The X-Files Smoking Man Test

Some years ago while thinking about paranormal and conspiracy things I somehow ended up imagining this test. It was a fun thing to do, just some free associating from the mentioned subject matter. But later on I realized that the test showed me something about what one holds as truth and how far you would abide by it if the stakes were really high and not just an easy, armchair statement with little consequence.

First, to understand the test you have to know who the ‘Smoking Man’ was on the X Files television show. There’s no way for me to get into a biographical/psychological sketch of Smoking Man in the space for this posting. So, if you don’t know who he was then the test may have the same quality of seriousness and background for you that it would have for those familiar with the character.

So here’s the test:

You meet up with Smoking Man. How you meet up with him I’ll leave to your imagination. You both sit down at a table having some coffee. Of course, he is smoking one of his ever-present cigarettes. By the way, Smoking Man is not the type of person you would tell to put out his cigarette.

He says he is going to ask you 2 questions. The first question he precedes by telling you that if you answer no, then you can back out of the test, you can go your way and that’s that. But if you answer yes, then you’re taking the test and at that point you can’t back out.

If you answer the 2nd question correctly, he will sit with you for an hour and you can ask him any questions you wish, he’ll tell you the truth about any and all of them. Aliens? He’ll not only tell you about them, he’ll take you where you can see an actual, living alien that’s kept somewhere for study. Who killed JFK? He’ll show you the top secret documents on that. He’ll name names. UFOs? He’ll get a pilot to take you for a ride, Nevada to New York, and back, tops, 30 minutes. In short, any of the mysteries and secrets that have fascinated and perplexed so many, you would know the 100% truth behind them.

But if you answer the 2nd question incorrectly, then he will nod at the usual bodyguards that are with him, they will escort you outside and dispose of you - permanently.

You take a chance and you say, yes, you’ll take the test. He smiles, takes a puff, and says, okay.

He asks you the 2nd question: “Do you believe an American astronaut walked on the moon in 1969?”

Personally, I figured I had one of 3 possible answers. One would be no, no one walked on the moon, it was a hoax. Two, yes, an American astronaut did walk on the moon. Three, I really don’t know, all that I know is what was shown on television.

For the first, I thought that I just couldn’t give a simple yes, I would have to be forceful, enthusiastic, and even patriotic about it. I thought that even if i was answering incorrectly that Smoking Man would think that I was sufficiently brainwashed enough and not worth the bother of eliminating. That he may have asked the question to just see how much of a threat I was to the lie that had been perpetrated.

If I answered no, then that one’s a fairly 50/50 risk. He may see that I’m not brainwashed, that I’ve figured out the truth for myself. He may respect that but I may pose a threat.

In either of the above two there is the chance that he will act according to what he thinks is the best outcome. Even if you had answered incorrectly, he may say that you answered rightly and then for the next hour tell you anything about what you ask, whether it’s the truth or not.

The 3rd answer is that I don’t know. That would seem the most honest answer considering that he may already know that you nor billions of others know the truth. He may admire that, that you are honestly admitting you really have no idea whether a man walked on the moon. The third answer may have him saying that if you don’t know then that voids the test. Fair enough, at least you’ll ive another day.

What the test shows is that we are sometimes prone to make armchair declarations about whatever with no consequences. But if your life depended on the correct answer, then that’s a different story.

Even though it is a fictitious test and I’m ‘armchairing’ it, I still tried to figure out what would be the best answer, how to deliver it, how to phrase it in some way to hedge the bets. How to outsmart Smoking man, if that’s possible.

I chose the 3rd answer. I considered it to be the most honest overall. Hopefully, Smoking Man would recognize that honesty. Then again . . .

Would you have taken the test to begin with on those terms knowing that if you answered correctly you’d learn about some of the biggest mysteries in history? Would you try to strategize your answers?

Lastly, if it were a life or death thing with much of what you hold to be true or false, would some of those opinions change?

Or is it really simple for you and say that no way in hell would you trust Smoking Man on anything? But remember, he let Mulder and Scully live because in a way he admired them.

Not quite sure I get it.

The first question is do I want to participate.
The second question is 'do I believe…1969?

Just to make sure I am missing something, he is not trying to see if you know yourself - iow accurately say what you believe - he is trying to see if you know the truth or not. IOW in most cases if someone asks me what I believe, I will be right, since it is a question not about external facts, but about my beliefs.

So, is it…I say I believe we walked on the moon, and he knows this did not happen, so I get killed. Or, if that is what I truly believe, then he will not kill me?

I wouldn’t want to participate in the test, is my first answer. While it would be interesting to get the information - I am not sure I want someone like him and anyone survelling him - to know I now know it or consider this now possible.

The Smoking Man character as he has been portrayed on the show is not someone particularly concerned about the differences between ‘believe’ and ‘think’, nor would he get overly philosophical about it. To him it’s all about yes or no re the moon landing or anything else, i.e, ‘think’ and ‘believe’ to him are synonymous. Did he at times express something philosophical about something or another on the show? Yes, and of course since it is a TV show there had to be that but it was expressed more with agents Mulder and Scully with whom he had a more involved relationship with. But regardless of whichever expressiveness on his part, he was always in service to the agenda and had extensive license from the secret powers that be.

Exactly. That is why if I had chosen the first answer, ‘yes’, it couldn’t be a simple, everyday type of yes. Something that simple would be a red-flag for Smoking Man. The answer of ‘yes’ would have to be ‘over the top’, not too much but just enough because knowing Smoking Man’s character that is what he might really want to know, how brainwashed and non-threatening I am to the ‘agenda’.

A different way of thinking about this are the bets on a roulette wheel and the differences and dynamics of wins and losses. Think of Smoking Man as the croupier who spins the wheel (though some would say Smoking Man is more pit boss). Your thinking, intuition, belief, whatever you want to call it, leads you to place a $1 chip on number 17. Smoking man is not concerned about what you ‘believe’ about your bet, all that matters is if the ball lands on 17 or not. If it does you win $36, 35 plus your dollar back. But if you bet a $100 chip on 17 and it hits you get $3600. That would impress the croupier (and certainly come to the attention of the pit boss). You bet more of your ‘belief’ than a measly $1. Thus, in any of the answers chosen Smoking Man would note the ‘value’ behind. A $1 dollar bet and you lose? You get escorted out and killed. A $100 bet and you lose? Possibly the same fate but your ‘belief’, more importantly your steadfastness in it, might be just enough to make Smoking Man reconsider which way he would go on it, you would be a slight step higher than insignificant collateral damage. In casino parlance it is said the house always wins. Yes, the house wins the majority of the time, but not always. If it did there would be no casinos just as much as there would be no reason to play in a poker game where you’re told beforehand that you will never win anything.

This is why in something like this one would have to know the Smoking Man’s character over the course of the series (he was in 44 episodes and the movie). Knowing that then one could see how different people would differ in their answers and how they would justify their chance-taking. Mind you, maybe you have seen the entire series and base your response on that, I don’t know if you have or not.

Then your answer to the first question is you don’t want to play. Simple. You walk away a free and living person and will more than likely never know the truth behind many things. The Smoking Man can live with that - and you would too. :smiley:

Hey, I’m not dependent on Smoking Man.

To you that might be the correct answer but it terms of the facts it is incorrect. At that point you’re saying that your ‘state of belief’ is correct in any answer. Fair enough, but ultimately the facts of the matter - Springfield is the capital of Illinois - will prevail and the numerous residents of Springfield, and Illinois and beyond, will attest to that. So, for yourself the belief may be right but it doesn’t have any purchase beyond your ‘personal’ regard. Personally, I can believe anything I want about myself or whomever or whatever else. Using the roulette analogy, I can believe anything I want about what the rules of the game are, the value of the chip I’m using, whether I’m going to win, etc. But ultimately the reality of it - a reality that I have to contend with regardless of what I believe it to be - will be if the ball falls on the number I chose or not and others outside of myself confirm this.

Another example not so ‘chancy’, in your mind you believe that you can write one of the greatest books the world has ever known. Again, fair enough, you can spend months or years working on it and keeping up that level of personal belief in your endeavor. But unless you’re the only person on a deserted island and you can spend the rest of your days in isolated bliss, sooner or later you will need validation of your belief from others, from other minds.

You, me , and all others are dependent on the rest of humankind to make any verifiable, social progress. If you are the rare case of someone who can live independently from society, one to whom their ‘state of belief’ prevails above everything else till the end of their life, then more power to you. But you definitely would be the very rare case and even then some would opine that in actuality you did not want to find out the truth of your beliefs in the context of reality. That’s no different than when you stated in the Marionette topic that people had sub-routines and you explained how that affected them and how you had to deal with it. That sub-routine is their ‘state of belief’ and because they could not see through it, see how much they had been compromised in your view, you then had to make adjustments of all sorts in your regard of them.

No one said you have to be dependent on Smoking Man. The test as I noted in the OP is about what one holds to be true merely in discussions compared to when it is a matter of life and death. In mere conversation I could ask you if you believed in moon bunnies. We’d probably laugh immediately, elaborate on it in a mock philosophical discussion, and so on. But if I asked you that question and immediately pulled out a gun and aimed it at your head and with no humorous expression on my face, then that becomes a totally different scenario. Of course, that is not the case and a credit to us as civilized human beings.

So, do you believe in moon bunnies? :smiley:

That’s one of the few things I do not believe. But pretty much everything else.

Which one of the things? Moon Bunnies? O, ye of little faith. :slight_smile:

It’s just I’ve experienced so many other so-called supernatural, conspiracy, alternative, magical things, but not the bunnies.