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The third episode of the new X-Files – Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster – is a comic departure from the storyline laid down in the opening two instalments. It also offers sympathy and encouragement to the conspiracy theorists who are no doubt watching the show.
Our story begins with two stoners wandering around the forest at night and accidentally discover a man-like beast attacking two people. This basic notion – of being high while vaguely meandering around and happening upon something of critical importance – represents the real lives of many conspiracy theorists. While the two stoners are portrayed as idiots it is their discovery that sparks off the attempt by FBI agents Mulder and Scully to find the truth. This ‘monster of the week’ format was a speciality of the original series of The X-Files but this reboot is clearly telling the conspiracy culture what it wants to hear – that it is important and that its ‘discoveries’ are important.
Perhaps because of the monster wearing a ludicrously unconvincing Halloween costume, even when he runs straight past the stoners one of them turns to the other and asks ‘did that really happen?’. This condition of hyperreality – the inability to distinguish reality from the virtual – is a very real problem in the conspiracy movement. People deny what is right in front of them, preferring instead to construct rival narratives of events based purely on imagination and half-remembered scenes from movies. Whether Chris Carter et al are mocking the conspiracy culture or playing up to it (or both simultaneously) is not clear because the whole episode has a very whimsical tone.
However, before he hears about this exciting new monster that he has to rush out and investigate, Mulder is shown suffering from ennui and general hopelessness. He berates Scully with tales of how almost all of the ‘paranormal phenomena’ they had previously investigated has since been shown to be very normal. He uses the UFO/I Want To Believe poster as a dartboard and explains how:
“It’s amazing going through these archives with fresh, if not wiser, eyes how many of these cases can be explained away as fraternity pranks, practical jokes or people making stuff up simply because they are bored and/or crazy…”
While the conspiracy culture is maturing very slowly, and large parts of it are regressing (e.g. the 9/11 truth movement endorsing Donald Trump) some parts of it are maturing. Many of the things I believed or considered to be important 10 years ago I no longer feel that strongly about. Some of them I don’t care about at all, and a few I even think I was a sucker for ever believing in or caring about in the first place. For all people who grow up (a bit) and move on (a bit) this is what we inevitably experience, whether we’re talking about conspiracy culture or any other childish fascination. This entire scene with Mulder, complete with references to renowned paranormal researcher Charles Fort, speaks to the people wondering whether it has all been worth the effort, or whether it was always just a form of escapism.
Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In
These doubts are all swept to one side when Mulder hears about the weird lizard-man monster terrorising a small town somewhere in somewheresville. He and Scully rush to the scene and meet a variety of witnesses, from a transsexual prostitute to the guy who plays Dinesh in Silicon Valley. A string of quite funny but largely irrelevant sequences follow, including Scully saying she had forgotten how much fun these cases were.
Mulder finally catches up with the monster (in human form) in a graveyard, who then tells him an absurd tale of his origins that is half-true and half-lie, and so ludicrous that Mulder struggles to believe it. Most entertaining are the monster’s commentaries on human beings as being obsessed with working and borrowing money and bragging about their sex lives. The monster even invents a twist to his story where he has sex with Scully, which Mulder immediately refutes, leading the monster to say he couldn’t help but fabricate the story because this is simply what humans do.
Due to the monster’s propensity for lying and the generally absurd nature of his story of transforming from lizard to man back to lizard, Mulder does not believe him or take him seriously. The murders are all conveniently pinned on Dinesh from Silicon Valley (if in doubt, blame the Pakistani) and the authorities are happy. But then Mulder meets up with the monster out in the forest where the episode began, and the lizard-man finally reveals to Mulder that he is who he says he is. And so, an episode that opened with Mulder on the verge of turning his back on paranormal investigations ends with him shaking hands with a lizard-man before it scampers off into the shrubbery to hibernate for 10,000 years.
As such, Mulder is given absolute proof just as he was having his moment of doubt of pain, but it’s the kind of proof that he can’t show to anyone else. To recap:
– Stoners make the initial discovery
– Mulder is initially sceptical and disinterested but is quickly drawn back in
– Even Scully reminds us of how much fun these things can be
– The monster lies almost continuously, but his story is ultimately true and his lies are forgiveable – such as fantasising about having steamy store-room sex with Dana Scully
– By the end Mulder is sure of the truth, but he can’t share that sense of certainty with others
What else is this episode except a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream, and a reaffirmation that they are important and on the right track? What else is it apart from a confessional which forgives conspiracy theorists for their lies and fabrications and fantasies? What else is it but a form of therapy, that sympathises with the conspiracy theorist’s doubt and sense of futility and then reminds them of how fun and sexy these questions are? What else is it but a well-timed bit of encouragement that says ‘we know you aren’t sure sometimes, and often can’t convince other people, but as long as you think you’re right then that is all that matters’?
The CIA and The X-Files
In my prior article on The X-Files I suggested that NASA are conspicuous by their absence from the show and thus should be among the prime suspects for government agencies that had assisted the show. However, we should not rule out the CIA. Two connections – one tangential and one substantial – are suggestive of them having an interest in this 10th season.
In the opening episode we are introduced to Sveta, a supposed abductee who Mulder becomes convinced is ‘the key’ to unravelling the mystery of the supergiant UFO conspiracy. Before Mulder can use her to unlock the doors of truth, however, she is silenced in spectacular fashion by a Pentagon-developed spacecraft in a scene reminiscent of Independence Day:
Sveta is played by Annet Mahendru, who also plays top spy totty Nina Krilova in The Americans, a show written by former CIA agent Joe Weisberg and where every script is vetted and approved (or not) by the CIA before it is filmed and broadcast. Some would say this is a coincidence but given the broadly similar themes in The Americans and The X-Files and given that Mahendru’s biggest and most prominent role to date is her part in The Americans it is likely that show is where the makers of The X-Files saw her.
The much more substantial connection is that the CIA have been helping to promote the new season of The X-Files, in not too dissimilar fashion to how they have promoted Argo and Homeland (both CIA-assisted) in the past.
A couple of days before the new season of The X-Files premiered the CIA published an article on their blog ‘Take a Peek into our X-Files‘ which is potentially quite a saucy title. In reality it is 10 documents, the ‘Top 5 CIA Documents Mulder Would Love To Get His Hands On’ and the same for Scully. Bizarrely, many outlets including major newspapers have reported this as a new release of documents, when in reality these and hundreds if not thousands of other files have been available on the CIA’s site for years.
What neither the CIA nor the media coverage highlight is things like the 1950s Robertson Panel which recommended using Disney cartoons as a conduit for propaganda that would strip UFOs of their ‘aura of mystery’. Given that The X-Files more than any other TV show has stripped the aura of mystery from UFOs and made them seem as real and true as Scully’s facelift one has to wonder if the CIA are involved.
I will be providing more commentary on The X-Files in the coming weeks so stay tuned.
Ed Opperman invited me back onto his show to discuss the Pentagon’s involvement in Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry. We talked about my FOIA successes of recent months and what they reveal about the scale of the DOD’s involvement in the industry. The aggressive nature of the Pentagon’s influence and their desire for more influence are a central part of this discussion. We also touched on NASA, the CIA, DHS and other government agencies involved in assisting entertainment products. This is a broad conversation that goes in a lot of different directions that you won’t want to miss.
Recent stories focusing on the ‘migrant crisis’ and ‘the Cologne attacks’ – among other incidents – are provoking racial and religious tensions in Europe. In this episode I look at the simple-minded dialogue around these trends and events, identifying the Russian state as playing a critical role in the incitement. I recount some of my recent experiences of calling out RT and Sputnik for their thinly-disguised propaganda on the questions of immigration and multiculturalism, before articulating some of the supreme ironies of our modern ‘political correctness’.
Political Correctness has apparently ‘gone mad’. For many years, decades really, I’ve been told this. Political correctness has gone mad. I’ve still yet to hear anyone define either what they mean by political correctness or what they mean by it going mad. When I ask them what they mean I am invariably given a short list of petty grievances about some time someone said something or told someone else off for saying something, typically punctuated with declarations like ‘you can’t say anything any more’.
But of course, you can say lots of things. You can say openly racist things. I can sit here and say ‘I hate all black, brown and Jewish people and think they should all be killed in industrial death camps’. I just did. I don’t mean it, but I can say it if I so choose. I’m not going to get arrested, I’m not going to be pursued by the ‘PC brigade’ (note the word ‘brigade’ as it relates to radical Communism), nothing is going to happen to me as a result of saying that.
Meanwhile, most of the petty grievances listed by those who are apparently under siege from the ‘politically correct brigade’ are exceptionally petty, like having to fill in what ethnicity you are on the census form. People get riled up about stuff like that, as though it is an unreasonable imposition on them. The reality is that you can tick any box you like, no one is ever going to come round to your house and check. If I wanted I could fill in the form saying I’m a 62 year Caribbean woman. And in truth, when I did fill in the census form I put ‘not applicable’ and ‘none of your business’ as my response to almost every question. As you can see, I have not been arrested, and am not going to be.
So this is largely about perception rather than reality. If you’re a bigoted idiot, or just someone with little self-discipline who likes to get riled up about nonsense as a way of artificially injecting some emotion and meaning into your life, then you’ll get pissed off at such things. The reality – that this is no more of an imposition than is placed on you on a constant basis by all bureaucracies – is irrelevant.
It is quite easy to envision such a person looking down the list of different ethnicities listed on the census form and getting themselves really pissed off that people of non-white colouring dare to exist on this patch of muddy rock sticking out of this particular bit of ocean. How dare the government bureaucracy acknowledge the existence of non-whites? It is easy to imagine such a person finding some small sense of rebellion by ticking the both marked ‘Other:’ and writing ‘Paki’ in the space provided. It is also quite easy to imagine, weeks later when the census results are announced, that same person getting angry at the number of ethnically Pakistani people in the results, completely unaware of the irony.
Now, I am not suggesting that there is a concerted effort by thick people to manipulate the census figures – they are probably broadly accurate. I’m simply highlighting how it’s circular behaviour, a self-fulfilling mental pattern. No matter what the number is, it’s too high. The number could be next to nothing, it would still be possible to sell newspapers saying that the number was too high.
The Murdoch papers and the whole media empire under that banner is particularly guilty of this. Murdoch is supposedly a globalist, that’s what the more conspiracy-minded of the anti-politically correct brigade tell us. Immigration is some kind of globalist plot to destroy national identities and, in the most extreme version, get rid of white people. In reality there are millions more white people in this country than there was 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. The proportional mix is changing, but the total white population is increasing, that is simply a fact. White genocide is a fantasy.
Likewise, if all of this was true then surely Murdoch’s output should be the utmost in anti-white political correctness? But it isn’t. It is the utmost in nationalistic, tribalistic claptrap that just encourages fear and hate. In each country it’s the same, it encourages the most reactionary and idiotic attitudes towards any issue regarding identity, especially racial or national identity.
It’s interesting, I tried to google statistics and graphs illustrating the growth in white population and what comes up on the first page is almost entirely news stories and forum discussions on how white people are going to be a smaller proportion of the world population in 2050 than they are now. Nowhere does any of this coverage mention that there will be more white people in existence in 2050. It’s all about the global or regional proportions.
So what’s the real fear here? It is not that white people are dying out, are some kind of threatened species (or sub-species or whatever). That isn’t happening, and deep down despite their limited intellectual equipment most of the people advancing this idea know that it isn’t happening. The real fear is that ‘there’s more of them than there is of us’. It’s pure tribalistic paranoia.
This is best demonstrated by what recently happened in Cologne. On New Years Eve in Cologne, in Germany, gangs of young men harassed and assaulted hundreds of women and in one case raped a woman. Obviously, this sort of behaviour is vile, pathetic and criminal. This has been blamed on immigrants, but basically that just means ‘brown men’ because there is very little coverage distinguishing between immigrants and people who were born in German of foreign descent. The most recent story I read said the German authorities have identified 52 suspects, though that will likely rise in time. Still, 52 people or however many it ends up at is not the same as an entire section of people.
Initially this story did not get much coverage, then several news outlets picked up the story and ran with it, most notably RT and Sputnik, both controlled by the Russian government. They made a big fuss about it, accusing the press of covering up what had happened. The reality – that journalists with NYE hangovers tend to do pretty shoddy work, even shoddier than their usual standard – did not enter into the discussion. What happened in Cologne was not the only thing they failed to report on in the lazy first week of 2016.
Since then both RT and Sputnik have run daily coverage focusing on migrants. It has been their number 1 topic since the turn of the year. Every story they’ve put out on this topic has in some way been designed to produce the same kneejerk reactions, the same tribalistic fears, as Murdoch’s coverage of almost everything. Having followed the comments on these stories I can see that it is producing the desired effect – of exacerbating racial and religious tensions and emboldening the far Right, at least in their keyboard warrior form.
I decided to start calling out these KGB news outlets for this, putting in comments directly describing what they were doing and criticising them for it. I also took some time to mock and insult and point out the unreality of some of the comments. It’s been a fun couple of weeks, in truth. A couple of days ago RT ran a story about one of their journalists being attacked in the refugee camp in Calais, with a followup story claiming that knife attacks had increased – according to the journalist who was menaced by a gang and suffered a very minor injury.
For shits and giggles I decided to accuse RT of having their journalist go and pick a fight so that he could report on it, and thus fulfil their ‘migrant story of the day’ requirements. The main RT page on facebook had no problem with me posting this comment, it is still up and drew the amusement of some and the vicious opposition of others. The RT UK page were aghast, demanding that I provide evidence for my claim or that I delete the comment. They threatened to ban me from their ‘community’. I pointed out that they’d posted dozens of stories about migrants designed at whipping up tensions and this was the inevitable result. They asked me if I was retracting my statement. I asked them if they were retracting the flurry of race-baiting stories they’d been pumping out on behalf of the KGB. They banned me.
Note: they did not ban anyone for making racist comments on their stories, even genocidal comments. They did not ban anyone for making hateful remarks, either about peoples in general or against specific individuals. They did not ban me for engaging in arguments with racist cretins and the odd Lefty in denial pretending that what happened in Cologne didn’t happen. They only banned me when I directly accused them of something and explicitly called them out for pursuing this agenda, clearly under orders from the Russian government. So once again, where’s the fucking political correctness when you can write ‘kill all the migrants’ but can’t write ‘this is part of a KGB propaganda campaign’?
RT recently published a story claiming that this was a nationwide phenomenon, under the title ‘New form of criminality’: Sex attacks on NYE in 12 German states, says leaked police report. They are obviously framing this to make out like there are gangs of Muslim immigrants rampaging and raping people all over Germany. If you actually read the story, it admits a huge gaping problem with that framing:
Exact details of the suspects proved hard to identify, however, as the states used varying terminology to describe them. For instance, in Baden-Wuerttemberg, the suspects were “US American and an Algerian” and some “who appeared to look Arab,” while Hesse victims said their attackers were “men of North African/Arab/southern European/eastern European appearance.” North Rhine-Westphalia described the suspected criminals as having the “appearance of a migration background” and “being foreign.”
The statements here indicate that the victims either had no idea who the attackers were and simply assumed they were foreign, or that the attackers were of a wide variety of ethnic and national backgrounds. Nothing of that made it into the headline, which was clearly and simply designed to provoke reactionary, bigoted, simple-minded responses.
Along similar lines they also published a story about a 17 year old girl in Denmark who was sexually assaulted, defended herself with pepper spray, and is now facing a fine for using the weapon illegally. RT’s aim in publishing this story was to play into the ultra-paranoid right wing racist mindset of ‘the government are victimising anyone who accuses an immigrant of rape’. The problem is that the only detail about the attacker is that he spoke English. No mention of his skin colour, age, accent, any of the usual stuff. So it appears that while this young woman managed to defend herself adequately, she remembered no details of her attacker except that he spoke English. Odd, but entirely possible. And once again, no evidence that he was a Muslim or an immigrant, but that is who the crazy bigoted dickheads blamed.
More broadly, this is a factor that to my knowledge no one has discussed vis a vis the recent surge in neo-Nazi attitudes and beliefs not just in the web-based media but across Western society – the effect of the Russian propaganda machine. But it all adds up – the far Right like Putin, because he’s white and seems to be a fascist who won’t tolerate Muslims or women or gays or anything like that. Russia is seen as the last ‘pure’ white nation, and the answer to the Western globalists who are ‘deliberately flooding Europe with migrants’. I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will tell us this is all part of the plan, but to them everything is part of the plan, from a contrail that lasts more than 5 minutes through to the occasional Hollywood movie that has a black lead character.
Why would the Russian government be trying to inflame racial tensions? The obvious answer is to help bring down the EU. The Schengen agreement, which allows for freedom of movement within the EU, is falling apart. Various western European countries are placing restrictions on movement that haven’t been seen in Europe for decades. And with that, the Euro is once again looking shaky, as Merkel said you can’t have the free flow of capital throughout Europe without the free flow of labour.
Germany, being the economic centre of the Euro and the EU project, depends on cheap labour to maintain its position. By inflaming tensions and encouraging the collapse of the Schengen agreement Russia is taking revenge for EU sanctions and hastening the downfall of the largest power block in the region. In turn this will lead to Russia having more influence in Eastern Europe, which they want, and will piss off the US for whom a united Europe is a powerful economic and military ally.
So, contrary to the idea that Merkel is some kind of Marxist multiculturalist who wants to eradicate white Europeans and this ‘migrant crisis’ is all made up, the reality is the opposite. Instead of seeing the disintegration of national boundaries we are seeing them re-affirmed. Instead of this strengthening the EU project it is weakening it. In pursuing cheap immigrant labour Merkel has actually made her own position less tenable.
Thus, if there is a secret plan behind the migrant crisis – which I don’t think there is – then it is one of advancing the security state in the name of dealing with a tiny rise in the population of Europe. This is what’s actually happening, but you won’t see anyone who is sceptical of the migrant crisis saying this. They’ll continue down the ‘multiculturalism is the end of European civilisation’ road, which is the intellectual equivalent of sticking your balls in a hedge strimmer. The simple reality is that Europe has been multicultural for thousands of years. All they are really objecting to, all they are really scared and angry about is a word – ‘multiculturalism’. Just like ‘Communism’ and ‘Terrorism’, it is a loosely defined term that is treated as though it were a clear, specific enemy.
Getting back to what happened in Cologne – what was missing from any of the coverage was any sense of proportion, as per usual. Did anyone bother to investigate whether women in Cologne or any other city were harassed en masse on New Years Eve by anyone other than brown-skinned people? No. Did anyone look up stories of previous New Years Eves and whether women were harassed and assaulted? No. Did anyone present statistics on whether women had been subject to greater harassment and assault since the influx of migrants from Syria, Libya and other NATO war zones? No. Did anyone provide any context at all in which to understand this unpleasant and nasty behaviour? No.
Instead, it was presented as an exceptional event, a watershed moment, like this was the first time a woman had been raped in a European city. Ditto the RT journalist getting a minor knife wound – as though no journalist ever got injured covering a story before there was a refugee camp in Calais. Now, it may well be that what happened in Cologne was an exceptional event, but the number of complaints has risen dramatically over time, in response to the media coverage. In turn, the media coverage has reported bigger numbers each time it prints a story on this.
What no one seems to have asked is whether the same behaviour would be deemed acceptable (by those on the receiving end or those supposedly defending their honour) if it was committed by white people. Obviously, very few people would excuse rape. But how about slapping a young lady on the bottom or squeezing her breast? That is done, without any form of consent and often without the slightest solicitation, in all Western European cities on every designated ‘go out and get drunk’ evening of the year. I’ve seen it too often to pretend it doesn’t happen, and so have you. In general when young men are drunk they don’t tend to treat young women with a lot of respect, regardless of whether they have white or brown skin and regardless of their upbringing.
Would some of these women in Cologne have tolerated or laughed off the same behaviour if it had come from someone they identified as one of their own? I am not saying they have made this up, I am simply asking the question because the lines governing reasonable sexual behaviour are not at all clear in Western society. Some women in some circumstances would consider a slap on the bottom to be a sexual assault, or at least sexual harassment. Some of the same women would consider it differently in different circumstances, and depending on who did it.
So, while there is something to the point that mass immigration of people from a culture that doesn’t have a lot of respect for women is likely to produce an increase in this sort of behaviour and it’s a lie to pretend otherwise, it’s equally a lie to pretend as though our Western culture treats women with the respect they are due. And the people going around hashtagging ‘rapefugees’ are the same people who will decry any form of feminism as ridiculous and will happily slut-shame any women they choose. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure if you’re a lesbian that you’re a lot better off in the UK than in Saudi Arabia, but the point remains.
Likewise, I’ve seen quite a lot of people refer to ‘our women’. The #rapefugees are coming for ‘our women’. I’m pretty sure owning women is illegal so I can only assume these people are once again falling back on the tribal instincts. Because the women are white (presumably – no one stopped to ask about the ethnicity of the women assaulted in Cologne) they are deemed to be ‘ours’, they belong to us white guys, not those brown guys. But the really funny thing is that most of these guys have a thing for brown girls. They love the dark hair, dark eyes, rich skin tones, and who wouldn’t? There are a lot of beautiful women out there of every stripe.
So, is a lot of racism actually rooted in sexual jealousy and competition? It would appear so, because the notion of the insatiable dark-skinned foreigner defiling your pale-skinned daughter is pretty widespread and goes back a long way in popular culture. At heart, the racists do not object to pretty brown-skinned women immigrating to Western Europe, they object to young brown-skinned men immigrating. So it’s not just about skin colour and race per se, it’s about not wanting to compete with exotic-looking foreigners for the attention of nice young ladies. Think about all the racists you know, and I’m talking about indigenous white Western European racists, the primary racists in our society, and think how many of them have expressed affection or attraction towards women of the same race or ethnicity that they criticise and object to when it’s a man, particularly a young man.
The coverage of Cologne has been perfect at tapping into those attitudes and feelings. I’ve even seen this referred to as ‘sexual terrorism’, and Sputnik in particular is referring to ‘the Cologne attacks’ just like they refer to what happened in Paris or wherever else. The same bunker mentality, the same circling of the wagons that is encouraged after a terrorist attack is being encouraged in Western Europe by the Russian government’s propaganda arms. They are deliberately conjuring up images of Muslim hoardes coming here and raping ‘our’ women.
Illustrating this beyond any doubt, RT also recently published a story about how the Danish authorities have been under-reporting rapes and sexual assaults. Once more this plays into the paranoid racist right wing mindset of ‘the Muslims are raping all our women and the government is covering it up’. The problem is that the story says the Danish police were under-reporting or failing to report rapes and sexual assaults up until 2014, and since then have overhauled their system. So this has nothing to do with the migrant crisis of 2015. Nothing at all.
I decided to call out RT once more, saying it was obvious they were trolling their readership and testing to see how well their propaganda is working. I pointed out that the story had nothing to do with the migrant crisis. Virtually all of the responses I got accused me of being a Left winger in denial, or said I was a moron. Or accused me of being a rapist sympathiser. Or accused me of being a rapist. Or said that they hoped my mother, sister, girlfriend or any other woman close to me got raped so I would know what this is like.
The people who claim they are trying to protect and defend ‘our’ women from the onslaught of Arab Muslim rapists that are supposedly invading Europe are explicitly saying that they hope more women get raped in order to somehow prove me wrong. That’s how much these racist, retarded excuses for sub-human scum really care about women, i.e. not one bit. They only pretend to care about women in order to excuse their racism. When challenged, it took no time at all for them to say that they actually want women to be raped in order to prove them right. They are not only racists, they are misogynists.
The same dynamic is at play in the US presidential election, with Donald Trump running on an explicitly racist platform and getting a lot of support for doing so. He makes a big deal out of not being ‘politically correct’, but the reality is that he hasn’t been sidelined or demonised by a politically correct media, he’s got away with saying all kinds of ludicrous and vicious things, including outright misogynistic bullshit, and hardly ever gets called out for it. Most of the coverage labels his statements ‘controversial’. Donald Trump’s ‘controversial comments about Muslims’. No, let’s call it what it is: Donald Trump’s bigoted bullshit about Muslims.
Perhaps even more disappointingly, I recently received an email newsletter from a 9/11 group headed by Ian Henshall that wholly and completely endorsed Trump. It reads:
Whatever you think about Donald Trump, he has at least challenged the Washington establishment and broken the mainstream silence on 9/11. He has said the Bush family should not be seeking to benefit from 9/11. Even his false comments that Muslims were celebrating in New York have drawn attention to the fact that a group of Israelis was arrested there after celebrating the events. A Trump aide has tweeted the dangerous idea that Hilary Clinton is behind at least one Daesh propaganda video. The widely respected journalist Glenn Greenwald has said that despite the horror of the “liberal” establishment Trump is no more right wing than most Washington politicians. His supporters say that he is independent financially and, as an opponent of the endless wars, he is better than Hilary Clinton.
Now, there’s so much wrong with this one paragraph that I could do an entire episode just on that, but suffice to say Donald Trump did not ‘break the mainstream silence on 9/11’, he isn’t an opponent of the endless wars, his actual words are ‘I would bomb the shit out of them’.
Glenn Greenwald is only respected by naive and ignorant people who don’t realise he’s a sham working for a CIA-connected silicon valley billionaire and the dancing Israelis are the biggest distraction in the entire 9/11 tale. This email serves to highlight just how irrelevant and meaningless the 9/11 truth movement has become – they get some tiny half-glimmer of recognition from a celebrity politician using racism and paranoia to promote himself and they latch on like fucking limpets. It’s pathetic, spineless crap and shows how this movement that was once interesting, motivated and had definable aims has become just another lazy cult of dimwits.
And herein lies the first of two supreme ironies about ‘political correctness gone mad’. From where I’m sitting, ‘political correctness’ is just the excuse racists use for being racist. ‘Politically correct’ is what racists call non-racists. I see that a lot more than I see racist crap being called out as racist crap, a lot more than I see bigoted morons being told they are bigoted morons and a lot more than I see the far Right being censored or excluded from conversation for being racist, bigoted morons. The true ‘political correctness’ of our age is that you can’t even call a racist what they are. I mean you can, of course you can, but hardly anyone ever does. It seems that the Left’s response to racism is to pretend it doesn’t exist, to hide behind slogans about ‘race is used to divide us, we need to be united across racial boundaries’ without ever wondering ‘how the fuck can we be united across racial boundaries when there’s a fucking bigoted loudmouth in a silly wig causing no end of trouble and you refuse to confront him?’.
The other supreme irony is that there is a problem of clashing a medieval culture like Islam with the secular democratic culture of Western Europe, but that the far Right backlash is, if anything, more damaging to secular democratic culture than Islamism. Ask yourself: who else aside from Islamists like Al Muhajiroun advocate brutal, violent punishments for anyone who doesn’t believe in their worldview? The neo-Nazis. Who threatens anyone who confronts their bigotry and simple-minded dogma? The neo-Nazis. I don’t see anyone on the Left saying that people should be thrown in prison for being anti-immigration. I do see plenty on the Right saying that sort of thing – about Muslims, immigrants in general, people who are pro-immigration, women – particularly feminists, homosexuals (except for misogynistic homosexuals like Milo Yiannopoulos) and of course, anyone on the Left who confronts their narrow-minded pig-ignorant horseshit. And it should be confronted, because the reality is that most of these people are cowards. They might say that all the migrants should be drowned and even vote for someone who also says that, but none of them have the guts to do it themselves. They’ll just hide behind paranoid excuses and claims of being persecuted, complaining about anyone and anything but themselves.
The supreme irony is that the things that are apparently under assault by all these Muslim immigrants – respect for women, democratic government, pluralist society, tolerance of differences – are the same things the neo-Nazis despise. They are actually far closer to each other – not just in attitudes but also in politics – than either side would ever admit or acknowledge. The reality is that all of these things have been the result of progressive politics, which for all its failings is vastly preferable to kneejerk tribalism. And if you think that makes me politically correct then count yourself lucky that you live in a society where I can tell you to go fuck yourself.
The internet is awash with talk of the new mini-season of The X-Files. As predicted, conspiracy theorists have been particular susceptible to the charms of the reborn UFO extravanganza, searching for clues and meaning in every line and frame of the show. Having now watched the opening two episodes (My Struggle and Founder’s Mutation) I have a somewhat different perspective.
Who is the audience for this show?
Two weeks ago Entertainment Weekly ran an interview with showrunner and X-Files creator Chris Carter saying ‘he researched the new show by combing through conspiracy websites and attending a conspiracy convention’. Carter himself said that incorporating more of these themes ‘has given us a whole new open field which to run. It’s given the show an interesting new life and context that it might not have had in 2002.’ He even laughably claimed that ‘I don’t see Alex Jones as right-wing, I see him as libertarian’.
How a man who demonises Obama as the homosexual secret leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who is trying to destroy America by introducing transsexual bathrooms in public schools is a ‘libertarian’ is anyone’s guess, but I doubt Carter is being serious here. It is much more likely that he is deliberately playing down criticism of Alex Jones in order to appeal to the conspiracy culture. Having made a show almost entirely situated in that milieu the first time round, the new series lays it on with a fucking shovel.
The first episode of The X-Files features an Alex Jones-type character called Tad O’Malley, which even Entertainment Weekly realised was ‘based on conservative online personalities Alex Jones and Glenn Beck’. He trots out the usual crap about gun confiscation (number of guns confiscated by Obama government: still 0) before moving onto 9/11 as a false flag, chemtrails, global warming, HAARP and NSA spying. As the storyline progresses we are introduced to a reverse-engineered alien spacecraft running on some kind of zero point energy, before all of this is combined into one big happy mess whereby the government are actually running the UFOs to wipe us out or put us into FEMA camps or use alien DNA as part of eugenics experiments that all dates back to Roswell and… you get the idea. You can barely breathe in this episode without hearing a reference to popular conspiracy theories.
Mulder, our hero and the original basement-dwelling conspiracy theorist, is initially sceptical, suggesting O’Malley is in it for the money. Within minutes he is turned around and by the end of the episode they are finishing each other’s sentences as they weave the most elaborate and all-encompassing conspiracy theory you’ve heard since you last got drunk and typed ‘flat earth’ into youtube. Put simply, this is a show for conspiracy theorists. That subculture is where most of the dialogue comes from (complete with phrases like ‘problem, reaction, solution’) and that audience is who The X-Files is squarely and obviously aimed at.
Unless You’re a Conspiracy Theorist, that is…
From my brief scanning of social networks and discussion forums conspiracy theorists are divided on whether the show is some kind of validation of their worst beliefs, or a mockery of them. At the end of episode 1 O’Malley is conveniently silenced, not just leaving Mulder and Scully free to explore this ludicrous theory on their own, but also playing into the self-victimising conspiracist mindset. The guy conspiracy theorists thought they were supposed to identify with becomes some kind of victim of the grand all-encompassing elitist plot. In reality Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, David Icke, David Shayler and the rest of the conspiracy con artists are alive, well and making money spreading their unique combination of racial hatred and technophobia.
The sheer lack of self-awareness in the conspiracy culture has annoyed and amused me in equal measure for years, but The X-Files illustrates it more perfectly than any other recent example. I have yet to read a single comment from a conspiracy theorist about The X-Files that recognises the show is aimed at them. No doubt some out there are aware of this, but they are either keeping their thoughts to themselves or don’t particularly care (or both).
The majority of conspiracy theorist responses to the new X-Files that I have seen go down the usual road of assuming the show must all just be part of a conspiracy. In reality, I can find no connection with the current writers and producers and any other major state-sponsored film or show. Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, who wrote/produced some episodes for the original series went on to make 24 and Homeland with the assistance of the CIA. We might also assume that the FBI would publicly distance themselves from The X-Files if they were not involved, given how prominently their brand features in the show. But neither of these arguments proves that the incorporation of conspiracy theory themes and memes in this new series is the result of government interference.
Again, in reality conspiracy culture has been going mainstream for a long time. Many popular conspiracy theories (such as that the training exercise on the morning of 7/7 was somehow a mask for the real bombings) originated in popular culture. Admittedly, a lot of that popular culture was assisted by government agencies, suggesting that they are interested in moulding and manipulating the conspiracy culture. Robbie Graham‘s excellent book Silver Screen Saucers shows in particular how the CIA and US military intelligence have for decades been encouraging and influencing the UFO subculture. It is entirely possible that the FBI, CIA, Pentagon or someone else was involved in the new series of The X-Files. But at this point it is just a suspicion, no one has come up with hard evidence.
But of course, conspiracy theorists love suspicion. In the conspiracist mathematical schema, 3 consecutive suspicious things adds up to a proven theory. So, the fact that The X-Files contains conspiracy themes, and in such diversity and quantity, and with the knowledge that there is such a thing as government-sponsored entertainment, that means the show must be part of the conspiracy, right? The purpose? Guesses vary but a common theme is that they are somehow trying to put people off looking into conspiracy theories and anything that challenges mainstream narratives and discourse. The most sensible of this version of events suggests that by mixing plausible conspiracy with implausible conspiracy (wherever you draw that distinction) ‘they’ are muddying the waters.
My problem with this is that conspiracy theories are hardly a new phenomenon or even one that is particularly damaging or challenging to the establishment. My other problem with this is that if The X-Files wanted to go truly batshit it would be incorporating the flat earth theory, which has seen a huge rush of interest in recent years and which Chris Carter must be aware of. Likewise, the show should incorporate some variant of the ‘mass immigration as elitist plot’ idea which even non-conspiracy theorists have noticed is rising in popularity. But neither of these elements are present in the story (at least so far) and instead we are offered a strictly political conspiracy, albeit with some very fancy bells and whistles attached in the form of chemtrails and extraterrestrial technology.
Thus, the whole show is situated in the real world, at least in broad terms, and it really does depend from person to person whether it is more plausible that 9/11 was a false flag attack or something really did crash at Roswell. Thus, by mixing these together Chris Carter and the rest of the X-Files crew are not really muddying the waters anymore than Alex Jones, David Icke and the rest of the conspiralebrities have done already. One might even argue that the show has the opposite effect – of drawing people with a mild, abstract interest in UFOs and the paranormal (which is about half of the population) into the world of political conspiracy theories. Depending on who is watching, the show could actually be promoting conspiracy theories much more than it is deriding them or putting people off.
Where the Fuck is NASA?
Given that this show is about alien technology being secreted and controlled by government agencies, why are NASA never mentioned? I can barely even remember any mention of them in the original show. You would have thought that they would have some role to play in this, given that they would by necessity have to be part of the cover-up alongside the Pentagon. But NASA are nowhere in sight.
As such, one of the questions on my mind is whether NASA are the primary agency behind The X-Files (if indeed there is such an agency). Few other shows have made UFOs and extraterrestrials seem more real and more necessary to explore. Few other series have related the mystery of space to real life on planet Earth more vividly. By excluding NASA from this all-encompassing plot despite their obvious relevance they remain one of the few government agencies that seem like they might be the good guys. If indeed the show is part of a government propaganda campaign (at least in the conspiratorial elements) then would this not be more plausible?
I will be likely be providing more commentary on the new series of The X-Files as it progresses, though the second episode is nowhere near as provocative as the first. We do seem to be moving more towards transhumanist territory, with the alien DNA hybrid kids demonstrating super powers like telekinesis and mind reading. Nonetheless, at this stage I will say that it is an interesting show but that people should take care in drawing fast conclusions about what the motives of the producers are, particularly those engaged in the insular conspiracy culture.
This week a little over 1 million people will die. Only one of them was David Bowie. In this episode I look at celebrity worship and the manufactured grief that results when a famous person dies. Why do people want to become celebrities? Why do people worship them? Why do so many celebrities commit suicide? Why do celebrity followers engage in all kinds of hypocrisy and special pleading in response to being reminded that famous people are just people?
I hate celebrities. Not necessarily on a personal level, though sometimes on a personal level, but generically speaking I hate celebrities. I think celebrity culture truly represents something bad about human beings, its existence demonstrates some of the worst human weaknesses. We can break this into two parts, (1) the celebrities themselves and (2) the people worshipping them.
(1) Who would want to be a celebrity? Because anyone honest would look at that world, weigh up the pros and cons, and decide that fame isn’t worth it. It isn’t worth the loss of personal dignity and privacy. It isn’t worth the inability to know if people are truly your friends. It isn’t worth the expectations people put on you and the tide of media shit you get when you fail to live up to those expectations. It is clearly not the dream life that you’re told it is from the outside.
This is particularly the case with the fame factories, reality TV like the X-Factor. Several major contestants on the X-Factor in this country could have gone on to have relatively successful recording careers making bland, forgettable pop music. But some of them, even winners of the competition, have refused, even got involved in protracted legal struggles to get them out of the iron grip of psychopath ringmaster Simon Cowell.
Admittedly, they have gone to try to become celebrities of sorts, but not within the narrow confines of the contracts they are made to sign so they can go on the show in the first place. By the end of the show, if they do well, they realise that they’ve signed their lives away. But no one says that to them at the beginning, it’s all ‘the opportunity of a lifetime’ and a million other cliches. But no one talks about this. No one interviews an X-Factor reject three years later who everyone knew could sing better than the skinny one but they picked the skinny one because they were skinny. No one interviews the winner who has one shitty album and is them dumped on the sidelines because their public appeal was deemed to be short-term. TV is full of people becoming celebrities. Entirely absent are people who used to be celebrities but aren’t any more.
Meanwhile, famous people regularly die young of drug overdoses, commit suicide or otherwise wind up dead or ruining their lives. And I’m not just talking about the likes of Marilyn Monroe who get murdered by high ranking officials of the government. A cursory glance via a search engine easily turns up the following:
And articles with titles like:
If you look on the wikipedia pages you’ll find hundreds of names – many of which were extremely famous, A-list or close to that level. I bring this up to make two points – 1) That a lot of lesser famous people won’t be included because wikipedia is not a complete database and 2) That even being at the top isn’t enough. Curiously, the wiki page on actress who committed suicide doesn’t include Marilyn Monroe, quite rightly but still oddly given that is the official version.
But Tom, I hear you ask, do you have any evidence that celebrities are any more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population? I’m glad you asked, because that is indeed the more important question. I can point you to an article on Business Insider The 13 Careers Where You’re Most Likely To Commit Suicide, which is based on several papers by Steven Stack, a statistician who specialises in suicide numbers. Among the 13 careers they list, celebrities include:
10) Performers like comedians are 1.90 times more likely to commit suicide than average
7) Artists, sculptors and painters are 2.12 times more likely to commit suicide than average
6) Photographers are 2.50 times more likely to commit suicide than average
5) Authors are 2.60 times more likely to commit suicide than average
4) Dancers are 2.67 times more likely to commit suicide than average
3) Actors are 2.80 times more likely to commit suicide than average
2) Musicians are 3.60 times more likely to commit suicide than average
For those of you who are wondering what the top spot is:
1) Dentists are 5.45 times more likely to commit suicide than average
The lesson here is not just don’t become a celebrity, but also don’t become a dentist. Even accepting the limitations of this article, even if in some other studies the numbers might add up differently, I think this is enough to demonstrate that celebrities commit suicide more often than most people. And more worryingly, there is a theory known as the ‘Werther effect’ that suggests that suicides in the normal population increase in the wake of a celebrity suicide, or any suicide that receives a lot of media coverage. This is an odd form of the copycat effect, and worth considering.
Which brings us to (2): Why do people worship celebrities? Especially to the extent that some people even feel more like committing suicide because a celebrity has done so. That’s not something that enters into our discussion about becoming vicariously attached to famous people, but clearly it should be of serious concern given how widespread and popular celebrity culture has become. What other aspects of culture have their own magazines devoted to them? Films. Computer Games. General, generic ‘men’s culture’ or ‘women’s culture’. All of which, despite their failings, are more substantial than celebrity magazines. And yet it is celebrity rags that fill the shelves. Pictures of hideous, saccharine royal marriages and babies glaring out us like the devil with their dead eyes.
One of the reasons is that people generally want someone to symbolically identify with, and this find all sorts of different expressions. The best of these is falling in love, which goes beyond the sort of relationship that’s possible with others, even friends of long standing who you have a lot of affection for. You forgive things in someone you love that you would not forgive in others, and they do the same for you, if you’ve got them well trained. This is a symbolic identification precisely because it’s a little bit of fantasy. The person you fall in love with is not exactly the same as that person is objectively. Like I say, you ignore their faults, but it’s about something more fundamental than that. You project onto them certain fantasies and you’re either lucky or somewhat sensible you’ll find someone who lives up to enough of those fantasies for it to all be worth it. This can and does happen all the time, and is perhaps the best thing about human relationships. And the worst when it breaks your heart and leaves you sobbing on the floor. So it goes.
At the other end of the scale you have Stalinism – cult of personality leadership enabling a brutal killing machine. People identified with Stalin, without knowing him or even having seen him in the flesh, because of what he symbolised to them. And of course, he symbolised different things to different people, but they all projected their fantasies onto him and because they had no true interaction with him he never failed to live up to their fantasies. Without that, he could not have taken Russia into WW2, or ordered the deaths of millions of people in Soviet satellite states or any number of other things. You could say the same about Hitler. You let your audience dream and as long as nothing interrupts the dream they will be happy, because deep down all they want to do is dream.
In our postmodern heavily mediated reality where we spend more time being fed carefully crafted fantasies than at any previous time in human history, politicians cannot satisfy this as well as they once could. For a long time people believe in monarchs, kings and queens who deserved to rule because they were a better class of person. They believed that if things were good then it was because of the wise benefaction of the king. In turn, the king was the manifestation of God’s will on earth, so if things are good then it is because of the wise benefaction of God as manifested in the king.
As kings gradually got abandoned and replaced with elective democracies and systems of that nature, and as people had access to more media because of mass newspapers and then radio and then television, political leaders had to have a bit of the king about them in order to last more than a few years. The symbolic relationship that people had to the king and thus to God was replaced with a relationship with elected leaders and thus to systemic philosophies – liberal, socialist, fascist and so on. So-called ‘great men of history’ represented so-called ‘visions of a better world’, and thus if things are good then the man and the vision must be good.
As those grand ideologies, that grand teleologies, grand narratives with happy endings for loyal adherents, as they became less convincing, as they failed to deliver on their promises, people became alienated and individualised. A condition of anomie, a sense of there being no great historical purpose, no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, set in. Dreams of a better society for all gave way to a culture of better for me and mine, as soon as possible. Political leaders no longer serve as valid icons with whom the symbolic relationship works effectively. The abstract ideal, the fantasy to which they are a conduit in the mind of the public, no longer captures people’s imaginations like it once did.
Into their place come celebrities. In some ways celebrities have always existed, but for the last several thousand years of civilisation you actually had to do something to become famous. Today all you need is the willingness to do whatever is necessary to gain and maintain fame, and to convince people with the skills to make it happen. Because fame is always manufactured in our society. Talent is no longer discovered, it is selected like a cheese from a deli counter in the supermarket. And often talent isn’t what matters, but whether someone has the perceived qualities that are considered marketable, and has the willingness to say all kinds of dishonest things to make people like them.
Bringing us full circle. Anyone who would want to be famous in the present day culture is clearly suffering from outrageous intellectual delinquency, or is desperately trying to compensate for some psychological problem. The handful who make the mistake and walk through the door and then walk back out again – I think they are actually quite decent people. One example I like is Zayn Malik from the manufactured boy band Wand Erection. He always seemed out of place, not only because he was the token brown skinned member of the band but also because he seemed a bit shy and not really into being famous. He left the band and thus caused them to split up not long after, he well and truly suicide bombed Wand Erection and for that we can all be thankful. But he’s also the only member of that band that I’d actually be interested in talking to, because I think he realised the price of fame is too much. And fuck it, he made a good sized pile of money and bought his mum a house, he’s done pretty well out of it all things considered so despite my hatred of celebrities I say good luck to him.
Getting back to why people worship celebrities – like politicians symbolising the promise of a better world, celebrities symbolise the promise of a better life. Celebrities always seem to be doing exciting things and wearing exciting clothes and having lots of attention paid to them and lots of people saying they like them. From the outside, and because our conversation about celebrities is completely unrealistic, that seems like a really nice life to lead. But clearly it isn’t, because they’re offing themselves at a faster rate than crack addicts.
In our individualised culture of commodified pleasures, when the dream of a better world for all is replaced by the fantasy of a better world for me, celebrities are the new locus for the symbolic, fantasising relationship. The symbolic relationship that people had to the king and thus to God was replaced with a relationship with elected leaders and thus to systemic philosophies, which in turn has been replaced by the relationship with celebrities and thus to ideal lifestyles.
As a consequence, celebrities have higher and more durable approval ratings than political leaders, larger and more loyal followings, and in most of the ways that matter more influence over them. They often last longer in the limelight. And if anything, their political views are more important than those of most politicians. If Lady Gaga says that gay rights in the military is not just an important issue but one that she’s taking a strong position on (for reasons best explained by focus group data), then her loyal twitter followers will not question that. No politician inspires the same fascination and lack of criticism. A celebrity talking about politics is more likely to get coverage than a politician talking about politics. Let alone a politician talking about celebrities.
So what are the common factors here – perhaps the most important one is that it is a relationship with someone that you never truly interact with. In each case it is a person playing a role – kings, politicians, celebrities, they are never truly themselves in public. They are allowing you to project your fantasies onto them, and thus enable you to use them as a conduit to imagine getting closer to your ideal lifestyle. We envision them living the life, with us alongside, and it’s happy all the time. Just as people saw closeness to the king as closeness to God, and fealty to the King as loyalty to God, and then saw loyalty to a politician as a means of making the political utopia more likely, they now see loyalty and fidelity to a celebrity as making it more likely that they will obtain their ideal lifestyle.
These days the easiest, most predictable and reliable route to money and attention without any discernable talent is becoming a celebrity. Reality TV offers endless opportunities for people to try to enter into the elite world of ‘the famous’. People then go on these shows and emulate the attention-seeking behaviour they see on TV, thinking it is their passport to everything they want. And some make it. Usually young women willing to use their sexuality in exchange for money and fame. They are always in demand, and increasingly they are in supply.
But most do not make it. Most are stuck in a state of arrested development of simply watching the spectacle of celebrity without ever becoming it. Teenage girls protesting with each other about who truly ‘knows’ some guy on the front cover of a magazine that neither of them have met or spoken to or in any way had contact with. Music stars are the best for this because you can go to a gig and feel that you have had contact with them. What we’re never shown is that to them you’re just one face in a sea of hundreds if not thousands that is the fifth audience they’ve sung to that week. You don’t mean a damn thing to them, except that you’ve paid your money and turned up and contributed to the cult of personality that exists around each individual celebrity. Every celebrity is a cult in itself, and you’re just another member.
Think of the similarity between a modern outdoor gig and those huge political rallies held by the Nazis. You are penned into specific areas, you can only get so close before a fence or a hefty guy in black stops you. The idea is to get as close as physically possible to the icon, whether it be Hitler or Justin Bieber, the Hitler of music. The closer you get, the more excited you’re allowed to be when you tell your friend how great it was. But you have to tell them it was great. You cannot for one moment say ‘I was standing in a cold field, the band were 30 minutes late and the lead singer didn’t look at me once’. Even if that’s exactly what happened. You don’t really have permission to say it was shit.
Why is that? It is partly because of the reassuring nature of large numbers of people saying the same things as you. There is safety in numbers. In fact there isn’t, large crowds of people are actually quite dangerous things to be in the middle of, but people think there are. And in looking around for something to believe in, this is the most popular thing. Pop culture is the most popular thing in the world. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Crowds draw crowds.
This was amply demonstrated by something that happened in Brixton, where Bowie was from, when a crowd gathered to pay tribute, singing Star Man and some other songs. Now this is quite sweet and essentially harmless, but in glancing at the media coverage of this several things became clear:
– A good proportion of the people there were kids, people who don’t have a fucking clue who Bowie was and definitely did not grow up listening to his music.
– Almost everyone there was white, so probably not actual Brixton locals. Not that it makes a lot of odds, just an observation.
– Some of the photos were clearly staged – ‘can you just stare off into the distance and look mournful for me, yes, great, thank you’.
– The media coverage is of the ‘outpouring of public grief’, thus encouraging it in the here and now but also giving permission to people to go even crazier the next time. It’s also a little bit of reality TV in itself – ‘if I go out and publicly make a show of my grief for Bowie then maybe I’ll get on the news, or my picture will get in the paper, or my tweet will get read out’.
– The videos I have seen of this little tribute to Bowie show the nice bit – the crowd singing. It does not show what happened at the end, when these people shuffled off into the night, not entirely sure what had just happened and why.
Idolise the person, idealise the lifestyle. That is the recipe for modern symbolic relationships with celebrities. They are a vehicle through which we fantasise about a better life for ourselves, just as politicians and kings were before them. We tell ourselves lies about how talented they are, because the more talented they are, we convince ourselves, the better the lifestyle they deserve. Then finally, we imagine how great it must have been to be them. And thus, we come to the hard truth. Just as anyone who wants to become a celebrity is compensating for some perceived or real flaw, so is anyone who worships a celebrity. A small part of them, or in some cases a big part of them, wants to be that person. It’s a way of dealing with feelings of inadequacy or having failed with your own life. Which are feelings a lot of people have. They shouldn’t have those feelings, because in my experience non-famous people are a lot nicer than famous people, they are more fundamentally decent and grounded in the real world.
I’m sure by now most of you know what this has to do with the death of David Bowie but it is worth being explicit. As with a lot of recent celebrity deaths, Robin Williams being another example, Bowie’s death saw an outpouring of grief on social media. I say ‘grief’ but the emotions are pretty shallow, because none of these people actually knew the man. Indeed, most of them will have had no interaction even with his music in months or even years before this. And they can still listen to his music, nothing is stopping them doing that. So what are they missing? What are they grieving for?
It isn’t simply a matter of me not feeling the same way – I admit, I do not really care that Bowie is dead. It makes no difference to my life at all. He was a very talented songwriter who wrote some great music but the music still exists and I don’t really see what difference it makes to anything. He is simply another person who has died, no more and no less. But it is about more than that – I actively feel that this behaviour is unhealthy. It doesn’t make people happy, not in the long run.
So, having observed a day’s respectful silence on the subject I opted to post a little something on facebook. I quickly scratched up a meme with a picture of Bowie doing a Nazi salutes and some quotes from him where he talked about Britain needing a fascist government. I put this up with the description, ‘This one goes out to everyone who expressed more sadness when Bowie died than they did for their own relatives…’
Naturally, this will have pissed some people off and made them think I’m an asshole. I’m cool with people thinking I’m an asshole, particularly if they are the sort of person who will mealy mouth and talk around the fact that Bowie was full of cocaine and proclaiming himself the new Hitler. Because what I did is nowhere near as bad as what he did, yet they’ll find reasons to forgive him and make out like I’m the bad guy. That’s so fucked up, morally speaking, that I cannot give it the time of day.
Some of the responses I got were, naturally, a bit critical. A common theme is that Bowie isn’t a politician. As though if a politician said these things it matters but if a much more famous and idolised person with far less critical followers says it then it’s trivial. In fact it’s worse. It has a more detrimental effect. It was a stupid and irresponsible thing to do. That was one point I was trying to make, that however talented a songwriter Bowie was, he wasn’t a great role model. Sleeping with underage girls and getting coked out of your head and praising fascism isn’t good behaviour no matter how beautiful your voice is. He was not the god or more commonly these days the ‘legend’ that people want to make out he was.
Nor is he the demon some people will no doubt claim. He did renounce these comments which is to his credit but the point for me is that he never would have made them if it he didn’t become really famous. Fame goes to people’s heads, like a drug, and they can feel invincible and flawless. We turn them into Gods and they start thinking they are Gods. In reality they are people, some of whom are a lot more talented than others and Bowie was one of the most talented ones. That is worth respecting. But it should not be idolised. It isn’t good for the celebrities or for the people worshipping them.
Trying to get through to people on this is not easy. My post on facebook was quite blunt, a form of shock therapy for anyone who saw it who wasn’t already aware of Bowie’s fascist past. But it is primarily a form of iconoclasm, which I think is a very good thing. It won’t make the idolisers happy, but neither does their idolatry, they just think it does. You could achieve the same effect with small but regular doses of MDMA. But this is an important topic, because celebrities have become such important people. Or not even people – symbols, icons. Just like kings and politicians, Gods and ideologies before them, celebrities will fall and something else will replace them. But I think it would be good to hasten that process, however much it might upset people in the short term.
There is one final dimension to this that I would like to lay out for your consideration. Reality TV, the means by which people can get a glimpse and very occasionally a passage into the realm of fame, has rapidly become the most common genre of TV. It literally did not exist 20 years ago. There are various factors behind this, too many to get into at this moment, but one of them is undoubtedly the support of the Pentagon. Reading both the older Entertainment Liaison Office reports and the more recent ones the majority of TV productions the Pentagon assists are not military-themed at all, but are reality TV. They are clearly in favour of this broad cultural trend and are helping it become more influential, consistently supporting it in various forms, from Survivor to Food Truck Face Off.
An aspect to the Pentagon’s entertainment industry operations that has not been explored in much depth is the notion of a cultural subsidy. This is not a financial subsidy – the producers reimburse the Pentagon for their immediate costs, but something more important. In essence, the Pentagon is enabling culture producers to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. And this is quite explicit in the DOD instruction on liaising with the entertainment industry – they say they are not allowed to provide services already being provided by private companies. There is some overlap, but the fact remains that what the Pentagon has to offer is unique, you just can’t get the same thing elsewhere. Thus, the hundreds if not thousands of times they have subsidised reality TV culture, giving it a little something extra, adds up to a big chunk of support for this emerging and dominating genre of television, and thus to the whole celebrity culture and the philosophical and psychological dynamics I’ve been discussing today.