The Fall’s ‘Telephone Thing’ – Did Mark E Smith predict PRISM and Operation Tempora?

by L. Ron Weasley

Everyone and their dog by now must have heard Mark E Smith’s famous ‘I used to be psychic, but I drank my way out of it’ quip.

The usual response to this is to smile, smirk and write it off as another off the cuff barb dispensed by the amphetamine-charged shaman/bullshit peddler (delete as appropriate).

But the story goes that it was a line Smith fed to the tabloid press who, putting two and two together had come up with twelve, believing that he has some insider information about the 1996 Manchester bombing, carried out by the Provisional IRA.

After a glance at the words to Powder Keg, off The Light User Syndrome (released days before the attack) you can see why someone might have jumped to the conclusion:

“You better listen
It’s a powder keg
You better listen
Retreat from Enniskillen

I had a dream
Bruised and covered
and going into
Manchester city center turnstyle”

The Annotated Fall site has some more information on this here.

Red top rag distracting mischief or not, maybe he was half joking. Following the revelations of PRISM and Tempora plus the UK government’s separate plans to comb the internet for terrorist activity and block access to pornography by default (whether you’re a family with kids or not), I mused on Twitter awhile back that Telephone Thing was delivered about 20 years too early.

The fact that the UK government has tapped into undersea cables came to light this year, which makes lines like these eerily prescient:

“your tendril ocean bed achievements
does not justify your abuse of Privacy Piracy Act”


“Does the Home Secretary have the barest faintest inkling of what’s going down?”

Of course, it’s little more than a fantastic coincidence.

If Theresa May bore even a slight resemblance to the actress who played Ethel Skinner (“You Gretchen Franklin nosey matron thing”) then we’d have ourselves a hat trick.  Conclusive, peer-reviewed scientific proof that Smith actually does possess ESP.

Psychic or not, it doesn’t mean you can’t blast this one out at any kind of fundraiser party you might be wanting to throw for worthy causes like this one.

Other hits you might want to consider:

Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me
Liberator – Government Spies
Faith No More – Naked in front of the Computer
The Stooges – T.V. Eye
Paul McCartney – Temporary Secretary