davemerrill: (milky)
Like most Americans I'm fascinated and horrified by the Kennedy assassination. You learn about it in school, you maybe go to Dallas and peer through the window in the Book Depository and are creeped out. If you're of a certain age you watched Oliver Stone's movie, you read a couple of books, maybe had lunch with a guy who served with Oswald in the Marines, and you started to question not only the Warren Commission but darn near everything official. And that's a good thing, to examine what you're told and where the evidence comes from, to have some skepticism and some doubt. I spent a lot of time in the conspiracy world in the late 80s - early 90s -reading zines, small press books, and mass market paperbacks, watching amateur videos, and immersing myself in the counterculture conspiracy culture. It led to the Phenomicon convention of 1990-91, a gathering of like-minded nerds interested in THE TRUTH behind UFOs, the Kennedy assassination, the Men In Black, the Illuminati, and the Christian Crusade To Stamp Out Science Fiction (the truth of only one of these topics was conclusively determined).

What I learned from my experience in that culture is that many of these people are really annoying. "Truth" takes a back burner to selling whatever amazing story can be sold to true believers through magazines, TV, books, or lectures; evidence presented by doctors, scientists, and universities is rejected in favor of hearsay, wishful thinking, "what if", and outright lies. The same old tired frauds are dragged out over and over again, no matter how many times they're debunked, because there is no money in boring old facts. Nobody feels like a special seeker when everybody can look things up in the library or verify things for themselves.

It's now fifty years since JFK was shot in Dallas, and it turns out the three tramps were just three tramps, that the magic bullet wasn't quite so magic after all, that Oswald was a desperate, troubled man eager for attention and notoriety. That sometimes a nut with a rifle in the wrong place at the wrong time can change the course of history. It doesn't fit in with any grand scheme or pattern, and humans are pattern-seeking animals, so there's always going to be a tendency to try and find connections. Sometimes they aren't there, no matter how many times the book says "Could it be that...?" or "Perhaps..."

The danger in the conspiracy mindset is being forever stuck in the research stage, never having the balls to say, well, we've been looking for flying saucers for 70 years and nobody's found one yet, maybe it's time to move on. They would have caught a Bigfoot or a Nessie by now, let's find something more productive to do. Maybe Oswald really did shoot JFK, time to use my research skills on something else. It's tough to cut your losses, to walk away from the dry hole, to tell the wide-eyed believers that there's no there there; but unless you want to spend all your time in the world of what ifs and could it bes and just supposes, you gotta do it.

This leads to paralysis in just about everything else, too; convinced the world is a giant interlocking criminal conspiracy, that the TRUTH will never be found out because everybody's in on the scam, that nothing can ever be taken at face value, why not spend all your time questioning everything? It absolves you of any responsibility for your own life. Your problems are always the fault of the Illuminati or the MIB or the FDA or the CIA or pick any Evil Conspiracy you like.

And that's where the real fun comes in, because the deeper you dig into conspiracy culture, the more you find the chewy chunk of racism and anti-semitism at its core. Ernst Zundel selling Nazi UFO books along with his actual Nazi propaganda, David Icke and his "lizard people", right on through the John Birch Society and the conspiratorial mindset behind the extremes on both the right and the left. All looking for the puppet masters behind the scenes, the "other" they can hang all the world's problems on, and then hang.

And that, my friends, is stuff I want nothing to do with. We walked away from the "big Sub-Genius" devival in 1991 to see Man Or Astroman? play in the hall, and I haven't looked back. Turns out MOAM? delivers.


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