“Creative Differences at Illuminati Headquarters,” by Kevin Binder

Dec 20th, 2020 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

On Monday, Jeff says that Our illustrious brand voice needs a “refresh.”

“What do you mean?” Molly asks, taking off her headphones (Beats by Dre, as is decreed). “What’s wrong with our voice?”

“It’s old. Stale. I feel like when people think of us—when they think ‘Illuminati’—they imagine old men in smoke-drenched suits who undermine humanity’s progress for their own gain. They don’t picture trendy, relatable go-getters who… just so happen to undermine humanity’s progress for their own gain.”

Molly looks at the far end of the cubicle farm, where portraits of Our past distinguished members grace the wall. Churchill, JFK, Gorbachev, and Nixon smile upon Us all. Molly gets his point. We all do. She thinks to mention that Tupac’s picture is also up there, but she doesn’t.

Jeff continues, “We need a more exciting voice. I don’t know how I can do my job as social media manager without a more energizing brand image. How are our fans supposed to find us if we don’t offer more engaging content?”

“But people aren’t supposed to just find us.”

“Look, when I worked for a multi-level marketing company and grew its social media presence to almost 500K followers, I learned a thing or two about—”

“That’s what I’m trying to say, Jeff. You’re not working for a typical pyramid scheme anymore. Sure, we love pyramids as much as the next occult society, but when you’re plotting to subvert the established social order, you need to be much more subtle.”


“No. We have two brand voices. You can post vague, ominous maxims from any of our supposedly fake ‘official Illuminati’ handles. Or you can promote our activities so long as you use one of our paranoid-conspiracy-theorist burner accounts. We’ve been using that combo successfully since before we killed MJ.”

“Well, except…” Jeff trails off. He doesn’t mention why he was hired in the first place, which slumping KPIs he was brought in to correct. Molly, as director of recruitment, greatly appreciates this. She, in turn, doesn’t bring up that she opposed Jeff’s hiring. Jeff greatly appreciates this. Harmony is maintained in Our idyllic office space.

Instead, Jeff forms a pyramid with his thumbs and index fingers, raises it to his third eye: Our typical farewell gesture. Molly does the same. As Jeff returns to his cube at the far wall, Molly follows him with her gaze. At his desk sits a monstrosity of computer monitors—he insisted on installing six when he joined Our glorious office last month. His stated reason: “Observing real-time metrics across multiple platforms and accounts.” It’s bugged Molly ever since that his monitors completely cover the portrait of John D. Rockefeller.

“To think, we once orchestrated the Battle of Waterloo, and now we’re worried about social media followers,” she mutters.


On Tuesday, Jeff wants to change Our “target audience.”

“You mean like our planned targets for next year’s military coups?” Molly asks.

Jeff blinks at her, his mouth agape.


On Wednesday, Jeff asks if he can get Kim and Kanye to retweet his content.

“Absolutely not,” Molly says. “We’d never ask our members to endorse us so openly. We’re a secret society, not a hotel rewards program.”

“But everyone already knows they’re Illuminati.”

“No, people only think they know. They don’t know they know.”

“Fine, who can I get to promote my content?”

Molly shakes her head at him. “Jesus Christ.”

“Wait, He’s one of us?”

“What? No, I just meant—Look, I don’t understand why it’s so important to repost your content. Just get Paris and JBiebs to post some subtle references to the All-Seeing Eye on the Gram; that’s a sure-fire way to keep our brand fresh.”

“Well, that’s just it, Obama told me that they’re too busy starting the next culture war to focus on subliminal Instagram imagery.” Jeff shrugs. “We’re responsible for maintaining brand content until America’s internal divide becomes irreparable and our best influencers can focus on other things.”

“Ahhh,” Molly sighs. She notices the bags under Jeff’s eyes. We all notice them. “You know, sometimes I wonder why maintaining social media influence is so difficult for an organization with literal mind-control powers.”

“I asked about using that too. Obama said that ability’s currently reserved for Sir Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy. He kept saying they needed it for some guy named ‘Professor X.’ “

Molly nods, taps the seat of the unoccupied swivel chair next to her. Jeff slumps into it. They sit together for some time, staring at different grey cubicle walls. Their silence radiates outward, coursing through the ventilation system of Our hallowed halls.


On Thursday, Jeff is excited. We are all excited to carry out Our noble mission.

“I’ve got it,” he says. “We’ll post about our own office culture, showing people how relatable our organization actually is. We could—”

Molly cuts in, “Jeff, what did I tell you about subtlety? Once we admit to the public that our headquarters actually do sit deep beneath Denver International Airport, the jig is up.”

“I know that. But I realized, we’ve been a myth for so long, we can be that direct and people still wouldn’t believe us. Reverse psychology. And the whole thing would have a tongue-in-cheek tone. Like, I was thinking we could post an artsy picture of my feet surrounded by autumnal leaves, but instead of autumnal leaves, they’re smashed symbols of the patriarchy.”

Molly responds by gesturing to the portraits on the far wall, to the row of dead white men—and Tupac—staring down at them. “Jeff, we essentially are the patriarchy.”

“Ok, fine. Ignore that example, but—”

“Look, I get where you’re going with this. It’s a fine idea—but risky. Let me discuss it with the proper channels; I’m sure Bill and Melinda will want a say in this. In the meantime, can’t you train some Twitter bots to spread disinformation about climate change or something?”

Jeff exhales. “Ugh, deceptive Twitter bots are so 2016.” All the same, he raises a finger-triangle to his third eye and walks away. The status quo prevails in Our dignified workplace.


On Friday, Jeff goes ahead with his plan anyway. We prefer not to discuss the minor insubordinations that occur within Our eminent association.


The following month, Molly finds Jeff’s new Instagram account (@RealIlluminati333). She reads, slackjawed, his posts about the office softball team (caption: “Think we’re ruthless in rigging municipal elections? You should see us on the diamond”) and Our recent team-building pizza party (caption: “Ushering in the New World Delivery Order”), among others.

She runs over to his cube. “Jeff, what in the name of the Eternal Circle did you just do?”

“Come look,” is his only verbal reply; he knows now that We do not use words to convey Our truth. He instead punches in a series of hotkeys, changing the information displayed on his workstation’s monitors. He nods at them; Molly leans forward.

The screen on the bottom right now shows Jeff’s new, rogue account. She skips it with a shake of her head.

The bottom-middle one, meanwhile, features a companion Twitter handle. Its most recent Tweet reads, “Our first tip for a close-knit #officeculture? Collaboratively thwarting the hopes and dreams of anyone who isn’t a member of your hyper-selective in-group #teamwork.”

“We are so fired,” Molly whispers.

“Just keep reading.”

She continues on to the bottom-left monitor, where she finds a webpage offering woolen goods laden with Our exalted symbols.

“Jeff,” she says in a low, calm voice. “Is this you selling ‘officially licensed’ Illuminati hats and scarves on Etsy?”


She closes her eyes and knits her forehead. “And who, pray tell, is making them?”

“The knitting club at my grandma’s retirement home. They’re surprisingly good at designing patterns of shape-shifting lizard people and little humans trapped in birdcages.”


“Don’t worry; they have no clue who I’m working for. I told grandma it’s all for a church fundraiser.”

“I don’t care what they know, Jeff! I care what you’re broadcasting to the masses.”

“In that case, let’s look at the masses’ response.”

He gestures to the middle row of monitors—two of them side by side. On the right, Molly sees an article calling the new handle “one of the best new satirical social media accounts.” The influential blogger who wrote the piece (not even one of Ours) lauds the handle as “witty” and “irreverent.”

The screen to its left shows a number of Our celebrated members retweeting, reposting, and sharing Jeff’s content. Molly grabs her coworker’s mouse and browses the reactions, discovering that the commoners find this trend ironic, comical (“@beyonce promoting an #illuminati handle? IM LITERALLY DED,” says one of the sheeple).

“It’s like I told you,” Jeff says. “Nobody’s changed their mind about us. Nobody will. I feel like I could post a picture of the literal Holy Grail sitting in Storage Room C and people still wouldn’t believe we’re real.”

“Ok, the Grail is strictly off limits; you’re in enough trouble as it is. Besides, we moved it out of Room C after the last office party because Miley kept mixing mojitos in it.”

“You’re missing the point. What I’m saying is this: the people who believed in us still do, and those who didn’t still think it’s all a joke. And yet, we’re trending all over the place. Our top hashtags are blowing up, every conceivable growth rate is spiking, and my grandma’s friends are working sixteen hours a day to keep up with our Etsy demand. The Illuminati is cool right now.

Molly wants to argue further: We all feel compelled to speak Our truths into existence. But, first, she raises her vision to the single monitor on the top row, the apex of Jeff’s display, which beams with a collection of bar graphs, area charts, and heat maps. There, every metric points upward, just as Jeff claimed; they all reach toward Our grandiose destiny. Their inflection points, as swift and synchronized as Our takeover of Hollywood in the 1920s, would make a consultant swoon.

She scrutinizes the gleaming figures until her eyes water. The stinging sensation forces her back a step, forces her eyelids shut. And when she reopens them, her tear-glossed pupils can only perceive the array of monitors as a single, indistinct light, pulsating in a series of percussive flares. Though this illuminated pyramid blocks John D. Rockefeller’s portrait from view, she can still feel the entrepreneur’s watchful, all-seeing gaze behind it, within it. She now comprehends that these technological accessories have not removed his presence from the room but have merely obscured his face from those who don’t know it’s there.

At that moment, Molly understands the path Jeff has charted for Us in this new, chaotic world. She envisions Our lasting prosperity shimmering in his screens. We all do, for We all see what We wish to within that blinding glare.


Kevin Binder is the assistant fiction editor of phoebe literary journal. His humor writing has been published here and in McSweeney’s, Slackjaw, Weekly Humorist, SPANK the CARP, and elsewhere. In a previous life, he worked as a marketing professional but unfortunately has never had the chance to join the esteemed ranks of the Illuminati.

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