Kindle Surprise: The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan

“The question, as always, is how good is the evidence? The burden of proof surely rests on the shoulders of those who advance such claims. Revealingly, some proponents hold that scepticism is a liability, that true science is inquiry without scepticism. They are perhaps halfway there. But halfway doesn’t do it. “

"Carl Sagan Planetary Society" by NASA/JPL

It’s no secret I enjoy conspiracies, and conspiracy theories. This is mostly for the entertainment value: the world would be a much more interesting place if those in power were, as David Icke has suggested, actually shape-shifting lizards. But a good general rule is, the bigger a conspiracy has to be, the less likely it is to be true. Another useful one is Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. So was the government behind 9/11? I doubt it. Should the government have known about it? Quite probably: the dots were there, they just weren’t connected by anyone in possession of all the data. Did America shamelessly exploit it afterward for an entirely unconnected foreign policy agenda, specifically, the invasion of Iraq? Oh, hell, yes. This doesn’t require a conspiracy, just standard political opportunism.

On Reddit, I’ve been amused and irritated in about equal amounts by the /r/conspiracy forum there, whose contents run the gamut from entirely reasonable speculation through to batshit crazy, with a copious helping of anti-Semitism (thinly disguised as anti-“Zionism”) and a relentless belief that every thing is a “false flag” – including, in an Inception-style piece of circular thinking, some who believe the anti-Semitic posts are false flags, designed to discredit /r/conspiracy. My particular bete noire are those who believe the Sandy Hook massacre was not just a false flag, but never happened at all. Literally, nobody died: it was a grand piece of theater designed to… Well, no-one has come up with an adequate motive: the most commonly mentioned one, to promote gun-control, conveniently forget that not one piece of federal legislation subsequently became law.

The evidence for this conclusion is wafer-thin, depending entirely on a conspiratorial interpretation of events with other possible explanations. For instance, a property database containing $0 transactions for homes in the area, has been cited as proof of a payoff to participants. But the alternative, is that these numbers are simply a place-holder – and the same database shows similar $0 for houses in other towns as well. Or one of the parents, Robbie Parker, who doesn’t behave at a press-conference the way the hoax proponents think he should. Me, I’ve never sent a child off to school and had them gunned down before lunch: I’m absolutely not going to tell anyone how they “should” behave under such a circumstance. Anything from catatonia to pure, undiluted rage would seem quite plausible to me.

What does all this have to do with Carl Sagan, best known for the original Cosmos series? Before I get to that, I did have the option to read his most well-known work, but I opted to pass, since the TV series had a tendency to send me off to sleep. Not that it was boring: just that it takes me back to being a 13-year-old, allowed to stay up late to watch the show. I rarely made it to the end, since his voice, pleasantly intoning “bill-yuns and bill-yuns”, had about the same soporific effect on me as mainlining a bottle of cough syrup. So, I opted for this one instead – though just to be safe, read it on my phone while doing laps of the courtyard at work on my breaks. Unconsciousness was successfully staved off. I can do no better than the Wikipedia summary: the book “aims to explain the scientific method to laypeople, and to encourage people to learn critical or skeptical thinking. It explains methods to help distinguish between ideas that are considered valid science, and ideas that can be considered pseudoscience. Sagan states that when new ideas are offered for consideration, they should be tested by means of skeptical thinking, and should stand up to rigorous questioning.”

These are skills which are, in general, sadly lacking in /r/conspiracy. While there is skepticism, it’s a one-way street, that’s applied only to mainstream news sources where the reported information doesn’t fit the agenda. Now, it’s certainly wise to think about the agenda behind the reporting of FOX News or CNN. But it’s completely idiotic to think that alternative news sources have any less of an agenda, or don’t spin things every bit as much. There’s always the “want to hear both sides, because the truth is in the middle” argument – but that doesn’t apply to facts. If one source tells you Arsenal won the FA Cup and another says it was Manchester United, that doesn’t mean the final score was a draw. The other main problem is letting the theory drive your investigation and interpretation of the data. For instance, Sandy Hook hoax proponents wonder why we didn’t see any surveillance footage of Adam Lanza, in the way we saw the Columbine killers, hinting darkly that it’s because the story is made up. But the truth is, there were no surveillance cameras in Sandy Hook elementary. They’re demanding to see something that doesn’t exist.

sandy hook

The scientific method involves examining all the data, and coming up with something which then explains them, as completely as possible – with the caveat here that no event, subsequently described and interpreted by humans, will ever be perfectly without inconsistencies of detail. At Sandy Hook, the simplest, most elegant theory is that a mentally disturbed individual with access to lethal weaponry, used them to commit an almost unthinkable atrocity. Which may be from where the conspiracy theories spring, an attempt to find a less threatening alternative, i.e. “nobody died”, effectively wishing away the idea of 20 first- and second-graders being gunned down in their school. Sadly, that doesn’t make it true, and if you’re going to claim it, you will need to provide an alternative that explains all – not some – of the available evidence, equally as well as the “official” story. That just hasn’t happen. I’ve yet to hear any hypothesis which provides detail on how, why and by who the hoax, of necessity involving thousands of people, was carried out.

Sagan particularly speaks to this in a chapter entitled The dragon in my garage, in which he discusses a hypothetical claim about a fire-breathing creature, that’s impossible to disprove. You can’t see it? It’s invisible. You can’t feel the heat? The fire produced is heatless. It sounds like more than a few conspiracy theories, which are equally hard to nail down. We see this at Sandy Hook, with the allegation that there were no death certificates. When one of the parents released the certificate, it was then claimed, on dubious grounds, to be a forgery. [Again, one way scepticism: anything countering the mindset is scrutinized in painstaking detail; anything supporting it is typically accepted without question] It’s a continual shifting of the goalposts: you dispose of one claim, and another will simply get wheeled out to replace it. As Sagan says, “If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.”

I don’t agree with Sagan in some of his more socially-oriented opinions here – when you no longer have a fully-informed electorate, democracy becomes much more part of the problem, rather than a solution. And that’s why I do agree with him about the vita importance of education, and in particular, teaching critical thinking skills. Telling children 2+2=4 is all very well, but what happens when they then encounter 2+3? Giving them the ability to analyze data and solve problems is much better than the rote learning of facts. We should expect citizens to question authority, where the evidence is there to do so, and it’s part of science’s duty to do exactly that. Nicolaus Copernicus, for example, challenged the widely-accepted and Church supported notion that the sun revolved around the Earth in the 16th century, after he realized the data didn’t support it. But dogmatic scepticism is just as bad as dogmatic belief. Yes, the gumment will lie to you. But they don’t do so all the time – or even most of it, because they know it’s the truth that makes the lies plausible. Using the tools in what Sagan politely calls his “baloney detection kit” will help you separate the two.

It would certainly help many people, who mindlessly repost the most blatantly false shit on their Facebook wall, without a semblance of critical thought, or even basic Googling. As Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Oh, hang on: that wasn’t Twain at all. I think for most people, an increase in scepticism would likely help, and that’s why, in the end, Sagan’s approach perhaps has more common with /r/conspiracy than it would initially appear, even if the latter’s approach to scepticism is a half-baked one.

“The business of scepticism is to be dangerous. Scepticism challenges established institutions. If we teach everybody, including, say, high school students, habits of sceptical thought, they will probably not restrict their scepticism to UFOs, aspirin commercials and 35,000-year-old channellees. Maybe they’ll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Perhaps they’ll challenge the opinions of those in power. Then where would we be?”

Unlawful Killing – the Princess Diana conspiracy film


Dir: Keith Allen

The phrase “banned in the UK” still has a curious lure to me, even though I haven’t lived there now for over 13 years. So, hearing about this documentary immediately piqued my interest, since it was more or less damned as far as any UK release was concerned – lawyers apparently advised the lawyers that 87 different cuts would need to be made, mostly for reasons of libel. Any US release was similarly shelved after it was was deemed impossible to secure insurance against the possibility of legal repercussions. There are reasons to be skeptical of the film, not least that it’s entire budget of $2.5 million was apparently provided by Mohammed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi, and someone who, it’s safe to say, has something of a prejudiced agenda in the case. Virtually since Day One, he has been banging the drum that the British establishment murdered his son and Diana, because they couldn’t stand the prospect of a Muslim being a step-father to the future King – and, hey, what are the odds, the film comes to exactly the same conclusions, both general and specific.

It’s hugely variable stuff. Some of the claims made in the film are basically ludicrous: such as the one that the entire legal system is “corrupt,” because they all swear allegiance to the Crown. Presumably, that would therefore include the likes of Michael Mansfield, QC to Al Fayed. There’s also no mention of Diana’s previous relationship with Hasnat Khan, another Muslim, which lasted two years and apparently met with little or no opposition from the palace. In contrast, Diana had first met Dodi less than seven weeks before her death, and had probably spent little more than three weeks together, so the claim they were intending to get married seems difficult to sustain. The same goes for the allegation she was pregnant: while the swift embalming of her body would indeed have made it harder to tell if that was the case, all the circumstantial evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

On the other hand, there are items about the affair which still make me go “Hmmm.” Like the way there was absolutely no CCTV footage available anywhere on the route. Or the letter Diana wrote, saying “My husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry.” Considering what happened subsequently, it is valid to ask why Prince Charles – nor, indeed, any of the royal family, and just about none of their household – was not called to testify at the lengthy inquest into Diana’s death, held in 2007-08. Then there’s the mysterious white Fiat Uno which appears to have hit Diana’s Mercedes and vanished. The film suggests this belonged to French photojournalist James Andanson, who was found, burned to death inside a locked car in May 2000 – with the keys nowhere to be found. The verdict: “suicide”. As I say: hmmm.


The problem is that, if you do the slightest digging into the claims, the film is so one-sided as to be little more than Al Fayed propaganda, despite Allen’s protestations to the contrary. The problem is that the blatant and obvious bias will, in fact, tend to push the undecided away; a more measured approach, acknowledging the weaknesses and providing both sides  of the argument, before coming to a conclusion, is more likely to encourage open-mindedness. Truth be told, it probably works better as a satire of press incompetence, though I’m not sure we really need a dramatic reconstruction of BBC Royal Correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, falling asleep in a tent, amusing though it is. There’s also a strong republican (small r, note) bent, with allegations that Prince Philip is a clinical psychopath. I’m not quite sure what exactly that all has to do with a car-crash in Paris, and it seems to have strayed in from an entirely separate – possibly more interesting – documentary.

This is truly about as far from impartial as it’s possible to get. That doesn’t, in itself, make it a bad documentary, but the best example of the genre, for me, are those which follow the facts wherever they may lead, rather than starting with a conclusion, then highlighting only the facts to be found on the path to the conclusion. The real takeaways here, are, tabloid journalists are lazy, and the Royal Family don’t like having their dirty washing aired in public – neither should come as a particular surprise. Don’t mistake this for definitive, or anything approaching it, and instead you’d be best of to treat it as a scurrilous feature-length special edition of Hello!

Incredibly Bad TV Show: Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura

Regular readers will know that we’re big fans of conspiracy theories here at TC. While not necessarily believing them all – especially the all-encompassing, shape-shifting lizards from another dimension type ones – they’re like intellectual table-salt. They enhance the flavor of life, and help foster a sense of cynicism about the motives and actions of government and those in power, which is certainly extremely sensible. However, just as conspiracy theories cover the gamut from plausible to completely-loopy [though remarkably entertaining], so does coverage of them in the mainstream media range from sober, serious consideration of the possibilities to… Well, to Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.

We should probably have got some kind of inkling from its location on Tru TV. The channel used to be known as Court TV, but changed its brand in 2008, now operating under the slogan, “Not reality. Actuality.” Going by shows such as Operation Repo, “actuality” appears to mean making stuff up and trying to give the impression it’s real.  Saying Tru TV does not have a good record for serious investigative journalism is like saying Michael Jackson had some deficiencies as a child-care provider.  But, hey, we’ll cut it some slack: after all, host Jesse Ventura remains one of the few people to crack the two-party system, during his spell as Governor of Minnesota. If there’s anyone capable of cutting through the BS, it’d be him.

Unfortunately,  any hope of a balanced look at the topics under investigation evaporates in the fiery heat of the near-hysterical approach to the subject matter. After the jump, we’ll bravely go through the entire series, episode by episode, and expose the deadly truth about Conspiracy Theory!!!! Ok, perhaps not, but after you’ve watched a few of these shows, the style does tend to rub off…

Witness the first episode, looking at the HAARP project in Alaska. This is something we’ve been talking about for a long time, having previously covered the topic in 2003 – Ventura, however, was clearly not paying attention, cheerfully admitting he’d never heard of it two weeks previously. Ok, everyone has to start somewhere, and while the qualifications of the ‘crack team of researchers’ in Ventura’s ‘war-room’ are never produced (they include June Sarpong, a crony of Tony Blair and owner of an MBE – hardly an establishment outsider), they do talk to the right people, notably Dr. Nick Begich.

Begich is not just one of the most knowledgeable people on the topic, he’s also one of the most level-headed: he carefully avoids making outrageous claims, just lays out the facts and how he interprets them. This is in sharp contrast with the tone here, which labels HAARP as a weapon for causing tsunamis, controlling minds or even, as Ventura breathlessly intones, “a death ray.” This reaches its epic apex just before a commercial break, when Begich’s harmless demonstration of piezo-electic transduction to play music inside the Governator’s head is breathlessly previewed as: “Coming up: HAARP invades Jesse Ventura’s brain!” I can just imagine poor Dr. Nick watching this nonsense unfold and slumping, embarrassed, ever-lower on his sofa. We were right there with him.

The series keeps trying to provoke conflict where none is present, such as sending Ventura to the gateway of the HAARP facility in remote Alaska. After a spot of hanging around, a bemused security guard, having drawn the short straw, is sent down to discuss things with the former Governor, and advises him to come back during one of the scheduled open days. Yes, this top secret, brain-frying, death-dealing facility has open days. Truly, the Cold War is over. Guess they ensure the tsunami-creating device is carefully hidden in a cupboard or something on those occasions.

Would you trust this man?
Jesse in his wrassling’ days

In the second episode, Ventura took on the Kennedy assassination of our generation: 9/11, with particularly unimpressive results. The main theory being floated for it was the ‘false flag’ one, that it was concocted to provide a pretext for invasion – but the obvious question was never answered. If that’s that case, why make all the terrorists Saudis, if we wanted to invade Iraq and/or Afghanistan? That’d be like the Nazis staging the Gleiwitz incident, and dressing the “Polish” corpses in kilts and sporrans. The episode instead bangs away at the missing black boxes from the two Manhattan planes, speaking to a couple of people who say they saw them being recovered. Interesting, to be sure, but hardly prima facie evidence for US government involvement.

The next installment took on global warming: initially, this actually seemed like the most plausible and, as a result, effective one.  While scientific consensus tends to support the idea of man-made climate change, it’s by no means an absolute certainty – and, interestingly, those who are set to cash in on changes to counter this, include some of those who have been most prominent in pushing the idea, such as Al Gore. If they’d stopped there, the show would have been fine. Unfortunately, Ventura and his team then charged off in search of an over-arching plot, and the man in charge turned out to be determined to be billionaire Maurice Strong, a former top man in the UN (OMG! NWO! ZOG!) who now lives in… China (communist!). Needless to say, the team failed miserably to get any kind of interview with, or comment from, the man in question.

Roll on to part four, and the erosion of personal liberty and the growth of the surveillance culture is the topic. I’m beginning to detect a theme here: specifically, these are all reasonable, potentially important topics, covered in such a facile way as to make them ludicrous. There were any number of directions this could have gone, but after a couple of interesting anecdotes (such as the guy whose telephone call to his bank, led to a rapid visit from government representatives), the program derails into an investigation of Infragard. Wikipedia calls it, “a program run by the United States Federal government, which partners Federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies with private corporations, so that they can share intelligence information.” Really? That’s the biggest threat to personal freedom and liberty they could find? You gotta try harder, Jesse.

The hysteria certainly rose to previously unsurpassed levels as he investigated the Bilderberg Group and its members – who might be called “Bilderbergs” or “Bilderbergers,” there seemed to agreement at the point. Botox queen Sarpong pronounces gravely: “We’re proven they exist.” No shit, Einstein – what gave you the clue? Their Wikipedia page? As usual, the program charges off in the wrong direction, like a watchdog chasing after a passing car. There’s no mention, for example, that founder Prince Bernhard was a member of the honourary German Reiter SS Corps and also worked  for IG Farben, the company which owned the patent on Zyklon B.

Instead, it wheels out the usual talking heads like Daniel Estulin and Alex Jones, who have both made good career out of fomenting the more extreme claims about the Bilderbergers and – woohoo! – even David Icke. He goes on about “they” a great deal, in the context of world rulers – yet the program carefully omits that to Icke, “they” means shape-shifting reptilians from another dimension [or did, last time I needed a laugh and checked his website]. They straight-facedly promote the idea that the Bilderberg Group are planning the wholesale depopulation of the globe, leaping from there to the Georgia Guidestones, with their proclamation that 500 million is the right number for humanity. It’s the “A-> B -> C -> Z” school of conspiracism. We were, however, disappointed that there was no attempt by Ventura to “storm” a Bilderberg group meeting. That would have been fun.

Episode Six was on Manchurian Candidates – mind-control, as carried out by the US military. Now, there’s no denying the reality of things like Project Mkultra, which operated in the 1950’s and 1960’s, before – at least, officially – vanishing. And Jesse’s “crack team of researchers” have no problem wheeling out 40-year old documents which refer to such experiments. The issue is not whether such experiments took place. It’s whether they are ongoing. And there, the evidence presented is a lot more flimsy – and, as usual, draped in the kind of paranoid nonsense which makes the entire concept laughable to neutrals, and tremendously irritating to those who feel there may be something to it.

June isn’t pursing her lips.
She just looks that way.

However, I was particularly amused by the efforts the show depicted them having to make, to track down alleged mind-control operative Robert Duncan O’Finioan, liaising with Dave Corso in the back of a van parked in a Las Vegas lot, before eventually meeting O’Finioan in a deserted garage. I guess it was just too much trouble to go to his website, where a helpful block says, “To contact Duncan O’Finioan regarding speaking engagements please send an e-mail to” He says he has multiple implants, stuck in as part of the mind-control process. Oh, good: physical proof, the crack team of researchers will be all over tha… No: a couple of blurry shots, and that was it. It may be significant, that when you type Duncan O’Finioan into Google, the first completion it suggests is “Duncan O’Finioan fraud.”

Finally – and it’s probably for the best, as the coffee-table probably needed a break from us banging our heads off it – we had the season finale, with 2012. Again, the show took nuggets of truth (yes, the government does have a lot of secret underground facilities; no, you and I won’t be welcome in them if disaster strikes), and wrapped them in insanity such as 2012 and the Denver Airport murals – as they have a tendency to do, the conspiracy theorists only ever show part of them. Taken as a whole, the work by Leo Tanguma is a good deal less sinister.

A particular highlight of this episode was June Sarpong driving all the way into the middle of nowhere to be turned away at a gate. Her conclusion regarding these facilities is, and I quote: “A lot of them have landing strips. That would help get materials in and out. It would also be a way to fly people in.” Wow, what a stunning revelation: I’d never have thought that landing strips might be used for…landing. Great investigative work there, June. Now, go get another injection of Botox, why don’t you?

Not everyone is quite as down on the show as us. A friend, who is deeply embedded in conspiratorial circles, but is definitely short of the lunatic fringe – we’ll call him “Agent B”, simply to create an entirely artificial air of Something Sinister Going On – sent us his thoughts on the show

You must be able to tell, as I can, that the man does, at least, have conviction when it comes to the subjects he pursues on the show.  Further, his efforts far outweigh the lies, spin and utter distraction courtesy of mainstream media.  As a fellow conspiracy researcher and concerned citizen, I’m all for a show like this.  Yes, it sensationalizes just about every topic they investigate, but that is purely the fault of the network top brass.  When someone wants to do a show on so-called “fringy” topics, there is always a compromise between those who really want free reign to investigate and what the show producers and the network actually want aired.  I don’t like it any more than you do, but I say “exposure at all costs.”  It’s amazing that the show is even aired and that taboo topics like 9-11, HAARP, Mind Control and the ever-so secretive Bilderbergers are even broached.

Heck, I was approached by a movie and TV production company about three years ago.  It never happened, but the producers also wanted to create a weekly conspiracy show that would cover many of the same topics, but they wanted it to be even more edgier.  The main producer was actually interested in having me as the lead, but he introduced ideas like having me air some late night podcast in a dimly lit scenario to ardent listeners, some of whom would call in and be guests (maybe similar researchers and topics like on Ventura’s show).  I would also have to flit about from place to place in the cover of darkness for my own so-called safety in order to create a greater sense of paranoia and danger.

So, you can see that, even though they say they love a good conspiracy, the higher-ups are only interested in creating something that is entertaining for the most part, as well as profitable.  If the public happens to be educated or even empowered by the intellectual material, that’s a mere side effect.  I bring this up because Ventura’s show could have ended up being way cheesier.  He may not be the most charming or well spoken ex-Marine, but, at least, he investigates… period.

There’s certainly a lot of merit in that approach, but I’m afraid I can’t be quite as charitable. There is a psychological process – I forget it’s name – but it controls how people react when presented with information outside their sphere. If someone is neutral on a topic, and is given data that’s somewhat positive or negative, it will tend to pull them in that direction. But if the data is extreme, at either end, it will tend to push the recipient away. For instance, show a neutral person evidence of conspiracies like Iran-Contra, and they’ll think more favourably of the field. But lock them in a room with David Icke for eight hours and they’ll never speak to you again.

That’s why the show feels to me like disinformation. Not that Ventura is in on it, I should stress, but it takes interesting or even important subjects (such as government surveillance) and portrays them is such an outrageous and extreme way, that it’s difficult to see how any neutral viewer could leave with anything except a snigger. The series reminds me of the time the late, lamented Weekly World News had a story on the CIA pushing drugs in LA. It was so far off their usual stomping-ground of aliens and Bigfoot, that the real purpose was painfully obvious: discredit the story, by placing it next to Batboy.

These are topics that do not need hysterical presentation – there’s enough meat on topics like 9/11, that a straightforward presentation of the facts would be more effective in creating a groundswell of interest. Of course, as “Agent B” points out, sensationalism = ratings, and it’s possible that is what’s behind TruTV’s over-the-top approach. At best, the show may have encouraged some viewers to do their own research. However, for anyone with access to a Google search box, there was basically nothing in the show to justify the tagline, “Think you know it all? Think again!

HAARP-ing On

Up until the 1980’s, Sedona was just another northern Arizona town, set in a picturesque location among impressive formations of red rocks. Passing tourists and the odd film shoot (The Angel and the Badman) provided minor sources of income, while agriculture remained the main pursuit. However, in the 1980’s, a whole new group of visitors arrived, enticed by Sedona’s vortices. Or vortexes – like most things related to them, there’s no real agreement on the matter.

Indeed, you’d be hard-pushed to find two people who agree what these vortices are. Generally, they seem to be areas of increased energy, which can be felt by the especially sensitive – cynics may suggest this is just a nice get-out clause, allowing any failures to be blamed on the participant. From this humble beginning has spun off an entire industry of tours, seminars and New Age activities, which has turned Sedona into a Mecca for the spiritually-minded. Now, anywhere between 2 and 4 million tourists visit a year, swamping the year-round population of barely 10,000.

We are not equipped to comment on the vortices, since we’ve never bothered to hike our way to their supposed locations – with an appalling lack of consideration for tourists, there are no vortices located on Main Street, or near to Starbuck’s. Sedona does, however, remain a cutesy little destination that’s an inevitable stop on the itinerary of visiting guest, as well as the occasional weekend getaway for Chris and myself. It seems like every second shop is an art gallery – with the ones in between occupied by gift shops or new age stores, selling crystals, psychic readings, aura cleansings and the like.

Coming out of one such, we were grabbed by a guru who demanded, “What’s the connection?”. Connection? Ah, spiritual. Now, Chris is from New York, and I spent a decade in London, where strangers only talk to you if they want cash. This guy seemed more benign, though he may have been angling for business. He said we both need exercise – hardly a stretch, and true for 90% of Americans. I need to watch the water I drink, Chris should get her acupuncture points adjusted. Maybe she can do it at the garage, when she takes the car in for a service.

It wasn’t all holistic fun and games, however – the main purpose of the Sedona trip was to hear a talk by Dr. Nick Begich. We first encountered Begich at the 2002 Conspiracy Con, and he remains one of the best speakers we’ve heard in our three years attending that event. It says something that a ninety-minute drive to hear him once more, was absolutely no discouragement at all.

Dr. Begich differs from many conspiratorial researchers in a couple of ways. Firstly, he cites sources with a zeal that borders on the obsessive, yet is refreshing – compare and contrast Arizona Wilder, whose claimed experiences are her only evidence. Secondly, too many conspiratologists take a fact and run amok with it, ending up in wild speculation. Begich is happy to admit the limits of his knowledge, and differentiates between knowledge, inference and extrapolation.

His family background is interesting: his brother is the mayor of Anchorage, Alaska and he’s the son of an Alaskan Congressman who disappeared, along with his plane, in mysterious circumstances – also on the vanished aircraft was House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, a member of the Warren Commission which investigated the assassination of Kennedy, and announced that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Begich entered the fray with a 1994 article about the hi-tech HAARP project located in a remote area of Alaska, a topic later explored more fully in his book, Angels Don’t Play This HAARP.

The HAARP array in Alaska [click picture to enlarge]

HAARP stands for ‘High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program’, and was originally developed as a way to use some of the Alaskan gas there, rather than needing to transport it elsewhere. It consists of an array of radio antennas, pumping large amounts of energy into the upper atmosphere, in what is officially “a scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere.” The fact that it’s run by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research tells you this is no theoretical research project, though the only practical applications officially admitted are in communication and navigation systems. Progressing roughly from the mundane on out:

  • Communications. When energy is pulsed into the ionosphere, it resonates like an aerial, emitting ELF (Extra Low Frequency) radio waves. These can be used to communicate with submarines, removing the need for the enormous underground systems otherwise needed to generate the ultra-long wavelengths required.
  • Earth-penetrating tomography. These ELF transmissions are good for submarines, since they go through just about anything. This also allows them to be used in the same way as radar, except detecting underground facilities such as missile silos or bunkers. In the civilian sector, they may also assist in locating buried deposits of minerals, oil or gas.
  • Anti-satellite weaponry. When the ionosphere is heated, it expands, pushing out into space beyond the normal limits of the atmosphere. Encountering particles where there is normally only vacuum would be a nasty shock to low-orbiting satellites, possibly causing them to malfunction or even burn up.
  • Changing the weather. Altering the ionosphere may affect the jet-stream, the high-speed winds which are part of the Earth’s weather systems. Though officially denied, it’s clear from the inaccuracy of forecasts that our knowledge in this area is rather less than perfect. Prodding a chaotic system such as the ionosphere might lead to problems that would make the ozone hole look like a cake-walk.
  • Causing earthquakes. ELF frequencies have also been associated with earth tremors; researcher Dr. Elizabeth Rauscher-Bise has suggested they might be an indicator of imminent seismic activity. It’s really pure speculation, but perhaps pumping ELF into a fault line could trigger a quake. It might be informative to try and correlate HAARP activity – it is officially only “on” a few times per year – with geological records.
  • Behaviour modification. The politically-correct term for “mind control”…

The last-named deserves – and requires – a longer explanation, and a diversion into the realm of electromagnetic weaponry, which may be as much a revolution in armaments as the invention of gunpowder. An earlier pioneer was Nikola Tesla (left), who worked on various devices in this field as well as particle-beam weapons; some suggest one experiment caused the still-mysterious Tunguska Event of 1908 which levelled half a million acres in Siberia, but didn’t leave the crater typical of a meteor impact. After his death in 1943, all Tesla’s papers were seized by the U.S. government.

The human body is susceptible, in one way or another, to a wide range of radiation: ultraviolet rays lead to sunburn, gamma rays cause cancer, and so on. More subtle is the potential impact on the brain: in December 1997, a sequence of flashing lights in a Pokemon episode landed 600+ Japanese viewers in hospital with an epilepsy-like syndrome [thousands more claimed some effects, but mass hysteria is likely responsible for most of these]. This shows that the right frequency of stimulation is more important than the power.

Another example is cellphone radiation. The jury is out on whether the energy levels there pose a threat to users’ health but, either way, information on the topic is hard to find. Emission figures for each model tend to be locked deep within the instruction manuals, sealed in the box, rather than anywhere that’d let consumers make an informed decision. After the lecture, Chris enquired at four local stores on the topic – three were unwilling to help at all (T-Mobile were particularly hostile), with only Digitell providing assistance. Hardly the behaviour of an industry with nothing to hide.

In a showy but undeniably impressive 1964 experiment (right), Dr. Jose Delgado stopped a charging bull using a transmitter connected to a receiver surgically implanted in the beast. This was reported in his book, Physical Control of the Mind, where he also called ethical objections to physical mind-control, “debatable” [p.214]. Without such moral qualms as a hindrance, one can only guess what progress has been made in classified research during the forty years since this open demonstration.

Admittedly, there could be benefits to come out of this area as well. A better understanding of how the mind works, and ways of changing it, could lead to improved methods of alleviating mental illness. Or perhaps we could treat ADD-affected children by methods other than pouring a cocktail of pharmaceuticals down their throat. But the possibilities for abuse need hardly be spelled out, beginning with trivial examples such as a vending machine which could ‘beam’ an advertisement into the heads of passers-by – again, we can speculate what the military have done with this technology.

HAARP fits into this, because the ELF frequencies which it generates in the ionosphere are around the same ones found in the human body, and can impact it. Dr. Rauscher found that a certain frequency could generate nausea, while another triggered laughter. She once reportedly said, “Give me the money and three months, and I’ll be able to affect the behavior of eighty percent of the people in this town without their knowing it.” Imagine the impact of this on an opponent – it certainly might explain why the Iraqi army caved so easily during the two Gulf Wars.

You might question whether some obscure scientific endeavour in the middle of nowhere is really of significance. But as Dr. Begich pointed out, technology is largely what distinguishes the “have” nations from the “have nots”, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our governments are not using it in an irresponsible manner. I feel somewhat less than comfortable that this is taking place, especially while projects like HAARP continue under the financial control of the military, and with imperfect disclosure.

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Raising Arizona Wilder

Born Jennifer Ann Greene, Arizona Wilder first came to prominence with the release of David Icke’s The Biggest Secret, as rare “evidence” (quotes used advisedly) for his theory that the world is dominated by shape-shifting reptilians from other dimensions. The book’s index has the entry, “Wilder, Arizona – see Mother Goddess”, and she describes human sacrifice rituals involving the Pope, the Clintons, the Reagans, both George Bushes, various members of the Royal Family, and, er, Bob Hope. These summoned “snarling, hideous creatures” – how they distinguished them from participating politicians is unclear.

Here’s her description of the Queen: “I have seen her sacrifice people and eat their flesh and drink their blood. One time she got so excited with blood lust that she didn’t cut the victim’s throat from left to right in the normal ritual, she just went crazy, stabbing and ripping at the flesh after she’d shape shifted into a reptilian. When she shape-shifts, she has a long reptile face, almost like a beak, and she’s an off-white colour.” [David Icke, The Biggest Secret, p.455]

You can get a videotape of an interview with her, but for those not willing to contribute directly to her finances, an opportunity to see Wilder speak occurred at the 2003 Conspiracy Con in Santa Clara. I went in sceptical, but with an open mind – despite a desire to give her the benefit of the doubt, unfortunately, I came out convinced that her claims have no basis in objective fact. Though if any of it is true, her life has been a harrowing one. She was born with her destiny as a cult figurehead already predetermined, and was ritually abused as part of her indoctrination. This included trips to Moscow as a young child, where she was immersed in cold water to bring on near-death experiences which would awaken her latent psychic abilities, and her chief handler was Nazi scientist Joseph Mengele.

A lizard, preparing to add
garnish to a light snack

These creatures who rule our planet can’t enter our dimension on their own; they need to be anchored here with a sacrifice, and need adrenalchrome to keep them in human form. This chemical only comes into the blood when the victim has been tortured and traumatised – Arizona’s job was to preside over the ceremonies and act as a conduit for the reptilians.

In her role as a “mother goddess”, she was scheduled to be killed at the age of 52, by her daughter, who would then take over the role. [Does this mean Arizona killed her mother? I suspect not – must be some kind of reptilian loophole there. Handwave, handwave…] But after Mengele’s death in the 1980’s, the psychological noose around her neck loosened, and she escaped the cult’s clutches, going into therapy. [Another warning sign, given the ability of therapists to make anyone believe anything] Subsequently, she’s been harassed, beat up, and even drugged – a test showed positive for cocaine even though she claims never to have taken it.

Well, where to start? The complete lack of corroborating evidence she provided, to begin with – for example, the alleged beatings become less significant given her admission that she has engaged in self-mutilation. You might think that with so many years operating at the highest levels of the global conspiracy, she would have some proof: photos, documents, anything. No. Not even a shape-shifting paperclip. We have only her testimony to go on. My rule of thumb is that the more outrageous your claims, the more I require to back them up. Wilder rates a 10 for outrageousness, but there’s more convincing support for pixies and unicorns than for her view of the world.

Is this the man who abused Wilder?
No, it’s Gregory Peck playing Mengele in The Boys From Brazil. But Peck was probably involved too…

She claims to have been one of only three mother goddesses in the world. This, and how she was trained by Joseph Mengele himself (though could she tell us with any degree of authority what he looked like?), reminds me of the way that mentally ill people always believe themselves to be Napoleon, never Napoleon’s boot-boy. Given Wilder herself puts the number of ‘programmed’ individuals in the United States alone at ten million, the odds of her being such a high-ranking figure are ludicrously high.

Of course, the programmed include her parents and sisters – presumably a defence against anyone tracking them down and hearing their denials. Tied in with her supposed high-level role, her family are no commoners either, but “bloodline” – related (illegitimately, naturally – any ‘proper’ connection could be easily investigated) to the Rothschilds, and originating from the South of France. Yes, throw some Holy Blood and the Holy Grail into the mix, though you may be forgiven for feeling Wilder’s universe is closer to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I’m far from the only doubter: former Icke associate Ivan Fraser wrote in an article that, “her facts were either regularly wrong, or so full of spin that she was hardly credible.” He also mentions Wilder’s claim that the royal lizards change back when they sleep, which must have made Prince Charles’ time at Gordonstoun public school and in the armed forces very entertaining for those sharing his sleeping quarters…

‘Control freak’ Cathy O’Brien, with her minder, Mark Phillips

The most charitable explanation is that she was indeed abused horribly as a child, and her psyche has latched on to Icke’s reptilians as a way to rationalise her suffering. Under this hypothesis, she truly believes what she says. Slightly less kind, she could merely be an attention seeker who loves the sympathy of an attentive audience, and finds making outrageous claims a good means to that end. Worst of all…well, if someone out there actually is engaged in mind-control work (and that is not as far-fetched as you’d like to think), what better way to cover it up? Make wild, ludicrous claims, linking the topic to trans-dimensional aliens, Nazis and Satanists, and the general population will eventually believe it to be the domain of cranks and kooks.

In this light, I am particularly curious about Wilder’s minder, the unseen “Miss Pinky”. What is her precise role? Wilder isn’t the only one to have such an associate lurking nearby – Cathy O’Brien, another alleged mind control victim, is rarely seen outside the company of ex-intelligence agent Mark Philips. Another figure of interest is Brian Desborough, who may have directed David Icke towards the reptilian theory, and subsequently introduced Wilder to him, a convenient “witness” to back up the facts. Perhaps significantly, Desborough has written articles on mind control.

By writing this piece, I probably become part of the conspiracy against her, and my claim to be merely a sarcastic, sceptical Scotsman should be viewed with scepticism. However, she claims to be serving her purpose and destiny, and so I guess I’m just doing the same thing by treating her story with the suspicion it deserves. Her presentation at Conspiracy Con was entitled Deceived No More – but does that more accurately apply to the speaker or the audience?

A reader writes:

“I ran into your page about Arizona Wilder – I recently had the ‘extinct’ honor or working with this mentally ill person, she was my Charge Nurse on a psychiatric unit. [I call it extinct because I no longer work there – I’m a nurse as well.] The second day I knew her, she was telling me and other co-workers her history with the so-called Illuminati… She turned out to be one of the most annoying people I have spent 8 hours a day with. I am now free of Arizona’s interactions and that snake pit. I am thankful every day I didn’t end up an appetizer for the queen of England!”