The Secret Government Manual for Sabotage Through Annoyance and Inefficiency

Hey, you. Yeah, you. C’mere a minute. I need to talk to you.

No! Don’t look around. Don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself! Just act natural.

I’m so glad you’re here. I need to tell you something. I know it’s going to sound crazy, but please hear me out. I think there is a big conspiracy going on. There is a concerted effort by some evil mastermind to destroy our way of life. You want to know the worst part? I think they’ve even taken over my place of employment!

I know… It sounds crazy, and a few days ago I would have agreed with you, but then I read this. It’s the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, produced by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Manual gives instructions to would-be sabateurs about the best way to disrupt the war efforts of the USA’s enemies during World War II. It was highly-classified, but Commonplace Fun Facts managed to obtain a copy through ingenuity, political intrigue, and the fact that it was declassified in 2008.

So why do I think there’s a vast conspiracy in our midst? Just take a look at a few of the ways our nation’s top spies recommended attacking America’s enemies. From Section 11 — “General Interference with Organizations and Production”:

(a) Organizations and Conferences

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of
personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible—never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision—raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

Do you see what I mean? This basically describes the work environment of a typical work week. In fact, you could take that section and paste it into the minutes of every meeting I’ve attended in my professional career.

Need more convincing? Read these instructions for managers and supervisors:

(1) Demand written orders.

(2) “Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.

(3) Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.

(4) Don’t order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.

(5) Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.

(6) In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.

(7) Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.

(8) Make mistakes in routing so that parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.

(9) When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.

(10) To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

(11) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

(12) Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.

(13) Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to
approve everything where one would do.

(14) Apply all regulations to the last letter.

Yep…. Not sounding quite so crazy now, am I? You work in a place that’s been infiltrated, too, don’t you? Guess what? It’s not just corporate leadership or your immediate supervisor who has been turned by the enemy. You probably share a cubicle wall with a co-conspirator. Do these instructions for office workers sound like they describe anyone you know?

(1) Make mistakes in quantities of material when you are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.

(2) Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.

(3) Misfile essential documents.

(4) In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.

(5) Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone.

(6) Hold up mail until the next collection.

(7) Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.

What about these instructions for employees, in general, regardless of location:

(1) Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.

(2) Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: when changing the material on which you are working, as you would on a lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions twice as often as you need to. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary. Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.

(3) Even if you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.

(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.

(5) Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.

(6) Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

(7) Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.

(8) If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management. See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.

(9) Misroute materials.

(10) Mix good parts with unusable scrap and rejected parts.

As if you needed any more convincing, just look at one more section, regarding “General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion”:

(a) Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.

(b) Report imaginary spies or danger to the Gestapo or police.

(c) Act stupid.

( d) Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.

(e) Misunderstand all sorts of regulations concerning such matters as rationing, transportation, traffic regulations.

(f) Complain against ersatz materials.

(g) In public treat axis nationals or quislings coldly.

(h) Stop all conversation when axis nationals or quislings enter a

(i) Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when confronted by government clerks.

(j) Boycott all movies, entertainments, concerts, newspapers which are in any way connected with the quisling authorities.

(k) Do not cooperate in salvage schemes.

Quite an eye-opener, isn’t it? You thought that guy you always try to avoid at the coffee machine was just stupid and quarrelsome. Little did you suspect that he was intentionally acting that way as part of a grand design to destroy your way of life. As noted on page 2 of the Manual, “Purposeful stupidity is contrary to human nature.” On the one hand, this is deeply disturbing and suggests that there are far more saboteurs out there than we could have imagined. On the other hand, it is a relief, because we have been wondering for a long time how it could be possible for so many people to be so utterly stupid. As it turns out, it is a strategy to avoid suspicion as a saboteur: “Frequently you can ‘get away’ with such acts under the cover of pretending stupidity, ignorance, over-caution, fear of being suspected of sabotage, or weakness and dullness…” (page 6).

A quick read through the 32-page booklet raises disturbing suspicions about the extent that this conspiracy has infiltrated our lives:

  • “Forget to provide paper in toilets…” (page 10). We thought this was merely the result of living in a house filled with teenage boys.
  • “Jam paper, bits of wood, hairpins, and anything else that will fit into the locks of all unguarded entrances…” (page 11). In other words, the primary source of weekend entertainment when you are a student without a car at a small, liberal arts college.
  • “Spill dust and dirt onto the points where the wires in electric motors connect with terminals…” (page 15). Our former mechanic had this down to a science.
  • “When the enemy asks for directions, give him the wrong information.” (page 22). In other words, the experience of every American who has ever vacationed in France.
  • “While loading or unloading, handle cargo carelessly in order to cause damage. Arrange the cargo so that the weakest and lightest crates and boxes will be at the bottom of the hold, while the heaviest ones are on top of them.” (page 25). The kid who bagged our groceries last week is probably a commanding general of the insurgency.
  • “Post office employees can see to it that enemy mail is always delayed by one day or more, that it is put in wrong sacks, and so on.” (page 26). We thought that was part of the employee handbook.
  • “Audiences can ruin… films by applauding to drown the words of the speaker, by coughing loudly, and by talking.” (page 25). If the FBI had raided the theater where we were watching Top Gun: Maverick, they could have rounded up at least a dozen saboteurs.
  • “Taxi drivers can waste the enemy’s time and make extra money by driving the longest possible route to his destination.” (page 22). ‘Nuff said.

We don’t use railways for travel nearly as much these days, but consider how these instructions (page 19) have been embraced by the airline industry:

(1) Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Make mistakes in issuing train tickets, leaving portions of the journey uncovered by the ticket book; issue two tickets for the same seat in the train, so that an interesting argument will result; near train time, instead of issuing printed tickets write them out slowly by hand, prolonging the process until the train is nearly ready to leave or has left the station. On station bulletin boards announcing train arrivals and departures, see that false and misleading information is given about trains bound for enemy destinations.

(2) In trains bound for enemy destinations, attendants should make life as uncomfortable as possible for passengers. See that the food is especially bad, take up tickets after midnight, call all station stops very loudly during the night, handle baggage as noisily as possible during the night, and so on.

(3) See that the luggage of enemy personnel is mislaid or unloaded at the wrong stations.

(4) …See that the food is especially bad…

Are you convinced? Will you help me fight against these evildoers who have infiltrated every aspect of society? The Manual offers hope and describes “the day when Commissioner X and his deputies Y and Z will be thrown out, when particularly obnoxious decrees and restrictions will be abolished, when food will arrive, and so on.” (page 3). Granted, that is the goal of the saboteurs, but perhaps it isn’t too late to use their own tactics against them.

Fight on, Comrade!

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