Here are some of the insightful observations from Simmel about
how secrecy and conspiracy decorticated. First of all, secrecy is one of the oldest form of
social dynamics. As soon as you have three people or more, then we have at
least three pairs of people who have their own unique one-on-one relationship,
who will inevitably not share 100% of the relationship with the other pairs.
Hence, secrets are born. This observation at the micro level also stands at the
macro level. People have work and family secrets that do not cross into the
other realm. Similarly, large organizations have secrets that are shared only
internally to their members, and it can become a key issue of competitiveness between
organizations, like between Apple and Samsung. The same can be said of
intelligence agencies that have a hard time sharing information with each other
because they want to protect their own sources.
The second point is that secret information becomes valuable because only those who are in have access to it. It is true in creating special relationship between individuals. The secret moments are what make their relationship special and valuable. This is also true for large organizations, which compete against each other. Conversely, once the secret is spilled, the information loses its value. Sometime, it is not the content of the information that actually brings value, but simply the existence of a secret. The classic example is Freemasonry, which has it rituals published in many different books over years, while its true value is in “having been there” when the ritual is performed. The real value in this case remains in the common experience rather than in its content.
A third characteristics is that secrets are very hard to keep! Bragging about being part of a secret is a phenomenon that goes back to beginning of time, and it is how the police today very often catches small time criminals. Then, revenge against those who wronged you, or selfish calculations to obtain favors in exchange for information are the story of modern spy recruiting. For instance, Oleg Penkovsky was profoundly disgusted with the actions of the Soviet Union and became a volunteer spy for the West who had a key role during the Cuban missile crisis. Richard Ames simply sold crucial American secrets to the Soviet Union for money.