Charlottesville

You may remember that I urged everyone to take a look at the In Good Faith project that represents a collaboration and a conversation between my Sekret Machines colleague A.J. Hartley (an award-winning, best-selling novelist as well as a Shakespeare scholar) and Kerra Bolton (who has a distinguished history of political and social involvement).  That was more than a month ago. Now, with the events at Charlottesville, that project focusing on race seems more important (and prescient) than ever.

If anyone doubts where my feelings may be located concerning Charlottesville, you obviously haven’t read my previous work.  I’ve written three books on Nazism alone, and even more volumes on the American political and cultural currents that have contributed to the present state of affairs, plus lengthy blog postings on my website.  I am not a member of any political party, in case you’re wondering, but I don’t believe that this issue is a partisan one in the sense of Republican versus Democrat, or conservative versus liberal.  It’s not my intention to carry water for a politician or a party but to raise awareness of the context of current events, to “connect the dots” as my work sometimes has been described. But there has never been any ambiguity where my feelings are concerned when it comes to fascism, racism, and Nazism.  In fact I hesitated to post anything at all about this because … who needs it, really?  You all have been inundated with pundits and jeremiads already. Who needs yet another old white guy’s point of view?

But … if you insist …

Most of you know I was detained by actual Nazis in South America in 1979, that I was threatened at gun point at midnight by a Klansman in Pennsylvania a little later, and debated neo-Nazis in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  I’m no stranger to any of this, unfortunately, and that means I am not fooled by pretentious pseudo-intellectual arguments that attempt to form moral equivalencies between Nazis on one side and those who oppose them on the other.

The recent Vice interview with the weeping white supremacist who said it was his intention to form an “ethno-state” underlines just how intellectually bankrupt this movement is.  What is the ethnos to which he refers?  Is “white” an ethnicity?  A hundred years ago, the Irish were not considered “white” by American racists.  The Slavs were not considered “white” by the Nazis.  The Jews still aren’t.  Where do we draw that particular line?  Catholics were considered “papists” and therefore part of the problem, and I still hear white nationalists refer to Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards as “not quite white” (which is interesting considering Mussolini, Salazar and Franco, but who’s keeping score anyway?).   We all know what that guy means, though.  He means a state where there are no black people, no Jews, no other people of color.  That, of course, would only be phase one of his “ethno state”.  Phase two means going after the other shades of white on the Klan’s color card.  These guys are so fixated on “white” it gives a whole new meaning to that offensive pejorative “snowflake.”

I’m also not fooled by the specious argument that the Charlottesville episode was about freedom of speech and the protection of a historical monument.  Jesus.  At what point did Robert E. Lee become a Nazi?  I missed that somehow. Why did we see numerous swastika flags at Charlottesville, and even shields with the “black sun” motif which is what you find at Himmler’s Wewelsburg Castle?  Were the SS at Gettysburg?  And why the “blood and soil” chant, and “Jew won’t replace us”?  What does any of that have to do with saving a Civil War monument?

And then the apologists (including the president) come forward and make the equally specious argument that a monument to Lee (or Stonewall Jackson) is no different from one to Washington or Jefferson because the latter two men had slaves.

Yes, they had slaves.  Isn’t that the whole point?

No one is saying that slavery was a Southern issue only.  In the history of the United States (and earlier, before there was a United States) slaves could be found everywhere on the settled continent.  Tituba – the woman who notoriously is identified with the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 – was a slave, a Native American woman who was taken from the Caribbean and brought to Massachusetts long before there was a United States, before even Washington and Jefferson were born.  It is America’s original sin, and one with which we have been struggling for hundreds of years, and especially since the Civil War when one entire group of human beings decided it would fight to keep their presumed right to own other human beings.  As the nation came to its senses over this issue, people resisted. And it led to some spectacular violence and bloodshed, and a Southern aristocracy who cherished slavery so much they decided to leave the union rather than relinquish their “property”.

Yes, of course, I realize that the Civil War was more complicated than that and involved a host of other issues: legal, economic, political, cultural, and so on.  Yet, at the same time, I also realize that slavery was at the heart of the conflict.  Why?

Because it still is.

When those marchers descended on UVA with torches chanting “Blood and Soil”, it wasn’t for states’ rights.  It wasn’t because they were misty-eyed at losing a statue most of them – coming from out of town – had never even seen.  They were marching for a racist and exclusionist ideology.  They were identifying with Nazism and identifying that with the Confederacy. They were making the connection explicit.

And now they are using the “freedom of speech” argument to try to stifle objections from the so-called “left”:  which to them seems to mean anyone who is anti-Nazi.  That’s the old bait-and-switch, boys and girls:  the conceit that if you are anti-Nazi you must be pro-Communist.  That was the dilemma on whose horns they tried to impale the United States in the 1930s, when the “America First” movement began.  That was the ideology that motivated the Catholic Church to help Nazi war criminals escape, because they saw Nazis as anti-Communist and Communism was – as Sinead O’Connor might say – the “real enemy.”  This is a false choice, a binary selection that does not reflect the only options available.  You can be anti-Nazi and anti-Communist at the same time.

I think it’s called being American.

As Americans, we don’t pledge loyalty to real estate, or to a specific race or “ethnicity.” Our military and our elected officials (and our naturalized citizens) take an oath to the Constitution. To an ideal.  It’s as simple as that.  Our other founding document – written by slave-owner Thomas Jefferson – is the one that insists all of us have unalienable rights, and that these include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Slaves did not have any of those rights in the South until the Emancipation Proclamation which dissolved slavery nationwide.  Yet the Proclamation was the logical outcome of the Declaration of Independence, once it was recognized that slaves were actually people.  Although Jefferson had slaves, he had – consciously or not – penned the sentiment that would be used to free them almost a hundred years later.  Does this excuse him from owning slaves?  Of course not.  That’s not the point.  It doesn’t redeem him, but fighting to ensure those unalienable rights for others redeems us.

As we all know, the struggle for racial equality was not over with the Civil War.  We had Jim Crow, and we had the rise of the Klan.  Then, in the 1930s, we had to deal with a surging tide of pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic sentiment in the United States which extended to wild assassination plots against FDR and massive Nazi rallies under the auspices of the German-American Bund and the Silver Shirts.  We had the spectacle of Henry Ford – Henry Ford – being awarded Nazi Germany’s highest honor available to a non-German because of all the fund-raising he did for the Nazi Party in the 1920s, and the voluminous pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic writings he published during that time.  What is more American than a Ford automobile?  But even Ford could not get his head around what being an American means.  What it requires of us.  He thought it meant something about white people and Christians.  “Paging Khizr Khan.”  (Too soon?)

Yes, it’s difficult.  It’s hard to come to terms with this, because it seems counter-intuitive.  For many people America is what it was when they were born, what they saw in their own neighborhoods growing up.  It’s not supposed to change its racial or ethnic configuration, right?  It’s supposed to stay the same.  And everyone has to know their place:  Blacks in the ghettos and gays in the closets, and invisible to straight whites except maybe for entertainment value.  I have news for you, though.  No country on earth has stayed the same since at least the dawn of the twentieth century.  That is why the concept of “nationalism” of any kind is bankrupt and doomed to failure, especially in America, as long as “nationalism” means “tribalism”, racism, and “just us”.

Is it easy being a real American?  Of course not.  Being American makes demands of us, challenges us to reach further and farther with every generation. It’s hard work.

“We will go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because it is easy but because it is hard.”  Kennedy said that.  An Irish Catholic.  When was the last time someone inspired you to do something because it was hard?  Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?  It was; in more ways than one.

We’ve been down this road before, so many times in our history, and if our only strategy is to sigh, bow our heads, and hide behind “freedom of speech” then we better get ready to lose that freedom, too.

Because it happened again, during and after World War Two.  And again in the 1960s.  We needed a Civil Rights Act because it seemed a lot of people couldn’t read the fine print on the Constitution or the Declaration.  We had to reinforce the idea – incredibly, to insist – that black people were people, too – were Americans – and deserved the same rights as everyone else. Why did we have to insist on something so patently obvious?  Because we were killing black people.  Lynching them.  Experimenting on them. Dividing them from white people on public transportation, restaurants, restrooms. This happened in America – land of the free, home of the friggin’ bravein my own damn lifetime.

And then they killed Dr. King.  Hey, that’s part of our history, too.  Maybe we should put up a monument to James Earl Ray?  Lee Harvey Oswald?  Sirhan Sirhan?  You know: the “many sides” argument.

Maybe Charlie Manson deserves a statue.  Or Ted Bundy.  See, you can use the same fallacious arguments as the white supremacists.  Once you’re okay with false equivalencies, the world’s your oyster.  Or Bob’s your uncle.  Or something.

Just to be clear, though:  there is no white America.  Think about it.  Say it with me: There is no white America.  There never was.  America is not a race, it’s not a religion, it’s not an ethnicity.  America is an ideal.  A few sheets of paper.  That’s it.  Read them, understand them. Cherish them.  It’s what sets us apart.  It’s all that sets us apart.  Nazism does not do that (that was a German experiment, one that failed miserably; spoiler alert: they lost the war).  White nationalism – whatever the hell that means – doesn’t do that, either. America is not a “white nation.” There is no mention of “white people” in either of our founding documents.  No insistence on a homeland for the “white race.”  No “ethno state.” The founders happened to be – for the most part – white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants with a whole lot of African slaves.  That was how our country was founded.  It was evil, but that was the racial mix, even then.  And somewhere in the back of their minds the freedom-loving yet oddly inconsistent slave-owning founders came up with the novel idea that all of us are created equal, that all of us deserve the same rights to life and liberty and, hey, even the chance to find happiness.  If you deny that, if you refuse to accept that for your fellow Americans, then you are not really an American yourself.  Are you?  You didn’t read the fine print.  You didn’t take the oath.

The country didn’t stay WASPy.  It didn’t stay Anglo-Saxon.  It was never intended to. I mean, look at all those swarthy Irish people.  And the Catholics from Southern Europe and Latin America.  The Slavs.  The Greeks.  The Jews.  The Asians.  And the Muslims, some of whom were here since the beginning of the Republic. And the Native Americans; what about them?  And the slaves:  the people who were born free and were enslaved, or who were born slaves, and their descendants now among us, just like the descendants of those who came on the Mayflower are among us, too.  And the ones who came through Ellis Island.  And across the Rio Grande.  That is our history.  Our history is all of it. We can’t pick and choose – just like you can’t pick and choose your parents, or your race – but we can address, confront, embrace, and acknowledge it because it has made us who we are. The confusion, the shame, the pride, the murderous blind certainty, the quaking doubt, the trembling fear, the hatred and the love, even the violence and the death.  All of it.

It’s not about monuments. That’s a pivot, a misdirection.  An act of political prestidigitation designed to distract us from the spectacle of torchlit processions, Nazi and Confederate flags, and virulent racism.  But if you ask me (and I know you didn’t!) we can lose the Confederate statues anyway.  Who needs them?  What purpose do they serve other than the intimidation of our fellow citizens, intimidation that they were intended to provoke in the first place?  You want to remember history?  Read a damn book.  Otherwise, let’s fix this.  Let’s live up to our ideals, the ones we inherited as our birthright.  It’s time. We’re big enough.  We can take it.  Well, I can, anyway.  Can you?

That’s my free speech for the day.  I’ll shut up now.

 

2017: The Year of Living Dangerously

These past few weeks have been a setback for democracy in Indonesia.

On the one hand, it was a democratic election.  The governor of Jakarta – a man best known by the nickname Ahok – was voted out, not arrested by the military or assassinated.

On the other hand, Ahok was a progressive voice in this predominantly Muslim country.  He is a Christian, and Chinese.  An increasingly vocal religious minority in Indonesia began a campaign of vilification against him allegedly because he had the temerity to refer to a verse in the Qur’an concerning the acceptability of having a non-Muslim rule Muslims. Indonesia is a secular country that just happens to have the world’s largest Muslim population: over 200 million Indonesians are Muslims, making it greater than the Muslim populations of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt combined.  But things are never quite that simple or obvious in Indonesia.  As it turns out, Ahok was the target of the Indonesian military who used his ouster as a signal to the immensely popular (and progressive) Indonesian president, Jokowi, that they will not tolerate a “return to communism.”  In Indonesia, “communism” can be a code word for many things.

In 1965 – the infamous Year of Living Dangerously – Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, was deposed by the military under that specific pretense, fighting communism, and as many as one million Indonesians were slaughtered in the process, both by the military and by roving paramilitary gangs.  Many of those killed were members of the Chinese minority as it was assumed that Sukarno had cut deals with Communist China and that the Chinese in Indonesia constituted a kind of “fifth column” of covert support for Beijing.  Once the dust had settled – and the blood had dried – a new president, General Soeharto, went so far as to ban the use of the Chinese language in Indonesia.  One could not bring anything into the country that was printed in Chinese characters, for instance.  That still was the law as late as 1998 when I visited Jakarta on business in the midst of the Asian Economic Crisis which eventually saw Soeharto’s ouster as president after more than thirty years in power.

This is not to say that the entire reason for the massive uprising against Ahok was motivated by religious fanaticism, racism and anti-Chinese sentiment alone.  There are other forces at work, and racism is just one of them.  But it is a leitmotif that runs through twenty-first century political reality just as it did in the twentieth century, and is not confined to Indonesia.

Recently, the Washington Post published an article on the American National Election Study (ANES) which demonstrated that racism had a greater effect on the American 2016 election than authoritarianism (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/04/17/racism-motivated-trump-voters-more-than-authoritarianism-or-income-inequality/).  In other words, it suggested that the average Trump voter was motivated more by racial ideas than by purely political or economic concerns.  It is a conclusion that can be debated, of course, and statistical analyses are always subject to interpretation, but it is consistent with a global trend.  We have seen openly racist politicians gain in elections in Europe, for instance, and this past weekend saw another one in France in which the extreme right candidate, Marine Le Pen, did not win but came in second: well enough that she will be in the run-off election next month.

The problem with talking about race and racism is that racism is usually presented as something isolated from other ideas and positions when, in my opinion, it is inextricably linked with a whole host of other political and philosophical concepts, of which authoritarianism – and its cousin, fascism – is probably the most familiar.

But what does Trump – or fascism for that matter – have to do with an election in Indonesia?

The Intercept has published a detailed and very enlightening article on the subject by veteran journalist Allan Nairn (who was once imprisoned by the Indonesian military for his coverage of the East Timor situation).  Provocatively entitled Trump’s Indonesian Allies In Bed with ISIS-Backed Militia Seeking to Oust Elected President it provides a very useful summary of the current political (and military) situation in Indonesia and was published before the Jakarta election took place.

Now, one may or may not wish to give credence to Nairn’s reporting based on one’s political position regarding Donald Trump.  I get it.  What facts do we trust as facts, and which do we believe are invented for political or ideological purposes?  So let me offer my own perspective, based on some years of experience in Southeast Asia and specifically in Indonesia.  There are some useful data points to be considered, and strangely they have resonance with my own work concerning international fascism and especially post-war Nazism.

One of the personalities described in Nairn’s article as having a close working relationship with Donald Trump is Hary Tanoe.  You may never have heard of him, but in Indonesia he’s a household name.  He is a celebrity, an obscenely wealthy man for a developing country, and rules a media empire as well as vast real estate holdings.  In other words, he is Indonesia’s answer to Donald Trump. Indeed, as of this writing, he is building two huge Trump properties in Indonesia including a hotel on the popular resort island of Bali.

Why is this important?

When I was in Singapore and Indonesia in the period 2012-2013, I was researching the book that eventually became The Hitler Legacy.  During that time, I was involved on an almost daily basis with a Singaporean Chinese man who had a cache of documents in his possession that revealed a great deal about the individual I was researching:  Dr. Georg Anton Pöch, the man many Indonesians believe was really Adolf Hitler.

(Hang in there.)

During this time, the Singaporean Chinese man – whom I shall call Luke, like the Evangelist – had meetings with Hary Tanoe on this very issue.  Hary Tanoe wanted to make a film about Dr. Pöch and wanted to buy Luke’s cache of documents.  How did it come about that Tanoe knew anything at all about this project and, indeed, went so far as to invite Luke to his private estate to discuss it?

And … why did he need the documents, when the facts of the case had already been published by another Indonesian?

The unlikely story begins with the arms dealer (and fight promoter) Soeryo Goeritno.  I covered this tale in my Ratline and again in The Hitler Legacy.  Goeritno studied petroleum engineering in Moscow during the Soviet era. He eventually married a Russian woman and came back to Indonesia, working in a variety of odd jobs until the Soeharto regime found him useful as an arms dealer.  After a few years, Soeryo Goeritno (a Javanese prince, by the way) became the most high-profile arms dealer in Indonesia with clients ranging from the Indonesian government to the post-Soviet Russian government, and including even the Taliban.

In 2010 he became interested in the case of Dr. Pöch and the possibility that the European doctor was actually Adolf Hitler in disguise, and published a small book (really a pamphlet) on the case entitled Hitler Mati di Indonesia (“Hitler Died in Indonesia”).  The book contained photographs of Dr. Pöch as well as of Goeritno himself standing at the gravesite of Pöch in the Indonesia city of Surabaya, which is where the doctor died in 1970.

Why would this Javanese prince, arms dealer, and fight promoter involve himself in something as dubious as a possible Hitler sighting in Indonesia?  There is the weird Russian connection here, which may or may not be meaningful, as well as deep – very deep – ties to the Indonesian military. Why bring attention to the Pöch gravesite with his self-published book on the subject?  Indeed, he writes as if there is no question at all that Pöch was, indeed, Adolf Hitler, thus making the gravesite a kind of shrine to the Führer.

In 2012, Hary Tanoe was considering making a film based on the case and contacted “Luke” in Singapore and invited him to his estate outside of Jakarta to discuss the business end of things.  As this was going on, I was looking at copies of the Pöch documents in my possession and realized that the doctor was Austrian, like Hitler, was of the same age and height as Hitler, and was married to a blonde woman as was Hitler (to Eva Braun).  The photograph in Pöch’s passport looks amazingly like Hitler when the latter was serving in the German army in World War I.  To make matters worse, it seems that “Doctor” Pöch was a lousy physician and did not seem to have any medical training at all.

And … he was intent on living in as remote a location as possible and avoided all contact with the outside world.

None of that meant that Pöch was Hitler, of course.  He could have been just another Nazi war criminal.  As it turned out, the real Dr. Pöch was chief medical officer of the Salzburg Gau during the war.  In other words, he was a Nazi and quite possibly a war criminal in charge of euthanasia and other abominations under the guise of eugenics. In addition, his wife was a famous anthropologist who consulted for the Nazis on questions determining the “Jewishness” of specific individuals. His post as chief medical officer did not mean that Pöch was any kind of family doctor.  He had medical training, but was a medical researcher rather than a general practitioner. He did not deal with patients, but with statistics.

As I was conducting this part of the investigation from my berth in Singapore, phoning and emailing contacts in Indonesia, Singapore, Europe and the States, Luke was in Jakarta talking about movie rights to the work in which I was engaged.  Luke knew the Javanese prince, Goeritno, and had visited him at his home. (I have the photos to prove it.)  Goeritno also wanted the rights, and bargained with Luke to get the Pöch documents from him. When bargaining didn’t work, he sent goons to visit people close to Luke in an attempt to intimidate them physically and force Luke to agree to have Goeritno take over the project.  It all was getting very nasty and intense, and Goeritno was becoming increasingly desperate.  Why?

It goes back to where Luke first got the Pöch documents.

Back in the 1960s, an Indonesian doctor who was part of a medical expedition to that country organized by the United States heard of the mysterious “German” doctor and out of curiosity managed to visit him at his home in Sumbawa (an island in the Indonesian archipelago east of Bali). That visit stayed with him a long time, until the 1980s when the news was filled with reports that Klaus Barbie – the Nazi “Butcher of Lyon” – had been located in Bolivia and was being extradited to France to stand trial for war crimes.  The news reports contained a great deal of information about Barbie’s escape from Europe to Latin America and the role that the Catholic Church and the International Red Cross played in helping him to make his way to Bolivia with false identification papers.  (We would eventually learn that the CIA was also involved in the Barbie escape.) There were background stories on World War II and Hitler, Eva Braun, et al. and our Indonesian doctor – Sosrohusodo or “Sosro” for short – claimed he realized that the German doctor he had visited back in the 1960s had actually been Hitler himself, aided in his escape by the very same apparatus that had been essential to Barbie’s flight to Bolivia.  Thus began his own investigation, the result of which he inherited the Pöch documents, which included a passport and an address book.  The latter contained a detailed description of Pöch’s flight from Allied territory to northern Italy after the war.  These documents proved invaluable in establishing a timeline as well as clues to the identity of the doctor and his mysterious wife.  In fact, internal evidence in those documents demonstrates beyond doubt that Pöch knew the same contacts in the “ratline” who earlier had enabled Barbie to escape.  To Dr. Sosro, this was all the proof he needed.

Sosro, however, was no ordinary physician.  He was an officer in the Indonesian military.  Gradually, the connections between the Indonesian military – very anti-communist and at times deeply involved with the American CIA – and our mysterious “German” doctor became more numerous.  Indeed, at one point in the story an Indonesian general told Dr. Sosro to back off the investigation of Dr. Pöch and forget all about it.

Fast forward a few decades and the documents in Sosro’s possession were bequeathed to “Luke” after Sosro’s death. Sosro’s widow handed Luke the papers and asked him to tell the story to the world:  Hitler had escaped Berlin after the war and fled to Indonesia, where he died and where his gravesite can be seen to this day.

After the publication of Soeryo Goeritno’s book on Pöch, using Luke’s documents, Hary Tanoe – the Indonesian real estate and media tycoon – approached Luke to get the documents for himself supposedly to use as the basis for a documentary film. Goeritno had only ever had copies of some pages of the document cache, never the originals.  (Luke would carry them around in a rolling briefcase with several locks.) Hary Tanoe wanted the whole set, the originals.  The reason for this was not made very clear, but there is the possibility that they suspected there was information in those papers that neither Tanoe nor Goeritno had seen and which implicated members of the Indonesian government or military in the escape of Pöch/Hitler to Indonesia.  Clearly, there was a vested interest among certain Indonesian military and corporate circles in promoting the idea – considered by most historians to be positively outlandish – that Hitler had lived and died in Indonesia.

Why?

As suggested in the article in The Intercept Tanoe and others of his inner circle are angling for a shot at the Indonesian presidency.  According to Nairn they hope to remove Jokowi – the progressive leader for whom Indonesians all over the world stood in line for hours to elect – and replace him with a military-backed regime that would dial back a lot of social and economic advancements.  They are actively involved with paramilitary and militia-type groups in the country who are supporters of Daesh (the Islamic State, commonly referred to as ISIS).  There is no way Tanoe and his friends would survive under an ISIS-style regime, of course.  It can only be a cynical move to manipulate the power of the mob to take control.  Jokowi had bravely organized public meetings to discuss the horrors of the 1965 period and the violent excesses and mass murder committed by the military at the time. This put Jokowi squarely in the crosshairs.  Thus, the army has been working with radical religious groups – essentially instigating them and funding them, much the way the US government had thrown support behind the opposition in Chile in 1973 to destabilize Allende’s presidency – and using public figures like Tanoe to legitimize what essentially will be a coup.

Nazism is fashionable in some circles in Indonesia. There was never any real direct contact with the European side of World War II.  The Indonesians had to deal with the Japanese (and with the colonial powers that came before, such as the Dutch).  I have written about this period at some length in other places.  Suffice it to say that there was for a time a Nazi-themed restaurant in Jakarta, and local bookstores carry translations of Nazi literature such as The International Jew by Henry Ford and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.  On one occasion I even had the strange sensation of hearing terrorist leader Abu Bak’r Basyir talk of the “international Jewish conspiracy” … in a country without enough male Jews for even a minyan.  Walter Hewel, one of Hitler’s closest friends, had lived and worked in Indonesia for ten years after the failed Beer Hall Putsch, setting up Nazi Party organizations among the German and Dutch expatriates throughout the country, before returning to Berlin once Hitler had come to power. Another famous German, Emil Helfferich, was a tea trader in Indonesia who was instrumental in getting Hitler into power in 1933.  He was a member of the Freundeskreis Himmler, the Himmler “Circle of Friends”, who urged President Paul von Hindenburg to name Hitler Chancellor of Germany.  He was also the chairman of the company we know as Standard Oil.  Thus, the links between Indonesia and Germany – and specifically with the Nazi Party – were unexpectedly strong. Add to that the fact that Sukarno made speeches praising both Japan and Germany during the war – from a radio station in Tokyo, no less – indicates that there was a completely different attitude in Asia towards the Nazis than one would find in Europe.

Clearly, for some Indonesians Nazism means more than just some flashy uniforms and goose-stepping soldiers.  Anti-semitism is one aspect, of course, especially among the more radicalized youth.  But anti-semitism represents more than hatred of Jews alone; it is permission to hate a whole host of “others.” To give sly encouragement to a belief (based on reality or not) that Hitler chose to live out his days in Indonesia is to suggest that Indonesia is a player on a larger stage and that a man considered the most diabolic and evil of all leaders in the West may have been “misjudged.”  If to hate an entire race of people called Jews is to give permission to hate others, then to honor a man like Hitler is to give permission to honor the military, to support violent solutions to social problems, and to cause deep suspicion about what has been told about the Holocaust and the causes of World War II.  It means one can re-evaluate the Year of Living Dangerously as the moment when the military came to the defense of the country, rather than to the slaughter of its own citizens.

It means there is an alternate universe where bad is good, hate is love, and facts are fake.

Donald Weiser

I first walked into Samuel Weiser’s Bookstore, south of Union Square in New York City, when I was still in high school.  It was the 1960s, and my fascination with books in general and what is commonly called “esoterica” in particular was already full-blown.

I bought my first copy of Aleister Crowley’s Magick: In Theory and Practice in Weiser’s Union Square store (the first of several locations over the decades).  In those days, the esoteric section was downstairs in a kind of basement that had a big couch.  Everyone who was anyone in the New York City occult, New Age, Buddhist, or Wiccan scene could be found loitering in that basement, often for hours. Upstairs, on street level, was a collection of second-hand books of various kinds (a treasure trove as well) but it was the downstairs collection that was the big draw for people like me.

You learned about it from the small ad in the back of the New York Times that read “Weiser’s Books.  Orientalia.”  That word, Orientalia, hinted at mysteries and exotic lands and maybe the missing key to all true knowledge, and I cut out the tiny ad and made a note of the address.  I splurged on subway fare from the Bronx and made my way down there one day (it took almost an hour from Westchester Square) and was hooked forever.

Other bookstores came and went.  Mason’s Bookstore on the east side of Manhattan, not far from Bloomingdales, was one of them: a classic esoteric bookstore on the second floor that specialized in astrology and alchemy and which was run by the enigmatic Zoltan S. Mason.  Then, of course, there was the Warlock Shop which opened in Brooklyn Heights in the early 1970s and then moved to Manhattan and became Magickal Childe a few years later.  There were others, scattered like cells all through the city.

This was our history, man:  bookstores as the centers for a popular movement that grew out of the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the assassinations, and the like when it became obvious that we needed another way of looking at the world, another kind of philosophy, maybe even a new religion since the churches were failing us, too. There was no social media in those days.  No personal computers.  No smartphones.  People actually wrote letters to each other – long inspired rants on gods and goddesses and whose tradition was more ancient or valid or powerful – and then arranged to meet:  and oh how the sparks would fly during conversations that lasted for hours, all through the night over endless coffee, or beer, or pot, as plans were laid and strategies considered on the Lower East Side, or the Upper West Side, or in the depths of dreaded Brooklyn.  Rituals were conducted, incense burned in vast billowing clouds of hope and fear, and strange incantations in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and even Gaelic would stutter and thrum through the atmosphere forging links with unconscious dreams and giving form to shadows and nightmares.  Satanists and witches and alchemists and magicians would all hobnob together in those days because it was “us” versus “them”, with “us” meaning anyone who held antinomian views on religion, spirituality and politics and “them” meaning the established order of whatever kind.  There was community:  fraternity and sorority and most importantly there was recognition. We were all on the same side because we all had seen the same things, read the same books, spoke the same arcane language that was a mixture of ceremonial magic and Tolkien, of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, of the Book of Shadows and the God of the Witches.

And that was due, in large measure, to Weiser’s Bookstore and to the man upon whose passing I reflect today.  Donald Weiser has left us, slipping away peacefully last night (April 12, 2017) and with him some memories inevitably are lost but many, so many have survived.

I was privileged to have known him in the last dozen years or so of his life. We would talk of the old days and I was always astonished at the people he had known in his career.  Donald could name-drop with the best of them, but it was never out of a desire to brag but to share some important nugget of information, an insight into a famous customer’s personality perhaps.  He never betrayed a confidence, yet his memory was a warehouse full of bibliographic data.  He knew who wrote what book (no matter how obscure a title) and when it was published, and by which house, and how it sold (or, more likely, didn’t sell).  He loved reading, and there was always a stack of books next to his chair, many of them bestsellers as he kept up with the latest trends in the literary world.  His sense of humor was self-deprecating in the way of truly decent individuals, his ego and his own importance to the New York literary scene never getting in the way of a good story or a fond reminiscence.

As one gets older, one starts to lose people.  I know I have, too many lately to count.  They say that to save one life is to save the world; but what happens when you lose one life?  Shouldn’t the world come to an end in that moment?  Maybe it does, and we just don’t notice it.  I don’t have the answer to that, but I suspect Donald does.  Donald always seemed to know more than he was telling.  That wry smile and the subtle twinkle in his eye would tell you that, if nothing else.

The world has lost an icon, a man whose name was synonymous with so much that was typical of a New York City that used to be: books and bookstores, Fourth Avenue and arcana, esoterica and “Orientalia.”  But his family has lost a father and a grandfather, a husband and a brother.  And I have lost a friend.

God speed, Donald.

Sekret Machines

My first book-length contribution to the field of Ufology launched yesterday.  It’s entitled Sekret Machines: Gods, and is published by To The Stars: a company founded by former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge.

I know many of you think I have lost my mind, or perhaps my credibility, for having become involved in Tom DeLonge’s Sekret Machines project.  If you consider that I have been writing about the UFO Phenomenon since the first volume of Sinister Forces – with an entire chapter of the third volume devoted to the subject – then you may see that I have never shied away from it.  True, I have focused on other areas of politics, history, even pre-history, and am perhaps better known for my work on understanding the roots of Nazism and Nazi ideology with special reference to the survival of this ideology (and its adherents) into the present era.  Critics of my work who dismiss it as “occultism” or “esotericism” usually miss the point:  occultism and esotericism were at the very root of the development of Nazism that grew into the form practiced by the SS under Heinrich Himmler and it is that heavily-articulated philosophy – one based in a mystical identity with ancient pagan themes and racist fantasies – that has reared its hydra heads in contemporary European and American political culture.  My research has taken me all over the world in pursuit of this subject, as you all know.  So why UFOs?

My study of American history and in particular those events and personalities associated with the assassination of President Kennedy led me to realize that there was a “UFO component” to the story, however bizarre that seems.  I probably would never have become interested in the UFO Phenomenon had it not been for the appearance of so many UFO personalities around the edges of the assassination story:  Fred Crisman, Guy Banister, Andrija Puharich, Arthur Young, etc.

That realization led me to study the history of UFO sightings by the American military and the official reactions of US government agencies and personnel.  This in turn led me to a consideration of those whose reputations and lives were destroyed due to their proximity to the Phenomenon, from Captain Mantell who died while in aerial pursuit of a UFO, to Dr James MacDonald and Morris Jessup – both of whom committed suicide – and even to the two servicemen who lost their lives in an airplane crash after investigating the Maury Island affair.  Death seemed to be present at the very genesis of the twentieth century UFO story, as did religious movements devoted to the worship of the “space brothers.”  This strange turn of events has been characterized as “UFO religions” by anthropologists and cultural commentators.

Gradually, I became convinced that the UFO Phenomenon represents a point of intersection between science and spirituality, between the military and industry, between official statements and popular belief.  It is a field that perhaps more than any other represents the presence of the Other (whether of other beings, other consciousness, other dimensions, other physical laws) in our world and constitutes a challenge to our way of thinking about reality.

And isn’t that perspective at the heart of Sinister Forces?

Gods is the first volume of a trilogy that will describe the UFO Phenomenon, placing it within a context of spirituality, science, and politics.  It is not an attempt to prove to anyone that the Phenomenon exists: we believe that has been accomplished many times over.  People who have had direct experience of the Phenomenon are not waiting for “disclosure.”  They are waiting, in many cases, for some kind of validation and for a place to “put” that experience within the context of everyday life.  We hope that by taking this subject out of the murky and discredited realm of “what if?” and “who knows?” and into the glaring light of day that we will be doing them a service.  What we are attempting to demonstrate in these volumes is what our world really looks like if we begin from the assumption that the Phenomenon is real.  If it is real, if it is an accepted fact, what does that mean for religion, science, politics, and culture? Is it possible to review various fields of human endeavor from the perspective that the Phenomenon is an integral and essential component of human experience?

Many of you have been asking us:  “Does that mean that aliens are real?”  or “What about Roswell?”  or “What about UFOs captured on video?”  and “What is the government hiding?” etc. etc.  We understand your interest and concern about these and so many other issues.  What we need to do first, though, is to define our terms.  We need a common vocabulary and agreed-upon context for what we are discussing.  Right now, this whole field has become a confused mass of good-intentioned people talking at cross-purposes.  It’s what happens when someone asks me if I believe in God.  I don’t know how to answer that question, because the terms “believe” and “God” are subject to all sorts of interpretation.  They are culturally-loaded, and mean different things to different people.  Entire volumes have been written in the attempt to define “God”; the same is true for “belief.”  So imagine the difficulty inherent in having any kind of sensible discussion where UFOs are concerned.  Where do we start?  Flying saucers?  Orbs?  Triangle craft?  Lights in the sky?  Foo fighters?  Grays, Nordics?  Alien abductions?  Think of all the literature on the subject that has been published from widely – and wildly – different viewpoints.  How do we possibly hope to bring all of that into some kind of coherence?  Is it possible, or even desirable, to do so?

In our mission we have been aided by those who have a different perspective on the matter:  individuals in the government, the military, industry, intelligence, and the like. Scientists and soldiers.  Corporate executives and engineers.  People with access to information that most of us do not enjoy.  We have been very careful in our discussions with them.  They did not approach us; we approached them.  There was no offer of faked videos or questionable documents.  There were only conversations.  Advice.  Guidance. And, indeed, some revelations.  Putting the pieces together, we have been able to see the Phenomenon in a different light.  One that is more coherent, more consistent with different points of view without losing anything important in the process.

A few years ago, I published a book on alchemy.  (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: another occult tome, more of Levenda’s obsession that has nothing to do with UFOs, etc etc.  Well, wait a moment before declaring me completely insane!)

In that book I describe the different perspectives on matter and energy as understood by a variety of cultures:  Chinese, Indian, and Western European.  I demonstrate that the literature on alchemy is remarkably consistent across cultures and geography on a few points.  One of these is that it is essential to understand Creation before one can become a successful alchemist.  Creation was understood in what we used to consider “mystical” or “esoteric” terms and which now more closely parallels what modern science describes: a single moment, an explosion, that still reverberates throughout the universe to this day.  We are still in motion from that initial Big Bang. In other words, Creation is ongoing. It has not stopped. What the alchemists were approaching in their philosophy as well as their practice was the dream of modern-day physicists since at least the time of Einstein: a Grand Unified Theory.

Carl G. Jung had his own understanding of alchemy, developed over several volumes.  Today there are alchemists who specialize in the laboratory aspect and who have their own understanding, seeing alchemy as inherently a chemical process, albeit a mysterious one.  Then there are the Chinese and the Indian alchemists for whom human biology is an integral part of the practice.  And on and on.

They are all correct.  That is because there is a Grand Unified Theory at work, and all of us are products of that initial Big Bang and we are participating in it to this day: not because we want to, but because we are part of it.  We are products of that initial moment of Creation.

In like manner, when we study the Phenomenon we are faced with dozens of different viewpoints.  The field runs from outright scorn and skepticism to fervent belief.  Experiencers talk about abductions, or sightings, or close encounters, triangles, cigar-shaped craft, saucers, vehicles (or seeming vehicles) that defy physical laws, etc.  Like the blind men and the elephant they are all correct, even the skeptics and debunkers.  Does that defy logic?  Perhaps.  Does it defy intuition, the nagging thought in the back of your mind that there is something to all of this regardless?  Sure.  We get it.  I get it.  How can we possibly entertain two such opposing ideas at once in the same brain, the same mind? It’s a kind of mental disorder, isn’t it?

But it just might be the most important collective mental disorder of all time.

The best metaphor for what we are attempting to accomplish with Sekret Machines may be the famous and influential text by Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976).  To overly simplify the general thesis, Jaynes suggests that the two hemispheres of the brain – the left and the right – control different elements of human consciousness, with the left brain (in most people) controlling the right hand and fields such as math, science, logic, etc.  The right brain, which controls the left hand in most people, is responsible for creative thinking, for music, poetry, etc.  Prior to about 3000 years ago – according to the theory – the brain’s hemispheres operated simultaneously in the sense that one “heard” the gods speaking through the right hemisphere and into the left.  About the time that the later books of the Hebrew Bible were written, these two hemispheres had split apart and the bicameral mind “broke  down”.

The Sekret Machines project aims to re-create some of that early experience by presenting data in two forms: fiction and non-fiction, or “right brain” and “left brain” approaches, respectively.  While one can enjoy the novels by A. J. Hartley as fiction and “right brain” material by themselves, and the non-fiction works I present as “left brain” material, the two forms together work to tell a deeper story.

Give it a chance.  You may just surprise yourself!

 

 

 

 

New Revelations Concerning Colonia Dignidad

Today, December 12, 2016, roughly 500 pages of previously classified US Government documents concerning Argentina were released to the public on orders of the Obama administration.

They make for interesting reading, especially for anyone who remembers the 1970s and 1980s and the extreme state of tension in the Southern Cone of South America in that period.  For me, however, it was a little more personal.

You know of my trip to Chile and to Colonia Dignidad in June of 1979. (You’re probably tired of hearing about it!)  However, these recently declassified documents shed even more light on the circumstances I faced at the time as the Argentina documents often include information on Chile (and Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil) as well.

One such document contains information that, while corroborating what I wrote in Unholy Alliance and in The Hitler Legacy (as well as in numerous radio and podcast interviews) also provides additional details that confirm what I have been insisting for more than 35 years since that fateful trip:  the Colony was a Nazi refuge, it was the center of the assassination and terror network known as Operation Condor, and that the Chilean secret police – at the time known as DINA although it had other acronyms as well – had a torture and interrogation center on-site and in other sites “nearby.”

Here is the relevant section, verbatim, from a document entitled “A Staff Report concerning Activities of Certain Foreign Intelligence Agencies in the United States submitted to The Subcommittee on International Operations, Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate” and dated January 18, 1979 (and thus six months prior to my trip to Colonia Dignidad):

 

QUOTE

(1) Chile.  Although no intelligence officer of the Government of Chile apparently is currently stationed in the United States, such officers have visited the United States using false identification, and their activities were not known.  The Chilean intelligence service is a member of a consortium of South American intelligence services, “Operation Condor,” which has, in the past, plotted assassinations in foreign countries and maintained files on anti-regime activists.  This service maintains close liaison with the German Nazi colony of La Dignidad in Southern Chile, which makes its substantial resources available to it.

UNQUOTE

(this is from page 7 of the report; italics in the original)

Thus, we have several points worth mentioning.  In the first place, our government found it could not keep tabs on Chilean intelligence officers entering the country since the officers used false identification.  Secondly, Operation Condor is identified and Chile recognized as being part of the “consortium.”  Most importantly, however, is the acknowledgement that Colonia Dignidad was a German Nazi colony, and that it maintained a close working relationship with the Chilean secret police.  This was known six months before my visit.  When I returned from Chile with my own, very personal, report, I was told I had to be mistaken.  There was nothing to the rumors, etc. etc.

Further along, on (often heavily redacted) pages 13-15 of the report, we read:

 

QUOTE

Another element with an uncertain relationship to DINA is the “Colony.”  Located in Parral, Linarest (sic) Province, “La Dignidad” was established by former Nazi Luftwaffe officers at the close of World War Two.  The Colony is registered as a “farm property”

(3 lines redacted)

known in the Colony as “The Commander.”

(several more lines redacted)

residents must leave Chile through Argentina.  The Colony’s leadership maintains good relations with Chilean military officials, particularly officers of the Chilean Air Force, who have close ties to the Colony’s former Luftwaffe pilots.

The Colony maintains complete autonomy over its territory.  Investigations into its activities have always come to an abrupt halt.  The Colony’s primary source of livelihood is a large dairy farm, although it also produces other agricultural products and engages in some mining.  It maintains good relations with the local peasant population, in part because an excellent medical facility maintained by the Colony is open once a week for free medical treatment and medicine to farm families in the area.  (line redacted)  DINA has maintained a detention center inside the Colony and there are allegations that torture has taken place there. Allegations also have been made that German personnel, who are described as ex-Gestapo or ex-SS officers, have given instruction in torture techniques and have actually taken part in the application of those techniques.

(3-4 lines redacted)

The Colony has received large amounts of money over the years, probably from German Nazis.  DINA, which maintains two facilities nearby, makes use of the Colony’s national and international contacts.  Knowledgeable State Department officials believe that they “might very well indeed be part of the so-called network of German exiles in Latin America.”

Precisely what actions have been carried out by DINA and Operation Condor, and what role the “Colony” has played, are unclear.  “Our knowledge of DINA operations is almost nil,” the CIA stated.  What is clear is that DINA and Condor possess both the motive and capability to harm United States residents.  The former director of DINA, Manuel Contreras, has said (redacted) DINA has representatives in all Chilean embassies abroad except behind the Iron Curtain.  These agents, he said, served under civilian cover, and their mission included “hit” Chilean enemies in those countries. “We will go to Australia if necessary to get our enemies,” he said.

 

UNQUOTE

 

There is a great deal to unpack here, but a few points come immediately to mind.

The phrase “residents must leave Chile through Argentina” is revealing.  It is, of course, exactly what happened when Chilean security forces raided the Colony to arrest its “Commander”, Paul Schaefer.  Schaefer fled across the border into Argentina and was finally located there and extradited back to Chile where he stood trial for child abuse charges, among others.

The details about the medical facility are quite true, as I saw myself and as I learned from local police officials in Parral.  The information that former Gestapo and SS officers operated at the Colony was only demonstrated much later, after my visit, but corroborated in details from Luftwaffe pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel’s address book (as published in its entirety in The Hitler Legacy) among other places, including interviews with prisoners who had been held at the Colony.

That the Colony received large amounts of cash from abroad was verified during my own visit when I was told precisely that by the local carabineros the morning before my visit there.

What was a little more terrifying, however, was the information that DINA maintained two facilities nearby the Colony.  In other words, they were torturing prisoners at the Colony but had two more sites in the region as well. I had managed to walk into the dragon’s lair without knowing about it at the time.  Further, the report acknowledges that the Colony was not only part of Operation Condor (as we would discover later, a major node in the Operation) but was also “part of the so-called network of German exiles in Latin America”:  a rather sanitized way of saying ODESSA.

Finally, we learn that DINA and Condor “possess both the motive and capability to harm United States residents.”  We know that they did so with the assassination of former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronni Moffitt in Washington, D.C. in 1976.  I believe at this point that there was no need to get all Michael Vernon Townley on me at the time because my reporting on this subject was being rejected everywhere, including by the Simon Wiesenthal people.  I was essentially neutralized.  I had no journalistic credentials, didn’t work at any newspaper or other media outlet, and had only my experiences and my research to back up my story.

That was in June-July, 1979.  As mentioned, six months after this report was sent to Congress.  My government knew all about this place and its relationship to DINA, to torture of political prisoners, to assassinations and terror attacks in Chile and abroad.  I had heard about it from reading Ladislas Farago’s Aftermath, and later from rumors heard among Latin exiles in Jackson Heights, Queens.  I had decided to go there, at my own expense, taking a two-week vacation from my job as an export administrator for the Bendix Corporation in New York City.

Finally, fifteen years later, an editor in New York decided to take a chance on me and my story, and Unholy Alliance was published in 1994.

There is much else in these documents, containing as they do presidential briefings, memoranda and other evidence showing what we knew about the human rights abuses in South America at the time.  The Soviet Union was a major threat, and it colored our foreign policy decisions in Latin America. Further, Argentina was developing its own nuclear power program at the time which was a grave cause for concern among Washington policy makers.

And for anyone who believes that only Communist regimes and Middle Eastern terrorists are capable of extreme and hideous forms of torture, one merely has to read the sickening account of one Alfredo Bravo who was kidnapped from a classroom in Buenos Aires where he was a teacher, taken to a remote location, and tortured and interrogated for days on end in ways too graphic to detail here. All because he was suspected of being in league with a union and with a human rights organization.  In one scene, he is being threatened by a colonel who has on his desk a small Nazi flag.

And so it goes.

This is the link to the documents in question:

https://icontherecord.tumblr.com/

The Responsibility of Alternative Media

Many people have asked me why I bothered to get into the fight over “fake” news versus  “real” news.  I began to realize that my interlocutors did not have the context that I have.  Remember that my first book, Unholy Alliance, was controversial because it insisted that there was an occult aspect to Nazi Germany.  In order to prove my point, I undertook dangerous travel, researched more than a thousand documents at the National Archives and the Library of Congress, and pretty much dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s.  I provided a bibliography of sources in which I even provided the microfilm record locators for the Nazi files at the Archives so that others could double-check and cross-check my work.  All of this was important to me because I needed to prove the truth of my allegations and not engage in baseless speculation about “satanic Nazis.”  It was an important part of history, and I was dismayed to see that it had been ignored by mainstream academia.  This is at least partially the reason why I became involved in the recent controversies since they seem to point at the very heart of what it was I and people like me are trying to do.  We have a tremendous instrument at our hands in the Internet, a powerful tool for investigation, but we are treating it like a bunch of sorcerer’s apprentices.  So, here is my take on the situation:

The erosion of confidence in what now is called the “mainstream media” or MSM over the past few decades, combined with the explosion of global Internet access and social media sites, has contributed to the growth of alternative media outlets.  There is no agreement on what constitutes the MSM: is it only the venerable city newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, the major broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, or does it extend to cable news shows and to political news sites like Politico and the Daily Beast?  More importantly, does the MSM have to be leftist to be considered “mainstream” or is the mere suspicion of a non-conservative viewpoint sufficient to be included in the pejorative category? No one seems able to answer that last question, because to do so would be to throw the entire binary concept of mainstream media versus alternative media into a cocked hat.

During this period in our history, “alternative media” is almost a code-phrase for right-wing conspiracy sites like Infowars and Breitbart.  To be alternative is to be extreme in some fashion, and usually on the right since the right considers the mainstream media to be pro-liberal and leftist.  It is a handy branding tactic, regardless of how erroneous it may be.

Recently, the Washington Post published a story about “fake news” sites, claiming that many of them are used by Russian interests to interfere in the American political process. The list aroused the ire of right-wing sympathizers who saw it as merely more evidence of the bias of the mainstream media against their preferred sources of “news.”  Others, including responsible journalists, were appalled at the Post’s lack of objectivity in reporting this news since there were no identifiable sources in the story and the criteria for determining what was “fake” news and “real” news seemed totally arbitrary.  Which is ironic, since the Post article would have been perfectly at home on an alt-news site had its slant been more anti-liberal than anti-alt-right.  In other words, a lack of journalistic integrity cuts both ways.

How did we get to this impasse, and what can we do about it?

Obviously, the media is itself to blame.  The pullback of news organizations in the wake of 9/11 to a position of acting as mouthpieces for the Bush administration in the propagation of the ill-advised war in Iraq raised all sorts of questions about the true function of a free press in America.  Secondly, the increased emphasis on profits among the handful of mainstream news outlets at the expense of foreign news desks and field reporters meant that news was “shared” among the outlets with increasing reliance on a handful of reporters who could not be relied upon to cover the whole world in any kind of depth (not that the typical news viewer could accommodate any kind of depth).  In the end it was easier (or at least cheaper) to reprint press releases than it was to do any kind of investigative journalism.  Corporate America was calling the shots, and the “free” press became an instrument of state policy.  Slowly, a kind of fascism was being created – a marriage of convenience between corporations and the state – that was distinctly American in style and substance.

Then, and perhaps most importantly, we have the spectacle of news-as-entertainment. Since news programs have to generate revenue through the sale of advertising space, advertisers want to be assured that there would be viewership for these programs and that meant making the news as entertaining – and non-threatening – as possible.  The distinction between a news medium designed to communicate information and an entertainment medium designed to titillate or appeal to emotions rather than intellect became blurred to the point of non-existence.

And that is where investigative journalism began to morph into conspiracy theory.

We don’t hear much about investigative journalism any more.  For one thing, it is too easy to sue a newspaper, media outlet, or journalist if one doesn’t like what is published.  Legal fees will kill the careers of most independent journalists.  With the rise of the surveillance state in the wake of 9/11 and its legal cover, the Patriot Act, there are other dangers for the independent journalist, no less than the more traditional investigative journalist working for a major or “mainstream” outlet.  This writer for several years found that his airline boarding passes had the dreaded “SSSS” designation, meaning he was pulled off the TSA security lines for “special screening.”  Since he was not a terrorist the only reason had to be his published work. Thus you will not see this writer defending the status quo, or the official government line on what is or is not true (especially as that line shifts with every administration, and with every gust of political wind).  But in the end the real enemy of investigative journalism is the dilution of the very concept of journalism by those who are not trained in journalistic methods and practices (or who are, and then abandon them).

The democratization of access to information represented by the Internet has led to some unforeseen consequences.  When everyone has equal access to media as providers then everyone’s “news” carries equal weight.  While we have the bravery of the citizen journalists in places like Teheran or Baghdad, Myanmar or Brazil, who risk their lives to post photos of anti-government demonstrations, the bombing of civilian targets, or of military oppression generally, we also have citizen journalists who, from the safety of their homes in America or other “first world” nations, post … well … crap.

And somewhere along the credibility versus crap spectrum there is the alternative media and the alternative news sites.

When news became entertainment there were those in the business who realized that entertainment could become news. In other words, there was no real requirement on the part of the consumer to obtain actual data: no information unless it was pre-packaged as something designed to sell itself.  If the marketing was done well, the news programs would attract an audience of consumers who fit into specific demographics.  This had been done previously with regard to sit-coms, police procedurals, and made-for-tv movies, but now it was being crafted as a way to package what appeared to be news in a manner that allowed the same marketing strategies to be employed to maximum benefit. This meant a strategy of appealing to the emotions of the news consumers rather than their intellects.

It is a truism in the industry that one has to communicate to the average television audience at no more than a sixth-grade reading level.  How to “communicate” news that way?  One has to use the same tricks as one does for sit-coms. One cannot stay on one story for too long, otherwise the audience becomes bored and changes the channel.  So a swift magazine-style format is used to move quickly from one story to the next – with lots of visuals, sometimes the same visuals used over and over again – to dazzle and engage and even hypnotize the viewer on a purely gut level. This was done to great effect by entertainment news programs such as ET and TMZ, and a similar approach was taken by the television news programs.

As these same news programs were bending over backwards in an effort to secure as much advertising revenue as possible, the Internet began to compete with the traditional medium in a revolutionary way.  Revenue was generated according to different models, and anyone could set up a website with space for ads and create an income stream through the phenomenon of “click-throughs.”  If one lands on one of these sites and then clicks on an ad to go to an advertiser’s site, income is generated for the owner of the original site.

This meant there was considerable incentive for anyone with an interest in current events or politics or celebrity scandals to create a site that would appeal to the largest number of people with the minimum expenditure of investment in journalistic tools or personnel.  All one needed was an understanding of one’s target audience, and a feel for the “entertainment” side of the news rather than the actual data or information.  One could take a perfectly innocuous news item and spin it any way one wished in order to generate the greatest emotional response in the viewer. This meant the viewer was engaged fully in the transaction and would be mesmerized by the basilisk gaze of the site.  There would be no tendency to check the news stories for sources, and no effort by the news sites to backstop a story in any way with confirmation from multiple sources, etc.  If one knew one’s audience, one knew how to craft a “news” story that would satisfy their hunger.  In effect, it was no longer news.  It was entertainment – masquerading as news – pure and simple.

This contributed to the rise of Internet “news” personalities and to their enormous fan bases.  Political personalities who understood entertainment, branding and marketing more than they did the Constitution or basic civics could generate voting blocs that were composed not of voters in any traditional sense and not of die-hard party supporters, but of fans.  We already had been prepared for this with such television programs as American Idol, in which one “voted” for one’s favorite performer, week after week.  Take that model, and combine it with news-as-entertainment (or more correctly entertainment-masquerading-as-news) and one had a winning strategy for political success.

That this would flower in the United States is no accident. With some of the worst academic standings among industrialized nations in STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering, Math – it is no wonder that the lack of the type of critical thinking so necessary for excellence in science and technology would render American audiences more susceptible to speculation and fantasy.  Further, that this vulnerability would be exploited by individuals and organizations that had mastered Internet technology to such an extent that they could seed fake news into what many considered to be normal news channels is nothing if not ironic.

So maybe “fake news” is the wrong term to be used in this discussion, especially when it comes to characterizing a website as a “fake news” site.  To be more charitable, perhaps we should emphasize less the “fake” aspect of the idea which implies a degree of willful intent to deceive and shift the emphasis to the flawed methodology employed by sites that have been targeted as purveyors of “news” that is simply wrong.

So I propose calling these sites “flawed news” rather than “fake news.”  They do not adhere to basic journalistic standards such as finding corroborating evidence or documentation or other verifiable or credible sources but simply repeat whatever they are told without doing any kind of background research or checking.  They do not vet their sources or the information given to them by their sources.  They employ such techniques as “guilt by association”, “false equivalencies,” and “confirmation bias” and the end result is a “news” story that is more story than news.  What is needed is a refereed system in which news stories are double-checked for accuracy by peers.  This was normally the job of news desk editors and editorial staff.  That is pretty much why they existed, the very concept of “edit.”  Editors made sure that reporting adhered to legal standards (so the newspaper or other medium would not be sued) and to generally-accepted journalistic standards so that the public would consider them a credible source of information.

No newspaper was, or is, perfect however.  Mistakes always have been made and always will be made.  The relaxation of those standards, particularly in war time (where “the first casualty is truth”) and in the aftermath of 9/11 arose because it was much safer – legally and politically if not ethically or morally – to reprint the government’s version of the truth.  After all, one would have to sue the entire US Government if one didn’t like what a newspaper printed if all it printed were USG press releases.  And if one did not take the government’s word on events then one was in danger of being labeled unpatriotic, or worse.

We are told constantly that the United States is at war.  That is an excuse (not a reason) to employ censorship and media manipulation, and with no end to this war in sight we can assume that this state of affairs will continue (at best) or become even more draconian (at worst). The methods that alternative media is using now in promulgating all sorts of unsourced, uncorroborated rumors as fact will be the methods that will be used against more and more Americans by official agencies.  It is almost impossible to prove that one is not a pedophile, for instance.  Any one of us can be identified as a “suspected” pedophile, and it will be a label that sticks forever and which will imbue even the most innocent of our actions with a sinister halo.  It used to be that any one of us could be identified as a “suspected” Communist – a la the McCarthy Era – and in fact J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, lost his security clearance after the war because he was “suspected” of being a Communist.  Soon it will become the new normal that any one of us can be identified as a “suspected” terrorist.  When I had the dubious distinction of winding up on the “selective screening” list at the airport I had no recourse, no way of finding out why I was on the list or how to get off of the list.  I could not even determine which of the many agencies under the Department of Homeland Security had deemed me a risk.  It truly was Kafkaesque; I had stumbled into a road show of The Trial.

This is the kind of world we inherit if we – those of us who research, write and publish on topics that the regular media do not cover – use sloppy and irresponsible methods and rush into publication with rumors and gossip and masquerade as journalists.

Alternative media has the responsibility of speaking truth to power.  It can’t do that if it doesn’t value and cherish the truth in the first place.  What is the point of speaking lies to power? Doesn’t power already corner the market on lies?  By spreading disinformation, alternative media does the work of the power structures for them. There is no bravery, no glory in promoting false or flawed news stories just because the target is your enemy.  The Soviet Union did that for decades.  It was called disinformatsiya which is where we get our term disinformation.  It was an intelligence term of art during the Cold War, and now it has become tactic of choice in our media, both mainstream and alternative.

That has to change, and if it won’t start with the mainstream media it has to start with us.

 

 

 

Exploding Cigars, Exploding Heads

In 1962, at the tender age of 12, I won a million dollar bet with Thomas Hale.

Mr. Hale, of similar age and equivalent sophistication, was a kid straight from the hollers of West Virginia.  We were both outcasts at Phil Sheridan Public School in South Chicago, but for different reasons.  He was isolated from the crowd due to his being characterized as a “hillbilly.”  As for me, I was quite small for my age and just a little too bright for my classes.  I also had just begun wearing spectacles, which served to further identify me as a nerd.
But in October of 1962 we had other problems.  After years of air raid drills – you know, the kind where you “kiss your ass goodbye” – we were now on the brink of the real thing.  The Russians were putting missiles in Cuba.  President Kennedy gave them an ultimatum, demanding they remove them. We were days, maybe hours, from mutual assured destruction in the form of a nuclear exchange.

I had watched the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960.  My parents – who would inexplicably vote for Goldwater in 1964 – were Kennedy supporters. So, then, was I.

Hence the bet:  Thomas wagered that we were about to become annihilated in a nuclear holocaust.  I wagered that President Kennedy would not let that happen, that the Russians would stand down.

I won the bet.

I have yet to collect.

It was a sucker’s bet anyway.  How would Thomas have collected the million dollars if we were wiped out in an atomic exchange with the Soviets?

That was my first real introduction to the man who died on Friday.  Fidel Castro, the longest-serving head of state in the world, with the exception of the Queen of England.  The man we tried to kill, over and over again, and never even got close.

My mother used to tell me that Castro had betrayed us all; that he had taken control in Cuba as a revolutionary, yes, but as someone we could work with.  He revealed himself to be a Communist only after he took power in Havana (with some American assistance).  That was the story, anyway.  My mother used that example as the reason she told me never to trust anyone with a beard.  “They always have something to hide,” she would say.

Ha.  If she could see me now …

Anyway.

So we had the Cuban Missile Crisis (“Only 90 miles off our shore!”) and before that the Bay of Pigs invasion.  Plans were underway to assassinate Fidel, almost from the start.  CIA (and the Mafia, which lost a fortune in Cuba when Fidel came to power) became involved in all sorts of bizarre plots, even going so far as to develop a chemical substance that would enable his beard to fall off thus rendering him somewhat less charismatic to his people (but evidently more trustworthy, at least according to dear old Mom).  There were exploding sea shells.  Exploding cigars.  The list goes on and on.

And then there was Miami.  Operation Mongoose: the largest CIA station in the world at the time, and it was located on the campus of the University of Miami.  And why not?  The Cuban population in Miami was exploding like those famous cigars.

And then, November of 1963.

It developed that Lee Harvey Oswald – in the months leading up to the assassination of JFK – had gone to Mexico City in an effort to obtain a visa for Cuba.  Photographs of a man purporting to be Oswald were taken outside the Cuban Embassy, but it obviously was not Oswald.  The mystery deepened.

The CIA action officer in charge of the doomed Bay of Pigs operation was E. Howard Hunt (“Eduardo”), later of Watergate fame. He would later be linked – rightly or wrongly – to the Kennedy assassination himself.  Later, close to death in South Florida, he would admit that there was, indeed, a plot at some level of CIA to kill Kennedy.  So, both Oswald (the putative assassin) and Hunt (the possible assassin) had ties to Cuba, and it was in desperation that Oswald’s past was sanitized to remove any traces of a Soviet or a Cuban connection to the assassination, otherwise World War Three would have started in earnest (and I would have lost any possibility of collecting on my million dollar bet).

Hunt would go on to greater glory in the Watergate affair, enlisting the aid of – you guessed it – Cubans in order to break into the headquarters of the DNC at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.   (This was in the days before the Internet, boys and girls, when you had to hack a political party old school: with picks and locks and flaps and seals, as they used to say back at the Farm).

Fast forward to 1994.

I am in Puerto Rico, staying at the lovely Old San Juan Hotel.  I am there for business.  As an IT executive, I am arranging distributorships for our widgets throughout Latin America prior to my reassignment to Southeast Asia.  My local contacts and distributor there were of Cuban ancestry, as was most of their staff.  President Clinton had just sent troops to Haiti to reinstate the former Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the democratically elected president of the republic after an attempted military coup. My hosts were outraged, claiming that Haiti would be Clinton’s Vietnam.  Of course, that did not happen.  And, anyway, aren’t we supposed to support democratic elections?  (Oh, yeah, I forgot.  Chile.)

My hosts, as US citizens of Cuban descent, were all Republicans.  They hated and despised President Kennedy because of his failure to support the Bay of Pigs operation.  All Democrats, to them, were evil incarnate.

At the risk of losing business, I gently pointed out that no GOP president ever had invaded Cuba.  That Republican presidents had invaded Grenada, intrigued against Nicaragua with the Contras, removed Manuel Noriega as President of Panama, and even invaded Iraq in defense of Kuwait, but none had proposed, remotely seriously, an invasion of Cuba.  I tried to suggest that perhaps the American Cubans were being manipulated with a lot of brave and heroic rhetoric about “Cuba Libre” in order to secure the Cuban vote in Florida, an important swing state, but that there was no intention by any administration of actually overthrowing Castro’s regime.

This was just throwing gasoline on the flames, however, and resulted in all sorts of unkind things being said about Democrats regardless of the lack of action on the part of Republicans.  There can be no doubt that anti-Castro Cubans were used by all manner of clandestine operatives both in the United States and abroad.  Michael Townley used a team of anti-Castro Cubans when it became time for him to assassinate former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier.  In Washington, D.C.  Our nation’s capital.

Then it was revealed that one of my hosts had been the godchild of former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, the man who was overthrown by Castro in 1959.  With pedigrees like that, it is virtually impossible to make any political points so I was forced to reign in my attempts at logical discourse, except for one last salvo.

Knowing my hosts were devout Catholics – as befitting anti-Communists – and passionately pro-life, I asked them if they thought that Fidel Castro should have been aborted as a fetus.

 

From exploding cigars to heads that explode, the story of Castro, Cuba and the United States is complex and any attempt to frame it in a simplistic us-versus-them framework is simply dishonest.  Batista was an evil and corrupt dictator.  The Mafia had the run of the island, and together with Batista deprived all but the rich of any power or autonomy. The rampages of United Fruit – on whose board sat the Dulles brothers – are legendary. A revolt against Batista was inevitable. A revolt against the system that had allowed Batista to flourish was likewise inescapable.  Those who rail against Communism – especially the Communism of the mid-twentieth century – know nothing (or choose to know nothing) of the serious oppression of the poor by the wealthy in countries where Communism seemed like the only ideology capable of putting up any kind of resistance since its whole raison d’etre was based on economic classes and the exploitation of labor.  No one else was talking to the poor and the disenfranchised (and the colonized) except the Communists. Instead there is this fantasy of depraved Communist agents seducing poor but happy and carefree peasants with their murderous ideology, possessing their souls like Regan’s Pazuzu.  We don’t realize that these people had been abandoned by their State, except as forced labor or prostitutes, with no possibility of owning their own land or being captains of their own destiny.  No “pick yourselves up by your bootstraps” motivational speeches are gonna work with people who don’t have any boots.

So then one gets a revolution, undertaken by people who finally were empowered by a belief system that sounded pretty logical and scientific, but more importantly who had nothing left to lose.  What did you expect?

This is not a defense of Communism or of Fidel Castro.  It is a critique of an American foreign policy that found it easier to support dictators like Batista, Marcos, Soeharto, Stroessner, Pinochet, Franco, Salazar, and so many others around the world simply because they were “anti-Communist.”  So what?  So were the Nazis. So were the Fascists in Italy.  The Ustasche in Croatia. The Iron Guard in Romania.

And as a result: the boycott of Cuba that has lasted for more than fifty years and which has accomplished nothing.

 

I live, for my sins, in South Florida, and have spent a lot of time along Calle Ocho in Miami.  I’ve eaten at the famous Versailles, and at other Cuban cafes and restaurants in the area.  I have had conversations with old Cuban refugees over some cortaditos who, when they learn I published a book about Hitler (Unholy Alliance, translated into Spanish as Alianza Malefica), invariably tell me that Castro was the bigger Hitler.  They haven’t read my book, by the way.  The Spanish language translation – published by a large and reputable firm in Mexico, the same publisher as Gabriel Garcia Marquez – is not available in the United States even though one can obtain a wide variety of Spanish-language books on the Nazis, Hitler, and even Nazi occultism.  This is because the Spanish language book distribution network in the States is solidly anti-Communist which means that it found my printed remarks concerning Chile, Pinochet and the Nazis as too leftist for their taste. Many of us still live in a world where being anti-Nazi implies one is pro-Communist.

But, wait.  Didn’t the Castro regime throw homosexuals in prison?  Of course.  Did the regime practice censorship?  Certainly. Still does. Did the Batista regime encourage the proliferation of prostitution and gambling?  Sure.  Did Batista virtually sell off his country to the highest bidders in the United States, ransoming the birthright of his people to foreign (mostly American) corporations and the Mob?  Absolutely.  It’s a matter of public record.  So … did the corruption of the Batista regime contribute to the circumstances that gave rise to the Castro revolution?  Without a doubt.

Actually, people tend to forget that Americans threw homosexuals in prison, too.  That was what the Stonewall riots of 1969 were all about.  Police raids on gay bars were so frequent that they were expected as part of doing business.  Transvestites were routinely arrested and thrown in jail simply because of their choice in couture. Sodomy – loosely and often erroneously defined – was still on the books as a crime in fourteen states as late as 2003.

Was the Castro regime repressive and dictatorial?  Of course it was.  No one can deny or defend that.  Yet it certainly can be understood as the result of being completely isolated from the rest of the world with the exception of the old Soviet Union and its allies, and a natural reaction to the fact that the world’s greatest superpower – the United States – was sitting the proverbial 90 miles away, hostile as ever and constantly looking for ways to assassinate its leader and destabilize its government.  Instead, it has become standard practice to demonize not only Castro but those who had – in one way or another – attempted to initiate a dialogue with his regime.

In the immortal words of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, “What a nightmare!”

 

Many readers know that I did a lot of business in China, especially in the period 1984 – 2004 when I was traveling constantly to Beijing, Shanghai and virtually every province in the country.  In the 1980s, I was told openly by Party members that China welcomed foreign investment, foreign technology, and foreign expertise but most emphatically rejected foreign cultural influence which was considered “spiritual pollution” by the Communist regime.  I had to smile.  My very presence in China was “spiritual pollution.”  Average Chinese could see me, see that I did not breathe fire or have horns coming out of my head, and that I was a pretty amicable sort of fellow.  I even spoke some Mandarin, and knew about Chinese history and could quote from Mao’s “little red book.”  Me, and people like me (and eventually there were a lot of us), were a walking advertisement for America and for American institutions. We helped change China by the mere fact of our being there, bringing our technology and our investment, sure, but also by bringing our culture and our attitudes, being friendly and non-threatening, and embracing their culture and language the best we could (which was only the most pragmatic thing we could do as business people).

We could have done the same to Cuba, a long time ago, if our government had let us.  I guarantee Castro would have been gone decades ago were it not for the boycott and the blockades that ensured Castro’s scape-goating of America and its reliance on Soviet aid.

In Moscow in the 1990s I made the acquaintance of a former KGB officer who had served in Cuba late in the game.  He didn’t particularly care for the island, but he admitted to me that the American boycott of Cuba made his job a lot easier.  It gave the Soviets virtual run of the place.  By isolating Cuba we made it virtually impossible for Castro to turn to any other country.

So, how’s that working out for you?

There is a lot we can learn about our long and tortured history with Cuba’s Communist regime and the ways in which we tried to force change on that island through intimidation, force, assassination, boycotts, blockades, and the like.  We can learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to “regime change.”  We can also learn how that situation created a unique demographic in our own country that for so long was a single-issue voting bloc: the Cubans who vote on whether or not a politician promises them a return to Cuba in their lifetime.  Divided loyalties …

But we won’t learn anything from this.  I mean, we haven’t so far so why should today be any different just because el Viejo murio?

Instead, we have the spectacle of a resurgence of interest by young people around the world in the Cuban revolution and in particular the romantic figure of Ernesto “Che” Guevara: the Argentine revolutionary who became such an iconic figure of that revolution and who tried to export it to other countries outside of Cuba.  You can find young people wearing Che T-shirts in Asia, Europe, and even in Latin America.  To demonize Che and Castro – and the revolution with which they are identified – is to miss the important message they bring with them. Che and Castro represent the pendulum swing away from corporatism, statism and fascism towards collectivism, equality, and the abolition of a way of life that sees the very wealthy own all the country’s resources at the expense of the lives, health, education and well-being of the poor and middle classes. It is an extreme swing, filled with violence and hatred towards an entire class of people and the institutions they represent.  It is predictable, but for some reason we never seem to be  able to predict it.

Like the Russian Revolution of 1917 or the Republicans of the Spanish Civil War; the Vietnamese revolution that saw the ouster of the French (and eventually the Americans) from their country; and the Indonesian revolution that saw the Dutch removed from theirs: the Cuban revolution began as a movement of people with nothing left to lose making a desperate attempt to reclaim their dignity if not their livelihoods and their land.  We ignore that impulse, that emotion, that honesty, at our peril.  We can call their proponents “leftists” or “communists” or “socialists” all we like, if that makes us feel better and makes it easier to demonize them, but in the end they are only people.  Men, women, children.  Poorly armed.  Poorly trained. Hungry. Wet. Tired. Sick. But in an age of cynicism and skepticism they are equipped with something the best of us do not have in such overwhelming and dangerous abundance.

They are equipped with belief.  And when belief is married to desperation you will have a Cuban revolution.  An Indonesian revolution.  The Islamic State.  The PLO.  The Tupamaros. The Miristas.

A French Revolution.

And (dare I say it?) an American Revolution.

Revolutions don’t begin from the top, down.  They start at the bottom – the very bottom, the place of open sewers, dirty drinking water, disease, poverty, and starvation – and work their inexorable way up. If we really think Castro was a bad guy, a “Hitler” as I was told by los Cubanos viejos del Calle Ocho, then let’s do something about it.  Let’s put our money where our cavernous mouth is.  Let’s re-evaluate our foreign policy objectives and methods to engage not with the military leaders and corrupt dictators of “friendly” governments because that never ends well but with those on the ground who used to admire us, love us even, dreamed about us and our country, and who now see us as the source of the problem.  Let’s identify with the revolutionaries for once.  After all, that’s how we started and we didn’t do too badly.

And then, who knows, maybe I can win another million dollar bet.

La lucha sigue, baby.

Venceremos.

And in other news …

It seems the whole world is reacting to the spectacle of the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election … well, not really.

What is being missed by both national and alternative media in the US is the fact that right now Asia is churning.  Just this past week we saw massive demonstrations against corruption and discrimination in Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea.  Malaysia especially has been hit hard by popular unrest against the regime of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. This is but the latest in a string of popular protests against the entrenched oligarchy that saw the arrest, indictment, trial and imprisonment of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on false sodomy and corruption charges in 1998 and Anwar’s subsequent campaign for prime minister after his release from prison in 2004.  Anwar’s political campaigns in 2008 and 2013 threw the country into a serious crisis as his opposition coalition party – composed of all of the main Malaysian ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese and Indian, an unprecedented phenomenon – claimed election fraud.  Anwar was re-imprisoned after the courts upheld his sodomy conviction: a charge that was demonstrably false after his sole accuser gave contradictory testimony in open court with the unabashed collaboration of the bench. Until he was sent back to prison, however, he was an outspoken critic of Najib Abdul Razak.  Ironically, during the protests this past week, the man who fired and then ensured that Anwar would stay imprisoned – former Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad – would join the protests against Najib.

Why should we care about all of this?

Anwar Ibrahim was influential enough in world affairs that when US Vice President Al Gore visited Malaysia during this period he demonstrated that he was an outspoken supporter of Anwar Ibrahim and the “Reformasi” (Reform) movement that Anwar represented by making a pro-Reformasi speech in front of the 1998 APEC summit in Kuala Lumpur.  This led, predictably, to a storm of criticism from the Malaysian government and fed into conspiracy theories that the Asian Economic Crisis that year had been arranged by Jewish bankers and American interests to undermine Malaysia’s unprecedented economic growth.  Mahathir Muhammad was in the forefront of those claiming it was a world-wide Jewish conspiracy against his (barely) Muslim-majority country.

Which leads us to Indonesia.  The Asian Economic Crisis affected Indonesia in its own way.  It led to the collapse of President Soeharto:  the army general who had replaced Sukarno as leader of the country. Soeharto had been in charge of the Indonesian government since Sukarno’s ouster in the wake of the 1965 “year of living dangerously” episode that saw hundreds of thousands – most say “millions” – of Indonesian citizens slaughtered on suspicion of being Communists or fellow-travelers: a military coup aided and abetted by the American CIA. After almost thirty years of running the country, Soeharto was ousted and Indonesia saw democratic elections for the first time in its history: a proud tradition that has continued to this day.

But the rise of religious fundamentalism around the world has alarmed progressives and moderates in that Muslim-majority country, and this week saw thousands march in Jakarta to oppose bigotry, racial and religious discrimination, and injustice.  This, in a country that boasts the largest Muslim population in the world, larger than the populations of Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia combined.

This writer has lived in both of these countries and particularly during the events in question.  He is kindly disposed to what both the Malaysians and the Indonesians are fighting for.  We too often forget that terms like “progressive” and “liberal” are concepts that other people around the world are willing to fight and die for, and that what they intend by these terms is surprisingly similar to what we in the United States understand by them:  a defense (if not a “celebration”) of diversity, equality for all human beings, mutual respect, the protection of civil liberties … those issues that are often lumped together under the rubric of “social” issues or “cultural values,” and thus anathema to those with more conservative tendencies.

Nonetheless it was economics – most notably the Asian Economic Crisis – that jump-started these movements in Malaysia and Indonesia.  The powers-that-be (or powers-that-were) in those two countries tried to use the economic crisis as an excuse to clamp down on those same cultural and social values and to re-exert military and political control over their populations.  In Indonesia, it didn’t work.  Soeharto fell from power and democracy was introduced.  In Malaysia, a country with a population only a tenth of the size of Indonesia, Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad used the draconian measure of the ISA (the dreaded Internal Security Act) to round up and imprison his opposition (including his own, very popular, Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim).  This decision has led to the “churning” mentioned above as Malaysians of all ethnicities and religions are demanding reformasi once again. It’s only a matter of time.  As they say, Malaysia Boleh.  (“Malaysia Can.”)

Korea is a special case, however.  This is a country that has lived in the increasingly lethal shadow of North Korea’s pseudo-communist dictatorship since the end of the Korean War more than sixty years ago.  There still is a large American military presence in South Korea.  There are also the constant test firings of missiles from the North that have kept everyone in North Asia (from China to Japan) on edge.  Add to this the recent Wikileaks scandal, in which a document came to light showing the degree of influence that a strange religious leader had over the current President Park Geun-hye.

Choi Tae-min has been called a Korean “Rasputin.”  Although he has been dead since 1994, his daughter remains a close friend of President Park.  The leaked document revealed the extent of corruption that existed between Choi’s Church of Eternal Life and Park.  Even the Korean Central Intelligence Agency became aware of the degree to which Choi had control over Park’s day-to-day affairs; a control that critics claim still exists to this day through Choi’s daughter who has received enormous financial benefits from the relationship.

Koreans this week have been marching in Seoul, demanding that Park resign and asking who really is the President of their country:  Park, or the daughter of Choi Tae-min … or maybe the ghost of Choi himself?

Some years ago this writer was in Seoul.  It was on his birthday, which coincided precisely with the anniversary of the start of Operation Bluebird in October, 1950.  It was the Korean War which gave rise to the phenomenon of “brainwashing” and “mind control”, and I decided to go there and feel the vibe for myself.  Korea has had a sad history in the twentieth century, beginning with the Japanese invasion of their country prior to World War Two and the consequent enslavement of its population and extending through the Korean War. Japanese medical experimentation on human prisoners took place there as well as (it is said) Japanese atomic testing in the last year of the Second World War.  Prior to the twentieth century Korea had a long and impressive history, an important literary and cultural tradition, and still boasts a unique cuisine.  It is also the source of Reverend Sun Myung-Moon’s Unification Church (which tried to recruit me in New York City in the 1970s) and, by extension, the Washington Times.  Moon even had pronounced himself the Messiah, neither the first nor the last to do so.

Unlike Malaysia and Indonesia, Korea is a cold country.  Far to the north of Southeast Asia, the culture is quite different as the climate is quite different. Seoul, in a sense, is a twenty-first century survival of West Berlin: it is a city that has known war, and especially the very real threat of war, for decades.  There is a wall outside Seoul, over which can be seen soldiers of the North patrolling up and down. There is the constant reminder that an invasion can take place at any time.  One would think that, under those circumstances, the Koreans would bow to pressure and not rock the boat where their elected officials are concerned as that would show weakness in front of their enemies to the north and invite military action.

Or that the Malaysians and Indonesians – with China an increasing presence and influence in their countries and their lives – would be wary of creating any internal schisms that might make it easier for outside forces to have their way.

But … no.  They are coming down on the side of what is right rather than what is expedient or even pragmatic.  Malaysians want an end to corruption and cronyism in their country, and they want equal protection under the law for all their fellow citizens.  Indonesians are very familiar with what can happen when one side discriminates against another to the extent of fomenting conspiracy theories, raising arms, and summoning the dogs of war.  They fought and suffered long and hard to get where they are now, and they are not about to give up, “Islamic fundamentalism” or not.

As for the Koreans, they know – at least now, at least at this moment in their history – that something important is at stake, something worth taking a stand and marching in the streets even as Kim Jong-Un is striding up and down his balcony in Pyong-yang wondering which of his friends to execute next.

Our media has ignored what is happening in Asia because it has been too busy meditating on its navel: the self-absorption of so many Americans that perhaps is best exemplified by that scene in Dr. Strangelove, at the end of the film, when Peter Sellers (as the Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove) gets up from his wheelchair and shouts “Mein Fuehrer, I can walk!” even as the Doomsday Device explodes and the world is destroyed.

And it’s not just Asia. It’s Latin America, Africa … even the Middle East about which we all claim we already know too much and which in reality we don’t understand at all.  Even with the Internet, with Google searches and social media sites, with all the vast capacity at our fingertips, we are on track to becoming the most uninformed generation in a century. We don’t trust the “mainstream media”; fair enough.  Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Huntley and Brinkley … they’re all gone. But trust in an alternative media site just because it is alternative is equally misguided. At least with the mainstream media there is a pretense towards journalistic integrity.  With so many alt-media sites, there is none.  Rumors are presented as facts, facts are cherry-picked to support one or another bias or agenda.  There is no corroboration of a story by multiple sources.  No fact-checking.  No respect for information.  Both media are dominated by the desire to make money, it is true. And for that reason, foreign news desks have all but disappeared.  After all, Americans don’t care about foreign news so foreign news operations have become cost centers rather than profit centers, and the stockholders don’t want to see that.  Add to that the uncomfortable realization that most media in the United States is in the hands of fewer than a dozen corporations that own newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and publishing houses, and you have a perfect storm of managed reality. So, sure, interested citizens go outside the bubble of mainstream media to the alternative news sites, believing (naively) that they will get the real dope that way.

And are bamboozled once again.  They choose their sites to align with their prejudices: what is called “confirmation bias.”  The echo chamber.  Ironically, they actually become self-censoring.  They don’t learn anything, because the “news” they get is un-vetted, uncorroborated, and in many cases simply “made-up.”

In totalitarian states information is subject to government censorship.  In purely capitalistic states, information is subject to corporate interests.  Yet in the world of alternative media the concept of information itself has become devalued. There is still information out there, but the work (and the responsibility) of the consumer of information has increased exponentially. The consumer must now practice the fine art of “discernment” if actual data is desired, if information is truly the goal and not a Greek chorus of assent. The problem is: we don’t teach rhetoric or logic anymore in our classrooms.  We don’t teach how to think, how to discern, how to weigh both sides of an issue.

Hitler once wrote that his oratorical method was to appeal directly to the hearts of the masses, bypassing the intellect.  The intellect – like the university to which he was refused admission, like the cities he detested because of the proliferation of other races (of “diversity”), like the Jews as he perceived them – was the enemy.  He imagined a different space, one in which there was no questioning, no dialogue. He liked to think of himself as a man of action, not thought.  This space – situated either in a geographic location like a country, or an ideal location like the mind – had to be cleansed of deleterious influences. If the citizenship was homogenous, then homogenous thought was sure to follow.  There would be no need for discussion, no possibility of disagreement. Anyone who thought differently, who argued logically or at least intelligently, would be shouted down, characterized as a reactionary or worse: as “sheeple” (another demonization of our fellow citizens).  It was necessary to acknowledge the existence of these individuals because scapegoats are as important to a demagogue’s rhetorical style as hyperbole. Scapegoats provide a kind of short-hand for those too lazy to do any thinking of their own.

Not to say that these flaws do not exist in the countries we have been discussing. They exist everywhere.  But in a country where access to information is hard-fought, and where censorship is resisted by those who can be arrested and thrown in prison – or worse – for disseminating real information, real data, we should have come to appreciate and value the absolute worth of information.  We pay lip-service to the idea of freedom; but real freedom depends on access to real information.  That is why the idea of a free press is enshrined in our Constitution.  But we have been lulled into a false sense of security where information is concerned because we have television, the Internet, smartphones and tablets, Facebook and Twitter, so of course we have information.  No matter how wrong it is.  We have confused quantity with quality and, anyway, isn’t that the American way?  Obesity rocks.

Meanwhile, journalists in other countries are being killed by their governments.

“Why?” ask our fellow citizens.  “Why don’t they just google?”

 

 

Memento Mori

Memento Mori

On September 11, 1973 a military coup – influenced and supported by the US government, including our military and the CIA – overthrew the democratically-elected administration of Salvador Allende, the President of Chile.  Allende was a Socialist, and as recently declassified and published memos reveal, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger had determined from the start that his presidency would not last.  Kissinger called Allende’s Chile “a dagger pointed at the heart of the United States.”  Allende was an anti-Nazi during World War II, in a country that had strong pro-Nazi sentiment and which indeed had a large Nazi Party, among its members a future ambassador and Nazi mystic, and friend of both Hermann Hesse and Carl Jung:  Miguel Serrano.

On September 11, 1973 the coup took place and Allende died in the presidential palace, La Moneda, wearing a helmet and carrying a weapon.  Six years later, I visited Santiago de Chile and saw La Moneda: a ruin still pocked with bullet holes.  Augusto Pinochet, a Chilean general, was now in charge of the country and proclaimed himself “President for Life.”  He disbanded the Chilean Supreme Court, instituted press censorship, closed the universities, and proclaimed martial law among other steps he considered necessary to preserve Chile from the twin evils of Socialism and Communism (two ideologies that are frequently conflated, with serious implications for any ideology deemed even vaguely left of center).

Thus the war against Communism was expanded to include a war against liberalism and democracy: considered as fellow travelers.  While Allende was a champion of the poor, women of the “middle class” demonstrated against him, claiming that his administration had made the price of milk too high, among other outrages. The neighborhood that was the center of those demonstrations was, ironically, Providencia: an upper-class enclave of Chile’s elite.  The covert campaign by American intelligence was designed to rally Chilean women against the leftist regime by saying their gender had been ignored in favor of a male-dominated worker’s party, and telling them that Allende soon would seize their children and send them to indoctrination camps in Cuba.  (Can you say “FEMA”, boys and girls?)

What actually had occurred were CIA-financed trucker strikes in Chile: an attempt to force Allende’s hand by turning his own people against him.  In a country like Chile – more than a two thousand miles long and less than 220 miles at its widest point – truckers are essential delivery systems for everything from food to books.  The demonstrations against Allende were orchestrated by the extreme right:  openly pro-Nazi groups such as Patria y Libertad. But the people returned to the polls during Allende’s administration and voted once again to keep him in power.

Critics of Latin American socialist movements often fail to acknowledge that those movements arose from poverty and despair.  The institutions that were identified most strongly with political and economic oppression – the Church, the Corporations, the Military – had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  God, guns, and gold.  Often, these institutions were also deeply informed by race:  a lighter-skinned upper-class and a racially-diverse (African, Native American) lower-class.  The solution to the rise of Latin socialist movements was to suppress them by any means necessary.  Since Communism was seen as the ultimate evil with the rise of the Soviet Union and China, any movement that was perceived as being tainted or influenced by Marxist-Leninist ideas became a target for destruction.  Rather than solve the social and economic problems at the heart of these movements it was easier to simply arrest, torture and murder their proponents.

This was true throughout the region, and gave rise to the term “banana republic”: a country where more than 90 percent of a nation’s wealth is in the hands of a small elite: what leftist theoreticians like to call the “oligarchy.”

Allende was a friend of Fidel Castro, to be sure.  He was also a friend of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian author who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He was also a friend of Pablo Neruda: Chile’s own Nobel Prize winner and the author of a large oeuvre of poetical works, including Canto General which includes the famous critique of the role of the United Fruit Company in the political and economic dominance of Latin America: a company on whose board sat Allen Dulles and his brother, John Foster Dulles.

Neruda was born in the town of Parral in Chile.  Parral is also the town that boasts Colonia Dignidad.  My readers know all about my visit there in June-July 1979, so I won’t bother you with the details.  Suffice it to say it was a torture and interrogation center for the Pinochet regime that was staffed by Nazis and which served as a sanctuary on the ODESSA network and as a node in Operation Condor.

There was no mention of Neruda in Parral when I was there in 1979.  It was as if he never existed.

Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973: twelve days after the coup that saw Allende dead and Chilean democracy in ruins.  He was in the hospital for treatment on September 11, and decided to return to his home because he believed the doctors were poisoning him.  Others – more poetic – say he died of a broken heart.

 

A little while ago we learned of the death of Leonard Cohen, only a few days after Election Day in the United States.

I leave you with these words from one of his songs, called “Democracy:”

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
As time cannot decay
I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA

La lucha sigue, baby.

Venceremos.

An Update for My Readers

I know, I know. An update every six months or so is not really an update. It’s practically starting from scratch. Okay. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Mohon maaf lahir dan batin.

In other words: sorry about that.

If you’ve been following what’s been going on recently, you may be aware that I have been involved in a heavy researching and writing schedule involving three non-fiction books. I have also managed to convince a publisher to come out with one of my novels. In addition, I have been traveling frequently to a number of locations both in the US and in the UK, some of which involve upcoming TV documentary appearances on channels such as The History Channel, NatGeo and Discovery.

The first of the non-fiction books – entitled Sekret Machines: Gods – is due to come out in March of 2017. This is part of the major project with Tom DeLonge that may be familiar to you. This project – under the general rubric of Sekret Machines – includes my three volume non-fiction work, three novels by A.J. Hartley (the first of which is already published: Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows), a documentary film, and much more.

What is Sekret Machines?

If you read my Afterword to the A. J. Hartley novel, you’ll see that it presumes to be a radical new approach to the UFO Phenomenon (or UAP Phenomenon, if you are so inclined). We begin from the premise that this Phenomenon is real; we don’t try to “prove” it to anyone, and we don’t present the usual lists of thousands of worldwide sightings, etc. since most people familiar with the subject are aware already of this evidentiary material. What we do is proceed from the assumption that the Phenomenon is real and has been observed throughout history. What, then, has been its effect on society, religion, culture, and politics? Why is it important for us to examine this Phenomenon and what it represents more closely, more dispassionately, more objectively than ever before? Why have governments, the military, scientists, academics, etc. been reluctant to come forward and admit that it exists? How can we change that attitude?

More importantly, perhaps, how can we inspire a new generation of men and women to devote their lives to the hard sciences in order to cooperate in the decoding of this Phenomenon? And not just the hard sciences, but cultural and religious studies as well.

American students are lagging behind twenty or more other countries in STEM subjects. This is a national security problem, and not just from the perspective of terrorist and other more “terrestrial” threats. We need an educated population that is aware of all the implications for sovereignty that the Phenomenon poses to us and to the world at large. Whether or not one believes in the reality of UFOs or “little green men” one has to agree that an avoidance of this field in spite of all the testimony by military and intelligence specialists that support the view that “something is out there” is a dangerous position to maintain. On the contrary, if we proceed on the assumption that we are being visited – somehow, in some manner, by some one – then we would find ourselves forced to review our preconceptions concerning language and communication, physics, aerodynamics, energy, sociology, and a dozen or more other disciplines. Exobiology, exolinguistics, exopolitics, would all become areas in which new discoveries will be made … regardless of whether or not we ever “prove” the reality of the Phenomenon.

Many have gone before us in this quixotic quest, to be sure. And their published works are sometimes (unfortunately, uncomfortably, but it needs to be said) filled with bad science and unnecessary leaps of logic even as they are luminous with new ideas and the certainty that we have been visited before and continue to be visited. What if we stop them right there – the Erich von Dӓnikens and the Zecharia Sitchins, for instance – and say to them, “Okay, yes. Stop. We get it. We understand. Now what?”

The Sekret Machines project is an attempt (from my way of thinking, and I am speaking only for myself right now) to say just that. And to take it to the next step. We want to answer that most important question, “Now what?”, with an entire multi-platform, multi-media project that will provoke everyone from the most die-hard cynic and skeptic on the one hand to the most passionate believer and experiencer on the other.

You know my Sinister Forces trilogy or you wouldn’t be here. I pointed readers in the direction of accepting the possibility that the events we call conspiracies – as we think of them – may occur (may even be germinated) on levels that are beyond the understanding even of the conspirators themselves. If the Kennedy assassination was described in detail fifty years in advance by a Belgian mystic (as it was) does that mean he was involved in the assassination? Of course not. Then … what does it mean? What are the implications for conspiracy theory in general?

Thus, think of Sekret Machines as a kind of chiropractic adjustment to the skeletal material of science and philosophy, religion and culture – the bones and joints of our reality – in order to let the inner organs and musculature of the human experience stretch, expand, and accommodate those ideas we usually term “paranormal” or “extraterrestrial”, “super natural” or just plain crazy: the “rejected knowledge” that sits like an undigested lump in the center of our being. It sits there because we can’t accommodate it within our modern worldview, a worldview dominated by western concepts of truth, relevance, and of what is real and what is imaginary: concepts that are just as much part of European culture and its political and historical context as they are of science and technology. We are post-moderns; hell, we are even post-post-moderns. Yet we still are expected to reject that crazy knowledge, ignore it, and educate ourselves away from any memory of it. And we can’t. To reject it is to reject our humanity. We know this instinctively, so we push back. Against our better judgment and against the advice of our peers, we push back.

Sekret Machines is designed to help us push back: intelligently, confidently, even logically. It’s taken all my time and all my concentration these past two years, and for me it has been time well-spent even as it has taken its toll on those around me. I will have more to say about the project, of course, but for now I leave you with the wish that my efforts – and especially those of Tom DeLonge, A.J. Hartley, and all the others involved with the project – have accomplished what we set out to do and that you will be challenged by what we have discovered and what we propose as our thesis and our roadmap for the future. Stay tuned!