No, I really don’t feel guilty about the whole thing. Actually, I think I performed a public service—I mean, I know better than to expect a medal or anything, but at least someone should acknowledge that I was right and that they were wrong. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else, and the whole thing could have gone far worse. Those people should thank me, really. Besides, they started it.
That’s why I came to you in the first place—I wanted to tell my side of things. Everyone’s saying this was a “malicious assault on the Christian faith”, perpetrated by “secular zealots”...they don’t know the first thing about me. I don’t hate religion; I don’t subscribe to any organized faith myself, but I do not hate any religion, full stop. Whatever anyone wants to believe, I’m fine with that so long as it makes them happy—so long as they don’t involve me. If the Amish don’t want to wear buttons, I won’t make them; but I don’t expect them to come into my house and tell me to turn off the computer and go raise a barn, either.
Well, they say it didn’t start out that way. I never really trusted them. It’s one of my fundamental rules: Never trust any organization with a really innocuous name. ‘Institute for Promoting Christian Living’. It’s one of those names nobody can ever argue with, right? Nobody’s about to say, “I’m against Christian living,” and so they get away with all sorts of shit that nobody else could, because who wants to criticize something with such a nice-sounding name? Mark my words, whenever someone gives a really bland name to their organization, it’s so they can get away with shit.
And I think it helps if your goals are really crazy, too. I mean, here’s an organization dedicated to creating a world theocracy and replacing all the principles of secular government with those of the Christian faith (and which Christian faith would that be, exactly? There’s something like thirty thousand of them.) And nobody pays any attention, because that’s fucking insane. Their internal documents got posted to the World Wide Web, and all it did was make everyone write them off as nutcases. Except for the people who agreed with them, of course. They all signed up for the fucking newsletter.
Mind you, just because everybody wrote them off as nutcases, that isn’t to say that they weren’t nutcases. I think it’s important to remember that for all the really smart people they had working for them, they were still a bunch of absolute batshit crazies. That’s what made them so dangerous. Normal crazy people? Fairly dangerous. Smart crazy people? Very dangerous. Brilliant crazy people? Well, even the people who disagree with what I did saw where it was all heading.
Oh, no, it was definitely brilliant. I won’t take that away from them. Incompetent execution, but a brilliant concept. A microchip coded to interact directly with the human brain? Brilliant. An artificial intelligence version of Christ? Brilliant...well, it could have been brilliant. I saw the raw code, remember. It used the Bible as a basis, but I think it was a bit too Old Testament to really be Jesus. The program was brilliant, though. The application? Scary, slipshod, and dangerous, but brilliant. Didn’t care much for the name they gave it, though. The ‘Personal Jesus’. Every time I heard it, I got that Depeche Mode song running through my head.
When I first heard about it, I’ll admit, I just thought it was kind of amusing. I didn’t have a problem with it back then; I figured that it was something only a crazy religious person would get. Outpatient surgery, permanent scarring, and for what? So you could constantly hallucinate a computerized version of Christ that told you whether you were behaving morally or not? Good Lord, I thought. Who would possibly want something like that?
I really, really, really should have known better. Everyone wants something like that. Maybe not that specifically, of course. I don’t think that the Dalai Lama really wants Jesus in his skull. But everyone wants to be told what to do. It makes life easier, doesn’t it? Nobody really wants to take responsibility for their actions. It’s a big, scary world out there when you have to think for yourself, and there’s always the chance you could fuck it up. But with a Personal Jesus in your head, then it’s never your decision and it’s never your fault. Jesus told me to. I was just following orders. You can just drift along through life and be happy, because Christ handles all the tough decisions. No wonder it sold so well.
Of course they said it wasn’t brainwashing. If they’d said it was brainwashing, nobody would have gone for it. It’s not much of an ad campaign, is it? “Get brainwashed by our skull implant! Guaranteed to be one hundred percent irresistible or your money back!” Not quite as catchy as, “Hear advice straight from the Lord’s mouth!” But it was brainwashing, whether they intended it to be or not. It didn’t just look like Jesus or sound like Jesus. It interacted with your temporal lobe directly. You believed it was Jesus. You couldn’t not believe it was Jesus. And who’s going to argue with the Son of God when he’s standing right there? When he’s always there, always watching you, telling you to obey him or be damned to hell for all eternity? No wonder the marriage rate skyrocketed in the Bible Belt. Mom and dad can’t always keep an eye on the kids, but Jesus knows when you’re slipping it to your girlfriend in the backseat. After about a week of blue balls, practically every guy with a chip was ready to propose.
You couldn’t disbelieve him, either. They made very sure of that. After all, it’d be blasphemy to make a version of Christ that people didn’t trust. An unassailable voice of perfect authority, always watching you, telling you what to do in words you couldn’t disbelieve. If that’s not brainwashing, then what the fuck is?
It might have been inadvertent, I suppose. They might not have intended it to do all that; I did say they were pretty slipshod. But I think it was deliberate. If it wasn’t, why allow for wi-fi? Who’s going to need to update the Word of God?
But even then, you have to understand, I didn’t care. I want to make that very, very clear. I wasn’t secretly plotting against them, I wasn’t a pervert with an ulterior motive, and I didn’t have any kind of anti-religious agenda. If they convinced a million, or two million, or even ten million people to put chips in their head, I didn’t care because it was their choice. Ten million bloody stupid people, I thought, but hell, more than that bought Spice Girls albums. I did feel sorry for the kids whose parents signed them up for a Personal Jesus, though. They didn’t have a choice. Looking back, I think that’s when I started paying serious attention to the whole thing.
But they hadn’t crossed any sort of Rubicon, even then. I was still able to quite happily go through my life without having to deal with any chip-heads, and that meant that they could quite happily go through their lives without dealing with me. Live and let live, that’s my motto. It was when they started getting political that it started to really bug me. I never thought I’d feel sorry for any politicians, but...
Well, it’s a tough argument to refute, isn’t it? You insist that you’re a moral, God-fearing candidate who wants to do the right thing for America, and suddenly there’s someone at the town hall meeting asking, “If you really want to do the right thing, why don’t you have a Personal Jesus? Do you not want Jesus watching you? What are you hiding from Christ? What are you hiding from the American people?” And suddenly, you’re stuck. Either you have to get a chip in your head, or else the other candidate will and everyone votes for him. When one side is claiming unimpeachable moral authority, it kind of makes it hard to argue the other side.
And then you had all those politicians going to Washington, all with chips in their heads that told them that people with chips in their heads were more trustworthy and more decent and just plain better—and remember, I saw the code. It was in there. Anyone with a Personal Jesus was a Member of the Faith, with capital letters right inside your skull, and could be trusted in all things. The ultimate cult mentality, complete with a little wi-fi transmitter that made sure you knew who was in and who was out. Is it any wonder they started voting in a bloc?
Then came the bill. It got defeated the first time—they didn’t have the numbers then, not yet, but I read the writing on the wall. Another few elections, and it was bound to pass...and then it would be the law of the land, mandatory Personal Jesuses for everyone. That was when I decided to get involved. I wasn’t about to wait around for the Supreme Court to rule on that one, not with two justices already having their own Personal Jesus. (Someone to hear their prayers...sorry. Like I said, that stupid song...)
Honestly, the scary thing was how easy they were to hack. I mean, to some extent it’s because, all false modesty aside, I’m really clever and this is what I do for my entertainment. I test security systems to find their weaknesses. As I said, I consider it to be a public service; if I can find a hole in your firewall, then someone else can too. A lot of hackers are actually very civic-minded people, in our own way. Again, not that I expect a medal or anything.
But the Personal Jesus...the wi-fi was almost totally unsecured, and the encryption was a joke. I think they really expected that any potential hacker would be daunted by the sheer complexity of the code; they’d invented an entire new computing language to interface directly with the human brain, and I’m sure they thought nobody but them would be able to reprogram it. Or maybe they just thought that everyone would have a chip in their brain telling them not to try. Let’s just say I suspect that some of the higher-ups at the Institute had a much less rigorous Jesus than the rank-and-file.
But whatever they thought, they were wrong. It was terrifyingly easy to reprogram the Personal Jesus, and the wi-fi made it terrifyingly easy to propagate those changes along the entire network. One Jesus told the other to tell another to tell another, until the new version of the software was everywhere within minutes. Again, they might insist that it wasn’t deliberately designed to brainwash whole populations, but whether it was intentional or not, they clearly made it very easy to do so. I proved that, didn’t I?
Personally, I think they’re all a bunch of whiners. Frankly, I feel that I did my job with an almost surgical precision; I wanted to convince everyone that mandating Personal Jesuses was a mistake, and I did exactly that...with exactly zero fatalities. I could have done a lot worse to them if I’d wanted; they couldn’t disbelieve anything the Personal Jesus told them, after all. I could have made them commit murder or suicide, if I’d wanted. Compared to that, telling them all that Jesus wanted them to be kinky pansexual exhibitionists seems pretty mild. I even made sure that Jesus advocated safe sex, which is more than most religions have.
I will admit, though, that I found it funny. Well, how could I not? Turning on C-SPAN and seeing “House Resolution 412: Government offices to be clothing-optional,” proposed by a naked politician and cheerfully applauded by his naked co-sponsors? Flipping to Fox News and seeing the anchors discuss proper spanking technique, as demonstrated on the former governor of Alaska? (Which they seemed to know pretty well, by the way; I guess they must have had some experience before they installed their Personal Jesus.) Frankly, I was a little bit sad when it was time to finally switch them all off.
Well, of course, you know the rest. Once everyone came to their senses and realized what—or more accurately who—their Personal Jesus had made them do, that was pretty much it for any plans for mandatory chippings. Most people couldn’t line up fast enough to get the thing out of their heads, and they had their lawyers on speed-dial almost before they got out of the operating room. I know the Institute is trying to spin it as the work of terrorists, but that’s why you shouldn’t slander a computer hacker. I leaked the source code and the design specs all over the Internet. Everyone with half a brain can tell what it was made for. I suspect they’re going to be in more than a little legal trouble.
Me? Oh, I’m not worried. I cover up my traces quite well, thanks. You can feel free to let the FBI look at your computer, by the way. There’s nothing incriminating about these chat logs. I will happily retire to my quiet home, secure in the knowledge of a job well done, and spend a little personal time with my girlfriend. Once she gets back from the hospital, of course—she’s getting a chip put in. Seems she saw the way some of those people behaved, and she got a little bit hot and bothered by the idea of being brainwashed into becoming a pansexual kinky exhibitionist. So long as I was the one doing the brainwashing, that is.
And who am I to argue? As I’ve said all along...whatever you want, so long as it makes you happy. And believe you me, I intend to make her very happy indeed.