Jonathan Kay’s Cult Politics

It’s certainly illuminating watching the advance promotion of Jonathan Kay’s selective history of crackpot conspiracy theory, a book is designed to throw a net over every person who questions the official story of 9/11. The national media has fallen over itself to praise the book long before its release. The latest tactic has been to link “birthers” with “truthers.” Personally, I never went for the bait on Obama’s birth certificate. But when finally produced, it was employed for maximum political advantage. In case of major political conspiracies, the intelligence agencies control the details. That’s one reason why they fostered a “truth” network obsessed with micro-details. They’ve created a landscape they can dominate, a landscape they have pocketed with “rabbit  holes” leading nowhere. Meanwhile, as everyone becomes transfixed by micro details and following rabbit holes, the big picture disappears.

In his Salon interview, Kay makes a couple of interesting statements:

“In the case of 9/11 conspiracy theories, the original theories were created in late 2001. But when they really took off was 2003 and 2004 when it was discovered there were no WMDs in Iraq, and people did feel deceived….It’s a cult. And you can’t disabuse a cult member of their beliefs, because it’s central to their identity. Hardcore conspiracy theorists are attached to their conspiracy theories with the same force of conviction that religious adherents are attached to their religions. You can’t rationally convince someone not to be a Christian or a Scientologist. That’s their identity, that’s who they are.”

Kay is flat-out wrong on his timeline concerning the “truth” movement. Within days of the event, websites and discussion groups were flooded with wild conspiracy stories, the first of which was that “no planes hit the Twin Towers” (but they were brought down by holograms and super-advanced explosives). Very quickly followed the “no plane hit the Pentagon,” and this was the deepest rabbit hole of all. Finally, “no plane crashed in Pennsylvania.” A deluge of this material seemed to arrive all at once, as if prepared in advance.

As part of this campaign, all video and photos from the Pentagon and surrounding area were immediately confiscated and only one set of images has been released, and they show only an explosion with no plane in sight. If, someday, the Pentagon decides to release a photo or video of the actual plane hitting the building, it will be handled with maximum propaganda effect to silence the conspiracy community.

In the USA only 16% of people believe the government’s version of events, while in Germany, 90% of the people believe our government was actually involved. And yet, according to Kay, any American who fails to toe the government line should be branded a “truther” and shunned from the corridors of sanity? I hope someday Congress can actually instigate a real investigation and follow the evidence wherever it goes. And in the meantime, can we stop branding intelligent people as cultists, especially considering we’re in the majority?

Among the Truthers versus Extreme Prejudice

Jonathan Kay’s Among the Truthers is getting the most favored royal treatment in the press.  I like the Wall Street Journal headline best: “Beyond the Lunatic Fringe.” I guess that includes anyone who doesn’t swallow the official conspiracy story Al-Qaeda was the sole mastermind of 9/11?

This newly identified “lunatic fringe” would certainly have included John F. Kennedy, who warned his country about a global business cartel that opposed his policies. In fact, Kennedy made several speeches denouncing this cartel (which I call The Octopus, because its tentacles touch nearly everything and it creates wars for profit through dialectical processes).

“We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy,” warned JFK on April 27, 1961. He began this speech by denouncing secret societies. And this happened at a formal press event that would have been attended by numerous secret society members from many societies, all working as PR shills for an Octopus media corporation. Kennedy was fearless and I guess that’s why the Octopus took him down.

But times have changed, and now there’s a new mindset being constructed. And in this new zeitgeist, anyone who doesn’t agree with the establishment version of events from now on…. is a disturbed lunatic needing psychiatric care and forced medication?

This campaign began slowly with the creation of the word “conspiracism” to describe anyone who believes the world is governed by shadow forces. And under the Patriot Act, these people can be forced into mental hospitals against their will. And if you doubt any of this insanity has actually come to fruition in America, consider that Susan Lindauer’s Extreme Prejudice came out the same time as Among the Truthers, but it won’t be getting the royal press treatment. It will be ignored. That’s because Lindauer was a Defense Intelligence asset who claims prior knowledge of 9/11 was widespread in the intelligence community. Immediately after she began speaking out after the event, she was charged with treason and forced into a mental hospital. Held in jail incommunicado for years and declared “mentally unfit to stand trial” because she would not submit to forced medication, she was finally released in 2009 after all charges against her were finally dropped.

Isn’t it transparent that the lunatic fringe, symbolized by its shining star David Icke, is an Octopus PR creation? First they create a lunatic, then they make sure all who don’t agree with them are lumped in with that lunatic into one big lunatic fringe.

And that’s how they eliminated dissent in our lifetime in America, the land of the free.

My homage to Samo in Beat Street

Just a curious question that recently dawned on me after watching the Basquiat film. Seeing that you were the original writer of “Beat Street,” was the Ramo character a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Jean-Michel and his SAMO moniker? If so, what a prophetic ending! –James

Great question, James. I don’t know how I came up with the name Ramon, I knew I had to switch up all the names and was looking for something original that had style. In my original script, a central character catching on fire in a subway tunnel was named Ramon, and his tag was DJ Ramo. In dropping the “n,” I must have been thinking about Jean-Michel’s tag, Samo. So I guess it is sort of a nod in his direction. The climax in my script involved Ramon catching on fire in a subway tunnel. It was a depiction of what happened to Ali when he was painting one night with Futura 2000. A spark by a passing train set off a can of spray-paint whose nozzle was hissing. Ali was covered by flaming paint and barely survived. While in the hospital, he gave a famous interview to the New York Times about the dangers of graffiti writing. In embellishing his story, he claimed to have been abandoned by Futura while on flames. Futura actually put out the fire and took him to the emergency room. After the story was printed, however, no one would believe Futura’s version and he was forced to join the Navy to get a ticket out of town for a few years. My original script was called Looking for the Perfect Beat and was very, very different from what eventually came out. In fact, the main characters’ names was almost all that survived. Someday, maybe Looking for the Perfect Beat will actually get produced. I put the entire original script on Smashwords and Amazon for $2.99.

Why I think Dr. Drew is a jerk

Is there a bigger media whore on TV today than Dr. Drew? I actually crossed paths with him a few years ago at the National Association for Campus Activities’ annual convention. We were both there to to present 15-minute samples of our respective college lectures. His was a solo talk about teen sex, while I was doing my “Heads versus Feds” debate on marijuana legalization against former NY DEA chief Robert Stutman.

Seconds before I was scheduled to take the stage, however, Pinksy collared me and began ranting about how a recently invented cannabis antagonist was going to make it impossible for people like me to ever get high on cannabis again. His plan was to have all known users of cannabis forced to take this new drug. He was smirking, gloating and trying to pump as much negative energy into me as he could. When I pointed out that I was about to take the stage in front of thousands of people to promote a program that actually educated students about real facts about marijuana, he ignored me and continued his diatribe a few inches from my face until Stutman came over and told him to lay off. At the time, I had no idea who Pinsky was, but I did form an opinion of him as a jerk based solely on that incident.

It’s interesting to note his much-hyped cannabis antagonist drug went down in flames very soon after this confrontation. Yes, they did develop a synthetic drug that blocked the primary cannabis receptor site. But after studies with the drug revealed people who took it became severely depressed, the drug was scrapped. If Pinsky did his research, he’d know that the endogenous cannabinoid system is actually one of the most important, and least understood, systems of the body, and it is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system, as well as creating feelings of bliss and inner peace that occur naturally through exercise and/or meditation.  And that is why these same feelings can be achieved with cannabis, which duplicates the body’s own natural cannabinoids. Although this system is essential to creating and protecting neurons in our brains, it is located throughout the entire body, especially in vital organs. The other day I was channel surfing while at a motel immediately after at “Heads versus Feds” debate, when I caught a few seconds of Pinksy’s new TV show. He was interviewing porn star Capri Anderson about intimate details concerning her association with Charlie Sheen, who has lately replaced Lindsay Lohan as Pinksy’s favorite celebrity target. Pinksy believes Charlie should be forced into a psyche ward and have all his assets seized as he is legally insane and not able to care for himself. The reason for this is because Sheen (like most people on this planet) likes to get intoxicated.

It was absolutely creepy to watch Pinsky manipulate Anderson into talking about her intimate sex life. He also kept reaching over and fondling her knee during this interview, which made it clear he derives some sexual pleasure from his interrogations. It’s absurd to think Pinksy is doing anything other than glorifying the worst aspects of celebrity culture through these programs. He’s not part of any solution to our growing cultural narcissism since he clearly is a media whore who revels in sticking his nose into intimate details of celebrity lives that are actually none of his business. He does this to achieve ratings, not to help anyone. If Pinsky truly wants to do something to help people with addiction issues, he’d be much more effective referring them to ibogaine centers in Canada, since ibogaine has a much better success rate than the 12-step programs he currently promotes. And he needs to realize that cannabis has nothing to do with hard drugs, and some patients with addiction problems could actually benefit from medical cannabis.

Remembering Basquiat

During the winter of 1979, I moved to New York City and was crashing in a loft below Tribeca with a friend of a friend while I looked for a cheap apartment and job. After a late dinner, my host took me to an after hours club on Houston street to show me my first taste of New York City nightlife. There was a bebop jazz combo performing and it was around midnight when we walked in. While I was standing at the bar, a young black man approached and asked me: “Are you sure you’re in the right place?” Until then, I hadn’t realized how out-of-place I looked in my button-down shirt and ski jacket, and I got very self-conscious. I’d just arrived from graduate school in the Midwest and it would take years for me to assimilate into a New York sense of style. I was so punctured by the comment that I never forgot the dude, although it would be several months before we met again.

Actually, my next encounter was with the art, not the man. One hot summer afternoon,  I traveled to the Lower East Side to interview Fab Five Freddy. At the end of the interview, Fred showed me a postcard for an opening at the Annina Nosei Gallery. “Wow, what a great painting!” I exclaimed the second I saw the image of two primitive figures with a roast chicken being placed on a table.

I didn’t know much about Jean Michel at the time, but I did know something about current directions in art. After years of the dominance and eventual dead-end of minimalism, there was an obvious yearning for color and imagery. I’d recently written the first magazine profile on Julian Schnabel for the now-defunct Horizon magazine and knew imagery was on the way back. But I was startled by the originality of that postcard. I think Fred was a little let-down by my sudden burst of excitement. I’d been looking at his work for an hour (he was hoping to sell me something) and hadn’t reacted so strongly to anything he’d shown me of his own. I got the impression Fred was feeling a bit overshadowed by his friend Jean Michel’s exploding talents. Like many graffiti writers at the time, Jean Michel was making the switch from writing on walls and trains to painting on canvas. But he wasn’t making “graffiti-style” paintings at all, rather he was creating an entirely original vocabulary.

In 1981, when Diego Cortez’s seminal “New York/New Wave” show opened at P.S. 1, I was most impressed by a photograph of a train painted by Futura 2000 and purchased a signed copy of that photo direct from Futura. It was at that show I decided to devote the next few years of my life to researching the origins of hip hop, which culminated in my book “Hip Hop” as well as the film “Beat Street.” Those projects took me to the South Bronx, far away from the Soho art world Jean Michel had recently invaded. However, as soon as I completed those projects, I began work on a book titled “Art After Midnight,” which was going to tell the story of the rise of the East Village art scene through the stories of its most famous practitioners: Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf. I already had solid personal relationships with Haring and Scharf, but knew getting close to Jean Michel was going to present a challenge. One of my closest friends at the time was a gossip columnist for the East Village Eye and also a rival of Basquiat’s. They apparently had some ongoing feud over some girl, a feud Basquiat eventually won.

I called my friend Mary Boone, who was now representing Basquiat. She agreed to take me to visit his studio (and home). A few days later, we arrived at Great Jones Street. I think the author Robert Faris Thompson (“Flash of the Spirit”) was there at the time. Basquiat seemed fully aware of my work on hip hop history and treated me with utmost respect. He brought Mary and I to the back room and showed us his latest work, a series of oil stick drawings on paper. The work was phenomenal. Mary had a great eye and tried to sort out the best pieces immediately to take and sell, but Jean Michel coyly put the best ones aside. He was keeping them for his own private collection. I could see he was pretty savvy about maintaining control over his legacy and finances. Before I left, we set up a time and date for me to come back and start interviewing him for my upcoming book.

When I returned a few days later, Jean Michel was still in bed and had forgotten about the appointment, but he agreed to get up to see me. After a short wait, his studio assistant led me upstairs to his bedroom. He had a bottle of very expensive Bordeaux and a joint going. He offered me a glass of wine. “It’s a little early for me to start drinking,” I said, “But I’d love to take a hit on the joint.” There was a huge stack of records next to a turntable, and the room contained hundreds of videotapes and a large projection TV. It was really hard to get Basquiat to open up about his childhood, so I began talking about the club scene, specifically Club 57. I was working on a preliminary thesis there was a stylistic divide between the mostly European sensibility of the Mudd Club and the pop/camp culture of Club 57. When Jean Michel said he didn’t really grasp the appeal of the Club 57 aesthetic (“Why do something old and bad?” he said), I jumped on that comment and began pursuing that line of questioning aggressively, which immediately made him suspicious and paranoid unfortunately. Then the phone rang. The second he picked it up, I knew it was Andy Warhol. “I’m doing an interview,” he said, “but I’ve already said too much.” By the time he got off the phone, he’d already decided to end the interview. “It’s like the end of mystery,” he explained. “I can’t do this.”

I was pretty crushed. I’d envisioned several long interview sessions and felt it was unlikely I’d ever be invited back, which I wasn’t. Several months later we crossed paths again briefly at a Kenny Scharf VIP party at Area. I was celebrating the arrival of the proofs of a color insert for my book, “Art After Midnight,” which included double-page spreads on Basquiat, Haring and Scharf that looked spectacular. I put the layouts on the bar and  Glenn O’Brien and Jean Michel both inspected them. I could tell Jean was pleased with his layout. I was hoping the book might resurrect a relationship. Later that evening, I bumped into Jean in a remote corner of the club. He was alone and seemed strangely isolated for such a celebrated figure.

Last night I watched “The Radiant Child,” Tamra Davis’ loving documentary, now available on Netflix on demand, which is where I see most films these days. It’s a very powerful film and the most well-rounded biography of Basquiat I’ve come across. I was a little bugged by the title at first since its taken from a Rene Ricard Art Forum article. “Radiant Child” is a reference to a Keith Haring icon and has nothing to do with Basquiat. I wish Tamra had come up with a different title. But her film is the best introduction to Basquiat around and I strongly recommend it. After watching the film, I felt compelled to write down these memories.