Study Guide

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Manipulation

By Robert Heinlein


But I might throw a safety circuit around this net—by offering to help. Stop dangerous ones—let others go through. Then collect for "correcting" them. (If you think any Loonie in those days would hesitate to take advantage of Warden, then you aren't a Loonie.) (1.69)

Ah, the first taste of manipulation seems harmless enough. Mannie makes some fake computer errors and earns a quick buck "fixing" them. But this snowball is rolling downhill and growing larger.

That we were slaves I had known all my life—and nothing could be done about it. True, we weren't bought and sold—but as long as Authority held monopoly over what we had to have and what we could see to buy it, we were slaves. (2.72)

Through its monopoly, the Authority can manipulate the market to its advantage every time, ensuring that others cannot compete against it.

"And that, senorita, is the weakness of our Cause. Communications. Those goons were not important—but crucially important is that it lay with the Warden, not with us, to decide whether the story should be told. To a revolutionist, communications are a sine-qua-non." (5.118)

Prof lays down the master key of manipulation in this quote: communication. Controlling, changing, and owning the means of communication are essential weapons for both sides of the revolutionary conflict.

"No, dear lady. Instead you have a charming honesty … a weakness you must guard against. The thing to do with a spy is to let him breathe, encyst him with loyal comrades, and feed him harmless information to please his employers. These creatures will be taken into our organization. […]." (7.87)

With apologies to James Bond, the true art of spy craft is not a laser watch or the ability to order the perfect martini on the fly—it's the game of manipulating people and information to do what you want them to.

So they undertook to do it, but retail, in many names and places all over Luna. Every bank, firm, shop, agency including Authority, for which Mike did accounting, was tapped for Party funds. Was pyramided swindle based on fact, unknown to me but known to Prof and latent in Mike's immense knowledge, that most money is simply bookkeeping. (9.164)

Because if no one misses it, it's not stealing? Moral scruples aside, Mannie does have a point here: Money is less about material possession and more about number manipulation. And who better to manipulate numbers than a self-aware computer?

But Mike controlled communications and that meant control of most everything. Prof had started with control of news to and from Earthside, leaving to Mike censorship and faking of news until we could get around to what to tell Terra, […]. (14.6)

The key to the revolution's success is Mike the super computer. This success could be contributed to Mike's ability to do several essential tasks with precision and speed, but as this passage suggests, it's Mike's manipulation of Luna's communication that is at the heart, er, motherboard of the matter.

Signing the Declaration of Independence went as Prof said it would. He sprang it on them at end of long day, announced a special session after dinner at which Adam Selene would speak. (15.1)

We love this example of manipulation because it doesn't require a super computer or other science fiction trope to pull off. Prof simply uses good old-fashioned, down-home political trickery.

"Please. Since they can inflict their will on us, our only chance lies in weakening their will. That was why we had to go to Terra. To be divisive. To create many opinions. The shrewdest of the great generals in China's history once said that perfection in war lay in so sapping the opponent's will that he surrenders without fighting." (20.33)

The Chinese general Prof is paraphrasing is none other than Sun Tzu. His most famous work, The Art of War, is all about manipulating any situation to your advantage.

But invaders fought well, too. These troops were not only crack riot troops, best peace enforcers for city work F.N. had; they also had been indoctrinated and drugged. Indoctrination had told them (correctly) that their only hope of going Earthside again was to capture warrens and pacify them. But was to win or die, for was pointed out that their transports could not take off if they did not win, […]. (24.8)

We haven't given too much credit to the Federated Nations here, but these guys are masters of manipulation as well. Their entire strategy is to manipulate soldiers to fight their hardest for victory. It doesn't work, but they get points for horrifying creativity.

Prof stopped—looked surprised. Not afraid, but puzzled. Swayed slightly.

Then he did die. (29.14-15)

Did Prof plan to die after delivering a patriotic freedom speech? Because he couldn't have planned it better if he did. His death ensures that his and Mike's manipulation of the Loonies will never be proven or likely even revealed.

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