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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Robert Anton Wilson in a California newspaper

Sal Rodriguez (official OC Register photo)

The Orange County Register,  a newspaper in southern California, runs a column on Robert Anton Wilson, "Musings on Robert Anton Wilson and the prevalence of conspiracy theories," by Sal Rodriguez, opinion editor and columnist for the newspaper chain that owns the paper. 

It's not unusual for newspaper pieces to make a reference to RAW; I run across them from time to time. What is noteworthy about the Rodriguez piece is that it is illustrated by a big photo of Wilson, and it's all about Wilson and the continued relevance of his ideas to looking at the current prevalence of conspiracy theories in the U.S.:

"I first came to really appreciate the nuttiness of humanity as a high schooler when I came across the work of the late author Robert Anton Wilson.

"Wilson, also known as Pope Bob to the Church of the SubGenius, was one of those old-school counterculture journalists who liked to dabble in mysticism and psychology. Oh and psychedelics, can’t forget the psychedelics.

"One of his guiding ideas was that 'belief is the death of intelligence.' And he meant that in the broadest possible sense. He was dogmatically anti-dogmatic and encouraged people to explore as many alternative explanations for what’s going on as possible, for edification and entertainment."

Incidentally, the Orange County Newspaper was owned for many years by Freedom Communications, and during that time it had editorial stances that were unusually libertarian. The Wikipedia article on the paper offers examples:

"Although it sometimes supported Republican politicians and positions, it was the largest newspaper in the country to have opposed the Iraq War from the beginning and opposed laws regulating issues such as prostitution and drug use. It was one of a handful of newspapers that opposed the internment of Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans during World War II. It also opposed Proposition 8 in 2008, which proposed a ban on same-sex marriage."

Freedom Newspapers went bankrupt (the newspaper industry in the U.S. has been in a deep recession for years) and the Orange County Register was bought by an outfit named Digital First Media that owns many California papers. 

But Rodriguez, listed as opinion editor for 11 newspapers in the Southern California News Group, the local family of Digital First newspapers, apparently has kept up that libertarian tradition. I am pretty sure this opinion is not a stretch, as Rodriguez worked for the Reason Foundation before he entered the newspaper business.

Rodriguez joined the Register in 2014, when it was still owned by Freedom Newspapers, and the list of column topics on his official page shows a definite libertarian tinge: "Speaking frankly, we could use a new dose of Zappa now," "The gradual, overdue dismantling of the War on Drugs," "Stop enabling California’s taxation addicts" and "The right shouldn’t completely dismiss the BLM movement" seem like typical headlines. 

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