Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Don’t Think, Keep Marching

IMAGE: http://stripgenerator.com/strip/930082/the-marching-morons/

(From Ray X X-Rayer #130)

In the last issue I mentioned the term "marching morons."  For those who didn't get the connection I was referring to a short story by Cyril M. Kornbluth first published in the April 1951 edition of Galaxy Science Fiction.*

"The Marching Morons" opens in the future, a world where low IQ citizens greatly outnumber the intelligent class.  The simple-minded people need constant attention and care from their mental superiors.

But a solution to this problem is found when "Honest John Barlow," awakens from suspended animation.  Back in 1988 a dental accident induced a deep sleep in Barlow.  After acclimating himself to the future wheeler dealer Barlow thinks of a scheme to deal with the surfeit of the simple-minded.

Suddenly the public hears that traveling to other worlds has been perfected -- or so it's claimed.  Advertising and "news" articles urge people to travel to the paradise of Venus.  This compels everyone to there, their departure helping to reduce the growing number of the simple-minded.

(When this story was published it was thought that Venus and other planets might be similar to the earth in climate and atmosphere.  That was the conceit of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.) 

People who take the trip write back to friends and relatives with stories of how great Venus is.  Barlow remembers how Hitler had letters from concentration camps faked to hide the real conditions.

One of the simple class, Mrs. Garvy, is caught off guard by references to traveling to Venus.  A TV commercial uses the phrase "easy as a trip to Venus."  Puzzled she tells her husband that she thought no one could go to Venus after "that one rocket thing crashed on the Moon."  From what she remembers they gave up on space flight because it was too dangerous.  Her husband dismisses her, saying that women don't follow the news.

Barlow's scheme uses multi-media to dupe the simple-minded.  For example a new character is introduced on a TV soap opera, a master rocket pilot who handles the Venus run.  

With poor memories and a need for authority to do their thinking the human lemmings willingly march into their space coffins.

In light of recent events there's a key detail I should mention about the master manipulator, John Barlow.  Before he awoke in the future the opportunist was a real estate developer.

*A PDF copy can be found at this link:



Terry the Censor said...

Douglas Adams had a somewhat similar idea in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The people of Golgafrincham decide to get rid of the most useless third of their society (insurance salesmen, personnel officers, management consultants, etc.) by claiming the planet was about to be destroyed. They packed these people on a ship, assuring that everyone else would soon follow (they did not). This ship of fools was programmed to crash land -- which it did. Two million years later, the book's heroes realise the ship crashed on Earth at the "dawn of man" -- and humans are descended not from apes, but from useless Golgafrinchams.


Ray Palm (Ray X) said...

I've seen the BBC mini series that adapted the novels. A key point was the ape men could be taught, they had greater potential than the idiots who crashed on earth. Mankind being descended from such useless people easily explains the Twilight Zone situation of President Donald Trump. I wonder what Douglas Adams were think if he was still alive.