Conspiracies, Mysteries, Secret Societies – Ohh My!

As a child I somehow acquired several books along the lines of Reader’s Digest’s Unsolved Mysteries of the Past¬†and I always loved these sorts of books – learning about all the things that we can’t quite explain or understand. More recently I read (and reviewed) Man, Myth, & Magic (Vol. 1).

mystery box

More recently I picked up Brad and Sherry Steiger’s Conspiracies and Secret Societies. This volume was an enjoyable read, unfortunately, it lacked the more detailed methodology I prefer when reading these sort of books.

Namely, there is a bibliography at the end of the work but no notes on which articles utilized which bibliographic resources – and the bibliographic resources are quite varied in quality. Additionally, while the Steiger’s indicate they are taking a neutral voice, they oftentimes state things as if they were true and it is unclear whether they are pronouncing known facts or simply explaining the position of those who believe in x conspiracy.

All said, I can’t recommend the book as a reliable reference work, but it does provide a nifty jumping off point to learn about various conspiracies. Just keep in mind that what you read may be fanciful imaginings.

What I really wanted to share in this post is my list of interesting topics from the work – the things I’ve found interesting or would like to research further in the future (this is something I do recreationally). The reasons I am interested in various topics varies just as much as the topics – sometimes I think the idea is plausible while at other times I find the idea so implausible I want to know more about those who dreamed up such and such. Others seem far-fetched but are interesting enough for further exploration…

Topic Note
AIDS/HIV Origins of the disease.
Airship of 1897 What was it? Mass delusion?
Alchemy Predecessor to chemistry, attempted to turn base metals into gold.
Alien Abductions
Al-Qaeda Origins, relationships.
Alternative 3 Was there a 1960’s secret space program that sent a group of our brightest to colonize the moon?
American Protective Association Tried to keep Roman Catholics out of political office.
Anarchists On the Steiners’ list: William Godwin, Max Stirner, Henry David Thoreau, Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Nicola Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Noam Chomsky.
Anthrosophy Founded by Rudolf Steiner.
Apocalyptic Millennialism Variety and history of beliefs about the end times.
Army of God Anti-Abortionist Terrorists.
Aum Shinrikyo Means “Supreme Truth” – a relatively recent (1987) cult responsible for terrorism¬†in Japan.
B-25 Ghost Bomber Where did this bomber disappear to after crashing into a river?
Dr. Fred Bell Died after being on Jesse Ventura’s conspiracy show, invented the “X-1 Healing Machine”, etc.

Okay that is enough for one day…I’ll add some more of the topics I found interesting another time.

Newsweek Writes Sensational Stories to Sell Magazines?

Battles in Medieval: Total War
Battles in Medieval: Total War can have thousands of men on a single battlefield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charity sent in a donation to NPR, which we both enjoy, and as a thank you gift they gave us a subscription to Newsweek. We had unsubscribed from Newsweek some time ago due to the rapidly decreasing quality of the content…but I figured I’d take another browse. The new magazine is certainly lighter and the articles are shorter…I’m wondering other than the fact that it finds its way into my mailbox why I’d want to read anything in it more than the high-quality articles found across the blogosphere.

Fast forward to June 18th, 2012 issue and the article “Zombie Apocalypse” by Tony Dokoupil. The sub-title, “Could the Internet bring on a face-eating epidemic?” If you would, allow me to dissect this article and its horrible atrocity against good reporting. Mr. Dokoupil, I trust you are able to write articles of much higher quality than this, and I am saddened that I need even write a response to such an article.

The Internet Makes Us Psychotic

Using reports from Susan Greenfield and Will Self the article suggests that psychosis is fostered by internet use. A brief statement at the end of the paragraph pushes us back to reality, “Does the Internet cause insanity? No. But for some vulnerable souls, it may excite their already destructive states of mind.” But the entire paragraph pushes us towards the conclusion that if internet use in itself doesn’t foster psychosis, it at least increases the risk of violent behavior by individuals with psychotic symptoms.

I would suggest a more balanced paragraph might have explained that researched is currently being done to explore how the internet affects the brain. There is some consensus that it does affect our brains – but there is little consensus at this juncture on whether these effects are positive or negative.

For example, individuals no longer need to remember as much content – b/c content can be easily discovered using Google and similar services. This is similar to the decrease in content requirements which would have occurred with the availability of books, where previously entire books were memorized on occasion to retain the content.

One could say the lack of content knowledge is a detriment – but perhaps (and I think it is) being counter-balanced by increases in critical and analytical thinking skills – e.g. intuitive problem solving abilities.

Rocco Magnotta – Social-Media “Whore”

The article continues on, drawing connections between Rocco Magnotta’s cannibalism and his extreme social media usage. I would suggest his extreme social media usage was likely caused by extreme feelings of isolation, depression, low self-esteem, or so on. That is, the social media extremism (over-utilization) was a result of his issues rather than the cause of the issues. He may have found himself unable to secure the attention he desired through regular interactions on social media (as he had already found himself unable to achieve via “real life interactions”) and thus saw the need to escalate to increasingly violent actions in order to secure attention and increase his self-perception of being unique and valuable.

One could argue that the social media use may have delayed his violent actions. When he was no longer able to secure the necessary boost to self-esteem in real life he shifted to virtual life – and this worked for a while…but since the issue in these cases is essentially the individual’s own self-perception rather than external individual’s provision of appropriate affirmation, he would and did encounter a time when social media was not adequate for boosting his self-perception, and thus the movement to cannibalism.

Anders Behring Breivik – World of Warcraft

Then there is the instance of Anders, the now infamous Norwegian who killed seventy-seven people. Dokoupil writes that he performed “…daily training on the shooting game World of Warcraft…” I don’t play World of Warcraft (WoW), but I do know that it is not a “shooting game” in the sense most people conceptualize shooting games. It is a MMORPG (massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing-game)…as such it focuses on challenges, adventures, roles, interactions, plot development, and yes – combat. But the combat is not primarily “shooting” and certainly not in the modern sense one intuits (guns). A true shooting game would be Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, Halo, and so on.

I don’t know whether Anders virtual and real lives fused – though I suppose this is possible. I once had a childhood friend who could not distinguish between realities…but he didn’t kill anyone over it. That said, if he did fuse realities, I would have expected Anders to have dressed up in medieval outfits and used a more primeval weapon to murder…which in this case would have been advantageous, since he certainly wouldn’t have been able to kill seventy-seven people with a low-tech weapon like he did with a GUN.

Violence in Video Games

I don’t play a lot of video games. When I do play video games they are almost always turn-based war games simulating historical time-periods. I enjoy recreating historical experiences and consider the games a learning experience as well as relaxing and entertaining. Ask me how I know more about the geography of the world than your average joe and I’ll report it was due to an old game called Empires. Ask me how I know about the geography of Europe, the Middle East, the United States – I’d say various World War II games, Medieval: Total War, and various Civil War games. Ask me how I know the names of commanders, of ancient weapons, about when clocks where invented or how horrible the devastation of the black plague was and I’ll reply in the same manner. Of course, I’ve also ready a LOT, but games help me “memorize” locations, situations, and so on in ways that a text alone can’t.

Sorry, ran off on a bit of a rabbit trail there – back to violence in video games. I’m not a fan of violent portrayals in video games. I find it disturbing that some games are created to allow individuals to play as the “bad guys” – and I don’t mean an anti-hero, but real “bad guys” doing really bad actions – raping, torturing, and graphically murdering. I don’t think there needs to be nearly the level of violence in video games in general as there is…imho, the attraction to video games is the challenge rather than the graphics (ala Minecraft’s success).

But, I’d also suggest that we don’t have a firm cause-effect link between what people play (in video games) and how they act in real life. I’d suggest that there are probably stronger corollaries between parental attention to children and their life actions. Sure, kids may play extremely violent video games, but I have to ask, where are the parents in the first place? Why is the child sitting inside playing video games all day anyways?

Conclusion

This article lacks merit and spreads FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt)….something we definitely don’t need. I’d suggest that publishers and reporters need to take a deep look inside themselves and ponder, “Am what I’m publishing and writing going to cause a zombie apocalypse?” Yeah, I don’t think it will either…but perhaps it is more likely than the internet or video games!

P.S.

I do support ESRB ratings on video games and offering similar penalties as for selling cigarettes to individuals who sell underage individuals high-maturity ESRB rated games.

I am open to other ways in which we can curb the use or overuse of the internet and violent video games by children and teenagers while maintaining individual freedom and constitutional rights.

Jericho – Season 1.

Screencap from Jericho
Image via Wikipedia

I love the web-based revolution currently occurring to television. Why? Not only the freedom to watch what I want on my schedule but also the possibility that what I want to watch will be shown. It seems that my television viewing tastes are far enough outside of mainstream that a number of my favorite shows have been canceled – oftentimes after the first season. With the web providing a way for TV production companies to syndicate their shows without having to keep the high ratings TV requires its possible that niche television shows will expand (and I hope they do).

One of the shows I really loved (and that was canceled) was Jericho. 50,000 lbs. of nuts sent to CBS offices later they re-launched the show for a second season – only to cancel it again…But that was okay with me. The second season of Jericho should be considered non-canonical – the quality, storyline, etc. where morphed too much by an attempt to garner ratings. I never did watch the season finale for season 2.

That said, the first season is a worthwhile view. Jericho is the story of a small town in Kansas. When nuclear blasts occur throughout the United States in major metropolitan areas the government essentially falls apart and life as we know it ends. The show shows in a fascinating manner what the collapse of society might look like and how we would slowly start to put things back together.

In this context one enjoys the friendship, feuds, and adventures shared by the townspeople. They are forced to work together – fight together – and grow together. They bring their own demons to the table – dark pasts that haunt them, but also looking forward to the opportunities a new future brings them.

Jericho exists at two levels. In the first is the overarching story arc of a post-apocalypse world with all the mayhem and pain this includes. At the second level it is a homely tale similar to House on the Prairie that shares in the daily lives of people. The overarching story gives it momentum, the townsfolk focus gives it heart and depth.

So, take a look…and just pretend Season 1 is it. That the story ends with that dramatic cut-off (which I won’t reveal)…or write your own ending. Its a good drama series with a lot of interesting lessons about honor, courage, and sacrifice.