“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, November 03, 2006

the sleeper cell

“Beyond the social level of the public, neighborly sphere there is, once again, the political level. All states have the propensity to protect themselves with the very mechanisms that are so feared at the neighborly level: secret services are part of any state apparatus. Their agents – who may be ‘sleepers’ (programmed and waking up only once alerted), “moles” (actively digging for information under a surface of normalcy), or simple analysts (plowing through often public information and in the process extracting potential secrets…) – ideally never emerge as actors. Their working identity is to remain secret so as not to jeopardize the protective functions of the state, and the underlying purpose is to allow members of the polity to remain safe, even ignorant, of the threats to their normal lives.” – Regina Bendix, Sleeper’s Secrets, Actor’s Revelations

Cruel age! Do you feel how black and low, how heavy the heavens are on the head of man? The poor little children, from their first years, are imbrued with horrible ideas, trembling in their cradles. The pure virgin, innocent, who feels damned by the pleasure the Spirit inflicts upon her. The wife in the marriage bed, martyred by his attacks, resisting and yet, for some moments, feeling in herself… A horrid affair known by those who have the tenia. To feel in oneself a double life, to distinguish the movements of the monster, sometimes agitated, sometimes with a soft tenderness, undulant, which is even more disquieting, making one feel one is at sea! Thus, one scurries about lost, having a horror of oneself, wishing to escape oneself, to die… - Michelet, The Witch

Regina Bendix is an ethnographer. Her essay on the notion of the “sleeper” – as in “sleeper cell” – really jacked me up. Bendix first covers the folkloric bases, listing the various sleepers from mythology, like the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, and then asks about its use after 9/11. LI read those articles about sleeper cells of terrorists too, but so asleep were we that we never thought about the notion of the sleeper as a secret identity. Bendix’s essay concentrates mostly on the self-identity of the sleeper. LI, however, went off on another train of thought. For if the sleeper is the name of the one who disguises himself to be like the rest of us, surely that implies we are sleepers – that we even, in a sense, recognize this in the metaphorical unconscious. Nietzsche, in The Use and Abuse of History, has a wonderful passage about human beings as a herd, in which the vocables of the German have a tinge of the ox and the cow – the passage seems to be transcribed from the human moo. However, the idea of a sleeper as a watcher, the sleeper as the man awake, or the man who can awake, awaited, of course, the great surveillance discourses of the twentieth century.

And after all, sleep does bind us. The night comes down, and at a certain point we can say, everybody is asleep, and be pretty confident that we are mostly right. But we don’t say, everybody is awake, because even in the daylight we have a sneaking suspicion that waking is a much harder state to define. Sleep is our team identity. We are all sleepers. And we can’t even say for sure that we sleep alone, although we take that on trust. Perhaps we fall into the collective sleep.

LI, though, wants to be a sleeper – wants to be the agent whose duty is to pretend to be asleep, and to be really, all of the time, awake. That agent, as Michelet implies, is the devil, or of the devil’s party: “To feel in oneself a double life, to distinguish the movements of the monster, sometimes agitated, sometimes with a soft tenderness, undulant…” Witches, once; and now, here, today, the American loser at the present moment, stinking quietly away somewhere, or the tattoos and dyed hair waifs and strays, embodying some kind of possession or addiction. In the double life of the sleeper, the best disguise, is to seem like one is not asleep at all – to grind one’s teeth like the underground man at every insult.

But I don't know if I have that much jam.


Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

Surely a place on the steering council of the vigilance committee will do? Honestly, Roger, rather than blogging away you might be more at home chairing the council's acquisitions and renditions response group. It's not all that much work and the prestige is considerable.

roger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
roger said...

Mr. Scruggs, you put too much trust in the power of my discretion. What we need are silent, strong men to do the renditions work. For as the CIA has so aptly told the court, to use freedom of speech is to destroy our real freedoms. How are we going to be free, after all, if we impair the work of our decider?

This story about our CIA asking the court to gag defendents who describe their interrogation treatment - in the same week that our government accidentally published a "how to build an atom bomb for dummies' paper, written in Arabic, on the web - reinforces my iron confidence in this great nation:

"In papers filed in the case of Majid Khan, a Pakistani who is among 14 so-called “high-value detainees” recently transferred to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, Justice Department and C.I.A. officials argued that allowing Mr. Khan to disclose details of his treatment could cause “extremely grave damage to the national security.”

Many terrorist operatives are specifically trained in counter-interrogation techniques,” says a declaration by Marilyn A. Dorn, an official at the National Clandestine Service, a part of the C.IA. “If specific alternative techniques were disclosed, it would permit terrorist organizations to adapt their training to counter the tactics that C.I.A. can employ in interrogations.”

Now, you and I might have already known this. We treasure our Tom Clancy, and I know that LI, at least, has played many interactive war games, making us at least as competent as any soldier in history. Also, as a patriot, I keep my DVD library well stocked with many of our most American action movies. So you and I know the wink wink that will go on in the courtroom - terrorists gaining sympathy points for no brainer applications of surgical tools and the like, which how else are we going to save the lives of Americans? and at the same time preparing their fellow bearded Islamofascists for dunking and the like. Already, reports say Osama bin Laden can hold his breath for three minutes and has been tempted to chuck it all and mount a traveling show reproducing the old Houdini Underwater Torture trick. That bin Laden! Someday, somehow we are going to get him. But it is intolerable that they are using our fine freedoms for their fiendish ends. The surprise abolition of our freedoms is really going to get their goats! I can see our enemies choking on their yogurt drinks when we annihilate our 1st amendment rights. It is the only way, as we both know, to win the long long long long war.

new york pervert said...

OT, but of slight interest--our nebbish Alan Hevesi wanted to make sure he was a nerd swinger just like the dame he beat out as Comptroller, Elizabeth Holtzman. She did some sort of corrupt loans thing with Fleet Bank, so got her ass beaten. Anyway, she'd already betrayed the nice Geraldine Ferraro, and I was glad she out of the picture. Reminds me of my hateful dental hygienist, that Holtzman does, I saw her on the subway once. Well, with this Hevesi, we have yet another politician on whom I can wish Meadow Muffins.