The Blankenship Interview 2002
Reprinted from TRANSmission, the magazine for post-modern depression
I first met Prof Earl K Blankenship in ….., when I interviewed him for Preen. Those were different times, back when the Net was driving up the NASDAQ and things looked pretty bright.
But, as Prof Blankenship himself might say, "times change". Then again, he might not. It can be difficult to sometimes grasp what he's on about, his unique, circular way of reasoning not always delivering a straightforward message. But there can be no doubt, today as much as yesterday, that he remains our most important thinker.
Associated (though he hotly denies this) with the success of the shadowy Lazenbee Industries, he and his think-tank (a term he despises) discussionForum have been blazing a trail for some 30 years. Originally named the Information Database Corporation, discussionForum has become known for its uncannily accurate predictions and unrelentingly harsh tone.
However, times do indeed change. Prof. Blankenship is rumoured to have severed ties with discussionForum, openly criticising his colleague Laszlo Zumwalt. Lazenbee Industries is embroiled in a scandal of epic proportions, its stock value plummeting as a picture of monumental corruption emerges. And Prof Blankenship himself is accused of selling audiences all over the globe into slavery.
I arrived at the Prof's rather sedate villa, and was escorted by security guards to a pleasant gazebo with a view of rolling hills and lakes. An efficient staff served me macchiato and croissants. After half an hour, Prof Blankenship sat down beside me and turned on my tape recorder.
Prof B: Shall we begin?
D: Oh! Yes…hello-
Prof B: Shall we be-gin.
D: Right. OK. Well, let me just say, thank you for having me Prof. Blankenship, it's an honour to once again-
Prof B: Shall. We. Begin.
D: Uh…yeah. OK, then. Well, Prof. Blankenship, since we last spoke, there have been a number of changes in your life-
Prof. B: As your legal department should be aware, I will not speak of my personal life. Any more questions in that regard will be considered an attempt to libel me.
D: Alright then - what about the rumours of your split from discussionForum.
Prof. B: Utter nonsense.
D: But what about the press reports-
Prof. B: [Laughs] One minute you speak of "rumours" - the next "press reports"! Make up your mind, boy!
D: Well, Laszlo Zumwalt has said-
Prof. B: Whatever he damn well likes. Move on.
D: How do you feel about the demise of Lazenbee Industries. Not too long ago you predicted they would be the market leader-
Prof. B: I suggested they could be the market leader. There's a difference. Anyway, it is no concern of mine; if they cooked the books, well then, they have committed a crime. Perhaps they have committed several crimes. I don't know. All I do know is, it's not my problem.
D: But you are considered by many to have been their mentor-
Prof. B: Only by people who wish to be sued for libel.
D: OK. Fair enough. You gave a lecture recently, and at the conclusion, you sold the audience into slavery. What do you have to say about that?
Prof. B: Nothing.
[Sounds of scuffle, muffled cries, then silence. Prof Blankenship can be heard talking, indistinctly.]
D: [Breathing heavily] OK, then. [clears throat]
Prof. B: Yes Damien, do go on.
Prof. B: Please, call me Earl.
D: Uh…Earl. Please tell me about your recent project, the Ethical Protocol.
Prof. B: I'm glad you asked me about that, Damien. I first had the idea for the Ethical Protocol, or EP, back in the early '80's, when I felt there was an unfortunate shift away from what I would term, "social values".
Prof. B: [Laughs] You seem surprised!
D: Uh…No! no…not surprised.
Prof. B: Damien, dear boy - you're shivering…are you alright? Would you like a blanket? Some tea?
D: Tea would be nice…
Prof. B: Excuse me, Angelo! Angelo - yoo hoo! We will require tea and - would you like biscuits? You would? Biscuits as well. Thank you. Now, I think you wanted to ask me something - go on, don't be shy.
D: Well, it's just…um.
Prof. B: Damien! You're not going to make it as a journalist if you don't ask questions. Now go on, don't be shy [laughs].
D: It's just - it seems a bit different for you to be speaking of social values. Many people, well - myself included - found your thinking inspirational, cutting through the bullshit, exposing the inefficiencies of the welfare state-
Prof. B: Well, you know, I never really spoke against the welfare state Damien. No. Of course, inefficiency, now everyone is against that. That's what - I think your crowd would have called that a "no-brainer".
D: But - well, if I understood your philosophy correctly -
Prof. B: Now, flattering as that statement is, I wouldn’t say I had a "philosophy" - Hegel, Kant, Wittgenstein - they were philosophers - me, I'm more of an - "idea-man".
D: OK, but if I understood what you were saying correctly - maybe I didn't, but I thought you believed in laissez-faire capitalism, in self-reliance, and…
Prof. B: Well, I wouldn't say I was ever an all-out supporter of laissez-faire. Or even "capitalism", per se…I mean, how can that really be a meaningful term anymore? Look at the amount of public money funnelled to the arms industries, to pharmaceuticals - now, self-reliance, well of course - but you need to "temper" these things, you know.
D: I'm confused.
Prof. B: Don't be. I think where the problem lies, is that you are thinking of what I said - if I may say so, quite literally - back at a time of upheaval. Now, my purpose is always to bring about positive change. Right, now all along, I've said - we have a goal. Let's achieve that goal. Not, let's say we think that we achieved our goal because we achieved a goal. No. What are we setting out to do? Then, let's do that. OK?
D: And the goal is surplus acquisition.
Prof. B: Yes! Quite right. Of course, it must be human-centred-
D: Now wait a minute! Hold on, I'm sorry - but - you've never said that.
Prof. B: Oh, I see, so I should merely repeat myself.
Prof. B: Well? Times change, and we must change with them.
D: Oh! OK, so you're anticipating a less nurturing environment for capitalism, and you're changing your rhetoric to fit with the mood.
Prof. B: Dear god! Such cynicism…hmmm…that's quite depressing Damien.
D: What?! What are you talking about? Just two minutes ago you threatened me!
Prof. B: I did? What did I say to you?
D: You said - um…you said….
Prof. B: Sorry? I can't hear you?
D: Um….nothing….forget it. I'll edit that bit out.
Prof. B: You'll do no such thing! You're a journalist - a noble profession, don't you forget that Damien! And I want you to be a great journalist.
D: Right. Thanks. Well, I'll guess that will do it.
Prof. B: Before you go Damien, I want to tell you about a new Foundation I'm setting up. The Truth Commission will look into violations of human rights around the world. I've already finished one affidavit, which I've sent to the World Court, which looks into the shady dealings of InterMan, the International Management Institute.
D: Wasn't Laszlo Zumwalt heavily involved in that?
Prof. B: Oh, your taxi's here. Thanks again my dear boy. Good day.
[Prof Blankenship leaves]
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