“The Hood Maker” was published in Imagination in June 1955. It can be found in We Can Remember It For You Wholesale: The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick. Volume 2 on pp. 237–248.
A crowd attacks an old man after someone pointed out that he was wearing a hood. The shout out “Nobody’s got a right to hide.” They seize his hood and later the police help him on his way.
Clearance Director Ross expresses his worries about the growing number of people found wearing hoods. The hoods are sent directly to people’s houses. Some people turn this into the government, but others begin wearing them to shield their thoughts from psychic surveillance. The hoods actually shock telepaths when they pass it. The telepaths (“teeps”) were introduced to replace loyalty oaths that were difficult to confirm. There was no way of verifying ones loyalty so the system was inaccurate and haphazard. A radiation-induced mutation created the teeps who took over the job of rooting out disloyalty. A young telepath named Ernest Abbud explains that he used the mob to seize the hood from the Director of Federal Resources Commission Doctor Franklin and then scan him the moment the hood was removed. Unfortunately, the scan did not reveal any new information about where the hoods are being manufactured. He adds that Franklin has ideologically disloyal tendencies and should be picked up.
Franklin ponders the events of the day and why he was attacked by the mob. He was not disloyal but he did receive that strange hood in the mail. He did not intend to wear it to hide disloyal thoughts. Until the Anti-Immunity Bill was passed, it was not illegal to wear a hood, blocking scans. Going out he finds he is being followed by Clearance agents. A girl in a car picks Franklin up and helps him escape, giving him a hood to wear. She tells Franklin and the is being framed by the teeps.
Franklin meets James Cutter in the warehouse where the hoods are made. Most of the people in the development and manufacturing of the hoods are refugees from political framing. They were framed as part of an ongoing effort by the teeps to remove the high-ranking officials from the government. They have been using hoods to try to protect the high-ranking members of the government from the teeps’ strategy. The Anti-Immunity Bill will assure teep victory. Cutter plans to have Frankling meet Waldo, who is the chief sponsor of the bill.
On the way to see Waldo, Cutter explains to Franklin that the teeps are like other radical groups who think they have the best path for humanity. He compares them to the Jacobins and Bolsheviks in this regard. They gain access to see the senator, but Abbud comes out and shoots Franklin with a Slem-gun.
Abbud reveals to Cutter that Waldo was a teep and indeed understood the role of the Bill in the teep efforts to seize the government. They scanned Franklin before he got into the car, just long enough to see the girl’s face. This led them to the warehouse, which they shut down putting all the political refugees in custody. Cutter lets Abbud scan him revealing to him what he had already figured out. The teeps were a result of a genetic mutation and where sterile. Their ability would die with that generation. They will not be able to recreate a world with them on top, at least not permanently. Addud tries to kill himself before other teeps picked up this knowledge, but it was too late. Cutter opens his mind and his discovery to all, having nothing to hide.
“The Hood Maker” is one of Dick’s more familiar stories approaching the question of the surveillance state. The hood is a technological means of evading the ultimate in invasive security systems. Thanks to telepaths governments do not need to worry if there are disloyal people in the government and the accused do not need to both proving their innocence. At least that is the theory. Complicating the matter is the fact that the telepaths are misusing their power in an effort to seize the government. They are framing many high ranking people to clear up the government of non-telepaths. The claim that those who have nothing to fear should not feat surveillance is common enough in our world, but it utterly exposed here. All it takes is a small number of malevolent people on the other side of the camera. One of the major guards of the surveillance system proves to be the people. Due to their own desire for safety and security they rise up against anyone who they see wearing the hood in public, using the logic of the government against them. In their logic, only a criminal or a traitor would fear being scanned. It is a very small minority of people—those who know the truth of the conspiracy—who actually oppose the Anti-Immunity Bill and the use of telepaths as the ultimate lie detector.
Dick also shows how when confronted with the system of total surveillance, we often second guess our own loyalties. When a suspicion is made, we truly wonder if there is something to the accusation. Franklin, after he was attacked by the mob thought long and hard about his crimes. Maybe he did something and did not know it. “Had he done anything wrong? Was there something he had done he was forgetting? He had put on the hood. Maybe that was it.” (241) This is how the Panaopticon is supposed to work. It creates a psychology of self-confessional and disciplining.
This is not the first, nor the last, time that Dick explores his theme about the psionic mutants who will attempt to take over, after coming to believe that they are a master race with an obligation over all. Dick sees this as the essential attitude of the ruling class (or the technocrats or bureaucrats or Party members) who readily take to the belief that their position in the order is a reflection of their natural superiority. And yet again Dick shows that giving too much power to this class of people is a horrible idea. Whatever use their talents have, they are odious leaders. In this story, Dick gives their ability a termination date by making the mutants sterile. If only all states had such an expiration date.
Background from Philip K. Dick Fan Site.