Sorry, I’ve fallen behind my twice weekly schedule to post these chapters of POLEMICAL JUDO…. tied up in meetings of NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC), and re-issuing both my Out Of Time series of YA novels and Colony High! But I haven’t forgotten the crisis we are in.
First though, if you are actually a person who reads… This cogent article details at least two dozen ways the coming election might be messed-with by those who are desperate for democracy to fail.
As it happens, today’s posting of Chapter Eight is all about the only possible solution. One that either Joe Biden or some democracy-loving zillionaire could implement in ten minutes, just by issuing a statement! Alas, it is 2020 and people don’t read anymore. (Did you intend to read this chapter in its entirety? Of course not.) Hence, I’ll summarize the gist right now:
Joe might say: “None of the plots against American democracy can succeed if enough light shines upon them. So I call upon the henchmen… the helpers or hirelings, or those who have been blackmailed, coerced or bribed! This is your moment to step up and be heroes! Collect evidence and spill it now, while there’s time for it to get independently confirmed. And if your information makes a real difference, I promise you this —
“When I am president, I will appoint a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will look into
every credible story or accusation… yes, those made against Democrats too, including me! Eminent Republicans will be asked to serve and retired senior judges and military officers and respected scholars and clergy. And — solely upon their recommendation — I will consider clemency – full or partial – for those who do more good with light, than they ever did harm in shadows.
“I offer this especially to those who live in fear of blackmail coercion or who are restrained by NDAs. This may be your chance to escape those traps and gain fresh esteem as a hero! You can find details at my website. But in fact, shouldn’t your greatest reward be to do the right thing? Do it now! Gather evidence. Expose crooks and traitors. Our nation has always been the one – across all the annals of history – that did best in sunlight.”
To which some patriotic zillionaire might add: “Without consulting the Biden campaign or any other, I will now add a further incentive! A million dollar prize – plus protection for a year by a top bodyguard service – to those five whistleblowers, or former henchmen, or blackmail victims who step up with solid evidence and proof of the worst current plot against American democracy.”
Why is this obvious step so counter-intuitive? Shouldn’t it be obvious?
Okay, let’s get on to Chapter 8 of Polemical Judo, Where you’ll see how long I’ve recommended this very thing! But for those who stick with it to the end… I’ll offer a final recommendation that would help Joe Biden crush it, at the coming debates!
This Chapter began in 2008 as a posted danger-warning to congressfolk who were newly elected that year, but it grew in scope and universal relevance. In fact, I’ve felt guilty for not pushing the alert harder. It is my chief reason for putting together a collection and book. And yes, it segues directly off the previous chapter on conspiracies.
We all think we have the world sussed, seeing things that others don’t. As an author of techno-thrillers I’m pretty well-informed about dangers looming ahead. But our biggest threat may be as old as civilization itself.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
All of you enthusiastic neophytes to national power – this may be the very moment for a little protective paranoia. Always remember that some powerful people will see you as a threat to their interests. Some of the more unscrupulous may seek to neutralize that threat, using classic methods, known across history. One of the most basic ancient techniques – going back to biblical times – has been entrapment and blackmail.
Remember the U.S. Marine guards at our embassy in Moscow, some decades back? It all started when a few boys – lonely and far from home – were invited to party with some local “students.” A little alcohol, then sex with local hookers… were followed by a drug high or two… and a few lewd pictures… then some incriminating ones…
At any point, early on, those young men could have saved their own lives and served their country, simply by turning themselves in. The first to do so might even have saved his career. Others could have escaped with minor punishments. Instead, alas, they let themselves be blackmailed, by gradual stages, into doing the KGB “just a couple of harmless favors”…
… relatively harmless, at first. Xeroxing a few embassy visitor lists. Penny-ante stuff. Only then, the Soviets had real dirt on the poor fellows. Proof of espionage that could produce real prison time. And meanwhile the girls and drugs kept coming. Plus flattery. (“You are special, James Bond types – above normal loyalties and laws.” Very similar patterns of ego-milking helped to suborn the Walkers and that dismal FBI agent, Hanssen.) Soon, those marines were trapped. Fully in the pockets of their nation’s enemies, they were betraying really harmful secrets.
DO YOU DOUBT IT STILL GOES ON?
Security experts and intelligence agents know all about this process, which has been used by kingdoms, empires, syndicates and unscrupulous groups since time immemorial. Indeed, all through World War Two and the Cold War, it was a key job of counter-intelligence professionals to watch carefully for hints of subornation. They collected and correlated patterns of travel, or unaccountable wealth, or crony-favoritism, keeping a wary eye open for anything consistent enough to merit closer scrutiny.
So now? Does it really matter that our roster of “enemies” has changed a bit? The KGB is “gone.” But there are others – some of them heirs of past enemies, employing the very same agents and methods – who do not want our civilization to thrive. Or who would influence our top decision-makers in order to be better parasites. Anyone who thought this classic danger ended with the Cold War has to be titanically naive.
Moreover, consider this: Bribery is actually far less efficient and reliable than blackmail!
If you bribe an official or legislator or bureaucrat, they may demand more next time. Or else say “I helped you enough this year.” But blackmail puts them in your pocket for good. It transforms the relationship, making him or her less a business associate and more the blackmailer’s personal servant.
Has this scenario already been in play, among members of the present ruling caste?
Of course, the imagination can run wild – colored by your degree of paranoia and your personal politics. (How else would you explain some decision patterns, in recent years, that seem relentlessly to benefit just a few hostile interest groups, over and over again, at great cost to the general commonwealth? Always start by listing the big winners.)
No, I won’t go into detail here as to who I think may be orchestrating present day attempts at subornation. Nor does that matter, since no one can point to a single era of history when it did not happen.
We are better off assuming the tradition goes on. And that some enemies of our republic, our civilization, and the Western Enlightenment are doing it right now.
THE WARNING APPLIES TO YOU
Oh, especially you incoming Democratic lawmakers and staffers, don’t be fooled by the fact that most of the known American traitors, across the last 40 years, were Republicans! (e.g. the Walkers, Hanssen, Manafort etc.) Democrats are fallible, corruptible and human, too! Indeed, there may be forces at work in DC, right now, who aim to test this methodology on the newest players in that wild and ethically-challenged town.
Even veteran Democratic representatives may need to heed this warning, because only now have they become more interesting targets for subornation.
Moreover, while the main topic of this open letter (and the book) is political subornation, can anyone doubt that even greater efforts have gone into the commercial kind? Rivals and predatory arbitrageurs – both domestic and foreign – have a long history of targeting human weakness in the executive suites and research labs of competitors. It ranks among the top methods for intellectual property theft
Even if I am exaggerating the current extent of suborned betrayal within the many branches and agencies, corporations and media that make up the American Establishment, this warning stands, because it will always be a danger. A peril that can turn almost any friend of our civilization into a snake, dwelling in its heart.
Hence, let me offer a little advice to all loyal Americans – whether Republican or Democrat or independent entrepreneur – who may be embarking upon careers along avenues of power.
TAKE SIMPLE PRECAUTIONS
– Consign yourself to live a super-clean life. Become a personal prude. Back away from temptations, even if they take place in the apparently secure confines of (say) a billionaire’s yacht or on a private estate, or a royal palace in some foreign land.
Especially in those environs! Because those may be the very people who would like to “own” a representative or bureaucrat. The more flattering and friendly and ego-stroking they may seem – assuring you of secure and private pleasures – the stronger the possibility that the very walls may have cameras. Aimed in order to guarantee that you will remain a valued friend.
– Hire a good professional paranoid for your staff. Someone who knows all about these nasty tricks and who can spot bait-lures on the horizon. Likewise, have a truly wise confidant – someone not on your payroll – to whom you can turn when temptation comes your way. And don’t entirely trust either of them.
– Have a scenario-plan worked out, for when you are approached with either a potential entrapment or a follow-up blackmail threat. Those first instants of surprise and confusion could be critical. If you are prepared (especially technologically), you may be the one to turn the tables on your persecutors… and thus do your nation a service out of all proportion to any “goods” that the bad guys have on you.
Indeed, talking this over among yourselves, you may also be well served to look into whether agencies like the FBI may offer pre-training services and even some technology, empowering you and others like you to act decisively and confidently, when and if such a time comes. (And if they don’t offer such services, ask why not.)
Indeed, if you make it openly clear that you are wary, it may keep such plotters away.
– Contemplate the algebra of forgiveness. Some of you reading this may have already tumbled over the edge. It may have happened to you – some moment of weakness or falling into temptation. Perhaps even blackmail based upon faked photos or videos, or something you never did! (A modern problem that I discussed way back in the last century, in both Earth and The Transparent Society.)
Maybe you’ve been on a hellish spiral for years, hating yourself…
…or else rationalizing that you’re now serving a superior side. That’s what human beings often do. Even the worst traitors seldom view themselves that way. Blackmailers are often supremely good flatterers.
However it has come down, consider this: It’s never too late to do the right thing.
Consider the following… then ponder it again. Then contemplate.
If the subornation process that I describe has been going on in a systematic and pervasive way, polluting our institutions and corrupting our trusted public servants, how do you think history will view the first of you to show some guts? The first to stand and fight back?
If you do it with savvy and skill, somehow turning the tables on your blackmailers – as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos arguably did – can you even doubt that your nation will value that service, far higher than it disdains your original, disreputable deeds?
I know I will! I’ll fight for you, and so will millions of others.
– Help foster a civilization that rewards openness and forgiveness. This is a long term goal. But if we keep making progress toward a civilization that has a sense of proportion about lesser human failings, then we may neutralize many situations that were, or remain, “blackmailable.”
Little sexual lapses should matter less than graft and treason, for example. (But remember, once you are blackmailed for the one, you may then be pushed to commit the latter, and be blackmailed for that!)
In any event, we all need to help foster trends toward a nation and a world where people will feel safe to own up to their faults, rather than feeling terrified that their smaller slips and faults will doom their hopes. We should not be led by folks who are afraid of light.
AND OUR ULTIMATE VICTORY CONDITION
Pausing here in this chapter’s “open letter to a politician” motif, I’ve repeatedly hectored many of our top defenders to step back and consider what might be the long-range victory condition for our kind of civilization. Not just the USA, but for any species that aims for justice, integrity, progress, accountability… and the stars.
It’s easy to see that victory condition if you recognize one simple truth. All of our deadly foes, who wish us harm, are lethally allergic to light.
Bearing that universal in mind, it is clear that the long range victory condition for our kind of civilization is a future world that’s filled with open-fair competition, calm negotiation, but above all… light.
Of course this relates to our current topic – blackmail and other kinds of secretive coercion. I have already spoken of whistleblower protection and rewards, in Chapter 5’s section on “The Fact Act” and in Chapter 7’s riff on conspiracies. We’ll return to the topic again and again, because no form of light can be more effective than revelations from dark corners. That’s why I have long urged a Henchman’s Law to help protect those who do this.
Moreover, some private, patriotic zillionaire might get it all rolling by offering a set of prizes – perhaps $5 million – for some employee of, say, a corrupt voting machine manufacturer who comes forth with proof. And if proof doesn’t appear, you don’t pay! (But instill fear in those bastards.) If you do wind up paying, you become a hero for saving the nation.
As we go back to my “open letter,” just keep in mind – light is the one cleanser that every kind of filth – in and out of our society fears most.
PICK THE ULTIMATE WINNER: CIVILIZATION
The crux? Consider again: blackmailers love to give their victims a sense of helpless isolation. But the sickness may be far more pervasive than you imagine! And spreading. For it is the nature of evil men that they are insatiable. They will keep trying whatever has worked in the past, casting their nets wider and wider, under an illusion that the good times can go on forever…
… until, at last, they try these tricks on people with the courage, wit and patriotism to fight back. At which point, the whole vile deck of cards may come tumbling down.
Where will you be, when that happens?
According to the algebra of redemption, only the first to blow the whistle will be heroes, forgiven all, rewarded with everything. After them will come the most agile rats, abandoning a sinking ship, tattling and pointing fingers in exchange for clemency…
…and the last to come out will be hung.
Again, if you are already caught in this mesh, they want you to think you are alone. But there are likely hundreds, even thousands of others, any one of whom may suddenly erupt with conscience, patriotism and courage. History shows that this kind of thing is never stable. Either it will result in democracy being thoroughly corrupted and destroyed… as happened many times…
… or else such schemes will collapse, as American and Enlightenment civilization continues its inexorable progress toward an open and transparent and accountable society. In the first of these two eventualities, you may thrive, having sided with the new masters. But you will know (deep inside) that you helped to end the Great Experiment. May it gnaw your guts.
But suppose what happens is the second outcome. (I have reason to believe it.) Then cowards who let themselves be blackmailed or cozened or suborned or bribed or flattered into treason will eventually be brought to light. And they’ll be sorry.
Either way, you can see what’s at stake. So be careful. Take precautions. Cut through the rationalizations. Keep your eyes open.
– Oh, one final point: If you seek the people’s trust and are granted political power, that makes you a soldier: Live with it.
We are a civilization that’s at war for its very survival. Moreover, “terrorists” are among the most pallid and laughable of our enemies. There are worse threats to the continuation of our Great Experiment in open civilization, in science and democracy, in social mobility, in truly free-creative markets and a joyfully open mix of competition and cooperation.
None of those great things can work well in darkness, manipulated by cheaters.
Stand up. Know what the enemy can do. And deny them the power.
Lagniappe concerning the coming 2020 presidential debates: Of all my scores of suggestions, someone get this one to Biden!
At the debates, when Trump assails Joe’s supposed physical or mental problems or being “drugged,” Biden should say:
“Mr. President we both have Secret Service details waiting just outside. Both details have qualified doctors, EMTs and nurses. Let’s invite them into this auditorium RIGHT NOW to take blood samples, witnessed on live TV, and have the samples submitted to three different labs for a full workup. My tests won’t be perfect, but I am happy to clear the facts for the American people. I am rolling up my sleeve, right now. Have you the guts to do the same?”
Even if Trump is NOT medically shaky (and of course he is) he would likely be terrified of needles. Bets?
If you see a common thread in all of this. Yes. It is light. We are the side of light. They stand for darkness in every conceivable way. I stand ready to take wagers on that.
 “Political Blackmail: The Hidden Danger to Public Servants.” http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/blackmail.html
 Note that government officials are far from the only people available as targets! Anyone in command of critical infrastructure is on the list. Power plant operators. Commercial IT providers. Website gurus. News organizations. Indeed one of the most chilling predictive novels of science fiction – The Cool War, by Frederik Pohl, foresaw an attrition campaign of reciprocal sabotage that could – short of nuclear conflict – grind all sides down to poverty. Highly recommended. The book, not the war.
 The best recent example, though hard to emulate, was billionaire Jeff Bezos, who defied his would-be extortionists and turned the tables on them. And yes, he’s the world’s richest man, so it was fairly risk free. Still, it’s behooved on folks like that to point out the way. There are many tales of French officials who – shown photos of their infidelity in Moscow, have snarled. “You call zees photography? Let’s try again.”
 Something like it was tried, briefly and without much fanfare – or enough money – in the wake of the November 2016 election. http://www.protectourelections.org/2016/11/17/one-hundred-thousand-dollar-reward-offered-for-evidence-of-election-fraud/
 Comments Republican Pat Scannell, on critiquing this project: “I’ve always been amazed at our outsized quest for security. We won’t spend $100M in civilization building efforts, but we’ll spend $1 trillion in response to 19 guys with box cutters. We struggle to pay $3K/years in pre k per student, but we have no problems spending $60K/year to incarcerate them later. We lock down our schools, thinking it has made them safe from school shooters, but those efforts, like TSA, are more theater for our concerns – the generation of an artificial narcotic (and fake) sense of security, to quiet the cognitive discontent we have that we are insecure. Better, as Alan Watts says, to have the wisdom of insecurity, and an accurate view of balanced risks, which in the end, are far cheaper bets than the costs of trying to secure ourselves against all risks.”