Just a little bit ago UMW education professor George Meadows asked me to come into his class on Monday (this coming Monday, October 18th) and talk about weirdness and the web. I think that is a topic I can handle, and it fits the nature of his course quite well. In fact the full course title is: “Critical Thinking and the Internet: Writing about Weird Things” (now there is a brilliant course title). George is no stranger to danger, or having fun for that matter, and he asked me if I might be able to concentrate on conspiracy theories and the web during my guest visit. Such a request immediately made me think of the “precious bodily fluids” scenes from Dr. Strangelove, but then I started thinking about online conspiracy theories and started to sputter. I mean there’s the opportunistic “Google is making us Stupid” conspiracy theory, but I was thinking more along the lines of DARPA’s Total Awareness Initiative being run by the Information Awareness Office (read that Wikipedia article if you aren’t afraid of social networking just yet 🙂 ). And then there is the Russian Business Network—“You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy [on the internet]”—reputed to be responsible for a lion’s share of web-based crime, here is what the Wikipedia article has to say about RBN:
The Russian Business Network (commonly abbreviated as RBN) is a multi-faceted cybercrime organization, specializing in and in some cases monopolizing personal identity theft for resale. It is the originator of MPack and an alleged operator of the Storm botnet.
The RBN, which is notorious for its hosting of illegal and dubious businesses, originated as an Internet service provider for child pornography, phishing, spam, and malware distribution physically based in St. Petersburg, Russia. By 2007, it developed partner and affiliate marketing techniques in many countries to provide a method for organized crime to target victims internationally.
But the thing about both these examples is I think about them more as realities than in any perjorative sense that we currently characterize the term conspiracy theory. So, while I may still use them, I’ll be doing some research this weekend and was hoping some of you maniacs out there may have fun with this and point me to a few good examples. I particularly was hoping to get examples of internet-based conspiracy theories, preferably with links to websites and videos that promote or endorse the theory (flashing mailboxes and animated under construction GIFs are OK).
All that said, I’m also open to conspiracy theory sites like the Journal of 9-11 Studies—which has basically been trying to establish that 9/11 was an inside job for years—which is not specifically about internet-based conspiracy theories per se, but the sites and videos on this topic make it compelling nonetheless. For example, there’s the “WTC 7: The Smoking Gun of 9/11” video that argues that WTC building 7 was blown up after the fact:
So, what do you have? What weirdness can you dredge up for the bava? Because the bava is back, and the bava needs you!
These are not conspiracy theories about the net, which seem to be what you are after, but here is a whole list of sites by far out dudes espousing far out conspiracies.
Another classic conspiracy that you might want to look into is the conspiracy about water fluoridation being part of a mind control plot.
This is isn’t really conspiracy theorism per se, as much a just crazy crankism, but google “al bielak”
That’s one of the things about the internet – it lets the few, the crazy, the wild all find each other and form a community.
Majestic 12 was one of the first conspiracy theories to spread by way of the Internet. It first got going around 1989, spreading over BBSes and Gopher. It really started gathering steam in the early to mid 90’s. And by 1997, if you did a HotBot or AltaVista search for Vannevar Bush, about half the results would call him the kindly old Godfather of the Web, and the other half would call him MJ-1, evil leader of the secret cabal who sold out humanity to the lizards.
Poetically speaking, both are as false as they are true, when churned together in the medium he though would help clarify the glut of knowledge.
I have a *lot* of thoughts on this topic…
All of Infocult stands ready for your commands, your Bavaness.
got plenty of space related stuff for ya….also interested in creating a conspiracy for apollo 12 for kicks!
You are being suckered into a conspiracy jimbo. That guy wants you to talk conspiracy theories, and the unspoken subtext is that there’s a whole bunch of crazies out there, we are all to blame, and they’re all raving on about this and that. Nothing to see here people, go back to your houses, trust us. This guy is part of that conspiracy. Fcking elitist.
I think you should pick 3 of the most compelling facts, and run them. Don’t go weird, or if you must, use weird as a satire, just as Stanley would have. Maybe its the 2 facts you’ve already cited. Personally, I think they’re too obscure. Go with 911, invasion of Iraq, and global warming. Now there are 3 conspiries to work over. Dog whistle is the practice that makes them possible. And the internet blows the lid on them all.
That Crank.net site is awesome, I have to check out the vision behind it. Are those posts really 5 years old? Good, nutty stuff.
I love the MJ12 stuff, and how wild that Vannevar Bush came up with the idea of the internet in the Memex, and now also sold out humanity to the lizards. Where do I find out more about the lizards?
You know I am a huge fan of the Infocult, but I need some curation here, there is so much great stuff, what are your recommendations?
Point me to them 🙂
You’re one of the crazies, I’m glad you chimed in here 🙂 I believe George, like me, believes the insanity of the web makes the idea of these “conspiracy theories” part of the alternative voices that emerge and are given room, even if marginal. So, I hope we don’t patronize to the ideas around the conspiracies, but rather suggest why the weirdness of the web is more fact than fiction, kind of like Zota exemplifies beautifully in his example of the MJ12. Also, thanks for the 4 links, I’m gonna check these out now and put together some of this stuff. Didn’t we talk about the moonwalk as a conspiracy recently? That might be another one to play with.
Thanks all, this is an excellent start.
Robert Newman’s History of Oil
Derek Jensen End Game
The Power of Nightmares
I think the discourse around the topic of “conspiracy” is much more interesting than the actual theories. Like the fact that you don’t want to patronize the alternative narratives is more interesting, than the fact that there are alternative narratives; some of which may be completely baseless. Rather than talking about these people as having little evidence for their beliefs, they are rather insane and out of their minds… and just by discussing their theories you become illegitimate as a person. What an effective method of limiting the discourse.
The whole process of de-legitimizing and thereby marginalizing any alternative to the mass narrative myth given out by the benevolent leaders reeks of propaganda. For example, there is a debate between Dershowitz and Chomsky on Youtube in which Dershowitz appears to paints Chomsky as a loonatic from “Planet Chomsky” and attempts to delegitimize his polemics.
As for conspiracies, I am partial to the whistle blowers as being a control mechanism. For instance, people including Cryptome have claimed that Wikileaks may be a government operation. Other people have suggested that infowars is also run as a cointelpro sort of operation; or disinformation as they lace it with “truth”. As these operations are mainly online, they may qualify.
Essentially anyone is capable of making a myth… and everyone does so in our world. The only difference is between a legitimate myth created by those with power, i.e. Iraq has weapons of mass destruction… and those created by people with no power. Any resemblance of the partial truth gets lost in the “debate”.
BTW. George Carlin talked about converging interests creating implicit conspiracies… I think he might have been on to something… 🙂
There is something wonderfully conspiratorial, as well as accurate, about Douglas Rushkoff’s latest book…project.
Also, you should look at other videos from Dangerous Minds to get your conspiracy fix.
RE: Program or be programmed…
Another long rant, bear with me. To start creating new myths, or regurgitating old ones. The system as it is a massive system of surveillance and control; that is what freedom means in our civilization. The leaders are not threatened, so they don’t rely on explicit force used wholesale, they instead use implicit force; and only act when there is real danger, not a threat of danger. Therefore you can say whatever you want, but you can’t change a damn thing. Over time this has been becoming more explicit as business and government move in to utilize this knowledge to increase their efficiency.
The second part of this control mechanism is capitalism and materialism. This is how the surveillance and control mechanism is mainly used. As you are a consumer with consumer desire for material goods, you are programmed to consume; how can you possibly affect that programming? You are continuously kept under watch, and all your desires reported to the proper interest whether business or government.
The only freedom you have is the freedom to decide on your material desires as supplied by the current market. You already have wiring for desire, they simply tell you want to want or you tell them what you want and in this great democratic consensus we produce goods and services which give your life meaning. They read your desires, and as time goes by they want to get better at doing this. The medium is the message, and that medium, technology, allows for unlimited surveillance and control. This is great for freedom, because it allows for unlimited freedom while keeping benevolent leaders safe from the the meanderings masses who are always in conspiracy against their interests, etc.
No amount of technology can help you escape this. Perhaps distance yourself from it somewhat, which as time goes on is less and less likely; but never escape from it. So if your desires can not be fulfilled by consumption of material goods, i.e. they are spiritual or based on some other psychological need, or aesthetic need… you are shit out of luck. There is a very specific type of coerced political economy and they are willing to use force to maintain it and help it grow. They want only to replicate it in all other parts of the world, at the cost of cultures, etc.
So then what is a conspiracy really, other than a radical sort of politics? And if so then the question is whether or not a radical politics should be allowed to exist. Our benevolent leaders don’t seem to think so.
What do I think? I think that without radical politics certain political possibilities become impossible… so when the system becomes too corrupt it can’t be fixed; history shows this. The upside is that if the system is perfect, like our system is, then it can continue on forever… and gradual change is all that is needed… and even not too much gradual change; as we already understand scientifically that material consumption is all a man needs, and that religion and spiritual beliefs, and inequality are bad and evil; priests are pedophiles, woman are equal to men in their needs and desires… etc.
You have to include David Ickes and his belief that the world is secretly being controlled by Reptiods. He has even went so far as to say that the Protocol of the Elders of Zion was written by these repatalian humanoids. Ickes is a high priest of insane theories.
2) Gog, Magog and the upcoming Armageddon
I heard Gog and Magog either referred to as demons which is what Bush supposedly told Shirac we were fighting in Irag or they have also been identified as nations.
1 version with several theories
“In short, the battle Gog and Magog is war in the latter days (Last days) when a confederacy of nations attack Israel, which has been restored in the last days. These nations, which attack Israel in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, include nations, which are Muslim and have a clear animosity to Israel. Along with these Muslims nations, a northern kingdom, called Gog and Magog, which many identify, as the land Russia, will ally itself with Muslim nations, to oppose Israel in the last days. ”
Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”
The report on Anonymous on FOX11 might be fun and interesting to show the class — the conspiracy of the internet hate machine.
It’s also a way to bring up 4chan which they probably already know about. How’s that for weirdness?
I’m still fond of death panels. Where did that launch, Facebook or Twitter? It reached some good heights:
Oil spill as FEMA plot!
How about the Digg-Dawkings-socialmediaplotagainstGOD?
Alternatively, how about some test materials for apophenia and credibility?
Example 2: any given slew of mainstream tv news, try to suss out the hidden hand behind such widespread *yet seemingly unconnected* evil:
Example 3: high school life, like
Let me say it loud and clear: YOU’RE AWESOME! Thanks for this.
All this talk of conspiracy theories reminds me of Snopes (http://snopes.com/). A website that spends its time debunking urban legends, especially the ones that get spread around easily by the web.
@Bava – nobody does the weird like Infocult. NOBODY!
@Leigh – what makes Derek Jensen a conspiracy theorist? From his books he comes across as a cultural-historical critic, more along the lines of Murray Bookchin or even Oswald Spengler.
@Shannon – excellent site. Snopes is in my daily RSS crawl.
Liberal media conspiracy
@Bryan: As mentioned, any myth that purports conspiracy is a worthy example. Whether you look at them as nut jobs or credible critics is a matter of perception. The other example in Leigh’s list is the Power of Nightmares, which is factual as far as I am concerned… but may seem loony to certain interests.
So how does one then get agreement? Often by censoring them, calling the other side crazy, insane, lunatics… Rather than oracles, mystics, and prophets.
By the way, I don’t disagree with any of your positions… most of these “other” people are nuts… but so are many credible people in positions of power who conspire on a regular basis to bring about all sorts of social objectives, wars, conflicts, or even peace as they see fit. So why criticise the loonies without power and not those with it… who are often cheer leading the loonies to gain yet more power and control over the affairs of the people.
I understand, Sam, and appreciate the demonizing power of calling something lunatic.
But I don’t think Jensen posits a conspiracy. Like Marx, he argues that a certain form of socio-political activity is *structurally* doing awful things. Not a conspiracy, but something larger and deeper.
Unless you can point to something in Jensen’s stuff that I haven’t read yet…
@Bryan I am actually not familiar enough with his work to give you a definitive answer. But if I wanted to create rhetoric against his work to label him a lunatic I would use other people that are Anarcho-primitivists that have in the past used violence to attempt to bring down industrial society. I would associate him with that, and basically attempt to show that the society that he wants is a hell hole without technology… etc. That without technology a few billion would have to die because of food shortages… and he’s a monster advocating for that sort of change… etc.
@Bryan, as for his work being related to a conspiracy… I think his work is exposing the conspiracy that is technocratic society. So he’s exposing that conspiracy which surrounds us, and is much bigger as it grips the planet right now. But that’s just the way the institutions work, right; there is no conspiracy… that’s its structure; and perhaps that’s what you mean as it not being a conspiracy… and perhaps that’s the “correct” way of looking at the issue.
Check out his writing. Earlier stuff is very accessible, a nice mix of various subtypes of nature writing.
It’s very important, maybe essential, to distinguish between conspiracy and structure.