Fnord

fnord

Sacred Chao

Fnord is the typographic representation of disinformation or irrelevant information intending to misdirect, with the implication of a worldwide conspiracy. The word was coined as a nonsensical term with religious undertones in the Discordian religious text Principia Discordia (1965) by Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill, but was popularized by The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975) of satirical conspiracy fiction novels by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

In these novels, the interjection ‘fnord’ is given hypnotic power over the unenlightened. Under the Illuminati program, children in grade school are taught to be unable to consciously see the word fnord. For the rest of their lives, every appearance of the word subconsciously generates a feeling of uneasiness and confusion, and prevents rational consideration of the subject. This results in a perpetual low-grade state of fear in the populace. The Government acts on the premise that a fearful populace keeps them in power.

In the Shea/Wilson construct, fnords are scattered liberally in the text of newspapers and magazines, causing fear and anxiety in those following current events. However, there are no fnords in the advertisements, encouraging a consumerist society. It is implied in the books that fnord is not the actual word used for this task, but merely a substitute, since most readers would be unable to see the actual word.

To see the fnords means to be unaffected by the supposed hypnotic power of the word or, more loosely, of other fighting words. The phrase ‘I have seen the fnords’ was famously graffitied on a railway bridge (known locally as Anarchy Bridge) between Earlsdon and Coventry (U.K.) city centre throughout the 1980s and 1990s, until the bridge was upgraded.

On Usenet and in other computer circles fnord is used to indicate a random or surreal sentence; coercive subtext, or anything jarringly out of context (intentionally or not). The term is also commonly used by hackers and programmers as a metasyntactic variable (a variable whose name is arbitrary and subject to change at the discretion of the programmer).

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