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Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 43, Illuminatus! online reading group

(This week: "It's time for you to see the fnords," he replied, page 437, to page 446, "Suddenly Joe was looking at a brightly-lit computer screen.")

Here we come to the episode in which Joseph Malik sees the fnords.

"Fnord" is a word that has acquired more than one meaning; Wikipedia says it "s a word used in newsgroup and hacker culture to indicate that someone is being ironic, humorous or surreal. Often placed at the end of a statement in brackets (fnord) to make the ironic purpose clear, it is a label that may be applied to any random or surreal sentence, coercive subtext, or anything jarringly out of context (intentionally or not)." In many instances, I see it used as a signal that someone is familiar with Discordianism or Illuminatus!

But in the passage we're talking about this week, it seems to have a specific meaning. It's the messages in the media designed to feed the power of the government by creating fear, usually of "them." Crime is out of control, so it's regrettably necessary for police to shoot unarmed people dead. The Muslim terrorists are out to get us, so the government has to spy on everyone in order to protect us. 

Or as the book says, (page 439), "Of course, the essence of control is fear. The fnords produced a whole population walking around in chronic low-grade emergency, tormented by ulcers, dizzy spells, nightmares, heart palpitations and all the other symptoms of too much adrenalin ... No wonder the poor bastards believe anything they're told .... "

"If I pointed out a fnord to anybody who hadn't been deconditioned, as Hagbard deconditioned me, what would he or she say?" (page 439.) In America, it seems as if only a minority of "deconditioned" people question whether it really makes sense to fight endless wars halfway around the world.

A couple of notes: 

"I turned the radio to WBAI and caught some good Vivaldi," page 438. WBAI, a public radio station, has gone mostly news talk like every other public station in the U.S. Obviously, the top down "impose culture on people" model for classical music hasn't worked, but I hate the fact that classical music is seen as boring and irrelevant. Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" is a particularly popular work. Schroedinger's Cat also has references to Vivaldi. [Update: While I accurately describe a general trend, I'm wrong about WBAI in particular; see Jesse Walker in the comments.]

"It's time you took those pictures of the Rolling Stones off your wall," page 440. One of Timothy Leary's favorite bands.

"We don't expect C.L. Sulzberger to grasp the importance of Fernando Poo ... " page 445. Foreign affairs writer for the New York Times.

(Next week: "WHEN ATLANTIS RULED THE EARTH," page 446, to "THE END," page 462. On to Atlantis!)


Jesse said...

I don't think there was ever a time—certainly not since Pacifica took it over in 1960—that the WBAI schedule was dominated by classical music.

Jesse said...

Here is a WBAI program guide from the period when Illuminatus! was being written. As you can see, classical music is just part of a very eclectic mix (with plenty of news & talk).

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I stand corrected! Just assumed they were part of the general trend, which has seen a lot of public radio stations switching from classical music and/or jazz to news/talk.

Eric Wagner said...

The movie "They Live" reminds me of "seeing the fnords". I also thought that film had a Phildickian feel to it.

Oz Fritz said...

My Grandfather used to drive a Fnord. I wonder about the origin of fnord, perhaps our Discordian Emeritus knows? As the sign says, it is the word Ford with a "n" stuck in; n = Death.

The Rolling Stones and the American Medical Association appear to symbolize illicit and licit drugs. Another instance of opposites. Changing the posters from the Stones to the AMA comes right after the fnord scene, maybe suggesting the real AMA as one big ?

JCG said...

WBAI was also the station that hosted the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade, which was hosted by RAW's friend and fellow 'Chaote,' Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey). I am in the middle of digitizing the show and putting it on the web. You can listen to a few of the most entertaining episodes (IMO) here:

As I mention in a book review of Carole Cusack's Invented Religions (which has a chapter on Discordianism), the moment in which someone 'sees the Fnords' is akin to a form of awakening. Here, the Discordians are blending the 'birth of class consciousness' moment in Marxism with Buddhist Satori to form the 'aha!' moment when you reach another level of Discordian understanding.

p.443:'the actual energetic contact'
I like to track the development of Reich's thought in this text as it amounts to Discordianism' sexual politics

@ Eric Wagner: I totally thought of They Live as well!

Oz Fritz said...

p.440 The last paragraph describing the AMA reads like an alchemical engineering diagram through the qabalistic lens.

'Four owl-eyed faces stared at him. They were dressed in one-piece white suits, and three of them were joining extended hands to form a triangle, while the fourth, Wolfgang Saure, generally acknowledged to be the leader of the group, stood with his arms folded in the center. The picture was taken from above so that the most prominent elements were the four heads, while the outstretched arms clearly made the sides of a triangle, and the bodies seemed unimportant, dwindling away to nothing. The background was jet black.

We see once again the interplay of 3 and 4, the Empress and Emperor of the tarot also related to many other archetypes.

John said...
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