THE SCENE: A dank sub-basement at The Nation's headquarters. The faded lettering on the door, which is oddly hand-lettered, reads "FORENSIC BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: K-FILES."
The sub-basement room is cluttered with file cabinets and great drifts of paper. On the left wall is a poster bearing a blurry long-distance photo of two men in expensive suits meeting with what might be a misshapen, sinister alien, or perhaps a blogger. The poster bears the caption I WANT TO BELIEVE. On the right wall is a poster bearing the caption FIGHT THE FUTURE, depicting a series of notorious historical tyrants, including Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ron Paul, Christine O'Donnell, Radley Balko, and Khan Noonian Singh. The other walls are covered in grainy photos, documents, and blog posts, all connected by a bewildering web of string and angry slashes of red magic marker.
MARK "SPOOKY" AMES is sitting behind a desk, paging through a file and muttering to himself.
AMES: "In 2008, the David H. Koch Foundation donated $100 million for the preservation and renovation of the State Theater of New York. The theater was renamed the David H. Koch Theater. The New York Ballet performs at the Koch Theater. Vladimir Putin is a patron of the Bolshoi Ballet. The Bolshoi performed at the Koch Theater in 2009. DAMMIT SCULLY! What am I missing?"
[Yasha "SCULLY" Levine, a young intern at the NATION, has just entered the room. SCULLY is stylishly dressed, wearing a lady's Prada suit and Dolce and Gabbana shoes. She carries a stack of files to AMES's already overloaded desk, depositing them on its one empty corner.]
SCULLY: "AMES, I just ran into Katrina. She's asking about that piece on Boehner's connections to the John Birch Society."
AMES: "The Birch Society will have to wait!"
SCULLY: "But AMES, you promised to have it ready the week before elections. We can only put her off so long. Can't you write a blog post, something to tide her over before inauguration?"
AMES: "SCULLY, if I'm right, the story we're about to break will be worth ten Republican speakers. It won't just sweep Pelosi back into power. It will reveal the truth about the whole rotten gang, and how they've manipulated not just politics, but HISTORY for twenty years to destabilize democracy in this country."
SCULLY: "What story is that, AMES?"
AMES: "I know where you're going with this, SCULLY."
[SCULLY sits in the chair opposite AMES, and lights a cigarette. SCULLY repeats the question, softly.]
SCULLY: "What's the story AMES? Why have we been down here for the past two weeks? Why this sudden interest in a pair of billionaires no one outside the CATO Institute had ever heard of until last week?"
AMES: "Because the American people have the right to know that their Transportation Security Administration works tirelessly for their benefit, to protect the citizens of this great country from the Aryan Nation, the Ohio Militia, the Israeli Mossad, the Austrian Economists, and all of the other right-wing bombers who seek to blow American planes out of the sky, just as they did on September 11, 2001."
[AMES reaches for SCULLY's cigarette, and takes a drag.]
AMES: "Because a sinister cabal of Israeli agents, Texans, and thirty-third degree freemasons, led by the brothers Charles and David Koch, has hijacked the spirit that was unleashed on Election Day, 2008, and derailed it. That spirit of change has been perverted. The people no longer trust their government. They claim to be outraged by trifling inconveniences like, having to pass through a simple security scan or … a simple frisk and pat-down at the airport. …"
SCULLY: "I don't know that I'd call what happened to me on my flight to Wichita, the one when you sent me to look up the Koch Brothers' original birth certificates, a simple frisk. …"
AMES: "A simple frisk, that's all it was. A small price to pay for safety from the Mossad agents waiting to hijack that plane and fly it into some great symbol of American freedom, like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. But the American people need to be told. Consider …"
[AMES takes another drag on SCULLY's cigarette, then coughs softly into his hand. After wiping the expectorate onto his pants leg, AMES continues.]
AMES: "The man who supposedly made this video, this "Don't Touch My Junk" story, who is he? I'll tell you who he is. So far, all we know about "ordinary guy" John Tyner III, the alleged "freedom fighter" who took on TSA agents at the San Diego airport, is that, according to a friendly hometown profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, he leans strongly libertarian and doesn't believe in voting. TSA security policy, he asserts 'isn't Republican and it isn't Democratic.' That's what he says. But Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast."
SCULLY: "SPOOKY, I'm not sure …"
AMES: [shouting] "At least one local TSA administrator wondered if Tyner hadn't come to the airport prepared to create a scandal. Tyner switched on his recording device before even entering the checkpoint—and recorded himself as he refused to go through the body scanner. Most importantly, Tyner recorded himself saying, 'If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested!'—which quickly morphed on blogs into the more media-savvy tagline, 'Don't touch my junk!'"
[AMES begins tapping into his computer, as though looking for information. His computer beeps, and AMES reads, as SCULLY comes around the desk to read over AMES's shoulder.]
AMES: "Then there's Brian Sodergren, founder of the 'National Opt-Out Day,' when 'ordinary citizens standup for their rights.' But Sodergren is no 'ordinary citizen.' Cached and scrubbed online LinkedIn records show that Brian Sodergren is a Washington lobbyist specializing in “grassroots education” for the American Dental Association and ADPAC, the American Dental Association Political Action Committee. No wonder that Sodergren has gone out of his way to scrub his employment record!"
[AMES pauses to wipe a bead of spittle, or phegma, from the corner of his mouth.]
AMES: "Isn't it beginning to make sense?"
SCULLY: "AMES, you're venturing into dangerous territory."
AMES: "I'm not afraid for my safety. The Truth Is Out There. It's up to us to find it."
SCULLY: "I don't mean your physical safety. I don't want to see what happened to Conason happen to you."
[AMES pulls back in his chair, stands up, and points a finger at SCULLY.]
AMES: "DON'T talk to ME about CONASON! If it weren't for Conason, we'd never have known about Halliburton's plot to DRILL FOR OIL ON MARS! Conason saved this planet!"
SCULLY: "But even Glenn Greenwald …"
AMES: "Don't … mention … that … name … ever … again. Glenn Greenwald is dead to me. Glenn Greenwald is one of THEM."
[AMES pauses, and takes a deep breath.]
SCULLY: "AMES, I . . I just don't know. How do you really know that the people out there who are outraged by the TSA's new tactics are just astroturf?"
AMES: "It's the content of their comments, SCULLY. Look at it. It's just silly to get that upset over a minor security measure that the government thinks is necessary. Our government is honest."
SCULLY: "But wait a minute. Is the government's explanation to be trusted? Should we accept their assessment that the scans and patdowns are necessary, or effective?"
AMES: "Why not?"
SCULLY: "But I thought you've said that the Koch brothers have vast influence over the government."
AMES: [suspiciously] "What do you mean?"
SCULLY: "I mean, you're operating from the premise that there's this vast conspiracy driven by billionaires to advance the interests of conservatives and big corporations. We already know that the ramp-up in TSA security efforts started under a conservative Republican administration, that there's big money in security programs, and that big money has connections even in this administration. So how can we trust the government on this more than people criticizing the government?"
AMES: "Because there are wheels within wheels here, SCULLY."
SCULLY: "I don't think that actually means anything."
AMES: "Do the math."
SCULLY: "This isn't a mathematical problem, AMES. This is …"
AMES: "Here, the wheels are driven by the Koch conspiracy. It's driving people to object to the government doing things they'd normally put up with, without complaint."
SCULLY: "Is that even a bad thing? I mean, shouldn't people demand that the government provide real evidence to support a need to grope their genitals and breasts and take naked pictures of them?"
AMES: "No. All of that is standard. All of that is normal."
SCULLY: "Having your genitals and breasts felt up by strangers is normal?"
AMES: "Look, SCULLY, you don't judge my weekend, and I won't judge yours."
SCULLY: "AMES, you really think that ordinary people enjoy having the government taking naked scans of them, or want to have their genitals or breasts groped by government employees?"
AMES: [softly] "Erm."
SCULLY: "AMES, I know your heart is in the right place. But I think this time you've gone too far. I don't want to see them close the K-files down because you've breached The Nation's editorial standards."
AMES: "SCULLY, you're the skeptical, rational one in this relationship, right?"
SCULLY: "I hope so."
AMES: "What evidence do you have that The Nation has editorial standards?"
SCULLY: "The Nation is home to important voices … Katha Pollitt … um … fair point."
[AMES smiles, and crushes his cigarette in the ashtray.]
AMES: "Precisely. So, you'll be flying to Moscow to interview Medvedev about Putin's connections to the Koch brothers. I've already reserved your flight."
SCULLY: "I'm not sure I want to go through what I went through the last time I flew for you. In Wichita."
AMES: "Why you! … You won't kill this story! It'll bring me a Pulitzer. I can almost taste it. It tastes . . . like a bowl of warm, creamy horse semen. Wait a minute. Are those new shoes?"
SCULLY: "Uh . . . yes. They are."
AMES: "Those are Dolce and Gabbana. I'd know them anywhere."
SCULLY: ". . . yes. Yes, they are."
AMES: [Leaning forward, steepling his fingers, looking over his glasses] "So tell me, Scully. Tell me now. Where did you get the money for Dolce and Gabbana Shoes?"
SCULLY: ". . .I . . ."
AMES: [Really quite agitated now, with fleck of spittle flying from his mouth]: "You got it from THEM, didn't you? THEY gave it to you! THEY gave it to you as your thirty pieces of silver to betray ME!"
SCULLY: "Look, Spooky …"
AMES: "I CAN SMELL THE KOCH ON YOU, YOU GLIBERTARIAN ASTROTURF WHORE!!"
SCULLY: "Jesus Christ. You're a complete nutcase."
[Scully storms out.]
[AMES paces around the room, slamming his fist into his hand, wagging his finger in defiant fashion at the faces in his various posters, and mumbling to himself. Slowly, gradually, he calms. Eventually, he picks up a phone.]
AMES: "Uh, Katrina? Yeah, hi, it's Mark. No, Mark. Mark Ames. Look, I'm . . . I'm going to need another intern."
[FADE TO BLACK, CUE OMINOUS MUSIC.]
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017