Word comes that the Totally Legit Joe regime is thinking about sending its agents door to door, to check if you’ve been a good little comrade and received your jab. Which means now’s an ideal time to discuss the pros and cons of the Secret Police.
Let us first note the obvious: that “secret police” is an oxymoron. A police that’s actually secret would be devastatingly effective… but not as effective, it turns out, as one with a good PR department. When you study up on the secret police of defunct regimes,* the first thing you notice is how un-secret they are, by design. The Gestapo, for instance, tried very hard to insinuate that they were just another bureaucracy — you could ask the average kamerad “what’s the way to the Gestapo office?” and he’d know; he might not even suspect you of any ill designs. After all, European nations have a long tradition of “political police.” The Gestapo were just the logical extension of that…
But on the other hand, the Secret Police tried hard to develop a unique — and uniquely intimidating — style. The Okhrana had their own uniform, IIRC, and Gestapo were rightly famous for their leather trenchcoat aesthetic. And given that almost all Gestapo men were also SS members, that was the sartorial double whammy — even when he’s wearing civvies, that lightning rune pin puts the fear in you. Indeed, that’s the key to their effectiveness.
In the one in-depth study of the Gestapo I’m aware of, by historian Robert Gellately, he emphasizes how understaffed, overworked, and generally inefficient they were. He had some source-base problems — Gestapo files are notoriously hard to come by — but if we assume that the one town’s records he unearthed were anything close to typical, the Nazi secret police spent very little time actually policing. Instead, they spent a lot of time puffing up their own reputation for ruthlessness and cold efficiency, and let that do all the work — most of their intel came from willing informers.
And the Gestapo, overworked and understaffed as they were, had massive resources compared to lots of other secret police operations. The second string, then, amped up the oxymoron even more. Romania’s Securitate was a nasty bunch even by secret police standards, probably because they were at the bottom of the heap, resource-wise (Romania being a poor country even by commie standards, and Ceausescu being a low-rent dictator even by same). Given that, they went all-in on ostentatious intimidation. The Securitate own the dubious honor of making the standard Eurotrash track suit the universal symbol of thuggery. They’d dress their goons in track suits, and have them follow random people around, to let the people know that no one was above suspicion. Same way with phone taps — they made damn sure you knew every phone was tapped, by making the taps as obvious as possible; you could practically hear the Securitate goons taking notes as you talked.
The problem with that, obviously, is that you run the risk of overdoing it. North Korea, for instance, only gets away with their “everything not forbidden is compulsory” model because they’re a tiny peninsula, backstopped by the much richer, much more competent regime across the Yalu. Just as Ceausescu barely lived past the fall of the Berlin Wall, because the Soviets were retrenching and couldn’t waste their rapidly-dwindling resources propping him up, so the Kims will last all of six weeks when the Chinese start having serious internal problems. It’s tough to thread the needle — note the change from the NKVD to the MGB to the KGB as Stalinism wound down, each successor agency getting much less obnoxious and much more actually secret. NKVD goons carried on like the Gestapo (they, too, loved the leather trenchcoat look); KGB guys were much harder to spot, looking like normal apparatchiks.
Americans obviously don’t have much experience with secret police, but if you think about it, our regular police have a very similar problem. What happens if you put a big beefy cop, all decked out in paramilitary gear, with a big K-9 and a huge blacked-out SUV for a patrol car — you know, the whole schmear — on a street corner, and that corner doesn’t immediately become the safest in the city? Even if it does, you’ve got a problem, since that cop is now tied to that corner, meaning that the real criminals can just shift operations a block over. But since that one guy can’t be everywhere, stopping everything, pretty soon the neighborhood loses respect for him. Yeah, he’s got all kinds of tacticool shit strapped to him, and the dog looks scary, but all you have to do to defeat him is have ten people breaking the law simultaneously. Even if he turns the dog loose, he can only stop two of you — when the best your ace crime fighter can do is the Mendoza Line, people stop respecting the police.
Nor do undercover cops help the situation much. I highly recommend the old HBO tv series The Wire. It’s fun for a lot of reasons, but for our purposes here, just watch the schemes the drug dealers come up with to foil the narcos. The Wire goes overboard in its depiction of mastermind drug dealers — if they were that smart and self-disciplined, they’d belong to a different demographic — but the street-level stuff is true enough, I’m told by those who would know, and it’s extremely interesting. Basically what the drug dealers do is set up their transactions in such a way that the cops commit all their resources to catching small fry who can’t really be prosecuted, and don’t know anything about higher-level operations. The best-planned, most sophisticated sting of guys on the street nets you one fourteen year old kid who only knows the street name of the guy above him, which a) the cops already know, and b) is therefore completely useless. Meanwhile the real criminals just keep on keepin’ on…
Now swing that all the way back up top, to the Totally Legit Joe regime sending out its junior volunteer kommissars to “encourage” everyone to get their suicide shot. Lots of people in Our Thing assume this is an intimidation tactic — “we know who you are, and we’re watching!” — but if so, it’s a stupid and counterproductive one, even if the Junior Volunteer Thought Police (hereafter JVTP, please update your Official Rotten Chestnuts Lexicons (ORCL) appropriately) are merely Securitate-level competent. What happens if you tell the JVTP to fuck off? Unless you actually get hauled away in a black, windowless van the very next night, the “lesson” fails to register…
And note that in this scenario, it actually fails on two levels. On the crudest level, it shows everyone that the JVTP aren’t nearly as scary as they’re made out to be. Hey, that goofy fat dude in Apartment 3C told them to fuck off, right to their blue-haired, nose-ringed faces, and he’s still among the living. The second level piggybacks off the first — wait, he’s been an anti-vaxxer this whole time?!? And yet, he’s fine… and he’s been fine… and we’ve all been fine. He should’ve dropped dead fifty times over by now, if COVID were really that bad… Finally, it has the real potential to fail on a third level. The Totally Legit Joe regime obviously hasn’t thought of this one, but what happens if there are way more of us out there than they thought? What happens if entire communities tell them to fuck off? All of a sudden you’ve created, then reinforced, a community identity that wasn’t there before. It could end up being a massive own goal.
And note that this is actually the best-case scenario, as it assumes that at some point, some blue-haired nose-ringer actually will end up at your door. Even such a minor achievement assumes a baseline competence that has so far been nowhere in evidence in the Totally Legit Joe regime. Given what we know about those jerkoffs — given what we know about government programs in general — for every agent actually assigned to go door-to-door, there will be three supervisors, five assistant supervisors, three regional managers, four diversity coordinators, nine grief counselors, and a mascot. All of which will be gender-nonconforming persyns of color. If any of those yahoos manage to find their own ass with both hands and a GPS tracker, it’ll be through random fucking luck.
Which would merely serve to confirm what the targets — we few, we happy few — already know. BUT: consider the impact of such a failure on Karen. As we all know, much to our disappointment and amazement, there are lots of people out there who still somehow thing COVID is a real public health emergency. They’re utterly convinced that people are dropping dead in the streets, and that only massive government intervention can save us. Well, gang…. here it is. It’s massive, all right, and it’s government intervention, but it’s mostly just an army of useless wankers sitting around fiddling on their smartphones, on your dime, at some exorbitant salary. And even if they do manage to find a badthinker — which, see above, would be dumb luck — said badthinker is going to tell them to fuck off, after which… nothing happens.
I know, I know, there will still be lots of folks on Our Side with lurid fantasies of the all-powerful Feds — mostly expressed by yelling “Fed!” every fourth post in comment sections, in between putting lots of extra parentheses around things — but news flash, y’all, those are our Branch Covidians. Just as the skull-fuckingly obvious lack of bodies in the streets doesn’t dampen the Covidian’s faith in the slightest, so no amount of Federal dumbfuckery will ever dent the certainty of the “hello, fellow teens!” crowd. They can be ignored.
But as for the rest of the population, this could be a massive own goal. Yuge. It’s going to be top kek, that’s for sure.
* a tougher task than it sounds. For one thing, the overthrown regime always burns as much as it can get away with. For another, so many of the outstanding secret police forces worked for the commies, and so naturally academic historians shy away from looking at them — we must at all costs preserve our faith in The Revolution!! There’s that Gellately study mentioned above, and a few others on various intelligence services as a whole, but the only study of “secret policing” as a phenomenon I’m aware of is by R.J. Stove, called The Unsleeping Eye. Stove is actually a music critic (and the son of Dissident legend David Stove).Loading Likes...