History is a set of lies agreed upon.
WRITING MY NOVEL Totally Killer, I spent many hours reading about conspiracy theory. Often entertaining, occasionally infuriating, and, in some cases, illuminating (or Illuminati-ing, as it were), the research allowed me to test what I thought I knew about the world. Even if I concluded that the theory in question was bunk, which I did more often than not, it was satisfying to exercise my critical thinking muscles, the atrophying of which seems to be the prime directive of our superhero-movie culture. Or so the conspiracy theorists would argue.
Because this past weekend was a big one in conspiracy circles (of which more later), I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of what my research revealed—a sort of New World Order primer:
Conspiracy theory is the (pejorative, in conspiracy circles; the preferred term is alternative history) name given to any unorthodox reading of past events that deviates from the official history. It is a blanket term, catholic in scope, and generally met with derision. Tarred by the same feather, all alternative histories, even ones that a great many people assume to be true, seem outlandish. For example, here are two claims I’ve read up on:
1) JFK was killed by Corsican assassins financed by a renegade CIA/Mafia faction; Lee Harvey Oswald was a patsy; the aftermath was a cover-up.
2) The world is ruled by a sub-rosa race of alien reptiles who live beneath the earth; the ancient bloodlines, from whom the leaders of all great nations are descended, are chosen because they are reptile/human half-breeds; George H.W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II are notable examples of said half-bloods.
Although the former is, needless to say, more credible than the latter, both fall under the same banner heading of “conspiracy theory,” and thus the second claim discredits the first by association.
Because conspiracies operate, by definition, in secret, their existence is almost impossible to confirm. As Special Judge Advocate John A. Bingham, who investigated the Lincoln assassination, wrote, “A conspiracy is rarely, if ever, proved by positive testimony. Unless one of the original conspirators betrays his companions and gives evidence against them, their guilt can be proved only by circumstantial evidence.”
Case in point: the clandestine activities practiced upon Democratic rivals and other private citizens by Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President were not exposed until months after the Watergate break-in, and then only when high-ranking officials in the know—first L. Patrick (“Deep Throat”) Gray and later John Dean—came clean.
Without a Deep Throat or a Dean, we are left with dots that we must ourselves connect. In the case of the JFK assassination, there is ample evidence, the fruit of years of dogged research, suggesting that the official explanation—viz., Oswald acted alone—is bogus. But absent a smoking gun (to say nothing of a magic bullet), an eyewitness, an informer, or a deathbed confession, there will always be reasonable doubt; we will never know for sure what really happened, nor will we know why.
Those who subscribe to and write about conspiracy theories tend to be libertine in their acceptance of them. For example, Jim Marrs—who rose to prominence in the field with his meticulous JFK study, Crossfire—has fashioned a career out of writing alternative histories, and he therefore can be biased in their favor. His work, while relatively circumspect, tends to give equal weight to all conspiracy theories, even those that seem to me preposterous. Too, David Icke has written a number of books on what he terms the global conspiracy, and while he makes some compelling points—he writes in gruesome and accurate detail about the casualties in Iraq, for example, which I read when researching “Shock & Awe”—he also has a disturbing tendency to play fast and loose with the facts; he is also the author of the hard-to-fathom Queen-as-reptile theory. Hell, even Glen Beck hits some of the conspiracy theory talking points on occasion—and in so doing, discredits them. (Conspiracy theory is a weird place where the radical right and the radical left sometimes intersect).
So the careful reader must take this stuff with many a grain of salt. But just as we must not assume everything Marrs or Icke or Beck proposes is absolutely true, so we must also not jump to the conclusion that they are, by dint of being alternative historians, always wrong.
The main argument advanced by alternative historians—on this point, they pretty much all agree; there is a single, unified conspiracy theory—goes something like this:
Major world events are carefully choreographed and controlled by a shadowy cabal of éminences grises known by any number of names (Illuminati, Bilderbergers, Knights Templar, Grovers, etc.) and comprised of members of various influential families (Rothschilds, Rockefellers, DuPonts, etc.) in whom real power lies.
Here is how the shadowy cabal is described by one prominent conspiracy theorist (emphasis mine):
If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent….For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence—on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.
Is that written by Jim Marrs? David Icke? Beck? Nope. This passage is taken from a speech given to the American News Publishers Association on 27 April 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. In conspiracy circles, it’s known as The Speech That Got JFK Killed.
And JFK wasn’t the only Chief Executive to acknowledge the existence of these secret powers. His predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, famously hinted at the same in his farewell address:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
It is one thing for a wingnut like Beck to say this kind of thing; we can safely ignore him. But when JFK implores a gathering of journalists to report the truth and not be held captive by a ruthless conspiracy, and when Eisenhower warns that the military-industrial complex may erode our civil liberties, it may be that they’re, you know, trying to tell us something.
I bring this up now because this past weekend, a gathering of some of the world’s most influential humans (or reptilian-humans, if you believe Icke) took place in Chantilly, Va., not far from Dulles Airport—the 60th Bilderberg Group meeting. Usually this annual convention of bigwigs, bankers, and blue bloods is held in Europe; last year, they met at the swanky Suvretta House hotel in Switzerland. The last time the meeting took place on American soil was in 2008, another election year, around the time Barack Obama gave the press corps the slip to have a clandestine rendezvous with Hillary Clinton (and, perhaps, with destiny). Coincidence? Some say no.
Among the attendees this time around: a clutch of tech gazillionaires (Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, Sean Parker, big cheeses at Google, Facebook, and Amazon), governmental second bananas (Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney) and hangers-on (Vernon Jordan, Robert Rubin), various movers and shakers from Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey, assorted European royals, the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, P. Diddy and his white-clad entourage, and the usual New World Order suspects (Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger, and, last but not least, David Rockefeller—in a Darth Vader costume, if you believe the hype). It’s quite the group. And yes, I’m joking about P. Diddy.
Chances are, you didn’t know about this. That’s because press coverage of Bilderberg through the years has been what can charitably be termed half-assed. There’s not exactly a veil of secrecy shrouding the gathering—there are occasional mentions in the mainstream press, usually in op-eds, and the Bilderberg Group maintains its own website—but journalists are not tripping over themselves to get the scoop, either. The New York Times last wrote about the Bilderberg Meeting in 2004. Before this weekend, the Washington Post had just one mention in its archive, an aside from a political gossip column.
(Chew on that for a moment. Charlie Sheen trashes a hotel room, he’s a banner headline, but 120 of the wealthiest and most influential people on the planet hook up, and that’s not worth a sidebar? I mean, stories are filed on the People’s Choice Awards, for fuck sake; why is this less newsworthy?)
This year was a little different. Alex Jones, a prominent conspiracy guy who runs the InfoWars website, led a Bilderberg protest. There were arrests. There were scary-looking municipal cops from something called the Civil Disturbance Unit. There were signs endorsing Ron Paul and calling the Bilderbergers, perhaps unfairly, “scum.” Jones wound up getting interviewed by The Guardian and The Associated Press, and the Washington Post saw fit to cover the brouhaha in its Metro section, in an article titled “Is Bilderberg a conference on world affairs or a powerful global cabal? Depends on who [sic] you ask.” (Note: the title is a trick question; it’s both!)
On balance, it’s a pretty fair piece; the writer, Annie Gowen, quotes the conspiracy theorists without making (too much) fun of them. But we have no idea what went on at the actual meeting, even though Gowen discloses that the chairman of the board of the paper she works for was there, and she could presumably have asked him.
In her defense, it’s a hard event to cover. You can’t get anywhere near the actual pow-wow. As Gowen writes in her second graf, hinting at the police-state tactics in force: “Fairfax County police established a security perimeter around the Westfields Marriott and prohibited a Washington Post photographer from snapping pictures from a public street.” Even if you could, the attendees are sworn to secrecy (to encourage an open, honest dialogue, we’re told, and not to keep the rest of us in the dark about their sinister plans for world domination). What happens at Bilderberg stays at Bilderberg. With no one blabbing, there’s not much for journalists to write about, other than Alex Jones and the (crackpot, always crackpot) conspiracy theories.
Furthermore, the Bilderbergers attend as “private citizens,” not in their official capacities—this is what Angela Merkel does for fun in her spare time, don’t you know: fly to the U.S. to hang out in a suburban Virginia Marriott—and therefore we’re supposed to give them their space and let them dictate geopolitical and global economic policy in peace. If in fact that’s what they’re up to. For all we know, Bilderberg comprises the world’s most exclusive fantasy football league, and this meeting is when they hold their annual draft (rumor has it Rockefeller nabbed Cam Newton).
Me, I find it hard to believe that any shadowy world-ruling cabal would include a guy who was played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. And yet, as the global economy continues to flop about like a beached whale (which the conspiracy theorists predicted, incidentally), as the federal government quietly continues to strip away our civil rights (thwarted at times by unsung heroes like Manhattan federal court Judge Katherine Forrest), as President Obama quietly continues to support the foreign affairs policies of his predecessor (Gitmo’s outlived bin Laden), as the United States not-so-quietly continues to expand its geopolitical hegemony (now we’re in Yemen; can Iran be far behind?), as one of the two prevailing political parties continues to scoff at the very existence of man-made global warming—and as the mainstream media continues its decline in coverage of these life-and-death issues in favor of “sexier” topics, like whether our mothers are mom enough and how much loot that cinematic monument to American mediocrity, The Avengers, has raked in (full of sound and Nick Fury, signifying nothing)—I find myself returning to my research materials with more of an open mind.
As Todd Lander says in Totally Killer: “It certainly would explain some of the shit that goes on.”