Principia Discordia > Think for Yourself, Schmuck!

You Bet Your Bippy

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Preamble: This was a difficult review to write. Warring in my head are three points of view—

* The Discordian who wants to Wake Up and to Wake Up everyone around him
* The random guy on the bus who found the pamphlets I left him
* A devil’s advocate that dissects things on principle. Toro! Toro!
These guys disagree on just about everything, so my opinions may not appear fully consistent. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I wanted to be thorough as a service to the project.

My Report on the Black Iron Prison Project
by Cramulus, Professor Emeritus, basically some guy

Overall, the BIP pamphlet carries a strong message, which is extremely useful to those trapped in sleepwalker mode. However, it suffers from poor packaging - its ideas are presented in a way which may repel the casual reader or random pedestrian. Overall, I am hopeful that this, and future incarnations of the project will be effective in shaking the public.

In short:
If people could just realize how stupid they are, they’d stop being so stupid!

I love the Black Iron Prison pamphlet. With the assistance of the OBNOXIOUS JERK CABAL, I've spent years putting together and passing out subversive / enlightening pamphlets, posters, and public performance. I've handed out my own stuff (total crap), and a great deal of stuff that other people have created. (most of it total crap) The BIP pamphlet succeeds where many other Discordian / Illuminating tracts fail - it felt like a slap in the face, even to someone who thinks he's got a toehold on figuring out this fractillian merry-go-round. And I thought I WAS awake!

But I think the BIP suffers from poor packaging. The format in which these ideas are presented, unfortunately, make them less palatable. I understand that you're trying to be really open and translucent about what the motivation of the pamphlet is. I can smell the lack of manipulation, and it smells good - the intent seems to be to give people the tools and let them figure out reality on their own. That rocks. But the tone is often condescending, intentionally offensive, cynical, and in many places shows contempt for the reader. There are likely people who were digging the pamphlet, or were on the border of getting the "point", until it got really Righteous. At that point, it's easy to classify it as the same sort of propaganda Jehovah’s Witnesses hand out. Citation?

* Page 16-17 sets up the same "us" versus "them" mentality that mainstream religions and cults use to foster an in-group mentality. Midway down page 17, the author refers to "them" as "these beings"... Personally I react very negatively to dehumanizing the opposition. It's very Holier-Than-Thou and it stinks. More Us v Them on page 26. Are "they" the enemy or the people you're trying to "wake up"?
* page 21-22 is a lot of seething contempt for the general public, which presumably includes the reader and friends ("What is it with you people?"). I understand that this particular passage is trying to shake people into making their own decisions about pop culture et al, but if the target audience is people who do like QPCs and American Idol (the sleepers), you’re not going to crack the ice by shouting the word sheep at them over and over again.
* Page 5 suffers from the same problem. It’s like “You people, OR SHALL I SAY SHEEPLE might learn a thing or two if you listen to me. Stop being such comatose slugs!” The implication is that the writers have it all figured out (even if they later say that they don’t). If the reader agrees with the writers and does what they tell him, he’ll become a higher class of being too. Evangelical? Perhaps. Does this read like goth poetry? At times.

Certain parts of the pamphlet are pure gold. Among them:

The anecdote on page 3-4 reminds me of (sorry) a Hagbard Celine quote  "You're still trapped in thinking of it as left versus right. We're up versus down!" Hell yeah! (Unfortunately this point is almost sacrificed by appealing to liberals against conservatives on p25)

Page 7 is also really well written. It explains WHY you’d want to see the BIP. The 7th-8th paragraphs are the real meat here. “…the more people are able to think for themselves, the less willing they become to exhaust themselves at someone else’s command…” Its either rare or well done, depending on how you like your meat.

Page 9 says “The time has come for you to start thinking for yourself.” That’s kallisti-gold on the page and couldn’t be printed bold enough.

The description of the nature of The Machine‚Ñ¢ on page 10 makes me want to stand up and shout HELL YEAH. I showed this to a Discordian friend while stinking drunk, and days later, this is the only paragraph he could remember about it. Particularly the part about focusing on the component parts rather than the whole picture.

Page 12 has a line: “The notion that some nebulous group is out there subverting people with imagery and printed words designed to alter moods and behaviors is simply science fiction of the wildest, most escapist variety.” This is some delicious self-reference.

As I read, I wondered… If it’s worth it to be self-liberated and self-aware, why do the writers sound so pissed off and frustrated? I mean, you’re trying to sell us freedom, but the tone of the pamphlet sounds like the authors are a bunch of brooding, bitter, cigarette smoking, echoes of Tyler Durden. Is that the reality I want? Well the longer paragraph at the bottom page 15 addresses the question Why Bother. That Why Bother is a big selling point and shouldn’t be ignored.

The way page 16 ends in a couplet (“We call it pollution, toxicity. It takes many forms and it’s increasing rapidly”) is really tight. It has a sort of lyrical quality to it which resonates well with me.

Page 19 ends with “If you accept that as truth, I wonder what you will believe when you are eventually convinced that it is a lie.” BaBAM, kickass finishing move. I think p 18-19 is a really great spread.

The Herman Hesse quote on 23 is seriously hot shit. I think it’s the most important part of the whole pamphlet. p23-24 is pure poetry. I especially like the line “Pissing all over someone else for doing something you don’t personally approve of is MORE pointless than how pointless you think what they’re doing is!”

Page 25-26 is really tight. It’s really nice to see a concrete example to support all the metaphor.

Inconsistent Audience:

I had trouble figuring out who this pamphlet is addressed to. If it’s addressed to random people on the street who pick up the pamphlet, it should omit the stuff aimed specifically at Discordians and SubGs.

The target audience is definitely “the public” on page 8.
The target audience is definitely “Discordians” (and their ilk) on page 12.
The target is People on the Web on page 23 (“…here on this website, talking about this goddess…”)

Generally the tone flips between adding nuance to already established Discordian issues (like the Machine and the Con), and trying to shake up people who are pinned to their sofas. These are two different audiences, two slightly different messages, and I think they should be approached in separate (but equal) ways. Trying to cover the whole spread in one pamphlet decreases the effectiveness of both. For example: Most Discordians feel (perhaps incorrectly) that they’ve left the couch. Maybe you can convince them otherwise. But be clear – when I first read the pamphlet I (in part) thought “oh, they’re talking to fingerlicking mouthbreathers, not me. I already hate American Idol.”

Miscellaneous Stuff I Don’t Like
The introduction on page 2… I don’t like it. I don’t think it does a good job at describing exactly what the prison is. “It’s your life, it’s the cold trap of your existence.” (that line made me hurk a little – I think it reads like teen goth poetry). So how exactly is that a prison and why should I hate it? Note - I think I understand what you’re talking about, and I’m not asking for an answer – I’m just pointing out how the guy on the bus may feel about this vitriol. The first page of text is the make-it-or-break-it page of the whole pamphlet, and it’s basically only frustration and metaphor. It needs something concrete to anchor.

It’s possible to explain the two man con on page 4 without making the reader feel stupid for not having read American Gods. Likewise page 26 references Kant, Hume, and Locke, who are probably strangers to those people on the train.

The “TUC” mentioned on the bottom of page 5… what does that stand for? I’d either spell it out or delete it. Same with SSOOKN.

This may be purely a matter of taste…
Page 14 begins by attempting to describe TEH NATURE OF REALITY. I hurk a little bit every time someone else tries to “explain” reality to me. That passage goes on to very effectively argue that we ignore / are unaware of most of reality. But then the consecutive point on p15 is that there might be great fun in exploring the reality that’s currently invisible to us. Though I’m hip to the metaphor that’s been set up, the passage literally suggests that there’s great fun in being aware of my feet inside my shoes, and being aware of the post-it note barely visible in my peripheral vision. It’s plausible that the dude on the bus missed the point with all the metaphor.

We all have a little chunk of brain at the top of the spine called the Reticular Formation which filters out unnecessary information, like the temperature inside my shoes, the sound of the fluorescent lights, the entire world when I’m asleep, etc. I trust its decisions. Yeah, it’s filtering out a LOT of information, but is that information relevant?

That big Why Bother question is answered several times throughout the pamphlet by demeaning the people who don’t “get it”. Citation: page 4, “Not wanting to beat the shit out of very stupid people is hard work.” The authors must be pretty smart to see all this stupidity! In answer to the question ‘Why bother?’ Because I want to be smart like you, can I send you a membership fee and jump behind your smart rebel label? :-P

Page 20 is mostly metaphor. I think the point gets lost without something concrete to anchor it.


There’s a bit that can be done to make this pamphlet easier to read.

Page 6, paragraph 2. Should begin with “You’re”, not “Your”. Page 8, paragraph 2, I think it should be “ensure” not “insure”. Page 21, the SSOOKN quote should drop the word “For”. I know, I know, that’s really anal. But since its in print it should matter.

Some of the leaves are out of order. Maybe I’m printing it wrong, or doing something dumb, but I tried a zillion different ways, and no matter how I paginate it, p18-19 is followed by p12-13, and p8-9 is followed by p16-17. Luckily, it doesn’t really seem to matter.

I think the large blocks of text (read: the entire pamphlet) need to be broken up with some graphics or quotes or what-have-you. This is your opportunity to punch the reader right in the limbic system. Some lighter images could go a long way to soften the austere bitterness (unless you really like the bitterness – personally, I think it’s unattractive). I know that this commutiny has no shortage of hysterical graphics.


I’m equally impressed by the BIP pamphlet as I am with the community. You guys have shaken off the mummy-wrappings of ancient Discordia and created a new episkipos which is, perhaps, even more radically free than previous incarnations. It was really refreshing to realize that there are people who are putting a new spin on Discordia, even though sometimes some seem to be a bunch of elitist, cantankerous, endearing assholes (you what I mean). Likewise the BIP perfectly reflects the commutiny – it’ll enlighten you …if you’re tough enough to stomach it.

In My Humble Opinion it can use a bit of levity. What attracted me to Discord when I was something like 17 years old was that it was the first time someone tried to convince me of something important without cramming it down my throat. It tasted good so I swallowed it on my own. The humor and lack of self-importance is what (according to The Prankster and The Conspiracy) Greg and Kerry thought would save Discord from Dogma. And I don‚Äôt just mean LAIL dada humor.  Maybe absurd silliness doesn‚Äôt have a place in this document, but I for one would be able to take it more seriously if it didn‚Äôt take itself so seriously.

And on that note I acknowledge that I am also quite full of shit. All of this long wind emanates, perhaps, from a narrow, stubborn mind. I sure couldn’t do any better than you guys have done, but I’m hoping that all this jazz will somehow help. Looking back on this post, I find it pleasantly absurd that my report on the BIP is approaching the length of the pamphlet itself. But whatever.

Um, I shall leave you with a llama,

A llama

Holy shit, the Proffessor's got the goods.

X will mindgasm when he sees this.  :-D

Good points, prof.

We should really conceive of a second edition.  Do some editing.  We pretty much threw that shit together raw.

What would you suggest would be the best essay to start with?

some valid points are made.  I can see how the amount of vitriol that ended up in the BIP could be a deterrent.  Of course as you can see in other threads, I don't think we've ever really nailed down who the audience is.  But, I think that's where some salesmanship comes into play.  The people I've shared it with in person I try to give a bit of a context of where it came from and what it is about.  That way, they aren't totally blindsided by the fits of hate-shitting that come out.  I also agree with the comment about visuals.  Unfortunately, we were all so into the writing that there weren't any visuals offered up.

There has been a standing offer of anyone who wants to submit graphics (and knows how to place them in a PDF file) should do so.


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