True Story of Mr Pants, Mr Young and Dr Cageman

© 1997 (I, II) - 1998 (III, IV) Paul Cooijmans

I The Test

Dr Cageman wanted to join the Table Society of Upperland. As few were admitted to this elite club, he had to travel to the center of the land and take a number of tests to assess eligibility. Test Master Mr Pants had an array of refined instruments at his disposal, Regressive Mothers of Crow for Beginners, Llettac Nature Speed and Twent Banalogies to name some. The latter two were administered to Dr Cageman and thirty-nine more candidates group-wise in a large room.

This went not without trouble. "It may be some time before you'll get your results" Mr Pants said. "I have a virus in my computer so it's a mess. I can't get anything out of it now. Give me a few weeks and it'll be okay." The test itself gave problems too. A group of questions in the Llettac Form A seemed unsolvable. A testee alerted Mr Pants, and he stepped down form his platform and looked at a number of test sheets of front row takers. "A misprint", he said. "Don't worry, I'll take it into account when scoring the test". It was at this point that Dr Cageman started having doubts on the Table Society's entrance practices.

The second test, Twent Banalogies, appeared to go fine. It contained analogies of the kind PLEASURE is to FUN as THIS IS A BANALOGY is to what? Dr Cageman was the first to finish, so stood up silently, turned his sheet in and went home.

Three mere days later he received his results by mail. Quick work! But... the test date on the report was not the actual date of Dr Cageman's test, but exactly one week earlier! How now? If the date was wrong, would not the scores be wrong as well? "Don't worry, a little mistake" Mr Pants assured when Dr Cageman asked for clarification. "Scores are okay, date is misprinted, sorry". And Dr Cageman studied the rest of his report. Although his results were sufficient for Table Society admission, they were below expectation. For instance, Dr Cageman's score on Twent Banalogies was given as 28, while he had been dead certain of 35 correct. Could he have been so wrong? He looked around an found an institute that could arrange for him to take the Banalogies once more. He gave the exact same answers as in the Table session (Dr Cageman has a good memory). Now his score was reported as 35; the precise number the good Doctor had anticipated. Dr Cageman was now positive his Table score report was erroneous; apparently he had received either the scores of someone who had been tested a week before him, or fictitious scores to cover up a cock-up with the actual test results in Mr Pants' computer.

Dr Cageman informed Mr Pants he had perceived the discrepancy. Mr Pants did not reply, and has since refrained from all direct communication towards Dr. Cageman.

II The Article

Dr Cageman wrote an article called "The 3% Legend" in the Table Messages, journal of the Table Society. In it he explained Table's entrance policy was not really so strict and really more than 3% was being admitted. He gave several arguments based on facts and reason. How naive he was not to realize part of the members would be unable to understand his writing and turn against him!

And indeed, in the following months several malicious rebuttals appeared in the TM, clearly from frustrated members who, by reading Dr Cageman's piece, had realized they were not really as smart as they had thought. And the Editor made way for these reactions, no matter how silly and insulting they were. Dr Cageman meanwhile had to sit still and take the heat, as his responses to the rebuttals were not treated with the same respect...

Another thing the good Doctor had not expected was that TM Editor Mr Young was good friends with Test Master Mr Pants. After receipt of "The 3% Legend" Young asked the conscientious psychometrician to write a reply to Dr Cageman for the TM. In fact, the actual content of this consultation was, "Kill him off".

And so was done. Mr Pants wrote and essay to reduce the impact of Dr Cageman's article by misquoting and insulting him many times, meanwhile displaying his own expertise through countless factual errors, flawed reasoning and cripple grammar. Dr Cageman understood this was his punishment for breaking the 3% taboo. He was however not intimidated, and chose one of the dozens of errors by Mr Pants. He submitted an article correcting it with literature reference - and in his naivety he sent a copy of it to Mr Pants. Oh, how he had underestimated Mr Young's creative editing abilities!

His reaction was not published in the next issue, although he had submitted it two weeks before the deadline. Instead, a second article by Mr Pants appeared, discussing the literature suggested by Dr Cageman, be it that the odd number had been altered to fit Mr Pants' goal better; and be it that there was no mention that Dr Cageman had supplied this data. And again faulty reasoning, direct lies and corrupted statistics were included in what appeared a new attempt to undermine Dr Cageman's original argument.

But the worst was yet to come: in the following issue, Dr Cageman's reaction was reprinted - but without indicating it was responding to Mr Pants' first article. Au contraire: it was presented in such a misleading context that it seemed to respond to Mr Pants' second article, in which the relevant matter had already been "discussed" - and therefore it appeared foolish and redundant. And one page further, a re-reaction by Mr Pants was pointing back to Dr Cageman's reaction, saying "look at that stupid Dr Cageman! He is wrong, I did discuss that matter in my article!" The re-reaction even mentioned the page number of Dr Cageman's reaction, even though it was in the same issue! By what miraculous powers had Mr Pants known it would be there?! Was Mr Pants superhuman? Or... had Mr Young shown him the TM contents before publication, so as to top his punitive expedition against Dr Cageman - "Now finish him off!" ?

Dr Cageman, as always assuming man was good at heart, wrote polite letters to Mr Pants and Mr Young, notifying them he had perceived their teamwork, leaving open the option it was all a misunderstanding, so in fact giving them the chance to get away with a rectification and apology. But again, he had underestimated the width of the moral spectrum. No response followed. They had him bite the dust.

III Censorship

As Dr Cageman had understood he'd not be able to explain the truth in the Table Messages, he tried an indirect approach. He wrote a "Manual For Responding To Articles In The Table Messages", with guidelines to ensure rational discussion in the TM. In it he also warned, in general terms, against certain misbehavior.

After sending it in, he received a phone call from Mr Young, warning him this might evoke further attacks towards Dr Cageman, and advising against publication. He cited, over the phone, passages that seemed problematic. These were passages referring in general terms to Mr Pants' actions. Apparently the shoe fits, Dr Cageman thought. He told Mr Young he wanted the article published anyway, and Mr Young confirmed he would do so verbatim. "Have it the way you want", he said. To make sure everything was clear, Dr Cageman wrote a letter to Mr Young confirming what was agreed over the phone, and posted it that evening.

The next day Dr Cageman received a letter from Mr Young. In it the Editor told the Doctor his article would be published in an amended form. The editorial version of the piece was enclosed, and Dr Cageman saw certain words had been removed or changed. A note at the bottom of the letter said "this letter had been written before our telephone conversation". But... through the phone Mr Young had assured Dr Cageman his article would be published verbatim...

Dr Cageman wrote back, telling Mr Young he did not approve of alterations in his article, stating that the article was not to be published in the censored form. He also added a postscript explaining to the readers the Editor had contacted him before publication regarding the contents of his article. And finally he made it clear to Mr Young that his article was an article, and not a reaction. He did this because he knew there was a section called "reactions" in the TM, where the Editor had the habit of shortening submitted letters.

To Dr Cageman's surprise - but he should have known better than to be surprised by now - his article was published in the editorial (censored) version. The postscript was omitted; apparently the readers were not allowed to learn about the censorship. And the good Doctor's Manual For Responding To Articles In The Table Messages appeared in - where else? - the "reactions" section...

Despite the alterations however, even on the very day of appearance of the TM issue containing the challenged piece, Dr Cageman received several reactions on the phone from people who congratulated him with his article. "Good someone finally has the nerve to say these things", was the tone of these, sometimes jubilant, responses. One person even told Dr Cageman he had similar experiences with the Editor; apparently in one of his writings essential passages had been removed, among which a positive remark towards... Dr Cageman. The good Doctor began to understand why reactions to his articles in the TM were always negative... In fact, up to the very day that Dr Cageman is writing this very article for Hermes, journal of his newly founded Neuron Society, it occasionally happens Table members show him their (several years old) rejected TM copy, responding in a positive way to Dr Cageman's articles. These members are usually under the mistaken impression the Editor has forwarded their unpublished materials to Dr Cageman. This, however, has never occurred.

IV The End

In an attempt to prevent editorial changes in an important piece for the Table Messages, Dr Cageman sent copies of the article to a number of Table members, and informed the Editor that he had done that. "Now he won't dare change a thing", Dr Cageman thought.

This went not unnoticed. The doctor was contacted by the Table Board, that told him it was not allowed to send mail to samples of the membership, and asked him to explain. Dr Cageman then wrote a report on the editorial changes in his copy and forwarded it to the board and to the Editor himself. "If I'm not allowed to write directly to members, and if the Editor makes changes in my copy, how on earth am I supposed to communicate clearly with members, and how will they ever know what really happened?", Dr Cageman worried.

He was also contacted by the Test Master - not Mr Pants, but a new one Dr Cageman didn't yet know was assigned - who told him his article contained information not allowed to be published. Dr Cageman tried to prevent publication of the piece, but the Editor said it was too late for that already. The good doctor now wrote a rectification for publication in the next TM issue.

When the article was published, no major changes appeared to be made; only a number had been changed and a few sentences were missing, probably accidentally. However, the Editor had added a note suggesting Dr Cageman had abused the member roster, and denying censorship had ever occurred. And the rectification Dr Cageman had submitted for the next issue remained unpublished, even though it had been submitted two weeks before the deadline, and even though the Editor had claimed in his note to have published all of Dr Cageman's material verbatim.

Shortly thereafter Dr Cageman, perceiving good deal of his recent work was purposely withheld by the Editor, largely stopped producing copy for the Table Messages. The Editor resigned, and Dr Cageman decided to wait and see how the new Editor would turn out.