snafu principle

Computing Dictionary

SNAFU principle definition


/sna'foo prin'si-pl/ [WWII Army acronym for "Situation Normal: All Fucked Up"] "True communication is possible only between equals, because inferiors are more consistently rewarded for telling their superiors pleasant lies than for telling the truth." - a central tenet of Discordianism, often invoked by hackers to explain why authoritarian hierarchies screw up so reliably and systematically. The effect of the SNAFU principle is a progressive disconnection of decision-makers from reality. This lightly adapted version of a fable dating back to the early 1960s illustrates the phenomenon perfectly:
In the beginning was the plan, and then the specification; And the plan was without form, and the specification was void.
And darkness was on the faces of the implementors thereof; And they spake unto their leader, saying: "It is a crock of shit, and smells as of a sewer."
And the leader took pity on them, and spoke to the project leader: "It is a crock of excrement, and none may abide the odor thereof."
And the project leader spake unto his section head, saying: "It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide it."
The section head then hurried to his department manager, and informed him thus: "It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."
The department manager carried these words to his general manager, and spoke unto him saying: "It containeth that which aideth the growth of plants, and it is very strong."
And so it was that the general manager rejoiced and delivered the good news unto the Vice President. "It promoteth growth, and it is very powerful."
The Vice President rushed to the President's side, and joyously exclaimed: "This powerful new software product will promote the growth of the company!"
And the President looked upon the product, and saw that it was very good.
After the subsequent disaster, the suits protect themselves by saying "I was misinformed!", and the implementors are demoted or fired.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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