from Jesse Walker’s United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory

Robert Anton Wilson laid out the basic instructions for Operation Mindfuck in a memo sent to several friends (including Paul Krassner). Participants were “to circulate all rumors contributed by other members,” and they were “to attribute all national calamities, assassinations or conspiracies to the other member-groups.”

The one great risk, he cautioned, was that “the Establishment might be paranoid enough to believe some wild legend started by one of us and thereupon round up all of us for killing Abraham Lincoln.” So they sent a letter on Bavarian Illuminati stationery to the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, just to confirm that “we’ve taken over the Rock Music business. But you’re still so naïve. We took over the business in the 1800s. Beethoven was our first convert.”

Robert Welch of the John Birch Society got a letter informing him that Gary Allen was an Illuminati agent. When a New Orleans jury refused to convict one of the men Jim Garrison blamed for the JFK killing, Garrison’s booster Art Kunkin of the leftist Los Angeles Free Press received a missive from the “Order of the Phoenix Angel” revealing that the jurors were all members of the Illuminati.

The telltale sign, the letter explained, was that none of them had a left nipple. The Discordians planted stories about the secret society in various leftist, libertarian, and hippie publications, introducing the Illuminati to the counterculture. “We accused everybody of being in the Illuminati,” Wilson recalled. “Nixon, Johnson, William Buckley, Jr., ourselves, Martian invaders, all the conspiracy buffs, everybody.” But they did not regard this as a hoax or prank in the ordinary sense. We still considered it guerrilla ontology.

My personal attitude was that if the New Left wanted to live in the particular tunnel-reality of the hard-core paranoid, they had an absolute right to that neurological choice. I saw Discordianism as the Cosmic Giggle Factor, introducing so many alternative paranoias that everybody could pick a favorite, if they were inclined that way. I also hoped that some less gullible souls, overwhelmed by this embarrassment of riches, might see through the whole paranoia game and decide to mutate to a wider, funnier, more hopeful reality-map.

They inserted that chart into The East Village Other. They placed odd ads in Innovator. They practically took over the Chicago paper roger SPARK, which once had been a fairly staid New Left outlet affiliated with the 49th Ward Citizens for Independent Political Action. The Discordians filled it with anarchist politics and surrealist satire.

Someone scanning the classifieds might see an ad declaring, “paranoids unite; you have nothing to fear but each other! Send for the informative booklet ‘How to Start Your Own Conspiracy’. Free from the Office of the District Attorney, New Orleans.” In the summer of 1969, the paper accused Chicago’s mayor of being an arm of the octopus, running the front-page headline Daley Linked with Illuminati.

In the April 1969 edition of the Playboy Advisor column, right after an inquiry about blue balls, this missive appeared: “I recently heard an old man of right-wing views—a friend of my grandparents’—assert that the current wave of assassinations in America is the work of a secret society called the Illuminati. He said that the Illuminati have existed throughout history, own the international banking cartels, have all been 32nd-degree Masons and were known to Ian Fleming, who portrayed them as SPECTRE in his James Bond books—for which the Illuminati did away with Mr. Fleming. At first, this all seemed like a paranoid delusion to me.

Then I read in The New Yorker that Allan Chapman, one of Jim Garrison’s investigators in the New Orleans probe of the John Kennedy assassination, believes that the Illuminati really exist. The next step in my galloping descent into credulity occurred when I mentioned this subject to a friend who is majoring in Middle Eastern affairs. He told me the Illuminati were actually of Arabic origin and that their founder was the legendary “old man of the mountains,” who used marijuana to work up a murderous frenzy and who fought against both the Crusaders and the orthodox Moslems, adding that their present ruler is the Aga Khan; but, he said, it is now merely a harmless religious order known as Ismailianism.


I then began to wonder seriously about all this. I mentioned it to a friend from Berkeley. He immediately told me that there is a group on campus that calls itself the Illuminati and boasts that it secretly controls international finance and the mass media. Now (if Playboy isn’t part of the Illuminati conspiracy), can you tell me: Are the Illuminati part of the Masons? Is Aga Khan their leader? Do they really own all the banks and TV stations? And who have they killed lately?” The letter was signed “R.S., Kansas City, Missouri,” but it had actually been cooked up by Wilson and Thornley. Wilson’s reply, written in the light and neutral tone expected of the Playboy Advisor, cleared up most of the historical confusions contained in the letter (though it added the unsupported claim that Weishaupt’s Illuminati were “based loosely” on the Old Man of the Mountain’s order). The Berkeley Illuminati, Wilson added, were “a put-on by local anarchists.”

It wasn’t always easy to tell where Operation Mindfuck ended and sincere paranoia began. “The Discordian revelations seem to have pressed a magick button,” Wilson later wrote. “New exposés of the Illuminati began to appear everywhere, in journals ranging from the extreme Right to the ultra-Left. Some of this was definitely not coming from us Discordians.” Not that it was always clear who “us Discordians” were either. Though some of the Berkeley Illuminati were acquainted with Thornley, they had independently invented the joke of posing as an ancient conspiracy. At one point, Wilson recalled, the Los Angeles Free Press printed “a taped interview with a black phone-caller who claimed to represent the ‘Black Mass,’ an Afro-Discordian conspiracy we had never heard of. He took credit, on behalf of the Black Mass and the Discordians, for all the bombings elsewhere attributed to the Weather Underground.”

Wilson and Thornley met only once in that period, when Wilson spent the night at Thornley’s place in Tampa in 1968. They smoked some pot and started ruminating about their project. “What if there really is an Illuminati?” Wilson asked. “Maybe they’ll find out about us and be pissed.” Thornley replied, “I doubt if there is. And if there by some chance is, they would probably be very happy to have wildass fools like us covering up for them by spreading bizarre theories.” In 1969, Wilson and another Playboy editor, Robert Shea, began to work on what would become the most influential element of Operation Mindfuck.

Inspired by the nutty letters the magazine often received, Shea and Wilson decided to write a novel “perched midway between satire and melodrama, and also delicately balancing between ‘proving’ the case for multiple conspiracies and undermining the ‘proof.’” The result was Illuminatus! It was basically finished in 1971 but it wouldn’t be published for another four years, with significant cuts and with the book sliced into three volumes.70 A one-volume edition finally appeared in 1984…”

OM 2.0: Hippie effort to destabilize the American dream may have worked too well
by Douglas Rushkoff  /  Apr 24, 2019

“Propaganda used to mean getting people to believe stuff. Now it means getting them to question what they believe or whether there’s any truth at all. However disorienting this is, it may not be all bad.

The term “propaganda” originally referred to a 17th-century committee of Roman Catholic cardinals that sought to propagate the religion through foreign missions — the marginally and only temporarily benevolent face of European colonialism. In modern times, public relations guru Ed Bernays revived the term to describe the way Woodrow Wilson’s administration convinced Americans to support U.S. involvement in World War I. Propaganda was about telling the same story through so many media channels at once that there appeared to be only one story. Today, however, the primary goal of government propaganda is to undermine our faith in everything.

Not just our belief in particular stories in the news, but our trust in the people who are telling the stories, the platforms, and fact-based reality itself. Facts are, after all, the enemy of beliefs. What many of us forget is that this new style of influence through disorientation is really an appropriation of the counterculture’s techniques. This is what the Situationists were doing. So were the hippies and “heads” of the 1960s. Before Watergate anyway, it felt as if the press and the government were on the same side, telling the same story to us all.

There was no way for the underfunded counterculture to compete with mainstream reality programming—except by undermining its premises. The flower children couldn’t overwhelm Richard Nixon’s National Guard troops, but they could put daisies in the barrels of their rifles. Taken to the extreme, this sort of activist satire became Operation Mindfuck, first announced in 1975 by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea in their Illuminatus Trilogy. The idea was to undermine people’s faith in government, authority, and the sanctity of consensus reality itself by pranking everything, all the time.


The idea of Operation Mindfuck was to break the trance that kept America at war, blindly consuming, and oblivious to its impact on the rest of the world. Destabilize the dominant cultural narrative through pranks and confusion. Say things that may or may not be true — but probably not. But maybe. Levitate the Pentagon as an act of protest. Publish conspiracy stories about Jackie Kennedy walking in on Lyndon Johnson sexually abusing the exit wound in JFK’s head when his body was being transported back to Washington, DC.

Operation Mindfuck sought to suggest that anything anyone in the counterculture was doing at any time might just be part of an elaborate prank. This put outsiders in a difficult position: The only safe assumption was that anything a hippie was doing was part of Operation Mindfuck — some sort of trick or game. But because this could only lead to paranoia, one had to assume that whatever they were doing was probably harmless. They were, after all, just pranks. For their part, the counterculture agitators hoped the assumption that they were just jesters would keep them safe from any real persecution. But over the ensuing decades, it was the progressive left whose ideas ended up becoming mainstreamed. Really, from All in the Family onward, it was progressive values in fictional TV — Maude to M*A*S*H, Murphy Brown to The West Wing. And as that became the dominant cultural narrative, Operation Mindfuck became the tool of the alt-right. Is the Cult of Kek — that Egyptian frog cartoon — real?

Can they cast spells on social media that change the way people think and vote? Or consider the president himself, releasing more decoys per minute than an Apache helicopter and forcing Americans to, at the very least, entertain the notion that the entire media is run by the deep state. Anything is possible, right? Climate change is a hoax. The earth may be flat, as an increasingly vocal minority are arguing. Easily misinterpreted videos on Twitter force everyone to stop and think twice before deciding they know what it is they’re really looking at.

But the value of Operation Mindfuck isn’t just the opportunity to exchange one delusion for another. It’s not about replacing the fantasy of a borderless world with that of a walled nation-state or that of a free-market jungle with communism, but seeing all of them as extreme, ideological endpoints. These are reality tunnels — perceptual limitations and conceptual frameworks, shaped by our experiences and prejudices. None of them can be understood as absolute. But at the same time, we have to remember that some of these tunnels are a whole lot closer to reality than others. It’s up to us to choose the most constructive and compassionate ones to inhabit.”

the Dual State of the West
by Ola Tunander / 2008/01/01

“This essay originated as an unpublished 2008 conference paper. It was later incorporated as chapter 2 of the book Government of the Shadows: Parapolitics and Criminal Sovereignty. [1]

“In a 1955 study of the United States State DepartmentHans Morgenthau discussed the existence of a US ‘dual state’. According to Morgenthau, the US state includes both a ‘regular state hierarchy’ that acts according to the rule of law and a more or less hidden ‘security hierarchy’ — which I will refer to here as the ‘security state’ (also known in some countries as the ‘deep state’) — that not only acts in parallel to the former but also monitors and exerts control over it. In Morgenthau’s view, this security aspect of the state — the ‘security state’ — is able to ‘exert an effective veto over the decisions’ of the regular state governed by the rule of law.

While the ‘democratic state’ offers legitimacy to security politics, the ‘security state’ intervenes where necessary, by limiting the range of democratic politics. While the ‘democratic state’ deals with political alternatives, the ‘security state’ enters the scene when ‘no alternative exists’, when particular activities are ‘securitised’ — in the event of an ‘emergency’. In fact, the security state is the very apparatus that defines when and whether a ‘state of emergency’ will emerge. This aspect of the state is what Carl Schmitt, in his 1922 work Political Theology, referred to as the ‘sovereign’.

Logically speaking, one might argue that Morgenthau’s ‘dual state’ is derived from the same duality as that described in Ernst Fraenkel’s conception of the ‘dual state’, which Fraenkel described as typifying the Nazi regime of Hitler’s Germany. In the Nazi case, though, this duality was overt, combining the ‘regular’ legal state with a parallel ‘prerogative state’, an autocratic paramilitary emergency state or Machtstaat that operated outside or ‘above’ the legal system, with its philosophical foundation in the Schmittian ‘sovereign’. Fraenkel refers to Emil Lederer, who argues that this Machtstaat (‘power state’, as distinct from the Rechtstaat) has its historical origins in the European aristocratic elite, which still played an important role within European society after the triumph of democracy.

This elite acted behind the scene in the 1920s, but considered it necessary to intervene in support of the Nazi Party in the 1930s to prevent a possible socialist takeover. However, this autocratic Machtstaat — the Nazi SS-state — was arbitrary, because of its individualised command. In his analysis, Morgenthau draws a parallel between Nazi Germany and the US dual state. Indeed, in his view, the autocratic ‘security state’ may be less visible and less arbitrary in democratic societies such as the US, but it is no less important. Morgenthau argues that the power of making decisions remains with the authorities charged by law with making them, while, as a matter of fact, by virtue of their power over life and death, the agents of the secret police… [and what I would call the security state: author] at the very least exert an effective veto over [these] decisions.

Below, I will demonstrate that the activity of the ‘security state’ — or the ‘deep state’ — concerns not just the vetoing of democratic decisions, but also the ‘fine tuning of democracy,’ for example through the ‘fostering’ of war or terrorism to create fear and increase public demands for protection. The ‘security state’ is able to calibrate or manipulate the policies of the ‘democratic state’ through the use of a totally different logic of politics — a kind of politics that in this book is referred to as ‘parapolitics’ and which operates outside the law to define the limits of the legal discourse. The argument presented here is not meant as a normative statement, but rather as an attempt to describe and analyse the Western state as it actually operates, both inside and outside the law….

…Morgenthau was a traditional ‘realist’ who inherited important ideas from Carl Schmitt, and was able to flesh out Schmitt’s rather abstract analysis of the sovereign. My ambition in this chapter is to continue along that path, to give yet more substance to this line of thinking and, at the same time, make it accessible to a wider audience… …Once again, the US was developing a security system that included both sides of the coin. With the end of the Cold War and the decline of the Soviet threat, however, many Europeans believe this ‘dual structure’ — with its specifically tasked terrorist units — may have evolved into an instrument for establishing not only internal Western stability but also US global hegemony. In such a world, war is no longer waged between the large armies of major powers, but by ‘special units’ to create ‘a special mental atmosphere… to keep the structure of the society intact,’ to quote George Orwell’s 1984….


…The above examples show that the ‘sovereign’ — the ‘security state’ or what some would call the ‘deep state’ — is able not to just limit the range of the democratic discourse but also to manipulate or ‘fine tune’ such discourse… …In the world of democracies, the ‘sovereign’ — the ‘deep state’ — has always to implement its game of fear and protection covertly and its very existence is always denied in public.

Thus, the problem with liberalism in political science and legal theory is not its ambition to defend the public sphere, political freedoms and human rights, but rather its claim that these freedoms and rights define the Western political system. Liberal political science has been turned into an ideology of the ‘sovereign’, because undisputable evidence for the ‘sovereign’ — what Vinciguerra simply calls the ‘state’ — is brushed away as pure fantasy or ‘conspiracy’. Schmitt has been described as an apologist for the autocratic emergency state in Germany, but when we look closer he rather emerges as a scholar unveiling the dual state — the hidden autocratic security force parallel to the democratic state. Some might argue that this dual state is defensible, others not, but we should be aware that the liberal denial of its very existence is based on an illusion.”