Through a PRISM darkly. How Edward Snowden and Evangelion collide

It must have been a long time since I’ve watched Neon Genesis Evangelion because I came across an episode I completely don’t remember.

I mean I vaguely remember the climax, but outside of that, I didn’t remember the set up. I didn’t remember any of the pieces of it and I certainly didn’t remember the fact that we finally got a peek into the world outside of Tokyo-3 and into the adult lives of the characters.

I’m talking about Episode 7 The human creation/ A Human work.

There is a lot of interesting things I could point out in this episode, but I want to talk about one of my favorite subjects — conspiracy theories.

First, I need to talk about why this episode in particular is special.

Through the Looking Glass

This is the first time we get to see beyond NERV, Tokyo-3 and the normal cast there. While we start in NERV, much of the episode centers around Misato, Ritsuko and Gendo.

We get peeks into the layers of secrecy that seem to be required to keep NERV away from the public eye. First, we’re told that they’re going to deny a reporter’s request for public records. Then we get hints of some of the secret dealings that Gendo needs to do to make sure he has funding.

We also learn about massive unemployment, and that there are multiple Eva projects that will never be featured in the show.

Reflector eyes Gendo

It provides this weird surreal aspect to a show, which until this point has stayed fairly personal. And while I know this was meant to entirely add extra depth to Misato, Ritsuko and perhaps Gendo, it really ran the risk of derailing the entire project.

Especially once we learn the “real truth” about The Second Impact.

Of course, the truth the rest of the world was told was a meteor hit Antarctica caused sea levels to rise and massive devastation. I don’t remember if it’s explicitly stated, but it seems to be taken from the idea that the first impact is the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. I can’t be sure about that.

Now I’ve said a couple times that going back to watch these shows has actually improved my enjoyment. This is one of those times where I actually found something that made me like a show less (or at least an episode.)

Conspiracies and theories

I have to make a distinction between what I’ll call real conspiracies, realistic conspiracy theories and unrealistic conspiracy theories.

So the difference between an actual conspiracy and a realistic conspiracy theory is knowledge. If you have actual proof that a group of people are meeting together for a single or group of goals, well then you have a conspiracy. It’s not flashy, but it’s true. Think the Watergate Hotel burglary after 1972.

A realistic conspiracy theory is one where there is a modicum of proof for, and no real great arguments against. This is a sliding scale, which I’ll get into in a bit, but we can think of the early days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, or the fact that we never see FDR in a wheelchair. I mean there are logical explanations for those, but we couldn’t prove that Bill Clinton had sexual relations with that woman … until we could.

misato in dress

Which brings us to our third category — the conspiracy theories too unrealistic to be true.

For a conspiracy to function it needs two things. Enough power to accomplish its ends and a tight control over information. The interesting thing is these to things are diametrically opposed.

Power requires people. One person can not hide a crashed alien spaceship, study the aliens and scrub the existence of those beings out of the public record. This takes dozens of people and hundreds of hours.

Have you ever head the saying, “Three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead.”

Well, it’s not wrong. The longer a group of people try to keep a secret, the more likely someone, somewhere will let something leak. Generally it’s a rogue agent, who whether for personal gain or for moral reasons, decides to share the information.

Edward Snowden and how PRISM relates to Evangelion

All right folks. Buckle up. Here’s where we go in deep.

In 2007, the U.S. Congress passed and President George Bush signed the Protect America Act. That Legislation expanded the scope of the U.S. Foriegn Intellegence Survelliance Court, and allowed the NSA to collect information across the Internet along with getting dumps of information from private phone records.

Now there are varying reports about how far reaching it was, with some tech companies, like Google, denying they participated, while Verizon gave the NSA daily dumps of the phone meta-data for every call on the network.

For those people who are outside of the U.S. (and for most of the people inside), the United States government is a labyrinthine bureaucracy filled with blinds and double blinds. Even if you’re a member of the news media, you are kept at an arms reach.

The Freedom of Information Act has a pretty broad exemption for matters that deal with national security.

And trust me, if there is something that might be considered national security, it will be redacted. There is very little oversight of public records on a federal level. I mean you can sue, but that takes time and money. If you’re an independent reporter it’s unlikely you’ll have those, and most media outlets don’t have the funds to challenge the U.S. govermnent unless they know that there is something there.

Random shot I like

Most of the famous lawsuits have to deal with already leaked information (i.e. the Pentagon Papers), rather than getting documents that they don’t have.

So I bring this up to say that it’s unlikely that someone from the outside would get this information by accident or even on purpose.

But it look less than six years for it to make it to the front pages of The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Why?

Because someone made a Power Point, and someone took a picture of it.

So if the U.S. government couldn’t hide their plans for scooping up as much data as possible into its analyzing computers, how exactly am I supposed to believe that a group of people, no matter how powerful, could hide what happened during the Second Impact for 15 years.

Why the Second Impact Conspiracy simply doesn’t work

Yes. I know I’m getting really hung up on something that is relatively meaningless. But the Second Impact Conspiracy doesn’t make any sense.

I mean there are a lot of things that don’t make sense in this show that can be handwaved away, but Evangelion has invested a lot into this particular mythology. We see a teacher talking about it in Episode 3. We later hear the narrator of the movie talking about in Episode 4.

It isn’t until Episode 7 that the curtain is pulled back and we are let into secret. Why? Well, that isn’t really clear. Maybe to show a deepening bond with Shinji?

And why would they hide it? That part isn’t really suitably explained either. I mean all of the people in charge know what the Angel signifies. They also know that more Angels will come again. So why the lie?

Man facing down monster

A conspiracy on this level would just collapse under it’s own weight and leave people even more distrustful in the government.

The sad thing is they show how they could have handled the Second Impact well later in the same episode.

When Ritsuko and Misato are invited to the government demonstration of their version of Eva, NERV uses the truth to discredit the lead scientist developing the actual giant robot. They feed him information to make it seem like NERV has gone rogue. That information makes him overconfident, so (I assume) he doesn’t notice their sabotage.

Then once the robot goes out of his control, he looks like a fool and NERV is saved.

This is exactly the example of how a good media campaign can accomplish its ends with the truth. One of the most fascinating things about Snowden is that he is still a wanted man in America. We have taken a person that really did something to benefit U.S. citizens and vilified him. Why? Because of a really slick media campaign.

The politicians came out quick and provided just enough information to ease everyone’s minds, but not enough to actually do anything about it. The laws that allowed the program, as near as I can tell, have not been rescinded. And no new laws have been enacted to protect us from government overreach.

So really Snowden lost, and the government won.

The truth, when properly controlled, has always been more dangerous than fiction.

What that looks like in an Eva world, I don’t know. What I do know is that they took the easy route to show NERV’s power, rather than the more interesting one.

Thanks for reading.

11 thoughts on “Through a PRISM darkly. How Edward Snowden and Evangelion collide

  1. Snowden isn’t a direction that I thought that Eva could be taken, but this makes complete sense somehow. NERV really does have too much control for a reason I suppose. Doesn’t make everything they did right.

    1. Well I needed something where the secret part of the conspiracy fell apart, but the thing it was hiding stayed intact.

      Because that’s my complaint about the conspiracy around the second impact. There is no way that would stay secret. But there is a way they could have controlled information to minimize its impact.

  2. That’s great how you tied up two unrelated things in a way that made sense. I’ve been thinking about all those leaks and realistic conspiracy theories recently. There was a major one that was confessed in a documentary called Cold Case Hammerskjold (I haven’t seen the movie, but I saw a clip of that scene) where an ex-Apartheid agent admitted to using chemical and medicinal warfare against South Africans, Zimbabweans, and I think other parts of Southern Africa to exterminate Black people decades ago and this made some news in the Sundance circuit and across some independent news sources. People have done horrible things, but do what they can to cover it up. The people who tell the truth or know about the truth are demonized. Yeah, an even like the Second Impact couldn’t be covered up that well even in the context of that world.

  3. “First Impact” is supposed to be the one that created the moon. I think that in Eva’s backstory this was the same event as Adam and Lilith’s initial arrival on Earth.

    1. Thanks. I hadn’t stumbled across that yet. So I know that Adam was the progenitor of man. Was Lillith supposed to be as well? Never caught how they were tied together.

      1. Interesting. Because in the show itself, I swear they said Adam was the progenitor of life in episode 9. I wonder if that was misdirection.

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