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I can see the fnords!
June 29, 2009 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Before 9/11, the center of the conspiracy theorist's universe was the Kennedy Assassination. And probably the definitive statement on the ridiculousness of the conspiracy theories of that era was the Illuminatus! Trilogy[warning, the entire several hundred page novel in PDF], published in 1975 and written by two Playboy editors at the height of the era of flower power. It drew on many sources, but most distinctively, it drew from a little public domain pamphlet called The Principia Discordia. Many people know the catch phrases (Fnord! Hail Eris!), but not many people know the authors' very real connections to the Kennedy Assassination.

Malaclypse the Younger (Greg Hill) worked in Jim Garrison's office in New Orleans and the very first copy of the Principia was run off of Garrison's copy machine. There's a copy of the first edition in the official House JFK assassination records. Kerry Thornley served in the Marines with Lee Harvey Oswald and wrote a novel based on Oswald before he assassinated Kennedy. He testified to the Warren Commission about his friendship with Oswald and later was accused of being part of the conspiracy by Jim Garrison, who ended up charging him with perjury. Garrison's theory was so convincing that Thornley actually came to believe that he may have been unknowingly involved in the conspiracy.
posted by empath (76 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite

 
You fool! Now they're on to us! Who is this? I don't know you! Prank poster! Prank poster!
posted by Ghidorah at 6:34 PM on June 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Thanks for the book link. Lost my original copies in a fire. Now I have it in a nice netbook compatible format. Kalliste!
posted by Samizdata at 6:40 PM on June 29, 2009


I love the picture caption in the "Before 9/11" Wikipedia link:

"The collapse of the two World Trade Center towers and the nearby WTC7 are a major focus of 9/11 conspiracy theories."

No shit?
posted by Cyrano at 6:41 PM on June 29, 2009


I'm a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, but my primary focus is on hollow earth stuff.

I know you're down there reading this, mole men; I'm on to you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:49 PM on June 29, 2009 [15 favorites]


Lost my original copies in a fire.

A fire you say? How convenient, and some say possibly a little too convenient.
posted by mattoxic at 6:50 PM on June 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


the definitive statement on the ridiculousness of the conspiracy theories of that era was the Illuminatus! Trilogy

Ridiculousness? What exactly are you suggesting here? This book is nothing, if not, the anti-Atlas-Shrugged. I know this because I read Metafilter.
posted by philip-random at 6:52 PM on June 29, 2009


There's actually a long riff on Atlas Shrugged in the book:
Briefly, then, Telemachus Sneezed deals with a time in the near future when we dirty, filthy, freaky, lazy, dope-smoking, frantic-fucking anarchists have brought Law and Order to a nervous collapse in America'. The heroine, Taffy Rhinestone, is, like Atlanta was once herself, a member of Women's Liberation and a believer in socialism, anarchism, free abortions and the charisma of Che. Then comes the rude awakening: food riots, industrial stagnation, a reign of lawless looting and plunder, everything George Wallace ever warned us against— but the Supreme Court, who are all anarchists with names ending in -stein or -farb or -berger (there is no overt anti-Semitism in the book), keeps repealing laws and taking away the rights of policemen. Finally, in the fifth chapter— the climax of Book One— the heroine, poor toughy Taffy, gets raped fifteen times by an oversexed black brute right out of The Birth of a Nation, while a group of cops stand by cursing, wringing their hands and frothing at the mouth because the Supreme Court rulings won't allow them to take any action.

In Book Two, which takes place a few years later, things have degenerated even further...
It goes on quite a bit more from there...
posted by empath at 7:01 PM on June 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


Paraphrase is not satire.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:04 PM on June 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


There was a young lady from Queens
Who gobbled a plateful of beans
  The beans fermented
  And she was tormented
By embarasing sounds in her jeans!
posted by shoesfullofdust at 7:08 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


(from page 109 of the PDF if you're reading along)
posted by shoesfullofdust at 7:32 PM on June 29, 2009


What a fun book that was to read in high school. Too bad a lot of people actually took it seriously, and ended up cornering me at campus parties expounding on the different interconnected conspiracies the book "revealed". It was stunning to me, like talking to someone who'd read A Modest Proposal and was like, "Yeah, what's wrong with that guy? Eating kids? How messed up is that?"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:42 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The collapse of the two World Trade Center towers and the nearby WTC7 are a major focus of 9/11 conspiracy theories."

Huh. And here I was thinking it was all about the disappearance of chemtrails.
posted by codswallop at 7:52 PM on June 29, 2009


FNORD
posted by Artw at 7:53 PM on June 29, 2009


I know you're down there reading this, mole men; I'm on to you.

Oh Christ, the crab people have gotten to Astro Zombie.
posted by codswallop at 7:54 PM on June 29, 2009



posted by Artw at 10:53 PM on June 29 [+] [!]

Why are you leaving blank posts, Artw?
posted by cimbrog at 8:02 PM on June 29, 2009 [22 favorites]


I made my wife read this.

.
posted by Cathedral at 8:09 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know you're down there reading this, mole men; I'm on to you.

¿ʍouʞ noʎ pıp ʍoɥ ¡spunoz
posted by brundlefly at 8:13 PM on June 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


I've been a practicing Discoridan for a while. One day I hope to stop needing the practice....
posted by sotonohito at 8:15 PM on June 29, 2009


Did Fnord you Fnord mean to post Fnord a blank Fnord comment Artw?
posted by schyler523 at 8:17 PM on June 29, 2009


Needs pinealgland tag.
posted by tzikeh at 8:17 PM on June 29, 2009


expounding on the different interconnected conspiracies the book "revealed".

Amazing. I always thought the book functioned as a vaccine against paranoid conspiracy theories. Oh well, that's what happens sometimes when you administer a live virus.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:20 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Lick here [ ] You may be one of the lucky 25!
posted by jimfl at 8:20 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh, and this is my favorite book, if you couldn't tell from my username...
posted by schyler523 at 8:20 PM on June 29, 2009


Just dug this out a few days ago -- I saw Public Enemies and remembered that John Dillinger was a recurring character in the book.

This is probably not a coincidence.
posted by muckster at 8:21 PM on June 29, 2009


it was years after reading those books that my group of friends could refrain from saying "coincidentally" after anyone said five or twenty-three.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:21 PM on June 29, 2009


How will I know, Jim? The screen, it tasted good.
posted by ambient2 at 8:24 PM on June 29, 2009


We don't need to read no stinking book. Tribulation 99 explains everything. This trailer only hints at the secrets revealed in this movie. It's got your JFK, the Masons, the replicant Castro, the psychic vampire regime in Grenada and the Allende plot to alter the Earth's axis.
posted by marxchivist at 8:28 PM on June 29, 2009


Also relevant (and funny): this ad for the board game Scot Free, from Kentucky Fried Movie (YT).
posted by mosk at 8:38 PM on June 29, 2009


all because of an obscure island named Fernando Poo.

and my name is, if you will pardon me, Nkrumah Fubar.

Hey gimme a hit off that ok
posted by vrakatar at 8:40 PM on June 29, 2009


Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Garrison a rabid homophobe who somehow found a way to champion the least plausible of all the possible Kennedy conspiracy theories?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:58 PM on June 29, 2009



posted by zamboni at 8:58 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now, Afroblanco, why would Oliver Stone make a movie that must, based on your description, simplify and misrepresent a very complicated and morally ambiguous man?

Also, when John Candy shows up in Ray Bans in JFK, the movie goes into the fucking stratosphere, man.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:00 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


My favorite Kennedy assassination theory video. Full of some some amazing leaps of logic, but fun nevertheless.
posted by eye of newt at 9:51 PM on June 29, 2009


Also, when John Candy shows up in Ray Bans in JFK, the movie goes into the fucking stratosphere, man.

I dunno, eating a meal in NOLA never seemed the same to me after that. Like it was missing something. Like, maybe a hyperkinetic rotund hipster in Ray-Bans, man.
posted by mwhybark at 10:00 PM on June 29, 2009


RAW was a genius. There are few men with such brilliant minds and ideas that have been so heartily ignored by the mainstream as Robert Anton Wilson. Have any of you perused his Quantum Psychology concept? Absolutely brilliant.

But the most moving aspect, and one that convinced me that there *is* indeed hope for the human race, after years of depressed despair, was the way thousands of strangers got together to help RAW in his final days, donating money so that he could maintain in his home as he died, rather than be carted off to some horrible hospital. My gods! Altruism still lives! Take that, Ayn Rand!

The Discordians never really interested me, even though I have been involved with them tangentially for years. It seems a quintessentially American gag or routine. It has no relevancy elsewhere, imho, tho' I'm prepared to be convinced otherwise.

But RAW's ideas.. they're universally applicable.. if you are a domesticated primate, that is. Tri-lobed pseudo-cephalopods from Fomalhaut Alpha may find their results vary.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:18 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tri-lobed pseudo-cephalopods from Fomalhaut Alpha may find their results vary.

Leave unteleported men out of this.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:21 PM on June 29, 2009


expounding on the different interconnected conspiracies the book "revealed".

Indeed it's a vaccine against conspiracy theories, but (especially for someone from outside the US who didn't grow up with the cultural context) it's also an invaluable guide to How Things Work.

The follow up Schrodinger's Cat trilogy is funnier on a literary level but more rooted in its time (and thus not as well known, but still worth a read). Masks of the Illuminati is less well-known again but exceeds the Illuminatus trilogy on both a literary and pedagogical level.

Very strongly recommended if you like RAW and haven't read it yet - as good as his psychology/philosophy books, or perhaps even better as a demonstration rather than a straightforward exegesis.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:04 PM on June 29, 2009


Yeah, I did read Schoedinger's Cat and enjoyed it much more. Where the Illuminati was a big, fun, sloppy, hilarious mess, Scroedinger's Cat was tightened up a bit, and packed a sharper punch. Great stuff, definitely.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:13 PM on June 29, 2009


Marisa: It was stunning to me, like talking to someone who'd read A Modest Proposal and was like, 'Yeah, what's wrong with that guy? Eating kids? How messed up is that?'

It's more like someone reading "A Modest Proposal" and saying "Eating kids? What a great idea!"

I and my friends (at least one who is active on Metafilter) were quite taken by the Illuminatus! trilogy, Principia Dischordia, and the more amusing aspects of Dischordianism when we were in high school. There was a marquee up in the cafeteria that was rentable (usually for club announcements and the like). One May 23rd, we paid to have the words "HAVE A NICE FNORD SUMMER" put up. We all work monk robes to school that day. I'd tell you about the chaos we got into the following May 23rd, I'm not entirely certain the statute of limitations has run out on that.

I never met anyone who took it seriously, but the mere fact that such people existed kind of baffles the mind. It's sort of by-definition impossible to take seriously.

-the Mgt-
posted by ErWenn at 11:15 PM on June 29, 2009


Have any of you perused his Quantum Psychology concept?

Maybe.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:16 PM on June 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


I never met anyone who took it seriously, but the mere fact that such people existed kind of baffles the mind. It's sort of by-definition impossible to take seriously.

That's what I always thought, but the people who cornered me about it were of the opinion that the real joke was that these conspiracies did exist, and were being hidden in plain sight by talking at length about how ridiculous they were.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:19 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I did read Schoedinger's Cat and enjoyed it much more. Where the Illuminati was a big, fun, sloppy, hilarious mess, Scroedinger's Cat was tightened up a bit, and packed a sharper punch. Great stuff, definitely.

Nicely put. Illuminatus is the one that gets talked about, Schrodinger is the genuine masterpiece. Heartily recommended to any and all who gave up on Quantum Mechanix etc in the wake of mercenary (and earnest) crap like What the Bleep do we Know?
posted by philip-random at 11:24 PM on June 29, 2009


I'm not 100% sure that RAW himself didn't believe in any of them. He seemed rather serious about the dog-star stuff.
posted by empath at 11:24 PM on June 29, 2009


I thought Scrodinger's Cat was kind of dull, honestly.
posted by empath at 11:27 PM on June 29, 2009


On the subject of beleif, or otherwise, in weird things I strongly recommend the Cosmic Trigger books. I don't know if he was serious about the dog-star stuff but he certainly had a serious something happen to his brain at somepoint which led to it.
posted by Artw at 11:29 PM on June 29, 2009


Based on total book sales, the theory in The Illuminatus Trilogy is not as accurate as the one in The Da Vinci Code.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:32 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


RAW was completely agnostic about everything. He entertained ideas without buying into them. He talked about ego jumping, being able to entertain a belief system totally 100%, then abandoning it to move on to something else. He was able to entertain concepts in order to appreciate the kernel of value in them, then discard them like an old robe. The only way to fly, kids.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:34 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Based on total book sales, the theory in The Illuminatus Trilogy is not as accurate as the one in The Da Vinci Code.

RAW was talking about the da Vinci code before the da Vinci code came out:

The I in the Triangle
posted by empath at 11:59 PM on June 29, 2009


I thought Scrodinger's Cat was kind of dull, honestly.

Oh yeah!?

RAW was completely agnostic about everything. He entertained ideas without buying into them. He talked about ego jumping, being able to entertain a belief system totally 100%, then abandoning it to move on to something else. He was able to entertain concepts in order to appreciate the kernel of value in them, then discard them like an old robe. The only way to fly, kids.

Yes and ummm ... I would add that maybe he did actually "believe" in some of the deep weirdness of which he wrote, but was wise enough to know that "belief" is a common and perhaps unavoidable human affliction. We all suffer from it at least occasionally but it's nothing to build a worldview on.
posted by philip-random at 12:28 AM on June 30, 2009


There's a great biography on Kerry Thornley out called The Prankster and the Conspiracy. The consensual truth is even more bizarre than what's in the conspiracy mill.
posted by quartzcity at 12:50 AM on June 30, 2009


The Best Michael Jackson Conspiracy Theories
posted by DreamerFi at 1:12 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did you know that "nine eleven changed everything" can be rearranged to spell "A Leeched Inn Revenging the Envy?" Any fool can see what that suggests.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:00 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Any fool can see what that suggests.
*ahem* cementation zeniths?
posted by juv3nal at 2:34 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the world needs a new genre of flash game : conspiracy theory choose your own adventure. So you'd get different variations on the Kennedy assassination depending upon your investigative choices, ultimately proving one wacky theory and winning a Pulitzer. Or you'd eventually be deemed a crackpot if your investigation was too thorough. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 3:14 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


jeffburdges -- i like it! it would add a whole level of weird to flash friday games.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:45 AM on June 30, 2009


I used to think my tattoo of the Five Fingered Hand of Eris over the Sacred Chao was unique and daring, representative of that chaotic time in my young adult life when I was really, really into RAW. I drew the design myself and had it done when I turned 21.

But then a few years I noticed the guy who sold me my Mac had pretty much the same tattoo, except in color.

And I grew to wonder which Apple we were honoring anyways.

And the veil pulled back from my eyes and lo, I was afraid.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:05 AM on June 30, 2009


The book is nothing without the companion Steve Jackson literature.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:39 AM on June 30, 2009


Me.
posted by fnord at 6:37 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was reading up on this stuff the other day, reminiscing about my RAW days and learning about the Kennedy/Oswald connection for the first time. The Illuminatus! is one (three) of those books that, if you read it at the right time, usually high school, really does change your life at least in some small way. I still have my original copy, and a 1979 edition Principia Discordia that I found used. I assume it has already been licked.

Funny story: Around 1998, I had a friend who worked with a guy who claimed to have some little-know information about the Kennedy assassination. In fact, he had video footage of the event which had been suppressed by the government, and was now being passed around clandestinely by those with the right connections. He was obviously pretty secretive about the whole thing. Well my friend finally convinced this guy to show the tape, and it turned out to be a third- or fourth-generation, taped from television clip from the Zapruder film, which the guy had somehow never heard of. Neither of us was all that surprised.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:45 AM on June 30, 2009


Damn I'm late to this thread.
I translated the Principia in French back in '96.
It can be found here (images) and here (text).
posted by zenzizi at 8:09 AM on June 30, 2009


I know what I am gonna do to Goddess when I find her, you can bet on that.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2009


"I never met anyone who took it seriously, but the mere fact that such people existed kind of baffles the mind. It's sort of by-definition impossible to take seriously."

Heaven's Gate, man.
But looking at the folks on X-Day at the Subgenius stuff, it's not hard to see there either. Stang (at Brushwood) comes out, there's the 'radio reports' of the world ending as the Earth turns, gets to local time and - nada. And he stands there with a big shit eating grin and the crowd sits there like startled deer waiting for the cues to what's next.
Kinda funny really. Well, not just kinda. A joke in the making since '79 and the punchline falls flat 19-odd years later (I was laughing uproariously, but y'know, often I'm surrounded by an SEP field)
Funnier still though were the Discordians handing out pamphlets that intimated that since nothing had happened (as opposed to 'nothing' having 'happened'), readers should look into Discordianism. Made me laugh even harder. Not all I did of course, but wei wu wei's my thing, so I had some breakfast in the woods and took a nap.
Seems to me most people hung up on conspiracy theories (pranks are an inversion - fun tho) are pissed off about control. As if such a thing existed.
I mean, it's not only impossible to take "Illuminatus!" seriously, it's impossible to take any information at all seriously ("Foucault's Pendulum" comes to mind). Hell, look at Thornley. But a lot of people hint that they know more than they want to tell. Thinking you're in on it doesn't help. Eventually, yeah, you cut your own balls off and wind up in bed wearing Nike's with $5 bucks and change in your pocket.
Funny, I understand RAW met Applewhite very briefly. The latter asked him an apparently incoherent question at an event RAW was speaking at or some such.
I heard Tim Leary debated G. Gordon Liddy on 'The State of the Mind vs. The Mind of the State.' Eventually they went on tour together.
Meh. Stuff gets weird. It's a nice hobby, tho.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:40 AM on June 30, 2009


zenziz -- i'm curious to hear more about that.

Any special challenges to the translation? Is it popular in France? (at least in the same circles that it's popular in the US -- hackers, nerds, etc)
posted by empath at 8:41 AM on June 30, 2009


Although sometimes even though some things are jokes, they're very important and should be taken seriously. Emperor Joshua Norton comes to mind. But there's a recursive element there.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:00 AM on June 30, 2009


Nthing the love for Schrodinger's Cat and The Cosmic Trigger which I swear changed my life, no shit, at the oh so coincidental age of 23. Now that I'm older I try every few years to reread the Illuminatus but I can't, somehow, make my way through it; I think it's got to be at one of those magical certain moments in your life or it just doesn't resonate, somehow.

A family member of mine has essentially devoted the majority of his life to Kennedy linked conspiracy stuff and yes, when he's talking it sometimes makes a scary kind of sense but then - it doesn't. It presupposes superhuman clarity, intelligence and organization and I just can't quite get behind that; I can see people as engaging in an endless series of pratfalls and fuckups but being actual masterminds of evil, not so much. But maybe that's what all those coincidences are supposed to tell us after all. Hail Eris!
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2009


Illuminatus! is still my favorite book for sheer entertainment. But I was led to that by accident, when, one day, I was browsing the shelves at our local paperbackerie and I happen to notice a slim bright yellow volume for sale

*blink*

Where am I?
posted by grubi at 11:37 AM on June 30, 2009


<fnord>
It's a little known fact that the fnord tag has long been a part of the html spec. No one notices, of course, because all mentions of it are wrapped in fnord tags. Consider "W3C": "W3" is 2 characters used to represent 3 words. The "C" that follows that is the 3rd letter of the alphabet. "http://www.w3.org/" has precisely 18 characters which is 2 times 3^2. This is no coincidence. You'll note that "http://www.w3c.org/" redirects to "http://www.w3.org/." Think about that.
</fnord>

posted by juv3nal at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Mind = Blown
posted by grubi at 11:57 AM on June 30, 2009


Having met RAW at a "new age" bookstore and having him sign the Trilogy, I approve of this story ... Hail Eris!
posted by aldus_manutius at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2009


MeFi:I can see the fnords!
posted by aldus_manutius at 12:18 PM on June 30, 2009


Someone needs to create an april fool's joke where people see MeFi pages with FNORD randomly injected into the text, and which may or may not disappear over time or on reload. something small and subtle. I'm just saying.
posted by hippybear at 3:54 PM on June 30, 2009


This post needs a tangential mention of James Ellroy:

American Tabloid

The Cold Six Thousand

Blood's a Rover (preorder now)

conspiracies
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:22 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe I was taking it too seriously, but I was reading it during laundrytime for a while but had to stop because the urge to throw it into a wiki & annotate it was too strong. I wanted to see which patterns where really there. "Heaven for ..., hell for ..." was the snowclone that begged for links to others, I think.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:41 AM on July 1, 2009


I should clarify my previous statement about "it" being "by-definition impossible to take seriously". By "it", I was referring to Dischordianism, and by "take seriously", I meant "treat its tenets as inviolate." The very nature of the tenets of Dischordianism render this impossible.

I do not think it by-definition impossible to take Illuminatus! seriously, nor the conspiracy theories often connected to this whole rigmarole. Perhaps at some point in time, I thought it ridiculous that someone might take such things seriously, but I've encountered enough crackpots, pots with hairline fractures, and piles of pottery shards to no longer be surprised.
posted by ErWenn at 9:02 AM on July 1, 2009


You know who else had 23 stab wounds?

I don't know why people take the Caesar assassination conspiracy seriously. Marcus Junius Brutus, acted alone, just like John Wilkes Booth.
Charles Julius Guiteau - now there was a conspiracy, the bullet wounds were just a pretext to get Garfield into the hands of doctors, who even then were conspiring to create a massively profitable private health care system, so they could infect the wound and kill him eleven(!) weeks later. Obvious really.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:58 AM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The very nature of the tenets of Dischordianism render this impossible.

It's right there in the Pentabarf:

V - A Discordian is Prohibited of Believing what he reads.
posted by empath at 12:09 PM on July 1, 2009


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