method/s and the sideline one on the example given, of population control. I was going to say you've been satisfyingly prolific recently, Joseph, and I have a lot of catch-up reading to do, but I would very much like to hear your take on the recent depressing suicide of Aaron Swartz...
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