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Did I do that?

October 3, 2019

I put the loaf I was making away to rise, grabbed my bag and my walking stick and tottered off towards the High Street, to get myself something for lunch and supper from Iceland.

(My knee is getting better, mostly, thanks for asking. Hope to back to the regular gym visits soon.)

And between me and Iceland was a chap standing outside the Santander bank (formerly the Abbey National whereby hangs several tales). He was handing out what looked like hand-inked flyers with the title ‘A FREE COUNTRY?’ and below it a diatribe which began by berating the rich and went on to berate every other bit of the Establishment. Yes, of course I gave it a cursory scan: he might  have been saying something interesting. He didn’t appear to be and I went on my way.

Coming back past him, with my bag full of tinned tuna and other such luxuries, I took a second look and noticed the design on the top right of his leaflet.

Which was the Eye-In-The_Pyramid.

I found myself protesting. “Seriously?” He told me to go and see what the Masons had to say. I staggered away shaking my head. I thought that particular sort of craziness was restricted to the other side of the Atlantic.

I got home and I wondered: Did I contribute to that? Me and thousands like me.

I first ran into the conspiratorial mindset when I picked up Wilson and Shea’s ILLUMINATUS! trilogy at Manchester in the 70s. It’s one of the regrets of my dwindling professional career that I didn’t even write to ask if I could audition for Ken Campbell’s massive stage version. (There was no money involved and a lot of commitment.)

I featured the various weird conspiracy theories and several more that are only believed in by SF fans in my games, most recently by running THE DRACULA DOSSIER and writing it up for A&E.

Us geeks love the secret conspiracy idea but by and large only  for play.

I spread those ideas. Am I responsible in part for that guy’s craziness?

And then my exaggerated sense of guilt fluttered out. No, if it hadn’t been the Illuminati and all their chums it would have been another set of ideas to give shape to the poor fellow’s hypertrophied need to find meaning and significance in the world. Perhaps the workings of Satan and his minions.

A second level of guilt flickers briefly: all conspiratorial stories share the nature of anti-semitism. They aren’t always dog-whistles for blaming International Jewish Bankers but they serve the same emotional needs and perhaps give cover to those who find it ‘Odd of God to Choose the Jews’.

And I remember a story where I can’t recall the actual names involved: about a poet who was being told by a psychiatrist that his wife’s distracted mode of speech was clear proof of mental illness. “But I use those same forms of language myself in my  poetry every day.” “Ah, my friend,” replies the shrink, “you are swimming. She  is drowning.”

There’s a lady I know who greets me cheerfully when we meet on the streets, though I can’t recall when we first met. Perhaps when I was doing physio after my heart attack? When she’s in the manic phase of her  cycle she will tell me all about how the psychiatrists are always watching her, always watching everyone, all the time. For some reason she has decided I’m all right and on her side. At least I  don’t feel any indirect guilt about her peculiar construction of how the world works.

I am turning into an old man (1) who is feeling guilt about the dubious pleasures of his youth while simultaneously wishing for the ability to commit them a few more times. I am one step away from being a conservative telling young people how he was  radical when he was young and how much he regrets the things he said and did back then. Keep an eye on me, friends. I’m feeling fragile.


(1) A cry of “what do you mean ‘turning’?” comes from the cheap seats.





  1. Conspiracy theory appeals to a sense of inadequacy and failure. One is constantly reminded by advertising that one is not as rich, successful, etc., as other people, and the grottier one’s life the more this becomes obvious. So why is that, when one is a good person who works hard (most people believe this of themselves)? Most people say “oh, well, I didn’t try hard enough / didn’t get the breaks”. A few will decide that saying this would be admitting personal failure, and instead say “it’s because THEY are out to do me down”.

    Then, as you suggest, they go out looking for something to latch onto. In the old days they might not have found the small publishers of mad pamphlets, and could have gone back to something like normal. Now they have Facebook and YouTube to pander to their delusions.

    • Well yes. The recent years seem to have seen a wave of distrust and hunting for the evil sorcerers who are casting spells on you pass through Western civilization. It used to be more common in parts of Africa.

      I do hope this isn’t something that is inherent to the Internet.

      If I were a preacher I’d preach something based on the text from the Sermon on The Mount about how the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.

      • As I see it, in the 1990s, if you have views you think may be generally unacceptable (let’s say that coffee is actually a pleasant drink), you don’t go blaring them around the place because people will think you’re nasty. But now you find the Coffee Drinkers Liberation Front on Facebook, so all of a sudden you realise that there are other people who think like you, and you are strengthened in your views and more likely to make a fuss about them in public. I’ve certainly seen this happen with racist and sexist opinions – indeed anything about which people like to say “you can’t say still like this”, always – always – while they are saying the thing they claim you can’t say.

        (It doesn’t help that both Facebook and YouTube have explicit policies of driving people towards more extreme material, because pro or anti that’s what gets the advertising clicks. The best thing about USENET was that people weren’t making money off it.)

        It’s very handy that there are phrases like “politically correct” – they’re a useful clue that the person using them is now going into a rant of recycled opinions and will say nothing of use or interest.

  2. ‘SJW’ is the big one at the moment: any post containing those initials used unironically is only likely to be of psychiatric interest. I wonder if the subliminal hint of ‘J-WS’ is deliberate.

    And I recently came across the story about Bush the Younger telling the French president that the invasion of Iraq had to go ahead because of ‘Gog and Magog’ and wondered if that was what Tony Blair found in common with him to earn his support… or if realising how unconventional the President’s motivation was, was what made him decide not to cross him.

    The latter seems slightly more likely. TB’s religious orientation was probably by that point already more Catholic that Crazy Protestant Evangelist.

    And given we both have the opinion ‘Role-playing games are a valid form of art’ perhaps we should decry too much a means to express unpopular opinions.

    • Much more probably, Blair thought “useful idiot, will act in predictable ways given specific stimuli”. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t the only person to notice this.

  3. Unfortunately for your hypothesis, the Iraq war did not prove a useful thing to have co-operated on and I can’t see any way that Blair would have thought it was. My guess is he was acting in terror rather than greed or Cunning Planning.

    • The potential reward for cooperation was a share of the plundered oil, and the reconstruction contracts, when the country was looted. In the end, it all went to American companies, as expected.

      Blair wasn’t scared of anything. That was a large part of his problem. He didn’t accept that there could be things that it was wrong for him to do, because he believed (correctly) he’d always come out smelling of roses, and to him nothing else mattered.

  4. The BBC were running one of their perky five-minutes mini-features about the origins of the Illuminati conspiracy theory today.

    As it says in the trilogy: “It’s probably just one of them coincidences…”

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