In the video game, Deus ex, you encounter a man named Chad. Chad leads a group known as silhouette. They fight against an off-shoot of the Illuminati known as Majestic 12. Majestic 12 is much more direct in its operations and have taken complete control of Paris, imposed martial law, and branded those who fight back, like silhouette, as terrorists. If you speak to Chad, he has some very thought provoking things to say about politics, culture, and philosophy. In this essay I’d like to examine and discuss his words.
Chapter I - Outnumbered and Outgunned
Rebel and resistance forces are not completely made up of current or former soldiers. For the most part they are made up of average citizens who have taken up arms to fight for something they believe in. The only rebel or resistance fighters to ever be well equipped are those that are being backed by another country or wealthy entity. In this case silhouette doesn’t have the guns, the numbers, or the training to take out Majestic 12 commandos in a fire fight.
Instead they use stealth to avoid confrontation with Majestic 12 agents but this also means that they can avoid confrontation with civilians. Civilians are not predictable. They may be sympathetic to your cause, or they might just turn you in to Majestic 12 enforcers in hopes of getting rewarded in some way. With Majestic 12’s stranglehold of Paris you find that people aren’t doing so well, and might take drastic measure to ensure a future.
In the worst case scenario, a civilian may even support Majestic 12, despite or even because of the group’s totalitarian regime. These individuals are probably the most dangerous. They can pretend to help you but instead sell you out, and maybe more of your group if you dare open up to them. Or they can just try and kill you themselves. Even if you do manage to kill them first, that goes against what the group, silhouette, is trying to accomplish. Civilian deaths would be counterproductive and Chad explains that their goal with these bombing attacks is not to inflict casualties.
Chapter II - Enhanced Interrogation
It’s interesting that he specifically says: “Methods of Interrogation” and not torture. Physical torture is what people’s minds would default to when they hear that statement.
We know that torture is highly unreliable when it comes to accurate information extraction, and a group like Majestic 12 isn’t in the business of using methods that don’t work. Earlier in the game we get a small glimpse into their style of interrogation.
I do wonder what would happen if the roles were reversed. If Silhouette manages to capture a Majestic 12 agent and attempts to extract information from them, what kind of methods would they employ? You might consider them the quote/unquote “good guys” in this scenario, but does that give them leeway to use the same cruel methods as Majestic 12?
Torture and the execution of unarmed prisoners are acts associated with terrorist organisations. But in that interrogation, Walton Simons did exactly that, and at this point in the game, all we know of Simons is that he’s the director of FEMA and he’s also affiliated with UNATCO. UNATCO stands for: United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition.
Chapter III - Symbolism in Terrorism
How do you define terrorism? It isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. Everyone has a different way of defining it. Wikipedia has a very extensive page on Definitions of terrorism. Using windows 10 I decided to ask Cortana. She responded with the definition on Google’s dictionary: “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” This definition really stood out to me. I questioned “unlawful use”. As if terrorism can be legal. But in fact, it can. If you turn on the news, you might see some. But you most likely won’t, more on why later.
Silhouette conducts their bombing operations at night and Paris is under martial law that includes a curfew. It’s unlikely that the buildings they bomb had any civilians in them, but there’s no way to be sure. Even if they were completely empty, there’s no telling what kind of unforeseen consequences it could have. Imagine if they blow up a building and the contractors tasked with the clean up and rebuilding process become gravely ill due to materials that were used in the previous building, and died anyway.
What they wanted to do was influence the public. You could very well consider what they do to be terrorist acts. Terrorist indeed attempt to influence the people that they attack. Terrorism relies on fear to manipulate people and violence creates that fear.
In this case, Silhouette is attempting to convince people that Majestic 12 is not all powerful. That even with the iron fist that they have over the country, a small group of rebels are able to defy their will and blow up a building.
Chapter IV - Colossal Conspiracy
At the beginning of the game, you’re told that the Statue of Liberty is missing it’s head because the NSF used C4 to blow it up. But when you meet the UNATCO informant, Harley Filben, JC Denton cites this information, Harley suggests that it was the government who did it, and blamed it on the NSF, so they can use it as an excuse to call them terrorists. All of a sudden, the information that was considered fact before has now been thrown into question. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Later on you meet Chad, who’s group is allied with the NSF. With Harley Filben, the player could easily dismiss it as a baseless conspiracy theory. But now you’re working with the other side, after finding out that UNATCO are not who they say they were. You can only imagine what secrets still lay hidden and once again you hear someone question the official story. The story that the public take as fact.
Now you have to consider that it is at the very least, possible. Have governments used tactics in the past to criminalize certain groups of people who they didn’t like or were in opposition to them? Absolutely. The game is telling you that you should take into account the possibility that the official story that you’re told may be misleading, or there may be more to it, or it could even be a flat out lie.
The people whose responsibility it is to dissuade the government from lying to its people, lest they be exposed, is the media. But the media, like the government, is not incorruptible. State media will obviously become corrupt if the state itself is sufficiently corrupt. A for-profit news agency’s vulnerability lies in the name, “profit.” In either case, you find an agency that can be reluctant to report information that paints the establishment in a negative light.
Chapter V - Patriotic Terrorism
I went to a website called “Omegle” to ask strangers on the internet for definitions of terrorism. It took a little bit to get through the answers like: “Bad people doing bad things” and “Terrorism = Islam = Muslims” but I eventually got some decent responses.
1. Inflicting fear through psychological/physical violence
2. A person who commits an act to inspire terror in others, typically for political or religious reasons.
3. The use of organised violence or fear to further a political goal.
4. Violence to gain political or religious influence
In my own personal definition though, a person doesn’t have to be the one perpetrating the violence for it to be terrorism. The violence or intimidation is simply the means to make people fear. Using that fear to get what you want is the key to terror-ism. Using terror, typically, but not necessarily limited to, achieving a religious or political goal.
Imagine if your country experiences an attack of some sort. This of course will make the population afraid of another attack happening and in this fear, the people can be convinced to do things they might not normally do. They may accept whatever surveillance method or new laws that are written in for a feeling of security.
“You want to be safe don’t you? You want your fellow countrymen do be safe, don’t you? You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Monitoring your communications is all in the name of freedom from terrorism. Mass surveillance is all in the name of liberation from crime.”
The terms “freedom from terrorism” and “liberation from crime” have been have been so overused while doing the opposite that they’ve lost all meaning.
You don’t have to have orchestrated the violence yourself, but you can still use the fear that develops from that violence to your own advantage. If you ask me, that qualifies as terrorism. But that’s the main issue here. The definition of the word is subjective. And in that subjectivity, the people who can define it have immense power.
Chapter VI - Heteroglossia
He’s referring to Russian philosopher, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, and his idea of heteroglossia. From what I understand, heteroglossia is the idea that, for example in a novel, we may perceive it as being comprised of a singular speech or language, when it is actually comprised of multiple languages. In a novel it would be the languages or speech of the characters, the narrator, and/or the author. National languages like English can be broken down into jargons, slang, dialects, and so on, based on profession, age, social status and the like.
These various languages interact, compete, and conflict with each other, bringing evolution within national languages and, I imagine the same plus authenticity within novels.
Chad adapts this idea to culture and how it evolves. I think he’s right to say that a culture makes the most advances through its disruption. But let’s be clear, upheaval doesn’t necessarily have to be violent. The internet has allowed easy communication between people across the entire world. Different ideas and viewpoints, all flowing into what might be considered a world culture that can affect all other cultures that come into contact with it. Do you think that several cultures from around the world are undergoing a significant event right now?
We have the phenomena that has been mockingly titled as: “Social Justice Warriors.” They seem to be a driving force in the current cultural shift that we’re experiencing. I think that the mindset has existed for far longer than we think. But with time and with a mass communication device like the internet, more and more people have expressed their views, and more and more people have been persuaded. Take note, however, that by its nature, the term “social justice warrior”, like the term “terrorist” is subjective.
Cultural and societal challenges need to come about organically, I believe. You can’t be a disruptor just for the sake of being a disruptor. I know that some people have made entire careers out of doing that, but at the end of the day they never leave any lasting change.
I’ve heard the argument that these SJW’s are similar in a sense. I’m not sure I agree with it but this is the idea. It’s said that due to them not having any real challenges in life, they began to consciously or subconsciously create issues where none necessarily existed. Basically saying that they’re lives were so good and devoid of strife that they couldn’t take it anymore. In other words, first world problems.
Are there people who are using this platform to be a career disruptor? I’m not going to name any names, but the evidence suggests, yes.
However, let us not forget that at the end of the day, this disruption is a challenge and thus necessary for growth. This is the time for us to find out what our collective cultures stand for. Which one of these ideas will we embrace and which ones will we reject?
Eventually the next generation will come of age with other ideas that conflict with those being presented today. The youth of today, who were branded as SJWs, will employ a new name for the new generation. This cycle will and must continue, allowing us to endlessly adapting to our new environments.
Chapter VII - Culture Shock
Things might get a bit dicey here. By “meaning” in this context, he isn’t talking about the definition of words, he’s talking about attachments that people of a culture share. The meaning that they attach to things. Comparable to sentimental value, it can be anything from a tradition, a set of norms and morals, a religion, or even an inanimate object or structure.
What Chad is saying here isn’t something that I’m sure I agree with, that’s if I’m understanding it correctly. He isn’t saying that culture inspires more conflicts, he’s saying that the conflicts that they do inspire are significantly more destructive than others.
I suppose that in the modern day, a perfect example would be the seemingly never ending conflict between Palestine and Israel. The year is 2018, and if you’re reading this from the future, than I hope that it’s finally been resolved somehow. But as of right now the situation seems to be devolving.
Besides the entire city itself, Jerusalem holds several structures that, perhaps via religion, have developed significant cultural meaning with both the Israelites and the Palestinians. The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, to name a few. I am neither Palestinian nor Israeli, so I have no connection to these structures, no meaning. When I look at them, all I see is a dome and a wall. But that’s me. When they look upon these structures, they see themselves, they see identity, they see what they don’t want to lose.
Chapter VIII - Defining Definition
The definition of “a priori” is “In a way based on theoretical deduction rather than empirical observation. Chad is saying that meaning does NOT exist a priori, and that it is based on empirical observation rather than theoretical deduction.
If the definition of a word was deductive than it would be that the meaning of words would be set in stone and not subjective. But we know that they do change. And how can they change? From their usage, and from others observing its usage. Which explains why the second half of his statement is so powerful and extremely relevant in this age of mass communication.
“Meaning is order imposed by individuals with arsenals of communication devices.” In layman’s terms: The person with the loudest voice determines what is what. The internet has given the power of mass communication to the average person, when not too long ago, only governments had such reach. You can share your art to show others how you see the world. You can share your music to show others how you hear to the world. You can share your voice to show others what you think of the world.
I’m doing that right now. My words, my thoughts, my philosophies, and my ideas are seeping into your brain, and ideas have the ability to be highly infectious. No matter how small of a minority you may be, there are platforms on the internet where you can go to share your thoughts and have people listen.
So we can agree that the internet is a powerful tool, but we can’t say that everyone on Earth uses it, has access to it, or frequents the same spaces on the internet. The scales have moved more towards balance, but in the arms race of communication devices, a government still has more reach. Not only do they have the internet, but they have television, radio, pamphlets falling out of airplanes, you name it, they have it.
But whether it’s a private citizen or a government administration, some have more reach than others. Benjamin Parker AKA Uncle Ben was right when he said that with great power comes great responsibility. And Plato was right when he said that the measure of a man is what he does with power.
I have almost 1800 subscribers on YouTube. That affords me a bit of leeway. If I was rocking 100,000 or a million subscribers, I can’t afford to be reckless. That’s a lot of people, a lot of potential, a lot of echoes. Some YouTubers had to learn this the hard way, but at least they learned, or I hope they did.
There is a third player in this game as well. The corporations. Governments and Citizens use communication devices to spread their messages, but these devices and systems belong to someone. What happens if they have ideas of their own to spread? Ideas that translate into the one thing they care about. Revenue. What happens if your ideas are in conflict with theirs and your using their platform? What happens then?
But no matter which one of these parties it happens to be, their messages can be filled with whatever they wish. Stories, Truth, Lies, Propaganda, anything. In a world heading towards extreme commercialization, I find it fitting that where I’m from, we use one word, with a double meaning, to describe both “Commercial”... and “Propaganda”.
Chapter IX - Meaningful Domination
This is a follow up to what he said before about meaning not existing a priori and that it is order imposed by those with the most communication devices. He’s saying that every piece of literature, speech, or action, whether the person realizes it or not, is an attempt to become the dominant definition. In my Kreia’s Conundrums series I’m deciphering Kreia’s words in the way that I perceive them and that’s essentially me telling you: “This is what she means.” Here I’m doing the same thing. We all know that someone can easily come along and say: “No, this is what she means.”
I’m sure you know the hand gesture in the picture above. I imagine that the majority would say that it carries the definition of “O.K, it’s all good, I agree.” But in certain parts of the world, you should avoid using this gesture. Never use it in Brazil, for example. It means something very different there, and people will take offense.
So at one point in time, somewhere, someone connected this hand gesture with a particular definition and it succeeded in dominating the plane of meaning. I imagine that there must have been a certain amount of luck involved, perhaps the right person at the right place, and at the right time. Then it spread from person to person. The more time passes and the more people adopt it, the more cemented it becomes. But like we discussed before with the term terrorism and people with arsenals of communication devices, you can brute force your way into defining or redefining something.
Chad follows up by arguing that quote/unquote “real violence” is an extension of this process. The process of everyone attempting to have the dominant definition and meaning with their actions.
It’s difficult for me to decipher what exactly he means with “real” violence. As opposed to fake, meaningless, violence? Perhaps he means war, large scale violence. Even then I can’t exactly agree with it. I don’t have anything that can truly back up this claim. Except maybe the definition of the word terrorism for example.
We know it’s subjective, and we know that the people who are the loudest can define almost anything in any way they want and get enough people to agree with it for it to become the dominant definition. When it comes to a word like terrorism, it can be extremely dangerous. There are ways that you can argue that anyone opposed to a government administration, or if worse comes to worst, a mega-corporation, is a terrorist. And if the official policy was a “war on terror”, then things are about to get very real.
I hope they weren’t serious, but don’t forget that one person told me this: “Write: Terrorism = Islam = Muslims”. There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. If that were to become the dominant definition, then we’re all in very big trouble.
Chapter X - Real Violence
This is the final test for you to determine whether or not the Silhouette adhere to your definition of terrorists. Earlier we spoke about how they use stealth to avoid confrontation and destroy buildings with C4. They turned to such measures due to overwhelming force. An entity has their country in an iron grip and is imposing their totalitarian will upon the populous. But they have killed people. So has Majestic 12, but does that make it okay? Is it factored by numbers? They killed more people than we did?
Did they kill Majestic 12 agents or civilians, or both? Does it matter? I’ll tell you who that matters to, the family members of those civilians they killed, accident or not. Do intentions matter? Chad says that the goal is not to rack up a body count. They want to influence the public into revolting against Majestic 12 with a message.
This message is contained within the buildings they bomb, and within the act of destroying the building. The higher the profile of the building, the bigger the message. That’s why terrorists target landmarks. If there’s no cultural attachment to what they destroy than it won’t carry much meaning and it won’t influence the public as much.
The people of France are afraid of Majestic 12. Silhouette is trying to show them to not be afraid. But they are using tactics that terrorists use to do it. But what choice do they have? They certainly can’t protest or run for office. Majestic 12 is not in the business of entertaining such things.
History is written by the victor, whoever wins is going to define the other side as terrorists, and right now, Majestic 12 is winning. So in reality, when you have two sides of a conflict and they’re both employing terrorist tactics or teachings, if you will. Who’s the terrorist? Both of them or none of them?