By The Landlord
"I'm not a paranoid, deranged millionaire." – Howard Hughes
"There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment." – Hunter S. Thompson
"Civilisation is a conspiracy. Modern life is the silent compact of comfortable folk to keep up pretences." – John Buchan
"Paranoia is a bad personality trait for a comedian. Hey! What are you laughing at?" – Danny Bhoy, Scottish comedian
Hello. So, what's going on here? is this really a music-based article about conspiracy theories, or is it something else entirely? I went in the library yesterday to ask if they had any books about it, and the woman at the counter said: "They're behind you!" But who else is reading this now? Maybe everyone. Maybe no one. Who am I? What was that noise? Was it the cat? Can I smell gas? Is everyone plotting, or does nobody care? Ooh, this tin-foil hat is a bit hot today. What are you eating? There's no such thing as a free lunch, you know. Are we being controlled by a race of aliens, or are we in fact a race of aliens? This is not the World Cup, and the game isn't rigged. Or is it?
This week one thing is for sure. The song topic is conspiracy theories, and with it, the feelings that surround them, expressed in song lyrics and perhaps the accompanying music. Could these feelings be paranoia? That also depends whether or not the theories are true. So songs nominated might be, for example, about the assassination of JFK, or the Roswell incident, or 9/11, that you're being spied on, that your lover has been planning to leave you, or perhaps, in these current, rather more crazed times than normal, other worldy matters, such as that the Earth isn't round at all, but flat:
Why wouldn't that be true? After all, plenty of people think so, so it must be, what with the powers that be undermining us with their, er, evil roundedness, and according to the Flat Earth Society ...
So, where to begin? Once again, the Bar is bursting to the theme with conspiracy theorists as well as nay-sayers, mobile phones are being put in aluminium-lined jiffy bags, there’s tin foil everywhere. They are discussing all of these theories and more, including whether or not Paul McCartney is/was dead, the masons, the Rothschilds, aliens and more, but let’s begin with more moderate views about it all by more formal, investigative people.
“More things in politics happen by accident or exhaustion than happen by conspiracy,” says Jeff Greenfield, the CBS, ABC and CNN TV journalist. “Yes,” says fellow journalist Peter Bergen. ”Incompetence is a better explanation than conspiracy in most human activity.”
But while the world is full of chaos and power struggles, there have always been certain people trying to manipulate other people. Here’s Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari: “As a historian, I'm sceptical about conspiracy theories because the world is far too complicated to be managed by a few billionaires drinking scotch behind some closed doors. But I do think that the voters are correct in sensing that they're really losing power. And in reaction, they give the system an angry kick.”
But while there is an elite, working together or not, why do they behave as they do? Mass-market magazine publisher Felix Dennis reckons that “the rich are not a contented tribe. The demands from others to share their wealth become so tiresome, so insistent, they often decide they must insulate themselves. Insulation eventually breeds a mild form of paranoia.”
“And,” says Martin Amis, “Money doesn't mind if we say it's evil, it goes from strength to strength. It's a fiction, an addiction, and a tacit conspiracy.”
But now a mysterious, shadowy, hooded figure has entered the Bar, refusing to reveal their identity. They begin to speak with articulate, clear voice, and everyone listens:
“Weak minds think alike. But cleverness without wisdom is the most destructive force on Earth,” he says, and everyone nods.
“The human race is a herd. Here we are, unique, eternal aspects of consciousness with an infinity of potential, and we have allowed ourselves to become an unthinking, unquestioning blob of conformity and uniformity. A herd. Once we concede to the herd mentality, we can be controlled and directed by a tiny few. And we are.” More nods and noises of approval as many believe this to be true too.
“Dogmatic religion has been used to fantastic effect over thousands of years to fuel and exploit emotions like fear and guilt, and the feeling of being 'unworthy'. This has encouraged people to hand over their right to think and feel to a Bible and a priest because they have not had the confidence or self-belief to realise that they have a right, and an infinite gift, to make their own decisions.” Again, many agree.
“And,” he goes on, “ff you look at the way society is structured , it is structured to keep people overwhelmingly in a state of fear and always trying to survive, in terms of physically, in terms of terror, in terms of financially, the credit crunch, rising food prices; all this is survive, survive, survive.” Again, many agree, and this echoes the work of the great documentary maker Adam Curtis who we regularly mention at the Song Bar. Could it be him?
No. So where is this leading? “Well,” the mystery person says, “it’s obvious! What I'm saying is that my research is very strongly pointing to the fact that the extraterrestrials are not coming, they're not going to invade, they've actually been controlling this planet, increasingly, for thousands of years. Humanity is actually under the control of dinosaur-like alien reptiles called the Babylon Brotherhood who must consume human blood to maintain their human appearance.” Yes you guessed it, it’s David Icke! Is this a metaphor? No!
Icke is, to some of us who remember his early career, first a goalkeeper for Coventry City and other teams, then a BBC sports reporter and Green Party activist. And then something happened to him in the 80s, and by the early 90s he hit the headlines for being a self-proclaimed messiah and naming the elite as controlling our lives, not as metaphorical lizards, which might have seemed reasonable way to describe political psychopaths, but literal, blood-sucking Reptilians, or Draconians, from the Rothschilds to Hitler to the Queen, from George Bush senior to er, Kris Kristofferson. Bit of an insult to lizards though eh?
Where did this whole idea of Icke come from? Perhaps from the 1980s TV series V?
But still it makes you wonder about what other aliens control us. How about the Kardashian family? Are they somehow connected to the Cardassians from newer generation Star Trek series? After all, one is a bulbous shaped, power-grabbing clan of strange looking beings made of plastic marrying into the hip-hop elite, and the others are from science fiction. And, think about it, when you hear their name, do you hear, er Kardashian, or Cardassian, Laurel or Yanny?
Perhaps a rational explanation for it all is that we have been invaded by alien bugs who have eaten half of the brains of everyone in Washington and the rest of the the west, leading to the election of Donald Trump etc. If you want to see more, check out the political satire TV series Braindead It’s more plausible and explanation than what’s really going on in American politics.
But what if insect aliens were to take over, or at least try to live with us in some sort of symbiotic, but fully controlling way. Could they do any worse than us? How might we react? The same way as Kent, the newsreader on The Simpsons?
But what about the current lizard-in-chief? Having half of his brain eaten away might certainly explain much of the behaviour. Mind you, that could have made him smarter.
“The thing about Trump,” says the TV presenter Louis Theroux, “I think Donald Trump's had a pattern of leaping on the bandwagon of anything that he feels will further his candidacy, and if that means sowing more fear and paranoia and playing into a kind of xenophobic populist strain, then that's what he will do.”
If anything is true, with the likes of Trump, Putin and any other psychopath narcissists out there, whatever they accuse others of doing, you can be sure they do it themselves. Who bombed all those Russian apartments in the 1990s. Was it really the Chechens? And who came out of it best? Putin of course. It’s also interesting that when Trump was elected in 2016, Putin rather oddly described him as “very talented”. Of all the things to say, that strikes me as odd. And then when Trump met Kim Jong-un, the one thing he also said was that Kim was “very talented”. Who is writing their script, I wonder?
Mind you, that’s enough about “lizards”. I think it’s more possible we’re being taken over by a race of alien frogs. Check out this strange clip of Brexit-plotting, strange-clapping minister Michael Gove:
Anyway, plenty of people believe in conspiracy theories. Polls suggest that 12 million people in the US believe that the interstellar lizards rule us, while 22 million reckon the moon landings were faked, and 160 million believe that there was a conspiracy around the JFK assassination, though no one has suggested, to my knowledge that it was bugs, as on the TV series Braindead, that made his head explode.
But many apparently ridiculous conspiracy theories have turned out to be true. The government is spying on us all? Yes. See NSA. The CIA was testing LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs on Americans in a top-secret experiment on behaviour modification. Yes. The programme was known as MK-ULTRA. The CIA started by using volunteers – the novelist Ken Kesey was one notable subject, but was abandoned after many subjects suffered mental damage. Give peace a chance? For Nixon, John Lennon was seen as the enemy. Really? Yes. The McCarthy era continued. In 1971, the FBI put Lennon under surveillance, and the immigration service tried to deport him. And smoking is bad for you? Preposterous! Even at the beginning of the 1950s, research was showing an indisputable statistical link between smoking and lung cancer, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Philip Morris even admitted that smoking could cause it.
But now let’s let a few others have their say about this subject. Here’s the great writer James Baldwin: “Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.” Any creative endeavour is certainly all about struggling against obstacles often put up by others.
And now another writer who knows all about conspiracy: “I worked for MI6 in the sixties, during the great witch-hunts, when the shared paranoia of the Cold War gripped the services,” says John le Carre.
“Well," wrote JD Salinger obtusely, “I am a kind of paranoid in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”
“Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts. A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on,” says William S. Burroughs.
And here’s another humorous writer. “Coming from Canada, being a writer and Jewish as well, I have impeccable paranoia credentials,” quips Mordecai Richler.
“Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant - it tends to get worse,“ says the journalist Molly Ivins.
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive,” says the Hungarian businessman, Andy Grove.
But what about musicians and songwriters? Do they feel paranoia?
“I know I'm paranoid and neurotic, I've made a career out of it,” says Thom Yorke, before furtively looking around to check the others are listening.
Ty Segall drops his guitar case in the Bar and admits: “I’ve always had problems with my brain, so a lot of the songs are about issues I have with paranoia or freak-outs. 'When My Head Explodes' is about being on stage, having people look at you and expecting you to perform, then literally your head explodes.”
“Well, I admit that during the lifetime of Japan I became very neurotic, very paranoid,” says David Sylvian.
Now Cher is here. Surely not her too! “Yes,” she says. “I’m scared to death of being poor. It's like a fat girl who loses 500 pounds but is always fat inside. I grew up poor and will always feel poor inside. It's my pet paranoia.”
No who’s that over there by the piano? It’s Billy Joel! “There's a deep-seated paranoia that Americans have about not being Americans or something.”
Something indeed is definitely going on, because now it’s time for you to put forward your songs on this topic. And we have another new, and mystery figure ready to take on nominations and create great playlists. Their name is Deep Throat-Singer. Welcome! What theories, musical or otherwise they will have is anyone’s guess, but all will be revealed in some way or another. Place your song nominations in comments below before deadline at 11pm UK on Monday for playlists on Wednesday. You are reading this, aren’t you?
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.