Monday, June 9, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week 16

(This week: Page 154, "ILLUMINATI PROJECT: MEMO #17" to page 164, "That would probably be a Fascist plot, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish and anti-Negro.")

For today's episode, I went a pulled an extract from Robert Anton Wilson's Right Where You Are Sitting Now:

Taking somebody's money without permission is stealing, unless you work for the IRS; then its taxation. Killing people en masse is homicidal mania, unless you work for the Army; then it's National Defense. Spying on your neighbors is invasion of privacy, unless you work for the FBI; then its National Security. Running a whorehouse makes you a pimp and poisoning people makes you a murderer, unless you work for the CIA; then its counter-intelligence.

Lately is is fashionable to claim that Nixon was a bit nuts toward the end of his career. I doubt it; he had merely been in government so long (1946-1974) that he had forgotten there was another America (outside Washington) where people still believed in something called common decency. 

(This is entitled "The Watergate Syndrome" and it's on page 159 of my And/Or Press edition. A stamp at the front of my copy says it was purchased from Peace of Mind Books, "Nation's Largest New Age Selection," in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

Isn't that a great quote? Of course, the bit about National Security is wildly outdated,  but I guess that's what happens when you dust off an old book dating back to 1982.

But I wanted to post the bit also because I think it relates nicely to the courtroom scene, pages 156-158, e.g. Hagbard Celine's question, "Why can't we say highway robbery is highway robbery, instead of calling it eminent domain?" And then on the next page, the judge upholds the federal government's right to redefine whether a "bandit" is someone who takes something of yours without your consent: "I will not hear the United States government called bandits again."

Of course, under eminent domain, a landowner is supposed to be entitled to fair compensation, but at the end of the day, it's not up to you and it's not a consensual transaction; if the government wants your land for an airport, a highway or a dam, it can take it. The U.S. Supreme Court even ruled in 2005 that eminent domain can be used to take away private property to make it somebody else's private property, if it is done for "economic development." (In the United States, "economic development" means the government provides tax breaks or direct subsidies to a private business, usually at the expense of another private business.) Incidentally, Indian tribes in the U.S. are supposed to be sovereign on their own land (they often have their own license plates, are not subject to many of the usual state taxes, etc.) so it is relevant to question whether the same eminent domain rules apply to them as apply to everyone else.

In the courtroom scene, Hagbard and John Feather both try to warn about the danger of a government which acts as if the actual meaning of words does not matter.

Libertarians and anarchists will love the courtroom scene, of course, but the discussion is also relevant if merely still believe in civil liberties. How much, in 2014, do the words of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights matter?

For the Bill of Rights, the record would appear to be mixed. For the most part, the First Amendment is still in relatively good shape; freedom of speech, of religion and of the press is still pretty strong in the U.S. The Second Amendment has not become a dead letter, either,  thanks to the efforts of a well-organized gun lobby.

On the other hand, as I alluded to in my sarcastic comment above about the NSA, the Fourth Amendment is very much in play. Many of us believe that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" was flaunted when the National Security Agency took it upon itself to collect phone records for everyone in America.

(Next week, Page 164: Muldoon grinned. For once I don't have to play Watson, he thought, to Page 173, "Now is that communism, or isn't it?")


beowulf1723 said...

Pp. 154-155: Wikipedia on the Vehmic Courts.

p. 159: Is Pat a plant in the Confrontation office? If so, who’s she working for?

p. 160: W. H.: Not the dedicatee of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, but the "Reverend" William Helmer. See pp. 119-120.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I've been having trouble getting a handle on Pat myself, so if anyone can lend a hand, it will be appreciated.

fuzzbuddy said...

Pat Walsh is an odd character I think. She eventually just disappears.

From later in the book:
(Down the hall in the lady's room, bolting the door for privacy, Pat Walsh takes her transistorized
transmitter from her pantyhose and broadcasts to the receiver at the Council on Foreign Relations
headquarters half a block east "I'm still writing lots of Illuminati research papers, and they'll give him plenty of false leads. The big news today is an article on Erisian economics by a Fernando Poo national. It came with a covering letter signed 'Mal,' and from the context, I feel fairly certain it's the original— Malaclypse the Elder himself. If not, at last we've got a lead on that damned elusive Malaclypse the Younger. The envelope was postmarked Mad Dog, Texas . . .")

Council on Foreign Relations = The Illuminati in the book I think.

fuzzbuddy said...

Some of these names are amusing...relating mainly to old horror films:
Pg. 156. George Kharis.
Pg. 156. John Alucard.
- Dracula backwards.
Pg. 156. Thomas Moriarity.
Pg. 156. James Moran.
Pg. 156. Justice Quasimodo Immhotep.
Pg. 157. “as long as the mountain stands and the grass is green.”
- Anyone got a good link to where this can be read in full?
Pg. 163. Malik’s information.
- Which information?

beowulf1723 said...

@fuzzbuddy: The CFR is an Illuminati front, according to some.

When first encountered, the memos seem a variation of "The Blind Men and the Elephant" routine. Pat's broadcast from the WC turns that into a deliberate disinformation campaign. (I think Saul has mentioned this as a possibility already.)

In the list of judges, two are Conan Doyle villains and enemies of Sherlock Homes: Moriarty ("The Final Problem"), and Sebastian Moran is an cohort of Moriarty's ("The Adventure of the Empty House").

Chad N. said...

The courtroom scene & the Celine-Native American dialogue generally are my favorite fiction, period. Pretty much every time Celine appeared in the book, I read it a dozen times over.

Some of the Cagliostro/Hugh Crane material in SC ranks right up there with it, IMO.

michael said...

p.160 " The John Dillinger Died For You Society has its headquarters in Mad Dog..." - this is one of many references that will be on stronger footnote-footing now that Adam Gorightly's book _Historia Discordia_ is out. I have a couple photocopies of RAW letters with Dillinger stamps on them, along with one of RAW's favorite stamps "see mental health records."

p.161, Saul expounding, with lit pipe, and we find out that he read AC Doyle in 1921, and seems to have desired to "play" the part of Holmes later in life, and now he'd doing it: I love all the meta- aspects of Illuminatus!: a fictional character reflects on how another fictional character influenced his behavior in the book...and yet much later in the book the very idea of "characters in a book" goes to a whole other level.

Then, on p.162, we find out Muldoon has read the Holmes stories too and the omniscient narrator tells us Barney thought the part played by Watson in the Holmes stories -sitting in admiration of Holmes's "deductions" was the most "unrealistic" aspect of those stories.

One way to frame this sort of literary effect is as a type of Brechtian alienation technique. When we stop and think, "Barney's right: that stance that Watson took - of admiration of Holmes's powers - taxes verisimilitude," we are reflecting on another "fictional" character who seems to be on "our side" of things. Subjectively, I note a momentary feeling of bizarre "reality" or, the success of Shea/RAW: getting the Reader to question the status of "reality" and possibly feel as if the Reader "is" living in some sort of text.

Along these lines, the numerous "jump cuts" in the book SHOULD make us question who is suddenly narrating the book. We can do some analysis concerning who seemed to be explaining or narrating "last" and assume it's a continuation - based on voice, tone, subject matter, etc - but how "sure" are we that we know who (or What) is narrating?

Eric Wagner said...

The octopus metaphor on pg. 162 made me think of later Octopus Conspiracy theory.

JCG said...

"The best form is neutralization..."p.162-163

This section is a real hoot if you think about it not in terms of how the Illuminati deal with new recruits, but with how Shea and Wilson are using Illuminatus! to attract more people to Discordianism. Esp. considering how well Saul puts on the "logic and empiricism" routine in his deductions about the Illuminati directly after Wilson and Shea lay out their agenda.
Giving the mark (here, the reader) some juicy information so as to hook them on a heavier con is a confidence trick that very well may have a specific name too.