PERVERSE CONCEITS of the SO-CALLED NORM

perverse conceits

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.”

I commented:

Cooper was a classic American type and not really fringe at all. From Elijah Muhammad to Father Divine to Father Coughlin… to Billy Graham, Falwell and Robertson… to Clare Prophet, Kahlil Gibran, Bhagwan, Jane Roberts, Garner Ted Armstrong, Carlos Castaneda and all the rest (with Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, Charlie Manson and David Koresh on the genuine fringe)… there’s a long American tradition of charismatic hucksters blending Millennarial thought-systems with entrepreneurial zeal and (occasionally) stockpiled weapons. Some of these hucksters are “respectable” and some (like Cooper) aren’t. Cooper was a “wacko” because he had fewer followers than Billy Graham. Well, in fact, Cooper really was a wacko. As was Graham.

What makes Cooper extra interesting was the overlay of ’50s Sci Fi that lent his spiel a little interplanetary resonance (he must have read some Charles Fort as a kid). If he isn’t a figure straight out of Ray Bradbury’s stuff, his spirit certainly went directly to the spiritual plane of one of Philip K. Dick’s pulpiest stories when he died, with his old testament cadences and pseudo-Mystery School vocab and all that juicy UFOlogy (later recanted).

Cooper’s dark, imaginative scripts map territory that overlaps not only with PKD but with Edgar Cayce, as well… the American neighborhood it covers is so large, in fact, that any biography of Cooper that doesn’t touch on all these above-mentioned figures (and more) is missing an opportunity and the point. Which being (and I’m sure that Greil Marcus would agree with me here): the vast network of spooky crawlspaces under all those faux-green American lawns of the 19th and 20th century… be they Republican, Democrat or Third Party as well as Undecided. Paging David Lynch.

Consider (this in a Rod Serling voice) the American ability to somehow imagine a categorical distinction between the unfalsifiable “conspiracy theories” of a huckster like Cooper, and the similarly unfalsifiable theories of a huckster like Rachel Maddow. Forget weighing the actual evidence: the stack of (carefully vetted, cross-referenced) books one must normally read in order to be conversant in just about any topic of importance, under debate, is not necessary when one is the choir being preached at by a charismatic huckster super-charged with her/his and your own absolute certainty: you go with your stupid gut. From stupid to crazy is not only merely a skip and a jump but fun… especially when you have lots of company.

From “WMD” to “Russiagate” to “magic bullets” to “the Right Wing Conspiracy against the Clintons” to “OJ is innocent ” to “the lizard people” to “the gulf of Tonkin incident was real” to “Michelle Obama is a man” to “Ross Perot was a kook” to “flat earth” to “Cosby was framed” to “JFK and/or Obama wanted to end all War” to “gender is fluid” to “Native Americans are connected to the Earth” to “the Universe is teaching us something” to “my house plants like it when i talk to them” to “god gave this land to his chosen people” and all that preposterous jazz…

… “It is a hypnotic dive into a world where theory is considered fact,” and in which every side of every ridiculous debate is justifiably convinced that the other side is insane.

Two days later came another carefully-considered comment on Ripatrazone’s Normative Essay…

Dank.

 

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…)

 

 

ADDENDUM: My comment on Ripatrazone’s good Catholic essay is worth a read, too, as it mentions JJ, the Pope’s scourge

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49 Comments

  1. Critical Thinking FTW – as ever, StA
    (what with the nowadays “stack of … one must normally read”, tho, I’m exhausted – not to mention woefully behind)
    ah well

    yours in skepticism
    : )
    m

    Like

    1. Mlle Mimi!

      If you haven’t already, watch or listen to the appended William Cooper video… let it play in the background while you’re doing Yoga… it’s a masterpiece of Fabulation. Again: I enjoy picturing the cab of an 18-wheeler late at night, illuminated by the eerie glow of the dashboard radio, while Cooper intones his weird texts about Babylonian Mystery Schools and Osiris and all such glorious bunk … a mournfully uninhabited Nebraskan or Texan vista the backdrop. The sheer grand Bradburyian poetry of it! And I wonder how many of his many followers were merely longing for the reassuring Daddy Voice of those masterful bedtime stories…? (Insert image of under-lit trucker with tears rolling down his cheeks). A very 20th century American phenom.

      Like

  2. I got about 17-18 minutes into the Cooper, that’s all the time I had yesterday, but I will finish watching it (due diligence, heh).
    Can’t say I’d call it “reassuring Daddy Voice” – more of a Throwback Old School Mansplaining Vibe to me, but OK.
    I’ve watched 2001 any number of times, and think I “get it” (yes, Coop, it’s not about aliens!), but I did appreciate his Cain & Abel tie-in. Makes sense, broad, human-story-telling-wise.

    I don’t do Yoga… only very occasionally I do feel the need/urge/desire to strike a Warrior 2 pose, tho.

    Cheers, Stevie!
    : )
    m

    Like

    1. Mimi!

      (just staggered in from the studio… it’s 12:31 am here and my ears are ringing)

      Not *your* Daddy’s Daddy Voice… the Truckers’! (laugh). And, obviously, what counts is Cooper’s Huckster-Force creativity… the specific content is horseshit. (He’s not quite qualified to break down 2001: A Space Odyssey, is he? For that you’d have to be a Cinema Freaknerd who understands that Kubrick was showing Godard how to make an Art Film in the exalted style Godard himself argued for, that is, as a medium unto itself, and not merely a subsidiary of Theater or Lit: Pure. Kubrick was a competitive bastard… I love him! Right over William Cooper’s noggin and the hundred thousand noggins of those trucker-capped sons of his… )

      Like

  3. well, the Truckers’ Daddy Voice sounds to ME, NOW, like now-irrelevant-generation Mansplainin’, Steevee (typo, left as…) …. time marches on –

    – like I often say to my students: time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana! …

    [me? tired from workday, but not staggering*…]

    I’m thinking – I need to re-watch (and re-watch and re-watch) Kubrick (why not!!!!)
    Godard Tarkofsky Welles et cie

    need to watch Karina dance the Madison,
    need to think about the word ‘Pure’

    & & & cie

    like I said, … tired

    : )
    m

    PS read your comment about JJ on The Millions – another convo-say-shun totally (JJ can make me cry) (rather, I can let JJ make me cry…)

    : b

    PPS – vett my style, baby, anytime… but vent my cogency?…….. hrmmm… – – – – uh oh !!!

    * not that there is something wrong about staggering… there isn’t!!!!

    Like

    1. Mlle Mimi!

      Anyone who finds herself using the term “mansplaining” three times in a week should get a free round trip ticket to Berlin, where they will have the eye-opening experience of being (Ger)mansplained-to by every German native they meet, even the 8-year-old girls… you realize soon enough that even sententious American pipe-stem-chewing Dads from the 1950s are bush league mansplainers compared to the pros, of every age and gender, in Der Daddyland. My fave personal experience being the time that the guy working in Just Music (in Prenzlauer berg) *corrected* my pronunciation of my own last name (the German language doesn’t believe in that silent “e” we Anglophone types rely on)! He was serious! But, also, a young lady I was dating soon after I first arrived tried to correct me on the pronunciation of the word “canon” (as in, “JJ’s Ulysses is forever ensconced in the canon”)… she was quite adamant, in a patiently condescending way, that the “a” in “canon” is a long one, a la “Canaan” (and only the gods know how she might have insisted I pronounce “Canaan”). So, yeah. You think you know Mainsplaining, get yourself on over here and try on some full-strength GERMANSPLAININ’, man! Pfew! lach

      PS “Staggering” should, I think, be the technical term for how crabs walk, primarily, and should have come to be applied to humans walking similarly (for whatever reason of disorientation or handicappage) via fisherman’s slang. Don’t know why but that alternate-world etymology would make me happy… sigh.

      Like

      1. Excuse me, dazzling duo, for interjecting a Germansplain of my own. Once while waiting for a flight in a busy corridor of the Frankfort airport, I yawned. Without breaking stride a woman who’d seen my yawn tapped her lower jaw as if to push it closed. I stood corrected. Wtf?

        Like

        1. Jeff! Jeff. I’m starting to think you’re… peculiar. Jeff? Have you forgotten that I’m not deceived by the halo-of-bullshit oozing over the propaganda-image of your beloved uncle Peter Matthiessen, the Cold War creep who used his lucrative hobby as a CIA “agent of influence” to hype his plodding/ pompously crypto-colonialist books and pervert the course of postWar American culture? How have you morphed into a guy leaving chatty comments about the comments here… ?

          Having said that: you weren’t, technically, Germansplained in Frankfurt… you were yawnshamed, Jeff. Own it. That crazy lady didn’t want to see your tonsillectomy scar or smell your latest egg Macmuffin (sp?), did she? of course not. That shit may fly in Kennebunkport or Chappaquiddick, but…

          BTW

          Like

          1. Truth be told, I myself am a yawnshamer – usually shaming my students* ** (“Hey! If I can stay awake, you can stay awake!”) In the tradition of Albee’s Martha (I don’t know what you have to be tired about. You don’t DO anything.***)

            But I never shame them about anything else****. Although I am often sorely tempted, whilst watching them eat so much CRAP (junk food!)

            * oh wait, could this mean I’m….. BORING????
            ** actually more of a noddin-nappin-shamer (hey, that sounds German!)
            *** not a direct quote – gotta grab my play book
            **** wanna keep my job!

            Like

            1. I remember seeing that Albee-derived flick (have we discussed this before?) on TV, in the 1960s, and finding it, instinctively, somehow, as terrifying as anything on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery

              PS “Der Noddinnappinshamerdingzeug ist wieder kaput, Schatz, du drecksau!” (from a German translation of Albee’s play)

              Like

  4. my German sister-in-law first Germansplained to me, on the eve of her nuptials to my bro, the correct contents and preparation of potato salad

    we don’t get along too well

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (bites lip, tries to think of baby carriage scene from Battleship Potemkin, makes high-pressure-gases-leaking-through-clamped-lips-sound nevertheless…)

      [ed.’s note: Beloved Wife is nicely Foreignized; yes, sometimes she alphabetizes the spices, so that the common ones we use every day are inconveniently behind the exotic ones we rarely use and are therefore hidden or unreadable, but I just switch those back to their best spots, twice a year, based on usage rather than theory, without mentioning it! The trick to a harmonious heaven!]

      Like

  5. you folks need two spice sections –
    1. common ones, alphabetized (!?)
    and
    2. exotic ones rarely used, also, of course, alphabetized

    … or not

    that BP baby buggy scene is so horrifying!!!!
    yes, there are some things worse than botched potato salad

    Like

    1. or 3. I keep my own, secret cache of spices in my office, on a shelf behind my editing-PC’s screen…

      PS Are you confessing that you violated the objective international standards for potato-salad making, established by Friedrich lll, on the second day of his 99-day reign, in 1888…?

      Like

    1. …a snakebite kit, jeweler’s loupe, an OED on microfilm and a bust of Voltaire (with a forged signature from Dali) are on my nightstand (hidden under a sombrero). Because you never know… (or know all too well)…

      Like

      1. Re: sombrero

        So, getting dressed for work tomorrow, I could put on a kilt; some Ghillies, or Brogues, or beaded moccasins, or nutukkaat; an Animists United* t-shirt; a reindeer pelt around my shoulders; and a babushka on my head… and not be accused of cultural appropriation – yes? no?

        I’ll just stick to blue jeans, a Raiders or Cal t-shirt, and flip flops**

        * made-up organization name
        ** actually, I’ve been told not to wear flip flops to work…. so, sandals, non-denominational

        Like

        1. “I’ll just stick to blue jeans, a Raiders or Cal t-shirt, and flip flops”

          I can’t believe you’d wear a Raiders (culturally insensitive to pirates and whoever they raided) t-shirt! And don’t get me started on the etymology of “Cal” (as in “California”)!

          Like

          1. lol good one you’re right!

            denim – de Nîmes, too French; flip flops too ‘Japanese’; dang it

            Okay okay back to the kilt and Brogues, with a WHITE t-shirt!

            Like

        1. but if you were an explorer-spy worth your salt you’d have nightstands all over the world

          imagine the __________-looking nightstand possibilities!

          Like

            1. “also, you could have a something-else that looks like a nightstand –”

              You mean like a two-way radio/ knockout-gas dispenser/ jet pack combo? Erm… hypothetically, I mean?

              Like

  6. I don’t understand the architectural logic of my own comment thread reply chains! Shouldn’t each reply appear directly beneath each respective initial comment…?

    Like

    1. huh –
      well, the architecture of your comment threads are appearing logically “on my end” –
      that is, replies are lining up where they logically/intuitively should –

      But isn’t this fun! ?!?!?
      (This ties into your ‘campfire’ thoughts about shoddy/‘imperfect’ language ) We are, inadvertently or otherwise, part of it, the beautiful mess

      PS – let’s see if this comment lands where it oughta !

      Like

      1. Weird… for me they are stacking out of sequence… replies bundling together, far below the comments to which they were intended to reply!

        And: yes: this is Fun because it’s virtually impossible… genius, madness and sorcery combine so we can chit chat across skies, under oceans and through solid rock

        Like

  7. sorry for my comment-absence (re: Memphis Three, yr Soundcloud, surreal-ish explorer-spy gear, etc etc etc) Steve-O

    hint: I just googled: what is the medication they put in my tooth in the firat phase of my root canal? (sic)
    : /
    m

    [Editor’s note: I know “firat” is a typo, but “firat phase” sounds so cool; so arcane and technical… named after Gustav Firat, the father of Woozology]

    Liked by 1 person

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