Origin: Hans Christian Andersen (1837)
Many months ago there was a President so exceedingly fond of new weapons that he spent all his country’s money on being well armed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his Airforce One, except to show off his new weapons. He had a weapon for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, “The President is in council,” here they always said. “The President is in his arms manufacturer.”
In the great city where he lived, everyone was trying to be rich. Every day many corporate CEOs came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weapons manufacturers, and they said they could build the most magnificent weapons imaginable. Not only were their missiles smart and launchers uncommonly fine, but these missiles made of this tech had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.
“Those would be just the weapons for me,” thought the President. “If I used them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff manufactured for me right away.” He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two military industrial complexes and pretended to build, though there was nothing in the warehouses. All the finest technology and the purest super conducting metals which they demanded went into their traveling semi trucks, while they worked the empty warehouses far into the night.
“I’d like to know how those weapons manufacturers are getting on with the missiles,” the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the missiles. It couldn’t have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he’d rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the missiles peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.
“I’ll send my honest old Secretary of Defense to the weapons manufacturers,” the Emperor decided. “He’ll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he’s a sensible man and no one does his duty better.”
So the honest old Secretary of Defense went to the factory where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty warehouses.
“Heaven help me,” he thought as his eyes flew wide open, “I can’t see anything at all”. But he did not say so.
Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty warehouses, and the poor old Secretary of Defense stared as hard as he dared. He couldn’t see anything, because there was nothing to see. “Heaven have mercy,” he thought. “Can it be that I’m a fool? I’d have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can’t see the missiles.”
“Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of it,” said one of the CEOs.
“Oh, it’s beautiful -it’s enchanting.” The old Secretary of Defense peered through his spectacles. “Such a pattern, what colors!” I’ll be sure to tell the President how delighted I am with it.”
“We’re pleased to hear that,” the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old Secretary of Defense paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the President. And so he did.
The swindlers at once asked for more money, more microchips and gold, to get on with the building. But it all went into their pockets. Not a microchip went into the warehouses, though they worked at their construction as hard as ever.
The President presently sent another trustworthy official, the Secretary of State, to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the Secretary of Defense. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the warehouses he couldn’t see anything.
“Isn’t it a beautiful piece of goods?” the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern.
“I know I’m not stupid,” the man thought, “so it must be that I’m unworthy of my good office. That’s strange. I mustn’t let anyone find it out, though.” So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the President he said, “It held me spellbound.”
All the corporate media was talking of this splendid weaponry, and the President wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the warehouses. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the factories-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them building with might and main, but without a microchip in their machines.
“Magnificent,” said the two officials already duped. “Just look, Your Presidency, what colors! What a design!” They pointed to the empty factories, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.
“What’s this?” thought the President. “I can’t see anything. This is terrible!
Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the President? What a thing to happen to me of all people! — Oh! It’s very pretty,” he said. “It has my highest approval.” And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn’t see anything.
His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the President in exclaiming, “Oh! It’s very pretty,” and they advised him to use the missiles made of this wonderful material especially for the great war against Russia he was soon to lead. “Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!” were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The President gave each of the swindlers a Medal of Honor, and billions more!
Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six million barrels of oil, to show how busy they were finishing the President’s new weapons. They pretended to take the weapons off the factory. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, “Now the President’s new weapons are ready for him.”
Then the President himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, “These are the missiles, here’s the fighter jet, and this is the air defense system,” naming each weapon. “All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think Ukraine had nothing, but that’s what makes them so fine.”
“Exactly,” all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.
“If Your Imperial Presidency will condescend to take your old weapons off,” said the swindlers, “we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the CIA.”
The President got rid of the country’s old weapons, and the swindlers pretended to put his new weapons in Ukraine, one missile after another. They took him around the base and seemed to be fastening something — that was his train-as the President turned round and round before the CIA.
“How well Your Presidency’s new weapons look. Aren’t they becoming!” He heard on all sides, “That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.”
Then the Whitehouse Press Secretary announced: “Your Presidency’s bullet proof car is waiting outside.”
“Well, I’m supposed to be ready,” the President said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. “It is a remarkable fit, isn’t it?” He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.
The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn’t dare admit they had nothing to hold.
So off went the President to proxy war in Ukraine under his splendid jets. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, “Oh, how fine are the President’s new weapons! Don’t they work to perfection? And see his long train!” Nobody would confess that he couldn’t see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the President had worn before was ever such a complete success.
“But he hasn’t got any weapons,” a little child said.
“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t any weapons. A child says he hasn’t any weapons.”
“But he hasn’t got any weapons!” the whole country cried out at last.
The President shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This Ukraine proxy war has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.