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Tag: conspiracy

Notes towards a phenomenology of conspiracy theory

7-Party-(R)

Really, what I want to talk about here is the unspoken axiom behind all epistemology: that we ought to believe statements that are propositionally true, and that we ought not to believe statements that are propositionally false. This general principle is rarely ever stated, and tends to just appear as the hidden code that governs any logical process. P1 is true, so it was kept; P2 is false, so we no longer considered it; the fact that this is less a logical axiom than a moral injunction is subdued in all this bloodless process, while the invidious character of the terms ‘true’ and false’ neatly closes up any gap between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ that would otherwise make such an ethics of reasoning more distinctly problematic. In any case, there are forms of truth beyond the propositional, ones where this autogenerative law finds itself making commands beyond its jurisdiction. What about the revealed truth of religious texts, which must be believed before their truth can become apparent? What about the unconscious truths of psychoanalysis, which must not be consciously believed in order to function? It’s now accepted (among most of the media and political classes, at least) that the statement ‘While at Oxford University, Prime Minister David Cameron took part in an initiation ceremony during which he fucked a dead pig’ is not propositionally true – but even if that’s the case, isn’t it in a very important way more true than the truth?

But I’m not going to resort to postmodern vaguery, beardscratchingly prognosticating on the distortion inherent in any reduction of truth to concept. Instead, I want to sink down deep into a set of statements that are generally considered to be propositionally false, and surface arguing why we should believe them anyway. For this I’m choosing conspiracy theory, because conspiracy theory is fascinating and mysterious and vast, and I love it, and I hope that you do too. Conspiracy theory appears to be an epistemic discourse, almost maniacally focused on ‘truth’ – so that, for instance, the phrase ‘9/11 truth’ for most people immediately yields the meaning ‘crazy 9/11 speculation’. But the other great master-signifier of conspiracy, the call to ‘wake up’, is very different: we’re dealing with modes of experience, the clouded, the fantastic, the pellucid, that demand a consideration beyond dreary propositionalism: a phenomenology of shapeshifting lizards and the New World Order.

An interesting point of entry here is provided by ‘Conspiracy Theories and the Popular Wisdom‘, an essay by the University of Otago philosopher Charles Pidgen, published in Episteme volume 4, issue 2, which has been doing the rounds lately in certain left-wing circles that are understandably sensitive to accusations of conspiracy theory. Pidgen’s central proposition – that we should believe conspiracy theories, or at the very least investigate them while being open to the possibility that we might – is not dissimilar to mine, but the case he makes is an epistemic one, and given that there’s clearly something broken in epistemic reasoning, it’s inevitably insufficient. He thinks we should believe conspiracy theories because they are propositionally true. He begins by noting that the charge of conspiracy theory is often used to discredit ideas that are unhelpful to the powerful, and that according to the conventional wisdom conspiracy theories are a priori absurd and unworthy of investigation. But if we hold this position, and sensibly define conspiracy theory as ‘a theory that posits a conspiracy,’ then we have to throw out most of what we know about the past. If we don’t believe in conspiracy theories, then we would have to hold that Brutus and Cassius and the others all happened to come up with the idea of murdering Caesar independently and coincidentally. ‘Much of recorded history would dissolve into a blur of inexplicable events.’ (Which, from a certain Benjaminian perspective, is exactly what it is, but never mind.) Clearly none of this is tenable, and so Pidgen – who’s spent the bulk of his essay disproving a position that nobody actually holds – quite correctly concludes that there’s something wrong with his definition. But if conspiracy theory isn’t just ‘a theory that posits a conspiracy’, then what else could it be?

Pidgen’s proposed redefinition is still insufficient. When the conventional wisdom tells us not to believe in conspiracy theories, he writes, it means those ‘that postulate evil schemes on the part of recent or contemporary Western governments (or government agencies) and that run counter to the current orthodoxy in the relevant Western countries.’ He notes that the idea that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and in league with al-Qaeda is not considered a conspiracy theory, even though it posits a conspiracy. But because of his focus on propositional truth, he ignores the tissues through which any proposition lances. A conspiracy theory is an explanatory device used to make sense of conditions that are not entirely understood: a general prerequisite for conspiracy theory is that it is sincerely believed by the person that proposes it. The charge that Iraq had WMD wasn’t a conspiracy theory; it was a lie. It’s very possible to imagine conspiracy theories that don’t fit Pidgen’s definition. Had George W Bush instead announced that President Hussein were the high priest of an ancient Mesopotamian death-cult that had controlled humanity since the dawn of civilisation through the emasculating medium of writing, and that he could only be defeated by a sturdy gang of tooled-up all-American illiterates, some people might still have believed him, but that would have been unambiguously a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory isn’t a type of proposition that can be taxonomically isolated by its propositional content; it’s a relation between propositions, between knowledge and unknowledge, the seen and the unseen, the incomparably ancient and the buzzing urgency of the present.

We could start, Occam-like, by proposing that conspiracy theory is the general tendency to attribute visible events to invisible conspiracies when a simpler and more plausible non-conspiratorial explanation is available. But that’s not enough: what is a conspiracy, anyway? It’s not a epistemic or a phenomenological concept, but a legal category. Of course conspiracies happen; if they didn’t, there’d be no need for a law. The crime of conspiracy was not codified until the Criminal Law Act of 1977; until then, in English common law (which also provides the basis for law in the United States and many Commonwealth countries), it fell under the category of ‘inchoate offences’, along with attempt and incitement; a nebulous cluster of suspicion, sporadically enforced and prosecuted according to the whims of the enforcers. The charge is not entirely extricable from that of witchcraft, broadly understood as a conspiracy with the Devil; as such, a conspirator could easily have been working alone. (Aren’t we all conspiring within our own heads?) In common law, something that is not an offence may become one if conspiracy is present: handing out medicinal herbs is legal; doing so with the Devil at your side, or after meeting your coven by midnight, is not. Conspiracy was not considered to be the mode of operation of the powerful, but the powerless: Satanic peasants in rickety huts, plotting against the mirrored institutions of God and State. The first major shift came with Lutheranism, and its charges of Papal blasphemy: suddenly it was not only the rulers who feared conspiracies on the part of their ungrateful populations, but everyone; social existence itself became a host of potential conspiracies. For obvious reasons, this is not a sense of the word that made it into the 1977 Act, which states that ‘if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions, either— (a)will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement, or (b)would do so but for the existence of facts which render the commission of the offence or any of the offences impossible, he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question.’ One important provision of codified conspiracy law is that conspiracy is only an offence if the act that the conspirators intend to commit is itself an offence. In conspiracy theory, meanwhile, the acts that are alleged to have been perpetrated by unknown conspirators are sometimes formally illegal (assassinating JFK, carrying out the 9/11 attacks), but more often tend to exist in a Benjaminian sphere of violence that founds the law, and is incorporated into it (putting flouride in the drinking water, faking the Moon landings, inventing the Holocaust). It’s hard to imagine the shapeshifting lizards being taken into court in handcuffs; in any case, for an alien lizard to invade the planet by assuming human form and putting strange patterns on the currency isn’t even a crime in most jurisdictions. (It might, conceivably, be a tort.)

The ‘conspiracy’ in ‘conspiracy theory’ refers to the term in its pre-codified sense, in which it describes not a hidden relationship between multiple human individuals, but a relationship between human individuals and hiddenness itself. Conspiracy theory is not a theory that posits a conspiracy, but the hypostasisation of conspiracy to the level of theory, or occlusion as a general system of Being. It’s not just that public events have hidden causes: the seen is only an attribute or epiphenomenon of the unseen, which is essential to reality. In many conspiracy theories, the primary aim of the conspiracy seems to be the presentation of an experience in which the conspiracy itself does not outwardly appear. For readers of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, what appears to be the chaotic stampede of human history is actually an elaborate performance-piece engineered as a distraction by the Jews lurking backstage. Flat-Earthers believe that a vast and sinister plot exists to place globes in every classroom and doctored images on the TV, with the sole purpose of having us think that the Earth is round. In David Icke’s sweeping cosmology, the Moon is an artificial satellite broadcasting something called the ‘Moon Matrix’ (although it actually originates from Saturn), an information-blocking signal that reduces our consciousness to its five limited senses. More convincingly (although I’m here not really interested in evaluating the propositional truth of any of these notions), many leftist media critics consider the wealth of images in capitalist society to form a single ‘spectacle’ that obscures existing class antagonisms.

None of this should be particularly unfamiliar: conspiracy theory in this sense is a kind of Kantianism. Noumena, the objects as they actually are, are by nature hidden from us; all we can approach by reason or perception is the phenomenon, the distortion provided by our senses. But rather than performing a Husserlian Einklammerung or epoché, conspiracy theory maintains a puckish Hegelian ambition to touch the face of the thing-in-itself. Its goal is reconciliation: as in Adorno, the subject-object distinction is not eternal but the product of particular historical conditions. But given that the conspiracy itself is by definition imperceptible, it’s not possible for one to have direct knowledge of it within experience. (There are, of course, people who claim to have witnessed UFOs spinning through the sky, or to have listened in on the cloistered Zionist congresses; there are various ‘leaked’ documents purporting to be minutes of the global conspiracy, but in practice such transcendental arguments make up a surprisingly small portion of the general conspiracy corpus.) Instead, conspiracy theory tends to coincide with a strange form of immanent critique, in which the visible phenomena of the world must be ‘decoded’ to reveal their secret meaning. Hence the insistence that the secret masters of the world would, for unknown reasons, leave little clues around the place pointing to their existence. Banknotes are popular here – what’s that eye and pyramid business about? And did you notice that if you fold them a certain way, it looks just like the photos of 9/11? Numerology and cod-etymology is also popular: can’t you see that it’s called an iPhone because its ‘eye’ is always watching? If we’re not living in Hell, then why do we greet each other with Hell-o? Conspiracy theory could be understood as less a set of discrete propositions and more a Heideggerian Stimmung – attunement or mood, a mode of In-der-Welt-sein in which phenomenal reality reveals itself to Dasein in some particular manner. Here, as in boredom (discussed in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics), things appear empty and impoverished, but by contrast they are not without interest. They point beyond themselves to their occulted source; the world takes on significance not as a world, but as a map. Conspiracy theory reaches beyond the world as it seems, not by grasping at clouds from tiptoes, but by digging down, uncovering the foundations of things to see the vastness below.

It might be futile. But is it, phenomenologically speaking, true? In Heidegger, truth is not a matter of a subjective mental image conforming to reality, but the disclosure of a world. Truth is ‘letting whatever is sleeping become wakeful’ (sheeple) – the unconcealment of what had been hidden. I say that Socrates is mortal, and his manifest mortality, knobbly knees and tremoring heart, is suddenly made apparent to you. In this sense, conspiracy theory – all conspiracy theory – is true. And it’s a truth far more fecund and far more fun than anything allowed to us by epistemology. In conspiracy theory, the things of the world are atoms of signification, to be combined and recombined into the modes of appearance of any number of potential noumena. ‘The RAND Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish plot to eliminate the meal of dinner.’ Life encrusts itself like milk on endless fathoms of possibility. And yes, most of it is evil. But it doesn’t have to be. Remember that through much of our history, the conspiracy was not a creature of aristocratic malice, but a mode of popular resistance. The Illuminati is not only to be fought; it’s to be established.

Do androids dream of electoral defeat?

I now have before me a machine that works automatically. This is no longer life, it is automatism established in life and imitating it. It belongs to the comic.
Henri Bergson, Laughter


Here’s my problem. Everyone knows that electoral politics and the democratic process are pure spectacle: an empty distraction for the cud-chewing masses; a potent mix of fizz, glamour, and the illusion of government by the people, whose only purpose is to conceal the real centres of power. And to be honest, this leaves me feeling a bit short-changed. It’s not so much the absence of any mass political autonomy that bothers me. Rule by smoke-shrouded Knossosian mystery seems to be a pretty effective system – it’s got us this far, after all – and its dark architectonic hiding-holes tend to offer plenty of outlets for the eroticised interpetosis we all enjoy so much. The only real secret in democratic society is that all the other conspiracies only exist to afford people the pleasure of discovering them. My problem is this: if we’re to have this all-singing all-dancing electoral charade, thrown on top of the real power-play like a carpet on top of a dungheap, shouldn’t the spectacle be more, well, spectacular? The upcoming British election will most likely be the closest in decades, all manner of insurgent parties are tunnelling through the political terrain, and yet it’s just so utterly, aridly, bradycardially boring. It’s been two weeks since the dissolution of Parliament, and still the most interesting thing that’s happened was when Ed Miliband’s face fell off during the televised seven-way leaders’ debate.

It all happened very suddenly. One moment Ed Miliband’s face was where it ought to be, covering the front part of his head; the next it was on the floor, leaking piston grease in a steady trickle onto the studio floor. Miliband didn’t even stop to try to pick it up. The question was about agricultural subsidies for cattle feed and related products, and he just kept on talking, his big clumsy teeth gnashing about in the middle of a dark wormy mess of wires and transistor tubes from which two eyes still stared, huge, unblinking, and grotesquely spherical. The various little mechanisms that had controlled his facial features were also still going, a ring of tiny moving rods and clasps around the edge of his now faceless face, their frantic pump and twist giving the impression of some crustacean or millipede flipped onto its back and desperately failing to right itself. As cogs spun and switches switched, he talked directly into the camera, facing the voting public with that emetically truncated head, as if unaware or unashamed of his sudden nakedness. And as he spoke his hands whirred into one strange and frantic gesture after another, running through all their pre-programmed positions: angry child demanding ice cream, Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations, Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and death. “I have this to say to the people of Britain,” he said, his voice dribbling from some sonorous cavity in the middle of his head. “If enough of you vote for my party, you will be voting for me to be your next prime minister. If I am your next prime minister I will live in Downing Street and be the prime minister. And people will call me Prime Minister Ed Miliband, or Ed Miliband, the British prime minister, and I will be very prime ministerial.”

If Miliband didn’t notice the shock departure of his face, others did. David Cameron was the first to comment on the Labour leader’s embarrassing gaffe, speaking authoritatively about the importance of hay to the rural economy for a few minutes before straightening his lapels and glancing at his jerking, buzzing, shambolically oil-spurting opponent. “I also want to say one thing,” he added. “This man thinks he can keep a lid on the deficit. But how can he do that when he can’t keep a lid on his own party, and he can’t even keep a lid on his own head?” Later on the Greens’ Natalie Bennett voiced her regret that the Labour party hadn’t constructed its leader from something more environmentally sustainable, like wood, at which Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru perked up and added that Miliband’s lack of concern for Welsh issues was especially hypocritical given that half of his processors had been made in a factory outside of Swansea. Scores of people took to social media to call the stricken leader of the opposition (whose battery was now visibly draining) a numpty, while BuzzFeed gleefully featured a series of animated gifs that showed his face coming unmoored from his head and clattering gently against the floor. The Labour press office quickly released a statement lambasting the media for focusing on a technical malfunction instead of reporting on the issues. Nobody really paid any attention, except to point out that the statement had come out almost before anyone had spent much time focusing on that technical malfunction, as if they’d already written it long in advance, in the sure knowledge that some disaster of this sort was bound to happen.

But I’ll bite, and talk about the issues. In the televised debate, the Milibot finally had the chance to denounce and abjure some of New Labour’s record before the voting public at large. And what did he choose? Looking back on thirteen years of wars, bloodshed, bombs, slaughter, tax scams, privatisation, crooked bailouts, arbitrary detentions, surveillance, death, penury, crappy indie music, shameful BBC dramas, genocide, and the emergence of Simon Cowell as a figure of cultural significance – after all that, he attacked his party for supposedly being too lenient on asylum and immigration. Was that also a technical malfunction? After all those years of murder and chaos, he chose to blame the most vulnerable and disenfranchised people in the country – was that also the fault of a grain of sand lodged in his gearing mechanism?

In the end you have to wonder why the Labour party built a leader as weird and as offputting as Ed Miliband. Some of his strangeness is vaguely explicable – his general air of geekery, the nasal honk and nervous grin, clearly designed to mildly endear him to the doting grannies and pustulous Doctor Who fangirls that presumably constitute Labour’s core demographic. But why build something that fails so spectacularly in its task of appearing to be human?

After that debate, the Sun newspaper captured the Milibot’s notes from his dressing room at the Salford ITV studio, and paraded them in front of the public like loot in a Roman triumph. It’s hard to see why they bothered. Even before his face fell off, Miliband’s programming was as visible as the oil on his skin. The coders working on his back-end database told him to smile, so he gave his creepy grin even while informing the viewers that their living standards had declined. People don’t think he’s prime ministerial enough, they can’t really see him scooting round number ten, banging repeatedly into cupboards as the gyroscope in his chest comes loose – so he kept on repeating the subjunctive possibility of his becoming our head of government. “Hard-working families,” he said, not once, but over and over again. “Those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden,” he said, not once, but over and over again. “Britain will succeed only when working people succeed,” he said, not once, but over and over again. “Hard-working families,” he said, not once, but over and over again. They may as well have not given him that face in the first place. It was all very similar to that famous incident in 2011 when the Milibot responded to any question with the meaningless phrase “these strikes are wrong while negotiations are still taking place”, as his neck twitched and his left eyeball revolved constantly in its zinc-alloy socket. Another supposed technical malfunction. There’s only so much of this you can watch before reaching the conclusion that having a leader with his constituency office in the middle of the Uncanny Valley isn’t a bug at all but a feature, something that Labour have done very deliberately.

Of course, the received wisdom is that all front-bench politicians are basically the same, that they’re all cold and irreducibly inhuman automatons. It’s this general idea that allows the public schoolboy and former banker Nigel Farage to do his absurd, theatrical cor-blimey-guvnor-me-suit-don’t-quite-fit-right routine every day and still appear as the straight-talking voice of the bloke on the street (or bloke down the pub more like knowarramean). The problem is that this isn’t really true. It might be the case that most of the political class have essentially nothing in common with their constituents (as perfectly satirised in the ‘and why are they so fat’ bit in The Thick of It). It’s certainly the case that scores of young political rhabdomancer-interns are watching every second of their opponents’ waking lives, scrying for any misstep or contradiction that can be fed into a media-parliamentary feedback loop that spins on its own giddy axis without much concern for the rest of the country. Under such conditions it makes far more sense for politicians to endlessly repeat prepared catchphrases than to actually speak like a normal person. But then look at David Cameron, who consistently tops individual popularity polls of the party leaders. He’s also far and away the most trusted on economic affairs, even though the same public also reckons, by a similar margin, that he’s running the economy for the betterment of the rich and to the detriment of everyone else. (He also does pretty well in debates – this is exactly what they train for in Eton debating societies and the Oxford Union.) The thing is that even though he’s a brutish, pompous, thoughtlessly self-regarding scion of the chinless classes bred solely to massacre povvos and darkies for the empire, an utterly loathsome arsehole, he’s also very visibly a human arsehole; puckered, pulsing, and made of real flesh.

In fact, almost all of the other party leaders make a point of foregrounding their unpleasantly human aspects. Nick Clegg is a slavish lickspittle who regards Cameron as less of a coalition partnner and more of a queasy father-figure, and so when he does turn on him it’s with a show of properly Oedipal glee. Natalie Bennett is a droning eco-bore, and so she drones, and ecoes, and bores. Farage is a secret bigot, so he blames the country’s woes on immigrants with HIV. They all seem to be actively testing the limits of our dislike for them, trying to keep the electoral spectacle as seedy and unexciting as possible. The stomping, glitching, godawful Milibot really just represents the automated perfection of this strange form of human labour: it’s hard to actually hate a machine, but impossible to really like it either. After all, in terms of sheer charisma, he’s essentially interchangeable with the podium in front of him.

But why on earth would they want to do such a thing? The case of the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon might be illuminating here. Not long after the debate, the Telegraph published a leaked Foreign and Commonwealth Office memo that purported to be the record of a conversation between the first minister and the French Ambassador, in which the former confided that she’d secretly like to see Cameron cling on to power. Both parties strenuously denied any such conversation having taken place, the affair was a pretty transparent attempt to drive Tory-hating voters away from the SNP, and given that it required the forging of an official government document, it’s not unreasonable to assume that some intelligence agency or another was involved. Their motivations are less clear. Sturgeon’s party might be actively campaigning for the final annihilation of the United Kingdom, but any concern for that kind of thing belongs to the old world of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. The SNP is not by any measure a radical party; it has no desire to interrupt the smooth flow of capital, it’s perfectly willing to implement austerity in Scotland whenever the City of London wants it to, and it’s difficult to imagine the secret services involving themselves in electoral politics for something as gauche and unprofitable as Queen and country. Something else is at stake. During the debate, Sturgeon did the unthinkable and spoke like a normal person. She argued her party’s position as if she actually believed in it. She was quick-witted, persuasive, and likeable. She wasn’t a sneering prick or a broken robot, and so she won the debate hands down, prompting millions of people to beg the Scottish nationalists to start running candidates in England. She dared to be human, and so the spies came after her. Because just for a moment she made people think (however wrongly) that parliamentary democracy could actually deliver some kind of change. Because the real powers in this country – the bankers, the businessmen, the spies and the soldiers, the eldritch and unkillable vampire aristocrats – all want us to be cynical and detached. They don’t want people to actually engage with their sham democracy, in case we expect something from it; far safer for us to know that it’s rigged, know exactly who’s rigging it, find everyone involved despicable or embarrassing, and dismiss it with a shrug. And when the conspiracy only functions if everyone believes in it, what better symbol and frontman than a gurning machine with its face falling off?

This is what I thought, and so I wrote it down. Now I’m not so sure. (If everyone knows about the conspiracy, wouldn’t MI5 or whoever take into account the fact that their forged memo would be uncovered too?) The other day, I registered to vote, with the vague intention of drawing a picture of a naked Monty Burns on my ballot, after the excellent second-season episode Brush With Greatness. But then, while idly Googling my constituency, I discovered that since the last election I’ve moved to a very marginal Conservative seat, that the latest polls have Labour ahead by only a fraction of a point. Suddenly it was as if my brain had been replaced by a reel of magnetic tape. “For once your vote counts,” the recorded voice said, in tones that were slow and mechanical but still somehow nasal, as if the synthesiser had been clogged with phlegm. “You can’t let the bastards stay in government. Suck it up and vote for Labour. Ed might be a greasy racist dildo, but he’s not as bad as the Tories, is he?” I hardly noticed that my hands were making strange and furious gestures as if of their own accord. My bones felt metallic, my eyeballs as hard as gemstones. I didn’t feel like breathing, so I stopped, with no ill effect. I still want to draw that picture of Mr Burns. But now I’m no longer certain that what I want has any effect, or if the ‘I’ that wants is anything more than an insubstantial hologram thrown up by tiny errors in the thousands of computerised nodes that contain my programming. I’m not sure what I’d do if I saw a tortoise laying on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun. It makes sense now. A mechanical prime minister for a mechanical electorate. So when I saw Ed Miliband on the television the next day, as sunlight burst in through the window and crowded the screen with ghostly reflections, I wasn’t even surprised that I couldn’t tell the difference between his face and my own.

The poppy conspiracy

An enigmatic figure, common to all great mythologies: the blue demon, the sower and reaper of blood.

Conspiracy theory: British imperial history, in its entirety, is the result of a dark and ancient plot on the part of the poppies; a Papaveraceaen pact ranged against humanity. For centuries they schemed in their hedgerows and pastures, dreaming up strange and cruel ideas in those ugly flaring heads of theirs, communicating their vegetable conspiracies through codes carried on unwitting bees (while the rest of us just innocently assumed them to be having sex), until the time came to strike. Wherever empire goes, poppies seem to follow: maybe we’ve got it the wrong way round. Our ruling classes have had their alliance with these plants for a long time now; in a state of opiate suggestion, it’s very possible that the flowers could do whatever they wanted with them. The poppies wanted China: we took them there, and forced millions into somniferous slavery. The poppies wanted to grow undisturbed, and our artillery obediently churned up the fields of Europe for them. Even this century they’ve reclaimed Afghanistan with British helicopter support. Now the poppies, and their puppeted politicians, are so sure of their angiospermic power over us that they can demand we peons each wear their plastic sigil every November, to remind us who we belong to. Now angry mobs will descend on anyone who insults our overlords by burning them in effigy, or else these iconoclasts will be legally imprisoned for crimes against the dignity of plants that (let’s not forget) grow in shit. Poppies have been a symbol of death since the Greeks; the fury of the pro-poppy partisans is the fury of death against life; it’s almost certain that the poppies are trying to lure us into a nuclear war, so that when the dust clears from the sky and all the humans are dead, the scorched scrublands of the future will flower with nothing but giant irradiated poppies, twisting happily in the wind as it howls an unheard threnody through the shells of ruined cities.

Even if all this isn’t true – and I don’t see why it couldn’t be – it doesn’t matter. Conspiracy theory is always true in a sense, in form if not content. We’re not being controlled by creatures from outer space (whatever kind of lizard the Queen is, it’s one autocthonous to this lump of rock), the Jews aren’t putting fluorine in your water and gay propaganda on your TV, and however you arrange the little clues you’ll never be able to make a complete and rational account of things – but at the same time our society functions by conspiracy: no actions are innocent, every meeting of a two implies an excluded third. We’re constantly told that this is a time of synoptic openness; nothing is further from the truth. It no longer makes sense to say, for instance, that you’re going shopping: you’re being made complicit in a conspiracy between yourself and the supermarkets against some poor indentured Guinean cocoa farmer. Reading a book is a conspiracy between you and the author, going outside is a conspiracy between the earth and the Sun. We’re all complicit, we’re all somewhere in the cold staring pyramid, and poppies are growing in straggly clumps all along its base.

So what: it’s just a symbol, it’s just a nice way of remembering the dead. The problem is that every act of ritualised remembrance necessitates a simultaneous forgetting. What’s remembered is the ritual itself, the po-faced charade of monarchs and prime ministers placing those sinister circles of poppies by the Cenotaph, a two minutes’ silence indistinguishable from a two minutes’ acquiescence. The process of memory and its transformations must be wiped out in the moment of remembering. Nobody now seems to remember that the whole red-poppy charade was brought to Britain by none other than one Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the man responsible for the brutal waste of millions of lives at Passchendaele and the Somme. He struts around postwar London with a fake poppy in his lapel, and by its apotropaic magic the teeming ghosts of his victims no longer impede his sight but can only claw ineffectually at his shoulders. If the poppy were just a symbol inscribed with unfortunate militaristic overtones it could be opposed without much effort, but in fact it’s much more subtle and dangerous than that. We’re locked in a struggle against dreams and magic. Wearing a poppy doesn’t honour the victims of war, it banishes them. As long as we can fixate on the narcotic solemnity of those two clean red circles, we don’t need to think about the mud and gas and rats, or the victims of shellshock tried and shot by their own officers, or the millions of innocents slaughtered before and after the war in Ireland and India and Malaya and Kenya and Iraq, or those ethnic and religious minorities who are even today compelled to demonstrate their patriotism by wearing poppy-patterned hijabs. It’s a drug, something out of a Philip K Dick novel; it produces a new reality and traps us inside of it. If we’re to start really remembering the tragedy of war, the only way is to burn all the poppies, wipe out their evil magic with fire, and look our ghosts squarely in the eye.

Faced by an onslaught of politicised remembrance, the instinct from the Left seems to be to depoliticise, to present the war as a purely human tragedy, one in which any imposition of political meaning is something like blasphemy. To actually celebrate a victory is crass beyond imagining. This is bullshit. The First World War was a class war, an organised assault against the European working classes on the part of the European ruling classes – and we won. It wasn’t a war for freedom or democracy: even by the standards of miserable contemporary liberalism Britain in 1914 was not a democracy (neither was France, or Canada, or Australia, or the United States), for the simple reason that women and the working classes were denied the vote. Our victory didn’t coincide with the Armistice; it was uneven and generally rolled back, and it came at a terrible cost, but it was real. Everywhere returning troops struggled to overthrow the forces that had sent them off to die. Votes for women and the empowerment of labour unions in the United Kingdom, a surge of civil rights militancy in the United States, workers’ uprisings in Germany, and the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. Still it’s not finished. Remembrance Sunday demands that we sit by passively and let the vague tones of history wash over us; our real history compels us – in honour of the dead, and in respect of their legacy – to fight.

This post is dedicated to the memory of those ten thousand soldiers who were killed in the six hours between the signing of the Armistice and its taking effect ninety-six years ago, who gave their lives so that schoolchildren could easily learn that the war ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Budget 2014: what it means for you

My baby says we can live in the empty spaces of this life. My baby says far away the stars are coming all undone.
Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1 (Penguin 1990) p. 919 § 3

As everyone knows, the word ‘economy’ is derived from the ancient Greek oikonomia – the management of a slave-owning household. In those dark and uncivilised days, it was assumed that formal levels of prosperity depended, at root, on the ability of some people to effectively subdue and repress others. These days, with the benefit of modern scientific practices, we know better. The economy is not, as once assumed, the aggregate of general well-being or misery; it’s a tiny, frightened, but impossibly powerful fairy that lives inside the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s red briefcase. From within this box it whispers a long list of all the things it’s afraid of in an endearingly squeaky voice audible only to the Chancellor, who then has the annual task of conveying its wishes to the public at large. Beyond the fairy’s usual demands for blood sacrifice, toil, and hardship, every year a few new innovations are included in the national ransom note. Here is a comprehensive account of this year’s Budget Statement as it took place, and what it could mean for your already faint chances of survival.

– The right honourable George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, stands before the House of Commons, announced by the opening bars of the rex tremendae from Verdi’s Messa da Requiem. He is greeted with a chorus of cheers, boos, old school songs, football chants, hissing, banging of cutlery, smashing of bottles, shouts of ‘shame,’ ‘guilt,’ ‘terror,’ and ‘get your tits out,’ blasphemous invocations, unearthly shrieks, mucousy puckering of tentacles, jubilant firing of AK-47s into the air, the usual banterous commotion of the Mother of Parliaments. Two boys in the back benches are sent out to be caned by the deputy Speaker after trying to throw a large inflatable crocodile onto the parliament floor, and are told they’ll have their tuck money confiscated.

– Osborne doesn’t look well. His fist shakes in random, nervous, jitters. His eyes stare out bleakly. His prehensile tail wraps itself around David Cameron’s hand and squeezes it tight. He begins by announcing that the economy is recovering faster than expected. News of the fairy’s good health brings applause, with cries of ‘I do believe; I do, I do!’ from the assembled MPs. Britain is growing ‘faster than Germany, faster than Japan, faster than the US.’ New forecasts predict the rapidly expanding British Isles to have entirely subducted much of Europe and northern Africa by the end of 2015. Portsmouth will be on a latitude previously occupied by Lagos, men will be twice as tall as houses, and the Shard will reach halfway to the Moon. Due to the inverse square law, many people will collapse under their own weight and explode into meaty shreds, but those Brobdingnagian survivors of Britain’s expansion will be able to once again stand astride a defeated globe.

– To combat counterfeits that cost the taxpayer millions each year, a new £1 coin is to be introduced. As part of the current government’s partisanship on the side of old money (in any semantic sense), the coin will take its shape from the pre-decimal threepenny bit. The obverse will feature a small LCD screen with an animated gif of the Queen locked in a passionate kiss with Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge. The reverse will show three stock traders kicking the shit out of a council tenant, along with the words Your death will be as useless as your life. The image is intended to be graphically horrifying to the extent that anyone trying to produce a forgery without being implanted with the Royal Mint’s emot-i-gone neural implants will be overcome by a wave of unbearable, suicidal dread.

– While zero-hour contracts and internships have spurred economic growth by adding hundreds of thousands to the ranks of the employed without having to actually employ or compensate them, there is still more to be done. New regulations will introduce negative-hours contracts, in which you will be periodically knocked out with a sudden blow to the back of the head and required to pay your employer for each hour spent unconscious.

– As properties in London are accruing more value than the average London resident actually earns, Osborne suggests that the homeless stand on their hands and knees, arch their backs, and advertise themselves as a studio apartment.

– Reduction in duties will mean that each pint of beer is now one penny cheaper. That surplus penny will then be dropped into your drink so you can be press-ganged into working in a stifling warehouse outside Peterborough.

– The chancellor bangs one fist on his desk. ‘Bring on the cuts!’ he shouts. Pop music plays. Twelve bikini models enter the House carrying an enormous pair of scissors, blow kisses to the opposition benches, place the scissors between Osborne’s legs to briefly create the impression of an enormous tumescent phallus, and leave. You will now have to eat dog food.

– Osborne takes a reflective turn. ‘Conspiracy theories have always existed,’ he says. ‘The great innovation of Lutheranism, with its accusations of Papal blasphemy, was to change their locus. Previously rulers were forever afraid of conspiracies on the part of those they oppressed, of heresies and witchcraft and peasant uprisings. Now, the grand conspiracy is held to be the mode of operation of those who already effectively run  the world, and who announce their malign intentions openly before the masses as I do before you today. The scale of this victory cannot be overstated. The hidden conspiracy has become a thing of aristocratic evil, where it was once the only effective means of popular resistance. It is only by allowing others to think that we are engaged in secret and nefarious plots that those of us in power have been able to survive.’

– Win big with bingo. Our jackpot’s stretch into the £1,000’s, not to mention weekly big cash wins and huge progressive jackpots!

– The chancellor’s head begins to throb. Glowing fissures open across the surface of his forehead, then draw themselves shut again. When he speaks there’s the strange rasping echo of a merciless laugh from beyond space and time. As the country remains mired in debt, radical solutions will have to be found. The government proposes to pay off the nation’s debt in one fell swoop by selling the souls of every British citizen to Satan, Prince of Darkness. Such a move will require some formalistic fiscal restructuring. Rather than representing a portion of the original 1694 loan that established the Bank of England, all currency will now act as a promissory note for some of each individual’s eternal damnation. Responsible and upstanding citizens will be encouraged to commit increasingly abhorrent sins to help keep the pound strong. In practice, very little will change.

– The Budget Statement nears its end. ‘More must toil,’ says the heir apparent to the Osborne baronetcy of Ballentaylor and Ballylemon. ‘More must strive. More must be defeated. The lazy masses must learn the value of fruitless drudgery. This is a Budget for the makers, the doers, and the savers, and I commend it to the House.’

– Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband stands to make his response. Before he can begin talking, two unending streams of viscous yellowish snot pour from his nostrils. The House of Commons slowly fills to the ceiling. There are no survivors.

Sympathy for the antisemites

For all their faults – and they have plenty – it’s undeniable that antisemites are incredibly productive. Other racists don’t even come close: a slur, a darkly muttered comment, occasional eruptions of violence; they don’t need to really say anything because their racism already forms the unvoiced content of society at large – the state does their job for them, groups like the EDL can even function as an auxiliary wing of the police and the border agency. People who hate Jews are different. They need to write it all down; each one of them has to produce their own personal account of exactly what it is that they think the Jewish hive-mind is up to. From Martin Luther’s On the Jews and their Lies to Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Trifles for a Massacre to contemporary polemics on the Zionist Occupied Government, antisemities are driven to produce manifestos. It’s hard to not feel sorry for them. They’ve been trapped, and it’s not entirely their fault. The problem with all their constant literary production is that the ramblingly impassioned hate-screed is very much a Jewish art. Nobody hates the Jews quite like the Jews themselves; ordinary antisemites are grasping amateurs. In the Old Testament the Jews are so venal and wicked that God is required to periodically massacre them as they plod in circles through the desert. The prophets are full of bitter reproach. Jeremiah thunders: Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot… This people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Ezekiel seethes: They are impudent children and stiffhearted. Little’s changed since. Every Jew-hating tract is an unwitting tribute to Portnoy’s Complaint. In his study of the phenomenon Sartre writes that the antisemite depends on the Jew to maintain his status as an antisemite, that if there were no Jews the antisemites would have to create them. He came close, but as he wasn’t a Jew or an antisemite, he couldn’t see what was actually going on. The antisemite doesn’t just depend on the Jew; consciously or not, antisemitism is an imitation, an attempt to capture and reproduce some of the Jew’s unique talent for self-loathing.

These days there are very few Jews and even fewer antisemites, and both are furiously engaged in the invention of the other. I’ve always been fascinated by antisemitism, especially in its conspiracy-oriented strains. Part of it’s pure narcissism: I’m a Communist and a Jew, someone whose face is turned to history as to a single catastrophe, and it’s quite nice to hear that I’m not in a desperate struggle against existing conditions but actually part of a tiny cabal that secretly rules the world. At the same time this stuff has an incredible heuristic potential; it’s not unlike Borges’ First Encyclopedia of Tlön, a description of a totally different world that intends to slowly map itself onto our own. Read enough antisemitic literature and you’ll learn that the chief architect of our alienated and commodified culture is none other than Theodor Adorno, otherwise known for his scathing critiques of alienated and commodified culture. You’ll discover that Lenin’s struggle against the bourgeoisie, the same revolution that prompted military intervention from the imperialist powers, was in fact a ploy by the Rothschild banking houses. You might even encounter something called ‘sexual Bolshevism,’ which for some unaccountable reason is held to be a bad thing. Antisemitism in the West has for the most part shed its appearance as mass or state violence; it’s turned into a glitteringly inventive mythopoeia. That’s why I’m unusually heartened by the news that the model and reality TV personality Tila Tequila has decided to launch a one-woman crusade against the international Jewish conspiracy.

Tila Tequila – born Thanh Thi Thien Nguyen – is one of those people that inhabits a strange shadow-zone on the borderlands of ontology. She exists (even if her reality is more virtual than actual), but unlike tables and mountains and other things that exist in the ordinary sense of the world she continually has to justify why. In this she’s in pretty exclusive company, sharing her spectral realm with Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, and the State of Israel. Unlike Hilton or the Kardashians, whose rise to fame could be seen as a sensible old-fashioned reinvestment of already existing capital, Tila Tequila’s emergence represents more of an autogenerative point of intensity in the swirling field of aleatory alienation that constitutes present-day existence. She was spotted by a Playboy scout in a Houston mall; by some quirk of chance (or eternal destiny, there’s little difference) the music she put on MySpace snowballed into mass popularity and a record deal while other near-identical attempts didn’t. Since attaining stardom Tequila has had a number of high-profile media gigs, including hosting duties on the televised striptease contest Pants-Off Dance-Off and cameos in The Cleveland Show, finally culminating in A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, her own reality dating programme. In early 2012, she announced that she was converting to Judaism. In late 2013, she set up a new (and very much non-anonymous) website called Anonymous Truth Blog, in which she announced, among other revelations, that a secret ‘dark cabal’ of Jews controls the world and that she is the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.

Clearly Tila Tequila isn’t at all well, but to simply state that fact out misses the point. Given that antisemitism is now primarily a literary phenomenon, are Tila Tequila’s Jew-hating rants actually any good? Are we dealing with a Louis-Ferdinand Céline or a Mel Gibson?

Tequila’s writing isn’t immediately accessible, but it’s not necessarily bad either – in fact, it can be situated squarely within the tradition of continental Modernist literature. Her screeds are punctuated with *giggles* and *sighs*, conventions that have their origins in internet language but that also represent an attempt to break through the ossification of the written word and recover some of the immediacy of speech. Here Tequila pushes against the binds of the antisemitic pamphlet as literary form – one that is, of course, heavily indebted to the Jewish scriptural tradition. By advancing this logocentrism she attempts to claim back the primacy of the Greek system (abstract logic, vocal discourse, circular time) against that of Judaism (written polemic, scriptural law, linear time) – in other words, to undo both the Pauline and the Derridean critique of the logos. It fails, of course: in fighting the tainted written word she can’t help but refer back to other literary works. There are strong traces of Céline, who perhaps succeeded most in stripping writing of its textual quality and dragging it into new forms. He’s there in the breathless fury of her ellipses and interjections – Tequila writes: They literally are out to kill you and if they cannot kill you, they will find other means, anything dirty and corrupt they can think of to fuck with you! Céline shouts in agreement: So you want to cover me with garbage! I hear your tawdry surreptitions! your riflings-through! your screwings-over of your wastebaskets! How dimwitted and stupid you are! More flatulent! More cowardly! At the same time her habit of sneaking in unattributed lines from other sources recalls the poetic bricolage of TS Eliot, that other great literary antisemite, and her manic asyntactic switching between themes and topics – declaring Hitler a prophet in one sentence, making jokes about her name in the next – bears the stamp of Antonin Artaud’s prose-poetry. (In fact, some of Artaud’s Letter against the Kabbala could probably be slotted into the Anonymous Truth Blog without much notice: I think I have taken about as much shit as I’m going to from Kafka, his arsoterical allegorical symbolism, as well as this Judaism of his, which contains every last one of those chicken-livered suckaprickadickadildoes that have never ceased giving me a pain in the ass… What I especially abhor in Kafka is that return of the old kike spirit, that intolerable kike mentality.) On occasion, her reflections tend towards a stoic melancholy that could be called Beckettian. What the fuck is wrong with these people?? she complains. Oh man… it’s just too bad because I think if they had a more open mind or if they weren’t already dead… Beckett’s Molloy utters a similar sentiment: Someone has drawn the blinds, you perhaps. Not the faintest sound. Where are the famous flies? Yes, there is no denying it, any longer, it is not you who are dead, but all the others.

Despite her engagingly doomed contributions to the genre, there’s no getting away from the content of what she writes. In between her exposés of the Jewish conspiracy, Tila Tequila claims to be a goddess, to be an avatar of Vishnu, and to have created two parallel universes. She’s (probably) mad – and given the tragic difficulties in her life so far, it’s not hard to see why – but the pathologisation of antisemitism is far less interesting than the pathology of that pathologisation. Why is it that antisemitism – which for an unacceptable prejudice has a fairly respectable intellectual pedigree – is now seen as a token of madness? Conversely, why is it that madness now manifests itself as an antipathy specifically towards Jews?

Unlike finance and entertainment, Jews don’t in fact have a monopoly on the conspiracy racket. In Azerbaijan and Turkey there’s some belief in the idea of a global Armenian conspiracy, one led by a secret cabal that fabricated the Armenian genocide and works tirelessly towards their goal of Armenian world dominance. For some reason, the Armenian conspiracy never reached the same heights as its Jewish counterpart. There’s something about the Jews: we were the bad conscience of Europe, but at the same time we have projects.

Deleuze and Guattari discuss some of this in Kafka: Towards  a Minor Literature. In their understanding, Jewish populations are not themselves minoritarian or in a state of absolute deterritorialistion, rather they’re molar formations, ‘an oppressive minority that speaks a language cut off from the masses.’ However, they raise the potential for minority within the minority: a becoming-minor more defined by the trajectory of its Becoming than the phases through which it passes, something ‘creating an interplay of similarity and difference that conspicuously resists reduction into identity.’ There are Jews of the Jews: Jesus of Nazareth sent to the cross; St Paul torn between Jerusalem and Rome, Spinoza excommunicated by the Amsterdam community; Karl Marx baptised as an infant; Kafka writing in German. Through this operation minority is put in direct contact with the universal, whether it’s as the undifferentiation of humanity in the body of Christ, the prior ontological substance, or emancipatory Communism. Along the way, you get all the other great Jewish inventions: linear time, literature, numerology, psychoanalysis. It’s also precisely this Jewish renunciation of molar identity that has its distorted (and sometimes murderous) mirror-image in antisemitism. Tila Tequila doesn’t want to be herself any more, so she starts hating Jews.

This quality is also precisely what’s missing today. The reason that antisemitism turned into a literary and heuristic project is that there are no Jews any more. Sartre’s prophecy has come to pass, and once antisemitism becomes fundamentally an  invention of its own object there’s no reason why it shouldn’t also invent parallel universes, black magick, reborn Hindu deities. Antisemitism has become isomorphic with madness because of something cataclysmic that happened in the middle of the twentieth century. With the horrors of the Holocaust, the old antisemites almost managed to destroy themselves as antisemites by wiping out the Jews. With the realisation of the Zionist project, Jews have finally succeeded in destroying ourselves. Israelis aren’t Jewish; all this messing about with states and armies and the systematic dispossession of other people is, in the end, something fundamentally very goyische. 1948 marks at once the culmination of Jewish universalism – finally we have a state, just like every other nation – and its extinction – finally we have a state, just like every other nation.

For all its crimes, perhaps the most startling thing about the State of Israel is just how boring it is. We’ve made the desert bloom, and now palm trees scar the Negev with their strict regimented grids. The settlements are as blandly pleasant as American suburbs, but they’ve been fully and murderously weaponised. For a country founded by the inheritors of one of the world’s oldest literary traditions, it’s astounding how few decent writers Israel has. Amos Oz is no Franz Kafka. AB Yehoshua is no Bruno Schulz. Meanwhile, across barbed wine and concrete walls, the Palestinian refugee camps are full of poets.

Istanbul, Prism, São Paulo: Unearthing chthonic conspiracies

 

Two events are happening at once. In the year of our Lord 534, it’s a slick, sweaty night in Taksim Square, the kind of night that makes your skin shine and your hair stick to your forehead, the kind of sticky, fecund night that breeds love affairs and revolutions. On this night, although they don’t know it, the citizens of Constantinople are witnessing the last ever Roman Triumph. The great general Belisarius has recaptured Africa for the Eastern Empire: in a few years Justinian I will accuse him of various conspiracies, pull his eyes out, and leave him as a beggar by the gates of Rome, but for now he has his glory. The procession starts. First, the spoils of his conquest. The Temple Menorah, first captured in the sack of Jerusalem and brought to Rome, then seized by the Vandals and brought to Carthage – now restored at last to the Church, its silver gleams as the plebeians crowd round and snap eager photos of the treasure on their smartphones. Then the man himself. Belisarius sits in the cabin of the ceremonial mechanical digger, resplendent in his corona triumphalis, soaking himself wrinkled in the adulations of the crowd. As demanded by tradition, a woman in hijab sits perched on the boom, the long yellow-painted arm wreathed with hydraulic sinews. Hominem te memento, she mouths. Nobody hears her. The crowd waves banners and Turkish flags, they throw flares and garlands of flowers; the riot cops join in the universal celebrations, joyously firing rubber bullets and sending out waves of teargas. The tree-lined street is soon hazy with jubilant smoke. Everything is organised to the finest detail; it’s a spectacle, and the protesters and the police all play their allotted role. Finally, Belisarius’ chariot comes to a halt. A digger knows how to do one thing: it digs. Istanbul is a city built on its own ruins. The Gezi Park demonstrators dig, past Constantinople, past Byzantium, down to the ancient grotto where the Deep State has been managing the affairs of the world for twenty-six centuries. And this excavation has been planned, too; everything is part of the plan.

A few weeks before the London Olympics in 2012, I found myself in small but pleasant company, drinking wine from the bottle in Trafalgar Square, as you do when you’re young and pointless. A man came up to us and asked for a light. We got talking. He was due in court the next day, he told us, he’d been arrested while protesting in support of Julian Assange; he seemed a bit over-earnest but generally quite right-on. Across the square stood an Olympic countdown clock flanked by the two terrifying cyclops-mascots the organising committee had foisted on the world. I must have said something about how I didn’t think it was such a great idea for there to be anti-air missile batteries on residential buildings and carriers on the Thames just to protect a glorified sports day, because he agreed. Plus, he said, if you looked at our hideous logo, the numbers spelled out the word Zion. So did the logo for the 2008 Olympics. And, in the handover ceremony in Beijing, the London delegation had wheeled out a fake double-decker bus in the Bird’s Nest stadium before blowing the roof off to reveal Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis, one day before a real London bus was blown up in Tavistock Square. Unconvinced but not uncurious, I looked into his assertions. Naturally, they were nonsense. To make the Beijing logo read Zion you have to take the whole thing apart seemingly at random. Of course, the 7/7 attacks took place three years before the 2008 Olympics. And if a shadowy Zionist conspiracy was ruling the world behind the scenes, then why would they announce themselves? What on earth would make them leave little clues for us to decode?

 Yeah, no.

Conspiracy theorists aren’t insane, they’re far saner then the rest of us; their delusions are those of sanity pushed to its furthest edge. Where we see a world that doesn’t make sense, they see something logical and precise and – crucially – knowable. Conspiracy theory is the most profound expression of Enlightenment ideology: there is a rational plan behind the phenomena we observe, and it can be uncovered through reason if you study and interpret those phenomena hard enough. In other words, there’s not as much separating dialectical materialism from the Space Lizards theory of western civilisation as good Marxists like myself would like to believe. It doesn’t really help that the world of late capitalism is, to some extent, structured exactly like the wildest fantasies of the conspiracy theorists. There really is a tiny – globally speaking – cabal at the top of the pyramid that run the lives of the billions below. They really do meet, occasionally, in secret summits with no reporters and no minutes taken. They really do pull the strings of our elected politicians. They really do leave clues to their activities; not as coded symbols, but in the newspapers – society’s conspiracy against itself is hidden in plain sight. The Queen really does look quite a bit like a cold-hearted creature from beyond the stars. Conspiracy theory is the nomos of a society in which the lacerations of democratic openness have become themselves a form of occlusion; in form, if not in content, they reflect actual conditions. The only difference is that there’s no singular teleological Plan; the initiates are just as dumb as the rest of us. There are only personal and class interests, bouncing off each other at a million intersecting angles.  We’re ruled not by cabals but by structures; conspiracy theory reduces the grand saga of the word to a roman à clef. Althusser describes the hidden conspiracy at the heart of society on the first page of Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: every social formation must reproduce the conditions of production at the same time as it produces. Reproduce the conditions of production: this is the creed of the Templars, the rite of the Illuminati, and the Wu-Tang Secret.

Take the recent revelations about the NSA’s Prism system. Snowden is undoubtedly a hero, if a politically naïve one, but what he’s told us isn’t really anything new. Everyone understood already, in some vague sense, that Western governments were breaking the law and spying on the internet communications of their citizens, it’s practically axiomatic. The diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks told us more of what we already knew: US ambassadors were exasperated with every country they happened to be stationed in, and their hosts were equally bored with the meddling hyperpower. Leaked recordings of a conversation between Obama and Sarkozy revealed that neither of them much liked Israeli President Netenyahu; well, of course not, the man’s an utter twat. It’s not just that Bush and Blair lied about WMD to take us to war with Iraq; they didn’t even bother to make their lies convincing. The really dangerous liars are those who claim to have been convinced by the evidence in 2003. In the 1970s, Nixon and Kissinger went to extraordinary lengths to cover up their secret bombing of Cambodia; now, in 2013, every drone strike gets a short paragraph in the newspapers, described in neutral terms, as if they were natural disasters rather than acts of war. If you want to do evil, it’s far easier to do it out in the open. That way, when you’re called out on it, you can just shrug your shoulders and say: “Yeah. So what?”

What makes the recent Turkish protest movement interesting in this regard is that here it isn’t the protesters entertaining absurd conspiracy theorists; it’s the government. Edrogan has accused the protesters of being part of a global conspiracy against his government, one that takes in the feeble secular opposition, the international finance system, the BBC, the Knights Templar seeking to avenge the fall of Jerusalem, the reptilian aliens hoping to neutralise the threat posed to them by the indomitable Turkish race. So he’s crazy. After all, it’s not like his AK Party hasn’t done plenty of sucking up to finance capital in the past. Except the Turkish deep state, a murderous conspiracy of the anti-democratic and pro-secular powers that be, really did exist, and everyone knew that it existed long before it was officially uncovered. Did the protests seep up from its subterranean chambers? Probably not, but in its context the government response is understandable if not excusable. This is why Edrogan wants to pave over Gezi Park: parks are dangerous, anything can burrow down there; it’s easier to hatch plots beneath the soil than beneath a shopping centre. Conspiracies reach for the cloudless heights of power, but they’re always based underground. Chthonic spaces are hideous, they spawn plots and sacrilege. For all the years that Osama bin Laden was living comfortably in a two-storey house in Abbottabad, it was generally assumed that he was hiding out in a cave somewhere. In Negarestani’s terms, holey spaces subvert the plane of the monotheistic desert; the Inside is the spawning-ground of blasphemies.

The crackdown on the Taksim Square protests is, of course, being compared to the Arab Spring; all the tedious old questions about the compatibility of Islam with liberal democracy are being summoned from out of their graves to shuffle hungrily around newspaper opinion pages. Really, the government’s response should be answering these questions rather than posing them. Thousands were brutally beaten in the co-ordinated crackdown on the Occupy movement in 2011; the previous year riot police in London pulled a student demonstrator from his wheelchair and attacked him with batons. In ignoring demonstrators’ demands and sending in armoured cops against them Erdogan isn’t behaving like the archetypal Islamic dictator; he’s following to the letter the model provided by the Western democracies.

 Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia is the inverse of Haussman’s Paris. Its openness neutralises the advantage of police over protesters; in building a home for the state, he abolishes the State as such. His congress building is a stage. It moulds reality into revolutionary art.

The sound of truncheons against skulls echoes across the Atlantic. It’s interesting to note that the protest movement in Brazil is breaking out just under a year before (and is in part sparked by) the 2014 Brazil World Cup, just as the 2011 riots in England broke out just under a year before the 2012 London Olympics. Maybe this marks the beginning of a pattern: the symbolic violence of organised sports must be proceeded by real, political violence. The rioting functions as a prologue, an unofficial opening ceremony, to get everyone in the appropriate mood. Meanwhile the international news media will know to get their crews and commentators on the ground a year early to catch the mayhem. In 2019 a former footballer sits in front of an animated mural of a burning Almudena Cathedral. Outside the studio, the sky glows a demonic red. “A really strong showing from the rioters here in Madrid, Terry,” he says. “They played an great game, they were incredibly passionate, but honestly you have to hand it to the police. Excellent formation, really strong use of tear gas and pepper spray, top form throughout.”

The situations in Turkey and Brazil are, of course, not the same; nonetheless what’s happening in São Paulo might serve as a warning for Taksim. Ominous reports are coming in from Brazilian comrades: what started as a movement against a hike in transport prices spearheaded by working-class anarchist and communist parties is being hijacked by the far right. Red flags are being burned. Leftist demonstrators are being attacked, not by the police, but by the fascists in their midst. There are calls for the reimposition of military dictatorship. One account describes the origin of the situation very powerfully – I’m quoting at length because the author is, unlike me, on the ground in São Paulo; she describes the conditions there far better than I ever could:

The initial wave of protests were organized by the MPL, Movimento Passe-Livre, which is an autonomist anarchist movement, based primarily in public universities. Their main goal is and always was free, public funded transportation. The protests were organized in response to (left-wing, social democrat/liberal PT Worker’s Party) mayor Fernando Haddad’s and (right-wing, conservative, social democrat in name only PSDB governor) Geraldo Alckimin’s hikes in bus and metro fares.

The protests were instantly joined by communist parties PSTU, PSOL and PCB. The MPL, due their anarchist ideology, denounced party participation. This will become important later on.

The media, at first, launched a total offensive against the protests, accusing it of vandalism, and of being made-up by extreme leftists. They justified the actions of the armed Military Police of Brazil (which is a Gendarme), which was, at the time, shooting rubber bullets at people’s faces (which is lethal), beating up primarily women, using lots of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the movement, as well as several intimidation tactics, such as baseless arrests (including the famous arrests for vinegar possession).

The media realized that despite all of their efforts, the movement had a popular agenda and had been garnering support across progressive sections of the population. One very popular ultra-conservative pig-loving anchor attempted to ask the extremely loaded question to his viewers: do you support vandalism in ongoing protests? only to have his primarily reactionary audience humiliate him live by voting yes. The media, realizing they could no longer discredit the movement, and noticing that their most reactionary viewers were ready to take the street, switched strategies.

As I predicted, the raging anti-communist pundit withdrew his previous opinion and started favoring the protests, but also started claiming that the protests were about “much more”, and started to tell his viewers that the protests were about the long running list of anti-leftist complaints that were traditionally presented by the media against the left leaning worker’s party and used electorally by the right-wing PSDB. The rest of the media did exactly the same thing.

The most illuminating detail, however, comes from here:

They tried to hijack our rally, threatened, provoked, harassed us. It was tense. I was fucking scared.

One of the most common slogans people were yelling was “People united don’t need a party.” While yelling, they took the sidewalks and waved their arms in the nazi fashion.

When a protest movement loses its positively articulated ideological character and becomes a vehicle for negatively defined apolitical ‘discontent,’ it then becomes ripe for subversion. The neo-nazis are the ones assaulting people, but they could only do so once a space for fascist infiltration was opened by the well-meaning liberals, those for whom ‘ideology’ has become a dirty word. An absurd scene emerges: anti-partisan platitudes of tolerance emerging from the mouths of fascists as they set about attacking anyone wearing red shirts. In Istanbul, we’re told that there are Kemalists sitting next to Kurds sitting next to Keynesians as if this kind of ideological incoherence was somehow a good thing, rather than a testament to the sad decline of the unified worker’s party. Of course resistance should be as broad and inclusive as possible, but such inclusivity is not a substitute for a strong, organised radical left. As Mao writes, ‘if there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party.’ If there’s a lesson here, it’s that the resuscitation of the party-form, or the invention of a suitable alternative, is an urgent priority.

Meanwhile, in the sixth century, the mechanical digger digs. It would have been used to tear up the park that the protesters want to save; in fighting Gezi’s destruction, they’ll do the work themselves.

Prism: the psychopathology of internet surveillance

The gaze of the other is a scotoma, a blind spot or plough cutting into the field of vision; the gaze looks, but does not see us.
Allan Pero, The Chiasm of Revolution

The NSA’s PowerPoint slides were apparently designed by Timmy, aged seven

The truth is out, in the form of an almost preternaturally tacky slideshow, but the truth has only ever been a pathological construct, the ultimate fetish-object in a world of images without referents. Here’s the truth: you are being watched – but the really important question isn’t what the truth is, but what the truth does, and that all depends. Maybe you don’t mind being watched, maybe you get off on it. What do you do when you’re alone with the Internet? Perhaps you sit in a darkened room, silent except for the syncopated rasp of your breath and the oily rustling of a half-empty bag of Chilli Heatwave Doritos, hunched over as you scroll endlessly through pictures of people you knew three years ago, each pulling the same identical pouty face as they pose at the club, pose at the beach, pose in front of scenes of outstanding natural beauty, pose in front of memorials to the victims of the genocide. Perhaps you watch only the tamest and most inoffensive of pornography, stuff given a stamp of approval by the National Organisation for Women and six prominent feminist bloggers – but that’s all you do, seven hours a day, seven days a week. Perhaps you like to hang out with your friends on Twitter to have fun sharing bomb-making tips and complaining about the slow progress of global Jihad. Perhaps you make rage comics, you sick freak.

What’s going on? Four hypotheses: the neurotic, the psychotic, the schizophrenic, the melancholic. Choose your sickness; it’s the only choice you’ll ever make.

Neurosis. Top-secret documents released recently by the Guardian and the Washington Post reveal the existence of a far-reaching surveillance programme operated by the National Security Agency (a part of the US military), codenamed PRISM. Under the programme, personal communications from nine Internet services – including Facebook, Skype, and Google, but with the notable exception of Twitter – can be accessed at any time by government security agents. Not just public postings but also private emails and video calls; in a separate scandal it was revealed that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of US citizens. What’s more shocking is that these companies voluntarily signed up to the programme; they abused the trust of their users in handing over private data to government spies. What we’re seeing is the development of a surveillance society far more insidious than any historical totalitarian regime. You can still think and say whatever you want, but you’re always being watched; your right to privacy has disappeared without you even noticing it. In some sinister concrete server complex there’s a digital file on you, containing everything you’ve said and done. Government agencies listen in on your telephone calls, software built in to your iPhone records your exact location, web cookies track your browsing habits. This is what radical openness means; it’s a laceration. The government-corporation complex is with you at every moment, and should it decide that it doesn’t like what you’re thinking and saying, it has the power to murder you on a whim.

Psychosis. There’s something grimly humorous about the whole situation. One of the nine services that forms part of the Prism system is YouTube; the unbidden image arises of a young, driven NSA staffer going in to work – his tie fastidiously knotted, his shoes gleaming like an oil slick – to watch hundreds of videos of cats falling over in the defence of American security interests. With every new maladroit kitten the aquiline focus of his eyes sharpens; the furrows on his forehead grow glacial in their cragginess. Ashley’s going for cocktails with the girls, Matt’s watching the football, Tariq’s eaten too much Ardennes pâté, and the government has to take note of it all in a desperate and doomed attempt to regulate our world. Except what if that’s the entire point? The programme isn’t political, it’s sexual. It’s not surveillance, it’s scopophilia. You think the NSA is trudging through millions of hours of Skype conversations just so they can catch out a couple of would-be terrorists? What do those initials really stand for, anyway? Nudes Seekin’ Agency? Nasty Sex Appraisers? Our agent isn’t watching out for coded communications, he’s got something entirely different in mind. A couple are talking into their webcams. She’s gone off to university, he stayed at home; they’re still together but in her absence he’s been feeling kinda down. He wants to touch her, he wants to hold her, he wants to feel flesh against flesh, but he can’t. As he talks a smile slithers across her face. “Oh, don’t,” she says. “Not now.” “Come on,” he says. “Please. I’m going crazy out here.” They think they’re alone. “OK,” she says. She takes off her shirt. As her tits flop out our agent bellows in exultation. There are hundreds of workstations in the big tile-carpeted room in Fort Meade, Maryland, and they all spout arcing parabolas of cum…

Schizophrenia. Internet surveillance is different from ordinary surveillance. The NSA isn’t putting bugs in your home or following you down the street; you’re giving them everything they want. You’re putting all this information out there of your own free will, and you can stop any time you want. We all know that everything we post online is monitored, that every ‘like’ on Facebook is worth £114 to advertisers and retailers, that Google knows far more about our shameful desires than our sexual partners or our psychotherapists, that intelligence agencies routinely prowl through our communications. And yet we still do it. Some people can’t eat their lunch without slapping an Instagram filter on it, others feel the need to tweet the precise consistency of their morning shit. Planet Earth produces 25 petabytes of data every day, a quantity of information several orders of magnitude larger than that contained in every book ever published – and most of it is banality or gibberish. A web developer named Mike DiGiovanni commented of Google Glass: “I’ve taken more pictures today than I have the past 5 days thanks to this. Sure, they are mostly silly, but my timeline has now truly become a timeline of where I’ve been.” As if this perverse behaviour is somehow to be encouraged. Why do we do this? Why can we no longer handle unmediated reality? Why does it always have to be accompanied by a digital representation? The fear of death must play into it. We mustn’t lose a moment to the decay of time, it has to be electronically immortalised. But surely that can’t be all. Perhaps this is precisely what we were designed to do. It’s engineered into the fabric of our being, it’s what we’re for. Our world is a distraction, it’s light entertainment. The NSA existed long before our society. It existed before the first human being gazed at the stars and rearranged them into shapes it could comprehend,  it existed before the first gasping half-fish hauled itself out of the slime to feel the sun on its back. The NSA is our demiurge, and we are its creatures. And as for what its agents look like when they take their masks off, perhaps it’s better for us to never know.

Melancholia. There’s something odd about all these interpretations: they’re grotesque, but at the same time they tickle our narcissism – a narcissism which is, after all, founded on the gaze. In a strange way it’s nice to think that you’re being watched, it’s nice to think that whatever drivel you produce somehow merits the attention of big important government agencies. It’s far more horrifying to think that nobody is watching you, because nobody cares. The problem is that that’s the truth – that, as Lacan insisted, the Big Other doesn’t exist. You’re being watched, but only by machines. Your data is thoroughly chewed up in the inhuman mandibles of some great complex algorithm, and by the time it’s regurgitated for advertisers or spies you’re pretty much unrecognisable. You’re not a person, you’re input and output; a blip with a few pathetic delusions of sentience. And the narcissism of the surveilled is the most telling of those delusions. This is the complaint of the privacy campaigners: the flying robots of death were bad, but this is really the last straw. As if someone snooping on your emails was the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone. We don’t live in a society of surveillance; that’s ultimately ephemeral. We do live in a society of incarceration. It’s the fundamental fact of our world, and hardly anyone is talking about it. The United States Government is carrying out the largest mass imprisonment in human history, on a scale that dwarfs the Stalinist Gulags. One in every three black American men in their twenties is under some form of criminal supervision; more black people are imprisoned now than worked as slaves in the antebellum South. Prison labour produces $2.4bn every year, and in the Louisiana State Penitentiary – a former plantation – inmates are put to work picking cotton. Not that any of this matters. It’s fine for them, it’s just what happens. The contemporary Western political subject is too busy innovatively creating hot new apps to worry about that sort of thing. But give him a little taste of this oppression and indignity – search through his emails, for instance – and he knows what’s up. His civil liberties are under an unprecedented assault.

Exclusive extract: The Lacan Conundrum, by Dan Brown

Dan Brown’s new novel Inferno went on sale yesterday and has already careered straight to the top of the bestseller charts. Naturally, I was a little jealous. However, unlike the throngs of snobbishly unpublished authors who take it upon themselves to parody Brown’s works, I decided it would be far more productive to try to learn from someone so clearly a master of his craft. That said, I needed an edge on my competitors, and just reading Inferno wouldn’t cut it. I knew his next novel, scheduled for publication in 2015, had already been written. So at midnight last night I parachuted stealthily out of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk plane with a Garmin G1000 Primary Flight Display flying at 13,000 feet over the small Westphalian city of Gütersloh – home to Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA, parent company of Doubleday, the publisher of Dan Brown’s novels. Landing on the roof of the squat office building, I quickly incapacitated the guards, who were armed with Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, for reasons best known to themselves. Gingerly, I entered the building through a ventilation duct. Eventually I found myself outside the room where Dan Brown’s next novel was being kept. What I found in there revolted me. The air stank of ordure and rotting bananas. The shit-speckled walls, the piss-sodden carpet, the flies, the rats. About a thousand primates sat there on ergonomic office chairs, chained to antique typewriters. The macaques and tamarins were visibly distressed, straining at their manacles, screeching helplessly, banging their heads against their desks. A few chimpanzees had resigned themselves with seeming good humour to their work; while one typed, another groomed its back. By the far wall, a sad-faced old orangutan slowly and arrhythmically pressed the ‘H’ key, over and over again, staring dejectedly at the reams of paper it had yet to fill. The baboons seemed to be in charge of the place, though. They were unshackled. As I entered they shrieked in unison, baring their yellow fangs. I grabbed a few sheets from the typewriter of the nearest gibbon and ran. As I left the building, pursued by the chilling ululations of the baboons, I briefly passed Bertelsmann’s Employee of the Week board. On every square was a picture of a baboon. And at the top, smiling benevolently down on them, was a photo of the Reinhard Mohn, the corporation’s legendary former CEO: a silverback gorilla, staring with a pipe in his mouth and the faint gleam of a deep unknowable wisdom in his round brown eyes.

The lines that follow are all that I could rescue from that room.

THE STORY SO FAR: Around the world, hundreds of men and women drop dead on the same day. The tall man Chad McRib, professor of Obscurantology at Hardton University, is accused of complicity in their deaths. Fleeing the French police through the streets of Paris, he finds himself catapulted into the ancient mysteries of the 20th Century, as it emerges that all of the victims had at one time or another been analysands of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. After Chad enlists the help of the beautiful European nuclear scientess Slavojina Zizek, it is discovered that Lacan had been highly radioactive. It was for this reason that he had gone against the Société Parisienne de Psychanalyse in introducing shorter sessions: he knew that prolonged exposure could give his patients a lethal dose of radiation. But who had irradiated him, and why? Chad and Slavojina delve into the sewers of Paris with a stolen copy of Lacan’s notebooks to find the answer, but find themselves trapped in the terrifying Mirror Stage, and shadowed by mysterious gazing figures…

The tall brown-haired man walked into the room. The man was Chad McRib, who was tall. The attractive woman Slavojina Zizek clung to his arm. The whirr of a VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) air-conditioning unit hung in the air, which was suffused with the hum of a VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) air-conditioning unit.
“We’ll be safe here, Slavojina,” Chad said. “As we have checked into this hotel, the Hôtel Fièvre Gastrique on the Rue  Grossier, under false names, the Big brOthers will be unable to find us here, in this particular place.”
Slavojina reclined delightfully on the expensive bed. “Zhe question ish, what ish it we should we do now?” she purred, like a cat suddenly teleported to Planet Milk. “Theesh I claim: we musht carry out the sexual act, it ish our duty, in zhe Kantian senshe.” Her hand fluttered teasingly over her eyebrow and the bridge of her bulbous nose as she grunted sensuously.
“While it is true that we are now experiencing a high level of mutual attraction, especially when compared to our first meeting two days ago, during which you were somewhat wary of me, we have no time for that,” said Chad, who was high in stature and had brown hair. “Whoever those people are, they won’t stop looking for us until they have these écrits,” he continued cromulently. “Whatever the secret is, it must be hidden in this notebook,” he mouth-flappled.
The notebook was square and had yellowed over the years. Its cover was black with embossed gold lettering. The paper was made from pine woodpulp. 60% of the pulp that had gone into the notebook had come from a single pine tree. The tree had been planted in 1928 near the Spanish town of Rascafria. In 1941 a Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca adalberti) had nested in its branches like a zeppelin docking at the Empire State Building. The eagle was later shot by a hunter named José Mercader, who had a thick moustache and later fell into penury for unrelated reasons. None of its chicks survived. Chad McRib opened the notebook with his fingers, which were long and slim, much like his body, which was tall and slim. He read a few pages, like a crowded minivan plunging tragically off a cliff. I’ve got it, he thought. If the unconscious mind is itself a series of chains of signification, then literally everything has a hidden meaning and every single object is part of a vast paternal conspiracy. But what could be the purpose of it all? Suddenly, he knew.

~

He then told Slavojina what he had discovered, which was very unsettling and also exciting. “It is commonly said in the bar-rooms and crack dens of the world that Lacanian psychoanalysis is difficult,” the professor said, thrillingly. “Indeed, many of my students have told me that they find it difficult to read Lacan, because his words are difficult to understand and the order in which they are placed also makes them difficult to understand,” the noted academic who was on the run from the police said, in tones that made it sound very exciting. “However, what if the reason for this complexity is that Lacan’s works in fact carry a hidden message, explaining who had given him his continual doses of radiation? For instance, Lacan attempted to explain psychoanalytic concepts through mathematical formulae. The traditional interpretation is that he did so as a half-serious attempt to give his theories objective mathematical weight. But could it be something else?” The teaching-type person, who was very clever and also had brown hair, directed the woman’s attention to a diagram in the notebook. “Look at this,” he said. “Does thees not demonstrate precisely zhat in making a line acrosh zhe face of zhe Real, zhe act of represhentation ish itshelf monstrous, in a senshe deesgushting?” Slavojina giggled.
“Exactly,” said the man, who was called Chad McRib. “It doesn’t seem to make any sense. But what if we tried to solve it as if it were a perfectly ordinary triquadratic biequation?” He scribbled in the notebook with the furious zeal of an itinerant lobster, using a Pentel GraphGear 1000 PG1015 automatic pencil. “You get this.”
 “My God,” said Slavojina. “Pure ideology.”
“I think the whole book is a map” said the fêted head-think-brain-man. “It’s a set of directions. Where is the name of the Father written in Paris? Above the altar in Notre Dame. And what forms a phallus? The Eiffel Tower. Somewhere along the line between those two points an incredibly precious object is hidden, an object people have been seeking for centuries. That’s what the Big brOthers are after. Lacan’s notebook gives us the route to the objet petit a. The ultimate object of desire. The Holy Grail, Slavojina.’
“But zhees ish eempossible,” said Slavojina. “Zhe objet petit a ish unobtainable. Zhat ish zhe source of eets transcendence.”
The famous professor flipped through the square book. “What if I told you that I know exactly where it is?” the elegant variation pronounced.
“In zhe filum of Heetchcock, zhe gaze ish never a pure gaze, eet ish alwaysh accompanied by zhe threat of viyolence,” Slavojina gasped.
“You’re right. We haven’t a second to lose.”
As the tall man Chad McRib and the attractive woman Slavojina Zizek stepped out of the hotel onto the Rue Grossier, a dark bad figure of a bad man lurking in an alleyway watched as they hurried off towards the Seine. He cocked his SIG P226 pistol and began to follow them.

~

A short man burst into the boardroom of a superbly appointed office building in New York. “Sir,” he said, proffering a photo of Chad exiting the hotel. “McRib is back.”
Sitting alone in the room, which had excellent views over the river, wearing a sharp navy-blue three-piece suit, the Master-Signifier smiled in an evil way as would befit someone who is obviously the villain in this story. “All is going according to plan,” the Master-Signifier said. “Once McRib finds the objet petit a for us, no power on Earth can prevent us from crushing the schizoanalysts and achieving world domination.’

Will our heroes find the objet petit a? (no.) Does it even exist? (no.) What about the Big brOthers, do they exist? (no.) Will Chad uncover their plot before the radical schizoanalysts detonate a nuclear bomb over Vienna and wipe out the Freudian legacy? (no.) What unexpected twist awaits us before the novel’s end? (Slavojina is quite clearly a man.) To find out, you’ll just have to wait until 2015.

The conspiracy theory of Disneyland

The monotheistic desert is a passageway through which the Earth’s ultimate blasphemy with the Outside smuggles itself in and begins to unfold. The apocalyptic desert is a field through which the Tellurian dynamics of the Earth can be ingrained within anthropomorphic belief systems. In which case, there is no worse blasphemy than ‘Thy Kingdom come.’
Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia

A while ago, I wrote that I was beginning to have doubts about the theory of simulacrum. In my last days in California, I put my scepticism to the test: I went to Disneyland. What I found there troubled and fascinated me. After my return the same images kept on flashing through my mind: the running children, the laughing children, the children bellowing in fury as their parents dragged them through the exit, the omnipresent insistence on happiness, the cold blank faces of the animatronic puppets, the bloodshot eyes of the actresses playing the various princesses. A lot of it had been unproblematic fun: the rollercoasters, the shooting ranges, the meticulous detailing – but there was something pervasively sinister about the park. Mr Toad’s Wild Ride ended implausibly with a descent into Hell, where he presumably now suffers for eternity. The robotic vultures in Splash Mountain cackled over my impending death. The ‘happiest cruise that ever sailed’ seemed intent on slowly driving me insane with each repetition of its shrieking refrain. I had to find an explanation for what I had seen. I started to read up on the place.

There was plenty to read: so much has been said about Disneyland. The lingering racism of Adventureland has been thoroughly picked apart, the progression of Tomorrowland from naive liberal utopianism to ironic steampunk to brushed-aluminium iFuturism has been exhaustively documented, the strangely totalitarian way in which the Haunted Mansion’s automated cars ensure a uniformity of experience for all visitors has been subject to an excess of theorisation. Everyone already knows that if you stand to one side of the statue of Walt and Mickey on Main Street USA, Mickey’s snout looks like Walt’s erect penis. Baudrillard was fascinated by the place, devoting much of America to a meditation on it. Eco famously compared a cruise down the Mississippi unfavourably to its imitation in Frontierland. But in my research, I found myself heading down entirely unexpected routes.

The theorists of Disneyland all make the same category error: they all approach Disneyland and its projected reality as an intrinsically modern – or indeed postmodern – phenomenon. They’re wrong. Walking into the park, a sign informs you that ‘here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.’ The sign is more accurate than most visitors realise. When you go through the gates of Disneyland you enter the bowels of something sublimely ancient, something whose avaricious fantasies have shaped the nature of our world for centuries, something grasping to claim our future.

The notes that follow are the result of weeks of frenzied research. The employees at the British Library know me well by now: I’m always already there when they open in the morning, pacing up and down in front of the building in the chilly dawn light, taking quick nervous drags from a cigarette. I’ve been growing steadily more neurotic. The sound of helicopters has me slamming down windows and pulling curtains. My hands shake uncontrollably, even as I type. Still, I feel I have to share what I have learned. I’ve tried to present my findings as objectively and as comprehensively as possible, but it’s not always easy to maintain an academic tone when under such stress. This is the true story of Disneyland.

The Cult of Penew-Nekhet: an overview

The story of Disneyland begins in ancient Egypt, with the Cult of Penew-Nekhet, or the All-conquering Mouse. While animal cults such as that of Apis the bull at Heliopolis date back six thousand years to the predynastic period, that of Penew-Nekhet appears to be comparatively recent. While it may have been operating clandestinely for some time beforehand, its existence is first documented during the reign of Amenemhat II around 1923 BCE. In contrast to other Egyptian animal religions, the Cult was not demotic in character: public ceremonies were rare, with carvings attesting to only one: a monument to Sobekneferu at Gezer records among her few achievements during her three-year reign the ‘inauguration of the games of the Mouse.’ Instead its practitioners were drawn almost entirely from the aristocratic nomarch-class, with rites performed in secret in their provincial estates. The Cult was also unique in that the archaeological record gives no indication that ritual burials and mummification of mice ever took place: rather, Cultists would adorn the inside of their houses with imagery of mice shown enjoying positions of luxury, often being waited on by cats, as in the ostrakon above. That no mouse-related imagery has been found on the outside of palaces or funerary complexes attests to the shifting nature of the relationship between the nomes and Pharaonic power during the Middle Kingdom: at times the Cult was tolerated or endorsed, as was the case under Sobekneferu; at times it was suppressed – whatever the political situation, its practitioners did their utmost to conceal their secret religion.

The unique character of the mouse-cult can to some extent be explained by the unique character of the mouse in Egyptian thought of the time. In the ancient Egyptian language, the word penew was always singular. Records do not describe an arov penewt, or plague of mice, but always an arov penew, a plague of mouse. Mice were conceived of as a single substance; like flies or worms, they were presumed to emerge from spontaneous generation, with the murine principle of Penew-Nekhet directing their abiogenesis. This is why members of the Cult continued to keep cats and lay traps for mice, while in other cults the killing of the sacred animal was taboo: the object of their worship was not the individual mouse but mouse in the abstract. Mice, which caused famine by eating grain in warehouses, were commonly recognised as a symbol of death, while with their subterranean burrows they were thought to have a privileged connection with the Underworld. The Cult of Penew-Nekhet could therefore be considered as an incipient Satanism in an era preceding such Manichaean moral divisions: the image of the cat waiting on the mouse indicates a total reversal of the accepted moral order. The focus on imagery and representation over the Real is also significant: in such images the seed of Disneyland’s spectacle can be seen.

It is not known exactly when the Cult of Penew-Nekhet spread to Greece, but it was well known by Homer’s time. In the Iliad he describes Chryses as being among its numbers:

Now Chryses had come to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand a sceptre crowned with the symbol of the mouse and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were their chiefs, and who too were worshippers of his cult. “Sons of Atreus,” he cried, “may the gods who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Zeus, and to the image of the Mouse, before which we prostrate ourselves as one.”

While the secrecy of the Egyptian cult and the lack of any records concerning its rituals make it hard to ascertain to what extent the Greek manifestation was continuous with it, the same themes (inversion of morality, adoration of images and representations, the chthonic) are present in accounts of Penew-Nekhet rites. As in Egypt, worshippers of the Cult were drawn from the aristocracy, and it intermittently stood as a vehicle of aristocratic class solidarity against monarchical power. Unlike the contemporaneous Bacchanalian mysteries, practitioners were uniformly male, and there was no element of eroticism. In one fragment from Herodotus, a ritual in Epheseus is described:

The supplicants, wearing the crowns and masks of a king, then threw themselves to the ground before the statue of the mouse, and wailed, “O destroyer, O bringer of famine, may your desolation stretch across the world!” As their wailing grew louder it was joined by the beat of a drum and the sounding of a salpinx [trumpet]. At this point two slaves put the torch to the pyramid of grain that had been built on a stone altar in the centre of the circle and it leaped instantly into flame. The initiates then gathered around the fire, but did not dance to the drum. Instead they cried bitterly, pulling at their hair and clothes, and lamenting the loss of their grain. When I asked why, I was told, “We are rich men, and we have no lack of grain; but during the rite it is as if we are peasants, and our sorrow is real. This sorrow is felt by Nikheis Pondiki [Penew-Nekhet] and by the Earth, and we gain many great powers.”

References to the Cult during later antiquity are patchy. The early Christians were aware of it: the apocryphal Gospel of Munimius cautions ‘Therefore be not as the hypocrites, who make sacrifices for the eyes of the crowd, nor as the rich men, who in their mansions bow in unison before the Mouse, but worship alone according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not the flesh.‘ It is known that the emperor Elegabalus had the town of Croceae razed to the ground and its inhabitants slaughtered in 218 CE after he applied to join the Cult there and was rejected.

This antipathy between the Cult and Christianity, and the far more established enmity between the aristocratic Cultists and Pharaonic and royal power, melted away with the Donation of Constantine. The first Christian Emperor was drawn from a respectable lineage of Cultists – his grandfather Eutropius was an Illyrian nobleman who, as the Historia Augusta describes, ‘Held in his villa secret gatherings of the gentry, for which the city of Sminthium [city of the mouse] in Moesia Superior, which he founded, was named.‘ Indeed, in some depictions of the conversion of Constantine to Christianity before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, such as the one shown above (which is now housed in the Vatican’s private collections), the sign appearing in the sky is not that of the cross, but the trinod, or thrice-weaved circle, of the Cult of Nikheis Pondiki/Penew-Nekhet. As many modern historians have concluded, Constantine was in all likelihood not a genuine adherent to Christianity, but one who saw in this supposedly subversive new faith the potential to build a more unified empire. However, doing so would require the neutralisation of much of extant Christianity. Following from his incorporation of the Christian faith and Imperial power with the Council of Nicaea, Constantine instigated the removal of Arians and other Eastern heretics from the Church hierarchy, replacing them with trusted members of the Cult. Christianity proved a far more amenable vessel than chaotic paganism for the furthering of the Cult’s secret plans: institutional Christianity quickly set about suppressing the unbridled, sexualised Dionysian cults, declaring them as Satanic; meanwhile the properly Diabolic mouse-cult was embraced as a means of control.

The period from 325 CE coincides with a spate of church-building across the Roman Empire. New churches appeared in every major city, often built using Imperial funds and government-approved architects. Their design differs markedly from that of previous churches. During the period in which Christianity was persecuted, churches were informal, with prayer being carried out in private homes marked with the symbol of the fish or the Chi Rho. Services were held in the colonnaded atrium, and prayer rites were conducted without a cantor or leader; much of the prayer was silent. While the new, public basilicae featured a nod to earlier forms in the cloister, a walled garden at one end of the building reserved for use by the clergy, the church itself was dominated by the bema, a raised platform in the centre of the transept from which priests could direct their congregation. Liturgy became highly contrived, with themes of sin, worthlessness and abjection predominating. The burning of grain was replaced by a similar ritual, in which a wafer is consumed by congregants; as in the rite described by Herodotus, food is imparted with symbolic-representative value before being destroyed. This revolution in church architecture signals the first major shift in the development of Disneyland since ancient Egypt: the ceremonies of the Cult of Penew-Nekhet were no longer private, voluntary rites conducted by the elite. Instead, they took on elaborate disguises; large populations were made to participate in them without their knowledge.

The power of the Cult-Church complex was struck a harsh blow by the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The Arian heresy, banished from the Empire in 325, was upheld by the barbarian rulers that had come to dominate Europe. Under Ostrogoth rule the Papacy continued to function, but without its large network of churches the potency of its rites appears to have waned. Scattered, terrified, and wretched, the Cultists fell back on earlier practices: in the 5th Century, for the first time since the reign of Constantine, private Penew-Nekhet ceremonies reappeared in the homes of the Senatorial class. With the conversion of the Franks to Catholicism the Cult finally began the drive to reclaim its former monarchial power; however this would not reach its goal for several centuries, with the surprise coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800 CE.  Once again, royal and ecclesiastical authority were unified through the matrix of the Cult of Penew-Nekhet. A suppressed variant of Einhard’s Vita Karoli Magni, unearthed by a Franco-American archaeological team at the Palace of Aachen in 1998, records Charlemagne’s induction into the Cult:

On the most holy day of the birth of our Lord, the king went to mass at St. Peter’s, and as he knelt in prayer before the altar Pope Leo set without warning a crown upon his head, while all the Roman populace cried aloud, ” Long life and victory to the mighty Charles, the great and pacific Emperor of the Romans, crowned of God! ” After he had been thus acclaimed, the pope did homage to him, as had been the custom with the early rulers. At first the king was displeased that Pope Leo should give to himself a power over that of the Augustus, and swore his regret that he had come to his [the Pope’s] aid. However, the next day, the king was called to a second ceremony in the crypts of Rome, whereafter he emerged in a good temper. On his return to Aachen the king then instructed his jewellers that the ears of the Mouse, woven from gold and studded with emeralds, be fixed to his Imperial crown, and sent out inspectors to the churches of his realm to ensure that prayers were conducted in the proper manner as ordained by almighty God.

The history of the Cult through the later Middle Ages is one of degeneration. With the increasing wealth of the Church and European monarchies, the rites of Penew-Nekhet dissolved into empty ritual and spectacle, often focused around orgies and spectacular consumption or destruction of expensive food, lacking the crucial aspects that gave power to the Egyptian and Greek Cultists. Church services based on the old secret grain-burning rites still took place but without a high level of orchestration they lost their value; meanwhile in their private lives the wealthy Cultists tended towards debauched Dionysianism rather than the contrived hyperreality of the early rituals. There were several movements by diehard Cultists to resurrect the true Cult: during the Avignon antipapacy there was a sudden explosion in the use of mice as architectural motifs, such as in the relief on the Palais des Papes shown above. However, the Cult was not fully restored until the 16th Century, with the intervention of Martin Luther.

That Luther was a member of the mouse-cult is incontrovertible. Born into a bourgeois family in 1483, Luther was pressed from an early age into a career in law, one which he found spiritually stifling. In desperate search of the certainty of faith, in 1505 he abandoned his studies and joined the Augustinian friary in Erfurt, under the tutelage of theologian and Cultist Johann von Staupitz.

Seeing the young man’s fierce intelligence, devotion to the Church and hunger for truth, von Staupitz inducted Luther into the Cult of Penew-Nekhet, most probably around 1506. It was in that year, according to Luther’s brother in the Augustinian friary Josef Endelstinus, that the young man began ‘making unexplained absences in the night, wherein he would leave his cell and thunder absent subtlety to the catacombs. There, strange drums could be heard, and among some brothers it was said that they could hear the voices of women, and a chanted prayer unlike any in the liturgy-book.‘ However, what Martin Luther did next was unexpected: rather than being seduced by the earthly pleasures afforded to him by his membership in the Cult, he became fascinated by its long history and the occult powers believed to be bestowed upon its adherents. Endelstinus later wrote that Luther convinced the friar to arrange for a manuscript of Manetho’s Aegyptiaca to be purchased at great expense by the monastery, a copy which he guarded jealously. Eventually, Luther came to the conclusion that the Cult’s degeneration was unacceptable. Rather than reforming it from the inside, he hatched a plan to overthrow it and start again, one that eventually manifested itself as the Protestant Reformation.

While Luther’s early opposition to the selling of indulgences to finance church construction at first appears to undermine the Cult’s programme of church-building, it must be remembered that the churches were by his time entirely non-functional as ritual spaces. The same goes for his frequent assertions that his enemies were part of a sinister, Satanic cult. It is notable that in his many diatribes against the Pope, Luther accused him of every imaginary Dionysian excess imaginable (depicting him as the Whore of Babylon in the woodcut below), yet remained curiously silent on the fact that Clement VII was part of a secretive mouse-worshipping sect. It was not this that aggravated him, it was the degeneration of that sect into a vehicle for mere degeneracy.

In addition to his prodigious work-rate in the production of pamphlets for general consumption, Luther also wrote secret manuals for confidants in his Reformed Cult of Penew-Nekhet. There are many texts purporting to be among this number, many of which are most likely Catholic forgeries. However, one genuine fragment has been found, a palimpsest from among many scraps of waste parchment unearthed at Wartsburg Castle:

We tell them that all men must be able to read the Bible themselves only so that they will believe with ever more vigour that what we tell them is their own belief. It is so much easier to redirect the prayer of one who thinks himself to be acting of his own accord than one who is reading from rote!

Luther’s ultimate project was to once again fuse royal and ecclesiastical power through the Cult: his brand of Protestantism lacked any of the egalitarianism of his contemporaries. When the lower classes of Germany rose up against their landlords in the Revolt of 1524-1526, partly inspired by a misinterpretation of his ideas, he quickly penned Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants, in which he advised secular rulers to ‘kill as many of the blasphemers as is possible.’ In this he was entirely successful: when the smoke of the Reformation had cleared and the scores of bodies it had produced had been buried, Europe was full of Protestant princes eager to take the advice of Lutheran priests.

Having acquired a new, Protestant disguise, the Cult of Penew-Nekhet began to infiltrate as many organisations as possible: trade guilds, Freemasonry, the Illuminati, the newly formed United States government, the institutions of the French revolution, among others. Through these hosts it attempted to wipe out the temporal authority of its former, corrupted home, the Catholic Church, leaving the road clear for the new, invigorated Cult to dominate the world. Eventually, the Church was weakened to the extent that it became susceptible to re-infiltration: although the Cult never again controlled the Papacy, the Society of Jesus was eventually drawn into its influence. With the rise of the public sphere (and despite the Cult’s dominance in the media) secrecy became paramount; it is likely that at any one time there were no more than five hundred people alive who knew of the Cult’s true nature. A few of them can be confidently identified: Viscount Francis Bacon, Oliver Cromwell, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon (whose coronation deliberately mirrored that of Charlemange), Benjamin Disraeli, the Rothschilds, Rockefeller, Mussolini, Rudolf Hess. Always seeking mass participation in its disguised rituals, prominent Cultists covertly engineered spectacles including the French revolutionary Terror and the Black Hole of Calcutta. The culmination of this new, murderous form of ritual was the First World War. The conflict was deliberately engineered by Cultists including Helmuth von Moltke, Leopold Berchtold and Dragutin Dimitrijević as an elaborately orchestrated pan-European rite of death and suffering. However, during its course something went disastrously wrong. The war, which was meant to be fought to an eternal stalemate, instead sparked a series of unplanned revolutions across the continent, starting with Russia in 1917. This was then followed by a second, yet more ruinous war from 1939, in which Cultists on all sides tried frantically to rein in the destruction to no great effect. A secret conference of high-level Cultists, terrified that the forces of global entropy would continue to erode at their hold on power, was held at Hückeswagen Castle in 1948 to determine a new direction. Most of the minutes and paperwork was destroyed immediately afterwards, but one charred scap of paper was discoved by Hans Ufer, a local peasant:

…maintien de la stase soviéto-américaine et de planifier W.D.
28: The policy of mass slaughter having failed, it is therefore RESOLVED that the full attentions of the Organisation will be given over to maintaining the Soviet-American stasis and to plan W.D.
28: Die Politik der Massenmord…

Ufer was convinced that the documented represented a Nazi plot to continue to enact racial policies, and attempted to bring it to the attention of Der Rhein-Arbeiter, a weekly Communist newspaper. Before it was able to go to press, the newspaper’s offices were gutted in a fire. The British occupying authorities mounted a brief investigation before summarily ruling out arson.

The last direct evidence for the continued existence of the Cult came with the publication of Nixon’s White House tapes:

NIXON: Last month I had to attend another of those things, that god damn Penny Necket thing, bowing in front of the mouse and everything. It’s the faggiest damn thing. The faggiest damn thing imaginable.
HALDEMAN: It’s unavoidable.
NIXON: I don’t like it. All the judges, all the senators, kissing the feet of the mouse for five minutes and then gossiping for fifty. I don’t like to see our guys chanting in Greek with the Democrats. Who isn’t in that thing? Erlichman, surely, I don’t think I saw him. They don’t take Jews, do they?
HALDEMAN: He’s in it, up to the eyeballs. Kissinger too.
NIXON: Jesus Christ.

From these transcripts it’s evident that the rites of the Cult were no longer considered a source of power, but, as in the Middle Ages, had degenerated to the status of fraternity rituals or the cod-spirituality of institutions such as the Bohemian Grove. However, their facile nature did not prompt a purist resurgence. Why? Because by the time of the Nixon administration, the old rituals and the more recent spectacle-terrors had been replaced by something far more effective – the Plan W.D. mentioned in the Hückeswagen fragment: Disneyland.

The Cult & Walt Disney

Walter Elias Disney was born in 1901 in Chicago to a family of disappointed California gold-panners. He was a shy, serious and studious child: rarely an entertainer, he spent much of his time alone, drawing. Only a small portion of his juvenalia has been released by the Walt Disney corporation (most of which covers patriotic themes); much of the rest is kept in a locked vault in Burbank, California. The only clue as to its content was provided in a quote by an unnamed Disney employee to Los Angeles Times reporter James McDowell in 1981:

“What can I say? He was a teenager when he drew that stuff. Most of it was your usual Tijuana Bible-type material. A lot of oversized breasts and so on. Engorged penises. And a few depictions of murder victims, sometimes at the same time… there’s some unpleasant stuff, sure. But nothing all that unusual.”

In 1917 Disney joined the Holy Order of Fellow Soldiers of Jacques DeMolay, a youth Freemasonry society. The same year he dropped out of high school to fight in WWI. Being only 16, he was rejected by the United States Army, and joined the Red Cross instead, arriving in France shortly before the Armistice. Stationed at a church in Saint-Cyr-l’Ecole, a Western suburb of Paris, he was at first highly enthusiastic. However, as described in Scott Gladdy’s unauthorised 2004 biography Walt Disney: A People’s History, his attention quickly turned to other matters:

At first Walt was much like many other young Americans abroad: he was a regular both at the local taverns and the brothels that had sprung up around the military academy. By February 1919 he was almost unrecognisable. Always a staunch Protestant, Walt had taken to spending most of his day in the Église Sainte-Julitte, a nearby church, in the company of the venerable local Jesuit priest Antoine Sourisse. “He changed all of a sudden,” his comrade Roy Michaels recalled later. “He stopped drinking, stopped whoring. He stopped driving the ambulances. We all thought he’d gone queer. But it wasn’t that. All of a sudden he had this great unity of purpose. It was kinda terrifying, to tell you the truth.”

On his return from France in 1919, Disney started drawing cartoon mice.

Why did the Cult choose Walter Disney to carry out the final stage of its plan? It may have been connected with his ancestry. Walt was a distant heir of Hughes d’Isigney, a Norman nobleman who participated in William the Conqueror’s 1066 invasion of England and claimed to be able to trace his lineage to the Merovingian kings of the Franks, and through them, to Jesus Christ. While it’s impossible to say for certain that Hugues was a member of the Cult of Penew-Nekhet, there are several indications. In Disney Through the Centuries, Adriana Villalobos’s exhaustive history of the Disney family, she describes how Hughes took a ‘fanatic interest in the precise procedure in which church services in his new fiefdom were carried out,‘ and seditious rumours spread among the local peasantry of a secret idol kept concealed in the d’Isigney castle. Eventually William (who as an illegitimate child would have been denied membership in the Cult) grew wary of his vassal and lent him a few hundred soldiers for a suicidal campaign, encouraging him to invade France and reclaim his rightful crown. However, it is equally possible that when Antoine Sourisse induced the young Walt Disney into the Cult it was simply because of his skills as a draughtsman and yearning for transcendence. After all, it had to happen to somebody.

The first Mickey Mouse cartoon was released in 1928. Steamboat Willie was an enormous popular and critical success; most audiences were too focused on the short animation’s sight gags to pick up on its disturbing subtexts. Mickey Mouse is a destructive outside agent who emerges into the ordered environment of the steamboat and comprehensively reorders it according to his own schematic principle: living animals are rendered inorganic tools, turned into musical instruments, forced by Mickey to play along to a piece of music that simultaneously emerges from them and is extraneous to them. Essentially, Steamboat Willie provides a coded account of the activities of the Cult of Penew-Nekhet since the Christianisation of the Roman Empire.

The Walt Disney company’s growing successes coincided with a sudden paranoia on the part of its namesake. Disney believed that many of his lower-level animators were Communist infiltrators; at times he believed himself to be the last bulwark against a Communist tide taking over Hollywood. As his delusions grew, so did his dream of Disneyland. As his friend and animator Ward Kimball recalled:

Walt was always deadly serious about Disneyland, far more so than any of the movies, even though they were raking in so much money. He insisted on planning every last detail. He was seriously fanatic about it… one time he said to me, this isn’t just a holiday park. This is something that’s gonna change the world. He was always talking about how Disneyland was going to beat the Reds and bring in a new age. Frankly, none of us had a clue what he was talking about.

Ground was broken on what would become the Disneyland site – a placid field of walnut trees in Orange County – in 1954. The entire project took only one year to complete; it was opened with a televised fanfare. Few at the time recognised Disneyland for what it was. Disneyland was never an interactive ‘park’ in which visitors were free to view the attractions at their own pace, but a show as tightly choreographed as any film. All the rides progress in a strictly linear fashion; the banter of the entertainers is entirely scripted; if you drop a piece of litter in the park an appropriately dressed actor (smocks for Fantasyland, jumpsuits for Tomorrowland) will appear from a hidden doorway and silently tidy it away. The guests are forbidden from reinscribing anything onto the text of Disneyland. In fact, the park is constructed in such a way that any deviation from the correct order of things is punished instantly – dozens of visitors who committed the sin of jumping out of cars on rides or trying to cross the lines between the Disneyland simulation and the vast ‘backstage’ areas have been crushed to death by various pieces of machinery. To survive, guests must be entirely passive. Their responses to the park are, at every moment, utterly controlled.

Disneyland is the ritual of the Cult of Penew-Nekhet on a grand, industrial scale.

The truth: Nazi rockets and tellurian dragons

In all this several questions remain unanswered. Why did the nomes of Egypt supplement their public religious devotions with another, secretive faith? Why did the Cult of Penew-Nekhet survive from the second millennium BCE to the present day, when so many other mystery religions faded away? What interest would a four thousand-year-old cult have in building an amusement park? And why build that park in Orange County, home of the US weapons industry?

Essentially, the central question is this: does Penew-Nekhet actually exist?

One of the chief engineers in the Disneyland project was the German rocket physicist Wernher von Braun (shown above with Walt Disney). Responsible for designing the Nazi V-2 rockets that were launched at the United Kingdom during the final stages of World War II, von Braum was brought to America in June 1945 as part of Operation Paperclip, the then-top secret relocation of Nazi scientists to the United States to work on missile programmes targeted at the Soviet Union. As well as being a gifted scientist von Braum was also a devoted mystic: under his leadership, research at the Heeresversuchsanstalt Peenemünde was carried out not only into guidance and propulsion systems for flying bombs but into the potential for the weaponisation of the occult. As well as séances and rituals carried out in Greek and Egyptian, captured French resistance fighters made to perform slave labour at the site’s factories claimed that the HVP team performed child sacrifices. In particular, von Braum was fascinated by the interior of the Earth, telling his friend and deputy Walter Thiel that ‘the quest for outer space and the quest for the subterranean world is one and the same thing.’ Like many Nazi occultists, von Braum believed there was life below the Earth’s crust; however, he did not ascribe to the hollow-earth theories popular at the time which held that the planet contains within it the mystical land of Hyperborea from which the Aryan races originate. Instead, he believed the chthonic world to be as profoundly un-human as the black reaches of space.

Among von Braum’s most prized possessions was a copy of De Interioribus Terrae, a short text by the 16th century mathematician, occultist, and early disciple of Luther’s reformed Penew-Nekhet Cult John Dee. After a discussion of the mystical nature of soil and its Demiurgean power to create life, Dee turns his attention to the centre of the Earth:

While no man of Faith can reason against the reality of Hell, it is evident to all learned Men that Hell does not exist below the Ground, no more than Heaven is to be found among the Clouds, and yet, as is well known, below the Soil there lies a great Heat, and a great Fire, as it is said in the Bible: where the Worm dieth not, and the Fire is not quenched. And indeed the Book is forever unerring, for in this Fire lives the Worm, called also Dragon, formed in delicate Crystal from solid Phlogiston, who with a noble Sweep of his Tail does traverse the Fire below our Seas faster than any Merchant-Ship, and who, far from being consigned to the Pit, is a Creature of Grace, and as Fire to Air or Mercury to Saturn, takes his Place as a Consort to the Angels.

Could this worm exist? Recent geophysical surveys (often suppressed by the government agencies and universities funding them) utilising sophisticated equipment such as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility have detected fluxes and eddies in the Earth’s magma that are inconsistent with all known models of fluid dynamics, but that are explainable through the presence of large mobile organisms living within the mantle. The presence of life under the crust is not as implausible as it may seem: the mantle is home to untold billions of extremophile bacteria consuming nutrients dissolved in the molten rock. The liquid core of the Earth constitutes over 99% of its volume and much of it is entirely unknown to science; however it is possible to posit with some confidence that the tellurian dragons would have to be very large to survive in the heat of the mantle and to create the fluctuations observed by the ESRF – up to eight miles in length. Without any oxygen, their metabolism would function in a vastly different manner from that of life on the surface; they would certainly be silicon- rather than carbon-based. They would also be largely solitudinous, looping slowly around the Earth’s core in mournful sequestration – given the relative poverty of the subterranean ecosystem, it’s unlikely that a population of more than a hundred thousand could be supported. And given the great age of the Earth’s interior, it is entirely possible that at some point in their billions of years of evolution, the tellurian dragons attained sentience.

In almost all cultures there exist myths of giant worms or dragons, who are generally believed to breathe or in some other way be associated with fire. In ancient Egypt this place was taken by Penewap, a god of the underworld (and, more generally, of death and evil) represented as an enormous serpent. This was not his only form, however; Penewap was also believed to come to the earth’s surface to wreak havoc in the form of the mouse – the morphological similarities between penew and penewap hardly need mentioning. Could it be that the cultists of Penew-Nekhet, so obsessed with obscurity and representation, used the image of the mouse to disguise the true object of their worship?

If the Cult had a Secret that it guarded throughout its four-thousand year existence, it can only be that of how to communicate with – and control – Penew-Nekhet or the tellurian dragons. If contact were to take place, the cultists would find in their hands a weapon of unimaginable power. The dragons could obliterate any enemy: burst the ground from under their feet, send their cities tumbling into the abyss, immolate their armies with molten fire. Given their ability to churn the molten rock of the Earth’s core, they may even be able to affect the planet’s magnetic field, leaving a specific area vulnerable to a cascade of destructive cosmic radiation. Or, perhaps, our magnetic field could even be redirected, used to assault other planets in the solar system or beyond.

Given the ubiquity of dragon-myths across the planet, it is certain that the subterranean worms have, accidentally or not, forced their way into our world. It is not inconceivable that the parting of the Red Sea, the volcanic eruption that obliterated Minoan civilisation, and perhaps even the calamitous 1755 Lisbon earthquake were all precipitated by the Cult of Penew-Nekhet through its various attempts to gain the attention of tellurian monsters. But how can such communication be established? John Dee wrote:

The Worm hears no Prayer, though many who call themselves Witch or Sorcerer have offered up Entreaties to him, rather he understands the Language of all celestial Beings, that is, the Language of Mathematics, the Language of the Imagination, and the Language of Sympathy.

In all the permutations of the Cult’s rites, from private rituals to religious services to orgies of bloodshed to Disneyland, imagination and sympathy – or the emotive – have always been central; and these are precisely the qualities to which the dragons respond. The Cult has always attempted to form concentrated loci of high emotion. In much of its documented history this emotion was sorrow, terror, or abasement, but often accompanied by joy – the redemption of Communion, the cathartic bliss following the grain-burning. Conceivably it is the swing between two extreme emotional states that is most effective: witness the joy of the children as they enter the rides, and their fury as they are dragged away. The fact that Disneyland is aimed at children is significant: children experience emotional states far more intensely than adults; as such they are ideal vehicles for communicating with the worms. Like children, the dragons do not respond to erotic energy (they may reproduce asexually): this is why sexual or orgiastic cults from that of Dionysus to Crowley’s Satanism have sprung up and faded away in succession. To communicate with the dragons requires the assumption of a mindset that is entirely other and wholly unhuman – hence the austerity of the early rites, and the perverse hermaphrodite wholesomeness of Disneyland, filled with monstrous animal-headed figures.

At the same time though, the dragons, who with their cold silicon sentience can imagine no world other than that which they inhabit, are enormously responsive to the human power for imagination, fantasy, and deceit. The rites of the Penew-Nekhet Cult have throughout their history been based heavily on the projection of a hyperreality. The fascination with symbolism and the representative was not just a mechanism for maintaining secrecy: the Greek Cultists really believed that they had been transformed into peasants during the grain-burning rituals; the visitors to Disneyland are invited to really believe that they are in the presence of Mickey Mouse. The map becomes the territory – by imagining another reality, the Cult affects concrete change to this one.

What is Disneyland? Disnyland is a vast machine for the weaving of fiction and the production of human emotion. It was built away from Hollywood because it was never really part of the entertainment industry. It was always a weapon. It is the weapon. It is a signal-beacon for the underground monsters. They swarm there now, miles underneath southern California (perhaps accounting for the frequent seismological activity there), waiting for the Cult to give them their orders. Now it remains only for the Disneyland weapon to be used.

Conclusion

I have recorded the truth. Not in its entirety. My account is, of course, an unacceptably Eurocentric one: it would be absurd to assume that some form of the Penew-Nekhet cult has not developed in China (the fact that the Hong Kong Disneyland is, uniquely, owned by a Chinese corporation and licensed from Disney may well be significant) and the mass human sacrifices in the Aztec Empire have the faint odour of the cult about them. I’ve not been able to work out the exact nature of the cult’s Plan – they have, after all, already been in effective control of the world at several points in history. Perhaps the Disneyland weapon is not meant for use on Earth at all; perhaps the cult is about to drag us, unknowing, into an interplanetary war. But what I’ve written will have to do. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me now. The cult of Penew-Nekhet has guarded its secrets for four thousand years; it has in the past carried out acts of horrific violence to further its aims. It doesn’t matter. The truth is more important.

My hands have stopped shaking.

The plot against Adel al-Jubeir

Given that the official narrative of the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States is rapidly taking on the dimensions of a Hollywood potboiler thriller, it only makes sense that the real story would fall into a similar paradigm. As numerous experts have pointed out, it’s highly unlikely that the Iranian government, whose rhetorical ferocity is balanced by an extreme cautiousness in carrying out its foreign policy, would have made so audacious a move; and less likely still that the notoriously disciplined Iranian intelligence agencies would have entrusted such an important operation to an ex-pat opponent of the regime and a Mexican drug cartel riddled with informants. What actually happened, and where will it lead us? These are some possibilities:

– George Clooney and Jennifer Garner are two local FBI agents assigned to investigate supposed contact between Iranian intelligence and Mexican drug cartels. They begin to suspect foul play is at hand, and when it is discovered that the contact is in fact being arranged by US intelligence agencies, they find themselves on the run from the CIA. After a grisly torture scene, it is revealed that the conspiracy to kill the Saudi ambassador is being managed by a cabal of senators, generals and corporate lobbyists desperate to provoke war with Iran. Eventually, having exposed the corrupt generals and overcome both their shadowy assailants and the intensifying air of sexual tension, the two agents walk hand in hand along a pristine beach as triumphant music signals the indefinite continuation of the status quo.

– Jason Statham is a former assassin and Iranian expatriate with a moustache and an unconvincing accent. He is forced to carry out a hit on the Saudi ambassador when nefarious Quds Force agents implant a microchip in his wife’s brain that will, like, explode in twenty-four hours, or something. Once in Washington he decides to turn against his blackmailers and ends up having to fight literally everyone, including VEVAK, the CIA, MI6, the GIB, the Mexicans, random people on the street, his emotional detachment from his estranged daughter, a pervasive sense of existential ennui, etc. Includes a scene where Statham backflips over an exploding oil tanker while firing twin machine guns. Shot entirely in shades of orange and teal.

– Danny Trejo is a conflicted member of the Zetas drug gang. When he is commissioned by Iranian intelligence to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States he thinks he’ll be able to tell the US government what he knows and seek political asylum. However, it becomes apparent that the government is aware of the plot and anxious for it to go ahead. After bedding a series of sympathetic DEA agents and consulting a wizened yet serene curandero, Trejo learns that all world powers are controlled by a heretical Zoroastrian sect calling themselves the Sons of Angra Mainyu, who believe that by sowing war and terror they are providing a necessary antithesis to the natural goodness of humanity. Culminates with 20,000 Mexicans in pick-up trucks invading Tehran.

– In a comedy of errors, bungling Iranian second-hand car salesman Adam Sandler tries to enlist the help of Mexican gangs in assassinating the Saudi ambassador. Features an excruciating scene in which Sandler, dressed in low-cut jeans and a bandana, attempts to rap in Farsi under the stage name El Taco de Teherán.

– The ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, depressed and guilt-ridden following a long period of alcoholism and a string of sexual infidelities, orders his own assassination under a series of false identities in the hope of taking the whole world out with him.

– What if the Iranians were actually being set up by the Russians? And what if the Russians have been infiltrated by a cabal of reptilian aliens trying to provoke global war to ensure there’s no resistance when they invade Earth? And what if reality is a prison and we’re all already dead?

– A frustrated mid-level US intelligence worker infuriated by the monotony of his job decides to inject some excitement into his life by fabricating an absurd conspiracy involving Iranian intelligence, Mexican drug cartels and the Saudi ambassador. To his alarm, this prank turns into a major diplomatic incident, and everyone he loves dies in the hellish blaze of a nuclear attack.

Of course, nobody would ever suggest the possibility of any Israeli involvement. That’s just absurd.

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