贵在坦诚:美国国家安全副顾问博明在政策交流项目上的中文演讲

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贵在坦诚

The Importance of Being Candid

美国国家安全副顾问博明
在政策交流项目上的讲话
23 October 2020

非常感谢Dean Godson先生和Policy Exchange邀请我主讲第九届Colin Cramphorn年度讲座。我们都盼望着能共聚一堂,面对面交流的那一天。而新的疫苗和疗法即将出现,让我倍感乐观。通过西敏寺与白宫跨大西洋的视频联线,让我们暂时用想象来替代。我希望把准备好的话讲完后,热烈的讨论会接踵而来。

据说,英国和美国是被共同语言而被分隔开的国家。看来用汉语发言,更能成为两国之间的桥梁。

实际的情况是,Dean Godson让我炫一炫说中文的本事,拼拼收视率。他知道,之前我的中文“五四”演讲视频点击超过百万。可能他还知道,之后我为里根总统研究所录制的英文视频,连我的下属在内也没几个人关注。

看来Dean是这样算计的:说中国话的洋鬼子,可能比洋鬼子说的任何话,都会更卖座。

既来之,则安之。有道是外行看热闹,内行看门道,大家各取所需。

用汉语发言还有另个好处:中国朋友也能直接参与这场对话。中国与世界的关系,是当今国际上越来越受关注的话题。

要说明这场对话的重要性,不妨先回顾一下历史。形势日渐紧迫。

18世纪末,一个山海相隔远离英国的地方,一些高瞻远瞩的人,起草了一部宪法,主张限制公权,提倡民权,希望开辟永久的民主之路。

我所说的……是波兰。

是波兰?你会惊讶。18世纪末的波兰历史没被选进各位的高中课本,大家不必感觉难堪。彼时,后来更加著名并且至今仍为合众国最高法律的美国宪法也刚诞生没几年。不同的是,波兰宪政实践却被扼杀在摇篮里。

问题出在外力干预。部分波兰贵族害怕新宪导致他们特权的丧失,于是求助俄国,复辟旧制。俄国女皇Catherine the Great借机入侵,夺取了波兰东部,普鲁士占领了波兰西部。

奥地利联手完成了对波兰和立陶宛的最后瓜分。年幼的波兰联邦从此在地图上消失。

提到波兰失败的变法有两个原因:一是提醒大家,民主政府,虽然具有先天的合法性和实践的成果,既非战无不胜,亦非历史的必然。二是专制政权对自由社会的干预,不仅没有江河日下,反而甚嚣尘上。

若要阻止外力干预,最好有地利,可惜对波兰来说地利是个奢望。18世纪波兰的邻邦都是当时的欧洲强国。而美国却受到大西洋和太平洋的环抱,享有哺育民主宪政求之不得的优良条件。

然而在信息网络时代,(地球一端的)专制政权可以将虚假信息灌输到他国的公共舆论当中,并通过自我更新的运算程式去广为传播。如今重洋海峡的天然阻隔能够抵御这样的干扰吗?

如果自由的主权国家放任自流的话,当然不能。许多国家,包括民主国家在内,正在经历实实在在的考验。考验的是我们自身抵御高科技专制政权隐蔽的强力腐蚀的能力。

听起来很奇怪,因为专制政权只占少数。 但是,他们具有支配本国全部资源的能力;他们相互借鉴;甚至经常相互协调。

国家经济实力并非赢得虚拟网络战的前提条件。我们看到莫斯科和德黑兰指使的黑客们正在千方百计地削弱人们对正在进行的美国大选的信任。在此,没有任何政权比中国共产党更有能力去影响他国的政策以及国外民众的认知和选择。

说真的,我们早该料到这一点。中共取得内战的胜利,并非完全得力于军事战斗力,而是借助其在思想意识以及实际行动上对敌人的渗透和操弄。这就是为什么当下中共的领导人狠抓统战工作的原因。

统战工作的主要特征是不透明。 顾名思义,奥秘就在名字里。

北京的统战部门是一个在开放社会找不到同类的组织。忽视它的存在是错误的。中共领导人把它称为“法宝”,只要统战需要,九千万(名)党员都必须支持。中共统战干部的数量是美国国务院外交人员的四倍。中国外交部负责与各国政府进行外事活动,统战部则在搜集他国情报,对海外居民施加影响。他们专门关注外国的精英阶层和机构。实际上,统战人员是集情报、宣传和心理诱导于一身的通才。

听上去很像在讲笑话。不过中共统战部的作为可绝不是开玩笑,因为它直接影响到你和我。原来心理诱导的原材料就是大数据。这就是为什么中共给世界各地数以百万计的外国公民建立了数字档案。跟据上个月披露的材料,一个中国数据库中包含了超过2百40万个外国公民资料,包括许多今天在线的各位听众,这说明中共将传统的列宁主义与强大的数字监控新工具相结合的宏大部署。

对我们公开和私下的数据进行收割建档的企业是深圳振华数据信息技术公司。公司的首席执行官称之为“攻心战”。根据公司网站披露,其产品的买家是中共国安系统。

振华汇编的人事档案几乎囊括了地球上每个国家。王室、议会、法官、文职人员、科技专家、新兴企业家,海军上将、军舰水手、教授、智囊团成员、中央和地方官员, 不一而足。甚至儿童也不放过,这符合北京无孔不入的政治斗争习惯。

振华在统一战线里中并不是什么拔尖的角色。甚至可能只是商业投机,认定中共会来买单。 实际上,实力更加雄厚的中国科技公司,包括一些著名应用程序开发商,能量要大得多。

建立档案的嗜好是列宁主义政权的特征。资料的使用一如既往,用于施压、勒索、奖惩、威胁、恐吓、奉承、污蔑、分化和征服。 与以往不同的是我们自己创造了条件,使独裁者能够轻松地搜罗到如此大量的私人数据,甚至包括那些从未涉足过中国的人。 我们将知识产权、政府文件和私人生活任意公开,像本摊开的书。我们用智能手机聊天、搜索信息、购物、浏览、从事网上金融、导航、社交、宗教信仰到相互倾诉,这些信息的散布一如伦敦双层巴士排放的尾气,使得利用网络对我们思想和行为的监控易如反掌。

中国共产党已经重新安排了举国部署,用来有效利用数字手段扩大党的力量和影响。

然而收集和利用大数据的最终目的是什么? 北京在试图影响我们什么? 简而言之,中共的目标是通过软硬兼施,使得个人选择甚至国家政策陷入某种有利于北京为所欲为的心态。这是一种认知上的背离,既软弱又恐惧,得意自满而又无能为力;仿佛今天说:“认为中共构成威胁还为时过早,”可明天又说,“中共确实是威胁!但是大势已去,为时已晚。”陷入这种特定心态,就像是吞了《黑客帝国》中的“蓝色药丸”一样被幻象所征服。

中共是如何做到的呢? 这就是统战部的宣传战和攻心战厉害之处。中共的海外宣传有两个一以贯之的主题:“未来属于我们,你越早配合越好。” 同时:“我们跟你们没什么不同,别担心。” 这两句骗辞在历史上共同构成了所有列宁主义运动宣传的核心。

新西兰学者布雷迪(Anne-Marie Brady)是揭露统战伎俩的先驱,她指出中共的 “一带一路”和“人类命运共同体”是这类运动的经典样本。

她称统战是“一种工具,专事腐蚀和侵蚀我们的政治制度,削弱我们的力量,制造我们的分裂,窒息我们媒体的批评声音,并且用钞票堵住我们精英的嘴巴,使他们成为中共的维护者。”

当然,骗术并不总是有效。 会被真相戳穿。 “一带一路”项目的巨大浪费和腐败就是一个例子。 当骗术达不到目的,中共经常诉诸恐吓和胁迫。

以香港为例,去年,上百万示威者游行抗议北京实施更严酷的控制。  如果 “中国特色社会主义”是未来,看来香港示威者宁愿活在当下。

对此,北京采取了另一套方案,拆毁了邓小平“一国两制”的框架,剥夺了使香港成为亚洲最兴旺城市的自治。

然而上面说的都不是陷入恐慌的原因。 的确,西方正在经历周期性的自我疑虑,极端的政治思潮同时出现在左右两端。有些愚蠢的主张属于奥威尔说的“只有知识分子才会去信”的范畴。 我们需要回归常识。

在外交政策方面,为了维护(我们的)主权,促进稳定和减少误判,特朗普总统确立了两个值得强调的原则,这就是:对等和坦率。

“对等”其实非常简单,如果他国损害我国利益,我将以彼之道还之彼身。即合理,又通俗,包括针对潜在的侵略者。 这是防御性的策略,植根于公平和威慑的基本概念。

“坦率”的概念是,当大家诚实地和公开地谈论朋友、对手和自己时,民主制度是最安全的。这可能需要一些时间来适应。 当里根总统准备在柏林发表演讲时,有些幕僚拼命劝他删掉一句不太好听而且有点伤人的话。 幸好里根总统言发自心,说出了那句在他总统生涯中最著名的话: 戈尔巴乔夫先生,推倒这堵墙。

有人会说对抗性的言论让国家相互敌对。 美国的外交使团善于把这个陈旧观念伪装成谦恭的政策,而骨子里却反映了一种自大心态,其中的假设是,其他国家的行为都是美国说了些什么做了些什么的反应。 聪明的对手于是顺水推舟,利用我们自己的伪善制约我们。 把讲真话说成挑衅,是独裁者禁止民主国家发言的手段,经常能够得逞。 里根总统在市政厅曾说:“这是自由国家遭受的第一个也是最重要的挫败。” “当自由的人民停止向其对手说真话时,其实就是欺骗自己。” 实际上,坦诚佈公就是通过减少战略误判以促进和平。

坦诚佈公也适用于我们的内政。 不能有双重标准。

当Louis Armstrong作为美国国务院文化大使在苏联演出时,他坦率地谈到了美国的种族歧视。 当里根总统(Reagan)著名地称苏联为“邪恶帝国”时,他在同一篇演讲中提到了美国自己的,包括反犹太主义和奴隶制在内的“邪恶遗存”。

因此,我本着友好、乐于反思和坦率的态度,请中国的朋友们研究一下贵国政府对维吾尔族和其他少数宗教群体的政策,追问一些真相。问一问,为什么《经济学人》本周封面文章中称这些政策为“反人类罪”和“违反当今世界上最广泛认同的原则,即人类个体享有自由和尊严的权利。”

作为一个反恐战争中参与了三场战斗部署的海军陆战队成员,我可以告诉你,新疆发生的一切在道德上同反恐没有任何关联之处。这恰恰是1948年中国外交官张彭春参与起草《联合国世界人权宣言》时,要根除的对人权的侵犯。在中国任何的哲学、宗教或道德思想中也不可能找到支持在中国的土地上建立集中营的做法。

在2006年癌症去世前,本讲座以之命名的Colin Cramphorn是西约克郡(West Yorkshire)的警长。

他处理了英国历史上最出名的恐怖主义案件,从Omagh汽车炸弹袭击到2005年伦敦自杀式袭击。 当一个人白天的工作是与邪恶斗争,夜深人静的时候难免思索人性的善恶。作为一位手不释卷的读书人,他偶尔会特别去翻看C.S. Lewis的著作。

听说他在Lewis的《地獄來鴻》 (The Screwtape Letters) 中找到了特别的慰藉,这是Lewis杜撰的一篇精彩绝伦的独白,主角Screwtape是一名为撒旦服役的妖魔。 (顺便说一句, John Cleese几十年前就录制了这本书的完美音频版,可以在油管上找得到。听说Andy Serkis也录制了一个版本,Cleese。)

“没有急弯,没有里程碑,没有路标。通往地狱的最安全的路是缓坡又缓坡,脚下轻松又柔软。”

我估计Colin是从这样的认知中得到希望和勇气的:如果正确辨别邪恶,使它无所遁形,就会发现邪恶其实是脆弱的,甚至是虚张声势的。 让邪恶曝露于光天化日之下,贴上标签,能使人免受诱惑,摆脱恐惧。 正如我的朋友Tony Dolan说的的那样:“制度性的邪恶有着根本的矛盾,它同时可以强大无比却又脆弱不堪。因此它那侵略本性,终将导致自我毁灭。 它意识到自身的道德荒谬,就像在善的海洋里的随时倾覆的一叶扁舟。”

邪恶最害怕的是公之于众的真相。

让我们大声高呼吧。 在此向我们的好警察Colin Cramphorn和全世界无私正直的公务员举杯,我们感恩!感谢你们的奉献!

Remarks by Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger to London-based Policy Exchange

Issued on: October 23, 2020

The following is the English-language version of “The Importance of Being Candid,” a speech delivered by Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger in Mandarin Chinese from the White House during a video conference hosted by Policy Exchange in London. Click here for Mandarin version.

I’d like to thank Dean Godson and Policy Exchange for inviting me to deliver the ninth annual Colin Cramphorn lecture.  We all look forward to a time when we can gather again in person for events like this.  With new vaccines and therapeutics on the near horizon, I’m optimistic that day will soon arrive.  In the meantime, let’s pretend we’re at the Red Lion pub and enjoy this convivial, trans-Atlantic video conference between Westminster and the White House.  I’m betting on a lively discussion following my set remarks.

As most of you know, England and America are two countries separated by a common language.  In order to bridge that divide, I’ve decided to give my remarks in Mandarin.

Truth be told, Dean Godson asked me to bust out my Chinese for the sake of higher ratings.  Dean knew that a video of an earlier speech I delivered in Mandarin, about China’s May Fourth movement, was viewed more than one million times.  Dean may have also known that a subsequent video I recorded in English for the Ronald Reagan Institute was, by contrast, barely noticed by even my own staff.

Naturally, Dean calculated that a white guy speaking in stilted Mandarin would be a bigger box-office draw than whatever message the white guy might be trying to convey.

So be it.  As a character on The Simpsons once put it: “Come for the freak, stay for the food.”

Delivering these remarks in Mandarin has another benefit:  It allows friends in China to join a conversation that is taking place with increasing regularity around the globe: A conversation about China’s relationship with the rest of the world.

FOREIGN INTERFERENCE IN HISTORY

But first, a smidgen of history to underscore what’s at stake.

Near the end of the 18th century, across the water and many miles from England, a group of visionary men drew up a constitution.  The document they framed was designed to limit the powers of government, assert the rights of the people, and chart a path toward what they hoped would be a lasting democracy.

I’m talking, of course, about… Poland.

“Poland?” you ask.  Don’t be embarrassed if 1790s Poland didn’t turn up in your high-school textbooks.  Unlike the more famous U.S. Constitution, which was adopted just a few years earlier and still serves as the supreme law of the American republic, the Polish experiment with constitutional government was strangled in its infancy.

The problem was foreign interference.  A faction of the Polish nobility felt threatened by the influence they would lose under the new constitution.  So they sought Russian help in reestablishing the old order.  Catherine the Great seized the opportunity to invade and then partition Poland—she took the east and Prussia took the west.

Then, after defeating a revolt led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish military hero of the American Revolution, Russia—along with Prussia and Austria—carried out a final partition of Poland-Lithuania in 1795.  The young Commonwealth was erased from the map altogether.

I mention Poland’s failed experiment for two reasons:  First, it’s a reminder that democracy, while unrivaled in terms of legitimacy and results, is neither invincible nor inevitable.  Second, interference in the affairs of free societies by autocratic regimes is a phenomenon that is waxing, not waning.

To stave off meddling, it never hurts to have favorable geography—a luxury Poland didn’t enjoy.  Poland’s 18th Century neighbors were powerful European monarchies.  America’s neighbors, by contrast, were the two best friends a fledgling democracy could ever ask for—the Atlantic and the Pacific.

FOREIGN INTERFERENCE IN THE CYBER AGE

But in the cyber age, autocratic governments can concoct disinformation, inject it into the public discourse of nations, and amplify it through self-improving algorithms from the other side of the earth.  Are the blessings of oceans and channels sufficient barriers against this sort of meddling?

Not if the citizens of free and sovereign nations yield to complacency.  Nations, including democracies, are undergoing the first stage of a real-life “stress test” of their ability to withstand covert, coercive, and corrupt influence by high-tech autocracies.

This may seem odd, because the autocracies are so vastly outnumbered.  But they compensate by marshalling the full resources of their states, by learning from one another’s successes and failures, and sometimes by coordinating with one another.

Economic strength isn’t a prerequisite for waging cyber warfare.  Thus, we see hackers tasked by Moscow and Tehran attempting to undermine confidence in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. But no regime has more riding on its ability to influence the perceptions, policies and priorities of foreign populations than the Chinese Communist Party.

THE PARTY’S “MAGIC WEAPON”

In truth, we should’ve expected this.  The Communist Party’s victory in the Chinese civil war owed less to its combat prowess against superior Nationalist forces than to its ability to infiltrate and manipulate the language, thinking, and actions of its adversaries.  This is why the current Party leadership is redoubling its emphasis on “United Front” work.

The defining feature of United Front work is that it’s not transparent. The clue is in the name.

China’s United Front Work system is a gigantic government function with no analogue in democracies. China’s leaders call it a “magic weapon,” and the Party’s 90 million members are required to support its activities.  While the system has many branches, the United Front Work Department alone has four times as many cadres as the U.S. State Department has foreign-service officers.  But instead of practicing diplomacy with foreign governments—the Chinese foreign ministry handles that—the United Front gathers intelligence about, and works to influence, private citizens overseas.  The focus is on foreign elites and the organizations they run.  Think of a United Front worker as a cross between an intelligence collector, a propagandist, and a psychologist.

I know that sounds like the opening line to a joke.  But United Front work is serious business, and it affects you and me.  After all, the raw material for psychologists is data about their patients.  The Party is compiling digital dossiers on millions of foreign citizens around the world.  The exposure last month of a Chinese database on at least 2.4 million people around the world—including many of us on this call—speaks to the Party’s sheer ambition to wed traditional Leninist techniques with powerful new tools of digital surveillance.

The company building these dossiers, Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co, supports what its CEO reportedly calls “psychological warfare.”  Zhenhua harvests and organizes public and private data about us for exploitation by its clients, which are organs of the Chinese security apparatus, according to its website.

The dossiers Zhenhua is compiling include people in virtually every country on earth, no matter how small.  They include members of royal families and members of parliament, judges and clerks, tech mavens and budding entrepreneurs, four-star admirals and the crewmembers of warships, professors and think-tankers, and national and local officials.  They also include children, who are fair game under Beijing’s rules of political warfare.  No one is too prominent or too obscure.

Zhenhua isn’t a particularly large or sophisticated actor in the United Front world.  It may even be acting opportunistically, because it thinks the Party will reward it.  Far more powerful tech firms, including famous Chinese app developers, play a much bigger role in this kind of work.

Assembling dossiers has always been a feature of Leninist regimes.  The material is used now, as before, to influence and intimidate, reward and blackmail, flatter and humiliate, divide and conquer.  What’s new is how easy we’ve made it for autocrats to accumulate so much intimate data about ourselves—even people who’ve never set foot in China.  We leave our intellectual property, our official documents, and our private lives on the table like open books.  The smart phones we use all day to chat, search, buy, view, bank, navigate, network, worship and confide make our thoughts and actions as plain to cyber spooks as the plumes of exhaust from a vintage double-decker bus.

The Chinese Communist Party has reorganized its national strategy around harnessing that digital exhaust to expand the Party’s power and reach.

THE PARTY’S GOALS

But what’s the ultimate point of all the data collection and exploitation?  What is Beijing trying to influence us to do?  The Party’s goal, in short, is to co-opt or bully people—and even nations—into a particular frame of mind that’s conducive to Beijing’s grand ambitions.  It’s a paradoxical mindset—a state of cognitive dissonance that is at once credulous and fearful, complacent and defeatist.  It’s a mindset that on Monday says “It’s too early to say whether Beijing poses a threat,” and by Friday says “They’re a threat, all right, but it’s too late to do anything about it now.”  To be coaxed into such a mindset is to be seduced into submission—like taking the “blue pill” in The Matrix.

How does Beijing do it?  This is where United Front propaganda and psychology come into play.  The Party’s overseas propaganda has two consistent themes:  “We own the future, so make your adjustments now.” And: “We’re just like you, so try not to worry.”  Together, these assertions form the elaborate con at the heart of all Leninist movements.

The Kiwi scholar Anne-Marie Brady, a pioneer in sussing out United Front ploys, points to the Party’s global campaigns—“One Belt, One Road” and the “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind”—as classic specimens of the genre.

Brady calls United Front work a “tool to corrode and corrupt our political system, to weaken and divide us against each other, to erode the critical voice of our media, and turn our elites into clients of the Chinese Communist Party, their mouths stuffed with cash.”

The con doesn’t always work, of course.  Facts sometimes get in the way.  The profound waste and corruption of many One Belt, One Road projects is an example.  When the con doesn’t induce acquiescence, the Party often resorts to intimidation and repression.

Take Hong Kong, where demonstrators took to the streets by the millions last year to protest Beijing’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law.  If “socialism with Chinese characteristics” was the future, the demonstrators seemed to prefer staying firmly in the present.

So Beijing resorted to Plan B.  It demolished Deng Xiaoping’s “One Country, Two Systems” framework and deprived Hong Kong of the autonomy that made it the most spectacular city in Asia.

HOW WE DEFEND OURSELVES

None of this is reason for panic, mind you.  It’s true the West is going through one of its periodic spells of self-doubt, when extreme political creeds surface on the left and the right, and some ideas are so foolish that, to paraphrase George Orwell, only an intellectual could believe them.  So let’s pull up our socks and get back to common sense.

On the foreign policy front, President Trump has ingrained two principles worth sharing here, because they’re designed to preserve our sovereignty, promote stability, and reduce miscalculation.  They are reciprocity and candor.

Reciprocity is the straightforward idea that when a country injures your interests, you return the favor.  It is eminently reasonable and readily understood, including by would-be aggressors.  It’s an inherently defensive approach, rooted in notions of fair play and deterrence.

Candor is the idea that democracies are safest when we speak honestly and publicly about and to our friends, our adversaries, and ourselves.  This can take some getting used to.  When President Reagan was preparing to give a speech in Berlin, several of his staff tried desperately to get him to remove a phrase they found embarrassing and needlessly provocative.  Luckily, President Reagan went with his gut, and delivered the most famous line of his presidency:  “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Some will argue that confrontational rhetoric turns countries into enemies.  This old chestnut of the U.S. diplomatic corps masquerades as humble policy, but is in fact quite arrogant because it presumes nations act primarily in reaction to whatever the United States says or does.

Clever adversaries use such thinking against us.  By portraying truth-telling as an act of belligerence, autocrats try to badger democracies into silence—and often succeed.  “This is the first and most important defeat free nations can ever suffer,” President Reagan said at Guildhall.  “When free peoples cease telling the truth about and to their adversaries, they cease telling the truth to themselves.”  Public candor actually promotes peace by reducing the space for strategic blunders.

Public candor applies to our internal affairs, too.  There can be no double standard.

When Louis Armstrong performed in the Soviet Union as a cultural ambassador of the State Department, he spoke frankly about racial bigotry in the United States.  When Reagan famously referred to the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire,” he explored America’s own “legacy of evil”—including anti-Semitism and slavery—in the very same speech.

XINJIANG

So it is in a spirit of friendship, reflection, and, yes, candor, that I ask friends in China to research the truth about your government’s policies toward the Uyghur people and other religious minorities.  Ask yourselves why the editors of The Economist, in a cover article this week, called those policies “a crime against humanity” and “the most extensive violation in the world today of the principle that individuals have a right to liberty and dignity simply because they are people.”

As a Marine who spent three combat deployments fighting terrorists, I can tell you that what is taking place in Xinjiang bears no resemblance whatsoever to an ethical counter-terrorism strategy.  Such abuses are what the Chinese diplomat P.C. Chang was trying to prevent when he helped draft the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  There is no credible justification I can find in Chinese philosophy, religion, or moral law for the concentration camps inside your borders.

WHAT EVIL FEARS MOST

Colin Cramphorn, for whom this lecture is named, was Chief Constable of West Yorkshire before his death from cancer in 2006. Colin worked the most notorious terrorism cases in British history, from the Omagh car-bombing to the London suicide attacks of 2005.  When your day job is to confront evil, it’s hard to avoid dwelling at night on big questions about the human heart.  Colin, a voracious and varied reader, sometimes consulted the writings of C.S. Lewis.

I’m told he found particular solace in The Screwtape Letters—Lewis’s brilliantly imagined monologue of a demon toiling in Satan’s bureaucracy.  (John Cleese recorded a pitch-perfect rendition of the book a few decades ago, by the way.  It’s on YouTube.  I’m told Andy Serkis has recorded a version that gives Cleese a run for his money.)

“The safest road to Hell,” old Screwtape advises his nephew, “is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

I suspect Colin drew hope and courage from the knowledge that evil, properly identified and exposed, is frail—even farcical.  And that calling it out in public—giving it “signposts”—inoculates us against temptation and liberates us from fear.  As my friend Tony Dolan told me: “The great paradox of institutionalized evil is that it can be enormously powerful but also enormously fragile. Thus, it is compulsively aggressive and ultimately self-destructive.  It senses its own moral absurdity.  It knows it is a raft on a sea of ontological good.”

“What evil fears most is the publicly spoken truth.”

So speak up, everyone.  And raise a glass tonight to the good constable Colin Cramphorn and to like-minded public servants the world over.  They have our love and our thanks.