Archive - 2015

How one man turned conspiracy theories and impending doom into a YouTube empire

Davidson is probably the last person you’d suspect would become a conspiracy entrepreneur. Hailing from a well-to-do suburb outside Pittsburgh, he studied meteorology in college before receiving a B.A. in economics and then a law degree in 2011. It was around then when the tsunami and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant introduced him to a world of scientific inquiry at odds with the mainstream. “I became really interested in the Japan earthquake,” he tells me, “just because I wanted to understand the raw power of what was going on.” This was at a time when pop culture was freaking out over an impending doomsday scheduled for Dec. 21, 2012.

Four years later, he’s not only making a living—he’s established a haven for hundreds of thousands of people whose outré beliefs make them feel marginalized. In short, he’s created a community of believers.

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The Earth is flat and ‘they’ don’t want you to know

In the year 1543, the Pope teamed up with Copernicus, the Church of England, and possibly Aristotle (who, inconveniently, had died in 322 B.C.) to convince unsuspecting Europeans that, despite the Earth’s obvious flatness, it’s actually a sphere, and that the sun is the center of the universe. In the years since, the usual bad guys—Catholics, Jews, and bankers—have jealously guarded the secret of the flat Earth. And with the birth of the space age, NASA (basically a joint project between the Freemasons and the Nazis) got involved. That, at least, is the story according to the Flat Earth Truthers, a small but vocal group who believe that the world is flat, and that this knowledge is the key to understanding who really runs the world.

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Corey Feldman Uncaged

Corey Feldman is an American actor and singer, best known for films including The Goonies, Stand by Me, The Lost Boys, and Gremlins.

He has also had a front seat to some of the more pressing conspiracies of our time.

Henry Kissinger and the true meaning of Bilderberg

It’s June, and you know what that means — Bilderberg season!

Every year around this time, a selection of national and corporate leaders (and some of their biggest fans) get together for a no-holds-barred talk about running the world (and, some fear, running us). Among the participants at the 2015 Bilderberg conference in Austria:

  • Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg
  • Eric Schmidt (of Google fame)
  • Henry Kissinger (of “war criminal” fame)
  • Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell
  • BlackRock VC Philipp Hildebrand

…and public officials from a number of countries, including the US, UK, France, and Turkey.

It’s called Bilderberg because its first meeting was at the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands. Without belaboring the history of the annual meeting (because, who cares?) the thing is an opportunity for representatives of various countries in North America and Europe to discuss the issues of the day. This year, topics including cybersecurity and the American elections are on the table. Of course, the attendees deserve close scrutiny; but they always deserve close scrutiny, whether they all go on vacation together or not.

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Jade Helm and (more) William M. Arkin

I suppose it’s only natural that people would freak out when word of the U.S. Army’s imminent Jade Helm training exercises started making the rounds. Hell, if you’re going to assume the worst whenever some part of the government announces — well, anything — I can certainly understand the impulse.

The whole affair began with a slideshow put together by the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) called “Request To Conduct Realistic Military Training (RMT) JADE HELM 15.” [PDF] Although this document would be of little interest to most Americans, it immediately set off red flags among internet conspiracy theorists and those who love them. That’s because the terms “training” and “drill” mean “the opposite of training” and “martial law” in conspiracy-talk. For instance, one popular conspiracy theory posits that the Boston Marathon bombing never happened, that it was a hoax, some sort of drill conducted in order to justify the continued expansion of the nation’s “police state infrastructure.” The same has been said about the Oklahoma City Bombing, the civil unrest in Ferguson, and the 9/11 attacks on New York, the Pentagon, and a field outside of Pittsburgh. This rush towards enslavement, it is claimed, will culminate later this month with the Jade Helm plot to establish martial law in the southwest.

(And it’s not just the government that’s in on it. Apparently, Walmart is somehow involved.)

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Talking war and secrecy with William M. Arkin

For the last 40 years, William M. Arkin has been studying war: first for the Army, when he was a military analyst stationed in West Berlin, then for groups like the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Human Rights Watch. He has also been a columnist for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. In 2010, Arkin made waves coauthoring the series “Top Secret America” with Dana Priest for the Washington Post (later published as a book of the same name). Recently he launched Phase Zero, a Gawker blog covering national security issues. His latest book, Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare, arrives July 28.

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James Tracy and the Boston Marathon bombing deniers

On April 8, Dzhokar Tsarnaev was found guilty of the bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others. His life now hangs in the balance, as jurors decide whether he should face the death penalty or life in prison. To jurors, Dzhokar’s guilt was a foregone conclusion. But for a small crowd of conspiracy theorists, the defense team’s admission of guilt was just the latest in a series of lies told to the public in service of a larger, false narrative.

There’s no modern conspiracy theory that’s more counterintuitive or flat-out mean than the belief that the victims of the Tsarnaev brothers (roughly 260 injured and three killed) were merely actors. According to this theory, the dead and wounded are the real criminals, working in league with a secret government to hoodwink the American people.

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I Was A Teenage Transhumanist!

I recently reacquainted myself with Timothy Leary’s books when I wrote an article for The Kernel. In it, I took a critical look at some of the more ridiculous aspects of transhumanism — the five-figure corporate seminars, the technolibertarian greed, the bizarre belief that Technological Singularity is imminent — as well as some of the cooler, more down-to-earth folks that make up the scene. Or the meme. Or whatever it is.

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In the basement with transhumanism’s DIY cyberpunks

When he isn’t working at a parking lot in Uptown, Kukulski publishes books under the Six Gallery imprint. A local institution, the press publishes everything from experimental fiction and poetry to essays and memoirs. (And yes, I’ve worked on a couple projects for the press in the past.) It also published its fair share of speculative fiction and science fiction, literary genres that hold a special place in Kukulski’s heart.

Tonight we’re talking transhumanism, the nebulous belief, prevalent among Silicon Valley’s monied elite, DIY body hackers, and some very well-trod zones of Reddit, that with advancing technology, humanity is inevitably going to take the reins of our own evolution and become something post-human. (Or multiple kinds of post-human.) Strains of it appear in everything from William Gibson’s early cyberpunk work to the video game Deus Ex to David Cronenberg’s adaptation of The Fly. As a method of extrapolating the present into any number of potential futures, it appeals to a particular breed of cerebral sci-fi fan.

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Peter Levenda on Cthulhu, Kenneth Grant, and the ‘sinister forces’ in American history

If you want the maximum bang for your book-buying buck, you could do worse than Peter Levenda. Aside from his probable authorship of the Necronomicon, Levenda has written something like a dozen books on occult history. His most ambitious work, Sinister Forces, is a three-volume set that details the dark side of the American story, from whatever happened to those pre-Colombian American civilizations to CIA mind control experimentation and beyond. Ultimately, Sinister Forces is an examination of America’s failure to acknowledge the existence of evil — and it does this through a relentless deluge of conspiracist high weirdness. The books are fascinating, and they’ve earned kudos from fellow authors Jim Hougan (who called it “one of the darkest and most provocative books that you are ever likely to read”) and Norman Mailer.

I interviewed Levenda a while back about these sinister forces, and about his book The Dark Lord: H.P. Lovecraft, Kenneth Grant, and the Typhonian Tradition in Magic. The transcript was edited for space and clarity, mostly because I had a fever when I did the interview, and really I wasn’t making all that much sense. This didn’t seem to bother Levenda, however. He’s able to be erudite and well-spoken with very little prompting.

In The Dark Lord, you discuss the occult significance of H.P. Lovecraft’s work — an idea that Lovecraft himself would disavow. When did you become interested in the subject?

It was the paradox that intrigued me initially. Lovecraft was a self-professed atheist, and someone of a very scientific bent. He started writing articles for an astronomy magazine, he had wanted to become a scientist and an astronomer. He just wasn’t able to do that because of his family situation, living at home and the fact that he was sickly through most of high school and had a very hard time graduating high school because of that. So, one thing led to another and he wasn’t able to gratify that urge that he had. But he considered himself a scientist. He had no patience with mysticism, occultism, or religion for that matter. Yet he is considered the father of modern gothic horror, which for him is based on a scientific appreciation of the fact of science, of the fact that reality as we know it, being at its heart composed of vast distances and vast amounts of time. He found that to be unsettling. He was totally opposed to any idea of their being any kind of spiritual forces or entities coming into this world from the outside. And yet, that’s all he wrote about.

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