Normative Content Farm The Millions is at it again, reassuring its pajamas-wearing audience that they are still The Norm and that the sky is still blue, grass is still green and barns are redder than ever. Even under Trump. Good Catholic Nick Ripatrazone has just reviewed a biography (Pale Horse Rider) of 20th century Parapoliticalist William Cooper, a figure so tonally Other, compared to the standard Millions-reader’s standard fare, that the choice of this book to review can only have been motivated by a perverse impulse to scare said Millions readers into kissing their kids, and their mortgages, with whinnies of relief, after hugging their wide screen Televisions. But don’t worry, kids: the naughty naughty wacky man is dead.
Ripatrazone identifies Cooper as “Host of The Hour of the Time, an infamous shortwave radio show that opened with an air-raid siren, commanding voices, barking dogs, screams, and stomping jackboots. Author of Behold a Pale Horse, one of the most shoplifted books in America—and one of the most-read books in prisons. There was a warrant out for Cooper’s arrest: He’d been indicted on tax evasion and bank fraud.”
Ripatrazone writes: “Cooper would often give his audience a suggestion: “Listen to everyone, read everything, believe nothing until you, yourself, can prove it with your own research.” Such advice sounds reasonable, but democratization of knowledge tends to make expertise less important than personal experience.”
Notice how Ripatrazone deftly (or sloppily) conflates “knowledge” and “opinion,” because, surely, the democratization of actual knowledge makes for a generally more knowledgeable (and less effortlessly hoodwinkable) electorate. It’s the democratization of the authority of opinion that muddles and nullifies the authority of expertise. Big difference… the eliding of which is necessary if one somehow wants to poo poo Cooper’s sound, reasonable and radical advice to learn how to learn and learn a lot.
The problem with Cooper being, at the very least, that the last thing he expected, or needed, was for most of his audience to follow up on such advice. The jury is out (and will remain so until the end of time, probably) on whether William Cooper was just a slightly unhinged revival tent Jeremiah with a great radio voice, goosing his trucker-culture target demographic to generate ad revenue and sell books (along with precious metals, vitamin supplements, paralegal services and survivalist camping gear)… or something more genuine and deranged. Or… even better… a government plant. A Designated Regional Boogieman, a Serfy sheepdog, spooking the core of the herd away from its fringes? Which is, of course, the esoteric category of far-fetched (or Realpolitik) theory Cooper lived on.
“His interest in conspiracy theories began with Roswell,” observes Ripazatrone, who subsequently fails to note that Cooper’s venue was actually the smallest media presence broadcasting, and stoking interest in, that particular meme. I certainly did not hear of the hoax that is “Roswell,” first, from Cooper. I saw it on TV. Many, many, many times over the years. Read about it in magazines like People, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, et al. Newspapers such as the NYT and the Washington Post. Dozens of books, from major publishing houses, from the 1970s on.
Rispazatrone writes, “Jacobson writes, “Now the weakness of the Roswell narrative—the insufficient eyewitness testimony, the lack of compelling physical evidence—became the case’s greatest selling point. If Roswell was relegated to obscurity, someone at the top must have wanted it that way.”
Ripazatrone and Jacobson, the Pale Horse Rider’s author, would appear to have failed to notice that “Roswell,” as I say, was, in fact, anything but “obscure”. And that (therefore) “someone at the top must have wanted it that way.”
So why do Ripazatrone’s book review, and Jacobson’s book, presumably, concern themselves only with the fringe-y ness of the Gubmint-baiting nutball William Cooper when Cooper was operating (huckstering/ entertaining) within the greater context of a media culture he was clearly the small-potatoes offspring of? Why was Cooper an oddball for talking about “Roswell” (and taking the obvious hoax seriously) whereas CBS, say, talking about “Roswell” (and taking the obvious hoax seriously, for millions of viewers) remains… normal? If Cooper was a little (or more than a little) off, can’t the same be said of his parent culture? Aka America? Aka The Norm?
Ripatrazone wraps up the essay with the sententious (and grammatically peculiar) stinger…
“Pale Horse Rider is a request that Milton William Cooper is worthy of our sustained attention. It is a hypnotic dive into a world where theory is considered fact.”
Two days later came another carefully-considered comment on Ripatrazone’s Normative Essay…
Ripatrazone, the good Catholic (who therefore believes in nonsense even more preposterous than “Roswell”), is clearly connecting with his audience.
(One can imagine how evocative an experience it would have been to listen to Cooper’s richly imaginative, incantatory broadcasts in an eighteen-wheeler’s cab, crossing the Great Plains late at night… as good or better than listening to X-Minus or CBS Mystery Theater. Too bad the attendant video ruins it with horrible graphics…)