Copyright Leg Iron Books, 2017.
First posted online on January 4, 2010, on the Underdogs Bite Upwards blog.
An occasional free eBook from Leg Iron Books
This ebook is free and will remain so. This book may be given away freely but only in its entirety, without modification or deletion of any part of the text or cover image. Even though it is a free eBook, copyright still applies and lies with the author of the work.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover image © H. K. Hillman 2017
The historical aspect here is not deep research, is in no way authoritative and compresses a long, long time into a few paragraphs, so don’t expect David Attenborough to be reading this out on TV. Although it’s long enough for a programme!
This started out as a blog post on Underdogs Bite Upwards, currently a Wordpress blog. It seems to have aged quite well. It’s now over seven years old but still gets a link on Twitter and on other blogs from time to time.
I thought it might be worth making it into a free eBook rather than have people search an obscure blog for ancient posts. That way you can pass it around in eBook format freely – the only condition is that you don’t change anything. Give it away, post links to it, hell, post the whole thing on your site if you want but it has to remain intact. That’s the copyright rule. Break it, and I’ll come round and be mercilessly sarcastic at you.
The other rule is, you can’t charge anyone for a copy of this. You’re not paying for it, it’s free to all. No profiting without putting any effort in. That’s what governments and tax-funded NGOs do.
It’s pretty much the same as the original. I edited it a little bit and took out some links that no longer work but otherwise it’s the original that keeps getting quoted by people online. I did think about updating it to include more of the weirdness that has come to pass since the original post but, well, it seems to cover everything anyway. The new stuff just follows the format used for the old.
It’s more popular than pretty much anything I’ve written since. I’m not too sure how to feel about that…
Legiron the Underdog
@underdogsbiteup on Twitter, in case anyone gives a damn.
Fear the Witch, for it is you
Fear has a long history, and the idea of control-by-fear has a history that’s only five minutes less than that. Keeping control of a pack of hominids by being the biggest and nastiest was a simple step and an easy one to cope with. Everyone knew who the biggest and nastiest one was and everyone knew to keep on his good side. Nothing devious or sneaky required by Big’n’Nasty, although underlings might engage in sneakiness to get their own way without being battered. Big’n’Nasty ruled by fear.
When man overcame his fear of fire, he soon realised that all the other animals were still afraid of it. Fire could keep predators away and also cook food and provide warmth. It was no longer just a matter of being big and nasty. Power lay with the one who could make fire. About now, the whole business of politics got under way because Big’n’Nasty soon worked out that it wasn’t who controlled fire that mattered, it was who controlled the one who controlled fire. It’s been downhill from there ever since.
When Fire Controller came under the protection of Big’n’Nasty, he thought he was on to a good thing. Already held in high regard, he now had a huge and vicious bodyguard. What he didn’t realise was that he was just Big’n’Nasty’s way of staying in charge because anyone who wanted to see Fire Controller had to get past Big’n’Nasty first.
This sparked an idea in the proto-Righteous of the time. It was impossible to split the rule when there was only one ruler, but now there were two. So, for example, Big’n’Nasty could be convinced that Fire Controller was untrustworthy, or that others wanted to take Fire Controller and run away to start a new tribe. Big’n’Nasty would need advisors and spies to keep an eye on things. Now, nobody could get to Big’n’Nasty without going through his advisers first. The Righteous took control without having to challenge Big’n’Nasty, and they had him as a threat if their orders weren’t obeyed.
With fire, the tribe could defend themselves more easily against predators. They no longer needed Big’n’Nasty to scare away the animals and intimidate other tribes. They had fire, which did the same thing. The threat of Big’n’Nasty diminished so the proto-Righteous needed a way to keep the population scared of something else, that only they could protect them from.
So they invented gods. Fire was a magical thing at that time, remember. Even the sun rising in the morning was cause for celebration because nobody knew where it went at night, nor whether it was coming back. These proto-Righteous invented gods of fire, sun, moon, winter, spring, food supplies, everything. The gods had to be placated on pain of Terrible Things and this placation normally came in the form of giving stuff to the Righteous. There were enough gods for the proto-Righteous to have one each, so they could all benefit. Big’n’Nasty was still nominally in charge but all he had to do was parade around looking important. The Righteous took all the decisions.
What happened next must have surprised the Righteous. The tribe loved it. A ritual to guarantee the sun will rise? Brilliant! They’d worried about that every night. Worry no more, for Sun God is here! Fire going out? No problem, Fire God will see to that with a little behind-the-scenes work from Fire Controller, now relegated to backroom boffin status. The idea that someone else would worry about the hard stuff must have been of enormous appeal to a tribe used to scratching a living from the land. The Righteous couldn’t believe their luck. They had power and all they’d had to do was make up an imaginary fear or two. Just as they still do today.
Imaginary fears don’t last forever, so the Righteous had to continually up the game. Some gods required human sacrifices or everyone would die. Some gods could only be placated at certain times of year and if you weren’t watching out for the right time, you’d miss it and everyone would die. Keep them distracted and keep them scared. It’s worth noting that all these gods required placating, not worshipping. These were not gods who wanted humans to succeed and be happy. These were nasty, vicious, parliamentary gods who demanded obedience and continuous payment on pain of punishment. There was no public access to Heaven. When you died, you came back as someone or something else or you went to the place of punishment forever. Later, a sort of sub-heaven opened for the very very obedient because the Righteous realised they had to promise something.
Then someone comes along and wrecks the whole plan by telling people there’s only one God, and He’s actually very nice and likes them. Righteous priests everywhere facepalmed when they heard of this. Someone just hadn’t grasped the idea at all.
Ah, but he had. He’d found one all-powerful God who wasn’t trying to kill everyone and who could take on all the others with one hand tied behind his back. He’d also come up with a devil who was evil incarnate and very scary because, while not as powerful as the one God, he was still very powerful indeed.
The Righteous soon realised that this was the big time, so they hijacked the religion and filled it with cardinals and bishops. This was Big Admin time and the Righteous loved it. This God could be nice and nasty at the same time, he was invisible and everywhere, and he was the only one who could protect humans from the devil.
Nothing visible, no direct connection to any Earthly thing so this God cannot be blamed for the weather or failed crops because it’s not His responsibility. He is perfect and unquestionable. Once the Righteous had control of that idea, they soon had control of most of the known world. They still do, within the various guises of Abrahamic religion. It’s not the religion that’s the problem. It’s those who control it.
Even so, those imaginary fears waver with time. Especially when times are good and people don’t feel the need for supernatural help. The Righteous realised they needed a tangible enemy for the people to fear. Ideally, one that’s close by but not too easy to see, so the people can be scared of their own shadows. The new religion had an easy answer for them.
They look just like everyone else so they’re hard to find, but they’ll turn your crops to mush, make your animals ill and turn you into a toad if you annoy them. They can fly on brooms and sail in sieves. They dance naked in the woods at the end of October and if you see them, they’ll suck out your eyes and use your blood as nail varnish. It was all utter bollocks, of course, but everyone fell for it. Nothing changes.
This, for the Righteous, was the turning point. They now had an ‘enemy within’ they could blame for everything and they could single out whoever they like and pronounce them Heretic. They realised that people will believe any old rubbish, including flying brooms and sailing sieves, if it comes from someone who is An Expert In These Things.
So heretics were burned just because they didn’t believe in exactly the same God in exactly the same way. People who were a bit odd were classed as witches and killed. Later, Jews were rounded up and gassed. Intellectuals and academics were removed from tyrannical Righteous societies because they were elitist. Anyone dissenting could be classed as mentally ill and locked away.
Are we any wiser now than when those first tribes fell for the ‘sun god’ stories? Not a bit of it. You can’t say words like ‘blackboard’ because it’s racist. I’ve never heard a board complain but there we are. Christmas gets shunted aside in case it offends people who don’t actually give a stuff about it. Nicotine, a substance no more deadly than caffeine, will kill a non-smoker in seconds. If your waist is outside approved limits you will die unless [+ you pay money to the Diet God+]. One drop of alcohol makes you a raving drunk and this can be solved only by paying more tribute to the Booze God. Cars are evil. Light bulbs are evil. Smokers are evil. Fat people are evil. Drinkers are evil. Anyone with money is evil. Coal is evil. Oil is evil. Government, not God, will protect you from all these things if you will only pay homage and money to them. If you don’t, those things will kill not only you, but the whole world. Sacrifice, or everyone will die. Thousands of years of development and we’re still falling for the same tricks Big’n’Nasty’s tribe fell for.
And let’s not forget the current ‘enemy within’, The Terrorist.
The Righteous have moved on from religion to a large extent but the methods remain exactly the same. The Terrorist is merely the latest incarnation of the witch, an unseen but very real enemy who is everywhere and out to get you at any moment. The Terrorist doesn’t fly on brooms, he flies on aeroplanes and he plans to blow every single one of them out of the sky with his Satanic Trouser Fire. So you must parade naked to prove you are not The Terrorist because he could be anyone. You must submit meekly to the whims of the Righteous and be searched, scanned and checked. Why would you object to this, unless you are a witch – I mean, The Terrorist?
The Terrorist will have a home somewhere so all homes must be open for inspection. He could be travelling so [+ all cars must be tracked+]. He might be on your street, right now, so all streets must be covered by cameras day and night. Don’t like it? Why not? What are you hiding? If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
Nothing to hide, nothing to fear. The irony is that those who trot out this phrase want you to fear. They want you to fear everything, all the time, and they want you to turn to them for protection from those fears. For a price, naturally. Freedom from fear isn’t cheap nor is it permanent. There’s always another fear coming up behind. If there isn’t, they just invent one. It doesn’t matter how absurd.
Fear the drinker who flies on a wine bottle when the moon is full. Fear the smoker who sails in a pipe, the fat people who dance naked in the moonlight, the filament bulb that hunts polar bears while you sleep. Fear the mysterious Right Wing. Submit to total control because if you don’t, the Fascists will submit you to total control (People have fallen for that one in droves, time and time again. Amazing, isn’t it?).
Fear rising sea levels and water shortages and droughts and floods all at once. The coldest winter in 25 years is proof of global warming and you must fear it. Fear the coal fire, the electric kettle, the motor car, for these things usher in the End Times, when the Carbon God will rule the Earth and all life shall perish.
When Orwell described doublethink, he tried to keep it within believable limits. The reality is far more bizarre.
Adults, fear the children for they are feral and untouchable. Children, fear the adults for they will play spit-roast with you and then kill you. Blacks, fear the whites for they are all racist. Whites, fear the blacks for they are armed. Christian, fear the Muslim for he wants you dead. Muslim, fear the Christian for he wants you dead. Everyone fear everyone else because one of you is Satan, I mean The Terrorist, and none of you know which.
It’s like a proliferation of Spanish Inquisitions, all with their own set of heretics to chase. The Righteous are out of control now. Absurdity is the order of the day and the old yarns of flying brooms and sailing sieves seem tame compared to the current crop of lunatic stories. And yet people believe them, because they come from the lips of An Expert.
The Righteous never vary their methods of control because those methods always work. No matter how many times they are used, people just don’t see it. The same methods have always worked and always will unless people can be made to see how the method works. Well, this time around, it’s possible to tell them. This time we have global communication and the Righteous know it and are doing their best to silence it. They are using one of their favourites – for the cheeldren – because anyone objecting to that must be a child-hating monster who wants all children brutally maimed and killed and the images posted for the whole world to see. It’s even more effective at silencing dissent than the ‘if you believe that, then you must be racist’ ploy.
They will probably succeed. Don’t think so? I didn’t think they’d succeed in making every single pub a non-smoking pub, but they did. I didn’t think they could ever convince the public that minimum pricing on alcohol will have any effect on alcoholics at all, but they have. Using a few simple lines, every time.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”
“An Expert Says that this measure will solve the imaginary problem we just invented.”
“For the Cheeeldren.”
“Why would anyone object to this? It’s for your safety.”
“If you don’t agree then you must be a (insert appropriate heretic term here).”
Blog silencing is happening all over the world. Some come back, most don’t. Countries have lists of banned websites that they don’t want people to see – and I don’t mean North Korea, I mean Australia. If we’re going to get any kind of message out there it’ll have to be quick.
It all comes down to control through fear.
The real fear, the ultimately brilliant part of it, is that nobody is actually scared of the ‘witch’ of the time. They are scared that they will be identified as that ‘witch’. Once identified, you are marked forever as an outcast. The Righteous can silence any objection to their actions by a sidelong look and a quiet ‘You know, you’re starting to sound like a heretic’.
Nowadays, people are not afraid of racists. They are afraid of being labelled a racist. They are not afraid of paedophiles. They are afraid to go anywhere near children in case they are labelled paedophile. It’s not smoking they fear, it’s the idea that if they let the smoker get tobacco scent on their clothes, others might think they smoke too. It’s not alcoholism they fear but the perception of others that maybe they are drinking too much.
So they will join the mob that drags the witch to the local millpond because if they don’t, suspicion will turn on them next. They must be loud and clear that they oppose the current witchery or else they will be deemed in support of it. How many times have you seen a troll demand that you denounce something you’ve never mentioned? If you don’t then you must support it and therefore… a witch!
The real fear is fear itself. Not fear of the Thing, but fear of being accused of being the Thing. People will submit to full body scanners because if they refuse, they know the mob will take it as a sign of guilt. They will cheer on minimum alcohol pricing because if they don’t then they must support alcoholism. They will worship the Green God because if they don’t they will be seen as polar bear killers. Standard witchhunting methodology – the mob will always support the witchfinder because the witchfinder might accuse any who don’t. The mob will be keen to report the witch to prove that they are not also witches. The mob is easily controlled by the fear of being accused, not the fear of the witch.
People will submit to all those lunatic controls on flights, some of which make absolutely no sense at all, not because they are scared of terrorists but because they are scared of being suspected themselves. All these controls on smoking, drinking, diet, travelling, what you can say and so on are not there for your benefit. They are to keep you in the mob, to keep you compliant and to keep you too scared to object.
If you don’t question it, then you are controlled by fear and will accept the next absurdity without question also. Try it. Ask an airport security member why you have to take your belt off in some UK airports but not others. Why you have to take your laptop out of its bag in some airports but not others. Ask at a railway station why you have to pass through police-guarded barriers even though nobody’s checking anything. They don’t know – because there isn’t a reason, other than proving you will do as you are told.
Life was simple when Big’n’Nasty ran the tribe. He had rules, everyone knew the rules and everyone knew what would happen if Big’n’Nasty caught them breaking the rules. It was rule by fear but it was easy to understand. Everyone was afraid of Big’n’Nasty, but anyone could challenge Big’n’Nasty for his position if they thought they were hard enough.
Now, we have a much more complex set of fears. There are Bad Things we must fear but there is also the deeper fear that someone might mistake us for the Bad Thing, and the mob will turn on us. The Righteous are careful not to be the object of that fear but to appear as salvation from it. The objects of fear change as fast as the rules so it’s easy to be caught out. There is no way to wrest control from the controllers because they are not easy to identify, and if anyone tries, they simply cry ‘heretic’ and invoke the mob. They cannot be brought down from outside.
The Righteous fail when they go too far. When people in authority start speaking out against them. The Pope stopped the Inquistion. The Church stopped the Witchfinder-General. The common people did nothing because they were under the thrall of ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ until someone they saw as an authority figure spoke out.
There are signs of this starting now. It could be messy, the Righteous have never had so many projects running at once before. What they’ll take down with them, and whether they’ll all go at once is anyone’s guess but they will fail and I think it’ll be soon.
But don’t get complacent. They might lose their current power but they’ll never be wiped out. Not as long as they have a mob to play with.
(For original post and comments, )
About the Author
The blogger known as Legiron started his drunken online rants in March 2007, as a spin-off from the Dr. Dume blog. The Underdogs Bit Upwards blog managed to get in the top 5 Scottish political blogs at one point, despite the author knowing nothing at all about politics and having, at that time, little interest in it. It was the smoking ban that really set Legiron off on one – that little bit of Puritan whinery was the last straw.
The Underdog Blog is still active, even though Leg Iron Books takes up much of the writer’s time these days. This fledgling publishing house hopes to take on authors who either can’t find a publisher or who don’t believe they are worth publishing. Naturally, Leg Iron Books won’t publish any old crap but if you have a story that can be at least edited into shape, you’ll get a fair hearing here.
Also available from Leg Iron Books:
‘The Underdog Anthology, volume 1’.
Edited by H.K. Hillman and Roo B. Doo.
‘Tales the Hollow Bunnies Tell’.
Edited by H.K. Hillman and Roo B. Doo.
‘Blackjack’ by Mark Ellott.
‘Feesten onder de Drinkboom’ by Dirk Vleugels (written in Dutch)
‘Cultish’, by Hugo Stone.
‘The Goddess of Protruding Ears’, by Justin Sanebridge.
‘Ransom’, by Mark Ellott.
‘The Mark’ by Margo Jackson.
‘Han Snel’, by Dirk Vleugels (written in Dutch).
This started out as a blog post on Underdogs Bite Upwards, currently a Wordpress blog. It seems to have aged quite well. It’s now over seven years old but still gets a link on Twitter and on other blogs from time to time. I thought it might be worth making it into a free eBook rather than have people search an obscure blog for ancient posts. That way you can pass it around in eBook format freely – the only condition is that you don’t change anything. Give it away, post links to it, hell, post the whole thing on your site if you want but it has to remain intact. That’s the copyright rule. Break it, and I’ll come round and be mercilessly sarcastic at you. The other rule is, you can’t charge anyone for a copy of this. You’re not paying for it, it’s free to all. No profiting without putting any effort in. That’s what governments and tax-funded NGOs do. It’s pretty much the same as the original. I edited it a little bit and took out some links that no longer work but otherwise it’s the original that keeps getting quoted by people online. I did think about updating it to include more of the weirdness that has come to pass since the original post but, well, it seems to cover everything anyway. The new stuff just follows the format used for the old. It’s more popular than pretty much anything I’ve written since. I’m not too sure how to feel about that...