Broadcast news is increasingly paid for, less and less objective. More people are turning to the social media landscape, a new Wild West where memes compete for attention, to get a reliable sense of the times. Truth and lies are equally abundant, obviating their former distinction. A common motif in this territory is unexpected drastic reversals of known identity in celebrities and political figures—Donald Rumsfeld is really a lizard; all the Laurel Canyon rock stars from the 60s had “secret government” connections; the Beatles were clones; Paul McCartney is dead; Stephen King shot John Lennon, not Mark David Chapman; are Gary Busey and Nick Nolte one and the same? You’ve seen ‘em. In this New Wild West, celebrity status equates to sacrificing control of one’s public reputation. When they die, stars like Michael Jackson, Robin Williams and Joan Rivers are accused of having been murdered or faking their deaths. Nobody knows what to think about Bill Cosby, really. We don’t want to believe good is evil in disguise. Not me anyway. But worst case scenarios sell when the truth is a guess—if it bleeds, it leads.
Sometimes you know it’s a joke or mean spirited attack. Sometimes you really can’t tell. After it happens a number of times to a number of respected truisms, you break through into a wider field of possibility. Anything might be true. Anything might be false. When this anarchic landscape of unsubstantiated assertions is understood as an externalization of the formerly invisible field of collective consciousness, they all seem equally likely. It’s all about public relations. The number of witnesses, circumstantial evidence.
I came across a meme announcing that radio talk show host and agitator Alex Jones was actually late comic Bill Hicks in disguise. The two had some things in common—both were outspokenly anti-establishment, their faces were similar, they had many friends in common, had never been photographed together, and so on. At first, I took it as a joke, saw Bill Hicks as a sort of fallen hero, and Jones as a bellyacher. But supposedly the CIA was involved, and government secrecy being a common target of both men, the facial similarity took on greater resonance. A clip popped up in my newsfeed where Jones himself asserted that indeed, he WAS Bill Hicks, which persuaded me maybe they were the same person. But . . . damn. Why would Bill do that? I did a search and found more posts: One claimed to “put the nail in the coffin of Bill Hicks” by asserting it HAD to be true, since Jones couldn’t legally make that assertion without risking lawsuits. This sounded logical.
Inspired by this unexpected baiting-and-switching of my estimation of people I’d never met but come to associate with distinct qualities, I messaged a friend: “DO NOT MISS the Doggerel posts about Bill Hicks is Alex Jones.”
“I saw it,” he responded in short time. “It was hilarious!”
Hilarious, what? Wait a minute. Had he seen the clips about the slander lawsuit danger, taken note of the way their faces looked, their friends in common? There was even one where Jones behaved in unmistakably Hicks-ian fashion, apparently unaware of being filmed. “I think there’s something to it, don’t you?” I typed back. “Watch all three.”
“I only saw the first one as pure farce,” responded my friend, a dog catcher in Denver. “What am I missing?”
Was everyone brainwashed beyond recognition of obvious truth? Had it gotten that bad? Exasperated, I texted back the most suggestive bits: “A Jones can’t say he’s Bill hicks legally. They look almost exactly alike. They have the same set of friends. Watch those clips. Esp. the one called A Jones has B. Hicks moment, or plays it cool when exposed. If you ever saw American: Bill Hicks story,” I continued, “That guy Kevin Booth with the van is now Jones’s producer.”
Their voices were different, though, that was a sticking point.
“He would have been much funnier over the last 20 yrs if there were something to it,” sent back my dog catcher friend in a few more minutes. “Being zetetic just like isn’t helping me with this one. Hicks had some quality like grace that Jones utterly lacks. I think the copyright argument doesn’t work because it’s so obviously satirical that it in no way purports to defame Bill’s character. What do I know though?”
“I’m starting to doubt it now too,” I answered him. “but in some way it helped me to think such a thing might be possible. And I still don’t know. I’ll put a disclaimer on the last post.”
“Right-o,” he texted back. “It’s definitely good to suspend one’s discernment for a go of it. But being honest with myself, it’s funny, but it doesn’t take me far beyond that.”
‘Suspend my discernment’? My sense of objectivity was being challenged.
He was probably right, though. I found multiple posts of Jones denying unity with Hicks in his characteristic basso profundo (with hints of soprano or tenor) on YouTube, and at least as many more of him affirming it, always w/ satirical sidebars such as also being Richard Pryor or an obviously fictional 78 year old Shakespearean master from Britain named “Mentalson.” Apparently it was a riff he’d been running since at least as long ago as November. I realized I had gone too far over to belief without researching properly. Having never seen an episode of Alex Jones’s show, the whole uproar was news to me. I felt kind of silly and sick and sad for how clueless I am, or we are, anymore, about what’s going on at the end of our noses. I found a clip satirically implicating Beau Bridges in a triple identity hoax with Hicks and Jones. His face looked similar to both other faces. Something about the eyebrows.
“Yeah, it sort of fizzled out for me too,” I admitted. “Still wanna see how it plays out, though. What next? Andy Kaufman is Sean Hannity? Might make a good story.”
The next thing to come up in my newsfeed was a short film where actor Shia LaBeouf is exposed in farcical fashion of secretly being a murderous cannibal. His accusers? An impeccably rehearsed symphony orchestra, complete with choir and dancers wearing Shia masks.
“Think I’m gonna write an article bout topsy turvy role reversal soon,” I sent my friend. And here I am still writing it.
As regards Bill Hicks’s coffin, no disrespect intended to anyone on either side, I promise. In some way it’s helpful to feel or realize such a thing might be possible in this New Wild West we’re living, that things we’ve counted on forever don’t exist. That what really exists is unnoticed. Where the truth is always moving. Where accumulation of perspective from multiple, potentially unlimited independent sources of media is a necessary instinct to develop and refine to retain an objective perspective, and allow for unspecified reaction to the item of interest, whatever that may be from case to case.
A recurring meme on Facebook claims JonBenet Ramsey was never killed, and is currently raking in dough as Katy Perry as part of some complicated deception on the part of whoever kidnapped her, or someone else evil. I have long understood fame in U.S. movies, music or politics means losing control of your image and joining a dance of faces where they play you like a card and make strange bets with the game of your life and always bluff, and sometimes you win, even though you’re the thing being wagered, so who knows.
Hollywood seems to be all stinking guts exposed at the moment, everything from traditional casting couch rapes to new-school child sex trafficking rings being exposed. This ongoing apokalips of dirty secrets is apparently the positive shift it appears, though some have theorized the general broadcast is being managed somehow to enable the pedophiles and users behind it.
“Pretty sure that’s fake news,” always reads the first comment under each new bulletin pushing anything seeming unlikely.
Supposedly A.I. bots are fucking up the usual balance of knowledge in some all-pervasive, omnipotent way, and nothing can now be proven true or false, however objectively examined. Besides which, the negligible difference between entertainment, political intrigue and attempted mind control over the last seventy-five years have made everything a guessing game as long as we’ve lived. And following the reversal of several respected truisms by memes on Facebook and fake or real news bulletins over the course of the last several years, everything seems equally likely to me in terms of potential now.
Rare items still fix my curiosity, like: did David Bowie (reportedly an agent) really go rogue and send a final text reading, “Google is Illuminati”? And if he had, was he really trying to warn us, or just sell more copies of Blackstar to make sure his loved ones were well taken care of, having expected to die, as he had (that whole album being full of death clues)?
Or how Prince called the darkside “the elevator” since the devil’s best gimmick was poisonous flattery, worldly abundance to suck in more victims, then was found dead in an elevator, which made it look like a darkside setup, since they were known to favor rituals, and “hiding in plain sight.” That was curious, too.
And I should mention that recent Quincy Jones interview where he claimed Marlon Brando slept with Richard Pryor and a lot of other things challenging consensus understanding on camera without any apperaance of senility.
No more singular truth. Ever since I found out I could open multiple tabs on my computer, I always keep three open at once as a way of triple-checking anything that crosses my mind. It also allows me to keep notes on future tasks while beginning those current and completing any left undone from yesterday. Because this is a house of mirrors, and some of the mirrors are hung in strange places. This normalization of multi-minded-ness is significant of the days we’re in, where one has to learn a science of multiplicity, or go insane waiting for one belief at a time. A friend in Boston recently posted something about walking the labyrinth painted on the floor of a cathedral there, a maze of dead-ends and corners and turns and long stretches and backtracks, and discussing “the healing powers of the labyrinth” with one of the priests. That’s what the media gives to the mass mind, an endless maze to entertainment. And that’s all I’m doing in here, just giving a brief overview of one part of the maze we’re all in. I don’t mean to expose or prove anything. I don’t even know what’s happening for sure.
A chap in Liverpool whose mum had reportedly dated him claimed to be the true Paul’s son, and posted a blurry black and white pic of a heavyset, middle-aged man half-resembling Jackie Gleason going past on a bike on Facebook. Another Paul is Dead-themed page quickly debunked the same shot even as its administrator played nice with the man in Liverpool who’d posted it on a different thread, presumably having blocked him from the one debunking his post. To think of this poor guy’s faith. Who might be McCartney’s true son. Had his mother convinced him or was he a troll? Was it even the real guy? Or just a Facebook page in cyberspace? Where the truth is always moving. Where multi-sourcing information is an art form.
I watched a short film asserting that Lennon’s late artist friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, who’d reportedly died of a brain haemorrhage in Hamburg—possibly after being kicked in the head by John—where the Beatles had possibly first encountered behaviorists and made their pact, was one and the same with American pop artist Andy Warhol. Allowing for the age difference and facts like Sutcliffe’s death decades prior to Warhol’s fame, the two looked about identical.
We day by day dystopians with no objective standard left to stand for or lead us, double-blinkered by mind control and politics, our own sweet lives dice in a deadly double-game of public relations and trust, keep slipping dangerously closer by the minute to obscurity and loss and dissipation in the New Wild West this place is fast becoming. Sometimes I’ll make these kinds of references offhandedly at inappropriate moments and end up fixating people’s attention without meaning to. I unthinkingly used the phrase “mind control” in conversation with another author about books I might write in the future, inadvertently freaking him out—“Mind control? What mind control!” “Oh, you know, just the pop psy ops where they use the entertainment industry to set up social factors.” I did his best to make it sound like something anyone with any sense already took for granted, but I think i freaked him out a little bit.
“What were you saying the other night about there being some NASA occult connection?” someone might ask.
“Oh, Jack Parsons, sure. That’s just a book I was reading on Greyhound. But yeah, he founded the jet propulsion laboratory for NASA, was a big NASA superhero, and once performed a ritual for Crowley’s O.T.O. with L. Ron Hubbard, before Scientology. Around the same time he was doing preparatory moon landing stuff. They named a crater after him.”
“See, I don’t keep up with that internet world, man.”
“Well, I found out about this years ago, before the internet. Just a part of the little-known history, I guess. Like it’s not even secret. But it’s not like it matters, cause nobody knows, and if you mention it, they think you’re a conspiracy theorist or something, so . . . useless knowledge.”
Or somebody asks about the Grateful Dead, and I have to say something like, “Well, I don’t know about the Grateful Dead. I’m not a big fan, but I can’t see they’ve done any damage, exactly.”
“No, I just mean all the psychedelic bands came out around the same time LSD got popular as part of a plan to discredit the Vietnam war protestors. The Beatles and the Laurel Canyon bands. Allegedly. I have to say allegedly, but I don’t even think they deny it anymore. As part of MK Ultra. To make formerly articulate protester types look like drugged-out love zombies. But it seems like the plan didn’t work in the long run. But it’s still going on, like as not, so maybe it did, and we just don’t know how yet.”
Zack Kopp is a freelance writer and editor in Denver. He is the author of six novels so far, a short story collection, a book of poetry, a collection of metamorphic prose and a collection of articles, essays, interviews, reviews and commentary. Kopp has also worked as a ghost writer and editor. His latest book, Market Man, was just published by Boston's Big Table Publishing.
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