Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Splendid Isolation

I'm putting tinfoil up on the windows
Lying down in the dark to dream
I don't want to see their faces
I don't want to hear them scream - Warren Zevon


Symptomatic of Capgras Syndrome is the delusion of doubles: that those closest to you, or your familiar objects, have been replaced by impostors and replicas. Tony Rosato, a Toronto comic actor who put in time on SCTV and Saturday Night Live, served two years in prison for criminally harassing his wife on account of it. (Last month he was remanded to a psychiatric hospital after a conditional discharge.)

In his testimony, Rosato repeated his worries for his family, and his contention that his wife Leah had been replaced by twins or triplets and that their baby was a changeling. The judge, in ruling Rosato to be in need of psychiatric care, cited Leah's alarm at Tony's claims that her family was connected to a paedophile ring, and his fear of entities he called "astral attackers."

In Taboo: Sex, Religon and Magick, psychotherapist Christopher Hyatt tells of a patient he treated in the 1970s. One day she came to him with a troubling dream of being carried into a church by a priest and raped upon the altar. Within a week she had suffered a "complete psychotic break" and was hospitalized. Hyatt, noting that her father was a deacon in a nearby church, diagnosed that "the breaking of the taboo (even in a dream) so overpowered my patient that her mind literally broke down."

Could be. Probably. She was Hyatt's patient, and to me she's just an anecdote in Hyatt's book. But as I read it, I thought something that should have been considered, if only to rule it out, was that the dream was the manifestation of a suppressed memory of abuse, whether sexual or merely assuming a sexual expression, and his patient's psychotic break was the result of the dissociative effort of denial.

More evidently, Rosato is an ill man. But his strong delusion doesn't necessarily render crazy each of his unhealthy obsessions. There are, evidently, paedophile rings, and many individuals considered wise and well have themselves described astral attacks. Rosato isn't sick for mentioning them, but applied to his circumstance he is almost certainly wrong.

All of which makes me wonder about our own sick circumstance.

In October, 1963, a US Army private first class named Eugene Dinkin, working in Metz, France as a crypto operator with top secret clearance, picked up indications that "a conspiracy was in the making by the 'military' of the United States, perhaps combined with an 'ultra-right economic group." (The quote is from a declassified FBI report of April 3, 1964.) One of his duties as a code breaker was to decipher traffic that originated with the OAS, though he contended he first became alerted to a conspiracy by a study of subliminal "psychological sets" in Stars and Stripes and certain Hearst papers which, writes Lisa Pease, he believed "were deliberately maneuvered to set up a subconscious belief on the part of one reading these papers to the effect that President John F. Kennedy was 'soft on communism.'" He became convinced an attempt would be made on the president's life in Texas in late November, and that it would be pinned on the Left.

Alarmed, Dinkin wrote Robert Kennedy and then, realizing the warning had little chance of reaching the Attorney General, abruptly left his unit, going AWOL to try to contact ambassadors in nearby Luxembourg. On Nov 6 he showed up at the UN press office in Geneva. He couldn't find an American correspondent and so told his story to the editor of the Geneva Diplomat. On Nov 13 he was "hospitalized" by the US army in a closed psych ward and kept in virtual isolation until the assassination. On the evening of Nov 23 he was interviewed by a Secret Service agent who said that since Dinkin was in a psych ward he would be giving the government "absolutely no information."

He was transferred to Walter Reed in December and, in his words, "began receiving 'therapy' to help me understand that my warning of the assassination had been 'coincidental.'" He was told if he didn't improve he would be electro-shocked. Naturally, he feigned cooperation, "improved" and was released. His story, because it's told by a sick man, goes unmentioned by the Warren Commission.


In Illness as Metaphor Susan Sontag writes that "the most truthful way of regarding illness - and the healthiest way of being ill - is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking." But then ani difranco says we're 90% metaphor, which is a nicer thought than biology's animated sacks of blood and water, so perhaps it's alright after all. Though that still doesn't make us alright.

Capgras remains a rare condition in the material world usually precipitated by head trauma, but in the deep world it's a pandemic afflicting us metaphors. Many of us now know we're in a strange place that only resembles our home, and those who don't may no longer recognize us. (I know I've lost friends because of this; because they couldn't fathom where I was going or didn't want to come along. It makes me wish sometimes that when I told my wife, "You know, I've been thinking of starting a blog," that she'd replied, "You know, I don't think that's such a good idea.")

The canyon that's being carved in the West between underclass and overclass, and into which the middle class is being made to tumble, reifies the syndrome of the unrecognizable familiar. We have rulers who look like us, and appear to talk to us about what we're told are our concerns and values, yet whose experience and environment and whose own values are so alien to our own that they may as well be aliens themselves. In turn neither do they recognize themselves in us, and only grudgingly and for their own ends use the power of state with egalitarian beneficence. You could call them reptiles, but just as truthfully you can call them Morlocks. And if you do then you must know what they eat.

Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry says that "humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells." He expects the emergence of "a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass":

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.

But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims. Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.

Clearly Dr Curry has an acute case of Capgras-by-proxy. The onward-and-upward progress ideal upon which he mounts his projection bears only tangential resemblance to the future that is already squatting on our present. Decades before the worst-case scenarios it appears we've already entered a greenhouse gas feedback loop, while according to a study released this week by the Energy Watch Group world oil production peaked in 2006, and extreme near-term shortages can be expected to herald war and social breakdown.

Like Curry, HG Wells had it backwards, too. In our world, for whatever foreseeable future remains of it, it's the Molocks with their appetites and devil machines who are equipped to thrive. The ruling class won't be living a soft and pasty fantasy life for 100,000 years. They'll show, unambiguously, their goblin face.

Yet it's hard to argue with Curry's expectation of a "dim-witted underclass." Since there is a correlation between higher education and liberal and progressive values, a "dimming-down" has been long in the works by those who hold neither, but hold much else.

Mark Morford writes today of the horror in the heart of an Oakland high school teacher nearing retirement, who "says he is very seriously considering moving out of the country so as to escape what he sees will be the surefire collapse of functioning American society in the next handful of years due to the absolutely irrefutable destruction, the shocking — and nearly hopeless — dumb-ification of the American brain":

[He] simply observes his students, year to year, noting all the obvious evidence of teens' decreasing abilities when confronted with even the most basic intellectual tasks, from understanding simple history to working through moderately complex ideas to even (in a couple recent examples that particularly distressed him) being able to define the words "agriculture," or even "democracy." Not a single student could do it.

It gets worse. My friend cites the fact that, of the 6,000 high school students he estimates he's taught over the span of his career, only a small fraction now make it to his grade with a functioning understanding of written English. They do not know how to form a sentence. They cannot write an intelligible paragraph. Recently, after giving an assignment that required drawing lines, he realized that not a single student actually knew how to use a ruler.

Morford adds that their discussion then turns to "the bigger picture, the ugly and unavoidable truism about the lack of need among the government and the power elite in this nation to create a truly effective educational system, one that actually generates intelligent, thoughtful, articulate citizens." Perhaps the lack of need is, from the perspective of Morlocks, a need for lack among its overstocked herd of the tazed and confused.

In Nightside of Eden Kenneth Grant, Outer Head of the Typhonian OTO and founder of the Cult of Lam, writes that "the Mysteries, the true Gnosis, are of a predominantly psycho-sexual nature." If so, and if this is a time of mystery and revelation, perhaps we should expect more manifestations of psycho-sexual disturbance, both by way of illness and metaphor. And perhaps that's what we're seeing sometimes, when we can bear to look.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blow'd Up Real Good (Part Two)

What can you see?
from Antonioni's Blow Up

I must be something of a disappointment as a conspiracy theorist, because I don't know what the fuck is going on.

I mean, I have an inkling. Like David Hemmings in Blow Up, the closer I look the worse things appear, and it doesn't take a Dante to know that everything is going to Hell. Though perhaps it takes a Nostradamus to believe we know how, and when, because maybe he just made shit up, too.

The End has been a long time coming and its anticipation has been with us from the beginning, so perhaps abductees and channelers and psychonauts have been on strangely familiar ground when entities and "spirit guides" and the chemistry of nature have reportedly told them that "Earth time is desperately short" (as Arthur Shuttlewood related he was told, in his Warnings from Flying Friends.)

Albert Bender, arguably the first "Men in Black" contactees, was warned of a pole-shift due in 1953. Knud Weiking, supposed voice of "Orthon," claimed he'd been told there would be a nuclear holocaust on Christmas Eve, 1967. Alarms raised of the Earth's imminent incineration, flood, or "cleansing" are not just facts of the fringe, but also of mainline contactee religions. (As virtually every religion is.) Perhaps one example is the closely guarded and apocalyptic "Third Secret" of Fatima, which the "Beautiful Lady" shared with her three young contactees.

It's a game tricksters play, whether human or not quite so, as John Keel experienced during the Mothman flap. He was warned of a catastrophic plane crash by an "Asian-looking character" calling himself Apol, seated in the back of a black Cadillac. He went on to say the Pope would soon be assassinated, followed by three days of darkness and worldwide power failure. There were many other warnings from other strange sources and allegedly channeled spirits that something dreadful was about to happen, but none which pointed unambiguously to the dreadful thing which did, except perhaps for a lucid dream Keel was told six weeks earlier by a Point Pleasant resident of "a lot of people drowning in the river and Christmas packages floating everywhere in the water." For the most part, wrote Keel, the "contactees would be manipulated, used as robots to propagate beliefs and false frames of reference, and then be discarded to sit in the darkness and wonder why the world was not as they had imagined it."

Does this trade in fear and false prophecy sound familiar? Or maybe rather, does it feel familiar, because it's not something I've often heard discussed.

Fritz Springmeier, the "Christian Identity" white supremacist, convicted bank robber and victim-triggering expert in "Illuminati mind control," published in a mid-90s newsletter that "The leadership in both Russia and the U.S. are preparing for war. From 8:00A.M. to 6:00P.M. on June 6, 1996 the proper alignments will occur to detonate numerous nuclear devices." Then in 1999, he wrote "Over two weeks ago, this author was given inside information that the New World Order had pulled all their key people -- specialists, and so forth out of San Diego, CA. These people were given a secret high-level briefing which told them to leave San Diego by April 3 [1999] and that their reason to leave was that Russia was going to drop nuclear bombs on San Diego, Seattle, NYC...."

On his October 18, 2001 broadcast, Alex Jones said "Within 2 years I'm predicting...that you're going to see a suitcase nuke in this country. You're probably going to see a release in a few years of something communicable. And I am predicting that you will see a lot of conventional bombings in the next year or so." In March 2005 he predicted Arnold Schwarzenegger would "save children at a school shooting, or there'll be some type of bombing, and he will land by helicopter and run in and direct things. I predict it - I see it all aligning. I see it all coming together. I see their plan, clear as day." More soberly, on August 10, 2006 he announced "There is a 90% chance we are gonna see bone-shattering mega-attacks in the United States, Canada, or England or Israel in the next couple months - by mid-October. We're talking about the total end of America, total martial law. I am predicting you will have huge terrorist attacks in the Western world by, at the latest, late October."

More recently, last August, there was the so-called Kennbunkport Warning issued by Webster Tarpley, alleging "massive evidence" for a "new 9/11 terror incident...over the coming weeks and months." A number of its signatories, including Cindy Sheehan and Cynthia McKinney, have since claimed their endorsements were forged and their support for its claims misrepresented, while critical readers of the Statement have been labeled "divisive" and "COINTELPRO" by Tarpley and his supporters.

I've been guilty of it, too. I've been suckered by channeled "insiders" who predicted the other shoe was about to drop. I don't want to be again. Conspiracy research is not a prophetic art. We can see clearly enough to make out the broad strokes on the big canvas, and we can tell it's not going to be a pretty picture, but we're kidding ourselves - actually, entertaining ourselves - if we believe we know how it's all going to turn out. Or that some Unnamed Other is going to come along and tell us, rather than trick us.

Fixing dates for the end of the world and bouncing with goosebumps from one fabricated scenario to the next is imposing a false narrative upon a story that has yet to be told. And the temptation is great, in part because many of the plot points are whispered suggestions of the storyteller who'll never tell us the whole story, but simply means to give us a good fright. This seems to hold, whether the story is Springmeier's "insider's" or Shuttlewood's "flying friend's."

It's a perverse fact of the conspiracy industry that it incubates credulity within those who claim to "Question Everything." But that's the nature of industry, to nurture its market, and the nature of conspiracy, to place every honest and dangerous inquiry into disrepute.

What can you see now?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Blow'd Up Real Good (Part One)

The atrocities over there, the interior paralysis over here -
Pleased with the better deal?
You are clamped down.
You are being bred for pain. - Leonard Cohen, "S.O.S. 1995"

Situation Serious, But Not Too Serious

"That's not the way the world really works anymore," so goes one of the signature quotes of our time, which doesn't much seem like our time. "We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality." But I don't know anymore what is meant by that way, and if the world ever worked like it.

Of course it was shocking, and shockingly true (and shockingly relevant, given the current pre-war show with Iran), but empires aren't alone in reality creation. We do it all the time, or we should, if we take ownership over the life of our minds. If we don't, then we're as good as "owned" in the Fortean sense of property, and pwn'd in the cyber slang of having our asses hacked and handed to us in an attachment.

Sometimes - perhaps most of the time in America and its decadent outposts - our reality is little more than a lifestyle choice. Opposition to empire amounts to which news network you watch, taking conspiratainment in a nightclub routine, and couch-dissenting with court jesters like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

In last week's interview with Bolivia's Evo Morales, Stewart wisecracked that in America elections were "a little rigged," to laughter, as if the joking acknowledgment of an historic tragedy were a revolutionary act. Morales' reality isn't satisfied by a punchline, and so he replied, though most guests likely wouldn't have imagined to thoughtfully follow-up on the quip. "So, if it's rigged," he said, to cheers and applause and Stewart's dumbfoundedness, "something needs to be done to change that."

Jeremy Thorpe, then leader of Britain's Liberal Party, was on trial in 1979 for conspiracy to murder his former gay lover, whose allegations of their affair was tarnishing Thorpe's career. The presiding justice was roundly castigated for his Old Boy bias, and was almost instantly immortalized in Peter Cook's satire "Entirely a Matter for You," which ends with the instruction to the jury, "you are now to retire, carefully to consider your verdict of 'Not Guilty.'" In this documentary clip, Terry Jones says of the Thorpe sketch "it still seems relevant, in the wake of the Hutton Report."

Yes it does. But here's the problem: jokes notwithstanding, Jeremy Thorpe was still found innocent, David Kelly is still dead, and presidential elections are still rigged. So maybe laughter isn't the best medicine to cure our world of empire.

In other places, the realities people choose can save them, kill them or free them, and sometimes all of the above. If you're a Buddhist monk, your excommunication of the "pitiless soldier kings" of Burma and their families may be a deadlier weapon than the one which may end your incarnation.

Freak Out

Freelance author Paulette Cooper was born into one hell of a reality, in Auschwitz, to parents who didn't survive the camp. In 1971 her first book was published, entitled The Scandal of Scientology, and included an interview with the disaffected L Ron Hubbard Jr, which revealed for the first time to a general readership the relation of Hubbard Sr to Aleister Crowley, and of Scientology to the occult. The Church had already sued Cooper for an article she'd written that appeared in London's Queen Magazine in December, 1969, which was also the month she received her first death threat, so of course they sued again. And neither did it end there.

Cooper found herself frequently followed, and multiple attempts were made to break into her apartment. Her phone was found to be tapped, and calls were often obscene and menacing. Anonymous hate mail piled up. She soon felt compelled to move to a residence with higher security, and her cousin Joy took over her apartment. Soon after, Joy opened the door to an unexpected delivery of flowers, and the deliveryman "unwrapped the flowers and there was a gun in it," Paulette told a Clearwater City Council hearing on Scientology in 1981:

And he took out the gun and he put it at Joy's temple and he cocked the gun, and we don't know whether it misfired, whether it was empty and it was a scare technique, what happened, but somehow, the gun did not go off. And he started choking her, and she was able to break away and she started to scream. And the person ran away.

And so she called a detective and he said, "It's a very wild attack because there doesn't seem to be any motive for it." There was no attempted rape, there was no attempted robbery, and why should somebody just suddenly try to kill her....

Then things got crazy.

About a week or two later at my apartment, I received a visit from the FBI. And they informed me that the public relations person from Scientology had claimed that she had received a couple of bomb threats and asked -- and had named me as somebody likely to send bomb threats.

Cooper didn't take the accusation very seriously, and consented to be fingerprinted. On May 19, 1973, she was indicted on three counts of sending bomb threats through the mail. (This is one of the letters.) And it came to that because, although she testified before a grand jury she had never before seen the letters, somehow, her fingerprints were found on them. ("I felt like a grand piano had just hit me on the head. I -- I fainted sitting up; the whole room just turned upside down and I didn't know what to do. And the, of course, the lawyers wanted more money.")

It wasn't until 1977 that the FBI, by its seizure of Scientology documents, learned that the Church had entirely forged the bomb threats to discredit its critic, and had crafted a project called "Operation Freakout" to either drive Cooper to suicide or a mental institution. Part of the plan consisted of a Scientology volunteer impersonating Cooper and making verbal threats towards the President and Henry Kissinger, and a second volunteer reporting them. Another named Jerry Levin moved into Cooper's building and befriended her during her darkest months, and reported back to the Church such things as "She can't sleep again...she's talking suicide. Wouldn't this be great for Scientology!"

Cooper very nearly lost her reality, because Scientology's reach was not exceeded by its means and intent to destroy it. And if we indwell our philosophies and make them our life rather than our lifestyle, we may evoke the same order of determined forces and find similar life and death consequence. If not, then we're more likely to merely freak ourselves out by paranoid invocation and commend ourselves as "info guerrillas."

A hard choice. But property doesn't have to choose.
Post coming later today.

Lousy bronchitis.