In the comments for Maarten’s recent post regarding the flying Yugo, the conversation turned towards the inevitable question of who would participate in such a ruse?
My immediate guess is military personnel. No big headline, that, but it should be stated once again to ward off the suspicion that actual criminals may be involved. The people used in hoaxes have to be reliable, and the notion of a criminal being reliable long term doesn’t really add up, in my opinion.
With military personnel, you get sworn loyalty to command structures with no questions asked. The individuals that move up the pay ladder are willing to take on more complicated tasks and to participate in a hoax, certainly on a need to know basis, you would not be some monosyllabic grunt, the kind that wave you in at the front gate or clean latrines for their daily portion.
Hoaxes are for the veterans that have proven their mettle and can be relied on to just do their job. “Leslie Pluhar” did her job well. Waiting tables and delivering packages is an odd job combo, but it suggests someone with a physical presence and energy. The military would expect such things to come standard in new recruits. She needed to establish a persona that witnesses would recall in the aftermath. As I mentioned in the Yugo comments, a corpse is optional because this kind of op would not be executed where the coroner was not part of the team. His signature is all that is needed to verify a death has occurred.
The contradictions in Leslie’s story suggest her mission was unknown to her and her handlers in total and that some post mortem tweaking left a few strands out of whack. No matter. By the time anyone noticed, the objective had long ago been achieved: The public was spooked into buying big cars that guzzled gas, and all the attendant winners in that shift from small foreign imports got a taste as well. Maarten hit the nail on the head regarding motive.
I’m also certain the key participants in these hoaxes are not just military. Loyalty and obedience can be found in other structures of command, such as fraternal lodges, though these outfits tend to attract veterans so the pool of talent is not diluted much. Veterans predominately staff police departments as well. Another level of oath taking and respect for rank to insure cooperation in the ensuing investigation.
The key for these assets, in my opinion, is accepting a rank within the group and drawing some positive reaction, at least at first, to being part of something bigger than they are, even if they never know the bigger picture. Peer support is always a good thing and can become the primary justification for certain behaviors. In time, the ongoing lie may be the only thing these people can define themselves by. They may even be assigned dull and predictable lives so that the occasional call to duty is all they have to live for. That form of manipulation I can truly believe happens.
I suspect, though, these “Leslies” eventually begin to fray at the edges, in time passing their expiration date as useful assets. No matter what you tell yourself, willful deceit will gnaw away on a subconscious level. The small fry like “Leslie Pluhar” do not reinvent themselves as another public persona like dead rock stars becoming pundits. That kind of high profile task is reserved for the bloodliners, illegitimate though I believe these people to be. Leslie disappeared for good, which is what she was trained to do. If that’s her sitting on the last stool near the Men’s Room, drinking herself to death under an alias, well, some part of her had already drowned years earlier…