Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Jesse Walker on pranks that spark real beliefs
Jesse Walker has a great new article up at Reason on conspiracy theories, "From Antifa to UFOs, One Joke Can Spawn a Thousand Conspiracies." It's about how joke and prank conspiracy theories can morph into conspiracy theories people take seriously. (Of course, there are also serious conspiracy theories that dissolve into jokes when you look at them too closely, such as the Christian Crusade claim, mentioned in Illuminatus!, that the Beatles were a Communist plot).
Every RAW fan should read Jesse's article. There's a section which references Wilson by name and discusses reactions to Illuminatus!
But in a sense, much of the article is about Wilson. There's a discussion of the Priory of Sion (explicitly created as a hoax, Walker says) and how is spawned two prominent works of bestselling fiction, Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code. Jesse does not mention the book, but of course the Priory of Sion also helped spawn Wilson's The Widow's Son.
Many other themes and incidents in Wilson's work also are covered, including the guy who got pancakes from a UFO (mentioned in Cosmic Trigger) and a theory that the Rosicrucian manifestos began as a prank, written by authors who "lost control of the narrative."
Then there's this sentence: "To read a certain sort of Fortean writer is to be constantly unsure about when he's being serious, when he's pulling your leg, and when someone is pulling his leg."
That sounds to me like a description of Wilson, although Walker says, "For the record, the particular Fortean writer I had in mind when I wrote that line was John Keel...but it works for others."
Related: If you like Jesse's piece, you might want to read his book.