SNAFU Principle

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The SNAFU priciple refers to a military acronym that points to how hierarchical structures lead to distorted communication and stands for “Situation Normal-All Fucked Up.”  Truth-full, trust-worthy communication is only possible between equals. Work out all the permutations of “equal” – as in equally intelligent, equally informed, equally interested, equally capable – and then look around you and curious insights as to what has happened to our communications come into focus. Put a gun in the hands of one person talking to an unarmed person and the distortions are immediate.

Among so many “rights” lost in the West, there is one “right” which is often defended vehemently and often violently, around the world, especially in the United States: the right to ignorance. “Reality” is reduced to another “consumer experience” to be “customized” for “consumer convenience” by “corporate experts.” No matter how bad things get, in reality, it is absolutely critical for none of it to disturb the “reality consumer’s” sleep.

A culture of “half-truths” evolves. Every communication is crafted according to “good marketing principles.” The listener or the reader’s “consumer rights” need to be respected, especially, the right to ignore anything unpleasant.

Those who point out unwelcome or unpleasant aspects of reality very quickly learn how unwelcome they become. We enter a “Disneyland Gulag” a neurological prison reproduced on a mass scale where the rights that are generally, and vigorously, defended are the rights to remain ignorant, superficial, and infantile. The people at the lower rungs of society carry the burden of nescience, the duty to live out their lives while paying attention to as little of reality as possible. Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea describe these dynamics as “the burdens of nescience and omniscience.”

The increase in generalized incoherence and dependency at the lower rungs of society creates a “burden of omniscience” on those who are supposed to play “Mommy and Daddy” to increasing millions of unknown people. They describe the key cultural mechanics for contemporary “society”. There’s enough in the quote to spend some time with. I’ll leave that up to you.

Iconography of Empire as the Mother Bitch Goddess, Birthing Babies at the disposal, and disposable to, empire’s cause. Notice the bomb-dropping lever on the woman’s pregnant stomach. “Little Boy” is the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Empire’s children are, of course, always disposable for empire’s causes. Painting on U.S. military plane.

The SNAFU Principle

It is now theoretically possible to link the human nervous system into a radio network so that, micro-miniaturized receivers being implanted in people’s brains, the messages coming out of these radios would be indistinguishable to the subjects from the voice of their own thoughts. One central transmitter, located in the nation’s capital, could broadcast all day long what the authorities wanted the people to believe. The average man on the receiving end of these broadcasts would not even know he was a robot; he would think it was his own voice he was listening to. The average woman could be treated similarly.

It is ironic that people will find such a concept both shocking and frightening. Like Orwell’s 1984, this is not a fantasy of the future but a parable of the present. Every citizen in every authoritarian society already has such a “radio” built into his or her brain. This radio is the little voice that asks, each time a desire is formed, “Is it safe? Will my wife (my husband/my boss/my church/my community) approve? Will people ridicule and mock me? Will the police come and arrest me?” This little voice the Freudians call “the superego,” which Freud himself vividly characterized as “the ego’s harsh master.” With a more functional approach, Peris, Hefferline and Goodman, in Gestalt Therapy, describe this process as “a set of conditioned verbal habits.” This set, which is fairly uniform throughout any authoritarian society, determines the actions which will, and will not, occur there. Let us consider humanity a biogram (the basic DNA blueprint of the human organism and its potentials) united with a logogram (this set of “conditioned verbal habits”). The biogram has not changed in several hundred thousand years; the logogram is different in each society. When the logogram reinforces the biogram, we have a libertarian society, such as still can be found among some American Indian tribes. Like Confucianism before it became authoritarian and rigidified, American Indian ethics is based on speaking from the heart and acting from the heart—that is, from the biogram.

No authoritarian society can tolerate this. All authority is based on conditioning men and women to act from the logogram, since the logogram is a set created by those in authority.

Every authoritarian logogram divides society, as it divides the individual, into alienated halves. Those at the bottom suffer what I shall call the burden of nescience. The natural sensory activity of the biogram— what the person sees, hears, smells, tastes, feels, and, above all, what the organism as a whole, or as a potential whole, wants —is always irrelevant and immaterial. The authoritarian logogram, not the field of sensed experience, determines what is relevant and material. This is as true of a highly paid advertising copywriter as it is of an engine lathe operator. The person acts, not on personal experience and the evaluations of the nervous system, but on the orders from above. Thus, personal experience and personal judgment being nonoperational, these functions become also less “real.” They exist, if at all, only in that fantasy land which Freud called the Unconscious. Since nobody has found a way to prove that the Freudian Unconscious really exists, it can be doubted that personal experience and personal judgment exist; it is an act of faith to assume they do. The organism has become, as Marx said, “a tool, a machine, a robot.”

Those at the top of the authoritarian pyramid, however, suffer an equal and opposite burden of omniscience. All that is forbidden to the servile class— the web of perception, evaluation and participation in the sensed universe— is demanded of the members of the master class. They must attempt to do the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling and decision-making for the whole society.

But a man with a gun is told only that which people assume will not provoke him to pull the trigger. Since all authority and government are based on force, the master class, with its burden of omniscience, faces the servile class, with its burden of nescience, precisely as a highwayman faces his victim. Communication is possible only between equals. The master class never abstracts enough information from the servile class to know what is actually going on in the world where the actual productivity of society occurs. Furthermore, the logogram of any authoritarian society remains fairly inflexible as time passes, but everything else in the universe constantly changes. The result can only be progressive disorientation among the rulers. The end is debacle.

The schizophrenia of authoritarianism exists both in the individual and in the whole society.

I call this the Snafu Principle.”

-Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, The Illuminatus Trilogy [bold emphasis added]

Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to [an “authority”], and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.” George Orwell

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  1. Jim Zikratch

    It seems to me that Wilson’s burdens should be reversed, i.e., the “burden of omniscience” should be shouldered by the bottom of a hierarchy because they have to deal with reality, whereas, the top of the hierarchy has to shoulder the “burden of nescience” since all of the information they receive from their subordinates has been filtered by their subordinates to make it look as favorable as possible. Hence, the “information” that those at the top of the hierarchy receive may be almost meaningless. Although, Wilson’s factors that may affect the perception of reality by those at the bottom of the hierarchy may make it impossible, in some cases, for them to adequately shoulder their “burden of omniscience”.

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