Green ink is the traditional format used for hand-written Letters to the Editor of British newspapers that claim that the day's events are secretly stage-managed by a Cabal of hidden forces, usually guided by the American CIA. The use of green ink makes it easy for the editor-in-chief to see the category of the letter, and assign it to a sufficiently junior editor for further processing.
Habitual users of green ink are sometimes known as the Green Ink Brigade. This brigade is a formal division of the British military, distinguished by their snappy paramilitary uniforms with caps made of tinfoil, and sometimes referred to by the coded designation MI-666.
The development of the era of modern computing has made the practice more difficult. For example, during the 'golden years' of MS-DOS, it became impossible to send an email that was guaranteed to appear on the editor's screen in green. This was problematic because often someone at the newspaper drawing full pay had to read and analyse the text to determine the letter's proper disposition.
In 1909, Mansfield Cummings became the first head of the British Intelligence [sic] Service. He signed all his documents with a simple 'C' written in green ink. His biographers explained that a prior period of using red pen ended when all his correspondents discarded his memos, believing they had been graded and found wanting. Nevertheless, this simple decision might have led to the colour green being associated with eccentric behaviour. On the same theme, subsequent British spy chiefs continued to sign documents with a green 'C' — as no one bought it when documents were signed 'Mansfield Cummings' a century later, in different penmanship over the years.
Chilean poet and visionary Pablo Neruda was a notorious Red who used green. His death, of a heart attack during the 1973 right-wing coup while in a Santiago hospital for a nagging hangnail, was not a good career move, but it did permanently link the signature colour of his signature to claims of behind-the-scenes plotting.
By 1979, green ink had become the instrument of choice for skullduggery, as when the CIA drew the Green Line around what would become its secret base for international spying, cleverly disguised as the State of Israel. (The association of the colour green with Islam provided an ingenious cover for these spooks.) Soon afterward, Boston added a 'green line' to the trolley system, which began to shuttle strange Marxist notions from suburban universities to the State House (though a minority view is that it was hardly necessary to import such notions from outside the city limits).
It was soon afterward that the growing flood of letters to publishers began. They made absurd claims that the world's events were being stage-managed by insignificant countries such as the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union as part of a fantasy quest for world domination, that routine events were the result of espionage or arranged by political parties, that every death was probably an assassination, and even that outcomes on Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, and Big Time Wrestling were pre-arranged. Publishers were given the impossible choice of running these letters in print, or discarding them, which would be taken as proof that they were in cahoots with the conspiracy. The publishers responded in the obvious way, with total cowardice, and the Green Ink Brigade began to gain wide exposure.
The Guardian newspaper in London went as far as to advise readers to avoid the colour green, except in the case that they wished their letters to be ignored. Curiously, many letter-writers continued to opt for this outcome.
Carl Sagan mentions, in his book, The Cosmic Connection, receiving 'an eighty-five-page handwritten letter, written in green ball-point ink, from a gentleman in a mental hospital in Ottawa.' It claimed to confirm Sagan's speculation about extraterrestrials from personal experience — a claim that Sagan, of course, parlayed into six more nonfiction books that sold Billions And Billions, though he never proved that his source was a 'gentleman' at all.
The computer era
In the early days of computing, monitors were conveniently made of green phosphor, though there was no way to get text from one's monitor to the Letters desk of a newspaper. Engineers addressed the bigger of the two problems, leading to an era of white-on-black screens (and sometimes black-on-white) (with only a brief sojourn at amber). The other problem was solved when reporters demanded a way to 'phone in' their dispatches, a capability fatefully not designed with safeguards to keep rank amateurs from phoning in their own dispatches rife with conspiracy theories.
The limitation of the gear of the day to capital letters was remedied decades later, though the lack of lowercase did not cramp the style of the writers of the Brigade in the least.
Telephone connections were notoriously unreliable, and the frequent outages were obviously also the work of a Cabal, although they took out all communications and not just those of the green-ink variety. Thus more stable interconnections evolved and the claims of secret conspiracy increased in number and frequency, to the point that engineers began work on a way to clamp down on the amount of paranoia in email.
Early versions of HTML permitted web designers to specify colour in a so-called RB (red/blue) code. In this code,
#FF00 specified red and
#00FF specified blue. (If the reader tries either today, it very curiously specifies nothing.) There is no combination of red or blue that produces green, as various emo artists have rediscovered using their own bodies.
Engineers denied that the omission of green from colour specifications was a conspiracy to influence the format of all communication, but public outcry forced them to replace RB code with the modern RGB code, nestling green in-between the two legitimate colours to avoid excessive scrutiny. The principal, non-porn current use of the Internet, to broadcast unsubstantiated conspiracy theories to strangers, was now possible.
Despite the newfound ability to use green in electronic publishing, many members of the Green Ink Brigade do not use green at all. They avoid it to take their accusations of sneakiness and sneak them into normal correspondence. For example, on the massive website Twitter, all communication is limited to 140 bytes and no correspondent can even mark his or her tweet as being written in green. On AOL, emails are not limited to 140 bytes, but AOL's most serious thinkers observe such a limit anyway, and the best don't type a message body at all but simply forward documents and type a snappy
Subject: line — often accompanied by several emoticons ;) to try to divert the recipient's attention from the
Favourite topics of the brigade
There is no piece of news (nor weather) that a writer cannot claim is a secret machination of either the Good Guys or the Bad Guys. Even inexplicable behaviour of the leader of their own party has an explanation. It was that 'conciliatory' dinner date with the Prime Minister. It must have been then that staff drugged him and installed the mind-control butt-chip. However, a few topics have maintained high popularity over the years:
- The Brigade cling to the notion that the European Union is a threat to British sovereignty, and will ban the playing or singing of the anthem Rule Britannia. In fact, higher levels never usurp power from their constituent governments and never, ever resort to extreme measures to force them to remain in the union. (What do they think would happen next: A challenge to the British pound? Regulation against certain flavours of crisps?)
- The foremost claim of the Brigade's Yankee auxiliary is that Barack Obama is not a 'natural born' citizen and thus was never eligible to become President in the first place. This particular conspiracy theory persists despite frequent lawsuits and blackmail aimed at scotching it. British members of the Brigade have never picked up this particular chant, even after the clod slapped the Queen on the back and sent back the bust of Churchill with a condom slipped onto his nose.
- A close second is the claim that the Jews brought down the twin towers in New York City in 2001. Here the Brigade point to the astonishing collapse of 'Building Seven' despite not having a jetliner flown into it. These claims are advanced by the Brigade proper, as Britain's involvement with Israel is problematic and not outweighed by the fact that Jews give us a few places where we can shop on Sunday.
The role of Dick Cheney and his cronies at Halliburton at inducing Hurricane Katrina to take a sharp Right turn to primarily flood New Orleans's black neighborhoods and spare the crackers, has fallen away as a popular topic, even though blaming 'the previous administration' is a national preoccupation in the U.S. It is simply too painful to recall an era in which the Vice President was capable of taking deliberate action.
Modern trends in green ink
Educators on both sides of the Big Inkwell have begun to embrace the use of green ink to grade papers (whilst the rest of the world has computerised such clerical tasks). There is a broad consensus among teachers' unions that the use of red ink could be hurtful — almost as hurtful as continuing to put as many as 15 pupils in a classroom. These groups insist that submitting a crappy paper should not be met with anything as stigmatising as disapproval.
Former headmaster Mr Peter Dix disagrees. He asserts to The Telegraph that the trend is 'an unnecessary effort to avoid the negative and sometimes sarcastic marking that an older generation remembers' and that modern pupils are unaware of the stigma of red marks — apart from those they rightly deserve on their naughty little bottoms — and merely associate green with 'frogs and sprouts.' Moreover, pupils who claim that a frog or a sprout scared them and their lives are ruined are given prompt treatment and usually certification of being Permanently Unable to Work.
For further study
The interested reader can take several steps to research this topic further, after looking at the back of a dollar bill, at all that green ink, with the seal of the secret society with the EYE at the top of the PYRAMID. IT IS STARING AT YOU. And the people who put it there — along with the 'anti-counterfeiting' metal ribbon that will eventually trigger detectors at airport security and even package-liquor stores — are ready to install thin-film GPS electronics that will track you everywhere. But one step is especially useful:
- FORWARD THIS ARTICLE--OR AT LEAST A LINK TO IT--TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW. MAKE THEM READ IT. MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND. TELL THEM TO FORWARD IT TO ALL THEIR FRIENDS AS WELL. THE FUTURE OF THEIR COUNTRY IS AT RISK. THE ENEMY IS ON THE MOVE.
- I AM NOT SHOUTING. Lower case letters gain no AUDIENCE for THEIR MESSAGE!