by Joan d’Arc
Some people are addicted to heroin, some are addicted to shoplifting, but I, my friends, am addicted to conspiracy theories. I recently came to the realization that I am a “conspiracy geek.” I love science fiction films too, but this might be because they contain themes of futuristic authoritarian control and corporate malfeasance, which also happen to be conspiracy themes. Perhaps I’ve also got the science fiction geek going on, although I’ve never been to a Star Wars convention. However, among my peers in conspiracy theory there are a number of admitted SF geeks.
Since Paranoia’s founding in 1992, we have met many conspiracy theorists like us. So I hit on the idea to ask some of them whether they too might suspect they’re conspiracy geeks. Some adamantly repelled the label; others hesitatingly admitted to it; and a few were sorely cajoled to admit it because their responses were all too obvious. In other words, “Denial” isn’t just a river in Egypt.
I spoke to Kenn Thomas, founder of Steamshovel Press, author of Maury Island UFO, and The Octopus (on the death of Danny Casolaro), and editor of two compilations, Popular Alienation and Popular Paranoia. Kenn denied even being a “conspiracy theorist,” since Steamshovel’s motto is “All conspiracy, no theory.” He argued, “It’s not about conspiracy “theory”; it’s about accurately describing the facts.”
Once we got over that semantic hump, Kenn denied being a conspiracy geek under my definition that interest in the subject is “highly focused” to the exclusion of much else in life. But he did admit to being a conspiracy geek if the term reflects the atmosphere of American parapolitics. Overall he felt the label geek, like the label conspiracy theorist, is “a dismissive thing designed to diminish the very idea that normal, nominally educated American citizens might seriously discuss politics, corruption, hidden agendas, secret power.”
Kenn swears he’s a “normal suburbanite dad,” not a twisted conspiracy weirdo! And he does other things too, like “listen to music and date women.” In fact, he’d just returned from a Fortean conference cruise with Skylaire Alfvegren. I explained to Kenn, “A conspiracy geek isn’t a regular geek. They are capable of asking someone on a date, but the only person who would go with them on said date is another conspiracy geek.”
Admitting I’d gotten him into a kundalini headlock, Kenn finally gave in, saying, “I certainly can’t supply a novel answer if everything but a total confession is a denial.” (I’m good, eh?) Kenn felt the term geek “implies sexual awkwardness, but on the other hand female geekness is sexy.” (That’s a new one on me, but it could explain why I get so many letters from male prison inmates.)
The Kennedy assassination punctuated Kenn’s early life. JFK’s death was more than just dirty politics, he says. “Everything that came after was trickle down from that tragic event: progressive political leaders shot and killed, global war economy, and alternative cultural movements infiltrated and derailed by secret police.”
Like Kenn, I was personally affected by the JFK assassination, having grown up in Massachusetts. When JFK got hit, everything fell apart. Our teachers couldn’t stop crying; our mothers couldn’t cook dinner; children were distraught because our parents were. The double whammy happened two days later. As I sat on the floor in front of the TV, the station broke to show Lee Harvey Oswald being led out before the cameras. From the edge of the screen walked a gunman in a tall hat, who shot him point blank on live feed.
My father hollered and my mother came running into the room. I was catatonic in front of the TV and they pulled me away. The event followed me around until I was ready to put the pieces together, which is what conspiracy theory is all about. We all have these things that bother us in the back of our minds from a young age, but we’re unable to put our finger on it. It’s a slow process, as my interviewees seem to agree.
My father always pointed out when something was “propaganda.” What followed the JFK assassination was full-fledged propaganda. But most people aren’t trained to see it as such, so it takes longer for them to develop a healthy distrust of the government. For me, spinal tap pours pure paranoia; a gift from my dad, who spent a lot of time in the brig on a World War II mine sweeper for rejecting authority (as well as for missing a few port calls due to performing the drunken sailor routine).
Writer and intuitive healer, Jaye Beldo, of the blog Lone Nutter News, admits to being a conspiracy geek. He has just authored a fiction conspiracy thriller, A Stab in the Light, which is a veiled depiction of his own life. Jaye says it’s nearly impossible to escape conspiracy, because “just about everything is a conspiracy.” He explains, “I go outside and there are chemtrails above me. I try to talk to my neighbors, and they’re all under some form of mass hypnosis and can’t think critically.”
While walking in the woods, Jaye says, he once found a trail camera, which takes pix of animals via a motion sensor. A hunter explained to him that it was to learn the habits of animals to reduce the “kill time.” Can this be applied to television? “Watching TV amplifies my awareness of the limbic area of the brain, the reptilian layer. I can only take it in small doses,” Jaye replies. He’s amazed at television’s spellcasting ability, which actually causes people to dissociate. In fact, through his involvement with media people (including BBC Radio, WGN Chicago, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Howard Stern show), he’s convinced they’re controlled by “vampiric forces.” He delves into their world only temporarily, only accompanied by his spiritual guides, and only to “know thine enemy.”
Alternative historian Len Bracken, author of Shadow Government: 9/11 and State Terror, The Arch Conspirator and numerous novels and films, denied being a conspiracy geek; stating that conspiracy – or better said – “historical research” is so broad a field that it isn’t simply one subject. Let’s define what we’re talking about then. The term conspiracy is a huge umbrella term, and includes such subjects as paranormal, occult, secret societies, hidden history, mind control, parapolitics, UFOs, alternative theories of human genesis, and much more.
Len prefers to think of conspiracy research as “strategic theory and historical research.” The fact that Len comes to conspiracy theory from anarchist theory goes a long way in explaining this semantic obstacle. The problem seems to be that anarchists have long derided conspiracy theorists as major simpletons and have been hesitant to come around to the fact that the effect is the same no matter how you smash the wall. To his credit, Len is one of the brave few to walk that tightrope between anarchist theory and conspiracy theory and to do it with eminent skill.
Mind control researcher Kathy Kasten says she has many passions besides conspiracy theory, and that the term conspiracy geek doesn’t fit her personality. She reads and writes about people affiliated with intelligence agencies, but she doesn’t think of it as conspiracy research. However, she does admit that she purposefully looks for conspiracies behind politics. Kathy was bit by the big bad conspiracy wolf at age 10 or 11, when she walked into her grandmother’s kitchen and it was full of high-level city officials. She hid in the bathroom until they had all gone and when she came out she was told to “forget” what she saw.
Paranormal investigator Scott Corrales, author of Chupacabras and Other Mysteries, Flashpoint: High Strangeness in Puerto Rico and publisher of Inexplicata: The Journal of Hispanic UFOlogy, embraces the term conspiracy geek to a certain extent. He says that geekdom, in any of its aspects, doesn’t affect his interaction with the surrounding world or make him dress up funny. He could also tell me a thing or two about science fiction conventions. Judging from the topics of his books and articles, I’m not surprised that Scott is also a science fiction geek!
Scott’s interests extend from ancient history to science fiction, passing through a number of points in between, and he says he’s been able to find conspiracy-related subjects in most of his interests. Do conspiracy geeks go looking for conspiracies in the most “mundane” of subjects? I found this to be a common activity of conspiracy researchers.
Scott says he also got the conspiracy bug from his father, who firmly believed that five percent of the population governed the thoughts and actions of the rest of the population. Scott’s father had been a victim of government persecution in the 1960s for picking up copies of Bohemia, a Cuban publication associated with the Castro regime, at the Czech Consulate in New York.
Conspiracy author Robert Guffey has also published science fiction stories in various magazines and anthologies, as well as scholarly essays on science fiction for The New York Review of Science Fiction. In his experience, his cross-pollination of the two genres seems to be an anomaly, noting that, “science fiction writers are the last people on the planet to even consider the existence of conspiracies.” He notes, the science fiction writers he knows are “uber-rational people” who “subscribe to The Skeptical Inquirer, believe everything published in it without question, and think James Randi’s a genius.” Science fiction buffs tend to have absolute trust in the wonders of technology, and are naively convinced that dumb “mundane bureaucrats” couldn’t pull off anything as complicated as a conspiracy.
The one connection between the two groups is the tendency to confuse metaphors with reality. Robert notes, conspiracy theories might be seen as a vast metaphor for multiple levels of reality, secrets hiding behind secrets ad infinitum. “Once obsessed with the metaphor in one context, one might respond to another reflection of that metaphor in a seemingly unrelated context of science fiction, never knowing that both are shadows of a higher reality … a higher metaphor.”
Robert points out that the academic theorist Noam Chomsky refers to conspiracy research as Institutional Analysis. (This is another substitute phrase made up by the hoity-toity crowd, who take themselves way too seriously. I wouldn’t go with it personally; sounds like counting toilets in a nut house.)
Planet X researcher Andy Lloyd, founder of the Dark Star website (darkstar1.co.uk) and author of Dark Star: The Planet X Evidence, thinks it may be a curse of the male-wired brain to be highly focused on a particular interest, which is generally sports and drinking beer, but can be other occupational pursuits. He suggests that perhaps I (Joan) have a male-wired brain (and he wouldn’t be the first to suggest it)! Andy would have become a science geek, but was forced into the art of multi-tasking by becoming a nurse. This re-jigged his brain to think in a broader, less focused way, which helps with his far-out paintings too.
Andy says his leaning toward conspiracy theory has to do with a general skepticism of the human condition and the fact that those who govern us tend to manipulate us through lies. Otherwise, they tend to lose their power quickly, he notes. “Conspiracy theory gets bad press because our masters would rather we didn’t question them.” Secrets are part of the system, he says, and “it’s the passion of the conspiracy theorist to flush them out. After all, knowledge is power.”
Conspiracy researcher Will Banyan embraces his conspiracy geekness. Although being a geek isn’t a passport to popularity, says Will, it’s less of a turn-off than an “extremist” or “conspiracy nut.” And, he admits, “conspiracy geek” is a fairly accurate description of anyone who spends hours in libraries or on the internet in pursuit of information that supports theories denied by mainstream society and academia.
While Will doesn’t limit his reading to conspiracy books or articles, he maintains his conspiracy geekness by looking for themes, connections and information that might be relevant to his research. He says he caught the curse from an unknown library user who gave him a copy of Nexus. He eventually became a Nexus author as well as a Paranoia author. Would he take a pill? He says the cure for conspiracy geekness is worse than the condition because it means you stop thinking.
Paranoid author Adam Gorightly, author of Prankster and the Conspiracy, Shadow Over Santa Susana (on the Manson Family), and Death Cults unabashedly embraces his conspiracy geekness, “aluminum foil deflector beanie and all”! That’s what separates us conspiracy geeks from those boring “non-paranoids.” Adam contends that paranoia to a certain level, “heightens our awareness of things unseen and hiding in the shadows which non-paranoids are unaware of, numbed as they are by consensus reality.”
Extreme doses of paranoia, says Adam, can turn you into a walking basket case. “Paranoia can set you free and likewise enslave you. You just need to learn how to make it work for you!” He’s grown to appreciate other subjects, but this wasn’t the case twenty years ago when it consumed his life. It wasn’t a bad thing, though. After all, conspiracy geekness got him involved in writing, and contributing to Paranoia, Steamshovel and Excluded Middle introduced him to other conspiracy geeks, “who have made his life infinitely richer and wackier.”
The key event that warped Adam’s brain, he says, occurred in the 1980s when he saw a poster claiming “the CIA Killed JFK.” At this instant, Adam was “scratched by the werewolf of conspiracies.” A “cure” for conspiracy geekness, says Adam, sounds like something from A Clockwork Orange or 1984. “A drug to make us normal, numb, deaf to the many voices in our heads? That doesn’t sound like much fun.” Besides, he says, “chicks dig conspiracy geeks.” (It looks like we have conflicting theories on this issue.)
Musician and artist Doctor Steel (worlddominationtoys.com) embraces his inner geek. He always thought the term “geek” referred to a circus midget who bites the heads off chickens. In which case, he would still embrace the term. Although he does read materials that are not meant to be conspiracy oriented, he often ends up finding reinforcing opinions from most any medium. The true test of conspiracy geekness, he says, is that one sees conspiracies almost everywhere. In high school he began examining “some strange occurrences in his life,” which led him to develop more specific theories. As far as who’s fault it may be, Doc Steel takes full responsibility for his “sideways ideas,” which include songs like “Build the Robots” and “Planet X Marks the Spot.” Would he take a pill? Unfortunately, he’s sure a “cure” is being slipped into his meals on a regular basis. (His awesome music can be heard for free at doctorsteel.com.)
Cryptographer Craig Heimbichner, author of Blood on the Altar: Secret History of the World’s Most Dangerous Secret Society, says he was probably describable as a geek when his mother still gave him fashion advice. Four martial arts belts later, he hopes the term “geek” can be safely left behind. “That’s not to detract from you nor your self-application of the term conspiracy geek,” he tells me, “which I suspect you greatly transcend on several levels and in several dimensions.” (Why, tank u!)
Craig says, “anyone who is not tuned in to the numerous conspiracies that have been leaked in this Revelation of the Method era is hypnotized, slumbering in the arms of Shaitan.” Perhaps the geek phase is natural as one begins to awaken! “The challenge is to apply critical analysis so that one can discern the real situation from disinformation and false theories occasionally sown by the Cryptocracy.” Craig says he’s been called worse things than a conspiracy geek, and he’d wear such a t-shirt proudly. (Is that a hint?) If a conspiracy curse was ever laid on him, he’d suspect the “kabbalistic Pulsa Denura lash of fire curse” whipped up by a group of angry rabbis who have huddled to deal with the “Heimbichner problem.”
Conspiracy author Phillip Collins , co-author (with brother Paul) of the massive tome, The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship, at first denied the designation conspiracy geek, insisting he had many other interests, some of which command more attention than conspiracy research.
Phillip dislikes most conspiracy fiction and thoroughly detested the X-Files and only marginally liked Millennium. The Da Vinci Code is so fraught with historical errors and theological distortions that he couldn’t finish it. The closest thing to a good conspiracy novel, he says, is Clear and Present Danger. Conspiracy research doesn’t translate well into fiction, he says, “since authors tend to grossly oversimplify the relational dynamics among conspirators.”
Phillip says he was enjoying the X-files until Chris Carter began to contradict his own mythology. How so? “The alien rebels show up, sabotage the colonization plan, eliminate the Syndicate and then … poof! They disappear. Oh, and what was with their facial mutilations? To prevent infection by the Black Oil? If they are the same race as the colonists, then wouldn’t they be immune to the Black Oil? OK, the Black Oil was a totally cool form of biological warfare, but if the aliens were so powerful that the Syndicate had to broker a deal with them to forestall an invasion, why would they need the Black Oil at all? Why did the Syndicate agree to create a human-alien hybrid? How did the aliens benefit from that little scheme?”
(Oh my! I have an uncanny way of bringing out the geek in anyone!)
Phillip hopes his research contributes to tearing down the walls of plausible denial and developing solutions to the problem of elite criminality. If there were a cure for being “just a plain geek,” he’d take it. But, unfortunately, he fears his condition is terminal. “Just ask all the girls I asked out to the prom,” he said. Rather than asking them, I asked him, “So you never made it to the prom or you went and acted like a total geek?”
(Ahem.) “I never went because I could not procure a date … at least not any living, breathing chicks. There was one possible candidate for my senior prom, but my mom was out of town.” (Try saying this in the voice of the overweight comic book vendor on the Simpsons. No, seriously, Phillip and Paul are awesome researchers!)
Canadian conspiracy researcher Mark Owen is always on the prowl for news that doesn’t fit the prevailing paradigm: things that are neglected, rejected, buried or suppressed. He’s also a fan of non-PC books and other tomes that have been consigned to the Orwellian memory hole. He’s proud to carry the torch for conspiracy geeks of the past upon whose shoulders we stand, like Mae Brussell, Antony Sutton, Avro Manhattan and others. We can only aspire to such worthy conspiracy geekness.
Occult historian Tracy Twyman is the founder of the magazine, Dagobert’s Revenge, and author of Merovingian Mythos and Solomon’s Treasure: The Magic and Mystery of America’s Money. Tracy has had a long-time interest in history, and certain conspiracy theories she came across seemed to shed new light on the reasons behind certain historical events. She got involved in her field of occult historical research by reading and analyzing the alternative information in books and on websites.
Tracy tells me she’s never heard the term conspiracy geek and doesn’t think she’s one. It seems a bit demeaning, she says, as all geek terms do. She doesn’t accept any rude labels implying she’s a weirdo or a social outcast just because she has a specialized field of knowledge. Is a meteorologist a “weather geek” or a gynecologist a “vagina geek”?, she asks. (The next day Tracy sent me an email about a gynecologist who loved vaginas so much that he became a she. We had actually found our first vagina geek within 24 hours. How’s that for synchronicity?)
Conspiracy researcher and Paranoia co-founder Al Hidell embraces his conspiracy geekness. It radiates from his core. Without it, he says, he would be “too ordinary, too docile, too Joe Sixpack.” But he doesn’t like the term “conspiracy theorist” as snidely used in mainstream publications, where we’re treated as paranoid wackos. He says those in power are rarely labeled “conspiracy theorists,” even though they generally believe in conspiracies when it comes to their perceived enemies. Then we have the wacko “coincidence theorists,” who essentially believe that the connections presented by conspiracy researchers are a coincidence. If it came down to being labeled a “conspiracy geek” or a “coincidence theorist,” Al knows which one he’d choose.
Who laid the conspiracy curse on him? First, Abraham Zapruder filmed the Kennedy assassination, a fuzzy copy of which he saw on PBS in the late 1970s. Then, Max Gilbert, a college friend, gave him a Vatican conspiracy pamphlet with a picture of the Pope making the “fish eyes.” Then, Neal Wilgus and The Illuminoids, an early staple of the conspiracy genre, picked him up by the seat of his geek pants and threw him like a soft ball.
Al would never take a cure for conspiracy geekness, since such a mass “cure” would subvert the conspiracy community. He began to rant about why I’d ask him such a crazy question and wondered who put me up to it and went on about my “real agenda.” So I put him in for his nap and made some calls (first to the pharmacy).
My friend and conspiracy writing partner Frank Berube has been interested in conspiracy research for a long time but doesn’t consider himself a “geek.” He thought about it and said, a “geek doesn’t care about anything other than indulging their hobby to their heart’s content in their own geek heaven.” A geek is someone who “frivolously dances around the fringes of whatever form of geekdom (s)he happens to be obsessed about.” Frank supposes that a geek may be very skilled at what they do, but how they go about it lacks something vital.
There’s a thin line, he adds, between looking and sounding like a geek or being super-involved in one’s work. Maybe drifting into geeky behavior every now and then ain’t so bad, he says. After all, conspiracy researchers have to deal with a lot of crazy material. Reflecting on this statement, he adds, “Joan, if you’re a conspiracy geek, I must be a conspiracy dork! Only a first class dork could take being a geek so seriously.”
In finale, sure, we all want to reject labels. But what if it happens to fit like a nice tight pair of geek pants? I found it interesting that several of my interviewees thought our conspiracy research makes us, in some way, sexy. It sort of makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it? I thank all my conspiracy pals for having such a great sense of humor as we talked about our geekness, or not geekness, and our memories of what put us on the yellow brick road to conspiracy land.
A Cry for Help
My name is Jaye Beldo and I suffer from Advertising Affective Disorder, or AAD. My affliction results from life-long exposure to advertising. Ronald McDonald haunts me in my dreams and tries to get me to pledge allegiance to the New World Order. The Pillsbury Doughboy claims that he is the Messiah and if I don’t worship him he will turn me into dinner rolls. Tony the Tiger waits in the shadows, ready to pounce on me as punishment for trying to think outside the Cornflakes box. Palmolive Madge threatens to soak my entire body in dish detergent because I desire world peace. The Charmin Teddy Bear causes me to fight with my girlfriend. Every time I try to go to an art exhibit, I see Mr. Clean splashing floor cleaner onto a painting by Picasso or Van Gogh. Advertising mascots like Joe Camel, the California Raisins or the Michelin Tire man trespass into my brain and demand that I buy their products. Or else. It doesn’t matter if the ad aired yesterday or 30 years ago because the icons, logos and jingles continue to torment me 24/7. My sense of time has become grossly distorted. Sometimes my attention span comes in 30 or 60 second ad spots.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m being targeted by the CIA. Or perhaps AAD is the result of some Psy-Ops experiment. Perhaps the NSA is behind it all. If so, I’d like to know who or what my handler is. Could only Madison Avenue know for sure? I believe AAD is a silent killer.