The second chapter in Freakonomics asks the reader the following question: “How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real estate agents?” It is obvious the authors are not implying that the Ku Klux Klan engages in real estate transactions; nor does it imply that the real estate industry is filled with established terrorist hate groups.
According to the authors, these two groups share a common trait in their dependence on “secret” information. Not only do the members of both parties need to possess the information necessary to succeed, but secrecy of the particular information is imperative, as well. The information they posses not only drive their success, but can be a liability as well.
The Ku Klux Klan originally began as a social club. Following the conclusion of the Civil War, a small group of confederate veterans chose to pass their new found free time by forming a group which held weekly meetings, and pulled harmless pranks on the local townspeople. One of their pranks included a midnight ride through the town, draped in bed sheets and pillow cases. Over the course of a few decades, the harmless fraternity of post-war soldiers managed to evolve into a domestic terrorist organization that was based on hatred of African American citizens, and thrived on the fear and terror they brought to their community.
The key to the success of the Ku Klux Klan was their ability to operate under total secrecy. They labeled themselves the “Invisible Empire,” because of their ability to work away from the public eye, and wreak havoc against their enemies in secrecy. The group had their own language, handshakes, and greetings, which made it easy for members to connect with one another without alarming “outsiders.”
Their success eventually halted as the secret information they used to their advantage was turned against them. An individual named Stetson Kennedy was able to acquire access to their trade secrets and publish them to a national audience. The leaks...