Silenced: Chapter 6, Part 2: Share All the News!

It is now the time in the story when we SHARE ALL THE NEWS!!!


Straight calls Paul to SHARE ALL THE NEWS of his evening with Jae (because this lack of privacy for the Stepolas goes in all directions).  But Paul has no time to listen right now, as he is on his way to a quick appointment with Ball Dangler, who wants to SHARE ALL THE NEWS with him, too.

But before Paul hangs up on Straight, he advises him to call Abraham, who still has to SHARE ALL THE NEWS of a Bern underground.

Ball Dangler does indeed have news to share with Paul: first of all, the NPO has already nabbed stupid Gregor and sentenced him to twenty years in prison for “assaulting” Paul.  This would, indeed, be a great example of Atheistopia’s secretly-tyrannical powers, except that Gregor was so utterly incompetent that the Keystone Kops could have nailed him.

The next piece of news is that Dangler is going to start requiring that all adults in Atheistopia sign this awkward loyalty oath:



Under penalty of life imprisonment, or death in extreme cases, I hereby pledge that I personally support the global ban on the practice of religion.  I am not affiliated with any group, organization, or individual who acts in opposition to the ruling of the international government on this matter, and I stipulate that if I become aware of any citizen violating this ordinance, I am under obligation to report the same, failure to do so resulting in the same punishment.

Marty McFly What?

Paul had trained himself to look collected at times like this.  What in the world was he going to do when required to sign?

Oh, I dunno…LIE???  Yanno, Paul, like you’ve been lying to your wife for the past half-year and more?

But apparently both Paul and Dangler are under the impression that nobody lies, ever, and thus that secret religious types couldn’t just sign the oath and go back to what they were doing.

This seems wrong from both ends.  Paul has been living a double life for months now, and Straight has been living one for years.  But when it comes to signing a piece of paper from the government they consider corrupt, murderous, and hellbound, suddenly they need to become honest?

And Dangler would presumably be aware of the fact that religious believers are no more or less honest than atheists.  Why does he think believers wouldn’t lie on this stupid thing?

Bah, it’s just a MacGuffin.  Anyway, Dangler has MOAR NEWS: he wants to give Paul his extra-special secret skullphone personal line.  I guess in case Paul ever wants to discuss philosophy.  Or that terrorist that they might want to think about starting to hunt sometime this year.

While on his government-chartered flight to Rome, Paul reconnects with Straight so they can SHARE ALL THE NEWS with each other.

“Paul, I am so sorry, and none too happy, to have been left out of the loop about the Bern underground.”

Yeah, why was Straight left out of the loop on that?  You’d think if anyone would need-to-know about this, it would be the BFF of the secret-believer NPO agent who was, yanno, going to Bern.

Bit of trouble in underground zealot paradise, boys?  Maybe Abraham needs a little talking-to?  Especially in light of the next piece of news: Gregor was murdered.

“The party line is that he tried to overtake the guard on his way to prison, and they were forced to shoot him.” [said Straight]

“Does Dengler know?” [Paul asked]

“Paul.  There’s no question Dengler ordered it.”

Paul couldn’t speak.

“You still there?” Straight said.

“Yeah.  How much does Dengler know?”

“You mean about you?  We think he’s still in the dark, but he may suspect.  Thus this murder.”

Okay, that makes NO FRAKKING SENSE.

We have been told that Paul is the only Christian mole in the NPO.  So how would anyone know that Ball Dangler ordered the hit?  For that matter, how can we even be sure it was a hit?  Gregor is certainly stupid enough to think that he could escape from armed guards.

Oh, and gotta love that when faced with the news of the murder of a Christian brother, Paul’s thoughts immediately turn to…himself.  Like, not even one second of sympathy for Gregor.  His only thought is how it affects him.

Also, if Dangler suspects Paul is a traitor, why wouldn’t he torture Gregor for information instead of immediately killing him?  He obviously found out that Gregor was a Christian, probably because Gregor is the kind of guy to spill the beans to every human being he meets:

“Unhand me, atheist scum!  I swore to Jesus Christ that I would never tell anyone about my secret meeting with the Christian mole in the NPO, at which I would inform him of the vast conspiracy of underground believers in this city…and I meant it!”

Paul is then tempted to SHARE ALL THE NEWS of the stupid loyalty oath, but develops a sudden attack of belated common sense:

“Wait till you see the document Dengler gave me this morning.”


“You mean I know something you don’t?”

“What is it?”

“Only the death knell for the underground if it’s carried out.  Let’s not risk talking about that now.”

Let’s not risk…YOU BROUGHT IT UP, YOU IDIOT!  Also, bit late to be worried about Who Might Be Listening now—you’re on an Atheistopian government charter flight and have been talking about underground networks of secret believers for ten minutes, now.

But forget about government-sanctioned murders and world-ending loyalty oaths!  Let’s talk about something really important—whether a woman will visit her parents!

“She’s seriously considering her father’s invitation to go and work for him in Washington.”

“I can’t let that happen, Straight.  But it has to be her decision.”

“Well, I mean she should at least think it’s her own decision.  As much as a woman can think, that is.”

I once promised you all that Paul wouldn’t change his abusive, controlling, asshattish ways after his conversion.  I hope I have not disappointed.

And so, Paul and Straight conspire to dissuade Jae of the extremely harmful notion that she and the kids should spend time with their extended family:

“What’d you tell her?”

“Just that it didn’t seem like the right thing to do.  I told her I needed to think about it.”

“Good.  Get back to her in due time and tell her you really have a bad feeling about it.”

“Make sure she doubts her own instincts as much as possible.  Imply her family doesn’t really love her.  It also would be great if you could get in a backhanded compliment about her mothering skills—like, why does she need help with the kids, are they really too much for her to handle, something like that.”

It’s not like any real harm will be done.  After all, Jae’s desire to visit her family is only based on silly, womany emotions and weakness:

“She’s just going stir-crazy with me gone.  And her family is applying pressure.”

“Which is totally different than US applying pressure!”

Yes, indeed, in the evil world of Atheistopia, it is these two guys who follow the path of morality.


Posted on September 18, 2013, in Books, Silenced. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Aha, I called it: Paul offhandidly mentioning his rude cabdriver to the global dictator (but not like he wants him to get punished or anything, he’s just bringing it up as small talk to Mr Not-Stalin here) gets Gregor’s ass killed. And oopsie, he was a zealot. Great job Gregor and Paul.

    Yeah, such a shame this oath is written down and you have to sign your agreement. If only Paul could get off with verbal oath, then I’m sure he could cleverly phrase it such that it SOUNDS like he’s an atheist, but can also be liberally interpeted as a denial. Because deliberately misleading people is only a problem for god if you don’t have a loophole to explain it to yourself.

    I am amused that we finally get a villain who realizes how he can exploit the RTC’s refusing to lie directly. All you have to do is demand a yes-or-no answer to an unambigious question and ask it to all RTCs, and presto: Ýou’ve got them all.

    Though this broad oath would be a great way for Dengler to arrest or execute anyone he wants, he only needs to plant a fake believer near them and claim his target should have known and reported it. But it won’t be used for that. Dengler has no enemies that aren’t RTCs, and no one who isn’t an RTC will have any problems with this oath. Jenkins can’t imagine such a worldwide “obey me or die” command might have any effects on non-RTCs.

    “She’s just going stir-crazy with me gone.”
    HURK!!! Oh, that is just vile. Yeah, I bet Jae just can’t live without Paul’s ever present love and support for a week. It’s not like she’s spend years with a cheating husband who traveled all across the US and spend as little time with his wife as possible.

  2. We’ve seen a lot of implausible things in this series, but it’s this belief that loyalty oaths actually work that’s where I draw my line. You can turn the Reflecting Pool to blood and a swimming pool to air, but let’s not get ridiculous, Jerry.

    You know, in the history of this setting, there was a World War III and then sometime after that all religions were wiped out. There must have been underground religious movements then; how did the government deal with those? (My guess: probably not with loyalty oaths.) And why can’t Ball Dangler employ the same tactics here?

  3. Yeah, lying down the power chain, like to your wife (or friend’s wife!) or kids, that’s just dandy, but lying up the chain? Never Acceptable. Because Power Is Always Right. Unless it’s overthrown, in which case it wasn’t real power.

    I don’t think anyone outside the US thinks forced oath-taking is a good idea any more, and the Americans only think it because they were brainwashed with it as kids.

    If Dengler thought Paul might be a mole, he would do something about it — for example, he might leave out a really tempting bit of information that a mole would want to pass on to his buddies (like, say, a new loyalty oath), and TAP PAUL’S SKULLPHONE to see whom he called.

  4. This sort of hoopla over the loyalty oath just boggles me. Do real-world RTCs really spend this much time agonizing over exactly how they will respond to anything such that they can always salve their consciences over not-really-telling-the-truth-while-not-actually-lying-either?

    Because this sort of silly-assed angels on the head of a pin crap is exactly what Jenkins gets up to with Rayford et al deciding that they can play games with who they’re thinking of when they say “He is risen indeed” without actually accidentally pledging loyalty to the Antichrist in doing so (they decide as long as they think REAL HARD ABOUT JESUS it’s okay to say “He is risen”).

    Christ, these jerks would fail so hard at being double-agent Nazis if they had to time-travel back to Germany in the 1930s. Instead of just deciding it’s better to toss off a “Heil Hitler” as protective coloration and save the moral grandstanding for later, they’d spend hours trying to come up with some half-assed reason why saying “Heil Hitler” actually endangers their immortal souls, and come to some kind of ridiculous conclusion.

    Or they’d get so ridiculously self-righteous as truth-tellers they’d actually endanger themselves in the name of never EVER OMGLYING EVEN TO A NAZI.

    “Oh, Social Democrats in the house? Um, well, I have to say… yes.”

    *cue delighted look from the Gestapo, and disgusted looks from the political hideaways*

    • I’ve been told the hardcore moral-absolutist action in such a situation is to refuse to answer at all – that way, you avoid the sin of lying while also avoiding the sin of handing over the people you’d been hiding.

      Of course, refusing to answer is such an obviously suspicious act that any Gestapo agent more intelligent than a bowl of sauerkraut will immediately realize that you’re almost certainly a dissident, and will arrest you, search your property for concealed refugees, and torture you for information.

    • One thing I think we’re forgetting is that this is Jenkins’s idea of retelling the story of Paul and the Roman Empire, just using more modern conceits. The loyalty oath back then would have been honoring the Imperator as, effectively, the representative of Quirinius. While most people, being polytheists with a touch of henotheism, didn’t have too many qualms with this (no sense getting your gods at loggerheads with the Roman ones), the Christians, even when NOT in Judea, weren’t all that willing to go THIS far. The Romans, apparently, interpreted this as treason, as it suggested that they didn’t think ANYTHING about Rome was legitimate or acceptable. (Hello, all-or-nothing thinking!)

      In this case, the oath of loyalty up there is standing in for the original Christians’ time’s oath of loyalty to Rome through the Imperator. The problem is that Jenkins can’t seem to conceive of the pseudo-henotheism that most of the people of Rome’s time held. They could conceive of gods that they ought not worship to the degree of their own, simply because that would be like giving filial piety to complete strangers, not out of anything baleful about the foreign gods in question (unlike the priests of Yhwh from Josiah’s time, for instance, who DID see all the other gods as contemptible upstart weaklings). To him, a god/religion/worldview is INHERENTLY jealous and unable to accept anything dissimilar. It might be to the point that to him, jealousy is more real than love and respect, or at least love is a form OF jealousy. Atheism must be jealous and intolerant, and thus see nothing strange about demanding this sort of full-scale oath, just on account of being a worldview. He doesn’t even understand that Rome was asking for just TOKEN honoring of Jupiter & Co., not full-scale worship.

  5. That word salad of a loyalty oath is nothing more than RTC paranoid ego-stroking: “See?! See what happens when bible-believing Christians aren’t in charge? We get persecuted for our beliefs!” (It kinda makes sense to me that RTCs fear this, given the number of religious institutes currently in the US requiring their employees to sign similar oaths pledging loyalty to religious values and lifestyles — turnout is fair play!) But my guess is that this is Jenkins trying to parallel what Christians were actually undergoing back in the early years of the religion and doing a piss-poor job of it.

    Ivan — in RTC fiction so long as you tell the truth slantwise (to paraphrase Emily Dickinson) it’s not a lie so it’s ok. As soon as you have to outright lie (even to the Antichrist, apparently), that’s a SIN!

    Jae going stir-crazy without Paul. Right. It would be funny if Jenkins wasn’t having Paul play that line straight. (No pun intended.) And for that matter, how and why did Straight acquire such a weirdly strong influence on Jae’s opinions and actions? Or is Jae that easily impressed by demands for a fish dinner and some vague insights on her husband?

  6. Hey, look on the bright side: Paul finally did his job! He got an undercover Christian agent arrested and killed, the thing that he gets paid for!

  7. It’s also times like this that I curse the nebulousness of Jenkin’s wordbuilding. I mean, we were already living in a world where the Bible was “contrabant” and RTCs get shot on sight, except that police then hides that, except that they hide it so clumsily that they must be assuming no one will look, except that they stick to their cover stories even amongst themselves….

    So we have no idea what exactly the world government has or hasn’t done up to this point. I mean, is this oath a new radical step, or does it bascially amount to a promise to obey the laws as they are now?

    • If Jenkins actually wanted to make this work, he could’ve done no better than to look at East Germany from the 1960s to about the 1980s, before the rot set in. Back in those days the Stasi was at its height, and people almost took it for granted that if you said anything you could expect someone else to hear about it. In addition if someone disappeared suddenly you could usually count on it being due to the Stasi taking an unhealthy interest in that person.

      Jenkins could have almost adapted it wholesale to Atheistopia. It even has the same sort of basic superficial nature to it: The reigning government claims to be the guardian of an utopia which is “under threat” by vaguely unspecified opponents.

      Of course the major difference here is that the “socialist utopia” was never taken seriously by the majority of people in the DDR, since anyone could see for themselves that the reality was a lot crappier.

      But in Atheistopia, Jenkins has managed to construct a world that has rebuilt itself into Paradise in almost any sense, just thirty years after a major world war in which the geography was drastically shifted into the bargain.

      Given the tendency of humans to overrreact to perceived threats, the fact that religious groups were the originators of the war to start with would almost certainly invite the new government rebuilding itself in the years that followed to embrace an aggressive secularist-atheist worldview.

      So where I am going with all this is that Jenkins could have created an Atheistapo that actually does things to perceived dissidents.

      Maybe a person made an incautious reference to Amaterasu. Or they recited the Bhagavad-Gita. Or what have you.

      And they disappear.

      Only to return, “re-educated” into the correct worldview of the government of the day.

      Then the Christians who prayed LA dry might actually have a basis on which their fight-fire-with-fire atttude was justified instead of being the equivalent of a war crime.

      But instead of answering for that, Paul, Straight and all the other members of their little kafee-klatsch will get off scot-free because JESUS.


      • I think you’ve put a finger on a key problem in this world setup: unlike every other repressive régime ever, this one has actually worked. The Atheistapo aren’t simply picking an unpopular group and blaming it for all their problems; by suppressing this group, they’ve solved the world’s problems. If they’d done a better job, many fewer people would have died.

      • Not only does it work, but the persecution is surprisingly accurate as well. Most regimes imprisoned or murdered their people by the truckload. It was mostly an excuse to crush dissent anyway, so they didnt care all that much if they nailed lots of innocents as well.

        This regime hasnt bothered a single person who wasnt a Christian yet. They might not find every zealot, but they dont falsely accuse anyone either. Coupled with Firedrakes observation, and we have a situation where Jenkins portrays an atheist-run world that works as well as Richard Dawkins claims it would. Which means Jenkins thinks a world that outlaws religion would be better than I think it would be.

        • Another good point. I suppose that Jenkins might reasonably claim that even this best possible world without religion is still a world without religion, and therefore spiritually corrupt and doomed.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, September 21st, 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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