The Carcer Principle

January 31, 2017

Let me tell you one of the most important lessons my favorite author ever taught me.

In Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, the main villain is a thief, murderer, and all-around bastard named Carcer. He’s the very picture of a psychopath—he has no conscious, feels no guilt, and doesn’t even understand the idea of right or wrong. He’s egotistical, volatile, constantly smiling, and he always has an extra knife. In a basically well-run city where the rule of law is kept, he is a serial killer and a menace. When he’s transported to a fractured city undergoing a civil war, he has the potential to slaughter thousands. Carcer is a monster.

Here’s the lesson that Terry taught me through Carcer:

“Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men? A copper, that’s who. (…) You saw how close men lived to the beast. You realized that people like Carcer were not mad. They were incredibly sane. They were simply men without a shield. They’d looked at the world and realized that all the rules didn’t have to apply to them, not if they didn’t want them to. They weren’t fooled by all the little stories. They shook hands with the beast.”
— Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

He did this later as well, in a heroic way, with Moist von Lipwig of Going Postal and Making Money fame. Moist also realized that the rules didn’t apply to him if he didn’t want them to—that he could walk straight into places he wasn’t supposed to be, so long as he looked like he belonged there. This is a trait I gave to Mazik, and one I’ve used myself, because it’s both useful and true. The little niceties don’t have to apply to you if you decide they don’t. You can blow right past them, often without repercussion.

The difference between the three of us—Moist, Mazik, and myself—and a man like Carcer is an important one. It’s the shield. While I recognize that confidence and selective obliviousness can carry me through social situations that would stop another, I don’t use this knowledge to do anything bad. Carcer does. Carcer is a murderer and a thug, a monster who abuses his power with zealous glee, and who leaves a trail of broken lives in his unfeeling wake.

We’re seeing now what happens when people like Carcer are in charge of the most powerful nation on the planet. Not in the far-off way of a history book. We’re seeing it play out in real-time.

Donald Trump and Steve Bannon—thanks for making my first name feel icky, by the way, you and Stephen Miller, fuckin’ hell—have zero empathy. They’ve decided that vast categories of human beings—all who are not American, and most who are—are unimportant, and less equal than others. They are callous, cruel, and never kind. They will harm people not by accident, as every president before them has, but because hurting others is the point. They’re making us less safe, less prosperous, less happy, and less generous, and for what? To bring back an America that never existed. Or, if Bannon’s words are to be believed, to burn down the one we have now.

The most powerful nation on the planet is being governed—and increasingly, ruled—by psychopaths. It took ten days for them to trigger a constitutional crisis, and even less to begin usurping power. They are men without a shield, with demons on both shoulders constantly egging them on. Sad, shallow, pitiful, thin-skinned little men who shake hands with the beast, and bring the world closer to literal fuckin’ armageddon while doing so.

That’s the difference between them and nearly every other president we’ve had, as well as all the people I can recall who have contended for the position. The others could be shamed. They could be guilted. The others followed the niceties, more or less. The others played the game, which is why they all seemed mortal where Trump seems bulletproof. Even Nixon knew what he was doing was wrong, knew when he had been caught. Trump doesn’t care. He doesn’t understand right from wrong. He doesn’t feel for anyone but himself.

When I see those men, I see Carcer. Don’t look into their eyes, for you will find demons staring back. Besides, that will mean you’ve taken your eyes off their hands, and by then, one of them will be holding a knife. Men like them always have an extra knife, and they have no compunction about using it on you.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    Yep, absolutely terrible how he’s using his vast power to fight to improve our national security, to enforce our laws, to bring back work and dignity to the heartland, to speak for the forgotten man, and to renew a sense of patriotism that unifies us as fellow citizens. What a horrifying vision, that all Americans should dream big and accomplish bigger; that there should be peace and solidarity in the land.

    It’s almost like he gave up his lucrative and extravagant former lifestyle because he actually cares about things like the common defense, the common welfare, and the rule of law. In fact, I watched him just the other day swear to “uphold and defend the Constitution”, and so far he’s been extremely scrupulous to do so. Of course, to actually keep his promises he does ignore the niceties and various social burdens that have grown around the office, but that was precisely what he ran on doing and what his voters elected him to do. As Obama made a point of saying, “Elections have consequences”.

    Obama was a Constitutional scholar, yet he did things he himself claimed were unconstitutional because “We can’t wait”. He lost more than half the cases brought against his actions and that’s even with Justice Roberts twisting the law into knots to uphold the “it’s not a tax… Until challenged in court, in which case it is a tax”.

    Trump is moving faster, but he’s done nothing so far that Obama didn’t set the precedent for. Did you protest then when Republicans warned about the dangers of expanding executive power and legislating through the courts? Did you really think that your side could change the rules to let the majority ignore or run roughshod over the minority without the same thing happening when they themselves are in the minority? When you change the rules, you don’t get to complain about the other side playing by them.

    So with all respect, there’s a rather different Pratchett character I think fits Trump better: Duke Samuel Vimes. He’s no gentleman, but a brawler who’s seeing that the law is enforced and justice is done. His crew is made up of good hearted people called “inhuman” and “monster” by racist bigots. Like Vimes, Trump has a Darkness in him, but he’s harnessed it and checked it with a Watchman. It won’t be dignified, but he gets the job done. “The cow goes MOO!”

    1. Reply

      John A

      Similar to how I feel about trump right now. I’m not really a fan of how he’s doing things, but I don’t see any “Constitutional Crisis”, nor does it appear that he’s trying to hurt Americans. He’s doing what any President of the United States is allowed to do. He ran on “America First”, which is what he’s accomplishing so far. Non-citizens are not covered by our constitution. They are vaguely covered by our “Declaration of Independence”, however, that is not codified as law. Further, there are little to no laws regarding the rights of non-citizens other than international treaties. Trying to claim that an international travel ban of any kind breaks any US law is willfully ignorant on Sally Yates part who, given her vast education and experiance, should have known she was full of it when ordering no defense of the order. Not only that, but the executive branch is in charge of defending the law and the Attorney General (part of the Executive branch) is not in a position to publicly rescind an executive order.

      As a Centrist who leans towards the Green Party politically, I’m disappointed with most of the way Trump is handling things, but I’m even more disappointed with how the Left is reacting to him. They look like a bunch of kids on a field crying “not fair” instead of actually trying to work with the President to fix any problems they have.

  2. Reply

    John A

    I found this today, and it’s slightly on topic as it’s comparing the character of Trump to those of fictional characters. Thought you’d find it interesting as well:

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