496: Secretary: Part 3

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Secretary: Part 3
He actually installed each piece in a different car in the lot, then built a new car in the spot from the displaced pieces.  It's a confusing maneuver known as the auto-troll shuffle.
Title text: He actually installed each piece in a different car in the lot, then built a new car in the spot from the displaced pieces. It's a confusing maneuver known as the auto-troll shuffle.


When a person has been appointed to be on certain positions[1] by the President, they must first go through a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate (the upper house of Congress) where they find if the person is qualified to be in the position they have been appointed to. Of course, Black Hat is not the cleanest of characters, so Congress has a lot of reservations about his résumé. At the time when this comic was released, Senate confirmation hearings occurred rapidly after a president made a nomination and were expected to prevent unsuitable candidates from being given positions of power.

This series was released on five consecutive days (Monday to Friday) and not over the usual schedule of three comics a week. It may be a continuation of the comic 493: Actuarial, in which Black Hat demonstrates great power over even Internet trolls via his sociopathic ways. This would explain why Black Hat was nominated as Internet secretary. These are all the comics in Secretary series:

  • Starbucks is an American coffee shop chain. He hasn't yet, but in 562: Parking, Black Hat will cut someone's car in half to make it fit in a single space. Not quite as dramatic as completely disassembling a car and, as the title text says, putting a single piece in another car parked in the lot, and building a car out of the displaced parts, which could almost be considered subtle, but it is quite dramatic. The title text refers to the Starbucks incident. Taking all the parts from different cars to build a new car in the same spot parallels the idea in philosophy of the Ship of Theseus, in which a question arises of whether a ship is the same ship if it is replaced piece by piece by identical pieces.
  • Charles M. Schulz drew a comic called Peanuts. One of the recurring characters was Snoopy, who would often use his doghouse as an imaginary Sopwith Camel in many battles with The Red Baron, who piloted a Red Fokker Triplane. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a parade that happens on Thanksgiving Day in the US. There are many giant balloons of pop-culture icons. Snoopy has made many appearances. Being the classhole that he is, Black Hat has shot up the Snoopy float with a stolen Red Fokker triplane, which would be disturbing, especially to the kids watching the parade, who would get the impression that Snoopy has died. His statement that he "Got three mimes, too" just proves his casual disregard for collateral damage. He may have targeted the three mimes specifically because mimes pretend imaginary things are physically real, and would prove ironic, as Snoopy's adventures in Peanuts are imaginary, so it would make the most sense for the mimes to be hit.
  • 9/11 Truthers believe that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 (thus 9/11) was not actually organized by terrorists, but by the United States government. Black Hat interrupts their conspiracy theory gathering, insisting on a comically exaggerated version of this conspiracy theory in which the attacks did not happen at all and the World Trade Center is presumably still standing. Such a conspiracy is extremely implausible, as it would require either the involvement of every single person to ever set foot in one of the world's largest cities, or some way to conceal a pair of hundred story tall buildings, which would be extremely difficult. Whether Black Hat actually believes this, or is just trying to troll conspiracy theorists, is unknown. Black Hat uses a common refrain Wake up, Sheeple to insult the senators.
  • RadioShack was a chain of consumer electronics shops that sold parts to build electronics with resistors, transistors, etc. Apparently Black Hat managed to build a death ray from the parts there and accidentally vaporized a customer. His line "Figures that'd be the one day that there'd be a customer in the aisle" refers to the fact that RadioShack stores had been in steady decline over the years,[citation needed] largely propped up by momentum.
  • Microsoft is the company that makes Windows, and Steve Ballmer was its CEO until being replaced in 2014 by Satya Nadella. Windows Vista is an operating system released in 2007; software critics widely panned it. It is unclear how feeding a squirrel through a fax machine could possibly contribute to winning an argument about it, but given Black Hat's almost superhuman abilities to troll and avoid the consequences, it's possible that it could happen. Alternatively, Ballmer could've left the argument after the incident and Black Hat could simply be interpreting that as a victory.
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second female justice on the Supreme Court, appointed by President Clinton. The relevance here is that during her own confirmation hearings, she refused to answer many questions about her personal views, frustrating many Senators (nevertheless, she was confirmed, 96-3). John Roberts, the current Chief Justice, was similarly evasive in his hearings, citing the "Ginsburg Precedent."
  • Black Hat stole a nuclear submarine in xkcd 405: Journal 3 to get his hat back from Danish. However, that one was a Russian submarine, and in 2008 (when this comic was drawn), the US Senate would probably not have held that against a nominee. Perhaps they are indeed referencing that incident, or it could be that he has also stolen an American submarine. Stealing one navy submarine would be impossibly hard; stealing nuclear submarines from not one but two different navies would be practically impossible. However, maybe he just asked somebody to help him, or it's possible it was just an american submarine he brought to Russia.
  • "Pleading the fifth" is to invoke the Fifth Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights. Specifically, when someone pleads the fifth, they mean that they cannot be compelled to give testimony against themselves. That is, they do not have to say anything that could be taken as an admission of guilt. The third amendment states that no homeowner has to keep troops of the United States Army in their house against their will. Either Black Hat doesn't understand the 3rd Amendment, he just chooses this amendment over the 5th to confuse the committee, who seems to forget the question, believes the nuclear submarine to be his property, and rather than stealing it, he was simply expelling military personnel who were "quartered" in his nuclear sub without his permission (see xkcd 886: Craigslist Apartments), or he stole the submarine in order to have a convenient place other than his house to quarter troops.

The final panels show Ron Paul's blimp finally approaching Washington DC. The balloon spotted on their radar is presumably piloted by blogger Cory Doctorow, as revealed in the next installment, Secretary: Part 4.


[The confirmation hearings begin.]
Senator: It appears you have quite an arrest record.
Senator: Is it true you completely disassembled someone's car outside a Starbucks?
Black Hat: It was parked across two spaces.
Senator: You stole a red Fokker triplane and strafed the snoopy float at the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade?
Black Hat: Got three mimes, too.
Senator: You disrupted a 9/11 truth meeting, insisting the Twin Towers never actually collapsed?
Black Hat: I have evidence! Don't trust the media! Wake up, sheeple!
Senator: You were fired from Radio Shack after you built a death ray and vaporized a customer?
Black Hat: I was just testing it! Figures that'd be the one day there was a shopper in the aisle.
Senator: And you were thrown out of Microsoft headquarters for... trying to feed a squirrel through a fax machine?
Black Hat: I forgot about that! it was part of an argument with Steve Ballmer about Vista.
Which I won, by the way.
[Senators look down at their notes.]
Senator: This is the worst history of vandalism, gleeful mayhem, and general recalcitrance we've seen in a nominee since Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Senator: And this-you stole a nuclear submarine?
Black Hat: I plead the third.
Senator: You mean the fifth?
Black Hat: No, the third.
Senator: You refuse to quarter troops in your house?
Black Hat: I have few principles, but I stick to them.
[Aboard Ron Paul's blimp.]
Ponytail: We're nearing Washington, sir.
Wait... There's something ahead on the sensors.
Ponytail: It's a balloon.
Ron Paul: ...Oh, no.

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Could "Pleading the 3rd" be a form of the Chewbacca defense? --B. P. (talk) 22:55, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

I did some research on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her confirmation hearing, but couldn't quite see why she has a criminal record similar to Black Hat's - can anybody help there? Bobidou23 (talk) 20:03, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

It's supposed to be a joke. Ruth Bader Ginsburg definitely wasn't a criminalNoonespecial (talk) 22:33, 14 November 2021 (UTC)

Maybe because people assume that if you are rectinent,you are probably hiding something? 15:47, 9 February 2013 (UTC)

Black hat is right. RadioShack never gets many visitors to the electronics parts aisles. Xyz (talk) 12:54, 3 June 2013 (UTC)

Why would US submariners been on the sub he stole? I got the impression it was a Russian submarine. 22:21, 8 January 2014 (UTC)

Or it was a US sub and he "parked" it in Russian territory, something the Russion goverment wouldn't be fond of either. But yeah I thought it was a Russian sub as well. Tharkon (talk) 15:50, 29 January 2014 (UTC)

Is the auto-troll shuffle a reference to something? Seanybabes (talk) 02:57, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

I got the impression that it was in reference to the "Kansas City shuffle" from the movie "Lucky Number Sleven". It was the first move in a very complicated revenge scheme. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I went in and cleaned up the submarine explainations. It seems like they were put there by someone who hadn't actually read Journal 3. Reywas (talk) 20:24, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

I love the 'citation needed' on the "It's unclear how feeding a squirrel through a fax machine can help win an argument. Whoever did that should be promoted. :) --JayRulesXKCD what's up? 12:40, 6 January 2017 (UTC)

I wonder if he chose to plead the third because he stole the submarine in Secretary 3 and it was seen in Journal 3... 03:29, 12 March 2017 (UTC)

"Almost" superhuman? He's up there with Beret Guy in terms of superhuman powers. One person operating a nuclear sub by himself is impossible right there. Nitpicking (talk) 13:05, 28 August 2021 (UTC)

"the US Senate would probably not have held that against a nominee" - um - seriously? They wouldn't care if this guy stole a nuclear submarine, unless it was American? This defies sense. L-Space Traveler (talk) 16:41, 1 September 2022 (UTC)