Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Convention Book: NWO

 There's an uncanny valley feeling that comes from reading a Mage book written in 2012. Convention Book: NWO no longer has that late-90s "we'll just say whatever the fuck we want - that's the book" energy, but also, it's no longer even remotely relevant to anything anymore. Yes, you can rename the Men In Black to "the Black Suits" on the recommendation of the Collegium of Gender Studies, and that's progress of a sort ("more female sci-fi authoritarians"), but the immediate follow-up question of "what, exactly, does any of this have to do with the ongoing patriarchal backlash against women's rights that is currently overtaking the right-wing governments of western-style democracies" doesn't appear to be anywhere on the agenda.

The Obama administration is probably the final time in American history when you could write an unironic book about "the New World Order" and not look entirely like a right-wing hack. And I have to be conscientious here and remember that these are people who had not yet experienced the Jade Helm conspiracy theories, let alone QAnon or whatever is supposed to be going on with Bill Gates and the Covid-19 vaccine. There was probably still a little bit of X-Files fanfic left to be written.

However, I think we now have to acknowledge that the NWO, even as a White Wolf creation, is a product of 90s conspiracy-theory culture with unpalatable right-wing provenance. A secret cabal of elites has infiltrated the media and the universities and is indoctrinating the public in a materialist and irreligious ideology that puts absolute faith in science and the government. Fake news and cultural marxism, amirite?

I feel like old-school White Wolf would have ran with it. It's a World of Darkness, so why not crib from the Alex Jones extended universe? Why shouldn't the NWO be responsible for turning the frogs gay?

Convention Book: NWO takes a different approach. For the most part, it's blandly apolitical. The NWO manipulates sleeper media to control the Consensus and hide evidence of the supernatural, but its place in America's ongoing culture wars is indistinct.  It has a Collegium of Gender Studies, and it is allowed to win the occasional symbolic victory, but it was intended as a stalking horse to separate the most discontent feminists from the Convention's patriarchal mainstream.

Which was maybe accurately observed in 2012, but now feels positively benign. To hear talk of academic Gender Studies and not immediately be assaulted by the panicked shrieking of fascist trolls who will claim that it's all part of a plot to put all white, Christian men into concentration camps . . . it's surreal. Maybe even quaint.

But that raises the question of what exactly the NWO is supposed to be? I noted a similar identity crisis in the first NWO book, but it's even more pronounced now that they're getting a straight-out players' book. 

The key to understanding the Technocratic Conventions is to think about them in terms of sci-fi horror. What technological nightmares are they bringing to life? The Progenitors and Iteration X were alternate flavors of body horror - the nightmare of being replaced by a clone or assimilated into a machine consciousness. The Syndicate is the nightmare of capitalism. And when the Void Engineers weren't being the "space! rah, rah!" guys, they represented the nightmare of coming into contact with hostile alien life and cosmic horrors.

There are a lot of nightmares the NWO could represent. The most plausible is the nightmare of institutional power. The government can arrest you and torture you and kill you and it's not accountable to anyone. Convention Book: NWO brushes up against this with its "wetworks" divisions and "processing" rote, but because this is a PC book, these are either downplayed or lost in the noise of typical PC shenanigans.

They can also represent the nightmare of a loss of privacy, but despite how topical that might be, fiction has fallen short of reality. Oh, their new Methodology, The Feed, is monitoring social media and looking for patterns with Trend Analysts? Okay, but call me back when they start creating cute little games in order to trick people into voluntarily training facial recognition AIs so that the government can crack down on protests.

The funny thing about both these nightmares is that they are more relevant than ever, but in service to the exact opposite of what the NWO is supposed to be about. Authoritarian tools, but in the service of religious and ethnic prejudice, national sovereignty, and individual cults of personality.

That's likely how those tools have always been used, but WW bought into the 90s conspiracy theory fad and thus gives us a group of authoritarian social engineers without realizing that "social engineering" has always been right-wing code for "integrated schools" and "not hating LGBTQA+ people." The nightmare of the NWO is the nightmare of professors sitting quietly in their offices writing alternate interpretations of a history curriculum.

It was probably neither conscious choice nor pure coincidence that the head of the "Ministry of Information" was a 60-year-old Black woman who "had a thing for covering civil-rights violations."

Ultimately, I think the time where the NWO could be a credible organization has passed. We have as much to fear from our governments as ever, but the face of that fear is not well-organized experts with detailed plans. Hell, a group of magically competent educators who use media savvy and bureaucratic expertise to teach the public to respect science is . . . something I dare not wish for.

 None of that should be taken as a mark against the book's quality, however. It's just that Convention Book: NWO proved to be a well-written description of a dream that has no place in our reality.

Ukss Contribution: Mirrorshade. The iconic NWO look. I'm not sure how I'll fit something so cosmetic and superficial into Ukss, but I'll find a way.


  1. If some mental magic works by looking a person in the eyes, canny individuals might wear reflective goggles to protect themselves.

    I'll keep wishing for a public that respects science. Sigh.


    1. I had a similar thought, but there's already face makeup that fills the same protective roll. I'm leaning towards them just being a fashion thing. Ukss has aviators, why not aviator sunglasses?