Saturday, February 27, 2010


At a conference I was at this week, Daniel Ellsberg recounted a time in 1969 when he explained to Henry Kissinger what would happen after he was given the dozen or so clearances above Top Secret (the existence of which is also classified, of course). What happens first is you feel like a fool. You've published books that you now discover were filled with stuff that was wrong. You have believed you understood how things worked for your entire professional life, but you now find out you were completely wrong, that the real world is entirely different from what you have been told. The books you've written, the lectures you've given are based on a false understanding of the world.

But this stage only lasts a few weeks. After you have been reading this material hitherto unavailable to you for a while, you begin to see everybody else as fools. Only with people with these top level clearances know the truth. People whom you previously regarded as experts become ignoramuses, doubly so because they don't realize that they actually know nothing.

And so your conversations with them become telling them what you want them to think.