Meet Sir Thomas Willes Chitty, 3rd Baronet, grandson of a former Master of the Supreme Court and managing editor of Halsbury’s Laws of England, who’d been elevated in 1924. In the complex world of British peerage, the Baronet resides in a somewhat grey area betwixt commoner and royal, the lowliest of inherited titles.
After a brief stint in the Royal Navy, Chitty decided to become a novelist, something that may have been encouraged by a contest he won while at University College in Oxford challenging anyone to imitate the first 150 words of an unpublished Graham Greene novel. (Greene was England’s most famous living novelist at the time, although few knew he was also attached to MI6, reporting to Kim Philby, who’d later defect to Russia after spending decades spying for the Communists while running the Soviet desk at SIS.) Strangely, the second, third, and fourth-place winners of that same contest turned out to be Graham Greene himself, submitting under pseudonyms.
While his first novel (Mr. Nicholas) was well-received, it failed to sell enough copies to support Chitty and his new wife Susan, who was also an aspiring novelist, so he took a job as a publicist for Shell Petroleum. Mr. Nicholas had been a blistering critique of suburban English life, exposing the hypocrisy of the upper class, while his next book, For the Good of the Company, published in 1961, took on his former bosses at Shell.
In 1967, Chitty landed a cushy writer-in-residence at the University of Illinois. It was a similar appointment to the one John Cage had recently landed, only Cage was attached to the music department. Landing in the cornfields of Illinois at the beginning of the psychedelic revolution was an eye-opening experience, and when Chitty returned to England, he published High, a fictionalized account of his year at Illinois. In 2014, when he passed over to the great beyond (and his son inherited his title), Chitty’s obit in The Telegraph included this line: “The novel High, which he wrote shortly after his return from America, gives some clue to the impact the counter-culture revolution of the time had had upon him. He admitted that taking LSD was ‘the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in 20 years.’ He tried it, he said, because his most intelligent students recommended it.”
In order to protect his famous family’s reputation, Chitty published all his books under the pseudonym Thomas Hinde, and only one or two can be found on Amazon USA, so you have to search deeper but copies are available for a pittance on other sites. High was somewhat experimental and quite entertaining, especially for anyone familiar with the U of I campus during the late sixties. The main character is a British author-in-residence who conducts an affair with a student while consorting with a rebel crowd of misfits. It contained a novel within a novel as the protagonist struggles to write a book that parallels his experience. When it first appeared, High was compared favorably to Nabokov’s masterpiece, Pale Fire. I would compare it with one of my favorite novels, The Hair of Harold Roux, written by the great Thomas Williams, who was greatly overshadowed by his famous student John Irving.
I believe I have a cameo in the book. You see, there was a house near Lincoln and Nevada Streets that held frequent beer bashes attended by the literary crowd, as well as by me and Larry and Bugsy. You’d typically find us gathered around the refrigerator, guarding the beer supply. The key giveaway is we wore black leather jackets favored by Black Panthers. Bugsy had recently brought in the first major delivery of LSD from the streets of San Francisco, and one of those blue capsules may have ended up in Chitty’s mouth.
If you want a glimpse at life at the U of I from a distinctly British perspective, this book delivers, though it might take some time locating a copy. One suspects the public libraries in town as well as the University library might have one.
According to the book The Countess and the Mob by Maureen Hughes, some of Champaign’s noted families (Robeson and Davis) helped keep Champaign wet during Prohibition. Another name connected with gangsters were the Sansones, an 11-member family born in Sicily that had immigrated through Ellis Island before settling in Champaign.
Michael Sansone’s profitable taffy concession stand was kept at Crystal Lake when it wasn’t touring the summer county fairs, while his brother Henry’s popcorn wagon was parked near the Virginia Theater. That popcorn had the most amazing taste and I’m sure many others tried to coax out the secret ingredient to no avail.
Local lawyer Julius Hirshfeld was one of Henry’s regular customers and Henry’s stories of pheasant hunting on his property somehow spread through Hirshfeld all the way to Al Capone, and thus began the annual pheasant hunting pilgrimages to the Sansone property just outside Champaign.
According to local legend, sometimes Capone and his boys would rent out the entire Turk’s Head rather than drive back to Chicago. The other option was booking the top three floors at the fanciest hotel in Champaign, located across the street from the train station. Turk’s Head may have used by his crew when they wanted to keep a low profile while in town, as the police station and newspaper office were all clustered within a block of that train station, while Turk’s Head was buried in campus-town.
Henry realized that setting up hunting trips could be quite lucrative and decided to expand his hunting schedule to include George Bugs Moran, an enemy of Capone. This shouldn’t have been a problem, writes Hughes, Sansone scheduled Moran and his boys on opposite weekends from when Capone was down.
This would have worked well, except the scheduling was done by word of mouth, and one weekend the dates got mixed up. One particular Saturday when Moran was hunting, three black cars pulled up two hours later, and five men got out, including Al Capone. Everyone was dressed in hunting gear, so it was hard to positively identify anyone. By mid-morning, the men from both gangs were just two or three hundred feet apart when one of Capone’s men asked why Moran was there.
That’s all it took for the shooting to start.
Both gangs retreated to their cars, and several had to lie in the back seats all the way to Chicago because they had lead shot in their rear ends. So ended the hunting trips to Champaign.
In the late 1960s, a brave New Orleans District Attorney suspected a coverup in the JFK assassination. Since crucial segments of the case fell within his jurisdiction, he initiated a secret investigation. Unfortunately, this investigation was immediately penetrated, revealed to the public, and for the rest of his life, Jim Garrison was blanketed in spooks.
Suddenly, ordinary citizens like myself were forced to become amateur sleuths, lining up available dots to determine what happened because it was obvious intelligence footprints were all over the case, and the Warren Commission’s magic bullet theory made no sense. But suddenly, there arrived a lot of noise and confusion, and some of that was a result of Operation Mindfuck.
Mindfuck began with a missive from Robert Anton Wilson to his editor at the Realist, Paul Krassner. The Realist was one of the only outlets covering the emerging psychedelic revolution, as well as the latest research into the political assassinations. Although circulation was small, influence over the counterculture was immense. Wilson’s instructions included: “circulate all rumors contributed by other members,” and “attribute all national calamities, assassinations or conspiracies to the other member-groups.”
After the Garrison investigation was exposed, Garrison was forced to rush his case to court, where he easily convinced a jury JFK had been assassinated as a result of a conspiracy, but failed to convince them Clay Shaw had been Oswald’s CIA handler and paymaster. (Many years later, it would be determined that role probably fell to David Atlee Phillips.)
One of Garrison’s chief supporters in the media was Art Kunkin, founder of the Los Angeles Free Press. Kunkin received a letter from the “Order of the Phoenix Angel” stating the jurors involved had all been members of the Illuminati, the evidence of which was that all had only had one nipple. Meanwhile, Krassner published “The Parts Left Out of the Kennedy Book,” which seemed entirely plausible until it ended with LBJ in the back of Air Force One fucking JFK’s head wound to change the direction of the bullet, a story that momentarily got traction in some gossip corridors inside the Beltway. If you’re going to tell a lie, make it a whopper and it’s more likely to be believed, as Goebbels used to say.
This sort of pranking was not new to Krassner. After all, the Realist was a satire magazine that mixed fact and fiction on a regular basis in the interest of comedy. In 1964, after Lenny Bruce got blacklisted, the Realist published his death notice. Bruce was not amused. He got enlightened, and then was disappeared, a trajectory I’m not personally unfamiliar with.
Soon, Wilson created a fake religion through the inspiration of Kerry Thornley, who in hindsight could have been an MK/Ultra mind robot. Thornley was posted in Japan with Oswald and before the assassination, moved to New Orleans to write a book about Oswald. He gave key testimony to the Warren Commission to convince them Oswald was a true Communist at heart. It later turned out Thornley was well-known to Clay Shaw, and after testifying in Washington, he moved to California and became buddies with Johnny Roselli, who always claimed to have been one of the shooters before ending up in pieces in a drum barrel in Biscayne Bay.
Wilson and Thornley planted stories about the Illuminati in various leftist, libertarian and hippie publications, introducing the secret society to the counterculture. “We accused everybody of being in the Illuminati,” Wilson recalled. “Nixon, Johnson, William Buckley, Jr., ourselves, Martian invaders, all the conspiracy buffs, everybody.”
After I became editor of High Times, I made Krassner a regular contributor and assigned him feature stories on the history of the counterculture. Krassner soon introduced me to Wilson, and he also began contributing. At this time, I had my own research going into the Franklin Savings and Loan that involved child abuse at the most famous Catholic orphanage in America, Boy’s Town in Nebraska. A key figure in my investigation was a colonel stationed in California named Michael Aquino, who had become the number two satanist under Anton LaVey, before creating his own Temple of Set.
A boy in Nebraska claimed Aquino was involved in programming children. The Discovery Channel funded a documentary, but it never got aired, although you can watch the rough cut on Youtube while it remains up (see video below).
Suddenly a data dump on the case that included details on Aquino’s background appeared on the internet, posted by a relatively new researcher named Dave McGowan. I asked all three of these writers to suggest a conspiracy story for High Times. Wilson submitted a story on Priory of Sion that tracked into the Masonic lodge P2 that had been fomenting terror events under a leftist false flag in order to destroy the left in Italy. Krassner wanted to attend a David Icke lecture, something that eventually morphed into a book dedicated to Wilson titled: “Murder at the Conspiracy Convention.” McGowan sent me a manuscript titled “Wagging the Moondoggie,” which claimed the moon landings were faked. Meanwhile, the Aquino data dump disappeared from the web.
After I emailed McGowan that I would never publish anything so absurd as “we never landed on the moon,” he got immediately hostile, and also became suspicious of my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. “Phoenix is the name of the CIA’s biggest assassination project, and 4/20 is Hitler’s birthday, so what is going on with you, Steve?”
Meanwhile, Krassner’s manuscript arrived, and it seemed in order until suddenly a murder took place towards the end and chaos broke out at the conspiracy convention. There was a lot of dialogue between Icke and Krassner, some of which had actually taken place between Krassner and Mae Brussel years earlier, before Krassner determined Brussel was off the deep end and lost interest in real conspiracy investigation. We never had a real conversation on the subject and he explained his loss of interest in conspiracy on a freakout he had at his dentist’s office. Conspiracy theory was making him paranoid and unstable. But I was horrified to see Aquino enter his story and get painted as an innocent victim, so I immediately called Krassner on the phone and asked about the murder.
“I made it up,” said Krassner.
I had no idea how to fix this mess since I was on deadline and crunched for time, and even though I knew this piece was putting mud in the water on Franklin, I went ahead and published it against my better instincts because I respected Krassner as the dean of counterculture journalism. Knowing what I know today, I would have rejected it.
Many decades later, I did some investigations into the Illuminati, only to discover Yale’s Skull & Bones is the only chapter we know of for sure, and that fraternity is just a recruiting ground for potential members, and not a place for hatching crimes (other than crooking, which involves stealing ceremonial objects and possibly also, human remains, which actually qualifies as a black satanic ceremony).
The point is to bind 15 juniors into a cohesive unit that will always put the order first. The new inductees make their bios available to the older members and some careers will advance accordingly. There is one rule: In any situation, a Boner must be chosen before all others, qualifications be damned. And since the original Illuminati plan was to have two wings: one involving people of high moral calibre and the other involving people willing to do anything necessary to achieve goals (and never let those two wings mingle), you can’t blanket all Boners with some universal condemnation.
The other significant factoid is that George H. W. Bush’s father was high in Skull & Bones and may have crooked Geronimo’s remains, which is why his tribe requested their return a few decades ago. One of the Bush brothers is the lawyer who represented the society in the court case. And, of course, George himself is wrapped up in details all over the place, including a memo he sent Hoover on “misguided Cubans,” as well as the fact many were warned to stay away from the Franklin story because it tracked straight to the top of the Republican Party. That was President George H. W. Bush they were undoubtedly talking about. Maybe you know Georgie has a flair for groping the asses of young girls on stage near him despite being confined to a wheelchair. And he typically uses the same lame joke while abusing them, something about “David Cop-a-feel.”
In keeping with the bizarre aspects of this case, William F. Buckley, one of the targets of Wilson’s wild Illuminati attacks, is a high-placed Boner, and we know this because he personally padlocked the door to the tomb when one class tapped some females. The entire society had to vote on the issue before the girls could be admitted.
Real conspiracy research involves real people, with real names, committing real crimes that can be brought into a courtroom. Mindfucking created a huge problem, and certainly played a role in keeping a lid on some dark deeds. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a bit more sophisticated and more careful. By the time I had things almost figured out, I was already disappearing.
Meanwhile, the Wilson fan club hounds me for saying Wilson’s Illuminati research is bunk, although they admit it’s 99 percent fantasy. In my world, it’s a sin to mix fantasy with conspiracy research. That is called fake news today, and we have too much of it. Meanwhile, McGowan went on to write highly detailed stories on how the Boston Marathon bombings were fake (nobody got hurt) and how the entire hippie counterculture was invented by the CIA. He died young of cancer and if you question any of his obvious rabbit holes, there’s an organized Tin Foil Hat Patrol that will appear to defend him and attack your credibility. Same thing with Wilson though.
I made a few trips out to Nebraska to do my Heads versus Feds debate with former NY DEA chief Robert Stutman and made friends with John DeCamp, the lawyer who appeared on the scene to represent the abused kids pro bono. DeCamp informed me one of his clients had identified Aquino as being involved, and accepted my invitation to the Heads versus Feds debate, sat in the front row, and during the question and answer segment, I introduced him and thanked him for his efforts to help the kids. Somewhere I have video of the encounter. What I didn’t know at the time, was that both DeCamp and Stutman had been posted under William Colby’s Phoenix Vietnam assassination project that destroyed the fabric of Vietnamese culture by assassinating the alpha tribal leaders. According to what DeCamp learned after the war, the people making the list of who should be killed turned out to be double agents. They were killing to make the Commie takeover easier, not resist it.
But then DeCamp, I much later found out, had lived at Boy’s Town himself as a teen, spoke Farsi, married a Vietnamese woman, and had remained extremely close with CIA chief Colby until Colby’s suspicious death by drowning.
If you can figure out this wilderness of mirrors, let me know.
By the way, I certainly don’t suspect Krassner as some nefarious operative, based simply on how little traction he gets in the mainstream media when should have gotten his own TV show fifty years ago. He was the key person who opened the door to Kesey world and convinced Kesey I was one of them. No doubt there are dimensions of mindfuckery yet to be explored and I’m just skimming the surface of intel psyops.
I was fired by High Times for requesting a small raise to cover the cost of my kid’s braces ($250 per month). At the time my take-home pay did not even cover the rent on my apartment, and I had a disabled family member I was taking care of that required an additional location, and was a single dad with two kids. They dismissed any possible raise, even though the cannabis cup I created was making millions, and the magazine circulation had shrank to unprofitablity without my leadership. This angered me so much that I requested a buy out on the ten percent of the company I owned. They said, see what you can get. I got four offers at $250k per share, half my shares. High Times fired me, threatened me with litigation, seized all my archives, and forced me to give up the shares for less than a quarter on the dollar. And then they didn’t even honor the bullshit deal.
Why was I so angry at High Times? Mostly because I’d recently got back from lunch with the head of Lion’s Gate and his top execs and they had greenlighted a $2-million movie called High Times Cannabis Cup, and after that lunch, Lion’s Gate hired a screenwriter, who met with me and the producers, and wrote a brilliant script that was a comedy, yet it included all my concepts on ritual theater, and non-violence, and cannabis ceremonies, and really gave props to the Temple Dragon Crew, and the Temple Dragon Band, and used the candles in the film. This was going to be my vindication after being chained in a cellar for seven years by High Times, only High Times squashed the film by saying they had to take out the Temple Dragons and all their magic. They couldn’t even respect my humble little attempt to tell the world that the true story of the holy grail involves cannabis.
Rainbow Farm was something of a watershed for me, the end of the four-year trail trying to manifest a cannabis festival that could rival Woodstock.
The mission had begun with a trip to visit Ken Babbs of the Merry Pranksters. “I’m thinking about calling it the World Hemp Expo Extravaganja,” I said. “That’s great,” said Babbs, “but you should just call it Whee!” That’s when a lot of stuff clicked in my head and I realized the vibe we were really trying to scout was fun, and I endeavored to manifest the world’s most fun festival possible, and I am sure in many people’s minds succeeded. Just ask Fishbone. But I was saddened to see a recent attack on the festival in the Portland Mercury, a savage piece of hippy bigotry posing as humor if ever there was, a piece that failed to mention a single ceremony, much less the amazing birth of a baby. Although it’s true the site was comically packed with people stoned out of their minds, we were used to that vortex from years of producing the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and referred to the telepathic effect as “entering stonerville.” Whee just had ten times more stoners.
John Sinclair, Dennis Peron, Stephen Gaskin and Paul Krassner did a peace circle with the Rainbow Gypsies early the first day while tents were still going up. Just seeing that circle made the event for me, but there would be dozens more to follow over the weekend, some small, and some immense. I was sure we were well on our way to rebuilding the counterculture and couldn’t imagine the difficulties that lay ahead.
One significant problem was Oregon was infested with meth heads, and that scene carried a ton of bad vibes and rip-offs. The other problem was the owner of the site was way out of tune and had no respect for the Pranksters and no idea who Ken Kesey was on the cosmic scale. But after two festivals, he ended up losing the property, while fighting county officials and local law enforcement the entire time.
The next property owner to volunteer to host my event was Gideon Israel in Washington. But after one Whee, he was also taken down by a local sting operation. Gideon’s festival site was a campground called Rainbow Valley.
I made a plea at the Cannabis Cup for someone brave enough to hold a Whee! festival considering the first two were crushed by the authorities. That’s when I joined forces with Tom and Rollie of Michigan. They were the brave ones who stepped forward, only this time the authorities weren’t just taking the property. First, they had child services take away their son and refused all contact. Although a gay couple, the boy was Rollie’s child and the most important thing in their lives. And after losing the boy, they both lost their minds and decided to go down swinging.
I was in Woodstock when it all went down and had just returned to New York City. While picking up some video tape at B&H, a teller told me a plane had struck the Trade Towers. I noticed the smoke while riding my Honda Hawk across town. But when I got to my office, I was horrified to discover a string of voice messages from Tom and Rollie, the first of which announced their plan to stage a Waco-like event to bring awareness to the benefits of cannabis legalization. But as the messages went on, they became more and more frantic, until it was just Rollie. By that time, I’d already searched online and discovered they were both killed by FBI snipers. The story was already nearly a week old, but virtually nothing had penetrated the national media. And, of course, this was September 11, and a story was unfolding that would wipe Tom and Rollie’s quest for glory from the pages of history.
Fortunately, Dean Kuipers wrote a book about the event, and the book is being made into a major motion picture, so hope remains alive Tom and Rollie’s quest for martyrdom may not have been in vain. This is a difficult subject for me because it accompanied the shock of 9/11 in a massive double whammy. I had a string of people join me on my missions only to wind up in prison for a few years. But now the authorities were taking lives as well as prisoners. For years, I found it impossible to write anything about Rainbow Farm or about 9/11.
The saddest part for me was the Whee! vibe was all based around improvisational fun and peace ceremonies and learning how to foster and spread non-violence.
When I emceed the first circle to be held at Rainbow Farm, Tom came running up to join in and hold hands, an indication he really wanted to participate in peace culture.
Gatewood Galbraith, a trail-blazing attorney from Kentucky, was pushing armed revolution at the time, and may have helped hook Tom up with the spook-infested Michigan Militia, a huge mistake. I will always wonder if I’d been at work that week, would I have been able to talk Tom and Rollie out of this insane plan to create a Pot Waco? Could my participation in some way have prevented their deaths? Had I known what was going on, I would have attempted to mediate a peaceful solution when the stand-off began. I just never got the chance to play that role and it haunts me.
But you can check out that first peace circle at Rainbow Farm on a video from my archives first posted online two years before their deaths.
Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig is one of the greatest unsung heroes who sought justice after JFK’s murder in Dallas. Craig arrived at Dealey Plaza seconds after the shooting and raced to the picket fence at the top of the knoll, closely following the motorcycle cop who’d ditched his bike to run up the hill. The scene behind the fence was chaotic because a large number of people had already gathered. There were footprints and cigarette butts near where many witnesses saw a plume of smoke appear as the shots rang out.
Craig noticed a woman attempting to drive out of the parking lot and stopped her, taking her into custody for questioning. Deputy Sheriff Lewis appeared and took her off his hands.
Craig then crossed Elm Street and began interviewing witnesses. Arnold Rowland and his wife said they saw a man with a rifle in a Texas School Book Depository window overlooking the plaza before the presidential limo arrived. They hadn’t said anything because they assumed he was a secret service agent. Deputy Lewis appeared again and took the Rowlands off his hands.
Suddenly, a shrill whistle sounded and Craig noticed a man in his twenties run down the knoll from the direction of the depository. A green Rambler station wagon slowed and the man jumped inside. Craig wanted to detain this vehicle, but traffic was intense and he failed to cross in time. When he did make it across, Craig went to the depository steps and was greeted by a man claiming to be a Secret Service agent. Craig began talking about the suspicious Rambler, but the agent seemed little interested. Craig’s boss, Sheriff Decker appeared and told Craig the suspect had left the scene and someone should search inside the depository.
Upon arriving at the sixth floor, Craig quickly located three spent cartridges by the southeast corner window, all lined up as if carefully set in place, something he found highly suspicious. One cartridge had a strange crimp. A rifle was soon located stashed in a pile of cardboard boxes. Stamped on the barrel was “7.65 Mauser.” Captain Fritz, chief of homicide for Dallas, arrived and took possession. That night the murder weapon used to kill JFK was described on all three networks as a German Mauser.
By the way, the Mauser is a short-barrel carbine invented for use by cavalry officers. Carbines are not typically a weapon of choice among professional snipers due to limited range and low bullet velocity. They are, however, slightly easier to conceal than long barrel rifles. The Italians made a cheap imitation of the Mauser, the 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano.
Problem is the cartridges on the floor were 6.5 Carcanos, which meant the rifle and cartridges didn’t match.
“I arrived at Capt. Fritz office shortly after 4:30 PM,” wrote Craig later. “I was met by Agent Bookhout from the F.B.I., who took my name and place of employment. The door to Capt. Fritz‘ personal office was open and the blinds on the windows were closed, so that one had to look through the doorway in order to see into the room. I looked through the open door at the request of Capt. Fritz and identified the man who I saw running down the grassy knoll and enter the Rambler station wagon—and it WAS Lee Harvey Oswald. Fritz and I entered his private office together. He told Oswald, this man (pointing to me) saw you leave. At which time the suspect replied, I told you people I did. Fritz, apparently trying to console Oswald, said, take it easy, son—we‘re just trying to find out what happened. Fritz then said, what about the car? Oswald replied, leaning forward on Fritz’ desk, that station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine—don’t try to drag her into this. Sitting back in his chair, Oswald said very disgustedly and very low, everybody will know who I am now.”
Because he was a Dallas police officer, it was impossible for the Warren Commission to completely ignore Craig. However, when the Commission report was released significant changes were made to his testimony. Meanwhile, Craig was ordered never to talk about the case with anyone in the media. After being caught talking to someone, he was fired.
Like other important witnesses, Craig was shot at, driven off the road, and hounded at almost every twist and turn of his remaining short life. As a key witness to the assassination, he’d assumed he’d become famous someday, but instead was quickly flushed down a rabbit hole.
Many early gatekeepers like Mary Ferrell worked hard to discredit him, which, in hindsight is probably the best indication of how important he really was. Mary Ferrell was a lawyer for Mobile who made the assassination her life’s obsession. She never really managed to connect the dots on the case, even though the most obvious trail led straight into JM/Wave, William Harvey, Ted Shackley and David Morales.
Craig sadly died of a gunshot to the chest in 1975. Self-inflicted so they say and it could be true because he was a completely broken man whose autobiography had been universally rejected by the publishing world.
Back in 1987, the marijuana rally scene had long since faded away, and it wasn’t until a group called the Freedom Fighters appeared that the modern rally scene took off. That’s because in the late 1970s, the media was using smoke-ins to mine images of hippies smoking joints in public, and these images were greatly alarming mainstream America, and were helping turn people against legalization. Because it was so difficult to distinguish hippies from burnt-out drug fiends on looks alone, NORML began a policy of not supporting smoke-ins. It was the birth of what became known as “the suits versus the stoners.”
I thought it was a silly policy by NORML because you can’t have a culture if you don’t congregate and hold ceremonies. So when I got a letter from some students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor saying their legendary Hash Bash founded by John Sinclair was down to less than a dozen die-hards and about to die, I took action by creating the High Times Freedom Fighters. The concept of wearing tri-corner hats and Colonial outfits was to help carry the new message about hemp and our founding fathers, while also costuming the members so that their appearance could not be held against them. The Freedom Fighters became instant magnets at every rally because news crews seek people in colorful costumes. Members were trained to start talking about George Washington and hemp as soon as any cameras were rolling on them.
To encourage participation, members were given pins at every rally they attended and there was even one letter-writing campaign where you could get a pin with a blue Liberty Bell for every response you got from Congress. John Birrenbach gathered so many responses his tricorn became smothered in pins. I didn’t initially realize the implications of what we were doing, but the magic began manifesting on a big scale right away, and the costumes and Betsy Ross flags were certainly helping.
Within two years, the Freedom Fighters became the largest legalization group in the country and only required $15 to get a lifetime membership that included the Freedom Fighter Newsletter edited by Linda Noel, who was the original brains behind the Boston Freedom Rally. From their inception, the Freedom Fighters were wired into my Cannabis Cup, and a member elected by open council to attend the Cup all-expenses paid every year, an honor won by luminaries like Jack Herer and Gatewood Galbraith. It was bizarre when High Times told me to give up the organization saying it conflicted with my editorial duties. I’d amassed a volunteer army of over 10,000 members, and many were enthusiastic supporters pouring immense energy into creating new rallies and other cannabis events all over the country. It was certainly snowballing.
This background is all in the way of announcing a Freedom Fighter reunion at the 2017 Hash Bash. I’ll be looking for a psychedelic bus to take us there, and a site where we can hold a proper ceremony honoring our departed hemp heroes. Jack, Gatewood, Chef Ra, and Tom and Rollie of Rainbow Farm.
We will also be doing inductions for the Pot Illuminati, my replacement for the long defunct Freedom Fighters.
After three years of self-publishing, I have some hints for newbies in the field. (Note: it’s been eight years now.) 1) I suggest joining Quora and using that site to navigate all forks in the road. Before undertaking any new project, ask Quora for advice. You typically get a response from an expert in the field within hours. Most Quora users are polite and seeking information only and there is an unspoken rule against hostile behavior, although some of the younger users engage in flame wars and loaded emotional content. 2) Set up a free blog. Three years ago, I asked Quora, “what is the best blogging site,” and determined WordPress was the option I liked. It’ll take time to design and tweak your blog, and you need to blog something everyday for a month or two before you’ll get any sense of bearings and find your unique voice and subject matter. Look for an under-developed niche that doesn’t have a lot of competition. Many of my books began as a series of blogs on a subject that interested me, a list that includes my most recent one, Killing Lincoln: The Real Story. 3) Feed your blog into social media sites, and use social media daily. Every book should have its own Facebook page. 4) Create a video site, Youtube or Vimeo are the big ones. Video is the best way to promote any product. Even a video shot on your smart phone can be useful. 5) Join ToonBoom (or similar site) to make your promo videos. To get HD resolution, you’ll need to pay an annual fee, which is worth it. Your animations will download easily to your video site. No experience is necessary to make professional-looking animations instantly. 6) Join Klout to get feedback on the effectiveness of your social media. Whenever you experience a bump on Klout, that indicates something is working. Find out what that is and keep doing it. Without a feedback loop like Klout, it’s difficult to judge how effective your social media is. 6) Publish your book on Smashwords and CreateSpace, or some other combination of ebooks and print-on-demand. (Note: Klout is now defunct.) 7) Join Prlog to circulate a free press release. These likely won’t get much attention, but every book should have an official-looking release that can be circulated on social media. You should post a promotional blog that provides links to your promo video(s) and press release(s). 8) Answer questions on Quora daily related to the topic of your book. Strive to become one of the most read posters on your subject of choice. The top ten in every subject are awarded honors on Quora, and it is not difficult to become one if you have good information to share. When all these cylinders are up and humming, you’ll likely be on your way to a career in self-publishing on zero budget. Good luck and happy publishing.
Dedicated to James “Chef Ra” Wilson
I was standing by my window
On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw Chef Ra a-skating
…………..G D7 G
Come to carry my blues away.
May the circle keep on tokin’
Bye and bye Ra, bye and bye
There’s a better world awaiting
…………G D7 G
In the sky Ra, oh so high.
Well, I noticed, the town was lonely
For Chef Ra, he had gone
All his friends, we were cryin’
………….G D7 G
For we felt so sad and alone.
May the circle keep on tokin’
And get high, oh, so high
There’s a better time awaiting
……….G D7 G
In the sky, with Ra, so high.
Won’t you please drive by slow
For that man you are a-haulin’
………….G D7 G
We so hate to see him go.
May the circle keep on tokin’
And get high, Ra, oh so high
There’s a better world awaiting
…………G D7 G
In the sky Ra, in the sky.