All the Pills are Red



Intern Journal: We tracked down our elusive leader, FPJEROME, in the swamps that he calls his home, deep beyond the watchful eyes of the new minds. We needed his guidance, for we had been reading about the upcoming election, and in our newness and unpaid-ness, we were afraid. Also, we'd been doing what we were last told, fighting raccoons for money and food, rather than getting the paychecks we were never promised.

I hardly remember what we read (it was this article ) now, but I do remember one of the younger interns, one who had never seen FPJEROME's face, telling him of it. She was young and innocent and whatever he told her in response sent her screaming into the swamp and we have not seen her for days.

This is what he told us when he emerged from his lair.

The 'red pill or blue pill' thing, that choice from The Matrix, that movie that came out in 1999 and made like half a billion dollars, that's gotta be one of the dumbest metaphors in existence. You can probably imagine it right now, or at least the meme the girl you went to high school with posted the other week, and made it inexplicably about the 2016 election. I can see it now, Morpheus's smug ass in his expensive tailored suit and exquisite chair, theatrically offering one pill then the other. Take the red pill. You wake up. That's it. It's over. You've won. You, like that girl from high school who's on her third marriage to a crossfit instructor, are so much smarter and more virtuous than those choads who took the cowardly blue pill. You're immune to the bullshit, now.

Which is, of course, another line of bullshit that you'll merrily chew through thinking it's red-flavored tropical gum, even though red's not a flavor and somebody told you that it was an apple anyway.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, every con man knows it, a good mark is the one that thinks he can't be fooled.

So a bunch of kids get the worst possible advice for the most important decision of your life: When do you stop going down the rabbit hole? Why, once they "open their minds," and "take the pill," then they're ready to roll!

Maybe you don't believe me that this has some profoundly negative results. "Why, FP, what evidence do you have?" you might well ask.

(Intern Note: We did not ask him this)

If this was true, a bunch of young men and women - but mostly young men, I have a feeling that they were the biggest fans of The Matrix, would latch onto the first eye-opening, behind-the-looking-glass philosophy they stumbled across. Carl Sagan's saying about "You don't want to open your mind so far that your brain will fall out," comes to mind.

But then they get stuck on the first thing that doesn't sound like the lies their teacher taught them and they don't keep digging. You see, you've got to keep digging.

The mark who knows you're a con man is the best mark of all, because he thinks he's the only one who sees through you. So these guys go and tell you - yes, I'm just classy and ostentatious and peddling conspiracy theories - but you're smart, you're on like eight levels of discourse, brother, you'll see through to the truth of the matter when no one else can! Exclusive rights, sir! All you've got to do is watch one more YouTube video, third of eighty, check the website for details.

Because they're stuck, the conspiracies aren't the same, anymore. I should know, I've been there. Before 2000, before the pills were red and the Y2K didn't kill us all, the shadowy government agencies and the conspiracies weren't the ones we have now.

I should clarify. The plots are always the same. The end results are mind control, power, imprisonment, dystopia, and usually there's a genocide thrown in there for good measure. But the bad guys? They're different now. Back when I was a kid and the government was out to get you, the bad guys were air force generals covering up the existence of extraterrestrials who were here to fight them with telepathic love. The bad guys were polluting the water and poisoning the air, just for a few more cents of profit. Just because it's a ranting conspiracy doesn't mean it's not true, kids.

The bad guy was the military-industrial complex. The weird lab down the street. Corrupt cops on the beat. The FBI, the CIA, the Wolves eating up Wall Street, the Masters of the Universe planning to ship your job to Japan, then India, then China, then somewhere in Africa, even though that's not a country, it's a continent, you ignoramus! Of course, they'd give it to a robot in the end, anyway. Or you'd do it for free because you were mind-controlled by corporate teevee shows and government-run chemtrails and fluoride in the water.

Maybe I'm just nostalgic, maybe it's some traditionalist neurons I didn't know I ever had, but goddamnit, those are good conspiracies to have. You need to be paranoid about G-Men and the police and billionaires planning to wreck your job from their yachts. Of course, it's all wildly inflated, disconnected from reality, but for fuck's sake, you can tell that it was, at least, at some point in the scheme of things, anchored to reality. The shadows of these plots exist in our world and they are real.

No longer, though! Now the bad guys are college kids and the scientist measuring temperatures, the school teachers and the artist you think is fighting a war on Christmas.

The new bad guys aren't captains of industry, they're women and people with brown skin and weirdos and immigrants, and I can tell you one thing about these here United fucking States of America, and it's this: Those people are not in charge. In fact, everything is slanted against them. The conspiracy is against them, most of all.

These poor sons of bitches have always been the "bad guys" in American pop culture - for supposedly open-minded seekers to see them as the new enemy exhibits an atrocious lack of reality-checking in their paranoia.

I may be wrong, but I blame this red-pill metaphor. The red pill is a bad metaphor. You can't just stop after you go through the first rabbit hole. You gotta keep digging in new directions, not just deeper down your little hole of Men's Rights or white genocide or whatever status-quo reinforcing thing that you find when you pop that pill.

A better metaphor has existed for centuries. The neophyte. The wizard's apprentice. Their first lesson is always negative - accepting an absurdity. Their second lesson? They know nothing. They take Morpheus's red pill, sure, but in those stories, just as in life, there are always more pills to take, and every pill is red. Revelation after revelation, neverending. The neophyte becomes the master, the master becomes calcified and traditionalist, the new apprentice, transgressive and bold, advances the work.

Perhaps those X-Files conspiracies were ripe for removal from the zeitgeist. The old Red Scares and fears over communists had their time that ended. Mulder and Scully were never going to adapt to a post 9-11 world. The new X-Files is sufficient proof.

But as a paranoid, I don't want these new scaremongers to win. The Truth is Out There. You can't stop at your pet ideology. All the pills are red. 

We returned to the city of Jackson without pay, but FPJEROME did teach us some new techniques for getting food from raccoons. The younger interns will switch to possums, as they're easier to fight.

Word has it that FPJEROME will rise from the swamps before the election to decry the state of the modern world. We await in abject terror.

- intern 23.