The Law of Unintended Consequences: Fairy Tales and Dragons

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”―Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Star Trek’s recurring antagonist, the Borg is, perhaps, the best known collective of today’s generation.  The Borg passionately devour technology and profess its only goal is to “raise the

A dragon if unintended consequences

A dragon if unintended consequences

quality of life” of the species they “assimilate.” “Resistance”, they say, “is futile”. The Borg goal is noble; the unintended consequence is the loss of the very thing the Borg requires, energy. Free will and individual thought, two high-energy generators, are exterminated by “assimilation”.  Star Trek was a Cold War (1947-1991) fairy tale and, while it was not clear exactly how the Borg dragon could be slayed, it was always assumed that it could be beaten.

The Borg fairy tale is social engineering taken to the limits of imagination nurtured in a Cold War

culture of astounding technological progress and a religion of science. The Borg is closer than we want to believe. It is within Political Correctness that came to bloom during the William J. Clinton administration. It is within the Patriot Act passed during the George W. Bush administration. It is within the Affordable Care Act of the Barack H. Obama administration. Like the Dickens tale, The Christmas Carol, we have the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas yet to come. The unintended consequences of these actions are a logical progression of ideas defined during the Cold War and the dragons that must be slain.

Politically Correct, PC, is defined by The Free Dictionary as being “of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.”[1] Certainly, it sounds very nice. We don’t use gender-based or race-based words any more. The unintended consequence is that people have become afraid to have trivial or meaningful discussions about contentious matters of any kind. Ideas are stifled; as are differences and opposing views. Many are convinced that people with opposing viewpoints will stone the opposition. For example, the current world situation requires an understanding of Islam. The absence of the ability to air fear and ignorance as well as accurate accounts of Islam denies individuals the ability to address those issues. The present Department of Justice witch hunt of social media for anything it considers to be inflammatory or derogatory to Islam or Muslims as a violation of Civil Rights drives hatred and distrust not resolution. PC, as practiced, is dangerous. It creates ‘good’ people and ‘evil’ people based on political manipulation. It is okay to hate ‘evil’ people and deny them their rights as they do not deserve the same treatment as everyone else. Free speech and the law are available only to people who are on the ‘correct’ political side. Sweeping issues under the language rug has built great divides based on age, race, gender and religion. PC is the ghost of Christmas past and the dragon of the unintended consequences of PC must be beaten.

The Patriot Act, courtesy of George W. Bush’s administration and strengthened at reauthorization during Barack H. Obama’s administration, is a target rich environment of unintended consequences. My personal favorite assumes the benign name of Infragard,[2] a public private partnership between the FBI and industry to protect U.S. Infrastructure from terrorist attacks. Sounds good, right?

Kevin Macdonald’s 2009 political thriller State of Play deals a card from the plot deck that has the whistleblower from the government contractor telling the journalist all about a $30-$40 billion a year prize. The brass ring, it seems, is a contract that covers all manner of domestic (inside of the U.S.) tasks everything from electronic surveillance to law enforcement. Whistleblower cites the corporation as having been federally deputized and authorized to shoot to kill Americans in post-Katrina New Orleans; a function normally reserved for the National Guard and local law enforcement. After the final credits rolled, I tucked the grandsons in bed, cleaned up the popcorn mess to avoid the fight with the spouse, and ran to research the citation. The plot card was good, the event happened as advertised. According to a 2007 NPR article, Blackwater, LLC “…landed a $73 million contact to protect FEMA staff…”.[3]  Blackwater eventually got itself crossways with the American people, went down in flames and multiplied. The firm rose again as several corporations with different names and interlocking boards.[4] Some of these new little Blackwater groups are, no doubt, among the beneficiaries of Infragard, a linkage I discovered during the New Orleans research.

It seemed strange that after forty odd years of managing and operating infrastructure at the local, state and federal level, I had not heard of Infragard.  Started in the late 1990’s Infragard was intended to do all the right things for the right reasons; works as a team with the federal government to protect U.S. assets. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks in New York, Infragard morphed from an under 2,000 member citizen advisory group to today’s 55,000 plus ring-knocking, secret hand-shake ready-action group that attracts 7,000 plus new applicants a year.

Infragard has garnered the attention of several Civil Liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU.[5] Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, writes, “…One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law…”.[6] Sweet unintended consequences from Christmas present. Infragard has duties and responsibilities including reporting the suspicious to the FBI and DHS. Funded properly with tech toys and contracts, Infragard insiders are privy to secure connections for early warning of trouble, even earlier than state and local officials. In 2009, Chairwoman Kathleen Kiernan of the InfraGard National Members Alliance (INMA) defended allegations of civil liberties violations stating “It’s not an elitist group in any way, shape or form,” she says. “We’re out there trying to protect everybody. Any U.S. citizen on the planet is eligible to apply to InfraGard.”[7] What Kiernan fails to mention is the Infragard bureaucracy in which some members are more equal than others. Did I mention that each chapter of Infragard is controlled by a local FBI Field Office? They are. The FBI and DHS do not need Infragard. Representatives from those agencies may attend the professional gatherings of these groups and ascertain the same information as their stated objective, protecting the infrastructure, for a great deal less money. The unintended consequences of the Patriot Act and its hatchlings like Infragard represent more dragons to slay.

The ghost of Christmas future, The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, is yet to be defined. None of the legislators read the 2,000 pages plus document before they passed the Act. Some unintended consequences, such as the hiring of more than 16,000 new IRS employees for enforcement and the elimination of child-only insurance policies in some states, are defined. Most of the unintended consequences, however, are yet to unfold. There is no doubt that this act, like the Patriot Act, will provide a target rich environment of dragons to slay.

I hope that the dragons of unintended consequences were not considered by the purveyors of these acts because, if they were, then the actions are unforgiveable. Life is not a fairy tale but, as in a fairy tales, the dragons can be beaten. The knights in shining armor slaying the dragons of unintended consequences will be individuals with ideas, not the collective. The collective can never break new ground as it is only as good as the knowledge base of the last species it assimilated. It is the energy of free will and individual thought that brings new ideas that can be vetted and honed through the firebrands of discourse, argument, and action to chart a path forward.



[1] The Free Dictionary; Politically correct; http://www.thefreedictionary.com/political+correctness

[3] NPR; September 28, 2007; Dina Temple-Raston; Blackwater Eyes Domestic Contracts in U.S.;  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14707922

[4] The Atlantic Wire; Aug 8, 2012; John Hudson; Time for Blackwater to Change Its Name Again; http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2012/08/time-blackwater-change-its-name-again/55532/

[5] The Daily Journalist; Mike Brickner of ACLU on the InfraGard Organization; http://thedailyjournalist.com/the-expert/mike-brickner-of-a-c-l-u-on-the-infragard-organization/

[6] The Progressive; February 7, 2008; Matthew Rothschild; FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including ‘Shoot to Kill’; http://www.alternet.org/story/76388/fbi_deputizes_private_contractors_with_extraordinary_powers,_including_’shoot_to_kill

[7] Kaplan, D. (2009-01-01). “On guard: InfraGard makes strides under new leadership”. SCMagazine