Combat Diary Number 10

Another great escape from God and the Factoids!

As the sorcerer said to his apprentice, 'the game may be rigged, but it's the only game in town'

"I could believe in God if only the teeth he made for me were as good as those made by my dentist"

Panzerben's Colour Supplement Mk 1

(Being Combat Diary 10, May, 2003)




Chapter 1:  Project 1947: Sex and Death in Ufology

Chapter 2:  A short story: Systems Analysis by the Bad Man himself.

Chapter 3:  Majic 12: A Meditation.

Chapter 4:  The Pixels of Roswell Part 1: A Rhapsody on the Ramey Memorandum.

Chapter 5: Deconstructing the B-29

Chapter 6: The Last Post and Farewell to Wendy Connors, Factual Researcher Extraordinary.

Book Reviews

Letters to the Editor


Dear beloved Escapees, 
This first edition is dedicated to all situationists, eco-warriors, anarchist bears, conspiratorial alchemists, Animal Rights folk, pan-dimensional heroes and suicidal heroines, postmodern surrealists, and those tree-dwelling  rough-sleepers, and horny spam-feeding punks who have an inkling that they may be possessed by the Higher Disturbance. Those who have a need to disbelieve and also those blessed macaroons who do not give a single codpiece about anything at all are also more than welcome to
Panzerben's Colour Supplement Mk 1. 

But all straight factual goody two-shoes beware: there is no fair play, democracy, political correctness, and certainly no blessed objective  balance in Panzerben's Colour Supplements. Now having clasped that oxygen mask thankfully to your profoundly grateful 21st century head, breathe deep, prepare for escape, and even rescue. And remember that  Panzerben's Colour Supplements are not here to educate, inform or convert you. Their sole object is to offer the greatest intellectual sex you have ever experienced.

To all newly escaped adventurers who are hiding in the existential undergrowth in fear and trembling, here is help and succour. You are now entering Fortean Pirate Town, the Dark Side of the Web Rainforest. Here is shelter. This is the up-country your mother warned you about. Throw caution to the winds, become a virtual guerrilla in the rainforest, and imagine a dozen impossible things before breakfast. If you don't do that already, you have been Pelicanised. The cure is to commit the Panzerben's Colour Supplements to memory and hold them up as a talisman against all those from Magonian Brentford who are after the ass of your imagination. Another aim of Panzerben's Colour Supplements is to rescue the ideas Charles Fort from those who would turn them into frog story collection for retired hippies and very English chattering-class Bohemians. 

The latest news on the castration front is that the Bad Man's UFOupdates List posting have been banned. Consequently, the Bad Man has, consequently given them a Salute and a Bronx Cheer in Sex and Death in Ufology, the main feature in the new format Combat Diaries. 
Those left alive on Planet Earth may write to the Bad Man at and their messages may be pasted up in the interests of democracy. Timewasters are welcome, but if you don't like the stuff, you don't stand a chance, but keep trying. Send your stories, poems, UFO encounters, abduction stories

The theme of  Issue Number 1 is Factual Research. Discussed are  those young Anorak Lutherans who with their jam jars and nets search for the Real, that great Loch Ness Monster  of the bourgeois intelligentsia. Searching for something which is as difficult to find as the average person, the Real in the Fortean sense is always either side of a theoretical line. But these metaphysical train-spotters called Factual Researchers examine each particle of universal sand, pronounce it absolutely false or absolutely real, then pass on to the next particle in line to do likewise. The result is books full of doom-laden humourless sobriety sufficient to make warthogs cross-eyed with grief. This world is gone from us as bookable private dinners (with service) in the hotels of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, Agatha Christie "solutions," and uncle Tom Cobbley's old coach-and-four. We are no longer constructed of such certainties and stabilities. We are all clapboard advertisements of one sort or another. The old factual world disappeared into the TV set forty years ago. We are all viewers now. There is no OFF switch. The Bad Man doesn't have a TV, simply because like everyone else, he is forced to watch it every single second of his Fortean life, either waking or sleeping.

In this cultural fluid, "hard" facts don't make sense any more in that facts cannot describe media any more than hard Newtonian atoms can describe the modern world.  In the place of facts are performances, such as the stage shows of constant denial and continuous-explanation industry. We are all pure media. We are a thousand atmospheres all developing at different rates simultaneously. We are ideas, dreams, possibilities, infinities changing in every moment in every way. And don't let the anti-poets and the clay-brained monosyllabic clod-throwing village pelicans get away with telling us that we are nothing, our thoughts, intuitions and mysterious nostalgias are meaningless, and our occult inspirations and our paranormal potentialities are nonsense.
And don't let them tell you brother and sister  bears, that there are no fairies in the wood at midnight. Short-circuit these brain-dead harpies. They are bad trips on the way to enlightenment. Alone, their wretched "factual objectivities"  let them torture animals in labs with importunity. Deconstruct fact, let it pour forth information states, agenda schedules, sub-texts limitless, and wonders and conspiracies galore like a gone-mad Las Vegas fruit machine. Which means that when the Magonian pelicans led by the Brentford Polonius (Rimmer & Co) tell you that the Queen of England is not a Janus-faced holograph in disguise,
Panzerben's Colour Supplements is the place to write and complain. 

Remember: the Real is the only conspiracy that counts, and thank the gods that when it is deconstructed, it shows itself always to be scandalous beyond all conception. 
Welcome to the liminal world, the Fortean world between Fact and Fiction. Read on, take the blue pill and the Bad Man show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. 

In future monthly editions of Panzerben's Colour Supplement, we will be discussing Ufology in terms of modernism, postmodernism, techno, Chaos, Uncertainty, and Fortean and Fuzzy theory, all the things loved by Prod Scargill and the Unbelievers (what a great name for a 1970s group!). This is the New Ufology. Ignore it and you'll be a relic with barnacles stuck all over you like Magonian Chapel Communism circa 1880, and its Bethels and corrugated iron chapels and Salvation Army sentiments of the Real, all bathed in British dismal self-help small-time small-town despair. Not worth a spew in a Brentford doorway in the Bad Man's opinion. 

But watch out, all Believer Bears. In Brentford, pelican fundamentalism is alive and well in that rusted old East German Factory (Prod Scargill's Old British Boot firm) called British Magonian skepticism.
But if Jenny Randles can escape from the baleful influence of the Brentford Polonius and crowd of manic-depressive nail-biting Magonian chapel pelicans, so can you.

I'll be back.

The Bad Man

(The last rococo pedant in captivity)

PS Bears, with casual remarks like nuclear and chemical around me, I am going out now to check the barricades, my gas mask, and await the living postmodern theatre of the Great British Disaster Scenario with is rehearsing in London next week. All the Fallen and Walking Wounded from the very postmodern house of the Bad Man are getting ten pounds a day to act as pavement corpses, victims of the coming revenge of Alla (who he?), which is as bad they say as the revenge of Montezuma. The Seething Elmon (my manservant, so called because he is always in a terrible temper),  is going to be a smallpox casualty (he doesn't need any makeup) and the rest of my household are playing plague and Anthrax victims, and they won't have much trouble doing that, I can tell you, especially the lying about and doing nothing bit. 

Meanwhile, the imported Taliban have unwittingly solved what the Victorian upper middle classes called the servant problem. In the House of Panzerben I have got a Taliban digging my garden, a Taliban repairing my roof, two Taliban working on my cars, and another pair of Taliban making all the beds and doing the washing up. And I get all this  for a dip in the house cookpot, a doss on good clean rags, and a communal hot tub. It's the bargain of the year. Fans, you should see 8 weaponless (and I mean that) Taliban in a hot tub. When they are joined with a few of my Ufological walking-wounded (who head for the House of Panzerben like Taliban for the Welfare Office), it's enough to break up even a Concrete Reality claim from the Brentford Polonius, or even a set of objective Up North Scientific Irrefutable Objective Facts from Scargill the Prod. 

But my Taliban servants (officially disarmed by the UN and officially registered by Welfare, and hot foot from Lisson Grove Labour Exchange) are giving me a lot of trouble. It's the praying that's the problem. Whenever this extraordinary wailing is heard, the Seething Elmon goes on strike, and my poor Tibbins flees into the coal cellar, and momentarily disabled Truth & Revelation addicts take up their beds and head for the nearest mountain top, which just happens to be the nearest coffee-shop in Notting Hill. Even the Walking Wounded, such as Gnostic Freda, Elemental Albert, and Fred the Unbeliever are complaining. 

I'm going to try and get Tibbins out from the coal cellar now with the help of some fresh pork scratchings from Albert Noggins the cat's meat man. 

The Seething Elmon is going down the road to get the Taliban some garden and kitchen tools, it being dangerous to let them get such things down the Portobello Road by themselves. I have asked Elmon (who never ceases talking about  what he calls his fall from the great Hall on the Hill) to get prayer-mats for my temporary staff. His reply was unprintable. And I won't dare tell you what he was sent down from the Hall on the Hill for! Suffice it to say, fans, I got this man cheap, because if he is ever caught out of London again, he'll be dangled under the nearest spreading chestnut tree in no time at all, that why he has to sleep in one of my cupboards, but don't tell anyone he is here.

Coming soon: 


  • The Scientist as Hero: a History of the tragedies of Certainty

  • The Latex Princess. A short story

  • Postmodernism: Introduction to a five-part series. Take this course and don't let the Ufological 

  • Stalinists get you down.

  • Scepticism as Mystique. An expanded version of the infamous Appendix to Politics of the Imagination.

  • FT Watch by Arson Farson (whom the gods preserve). This promises to be a real hot number.

  • UFO  updates ListWatch by Albertus Magnus (who sleeps in a different place each night).


Plus STAR guests, so send your poems, your articles and your madness to PanzerBen's rainforest

So read on Believer Bears, and enjoy this first edition of Panzerben's Colour Supplement Mk 1

Chapter 1

Sex and Death in Ufology

Ufology is essentially a dual between sex and death, with almost nothing in between. The sex doesn't come more steamy than Nikola Tesla's Journey to Mars by Sean Casteel. This is definitely one from the hot dark side of the rainforest. Casteel's book is a brilliantly inspired antidote to all common sense, rationalism, and corporate scientific Ufology, and the only flag under which books like this sail is the Jolly Roger. Here is a skull-and-crossbones book containing all the delicious stuff that drives the poor straight palefaces wild. We have, no less, the flight of Tesla to Mars, Nazi UFO technology, Antigravity, and Frank Znidarsic's Search for Free Energy. It is certainly what more sober courts of reality call inspired. Its sense of play is profound. But only through play do we rediscover that innocence whose loss is the very deepest modern curse. 
That lost and dying tribe called UFO "scientific" Ufologists, with their everlasting "hard, cold, and sober" facts, all of whom  like sceptics, want to burn the rainforest out of us in their separate ways, will try and trash this book, most out of cultural fear than anything else. The fear is that by means of such play as this book represents we might just get something for nothing. Such a thing would violate all metaphysical trading laws beneath the sun and moon.

Consequently, Nikola Tesla's Journey to Mars should be bought in great quantities immediately, and distributed throughout the world to schools, nuclear bases and similar lunatic asylums. Volumes should held up as talismans against many sensible and worthy club-footed UFO books that threaten to Brentfordise the UFO experience. Most of these could stop charging rhinos with their very reasonable boredom, and would make warthogs die squint-eyed with grief before that darling grail of the sensible footware classes called "factual research". 

Casteel's book is a superb example of that inspired intellectual erotica that we all feel guilty and schizophrenic about. Of course, like pornography, this book will not have a single reader. It is certainly one of Charles Fort's "damned" texts. But nevertheless its message will be read by heroic subversives in locked bathrooms and garages, under sheets by torchlight, just as the early gospels giving the exactly same message were once read by oil-light in the caves of Qumran. 
Therefore it should be stowed away carefully with Reich and Leary, Icke and Fort in the mind's rainforest, where the sane and sensible death squads won't find it. 

How do we evaluate such book? We do this by counting the number of old queens and pantomime dames of Ufological sobriety who emerge from holes in the riverbank and waggle their tutus in anger at such outrage. But like Corso's The Day After Roswell, and Leslie and Adamski's Flying Saucers Have Landed, as time goes by, books like this will tell us far more about our society than thousands of long forgotten sober tomes judged to be of greater literary, scholarly, and "scientific" worth. 
The good thing about books like this is that they cause great annoyance to the more sober-minded and depressed of mankind. As such, the debate they inevitably start concerns whether the information and experiences they describe are "real" or not. We might be forgiven for thinking that with such a seemingly absurd claim that Tesla visited Mars, nothing would happen but a shrug of the shoulders. But the violent and savage reaction to such a claim is out of all proportion to the original suggestion. When we have a strong output from such a relatively small input we know that these claims are not so much false or real, but dreams and thoughts we are not supposed to have, and thoughts we are not supposed to think. This Vallee's "control system" in action. In this respect, writers like Sean Casteel don't recognize facts. They think in terms of images, which are a lot more important and far more powerful a method of communication. They are painters, and Nikola Tesla's Journey to Mars is pure Fortean art form.

In the old analogue world, Nikola Tesla's Journey to Mars would have been regarded at best as an errant programme that had to be either switched off (there were OFF switches in those far-off days), or "managed" into aesthetic fiction proper and therefore made safe enough to take home to mum and hang on the wall.  But in our burgeoning virtual world of Entertainment State, these books (and hundreds like them) are best looked at as  liminal works, termite hills of virtual structures, pure media all competing for prime time in consciousness. 
This very different framework puts books like this into a much more important perspective. Such banned inspirations are pirate ships, which like Corso's The Day After Roswell, illustrate the idea that the Mind is not designed to work properly in the mechanical-industrial sense at all. The mind, like a fly-by-wire aircraft is permanently on the verge of instability. That might not be good news to those who believe in Intelligent Design, if only because many of the designs in Nature are patently not very intelligent at all (surely the alien or god who made the brain was not bad, but his pal who made the human fundament was surely a bit of a loser). But the idea that the mind is built to be a permanently unstable and inaccurate and Fuzzy entity fits the ideas in such books as Nikola Tesla's Journey to Mars. We need such wastes of time. We need to wander along all these alleys and byways. Wastes of time are absolutely essential for mental health. As soon as we are told not to waste our time we should know by now that the Arbeit mei frei nutcrackers are near. Work doesn't make you free. It kills you.
Nikola Tesla's Journey to Mars establishes a new Fortean genre. It is not concerned with truth or fiction, but what we might call a new species of information. 
As such, Sean Casteel's book is a piece of the dark green lung of the rainforest. And when the death-squad scientific palefaces come to slash and burn, all heroes and heroines should join the guerrillas, and pray that long may Jolly Rogers such as Nikola Tesla's Journey to Mars fly over seas east of the sun and west of the moon!

Well now we've had the hormone-popping young fecundity. Now let us brace ourselves for aging and death.
Which is just as interesting.

Project 1947: Timetables of the Past

>From: Wendy Connors
>To <>
>Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 18:25:00 -0700
>Subject: Re: Postmodernism - Connors

>What a crock of crappola and waste of life.

>>From: George Hansen
>>To <>
>>Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2003 07:44:56 -0800 (PST)
>>Subject: Re: The Dark Side Of Postmodernism - Hansen

>>The so-called "scientific" paradigms of the old white men of
>>ufology are obviously inadequate. Bennett provides a very
>>useful, alternative way of addressing the phenomena.

I thought I had met the ultimate in living postmodern theatre when once on a journalistic assignment long ago, I met a memorable colony of Mel Tormes at Butlin's Holiday Camp in Skegness. Each and every star feature was an example of early Kareoke complete with Brylcreamed quiffs and Blossom Deary voices. But not even this edifying experience prepared me for that quite different species of information that is the UFOupdates List on

Here I met no less than a complete and intact colony of virtual mechanics, ledger clerks, archivists, librarians, and retired civil servants and administrators. Almost all  were dedicated to what has become known as corporate scientific Ufology. This means that they think they have a scientific approach to the UFO experience. Now that may sound not to bad, but since their "science" has not evolved beyond circa 1950 this makes them surely one of the  rarest animal groups on our planet, their numbers being down to about fifteen-hundred. This means that as a micro-micro culture, they don't have much of a chance in Darwinian time. This is because they have very limited evolutionary options, their one god being science, whose catechism of "objective factual reality" is their only arbiter of experience and truth. In this, they have much in common with their enemies, the Magonian sceptics.
But the thing described by the Maoist village chant of "objective factual reality" is an amazing box of metaphysical tricks made of so many excuses, evasions and crossed fingers and winks and nods and hopes and fears through all the years that it resembles a window-blown hut made of tarpaper and mud on a rain-washed precipitous mountainside. Occasionally the inhabitants flee in fear and trembling from that they call the Real and to patch up another shantytown on a more sheltered part of the magic mountain. Thus does their precious Real, like most things of the mind, have its own weather, whose dangerous moods tease them to death with ever-changing and unstable strata loose under foot. 
Most UFOupdates List folk ignore this shaky concept of the Real, and retain a quite Victorian sense of the great millennial expectations of factual certainty being the coming Messiah; there will come an End time when the correct facts being fully assembled, the finished Prototype (as the ultimate in techno-consumer Messiahs) itself will stand there, on the "scientific" runway, fully complete and ready for testing and development. Yes, it probably will, but it will be as obsolete and useless as Howard Hughes' flying boat, the Spruce Goose, or the stripped bones hauled in by Hemingway's Old Man. This is the American myth that Melville would have recognized, and is the religion of the American Prototype on planet Earth.
In this senscientific Ufology as represented by the UFOupdates List has a touching trust in simple mechanical science and its accompanying compilations of "evidence". For yes, if scientific Ufology has a god, it is the god of compilation. This sub culture within a sub culture compiles as few cultures of any size have ever compiled. Future ages will wonder what these infinite rooms full of "facts" were for, just as we now meditate on Mayan Temples, the great Lion Gate at Mycenae, and the Easter Island statues. The Webs spun off from the List with their infinite rooms will be looked upon as the great railway timetables of Victorian England are now looked upon with wonder. We look upon Project 1947 by Jan Aldrich for example, as others once wondered about the branch line to Addlestrop, scientific Ufology being a journey into the past just as Alice goes through her looking glass. 
It is a past when science was innocent, when Marie Curie's hands were not yet scarred and the first fish were not yet floating yellow-belly up in the canal besides the new gasworks. Like the Victorian world again, List Ufology establishes classes of categorization with the manic energy of a despairing culture. The List is a church, no less. The categories, facts, and definitions are chanted as mantras in one of the last gasps of rationalism. We imagine long columns of priest-like Ufologists enter Kafka's castle of time and compilation, to be piled like the corpses of old priests in the catacombs of the Vatican. Thus quite unwittingly the UFOupdates List is pure postmodern art form looking back. Victorian Techno-Retro as it might be called. Future ages will see its compilations of "factual research" as the Albert Memorial, the Forth Bridge, the fašade of the British Museum, or that monument to British Empire Methodism,  Magonia Magazine.

Astonishingly, almost none of the List contributors have yet reached the age of information, never cyberspace or virtuality, although the List exists in these very mediums. Neither have any of its much-vaunted scientists reached Complexity, Chaos, or Fuzziness, never mind the completely anarchic state of modern physics in which teleportation no less, has now been achieved!
In contrast, the passive compilation philosophy of Project 1947 would have pleased Prince Albert and Darwin both.  They would have loved spending hours turning page after page of specimen after specimen of UFO sightings and UFO experience. The Ufological encounter is looked upon as some curious thing strung on a pole from the old Empire and carried by two sweating servants. These "investigators" don't so much think (that would get them into terrible trouble) as compile, for which they get much praise as compilers. In the main, they work as the  worthy Bob Cratchett once worked manning the great ledgers of the pre-punched-card world.
There is endless speculation not about the UFO which (unlike your Editor) almost none have seen, but about systems of references, systems of recording, analysis, investigation, and even speculations on the construction of "reality checks" for those who claim to have been abducted. This a beehive manned by a very narrow social spectrum, consisting of strangely reactionary and conservative folk, and its often interrogatory tone regarding UFO claims is most reflective of Maoist village Communism. This attitude is reflected in the treatment of people such as Corso, Reich, and in general how the group quickly swarms to filter out eccentrics and non-conformists. It this it appears to represent very small-town America. Certainly there would be many puzzled brows at any mention of Barthes or Sontag.

Suggestions that science is media, or that fact is a management dimension, evokes howls of derision usually from those who reason like garage hands of 1900. The implicit, the abstract, the symbolic, and ambiguity, paradox, and contradiction are quite beyond them. The practical, the demonstrable and the monosyllabic curse is the response. It is all very low-brow, and it all has a rather quaint air because media as a live functional animal has not arrived in these village minds yet. When it is mentioned at all, it is spoken of as a merely passive reflective mirror. As with information, media is looked upon as having simple tangible outputs and inputs. Whilst the pirate cultures as represented by Tesla's Journey to Mars, are young, mad and alive, the UFOupdates List is a significant study of part of a culture in decline. 

With very few exceptions, many and most Listers have a manic paranoid preoccupation with Fact with a capital F that is the intellectual equivalent to that ague afflicting old caged bears with ever-nodding heads, and chained dogs who eventually bite off their own tails. For scientific Ufologists cannot think without Fact. Without Fact, nothing can happen, and nothing is significant. Fact is Truth, and no statement is valid without it. In the world of the UFOupdates List, Facts are piled high as pies on a stall. They curse out all skills of image, symbol and metaphor as if they were the marks of devilish intercourse. Woebetide guesswork, intuition, and especially the imagination. In this world, the imagination is identified with moral evil. It is something that belongs to the broken and the lost, the outsiders and the liars and hoaxers and especially those who make fantastic claims. The imagination is a corruption identified as Sin. 

Strangely, the UFO does not appear to be growing old with them. As a manifestation it appears to despise their existence in time. The pirates, by contrast, don't live in the industrially sequenced pulse of mechanical time; the pirates, like the UFO (surely the ultimate expression of existential piracy!), are free of tasking. The pirates, like the UFO again, have escaped goals, objectives, achievements; Tesla can be on the moon, or the Queen of England an alien lizard. To them the Truth is the Truth of postmodern Fortean art form.

Many Listers are obsessed with the idea that Authority is like a  rather difficult father in a bad mood; if snuggled up to, he will provide sweeties in the form of UFO revelations. From some dusty box or a mistake in some security classification of long ago, will emerge some grail of Ufological revelations. The idea that science is Authority and that Authority will lie as it is designed to do, and so therefore will Science, this idea has not arrived here yet. For in the UFOupdates List the world of appearances is safe and well. Doctors still cure, police arrest criminals in this small-town America of forty years ago. Their WASP reactions are positively Germanic in their Puritanism. When exotics like Reich or Greer or Corso or David Icke come along, most Senior Ufologists (as they blushingly call themselves) act as inhabitants of a Bavarian mountain village would treat a black Rabbi with dreadlocks walked past the rows of twitching curtains of the main street in Bermuda shorts playing rap on a one-string banjo. In other words, the "scientific" palefaces practically fall off their straight scrubbed branches.

Intellectuals in particular are List village strangers. They are greeted by Annie Oakley shotguns firing ill-educated monosyllabic abuse equivalent to a coon hunt of blue-chinned thick-lensed intellectuals with foreign accents. Two-syllable words and longer sentences are faced with American primal terror when the need for a concentration longer than the interval between two commercials is needed. 
Melville would have loved it all. Here on the List is probably the last reservoir of genuine American innocence. He would have loved also the belief in old-fashioned Practical Mechanics happy-jack science "solving" problems and making "breakthroughs" and "advances" for the "benefit" of humanity and sold with a toothpaste smile from the back of a covered wagon. 

Meanwhile, back on the magic mountain, the Real has changed its identity once again. The kids are pushing keyboards that have nuts and bolts drawn on them as virtual echoes of what once had been. As if in sympathy, the buts and bolts themselves become shot through as a newspaper under rain, and the British can't make a cuckoo-clock, never mind a rifle or railway.

The massive failure of nerve of scientific Ufology and the dreams of Tesla are both are poised between the bourgeois fantasies of easily separable facts and fictions, the one a rapidly cooling nova, the other the hope, the new ships.

Viewed as a text compare with Casteel's book, the story of Tesla's visit to Mars is a Fortean tale suspended between fact and fiction. Both texts tell us something about the structure of time and concept. As an information system Casteel's book  is alive and growing. In time, its half-life will penetrate eventually the dying text of the UFOupdates list as ivy reaches through an old decaying house. It will grow and it will develop until the house is consumed like the dinner of an octopus, and the world will become a world in which Tesla did travel to Mars.

I sit with such thoughts on this brilliant afternoon in the Holland Park teahouse, flanked by anti-war demonstrators in search of their own version of the blessed Real. I meditate upon what half-alive cannibal text in its turn will dine upon both the search of  these students and Tesla and his amazing voyage.

Copyright Colin Bennett 2003

Chapter 2


Systems Analysis

Brenda Harris, trainee psychiatrist at H.M. Prison Drakebury, almost groaned as she read the report on Prisoner 60149837. A first interview with a fallen computer-programmer from Shepherd's Bush was the kind of thing only a black Monday morning such as the one outside her window could offer. She read through the brief report again, and though relatively young and inexperienced, she was beginning to recognise an insoluble problem kicked her way when she saw one. She looked again at the report. The clipped phrases of her supervisor told of persistent child sex-offender Harmsworth, Frank: male, 35 years of age. Somewhat withdrawn, finds socialising difficult, contemptuous of other inmates. Well educated. Works in library. Taking extramural PhD. No sign of latent schizophrenia. Scores high in intelligence tests. Physical condition very good. No medication. Not violent.
One of the reasons why they needed a lot less medication now was that a generation of social-psychologists had gone to work on pleasantly-lit 'situation-rooms' like the one Brenda was now in, with its bland prints against coordinated shades of wall and ceiling shades. But despite cheery carpets, the absence of window-bars, and functional furniture of pastel-fabrics and bright blond wood, everything here was pure plot. The calming was carefully engineered, like most socially-applied technology, for reassurance prior to the injection of some deep-laid suggestion. On a shelf were a few well-dusted volumes of airport-lounge foil-fiction, and an equally friendly-looking coffee-machine, whose scent while working was thought by all to calm the savage breast. In this room there would be nothing to really object to, no hint of abrasive surface, challenging shape, no interesting shade, angle, or shape, and certainly no shadow. Persuasion, control, and conformist pressure were now professionally managed, and had exquisitely sophisticated software-tools. Hun-vocabulary, white coats, and hypodermic syringes were a million miles away from Brenda's torn jumper and jeans. Few could refuse the hands of comfort and friendship, just as few could refuse far more obvious salesmen. In places such as this room, any act of violence would look as ludicrous as a genuine loss of temper on TV. Here, the savage thought was outperformed almost before it occurred. The very idea of the rending of flesh was out-of-date as a green-screen computer. In the late twentieth-century, dungeons and red-hot implements had come a long way.
Brenda was quite surprised when Harmsworth himself came in and smilingly accepted her offer of coffee. He was rugged, strongly handsome, and exhibited a warm, polite intelligence, as if anxious to cooperate, even to learn the secrets of his perpetual incarceration in H.M. Prisons. But there was no doubt that the upper-middle-class Frank Harmsworth had a serious problem, for when he was released from prison, within a few days, he would make his way to the nearest store and would fondle very young children sexually. These actions were anything but furtive. 

Frank chose good weather, and busy Saturday mornings in large supermarkets for the miniature-riots that always ensued. Further to his action, he did not try to escape, and suffered many injuries before being eventually detained and arrested. Because of this passivity, he had been nearly lynched on several occasions, and beaten half to death on others by shopping crowds, rampant mothers, and gangs of youth anxious for a good kicking in a worthy cause.
The clouds vanished over the new prison hospital block, and what seemed to her to be yellow and white spotlights came through the window and lit Harmsworth's face. He was the kind of man she thought to herself, who always brought on a kind of theatre lighting. If he were in the middle of a field, she imagined that he would naturally transform it into a stage-set. As a young woman, Brenda could not avoid certain feelings present with her. In this strangely transformed light, the man before her looked like a combination of glamorous films: Clint Eastwood in the half-light of a saloon bar, or Paul Newman speeding through the night in a glittering car. She stopped her unprofessional thoughts short by reminding herself that there was something very wrong with the man before her; that something dreadful had ruined his promising life, and could easily degenerate into more serious mental illness. That was serious: the lighting would go, the face turn to sallow, the actors and the sets fall down, and he would become an old man very quickly.
With these thoughts, she heard his cultured voice from a great distance as the sun went away again and now he looked like a figure from a black and white German pre-war film. Frank just could not help it. He had changed the scene again. He probably did not know he did it. Amazing she thought, how strong images traversed time, continents and culture in such a series of rapidly produced frames.

"Its a system you see. A single trigger. I love to see it in action. Very elegant. Everything balanced on that single simple action, hardly lasting seconds."
"Is it worth it?"
As soon as Brenda heard her own voice, she knew she had made a mistake. The warmth vanished, and the man almost sneered, as if bitterly disappointed at the plain simplicity of Brenda's question and its hint of shopkeeper values.
"Worth it?" 
An obviously disappointed Frank Harmsworth now looked at Brenda not as an intelligent well-read psychiatrist, but as he would look at a market trader attempting philosophy. Gone in a flash was the warmth. Brenda cursed, inwardly. She had lost the patient's respect before she started. Now it was going to be hard. She heard his voice again, but now there were no frames, just grit in her mind.
"All knowledge gained is worth it."
"With others paying the price?"

Another petit-bourgeois response. What was the matter with her mind this morning? She was plunging in with cheap leading remarks worthy of a third-rate probation officer.
"I would never hurt them. But that's not the point. It's the shortest way to pure Pavlovian theatre I know, that's all."
"Violation of innocents?"
Leading question, headline vocabulary. This would not do. She would have to politely terminate the interview if she could not get her mental focus together. She thanked her lucky stars the meeting was not being taped for her supervisor. Usually she was good at her job, committed to it, and handled the people before her with growing skill. But the charming, clever and extremely devious Frank put her off somehow; she had never felt herself to be on such a slippery slope, with her hard-won skills and fought-for experience melting away, and driven to questioning like a young and hesitant intern in therapy-training.
"I don't violate them. I never would. If the circumstances came where a child welcomed my advances, then I would not continue."
"Couldn't you simulate it, as they do with atomic tests?
That was a little better, but the change in emphasis and vocabulary had been noted by Harmsworth's penetrating eyes. Brenda knew now she was dealing with a far cleverer man than she had ever supposed. She had to get a grip. If she went on like this, the man in front of him would control the interview. Brenda listened as Frank explained again, rather condescendingly.
"The whole thing is a purely intellectual simulation anyway. It's a discovery of attitude-structures. Its the shortest way I know to maximum outrage, I am not in the least bit sexually interested in children."
"But what about the pain and injury you suffer?"
That was a lot better, turn back the question to the client, but still far too worthy and sensible. Not many marks out of ten for that. She was thinking like an amateur, and suddenly the coffee tasted awful. Frank was out-gunning her, outranking her, and making Brenda want to fling her coffee over the pastel-shade walls, a move which she was sure would have got her many more marks in Frank's eyes.
"The pain is worth going through."
"To learn how the stage-fronts work."
"The stage-fronts?"
"Everything is a stage-front."
"But some are better than others?"
"I don't know what you mean by 'better'."

"Is there no situation A better than B?"
"Wouldn't you like to be out of here rather than in?"
"When you have one pound you have one problem, when you have two pounds, you have two problems. In or out, it makes no difference."
Switch track now, break his lock. Her old boxing Dad spoke in her mind. Keep mobile, never appear to be at a loss. Pivot, swerve, balance, use his own weight against him. With that thought, Brenda felt a little happier. She was in a learning-mode for the first time in months of bureaucratic hack work.
"Surely other people matter?"
"I don't give them any problems. I don't even touch the child's private parts. That would disgust me. I am an adult heterosexual. I just put my hand under their coat or just under their dress. That is sufficient. The parents love it. All the unpaid bills, the bad car-repair, the TV without a license, the mortgage payments, all the screaming modern pain comes right down on top of my head. I lie there analysing it all whilst they smash me up. It's a unique viewpoint. You should try it some time. Would be good for scientific truth, if not for your career, whichever you prefer."
"You used the word love."
"That's the parent's word, not mine. I don't love anything. Every time I have loved in the past I have been wasted. How can you love one change of game from another?"
"Do you hate anything?"
"My only hatred is boredom. Boredom gives me great theological difficulty. I identify the non-event with moral evil."
"Some would say that what you do is boring."
"Boring? On my last outing I was only saved from decapitation by being hauled up from a howling crowd by a police helicopter, minus my shoes, socks, and trousers. The incident was attended by the fire-brigade, the ambulance service, and even two truckloads of Royal Marine Commandos from the local barracks. I would hardly call that a non-event."
"Are you happy with your situation?"
He looked at Brenda with mild amusement, as if she were a puppy playing with a slipper.
"I am learning. Could there be a greater happiness?"
"Is anybody else learning?"
"Probably not. Why do trying social-democrats like yourself always try and link everything to other people?"
"But your actions are repetitive. That's boring, surely."

"That's only because the cycle is not over."
"The cycle of what?"
Again, he looked at Brenda as if she were a simple-minded utilitarian rationalist confronted with some seething Amazonian paganism of the Ancient World.
"The cycle of initiation."
"What's that?"
"Why then a sexual element?"
"That is merely the area of maximum effect. If people were equally sensitive about cabbages, I would enter shops and steal them."
"Would you murder?"
"So you are testing your nerve?"
"That's part of it."
"I don't want to die."
"Of what?"
"Unanswered questions."
"We all die of them."
"No. Most die of God's bad jokes. Some die of old television programmes. You will probably die of your semi-detached mind, and your degree from a provincial university. At least that's what it sounds like to me."
This was a strange mind, indeed. Brenda imagined that in it there were no families, smells, old remembered country lanes, knowledge of which gearboxes were better than others, or what the score was at Old Trafford. There was little inefficiency in toffee-nosed Frank, very little noise in his system. The man in front of her was a mall-simulation cut off from wind and rain. She laughingly imagined that if she reached over she could put an arm right through Frank Harmsworth's chest and he would still be talking.
"If you are released, would you offend in the same manner again?"
"Of course. Why not? The experiment is not yet over."

As the hour wore on, the marks on Frank's cheek and brow, where umbrellas, high-heels, walking-sticks, fists, and shopping-bags had scarred him, were a puzzle mockingly offered by him to Brenda as they had been offered to others. She decided that as a computer-programmer of high reputation, Frank had almost entered the world of his creations; the man probably thought the body was a mere bag of replaceable spare-parts, with only the abstract managing software being of any real importance. To Brenda, he was the personification of the arrogance of intellect with absolutely nowhere to go. Frank was in a certain sense, the New Electric Citizen, with hard morality identified with the pre-software world of hard things. Telling Frank not to do something because it was bad, was no good to a man whose sense of time was constructed by advertisements for different kinds of show. Perhaps, thought Brenda, Frank knew that the game-show world would eventually replace any previous hard structures, just as old analogue push-buttons, spanners, levers, and faders were shown as simulations on the computer screen, with all their previous greasy, heavy, metallic nature fallen to a mere click of the mouse.
Frank now spoke, heavy with a suave confidence that annoyed Brenda intensely.
"Tell me Brenda, what show are you in?"
"I'm not in any kind of show."
"Congratulations. You must be the first person in history who has not been in any kind of show."
The man was trying to trap her into imposing  some new version of an older, moral structure, daring her to be clever enough to invent some tarted-up system of persuasive coercion that would "correct" him. Brenda had to be careful; any suggestion of "change", would be demolished, jeered at, kicked aside as being as full of hypocrisies as so many maggots in a rotting carcase. It was now a contest. She had to find a way into Frank without encountering the difficulty of his nonexistent moral sense. She was sharp enough to know that Frank probably knew her problem. He was daring her to re-invent morality, re-advertise it, give it better PR than that coming from the dusty mouths and chalky faces of old men and women, robot-mouths who always told him not to do certain things. In his donnish way, the man had thrown Brenda a puzzle and he wanted her to solve it.
Brenda fought hard for as deep a relaxation as her opponent. Eventually she spoke, looking him straight in the eye.
"But aren't there higher orders of games?"
Of a sudden Frank was tense and alert.
"Aren't there orders of what?"
"More complex forms of games."
Frank put down his coffee-cup and scratched his head, as if genuinely receptive for the first time.
"Such as?"
"The active preservation of innocence. Now there is an ultra-sophisticated game."

 click here for Chapter 3