June 02, 2005

Spy spy spy spy spy spy spy spyyyyyyyy.

The CIA is quietly paying for future spies to be educated as anthropologists, because understanding how to gather cultural information is essential to incisive espionage.

That's very interesting. It's always nice to see one's field of interest recognized as important. Anthropology has an unfortunate reputation as a fuzzy, easy major for empty-headed slackers, so I'm thrilled that the CIA understands the great benefit to be had from researching and comparing human societies. I'm less than thrilled that their purpose in doing so is to gather information without the knowledge and permission of the people it concerns, and less than less than thrilled that the purpose of that information-gathering is to gain political and military advantages over said people. That's not exactly in keeping with the spirit of political neutrality and sharing of information which anthropology (and every other academic discipline) is supposed to value.

It doesn't stop at a faint sense of ethical ickiness, though; there are two more problems. One is pointed out midway through the article: when people start associating anthropology with international espionage, their response to actual anthropologists is going to range from uncooperative to really fucking hostile. It's not exactly a secret now; this program is announced on the CIA website and is being reported by major international news media. A bad time to be an anthropologist abroad could begin really whenever people feel like it.

The last issue, which you'll find at the very end of the BBC article, is that the field of anthropology has been visited (in the plague-of-locusts sense) with people like Felix Moos of the University of Kansas. He says: "The United States is at war. Thus, to put it simply, the existing divide between academe and the intelligence community has become a dangerous and very real detriment to our national security at home and abroad."

That's right. If you're interesting in learning and you're not putting that to work in the service of war, you're a threat to all of us. I'd better see you putting down that potsherd and picking up a gun pronto or there's going to be trouble.

Posted by dianna at June 2, 2005 04:25 PM

And I thought I was the only one around here who used They Might Be Giants lyrics as entry titles.

Posted by: holohan at June 2, 2005 08:47 PM

No sir! I'm pleased that you recognized it. I did wonder for a while if I could somehow transcribe the rest of the song, and then decided it was just a good way to waste lots of time and confuse most of the Cementhorizon readership.

Posted by: Dianna at June 2, 2005 10:25 PM

That would have been something. I've always hated the end of "Spy" (by which I mean everything after your titular quotation, the rest of the song is truly rockin'). I'm glad the live version on Severe Tire Damage truncates the free-form disaster at the end of the John Henry version.

Posted by: holohan at June 2, 2005 10:27 PM

The end of Spy is the best part in a live show, though, with a Call and Answer kind of nonsense between the Johns and The Audience. It can go on for five minutes or more and everybody is hoarse and hysterical by the end.

Posted by: Erik at June 3, 2005 07:13 AM

Wait, was that what they were playing at the show that I saw where they took a microphone on a stick and started pointing it at various people present and ordering them to make noise into it? One of the Johns was narrating who was being pointed at, and since their entire backup band was composed of people named Dan it went John, John, audience, John, Dan, audience, another Dan, audience, Dan, John, audience, John.

Shit. Katie? Jacob? Audience, Dan, John? Which song was that?

Posted by: Dianna at June 3, 2005 11:59 AM