The 39 Steps

Anywhere human society exists, rumor and innuendo have the power to alter behavior.  Strictly speaking, rumor is [marginally?] credible –but unconfirmed– information that interests its human “carrier” and is presumed by that carrier to be of interest to an intended recipient.  [Alice finds the rumor interesting and has an urgent compulsion to pass it along to Bob.]  Once any rumor gains acceptance as credible, the  information it contains is seamlessly incorporated into the worldview of the individual recipient, whose attitudes, beliefs and potential actions are thereby subtly [or dramatically] altered.

In some instances, rumor spreads “naturally” through the social network, its passage eased or accelerated by specific characteristics of the information that have heightened value in the particular culture within which it travels.   In many cultures, sexual content is a communications lubricant that has been repeatedly demonstrated to increase transmission velocity.  But sex is just one of rumor’s several selling points:  in broader terms, what has heightened importance within human society is information about forbidden activity or behavior.  This is because any disruption of cultural norms can act as a potential threat to the existing structure of a particular society:  violation of cultural norms disturbs the comfortable psychological security of an individual outlook that has “a place for everything and everything in its place.”   Once cultural equilibrium has been jarred loose –even on a small, local scale– it’s never entirely certain where the newly-restored psychological balance will be found when the dust eventually settles.

What & So What:

Sometimes the spread of rumor isn’t all that “natural”; it gets helped along by active human intervention. “Viral marketing,” if you will.  In the realm of international relations, the power of rumor –of seemingly credible but unverified/unverifiable information– is a key feature of a longtime staple in the intell industry product line:  info ops/psyops campaigns.  Let’s look at two recent examples from South Central … Asia, that is.


Cars with license plates containing the number “39” [have] almost overnight has become an unlikely synonym for pimp and a mark of shame in this deeply conservative country. … Kabul gossip blames a pimp in neighboring Iran.  His flashy car had a 39 in its number plate, the story goes, so he was nicknamed “39” and the tag spread.
The shunning of 39 comes just weeks after drivers raced to remove rainbow decorations that were spotted on imported cars and became fashionable until conservative Afghans learnt they were also gay pride symbols.

Typical Afghan reaction:  blame the Iranians.  For some folks, the scapegoat is closer to home:

The head of the union of car dealers in Kabul, Najibullah Amiri, blames corrupt police officers for fanning the trend. … Amiri said officials at the police traffic department charge buyers between $200 and $500 to change a “39” license plate for a new car to something less offensive.
“It is a scheme by the police traffic department to earn money from car buyers,” Amiri said.

The number 39 would be triply unlucky for any Afghan freemasons … what’s the license plate number on Karzai’s presidential limo?


During April and May of this year, much prominence was given in the AngloAmerican media to reports that internal divisions were wracking the foundations and cohesion of Iran’s government.  The ostensible roots of this discord were said to be found within occult realms:

In their bid to contain [Ahmadinejad], [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] and the conservative clergy have gone after his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, accusing him of sorcery and corruption.
Several of Mashaei’s associates have been arrested. Among those detained are the presidential complex prayer leader, the elderly wife of a pre-revolutionary foreign minister and a man who is said in Iranian press accounts to have engaged in sorcery.

Witchcraft, consorting with demons, and invocation of djinns (not necesssarily in that order) were just some of the accusations said to be leveled against Mashaei in the Iranian media by Shiite clergy.

Now, just where exactly would rumors of this sort be likely to originate?   Probably not in Qum or Tehran.  Lunghu will allow the reader to reach her own conclusions.


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