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Conspiracy Theory Crackpots

It’s tough to know what to make of conspiracy theories. Sometimes—well, 99.9 percent of the time—these “theories” are nothing more than a delusional observation Krazy Glued to a random fact by some basement-dwelling loner who hasn’t seen sunlight in years. But every now and then you overhear a snippet at a bar that gets you wondering. Maybe, you start to think, Oliver Stone is only half the loon he appears to be. Here’s our spare-the-horseshit guide to the current crop of crackpot conjecture.

On April 8, 1994, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was found dead in his suburban Seattle home. A 20-gauge shotgun and a suicide note were within arm’s reach. In the blunt words of Seattle journalist Richard Lee, “Kurt Cobain was murdered.” Lee and a merry band of Cobain-conspiracy theorists have created a circus atmosphere among Nirvana devotees (as well as a few book deals for themselves) with their “shocking new evidence” and chock-full-of-holes allegations. They claim that Cobain’s ambitious wife, Courtney Love, arranged to blow off poor Kurt’s head. The motive? A dead Cobain is a more profitable Cobain.

There’s no shortage of “proof,” so why not start with a trustworthy source like Eldon “El Duce” Hoke, of the Los Angeles punk band The Mentors, who claims that in December 1993, Love offered him $50,000 to knock off her hubby. A slightly more eyebrow-raising nugget comes from Canadian journalist Ian Halperin, who says there were no fingerprints on the shotgun—obviously, it’s tough to wipe away your prints with your brain on the floor. Halperin and Tom Grant, a private detective, also maintain that the heroin overdose of Kristen Pfaff (the bassist in Love’s band, Hole) two months after Kurt died was—surprise!—not an O.D. Somebody whacked her because she knew too much. And then there’s Michigan stockbroker-turned-conspiracy-peddler Bradley Barnett. He claims that he met Kurt in a Melvin-and-Howard scenario a few days before Cobain’s death, and Kurt told him that he’d overheard Courtney plotting to rub him out.

Come on, kids, we know you loved him, but Cobain had already tried to kill himself twice before—and Courtney saved his ass. And while the police admit that there are no identifiable fingerprints on the gun, they also say that’s not uncommon. Just because Courtney traded in her grunge ethos for a new nose doesn’t mean she killed her husband. It simply means she’s a sellout.

Seconds after killing John Lennon on December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman calmly waited outside Lennon’s apartment building in New York City and began rereading his copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Less than four months later, on March 30, 1981, John Hinckley, Jr., tried to snuff out President Ronald Reagan. In his possession at the time? A copy of Catcher. These kinds of coincidences are just too much for any God-fearing conspiracy theorist to take sitting down. Which may explain why Paranoia magazine couldn’t restrain itself from running an article musing that The Catcher in the Rye could be “a triggering device which sets off a posthypnotic suggestion…[a mind-control trick developed by the CIA]…unleashing…the command to kill.” Basically, the CIA brainwashes some poor schlub to commit a murder, and a phrase in the book sets the devious plan in action.

In World War II, Salinger reportedly served in the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). Paranoia speculates that the military could well have trained the aspiring writer in psychological mind control. And then there’s this: On the day of Hinckley’s assassination attempt, Hinckley’s older brother Scott had a dinner scheduled with an old family friend—Neil Bush, son of then vice president George Bush, who was the former head of the CIA, which was once mentioned in a movie that costarred…Kevin Bacon! Maybe, just maybe, really screwed-up, alienated loners like to read books about really screwed-up, alienated loners.

It’s no secret that experimental “smart cards”—wallet-size cards capable of containing one’s credit and medical history, as well as other personal information—are already being tested in welfare programs in Ohio and other states. It’s also been well-documented that scientists at MIT’s Media Lab glowingly envision the day when all of us will have a computer chip embedded in our clothing and shoes. They even hint that chips may one day be implanted in our bodies. Yes, it’s a fevered rant, but Texe Marrs, an evangelist with the small, right-wing Living Truth Ministries in Texas and author of the self-published Implantable Biochips and the End of Human Freedom and Dignity, has found an audience for his wacked-out theory. Marrs, bless his paranoid heart, frets that the government will use this technology not only to monitor where you are and what you’re thinking, but eventually to transmit messages and control your behavior, creating a nation of vegetablelike slaves.

Don’t just listen to Texe on this one (as if you would), seeing how he bases his evil-implant theory on a recollection of a comment he remembers overhearing a White House official make years ago. Instead, consider this prediction from MIT Media Lab professor Neil Gershenfeld in a 1995 interview with New York magazine: In 30 years, “We will edit the human [DNA] to grow this stuff out of us.” Presto: your very own barcode birthmark. Uh, Texe? Hasn’t TV already made us a nation of

Portrait Of A Conspiracy Theorist

  • Born:
    Roswell, New Mexico
  • Apartment:
    Underground bunker stocked with filtered water, beef jerky, and wank magazines
  • In the fridge:
    High-caffeine colas (for all-night “.gov” flame sessions)
  • On the wall:
    A map of Ruby Ridge dotted with red pushpins
  • Dangling from ceiling wire:
    Model-airplane Flight 800 being split in two by Navy missile
  • On the turntable:
    Led Zeppelin IV, spinning backwards
  • In the closet:
    Heaven’s Gate-style black Nikes, aluminum-foil hat that disrupts government x-rays, “Santa/Satan: You Do The Math” T-shirt
  • On the nightstand:
    Framed close-up of JFK on the slab
  • Pet peeves:
    Frequent alien abductions for white-hot anal probing can clog busy weekends
  • Hobbies:
    Ransacking own apartment for listening devices; writing Waco screenplay, scrubbing scorch marks out of underwear
  • Prized possession:
    Six-inch rusted flake of metal from alien ship (found in nearby auto junkyard)

Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is gunned down in front of his South Miami Beach estate on July 15, 1997. According to New York-based private detective Frank Monte, it was not serial killer Andrew Cunanan who killed Versace, but the Mafia. Monte, who was once Jackie Onassis’s bodyguard, says a worried Versace hired him a year before the murder because the designer had run afoul of the Italian Mob. The hit, he says, was carried out by the Sicilians, who simply used Cunanan as a patsy.

Versace was killed with two bullets to the head—the Mafia’s signature method of execution. And Monte claims the cops never ran a match on the bullets that killed Versace. If they had, he says, they’d have seen that Versace was shot not with a .40-caliber pistol (which Cunanan was said to have stolen from one of his previous victims) but with a .22—the Mafia’s signature firearm. Monte also says that the Mob snuffed out Cunanan at least a week before Versace’s murder, and kept his body on ice—literally—in the houseboat where the cops eventually found him. Videotape from Versace’s security camera shows Cunanan, with nary a speck of ice on him, dashing from the murder scene.

On April 19, 1995, an explosion ripped through Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people. A jury found Timothy McVeigh guilty of the bombing. After extensive analysis, Australian geophysicist Harry Mason, who specializes in mineral resource exploration, offers a blindingly bizarre alternative scenario: A super-supersecret unit within the U.S. government, perhaps a faction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (the ATF), set off the blast with a new electromagnetic weapon.

Local seismologists recorded strange seismic activity seconds before the explosion, says Mason, but—naturally—the FBI confiscated their findings. In an article in Nexus, an Australian conspiracy magazine, Mason cites eyewitness accounts of preblast phenomena that, he maintains, indicates the use of an electromagnetic weapon—a silver beam shooting out of the top of the building, shock waves that fried electronic ignition devices in nearby cars. And the motive for using the weapon? Because Secret Service agents were killed in the blast, Mason hints at a plot against the Service’s anti-drug operations. Blow up an entire building to kill a few agents? Surely the ATF must have heard of car bombs, right? And if McVeigh wasn’t in the bombing biz, what the hell was he doing with all that ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in his truck? Planning a big ol’ weenie roast?

In June 1994, Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson are found knifed to death in front of her home. Sixteen months later, a jury finds Simpson not guilty. Beverly Hills rumormongers are all abuzz over this provocative little gem. In his book Virtual Government, Alex Constantine, a newspaper writer, radio commentator, and conspiracy theorist known for his well-researched if fanciful theories, claims that O.J., Goldman, and Nicole were all dealing cocaine for the Mafia. More tantalizing, he says that Nicole and Mezzaluna waiter Goldman were pinching drug profits to open their own restaurant. When Nicole and Goldman didn’t pay back the Mob, they were simply offed—solving the money-siphoning problem and putting the scare into the Juice. With a little fancy footwork from some “friends” in the LAPD and the FBI, Simpson ends up fingered as the killer.

Constantine weaves a compelling but complicated web, so hang on. Eleven months before Goldman was stabbed to death, his friend, Brett Cantor, was also killed in an eerily similar manner. And Goldman’s fellow Mezzaluna waiter Michael Nigg was shot in the head and killed, while yet another Mezzaluna waiter barely survived a car bombing. Constantine implies that many of those working at Mezzaluna were involved with the Mob and/or the drug trade. Need more evidence of the Mafia connection? According to Constantine, during Simpson’s trial, Nicole’s sister Denise Brown allegedly carried on a relationship with ex-Mob strongman and FBI informant Tony “The Animal” Fiato. And the capper: O.J.’s best friend, Al Cowlings, once served as a bodyguard for convicted Mafia drug smuggler Joey Ippolito, who, Constantine says, escaped from a Florida jail three weeks before the murders and made numerous calls to O.J. Yes, there do seem to be more Mob ties here than at a Godfather’s funeral…but what about all the blood? O.J.’s piss-poor alibi? The gash on his finger? And let’s not forget that a civil court later found Simpson culpable of the murders. Unless it turns out that the Akita speaks Italian, it’s safe to assume that O.J. walks the links because Marcia Clark and the LAPD screwed up royally.

Project HAARP, an acronym for the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a multimillion-dollar experiment conducted by the Air Force and the Navy. Located in a remote corner of Alaska, HAARP consists of 180 72-foot-high towers outfitted with all kinds of gadgetry. On its Web site, the Navy explains that HAARP will be blasting millions of watts of radio-wave energy toward space to irradiate the ionosphere (an atmospheric layer about 35 miles from the surface of the Earth) and “observe its complex natural variations.” Environmentalists and Alaskans see a darker plot. In their 1995 book, Angels Don’t Play This HAARP, Jeane Manning and Nick Begich (son of Alaska’s late congressman Nick Begich, Sr.), argue that HAARP has all the markings of a Star Wars-style megaweapon, one capable of scrambling radio transmissions, altering wildlife migration patterns, causing blackouts, and jamming global communications systems. Their arguments are compelling—until, that is, they start babbling about “mind manipulation at a distance.” Otherwise known as reading our brains and controlling our thoughts.

Begich and Manning did their homework. They dug up Texas physicist Bernard Eastlund, who worked on the patent which they claim provided the groundwork for HAARP. In it, Eastlund sounds very much the mad scientist, claiming his invention could control weather patterns and disrupt airplane and missile guidance systems. 180 towers? Come on, if the government really wanted to control your mind, they’d come up with something smaller and more inconspicuous. Like a credit card implanted in your brain.

Mind manipulation at a distance? We haven’t seen evidence of that. All we know is that our government is good and honest in every way. We should pay more taxes and make the president a monarch.

Devon Jackson. Conspiracy Theory Crackpots. Maxim [Print + Kindle] . May 1999.

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