Category Archives: society

The Baysiders: Cults Within Cults

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A while ago, I was trying to explain the Bayside movement to a couple of friends. My mother was quite involved with the group for most of the 1980s and even in the first half of the 1990s. I think she still considers herself part of it, though she’s not actively involved to the extent she was.

For those not in the know, The ‘Baysiders’ came about in the late 1960s and early 1970s, based around the ‘visions’ of Veronica Leuken, a housewife based in Bayside, a neighbourhood of New York City. Leuken claimed to start having visions of Mary, Jesus’s mother, in 1968, just before the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. After that, the visions came thick and fast and soon, according to Leuken, she was speaking with Mary and a host of Catholic saints. They gave her messages about the state of the world and future predictions (none of which ever happened within the time predicted). She had her ‘ecstacies’ recorded on tape and transcribed, which were then distributed as flyers or newsletters by her rapidly growing group of followers.

The followers gathered at Leuken’s local parish in Bayside, until the crowds started to disturb the neighbourhood and were moved on by the local government. Eventually, they were granted a site which was part of the 1964 World’s Fair pavilion in Flushing Meadows. Leuken and her followers would gather for ‘Rosary Vigils’, in which they would say the rosary for the duration of the night, while Leuken would “channel” Mary or whichever saint chose to speak to the crowd.

That’s the basic gist of what they’re about. Ideologically, they were (and possibly still are) very conservative and were committed to oppose the ‘modern’ changes to the Catholic Church, specifically the Vatican II Council, held in 1962. According to Leuken, Mary and the others were very disappointed with the changes. In fact, if you read even a smattering of the ‘prophecies‘, Mary and the other celestial, omniscient beings sound a lot like garden-variety John Birch Society members. They’re obsessed with Communism, with ‘Satanic’ infiltration in the Church, the U.N., homosexuality, the wayward youth and the minutae of how to say the Mass (“No communion in the hand”, deacons can’t have priestly powers). It also seems that Mary & Co. aren’t that big on equal rights for women, or allowing women to wear trousers, in another ‘traditionalist’ bent. Add to all that a lot of apocalyptic warnings about comets and wars and natural disasters wiping out large swathes of the planet’s populations and you’re left scratching your head about Leuken’s “God” and his benevolence and loving nature. To me, ‘God’ sounds batshit crazy and conspiracy-theory prone: he warns about the Illuminati and the Freemasons, a conspiracy to replace the ‘Pope’ with an ‘anti-Pope’, about record companies being under control of Wicca (???!!) and a ‘one-world government’.

Bear in mind that the Baysiders never separated themselves from Catholicism, prefering to protest from within. They would wear their blue berets to Mass and, instead of having the communion wafer handed to them, would kneel down in front of the priest and have the wafer placed on their tongues (as allegedly instructed by the ‘Virgin Mary’, via Leuken). They were also notable by their conservative dress, with ankle-length skirts and formal trousers (trousers only for the men, though – women were forbidden to wear trousers).

I don’t remember how my mother became part of this cult – I was still really young and in the haze of childhood. I didn’t really pay much attention to the ‘grown-ups’ and their doings. Suddenly, it seemed, she was spending time with a few Baysiders and adopting their views and mannerisms. She be-friended a strange old woman, who would bring over photo albums full of Polaroid photos with different coloured squiggles on them which contained ‘messages’, according to this woman. You see, they were taken at the World’s Fair site during these rosary vigils and ‘God’ had caused the shapes to appear on the film. It is interesting to note that Polaroid attorneys never really released a statement saying the photos were faked. The ‘zines printed by the group starting appearing in the house and my mother began to stock up on ‘holy water’ (water blessed by a priest).

My mother would tell my older sister and I (our other siblings were deemed too young, at that time, to understand) about prophecies like the “Plague Of Children” and “The Warning” and “The Chastisement”. It sounded scary as shit, but for some reason, it didn’t really bother me that much. My sister was really frightened and, it seems to me, carried around that fright for a long time. When I was 11, my mother asked if I wanted to go to a vigil. I agreed, mainly as an excuse to stay up late. We got on a coach in Hartford and on the two-hour trip to Flushing Meadows, I was sat with my mother and surrounded by Baysiders. At one point, someone shouted “Look at the sun! It’s spinning!”, everyone immediately looked over to the setting sun and agreed that it was indeed spinning. I didn’t see it spinning, but it did seem to change from a orange-ish to green colour for a few seconds. That may have been my eyesight, though. I didn’t count it as a ‘miracle’.

At the pavilion – there were hundreds of people setting up deck chairs and blankets and clutching rosary beads. There was a statue of the Virgin Mary at one end of the pavilion and that end was already crowded with believers. Then, they started saying the rosary…and saying the rosary…and saying the rosary. This went on until midnight or maybe 1 a.m. I can’t quite remember because I grew bored and fell asleep. It definitely wasn’t worth getting to stay up late for. I can’t remember if my mother had brought our Polaroid to take ‘miraculous photos’. I was woken by my mother and wearily got back on the coach to go home.

I think I may have gone one other time about a year later, but after that, I eschewed any involvement with the gatherings. I couldn’t see the point in saying prayers over and over and nothing seemed to happen. The problem was, I still couldn’t escape their influence on my mother. I went to a Catholic middle-school and in my sixth-grade year, my mother kept me out of sex education class (in a Catholic school!!!) – which was pretty humiliating at the time. She used to hector my sister and brother and I about listening to rock music (which she claimed was ‘the devil’s music’). She tried to keep me from hanging out with a friend who lived down the street because his family were a bit too secular and liberal for her liking (at least, that’s what I suspected back then).

Eventually, as I grew into my late teens, I was finally able to shuck off any trappings of Bayside. My mother continued to see her ‘Sider buddies and go to the vigils – but I stopped taking any of it seriously (not that I had taken it that seriously in the first place). While I still considered myself a Catholic, I was a liberal Catholic and getting moreso all the time. In my mid-twenties, I gave up on the Church altogether, having decided that I really didn’t believe in it’s teachings anymore. I chose agnosticism as my path and have strived to keep to it as much as possible – getting rid of any long-held dogma.

Leuken passed away in 1995, which led to a schism in the Bayside movement. Her husband continued the vigils, but ousted one of his wife’s assistants – who promptly formed a rival Baysider sect. Mr Leuken passed away in 2002 and another woman has stepped up to lead the ‘original’ group. The Catholic Church still denies any authenticity to the prophecies…and the beat goes on. The strangest thing about the Baysiders, it seems to me, is that they’re more conservative than the main religious organisation they branch off from. Unlike certain sects of Sufism, which branches from Islam and Zen, which parts ways some from Buddhism – the Baysiders seem to want to turn back the clock with Catholicism and return it to a perceived earlier, ‘better’ period. They’re sincere, but ultimately misguided, as the world is passing them by. I suspect they’re all up in arms about the recent gay marriage vote in Ireland and still predicting that ‘great comet of fire’ is just around the corner. But hey, at least they probably agree with the current ‘Pope’ regarding the matter.

Cinema Corner #315: “Dear Zachary” & “Bitter Lake”

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I was doing a bit of Wiki-hopping. You know, where you look at one Wikipedia page, then follow a link to a different page and so on. I bought a used copy of Spiritualized‘s Songs In A&E last week. Running through the other tunes are short tracks all named “Harmony” (with slight variations on the title). I thought I’d check the Wiki page for “Songs…” and discovered that the tunes are named that after Harmony Korine, the actor/screenwriter (most famous for writing the screenplay to the 1995 film “Kids“, a bleak look at da yoof in 1990s New York City). I then looked at the page for Korine and remembered reading about his film “Gummo” a while back. Apparently, it’s quite a difficult film to watch. That led me to one of those list-articles on Buzzfeed, about the “25 Films That Will Destroy Your Faith In Humanity“. Now, it is Buzzfeed, so expect a lot of hype – but some of those films seem to be really draining on the psyche, just from the descriptions. Amongst the violent revenge flicks like “Oldboy” and “I Spit On Your Grave“, is a documentary called “Dear Zachary“. Unlike a lot of the films on the list, it’s available to watch on YouTube. I was curious as to how it ended up on the list, so I gave it a go.

Essentially, it’s the story of Andrew Bagby’s murder in 2001, carried out (or so the evidence seems to show) by his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Turner. Bagby had a relationship with Turner while they were both in medical school. Bagby broke it off and Turner, unable to take being jilted, drove from Iowa to Pennsylvania and (again, as the evidence seems to show) killed him in cold blood after he agreed to meet her one last time. Kurt Kuenne (which he pronounces “Kenny”) was a childhood friend of Bagby’s and Bagby acted in a lot of Kuenne’s amateur films when they were students. There are several talking-head interviews with Andrew’s school friends and work colleagues and even his relatives in England, describing his personality in glowing terms.

Bagby’s parents, Kate (an ex-pat English nurse) and David, are given special focus, as they were the main campaigners to get Turner brought to trial in the States (Turner was a Canadian citizen and fled to her native Newfoundland after Bagby was murdered). Turner then revealed she was pregnant with Bagby’s child (she also had three other children from previous relationships). Bagby’s parents moved to Newfoundland to work on Turner’s extradition and then to get custody of ‘Zachary’, as the baby was eventually named. The Bagbys are awarded (very tenuously) joint custody of Zachary and Kuenne drives up to Canada to meet and film The Bagbys and the child.

Tragedy then happens a second time when, realising that her extradition may be imminent and that another episode involving a man jilting her caused Turner to become unstable – she strapped Zachary to herself and jumped into the Atlantic Ocean. Both drowned within minutes. It’s made obvious that the film, while being a tribute to Andrew and Zachary, is more of a tribute to The Bagbys and their resilience in coping with the loss of a grandson and a son and taking on the caprices of the Canadian justice system.

The film, despite it’s depressing content, is well-made. Kuenne probably could have relied less on the musical score for emotional cues (such as the Bernard Hermann “Psycho”-like music for the parts where Turner is shown). Turner is never really investigated, either – her family aren’t interviewed, her background isn’t researched or presented at all. She becomes mainly a cypher and a villain for viewers to project all sorts of ‘evil’ onto. Now, she was more than likely guilty of murdering a man in cold blood and she took the life of a child in a ghastly selfish way. Still, we never know what motivated her to behave that way. She clearly had mental health problems and was quite unstable. Also, the Canadian justice system seems quite flawed – but was this a case of a small community protecting one of its own? Particularly in the wake of 9/11, was there a broader link between the foot-dragging of the extradition trial and the central Canadian government (vis-a-vis: distancing itself from the U.S. government)? I suppose that may be veering into conspiracy theory, but it could be an interesting avenue to explore.

Adam Curtis, the UK documentary film-maker, announced on his blog a short while ago, that he was producing a doc to be shown strictly on the BBC iPlayer. It was to be about Afghanistan and its relationship to Russia, Saudi Arabia and The West.

It finally arrived (called “Bitter Lake”) on the iPlayer in January and I watched it as soon as I had a couple of hours to really absorb the film. It starts with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s meeting with King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, on an American warship in 1945. The U.S. needed oil to run it’s growing industrial complexes and fuel it’s new-found military might. Abdulaziz agreed to produce the oil, but his condition was that the U.S. not interfere in the Saudi faith. That faith is Wah’habbism, a very conservative branch of Islam. F.D.R. also agreed to a massive dam project in Afghanistan, that would help work to ‘modernise’ that country and create a Western-style democracy in the Middle East.

The film then presents a dizzying lesson in Afghan history since 1945, using archival footage, interspersed with unedited BBC news footage shot after the 2001 invasion by U.S. and UK forces. The West, seeking to create a Middle East idyll in Afghanistan, runs afoul of the Saudis after the U.S. overtly supports Israel in the 1950s. The democratic Afghanistan does well in the the 1960s, but then Western student visitors bring leftist ideas with them in the early 1970s. A few years later, after the 1973/1974 oil crisis, which gave the Saudis even more leverage in world affairs, due to ‘petrodollars’ flowing into their coffers – Communism (with a capital ‘C’) started to flourish in Afghanistan. This didn’t sit too well with the Saudis.

Russian citizens, encouraged by this development, started to move into the country. There was a backlash, however, and soon things started to get ugly. The Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to back the failing Communist regime. Groups of disparate tribal fighters (with Wah’habbists among their ranks) rebelled against the Soviets. The U.S., seizing an opportunity to fight a proxy war, trained and armed (via the C.I.A.) these groups, who came to be known as the ‘mujahedeen’. The roots of what then morphed into the the Taliban were formed in the mujahedeen.

Some of the uncut footage is extraordinary, unsettling and shocking, sometimes all at once. Footage of then-President Karzai’s motorcade wends it’s way through Kabul. Three men sidle up to Karzai’s SUV to greet him – suddenly automatic gunfire rings out and seconds later, the men are laying heaped in the street. U.S. soldiers are shown boasting about being ‘born killers’ and ‘off command’ kills (presumably that means civilians or people the soldiers themselves suspected being Taliban combatants, but weren’t confirmed as such). In one really lovely bit, a British soldier holds a small bird that has landed on his rifle, while a Middle Eastern pop song plays as a soundtrack.

The British presence in Afghanistan, particularly Helmand Province, after 2001 is shown to be largely an exercise in futility, as the soldiers couldn’t tell who were the ‘real Taliban’. Curtis argues that many of the locals were fed up with Karzai’s corrupt police forces and saw the British as backing the police. The locals decided to attack the British, which emboldened the Taliban to return from Pakistan – so essentially, the British were fighting on two fronts at once.

Things changed yet again after the 2008 financial crash, when the ‘bankers and techno-crats’, trusted by the leaders in The West to work out the complexities of the markets, failed to do so. Money was flooded into the U.S., UK and Afghanistan economies in an effort to prop up the system. A lot of the money injected into the Afghan economy was siphoned out to Dubai, further frustrating the Afghan people.

In the end, Curtis argues, despite many different leaders trying to imprint their version of Islam on radical groups, Wah’habbism was still the driving force behind even the newest group of fighters, ISIL (the Islamic State of Syria and Levant), or ISIS. The original strain of Islam that the king of Saudi Arabia tried to wipe out in the 1940s is alive and very much kicking. Curtis also states that The West had to confront the notion that all of its efforts to transform Afghanistan amounted to nothing, but like the lake on the planet in the 1972 film “Solaris”, Afghanistan has left an effect on the Western psyche.

You can watch “Dear Zachary” online here

You can watch “Bitter Lake” here (UK only) and here (rest of the world)

 

Leftovers: January 2015

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Hey now! Well, we’ve all transitioned into a new Gregorian Calendar Year – hopefully your holidays weren’t too stressful. Mine were quiet, which I enjoyed. I wasn’t really up for a busy X-Mas/New Year season.

I seem to have missed a couple of things in my 2014 round-up. The ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, which started at the beginning of the year, gained momentum and is continuing. Of course, this stoked the press in the U.S. and UK, with many freaking out that the virus might actually, y’know, start killing white people in droves. The BBC showed more than a few info-segments and Faux News bonehead-in-residence (one of the many) Glenn Beck demonstrating how difficult it is to keep the disease contained, even with protection suits, with chocolate sauce and spaghetti substituting for bodily fluids. Keep ’em frightened, Glenn, that’s the F.N. way, innit? There is some hope, though, as a vaccine will be tested and if successful, taken to West Africa.

The U.S., besides having to worry about a possible ebola scare, also witnessed a bad year for police brutality. Incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City compounded African-Americans’ mistrust of law enforcement and lead to near-riots in many cities. It was like 1991 again, except without a Bush in the White House (thankfully). Dreadful incidents, all. There were moments like those during the Occupy protests a couple of years ago, but when African-Americans are being singled out, it brings into sharp relief the precarious nature of race relations in the U.S. and of the increasing militarisation of some police departments.

2015 hasn’t got off to a banner start, either. The Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris was a reminder that radical Islam is alive and well. Both sides of the ideological fence weighed in on matters of free speech and whether faith ‘is’ a matter for satire. I thought about devoting an entire post to the murders, but I suspect anything I could say, someone has put far more eloquently. In the aftermath, the city did hold a ‘Unity Rally‘ and for a moment, the human potential for empathy shone through ideology and religious differences.

One bright spot was the Greek elections, in which left-wing party Syriza was swept in, defying both the far-right hatemongers Golden Dawn and the more moderate, austerity-policy parties. Will Greece give the IMF and the Euro-zone the boot? That remains to be seen, but it definitely seems a step toward something better for that country, which has been mired in mass unemployment and riots for a while now.

Radical Feminism and ‘White Privilege”

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Fairly recently, I fell afoul of a couple of women when I dared to utter the heresy that ‘not all men do X to all women’. I was labelled a misogynist and was told that saying that ‘shuts down discussions of sexism’. I disagreed with that assessment and then suddenly, ‘privilege’ entered the discussion. I was told I enjoyed ‘privilege’ as an American of European descent, or “white”. I’d heard that word (privilege) being thrown around of late, but I hadn’t had it thrown at me, especially during a discussion on whether it’s O.K. to tar all men with the same brush.

It got me thinking, though – am I really ‘privileged’, in the sense that I have things bestowed upon me just because of skin colour? I do admit that I’ve enjoyed a few advantages in life. I didn’t grow up in a ghetto. My family, while certainly not anywhere near wealthy, weren’t lacking in the basics of food, clothing, shelter and we received gifts on birthdays and holidays. When I was 13, I had orthodontics to correct some crooked teeth – they weren’t cheap either. My siblings and I were able to attend Catholic middle school, mostly on our mother’s behest, but my parents could afford the tuition (though, at the time, their budget was resembling a fibrous element that keeps footwear on feet).

I come from a large family – my mother last gave birth in the early 80s, just as I was hitting my teenage years. By then, inflation was up and the money was stretched. I didn’t like Catholic high school much, and luckily, due to their fast-dipping bank balance, was allowed to go to a public high school for my final three years. I don’t recall a whole lotta privilege in the school – when I didn’t put the graft in for an Algebra course, I was failed and had to go to summer school. There wasn’t any “nudge, nudge – wink, wink – it’s O.K., son, you’re white, here’s a passing grade….” going on.

I wanted to attend a technical uni in Britain or Ireland (a pipe dream, given my financial circumstances at the time). My SAT scores weren’t the best and I didn’t even have a ghost of a portfolio to show. I hastily slapped some (very amatuerish) drawings together and applied and was turned down by the three or four I had applied to. Again, it seems like the ‘white privilege’ network let me down – the nerve! I mean, I’m white and everything. They’re deciding stuff on merit???!!! No-one told me. I was accepted at a technical uni in Boston. My father could only afford tuition for one year. When I tried to secure a bank loan for my second year, I was turned down – I didn’t have any credit history at that point, you see. I had to leave school after the autumn semester of my second year, with a small (compared to now) pile of student debt and no job.

I embarked on a ‘career’ of dead-end retail and service jobs – I wasn’t given any extra pay for being white, or any extra power. At one job, I was made redundant the day I was due to sign my union papers, so I could stay at the job. What happened there? I mean, I thought I was supposed to be offered things because I’m white. I finished up courses for my associates degree, going part-time to a technical college, with loads of minority students. In the courses I attended, I wasn’t treated any differently, advantage-wise, to anyone else. I landed a job at an architecture firm, after applying for three years, as a courier/runner. My immediate supervisor was an African-American woman. She was great, and we got on well. One of my duties was to drive another African-American woman to pick up office supplies – we got really well, too. After three years, I was made redundant, due to costs being cut and my drafting skills having suffered for me not using them in the interim. I just wasn’t capable at that time of keeping up the speed needed for the work.

There’s loads more examples – I wasn’t just given a visa to move to the UK, I had to apply for one and pay the coin of the realm, just like everyone else…and on and on. Now, yes, I may have enjoyed advantages – but to me, that doesn’t seem to equate to privilege – which the families who constitute the oligarchy seem to enjoy.

I don’t want this post to be a “woe-is-me”/”I’m a victim” kind of thing and also, to any National Front/Stormfront types who think this is some sort of call-to-arms – I’m not with you at all, at all. I’m not down with racists or sexists – I’m just discussing the language of “privilege”. To me, I’ve not enjoyed a lot of privilege. Yes, I’ve not had to confront institutional racism on a massive scale and as I say, I’ve been pretty comfortable most of my life. I was also told that African-American opinions and those of other minorities “are inherently more truthful” than those of whites. Yeesh!

Anyway, I agree with Lewis Gordon when he stated: “A privilege is something that not everyone needs, but a right is the opposite. Given this distinction, an insidious dimension of the white-privilege argument emerges. It requires condemning whites for possessing, in the concrete, features of contemporary life that should be available to all, and if this is correct, how can whites be expected to give up such things? Yes, there is the case of the reality of whites being the majority population in all the sites of actual privilege from prestigious universities to golf clubs and boards of directors for most high-powered corporations. But even among whites as a group, how many whites have those opportunities?”

Also, for further edification, please read the late, great Robert Anton Wilson‘s essay about Radical Feminism and language, titled “Language And Lunacy” (originally published in 1996 and reprinted in the collection, “E-Mail To The Universe”, in 2005). You can read it here.

Of course, this ‘is’ all just one human’s opinion, based on my own life experience – perhaps other ‘white’ humans do experience privilege in this society. Then again, perhaps some humans of Asian descent and African-American descent enjoy privileges too.

 

Daft Or Dastardly? The Laurel Canyon Conspiracy

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A short time ago, a FB friend posted a link to a site all about the supposed “Laurel Canyon Conspiracy”. I think the context was a post I shared about Aleister Crowley. I’m not a hard-core Thelemite – but I do enjoy Crowley’s books on magick and the bit of his fiction I’ve read so far.

In any case, the L.C. conspiracy seems to have been first posted online by a bloke called Dave McGowan in 2008. Since then, it’s been reproduced in sections or in it’s entirety on various sites. Usually, I dismiss that kind of thing outright as nonsense, thought up by paranoids who want to blame the shitness of their own lives on some over-arching group (The Bilderbergers, The Rothschilds, The Rockefellers, etc, etc.)

McGowan contends that the 1960s counter-culture began in the Laurel Canyon neighbourhood of Los Angeles. The main characters in the scenario, such as Jim Morrison and David Crosby, were the scions of upper-ranks military commanders and intelligence personnel. They were then indoctrinated into working for the CIA to….well, McGowan never really says. Was the aim to spread the gospel of non-violence and psychedelics, to create a pliable populace easy to manipulate? Was it to create a counter-culture to scare the god-fearing Joe and Jane Six-Packs into voting for a strong conservative government and perpetual warfare?

Maybe both, or neither. There seem to be a couple of glaring errors in his analysis, almost from the outset. He contends that Frank Zappa was ‘pro-war’ and that all of the bands hung out together and were all good pals. According to the testimony in other books, Arthur Lee, of the band Love, liked neither Frank Zappa nor Jim Morrison. David Crosby has gone on record several times about how much he loathed Jim Morrison. Frank Zappa lampooned the ‘hippie scene’ quite a few times on his early albums (especially “We’re Only In It For The Money“, released in 1968). The idea that these disparate personalities were all gelling together for the CIA seems ludicrous…add in Stephen Stills, Charles Manson, Dennis Wilson (of The Beach Boys) and Neil Young and things seem even further far-fetched.

McGowan has done quite a bit of research on the history of Laurel Canyon, especially during the 1920s and 1930, when it’s homes were bought up by some big-name Hollywood folk, as well as stage magician extraordinaire, Harry Houdini (yep, he did some work for the U.S. gubberment too, says McGowan). McGowan impressively does find connections between a lot of the key L.C. players in the 1960s and while it may look like something sinister was happening, I’m not convinced that because a lot of the musicians were ‘army brats’, they automatically were drafted into helping the military/industrial complex. The U.S. military was a big employer immediately after WWII, when a lot of them were born – it doesn’t seem like much of a coincidence to me.

To be fair, there was a lot of weird stuff happening – but it seems L.A. does attract it’s share of chancers and miscreants and has done since the film industry set up there a hundred years ago. Add in psychedelics and sexual liberation and well…you got yourself a freaky scene, man. McGowan does shed light on the infamous Manson murders of 1969, deviating a lot from the ‘official’ story given by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. Apparently, it was the result of a couple of drug deals gone very badly. Manson botched a drug deal with an African-American dealer, which left him (Manson) paranoid and looking for protection. Allegedly, he approached the “Straight Satans”, a biker gang, who were hanging around Manson’s place for the ‘free love’ and drugs. They thought Manson was a joke, but agreed to protect him if he could score some mescaline for a party they were throwing in a couple of weeks’ time.

Manson went to Bobby Beausoleil, who had formed short-lived psychedelic band The Orkustra (who later morphed into It’s A Beautiful Day) and knew a lot of the Laurel Canyon players. Beausoleil then contacted Gary Hinman, an acquaintence and fellow musician. Gary spoke with a couple of chemist friends who said they could get the amount of mescaline together. Money changed hands and that was that. Until, according to the bikers, the mescaline was bunk and they demanded their money back. Beausoleil went to Hinman, who said he’d already spent the money. Manson got involved and Hinman was killed, after being kept in his home by Beausoleil. Hinman was suffocated, still suffering from a wound Manson had given him. To make the murder appear as a political attack, they scrawled “Political Piggy” on Hinman’s wall.

Beausoleil was, of course, the prime suspect for the murder of Gary Hinman and trying to protect him, Manson hatched the idea of a few more murders to make it look like a political gang was on a rampage – hence the “Healter Skelter” (sic) and “Piggies” scrawled on the walls of the Sharon Tate home in blood. Bugliosi thought that Manson was serious with his “race war” talk and run with that story. It seems it’s a lot more mundane. It was all about money and paranoia.

Getting back to the original premise – why would the CIA create the counter-culture, only to destroy it (via Manson and Altamont) a few years later? The Laurel Canyon theory also ignores all the other contemporary scenes in San Francisco, New York, London, Paris and Amsterdam. The S.F. and London scenes were already in action as early as 1964, while Laurel Canyon didn’t really start until 1965 or ’66. While isolated examples like Vito Paulekas and Zappa seemed ahead of the game, most sorta drifted in after the fact.

Aside from the Hinman killing and the Tate-LaBianca murders, the other major tragedy of the era was Paulekas’s two-year-old son, Godot, falling to his death in his father’s studio. There’s also allegations that before he died, he was ‘introduced to sensuality’ by being passed around to adults open mouths. So, yes, there’s alleged child abuse as well. Still, I don’t believe that everything and everyone in the Canyon at that time were CIA agents and connected to the government. None of the conspiracy theorists have offered any sort of official proof – wouldn’t a Freedom Of Information request turn up hard evidence that Crosby et al. were on the payroll? Perhaps I’m naive in that respect.

As with anything – you can read the theory for yourself and make your own decision – it is twenty-one pages long and covers a five decades or so, so it does get meandering. It’s here, if you dare.

Also, as a bonus – McGowan references the film, Mondo Hollywood, several times in the article – you can watch the film in it’s entirety below:

Oh no, not Awards Season again!

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I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t resolve to blog more in 2014, as I’ve got off to a poor start so far.

In any case, if you’re living on a remote Pacific island, or don’t have any sort of media contact at all, you won’t know that we’re in the midst of awards shows season. You should count yourself lucky.

Yep, it’s time for the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the People’s Choice Awards, the Oscars, The Tony nominations, the Emmy nominations, the Grammy nominations, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Writers Guild Awards, the What’s On Stage awards, etc. etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching films and some teevee shows and I listen to loads and loads and loads of music. While it seems a good act to recognise acheivements in entertainment, I just can’t deal with all of the pomp and overblown televisual ‘spectacle’ that goes along with the prizes.

I used to watch as many of them as I could – I was an award-show junkie – especially for the Oscars and Grammys. I would even get a bit excited on the night of the ceremonies. Eventually, though, I stopped being thrilled about which film would win, or which actors would win. It all seems a bit silly to me. Film studios patting each other on the back for raking in millions of dollars, all the columns dedicated to people wearing clothes and talking about who was at which after-party. I honestly don’t think I’ve even seen the ‘Best Picture’ winners for the past seven or eight years.

It especially seems galling at the moment – all these over-paid ‘slebs’ in thousand-dollar suits and dresses, getting gift-bags and sitting in lavish theatres, going to after-parties with loads of food and drink, all because of a stupid statuette was given to them. I realise it’s been that way since these things started, but it’s particularly callous now, with so much economic disparity.

Couldn’t they just post the winners online or something, then mail out the miniature record players and guys holding shovels and miniature film cameras? The ‘slebs’ can then put pics on their Twitter feeds, for those who are interested. Besides, these awards shows are just extending Joan Rivers’s ‘career’ and giving the E! Network a reason for existence….and no-one wants that, do they?

Politics: What Is The Point, Exactly?

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Many moons ago I was a member of the Labour Party; not just a ‘member’ but an ‘active member’ who not only paid up my annual subscription but attended ward meetings, sat on committees, posted leaflets, collected food for striking miners and knocked on people’s doors at election time asking for them which way they were likely to be voting. The truth is, I believed in all this stuff. This would have been the mid-80’s, when Britain was under the Thatcherite jackboot and was becoming one of the most divided societies in the western world. I called myself a Socialist (with a big S) and all these years later, when pushed, will tell anyone who wants to know that I am still a Socialist, though what has happened to my fellow travellers on the left I’m none too sure. You may well be thinking, ‘What was a hard-line socialist doing in the Labour Party at a time when Neil Kinnock was doing his utmost to rid said party of such evils unless it was part of some Trotskyist plot?‘ (you were thinking that, weren’t you?). Well, I wasn’t a Trotskyist and had no time for Militant Tendency or the International Marxist Group or Derek Hatton or Arthur bloody Scargill; I was just an average working class young fellow who was sick of things never changing for ordinary people, rising unemployment figures, lack of housing, an increasingly stretched NHS, shit state education and the rise of the Yuppies.

I believed that state control of essential resources and services to be used for the betterment of the lives of the poorer folk would be the best way forward for British society. Call me naive if you like but I still do. Where I do think I was wrong was in believing that the British political system could ever deliver this for the working class. I may have occasionally spouted off dreamily about the need for ‘revolution’ (although this was mainly to wind up any perceived old codgers I encountered) but, in the main, I did think that we’d eventually change things through the electoral system. How wrong I was.

It’s probably fair for anyone to observe that the reason Britain never made the necessary swing back to the left was because old style socialism was generally discredited and no longer desired by the British public but I think there was something else going on that has proved to be a far more potent weapon in the right’s determination to destroy leftist aspirations: the deliberate engendering of apathy amongst the working class. The growth in apathy took a number of forms depending on who needed to be inoculated with a dose of ‘couldn’t give a toss, mate’. On one hand, you had the so called ‘aspirational working class’ who had always, in the main, been solid Labour Party supporters but were not averse to the idea of buying their council houses, sending little Johnny or Jenny to private school give the chance, joining the golf or squash club, joining the ranks of lower management at the factory (‘Daddy, what’s a factory?‘) and taking their annual holiday in Spain or even Turkey. Now, taken individually, it could be argued that there’s nothing wrong with any of these things but when you put them all together as a ‘lifestyle’ there is an undeniably pernicious tang to such delights. It’s that little useless carrot that says, ‘You, too, can have all this…providing you are good girls and boys and keep supporting the status quo.’  Of course, you have to promise to take little care for your poor unemployed neighbour or the elderly couple across the road or the sick gentlemen on the corner; after all, didn’t Thatcher tell us that ‘There is no such thing as society’? What we had to accept for this golden opportunity to shine was that Darwin’s notion of survival of the fittest had to be allowed to do its work throughout the land – it was the only way. Many people bought into this crap.

The other side of this coin was aimed at the people who were perceived to be irredeemably out of the loop as far as the new social revolution was concerned: the long term unemployed, the poor, the unskilled workers, the ‘underclass’ (probably all pissed or on drugs anyway). It was vital to make these sections of society believe that there was basically NO HOPE for them within the normal political process, thus making things like taking an interest in current affairs, reading a proper newspaper (or reading of any kind), joining a political party or even bothering to vote  a complete irrelevance to such people. Providing they had TV, cheap booze, cigarettes, take away food outlets, football etc. then they would remain like passive sheep, ultimately to be herded (can you ‘herd’ a ‘flock’ of sheep?) to market or even the slaughterhouse. The relatively recent rise of the ubiquity of computer games, the internet and any other ‘must have’ gadget you can mention has only added to the weaponry of the Establishment in their struggle to make us drown in our own apathy. If this doesn’t work, flooding sink estates and inner city areas with cheap drugs should do it. (I’m only too aware that drugs are also prevalent in more rural areas these days as well but I hope you get my drift). Yes, it’s old Karl’s ‘opium for the masses’ but this time it really is opium or, at least, some sort of derivative. On the whole, however, the Sky Sports, cheap supermarket booze and The X-Factor is sufficient to do the trick.

Whilst all this is going on, the political classes become harder and harder to tell apart, no matter what they happen to call themselves; they rip the nation off royally (I haven’t even mention the role of ‘Royalty’, have I?) with their expenses claims, tax dodges and cash for questions, knowing full well we are all too drugged to the eyeballs on all the crap they’ve sold us to care one way or another. On top of that, whenever they decide that its high time we helped the US invade yet another country (Syria, are you ready?), we’ll not only go along with it but we’ll supply the cannon fodder too. Of course we could go on and on complaining about the state of the NHS, mass immigration, the genuine threat of militant Islam, gypsies on your doorstep nicking the lead off the school roof, the crumbling education system, homelessness, the EU, unemployment,  paedophiles in the higher echelons and anything else but they now know that we are far too apathetic to really do anything about it whilst we still have out iPods, iPhones, 44″ HD screens and ‘East Enders’ three times a week. This is what it’s all about, folks: behave yourselves and you can have your crap and eat it but if you do have the audacity to try to change things through the political process they won’t even have to kill you (unless that happens to be convenient) because they’ll merely corrupt you

I can hear you saying, ‘We know the problems, what’s the answer?’ Currently, I can see no answer. Join UKIP? Fine if you want a re-run of Nazi Germany. Think I’m exaggerating? Wait until they form a coalition with the EDL. Change the Labour Party from within? No chance – the politics of common sense and the average British person is anathema to the chattering classes of Miliband’s crew; they’ll ensure you are silenced before you can say ‘Clement Attlee.’  How about the Green Party? Do you really want to spend weekends camping with the neo-fascists of the expensive hand-kitted jumper from Peru brigade? You could head for Stornoway but that’s my dream and I bet the bastards will be there as well. No, the only thing to do right now is live our lives in as Dadaesque fashion as possible, making a mockery of the whole stinking cesspit until the system eats itself and we can rise from the ashes and establish a true socialist Utopia of peace, love and equality. Don’t expect too many to follow, though, because they are all too busy on their iPads booking tickets for ‘Glasto’ (maaaan) – though I expect that sold out a long time ago, baby.

Merde to la revolution! (for now).