How to create a conspiracy theory

The human mind has a great capacity for pattern recognition. It’s hard wired into us because, at the time that we were a prey animal, it was very useful to be able to recognize a lurking predator, whether it was really there or not.

It also taught us to recognize human faces, and to this day, more likely than not, if you see a pattern of two circles or dots (“eyes”) somewhere above a curve, line, or circle (“mouth”) you will see a face. Sometimes, there may even be a vertical line making up the nose.

This is the entire basis of all the text-based smiley face emoticons that preceded modern, more literal emojis.

The phenomenon is called pareidolia, and it covers more than just seeing faces. Jesus on toast, animals in the clouds, the face (or rabbit) on the Moon are all examples of this.

But humans don’t just see visual patterns. They are good at connecting dots that are not there as well. We have a tendency to create meaningful patterns from random data.

Sometimes, it can be harmless, like noticing that you always hear your neighbor leave their apartment around six in the evening, then only hear them come back after two in the morning when you’re up late on weekends, so assume that they’re a server or bartender. They also only seem to go out during the day on Mondays, the same day they never go out at night.

You could have nailed it completely, or you could be right in general and wrong in specifics — for example, they work the swing-shift in retail, or they’re on-staff at a theatre either backstage or in the house.

Yes, these are all pre-COVID assumptions. But the point is, in this case, if you create a pattern from random data, it doesn’t really hurt anyone. Well, at least not until you start to assume darker things about your neighbor and then start to intentionally gather data to “prove”  that they are involved in something really shady.

When someone goes too far in seeing those meaningful patterns in random data, they go off into full-on conspiracy theories, all of which are quite unhinged. Some are perennial and have been around forever. Others are uniquely 2020.

So, how does it happen that people can wind up believing conspiracy theories? As noted in one of the links above, it comes down to three things: A need for understanding and consistency, a need for control, and a need to belong or feel special.

“I can’t comprehend this thing, so I want to control the situation, and by saying I understand, I feel special or that I’m part of a like-minded group.”

Let’s make up a conspiracy right now! Not that none of this is intended to be taken seriously. Rather, it’s just my effort to walk you through the mental gymnastics that a typical creator of conspiracies goes through. Ready? Let’s begin.

I’ll start with today’s date: 01/11. It doesn’t look like much, but if you take 0111 in binary and convert it to decimal, you get 7. And if you take the British style date, 1101, converting it to decimal gives you 13.

Hm. Two prime numbers that also happen to be very important in all matters religious and occult. Now let’s look at three particular years, and how their digits add up:

1755: 8+10 = 18; 1+8 = 9

1906: 10+6 = 16; 1+6 = 7

1930: 10+3 = 13; 1+3 = 4

So we find a 7 and a thirteen in there again, and the two leftovers are also important numbers in mathematics, but what do you get when you add 9 and 4? That’s right. 13 again!

Ooh. What’s going on? Well, here’s the really interesting part. Those three years above, when combined with January 11, are the birthdates of these three people, in order: Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founders of the U.S. and musical subject; Albert Hofmann, chemist and discoverer of LSD; and Rod Taylor, actor most known for appearing in the original film version of The Time Machine.

Now, besides the birthdays, the connection between the two Als should be obvious: They have the same initials, AH. A is the 1st letter of the alphabet, while H is the 8th. Add that up and you get… 9 again. And counting the syllables, “Alexander Hamilton” has 7, while “Albert Hofmann” has 4.

So there’s another 974 hiding in plain sight.

Now where I’m going with this is how the musical Hamilton came to be created, and I believe it was because Lin-Manuel Miranda is actually a front for an ancient Hamiltonian conspiracy. And we get that by adding one more date to the list.

January 16, 1980. This is the day that Miranda was allegedly born, and I say allegedly because I’ve never seen his birth certificate, so it could be one of two things. He was also actually born on the 11th, but that would have been too big of a giveaway, so it was officially changed.

Or… he was actually born on the 16th via induced labor with the intention of making his birthday come 5 days after the others, and 5 is a sacred number to (wait for it) the Illuminati.

Hamilton would have been very familiar with them, if not a member himself. In fact, George Washington almost certainly was, and some people even think that he was the group’s founder, Adam Weishaupt, in disguise.

Let’s see what shakes out of Miranda’s official birthdate. January 16 gives us 1+16=17, and 1+7=8. Meanwhile, the year gives us 10+8, which is 18, meaning 1+8, for 9.

So we get the 9 again, but a new number, 8, which is considered very lucky in Asia. And if we add 9 and 8, we get 17, which adds up again to 8. This means that Miranda was engineered to be extremely lucky.

But he had to get the idea somehow in the first place, which no doubt came from Hamilton himself. So… how did that happen? Hofmann was the stage-setter, while Taylor’s character functioned as a message to the modern-day Illuminati. Well, at least the ones who were around when Miranda’s future parents were young.

Hofmann’s invention of LSD was key, because it spread into the arts community from the 1940s through mid-60s, at which point it was made illegal but was still very prevalent, and it had one pretty huge effect.

It changed the way people created art and perceived history big time. In fact, “time” is kind of the key. This was the era when stories started to be told out of chronological order, which was almost everything that directors like Nicolas Roeg did.

It was also when people started treating history a lot less reverently, which gave us shows like 1776, which told the story of the founding of America, but through decidedly modern lens.

It was also a time when People of Color started pulling a reverse on the theft of their culture (think Ragtime, Jazz, and Rock, etc.) and started creating their own versions of white classics, The Wiz being just the most prominent, but not only, example.

And none of this would have happened if Hofmann’s wonder drug hadn’t shook things up and shown people how to perceive time and the universe in entirely new ways.

Meanwhile… nearly 20 years before Miranda was born, the Illuminati of 1960 were sent their signal via Rod Taylor in the Time Machine. And how did they do it? Simple. The dates he stops on in the film. Keep in mind that the Hollywood elites who created the movie’s screenplay were no doubt Illuminati, too.

I’ll add the month and day separate from the digits of the year, and then combine both, but it all works out the same.

9/13/1917: 22 + 18 = 4 + 9 = 13 = 4

6/19/1940: 25 + 14 = 7 + 5 = 12 = 3

8/18/1966: 26 + 22 = 8 + 4 = 12 = 3

10/12/802701:  22 + 18 = 4 + 9 = 13

And let’s look at that 1940 date in particular, because it’s nearly 40 years before Miranda was born, which was about 40 years ago now. Hm. Interesting symmetry, eh? So maybe this is another Illuminati message.

Hm. 1940 gives us 5 if we add up the digits. 1980 gives us 9. Put those together, and it adds up to 14, which comes back to 5, which all points back to both the Illuminati in the past and Miranda in the future.

And how did we get from one to the other? Well, artsy folk weren’t the only one who took acid in the 60s. Plenty of scientists did, and a lot of their projects from the 60s to the 80s were off the hook.

I mean, come on — we put people on the moon, we created the internet, we created the basis for GPS and cell phones and, well, pretty much modern life now, and all that heavy pipe was laid from the 60s onward.

So don’t you think that somewhere in there a heavily insulated cabal wasn’t able to create time travel and keep it secret?

Then, at some point after 1999, the Illuminati hooked up with the brilliant creator of In the Heights, brought him back in time to meet the actual Alexander Hamilton, and this was the point when Lin-Manuel Miranda suddenly realized, “Holy crap, this dude was born in St. Kitts and Nevis, and he is clearly not white, despite the paintings, so I am going to write this thing.”

And there is your fake conspiracy theory, which I don’t believe for a second. But… keep this in mind because far too many people go through this many backflips in order to justify their pet theories.

You can make numbers do anything, really, depending on how you manipulate them. For example, notice how many numbers I ignored because they weren’t convenient, and how I’d add extra steps to get a new number that was.

Also, like a lot of conspiracy theories, I built this one backwards. I was looking for a famous person born on this day in history to profile but when I saw the combination of those three, it just hit me as a funny idea to try to figure out how Hofmann’s invention of LSD might have led to Miranda writing Hamilton, with working Taylor in there just a bonus.

It’s easy to “prove” a conspiracy theory if you design it to fit what you already believe, after all.

The saddest part is how hard it is to pry these painfully stupid ideas out of the heads or hardcore believers. And I‘m not sure that this is even possible yet. Sigh.

Image Source: bust of Alexander Hamilton by Ethan Taliesin, (CC) BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday Free-for-all #32: Roll illegal and weird

What makes you roll your eyes every time you hear it?

That’s simple. Any time somebody takes astrology seriously. Actually, I’ll extend that — any time anybody starts prating on about whatever particular brand of woo woo they subscribe to. It’s a long list: Crystals, reiki, homeopathy, chiropracty, acupuncture, anything peddled on The Goop, tarot or any kind of psychic reader (but see below), and so much more.

I’d even also include a lot of bullshit conspiracy theories (there’s a redundancy!) like “chemtrails”, QAnon, and 9/11 Truthers, to name but  a few.

What’s really frustrating is that I know so many otherwise intelligent and well-informed people who so easily go in for one or more of these things. Well, except for chemtrails and QAnon. I have yet to meet anyone nursing anything resembling a brain in their skull that fell for either of those.

And those last three, more than the others, will make me roll my eyes harder than the dice on a Vegas craps table during a pro competition.

Sure, some of that woo woo is harmless — like reading your horoscope for daily advice, provided you don’t take it too seriously. But some of the medical practices can actually be dangerous or deadly, as well as ridiculously expensive if you get hooked and keep buying the shit. I’m looking at you, Goop fans, but I’m sure that plenty of people have blown a fortune buying crystals, or going to any of the pseudo-medics listed, never mind being scammed by a psychic.

But that brings me back to my initial mention of psychic and tarot readers, which came with a caveat. A lot of them are ethical, and while what they claim they’re doing is total bullshit, what the good ones actually do can be beneficial.

I say this because I was once fortunate enough to get to sit in as a friend of mine did what was midway between a psychic and tarot reading for someone else. He was using one of those New Age Woo Woo decks that was, I think, Archangels. I don’t remember.

If I do remember correctly, the Sitter (as they are always called) picked three cards, each one to represent an aspect of their current concern — something like goal, obstacle, and outcome.

The cards basically had the names and images, but there was a book that came with it, with longer descriptions of the Archangels. And here is where I watched somebody good it actually do something good by exploiting someone’s belief in the woo woo to that person’s advantage.

Basically, it turned into a mini counselling session, nothing more nor less. But the Reader, my friend, was able to use the vague descriptions in the book to form open-ended questions, so that he slowly induced the Sitter to talk through his own situation and discover the issue he thought he had.

And so it continued with the other two cards until the Sitter came up with this amazing realization. In his case, I think it revolved around having a career he enjoyed but which he felt was a dead end, and the possibility of changing but fear over doing so.

All the Reader did was have the Sitter walk through that fear, discover what could realistically be done, and then find a plan to do it. So, in that case, if the woo woo works for you, then it works. But not for the reason you thought it did. No supernatural powers or angels here. Just one dude with some insight and empathy who knows how to ask the right questions.

Speaking of which…

What’s the most illegal thing you’ve done?

This is always such an interesting question, because the definition of “legal” varies so much. I’ve committed sodomy in several states, but it was only illegal in one of them, Texas. Ironically, it was the overturning of that state’s law by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 that made it legal to get your same-sex freak on in all 50 states.

Oh. And oral and anal because, while these laws were often supposed to be targeted at gay people (of the male variety in particular) straight people also technically fell victim, since the wording was of the “only a ding-dong in a hoo-hah is considered actual, legal sex.”

Not the terms they used, but the intent behind the laws was about as mature.

So, yes. I’ve definitely violated state law by sticking my ding-dong where Texas used to say it wasn’t supposed to go, multiple times and in multiple positions.

But state law is for amateurs. What about Federal?

Again, for the most part when we’re not talking about crimes of violence committed by one person against others — rape, assault, sexual assault, murder, arson, armed robbery, burglary, mayhem, and the like — then it’s really kind of hard to define what a crime is.

I mean, that list between the dashes there really should be the 8 1/2 Commandments of “How Thou Shalt Write Thy Laws.”

Everything else? Well, those are open to debate and interpretation and ad hoc sessions of committees of (unfortunately way too often old white men) debating into the night and then doing what the lobbyists pay them to.

Which should make up the other half to round the above list to 9 Commandments: “Thou Shalt Not via Public Office.”

What should definitely be legal? “Congress (or whoever) shall pass no laws limiting what the People can ingest or inject into or do with or to their own bodies, or do with or to the body of one or more others, provided that all involved are consenting adults.

TL;DR: No drugs should be illegal. And, in fact, the one I took was actually totes legal right up until… 1966, when the U.S. said “Hell Noes…”

Not bad. It had a 21-year run, seemed to have some really beneficial uses, but, as is typical, the panic breakdown seemed to work like this:

Liberals: This seems useful. Let’s explore it!

Conservatives: This scares me. BAN IT!

So, anyway… seeing as how I first did it decades after the U.S. banned it, I did indeed violate federal law multiple times in the 90s by (gasp) dropping acid. Never mind that I’ve also done the same every time I’ve smoked pot, even after it became legal in California. The LSD stuff is just more interesting.

The most interesting part, probably, is this: Unlike other drugs, the effective doses of LSD are miniscule, measured in micrograms, of which I don’t think I’ve even taken more than 1,000 at once. One microgram is a millionth of gram, and a gram is just under four hundredths of an ounce.

Second: LSD apparently crosses the blood-brain barrier quickly, does its thing to certain receptors, and then quickly leaves the brain. It can stay upstairs for about twenty minutes, and then circulate in your blood for about forty-eight hours.

So it’s kind of like this drug sneaks into your brain, bangs a gong and runs away, leaving you to enjoy the reverberations.

Subjective view via many trips: What LSD seems to do is this: It turns off your brain’s filters for a while, and we have a ton of those. Your pupils dilate so your peripheral vision expands like crazy (especially crazy if it’s already mad good, like mine was and is) and you start to experience things in what I’ve always described as “Hindu Time.”

Not meant to be any kind of aspersion or cultural appropriation, but the thing that talking to people while I was tripping that most struck me was that it suddenly seemed like they had multiple faces and arms, all overlapping and swirling. This was a side effect of the thing known as “trails,” but, to me, it made every conversation feel like it took place simultaneously except just before now, right now, and just after.

Then the peak of the trip would hit, most likely involving some sort of audio stimulation (usually music) and this is where the outside world would vanish, but is this really all that different from going to sleep and dreaming? Yeah, I don’t think so.

The more I did it, the more I realized… LSD makes us remove our filters and shields and face the world naked. Some of us like that and embrace it. Too many of us don’t.

And that is what we’re voting on in November, plain and simple. Please. Be brave, Bea Arthur, be naked… but remove those goddamn shields at the very least.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?

Okay, this is one of those things where I have to give a lot of benefit of the doubt, but let’s start with what I saw…

An entire curio case full of what could be, at the most charitable, referred to as “Jim Crow Memorabilia.” Or, in other words, the smaller, indoor versions of all those tasteless Lawn Jockeys that were mostly eliminated decades ago.

Less charitably, let’s call it a tiny “Museum of Really Racist Shit.” All kinds of stereotyped figurines, some even with placards using incredibly racist slurs.

And I was of two minds on this one, given that the owner of the house happened to work in the business of liquidating estates and such, so he basically evaluated and sold off shit owned by dead old people.

So… favorable evaluation One: This was the shit he refused to sell because it was so goddamned racist, but he felt it necessary to preserve somewhere private in order to document the abuse.

Less favorable evaluation Two: Since my host was from the South… this was the shit he refused to sell because he wanted to keep it for himself, because it somehow fed his narrative.

Conflicty points: I’ve been to dinner parties he’s hosted with guests of all races, which make me lean toward option One. On the other hand, it was at one of those dinner parties that I learned that an Asian man could actually be prejudiced as fuck against Black men, and that broke my white brain.

I mean… really?

But those are the answers for now. Enjoy!


Momentous Monday: Mkay…

That’s MK as in MK-Ultra, and it’s one of the few conspiracies that actually happened although, of course, it didn’t stay secret forever. The program began on April 13, 1953, which is why I bring it up today. It was exposed by the Church Committee in 1975, meaning it stayed a secret for 22 years.

That committee was formed by the U.S. Senate precisely to investigate illegal activities by the CIA, like spying on U.S. citizens. MK-Ultra, though, was even darker than that. Its goal was nothing less than mind-control, and it had its roots in Nazi concentration camps and Japan’s infamous Unit 731. The CIA even worked with officers and torturers from both places.

The Nazis had used mescaline on prisoners as a way of trying to make them compliant. Meanwhile, Japan had focused mostly on biological weapons, although they weren’t beyond using live vivisection as a method of torture.

In case you’re wondering, while the Nazis’ main (but not only) targets were Jews, Japan mostly went after the Chinese, and they’re still not big fans of them. They aren’t so fond of Koreans either, though. But that’s got nothing to do with MK-Ultra.

Oddly enough, it was the Korean War that was the catalyst for the whole project starting, as American POWs returning from there began making claims against the U.S. that were not true. Well, not true according to Allen Dulles, newly-appointed head of the CIA.

But the determination, and the warning, was that the “commies” on the other side of the Cold War had developed mind control and brainwashing, and the U.S. had to do the same to fight back.

Never mind whether that last part was true or not. And, by the way, it only took six years for this idea to leak into literature with the publication in 1959 of The Manchurian Candidate, which came out as a very amazing and chilling movie three years later. Here’s the opening scene. You should all go watch this film now.

Again, the program started three days after Dulles gave a speech about the dangers of brainwashing and, taking a cue from the Nazis, the CIA worked with LSD, which happened to be legal at the time and, in fact, was being investigated as a psychiatric medication. Even Cary Grant tripped balls.

Of course, the big difference was that in those studies, the subjects had informed consent. The CIA, on the other hand, was pretty much playing Bill Cosby and slipping the drugs to people without their knowledge or consent.

That’s probably where tips from the Japanese biowarfare programs came in, by the way — how to “infect” somebody with something without their knowledge — although the government was also kind of open about it, at least in secret, if that makes sense.

See, after MK-Ultra got started, a man named Sidney Gottlieb arranged for the CIA to pay almost a quarter million dollars in order to import the world’s entire supply of LSD to the U.S., and then (using front organizations) urged hospitals, clinics, prisons, and other such institutions to start experimenting with it and reporting the results.

There’s a 2019 book called Poisoner in Chief that details all of this. If you’re sitting around the house not doing anything else, you should read it. Basically, the government tricked a bunch of medical and corrections professionals into unknowingly carrying out very unethical experiments for them.

That Gottlieb link above is worth a read, too, because in excerpts from the book, it details how the CIA moved its MK-Ultra program offshore to go beyond clinical abuse of LSD and actually get into abduction, torture, and worse.

The goal of brainwashing was to destroy the existing mind and replace it with a new one, although whether it actually works is up for debate. It’s easy to destroy the existing mind — i.e. “ego” — but very difficult to build a new one, at least without consent.

But if you can get consent, you don’t need to destroy anything. The new mind will build itself for you.

I can attest to this from personal experience. When I was in high school, I fell under the influence of a very evil group called Young Life, which is an evangelical Christian organization that basically invades schools and tries to recruit your kids.

How my school, or any school, let it happen, I’ll never know, but their recruiter, a 28-year-old guy named Sandy, used to somehow regularly get access to campus and come hang out and talk to us during recess and lunch.

It all started innocuously enough, with Monday night meetings that were mostly fun hangouts with skits and singing and whatever, but then at the end there’d be the, “Hey, Jesus is cool” message. And at those meetings, it didn’t come with any of the collateral “But Jesus hates (fill in the blank)” crap.

As an adult, it was clear that they targeted the awkward kids who didn’t fit in with the jocks and cheerleaders and whatnot. Marching band, for example, was lousy with Young Life members. And that was the brainwashing hook: “Hey, you’re cool here!”

I drank that Kool Aid for almost two years. I went to a couple of sleep-away camps and worked (for free) for six weeks at one in Canada, and around the end of high school I started going to a fundie Pentecostal evangelical Four Square church that openly preached the gospel of hatred against the LGBTQ community, Jews, liberals, and so on.

Thankfully, I was saved from this crap by… (wait for it) actually reading the Bible during my freshman year of college — ironically, at a Jesuit university — and halfway through the Old Testament I realized, “Holy crap, this is complete and utter bullshit.”

But the brainwashing pattern there is clear. Friend those who think they’re friendless. Make them feel needed and wanted. Reel them in.

Or… follow the government method, and drug or torture them into compliance. Come to think of it, that was the religious method too, until churches discovered marketing.

But not all of the MK-Ultra “experiments” took place in clinics. One incident in particular eventually led to the investigations of the Church Committee. In 1953, a man named Frank Olson died after a fall out of his 10th-floor hotel room window in New York City. He was actually an MK-Ultra insider and he knew all about various things, including the tortures overseas.

Nine days before the fall, he and a group of other members of the team had been dosed with LSD without their knowledge or consent by Gottlieb at a retreat for the CIA’s Technical Services staff. Well, Gottlieb did inform them, but only after they’d finished the spiked bottle of Cointreau.

It was not a great experience for several of the men, including Olson, who started considering resigning the next day. The problem was, as mentioned above, he knew everything about everything. It’s entirely likely that his trip out that hotel window was not a suicide.

Now, I’ve had personal experience with LSD, so I know what it can do. In the right doses and settings, it can be remarkable. But I can also see how somebody being given it without their knowledge and in very high amounts would easily freak out.

Without warning, it would feel like the sudden onset of acute psychosis, with hallucinations and even loss of a sense of self. Another big effect is hyper-awareness of everything, especially all of the minute sounds and smells your body produces. Yes, I’ve heard myself blink.

Your brain’s need to spot patterns in things goes into overdrive, and under the influence it isn’t limited to spotting faces in toast. Any random pattern, like white noise on a TV or a stucco ceiling will suddenly turn into elaborate geometric patterns of astounding complexity and regularity.

Mine tended to follow the kaleidoscope pattern of six triangles joined in a hexagon, although your mileage may vary. As for the “stained glass windows” I would see when I closed my eyes, those colors would generally be what I can only describe as electric neon shades of pink, purple, and cyan.

Once, while listening to Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky, those stained glass patterns also included lots and lots of boobs, probably because of the female vocalist, but it was an odd touch considering that I’m mostly on the gay side of the Kinsey scale. Not completely, but close enough for jazz hands.

So do governments contemplate insanely heinous and unethical acts for the sake of national self-preservation? All the time. Do they carry them out often? Not really, because saner heads do prevail and do put the brakes on some of the more batshit insane ideas.

Ideas like Operation Northwoods, which would have used false-flag operations to justify an invasion of Cuba in the early 60s, or the 638 ideas for assassinating Fidel Castro that were considered, but most of them never implemented.

Hm. The CIA seemed to have a boner for getting rid of Castro right before the Cuban Missile Crisis, but we know about all of that again thanks to the Church Committee. And they were so successful at it that the man died at 90 in 2016.

Keep that last part in mind the next time you think that there might be a government conspiracy going on. Governments are no good at them, and people are no good at keeping secrets. Ergo, most conspiracies fall apart quickly, and either never happen or are exposed.

As Ben Franklin said, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

Image source: Voice of America/public domain