The Social Construction of R’yleh

Among the great classics of 20th century social theory is Berger and Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality. The book is brilliant and if you hate the phrase “social construction” it’s probably because you haven’t read the book itself but only gotten the ideas second hand from its less appealing fans who don’t take its ideas seriously enough to apply them in a temperate fashion. Social Construction of Reality is fundamentally about the issue of intersubjectivity, such that if I believe something that’s just me, but if we believe something, that’s in some sense real. For instance, there’s no real reason that 16 square inches of green high cotton paper should be worth much of anything, but we all agree that a dollar is valuable and so it is. As the book proceeds, it goes beyond mere intersubjectivity to discuss how culture becomes codified in social structure. For instance, consider this thought experiment about 2/3 of the way through the book.

It is not difficult now to propose a specific “prescription” for alternation into any conceivable reality, however implausible from the standpoint of the outsider. It is possible to prescribe specific procedures for, say, convincing individuals that they can communicate with beings from outer space provided that and as long as they stay on a steady diet of raw fish. We can leave it to the imagination of the reader, if he is so inclined, to work out the details of such a sect of Ichthyosophists. The “prescription” would entail the construction of an Ichthyosophist plausibility structure, properly segregated from the outside world and equipped with the necessary socializing and therapeutic personnel; the elaboration of an Ichthyosophist body of knowledge, sufficiently sophisticated to explain why the self-evident nexus between raw fish and galactic telepathy had not been discovered before; and the necessary legitimations and nihilations to make sense of the individual’s journey towards this great truth. If these procedures are followed carefully, there will be a high probability of success once an individual has been lured or kidnapped into the Ichthyosophist brainwashing institute.

By this point you should be thinking “what idiot gave these two Austrian-American sociologists Delta Green clearance and read them in on the Innsmouth raid after action reports?”

Well, it’s pretty obvious why Berger and Luckmann were recruited if you scroll up and reread my sentence about “if I believe something that’s just me, but if we believe something that’s in some sense real.” From the perspective of MAJESTIC-12, that sounds a lot like a new mode of magic beyond hypergeometry with the possibility to reshape reality, just as in the Neal Stephenson novel Anathem “rhetors” are such masters of sophistry that they can reshape consensus reality, often as part of a veil out. Just imagine what uses that could be put to in the Cold War, everything from accelerating the Sino-Soviet split to giving new identities to Operation Paperclip recruits.

You could work this into a Fall of Delta Green game by having your agents read the book (published in 1966) and “hey, wait a minute” at that passage then investigating leads them to see what grants the New School for Social Research was getting at the time and that starts the trail of clues to learning about MAJESTIC-12’s involvement in MK Ultra.

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