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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Doug Milam

The mission of their psychological operations was twofold: one, to engender sloth in the general population, specifically the young; two, to distract the citizenry from inquiry, by using the media to foster a distracted and slavish devotion to image and all things superficial. As Tacitus put it so well, speaking of Rome, "when there was democracy, it was necessary to understand the character of the masses and how to control them." (I believe they had also once looked into the expediency of a time machine, to excise this sentence from all known copies of Tacitus in the Middle Ages, in order to give the notion 'plausible deniability').

Once the structural conditions were set -- broadcast media de-regulated; advertising encouraged to demand 'complementary copy'; the public mind festooned with uncritical-by-default apologies for official behavior; the simplisitic, cartoon duality of left/right televised debates, so-called -- they had what they thought was a workable plan. It succeeded beyond what they had initially characterized as "provisional". Later memoranda, obtained by Framers' Intent, show that

[...] it is frankly astounding that our plan has come to fruition in so seemingly short a time. We failed to correctly estimate the American Idol factor, and the overall, general propensity of the population toward not wanting to 'think after 5'. It seems especially that media outlays into such consumer items as the I Don't Give A FuckTM line of clothing have been in the main successful in creating the right conditions.


Prognosis: covert operations, as we have known them, will be able to operate more openly while maintaining the necessary front activities when necessary, viz., our work with Clear Channel, Disney, et al.

Fairly soon, the control committee authorized its agents to operate in all media and pop culture areas, ensuring that the roles of production assistant, 'go-getter' (gopher), copy editor, sales A&R rep, etc. were ably covered. "Steerage" became the operative word. (Even "roping" entered the lexicon). Subtly, from the bottom, information was gathered and ideas planted -- all toward the goal of maximizing profit for the agency and firming up potential. Artists who were deemed by the control committee as being dangerously outspoken were marginalized through a combination of character assassination and 'fragmentation', whereby the market for their work was repeatedly frustrated. This was done by tracking the spread of Internet files, however minor, and corrupting them, and through the outright bribery and/or intimidation of distributors and record store and video outlet owners.

Mafia collusion...coercion of various natures, including lethal threats, was employed. As everyone by this time had a National Consumption Oath binding them, this was easily done, and all within the law. (Of course also by this time Congress had not made law in years). Owing to the "mysterious" -- and even this is a stretch -- deaths of several artists, it can be logically assumed that murder became a political tool, even when hard evidence for it is thin. In any case, we have a long history of trysts and nefarious deeds to draw on.

We know for certain that one case was cracked open by the bungling way the crime scene was disturbed, after the fact, in order to make it appear a suicide. Although the police dept. at the time denied any tampering, we have it from Lt. Blank that "other officials" had put "tremendous, vise-like pressure" on the police to relinquish control of the investigation. He states in a letter to me that "I cannot identify further these individuals without fear of 'severest consequences', as they put it. I've been digging a nuclear bunker."

Nonetheless, it was standard procedure for the agency to "let it sink." That is, no matter what number of inquiries a member of the public, or of Congress, made, it was naturally assumed that any action to find out more, not to mention organize/agitate, would never become an irresistible force against the ever more immoveable machinery of secret government. Such persons, it went, would always be a minority, and minorities could always be contained. Nonetheless, a 'non-maligned' movement did not exist. Even the advent of Clearheaded Credence Revived sparked countermeasures.

Though at that time only an illicit cover band with a coffee-only backstage policy, the fact that singer Delta Charlie had once been indicted for insufficient credit card use was enough to instigate a smear campaign in the reactionary music press, who publicly excoriated him for lack of "consumptive duty." Up to this point, Total Charlie Awareness had been less than total. The public had a wavering interest, despite the scandal, but not so the agency, which had been planting lurid stories of his "free associations" in all the major publications, all of which labeled him more-or-less insufficiently preoccupied with entertaining and lulling. (Here one finds the origin of the ban on coffee -- for all those without the connections to get it, of course. See also M.K. Ahltra's excellent study 'The Caffeine Underground: Its Origins & Culture', which details, among other things, Charlie's relationships to Fastsongs and The Staccato Kids.)

At any rate, sloth and distraction became, by and large, de rigueur in American culture. By artificially inflating the prices of organic foods, the populace was kept duly inflated on a diet of cheap junk and industrialized portions. With each home required to have an AdScreen prominently displayed in the living room, market saturation was duly achieved. The concept of individual choice, once the hallmark of conservatives and liberals alike (depending upon the arena), became déclassé once social status and wages were tied to the Choice Requirement Act and enforced coolness of Not Giving a FuckTM, We Don't Give a FuckTM, and You Don't Give a FuckTM....

After a variety of jobs and sojourns, Doug Milam is currently an instructor in English. He is the author of the chapbook 'An Offense To Poetry' (Alpha Beat Press 1997) and a self-produced audio CD, 'Chicago and Other Poems'. He can be reached at doug@rockingchair.net.