Bureaucratic Mirroring

I was interviewed by someone this week who was desperate to find a conspiracy theory. There isn’t one. But she was frustrated. After the interview I described to her the theory of ‘Bureaucratic Mirroring’.

This is the institutional pathology that, even though rationally, people know it’s madness, they can’t escape the subconscious belief that their adversary has the same organisation and structures as they do.

Allegedly a feature of the Cold War, spoofed by Dr Strangelove, the Americans have also been accused of it post 9/11, gearing up for Al Qaeda as though Osama bin Laden had a situation room and Central Command in a bunker under Tora Bora. Bureaucratic Mirroring means you can’t imagine your enemy as other than yourself.

And this came up in conversation over lunch today. We all carry a world-view, a cultural frame of reference and our own personal form of ‘Bureaucratic Mirroring’, assuming others are as we are.

Cosmopolitanism says it ain’t so, we’re all different. Which means letting go of our prejudices and assumptions – as much of any of us can – is vital to escaping our own bunker.

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