Tag Archives: conspiracy theory

“The War Is Over! John Lennon Lost!”: Did the FBI Kill John Lennon?

1 Aug

uslennon

Yesterday I wrote about Allen Ginsberg’s connection to Timothy Leary and the CIA. I’ve already told you before that the Beat Generation influenced The Beatles, and today I’m here to tell you John Lennon had a connection to Timothy Leary and the FBI. Welcome back to Conspiracy Theory week!

Years ago, I went to the Angelica to see the film Jesus Camp, which I reviewed for Burnside Writers Collective. During the screening, a woman burst into the theatre and shouted:

The war is over! John Lennon lost!

Only in New York, right?! I think she was in the wrong room. The year was 2006, and another film was out at that time: The U.S. vs. John Lennon. That film pointed to evidence that the US government had tried to silence John Lennon, who had become increasingly counter-cultural as the years wore on and influential in his anti-war protests. From what I’ve read, it is alleged that, under Nixon, the government tried to deport Lennon, who was living in New York when he was fatally shot.

Most know the story of John Lennon’s murder outside the Dakota on December 8, 1980, as the lone act of Mark David Chapman, who plead guilty. He was examined at Bellevue Hospital—where Beat icons William S. Burroughs, Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs, Carl Solomon, and Allen Ginsberg spent time (read my book Burning Furiously Beautiful for more details!)—and believed to be psychotic. He had been carrying J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye at the time of his murder and said it “holds many answers.” However, Chapman eventually decided he wanted the insanity defense dropped, and he plead guilty. He’s been in jail ever since, denied parole at every appeal. In August of this year he’ll be up for his next parole hearing.

Conspiracy theorists hold that the US government killed John Lennon.

  • Steve Lightfoot wrote a booklet that suggests that Nixon, Reagan, and even Steven King are tied to John Lennon’s murder
  • Mae Brussell writes in “Conspiracy Planet” about a conspiracy chain revolving around Lennon’s murder

Plug in a search online for “John Lennon murder conspiracy,” and you’ll find dozens of websites devoted to allegations that the US government and FBI were involved in The Beatles’ death.

Of course some conspiracy theorists also say Paul is dead.

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Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and the CIA

31 Jul

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It’s widely acknowledged that the Beat Generation writers experimented with drugs, which influenced both the content and style of their writing. I’ve written before about how Allen Ginsberg’s drug use shaped his writing when he had a vision while reading William Blake, forever guiding his poetry.

But dear old Allen Ginsberg was also leery of America’s hand in the drug trade.

Let me backtrack a moment. In 1960 Allen Ginsberg became friends with Timothy Leary. Timothy Leary was an American psychologist born on October 22, 1920, in Springfield, Massachusetts—meaning he’d been born near Herbert Huncke, Jack Kerouac, and John Clellon Holmes a little after Huncke was born and a little before Kerouac and Holmes were born. At Harvard University—which William S. Burroughs also attended—Leary conducted experiments involving psychedelic drugs for the Harvard Psilocybin Project.

The friendship between Ginsberg and Leary led to the psychedelic revolution, with Leary popularizing the phrase:

“Turn on, tune in, drop out”

Timothy Leary invoked Socrates when he said:

“Question authority”

The irony of this, though, is that Leary didn’t drop out or subvert authority. Much like the way the CIA funded abstract expressionism, Leary was doing research at an ever-prestigious Ivy League college which consisted of experimenting on prisoners (see the Concord Prison Experiment). This isn’t all that different than in the 1950s when the CIA launched Project MKULTRA, which administered LSD to unwitting participants as a means toward experimenting with mind control. In fact, prior to meeting Leary, in 1959 Ginsberg participated in experimental studies of LSD at Stanford University, which it turned out were administered by psychologists working for the CIA to develop mind-control drugs. Leary also began experimenting on writers.

Peter Conners’ book White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg, published by City Lights in 2010, alleges that Leary used Ginsberg to further publicize his studies. Here’s the marketing copy for the book from City Lights:

In 1960 Timothy Leary was not yet famous — or infamous — and Allen Ginsberg was both. Leary, eager to expand his experiments at the Harvard Psilocybin Project to include accomplished artists and writers, knew that Ginsberg held the key to bohemia’s elite. Ginsberg, fresh from his first experience with hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico, was eager to promote the spiritual possibilities of psychedelic use. Thus, “America’s most conspicuous beatnik” was recruited as Ambassador of Psilocybin under the auspices of an Ivy League professor, and together they launched the psychedelic revolution and turned on the hippie generation.

White Hand Society weaves a fascinating and entertaining tale of the life, times and friendship of these two larger-than-life figures and the incredible impact their relationship had on America. Peter Conners has gathered hundreds of pages of letters, documents, studies, FBI files, and other primary resources that shed new light on their relationship, and a veritable who’s who of artists and cultural figures appear along the way, including Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Thelonious Monk, Willem de Kooning, and Barney Rosset. The story of the “psychedelic partnership” of two of the most famous, charismatic and controversial members of America’s counterculture brings together a multitude of major figures from politics, the arts, and the intersection of intellectual life and outlaw culture in a way that sheds new light on the dawn of the 1960s.

Years later, 1967 to be exact, this conversation between Leary and Ginsberg took place about “dropping out”:

Ginsberg: For instance, you haven’t dropped out, Tim. You dropped out of your job as a psychology teacher in Harvard. Now, what you’ve dropped into is, one: a highly complicated series of arrangements for lecturing and for putting on the festival…

Leary: Well, I’m dropped out of that.

Ginsberg: But you’re not dropped out of the very highly complicated legal constitutional appeal, which you feel a sentimental regard for, as I do. You haven’t dropped out of being the financial provider for Milbrook, and you haven’t dropped out of planning and conducting community organization and participating in it. And that community organization is related to the national community, too. Either through the Supreme Court, or through the very existence of the dollar that is exchanged for you to pay your lawyers, or to take money to pay your lawyers in the theatre. So you can’t drop out, like DROP OUT, ’cause you haven’t.

The year after that, Ginsberg penned an article called “Remarks on Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy” for The Village Voice, in which he suggested the American government was trying to silence Leary:

Timothy Leary quit public life to write a book in Mexico some years ago, but he was searched by Agents of Government as he went to cross borders, arrested for possession of some herb, and thus forced to interrupt his writing, return to public action, and defend his person from attack by the State. So he traveled to academies and lectured to the young, & thus he paid large legal fees required by the State & thus maintained an Ashram of fellow seekers well known in Millbrook. Agents of Government raided and repeated abused the utopia, whereupon Dr. Leary was obliged to be Dr. Leary and lecture more to raise money for his family of imprisoned friends. Agents of Government concluded this phase of prosecution with a piece of Socratic irony so blatantly echoing an old Greek injustice that the vulgar rhetoric of a Tyrannous State would need only be quoted to be recognized, were it not for the fact that these States are by now so plagued with Tyrannously inspired chaos and public communication so flooded with images of State Atrocity from the alleys of Saigon to the parks of Chicago that official public conscience here now, as memorably in Russia and Germany, is shocked, dumbed & amnesiac.

Ginsberg grew to become leery of the government’s hand in drugs. Researching, Ginsberg became convinced that the CIA was involved in drug trafficking. Ginsberg’s poem “CIA Dope Calypso” uses the following refrain:

Supported by the CIA

Wikipedia gives a quick summary of Ginsberg’s conspiracy theory that the CIA profited off of drugs:

Through his own drug use, and the drug use of his friends and associates, Ginsberg became more and more preoccupied with the American government’s relationship to drug use within and outside the nation. He worked closely with Alfred W. McCoy who was writing The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia which tracked the history of the American government’s involvement in illegal opium dealing around the world. This would affirm Ginsberg’s suspicions that the government and the CIA were involved in drug trafficking. In addition to working with McCoy, Ginsberg personally confronted Richard Helms, the director of the CIA in the 1970s, but he was simply brushed off as being “full of beans”. Allen wrote many essays and articles, researching and compiling evidence of CIA’s involvement, but it would take ten years, and the publication of McCoy’s book in 1972, before anyone took him seriously. In 1978 Allen received a note from the chief editor of the New York Times, apologizing for not taking his allegations seriously so many years previous.[83]

Despite our notions of how counter-cultural drug use is its history is steeped in academia and politics. Even so-called counter-cultural writers theorize the government is behind drug trafficking.

Of course there are others who’d suggest that it was Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg who were conspiring to change the world.

 

That’s Cute that You Think You’re Subversive: How the CIA Promoted the Radical Arts During the Cold War

29 Jul

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During a recent writing workshop that I’m part of with two female writers, our conversation rambled along to the topic of how the CIA had advanced abstract expressionism. That weekend one of the writers asked if I’d pass along the article I had referred to. I did a quick search for it online, and realized I’d actually read several articles about how the CIA had been involved in promoting artistic and intellectual communities that many people tend to think of as nonconformist, liberal, and subversive.

Here’s a quick roundup of articles about the CIA promoting nonconformist art and literature:

  • The article I was thinking of was The Independent‘s “Modern art was CIA ‘weapon,’” about how the CIA used art to show how free-thinking the US was in comparison to Russia during the Cold War
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education published “How Iowa Flattened Literature,” which shows the CIA’s involvement with the esteemed Iowa Writers Workshop
  • Work in Progress’George the Gentlemanly Ghost,” references the CIA being involved in The Paris Review.  It’s worth noting that Jack Kerouac’s first clip from On the Road was published in The Paris Review. (You can read more about that in my book Burning Furiously Beautiful.)
  • Encounter Magazine, the UK lit mag founded by poet Stephen Spender and journalist Irving Kristol in 1953, was funded by the CIA

I’m sure there are more, some we know of and some we don’t. Please add your stories and links in the comments section.

There’s a lot to be said here, but it raised a few questions for me:

  • Without the CIA’s help in funding and promoting modern arts, would these works have remained obscure?
  • Is modern art a scam, and traditionalists correct that it’s not real art?
  • Is the art and literature of the 1950s and ’60s a reaction to or a product of its times?
  • Can something be subversive even if it’s a political ploy?

Whole books could be written in answer to these questions. They’re important topics to consider and discuss, but I want to take a far less Big Brother approach and ask:

  • What are you trying to accomplish by being subversive?
  • Why do you want to be different?
  • Where do you get your information and how do you evaluate it?
  • Who is challenging you to think outside of your own box?

I’m all for dancing to the beat of your own drum. But is that what you’re really doing?

 

The Quotable Greek: Think for Yourself

28 Jul

“To find yourself,

think for yourself.”

~ Socrates

 

“Think for yourself.” Hear that?

Welcome to Conspiracy Theory Week!

Gripster: Storm Stylin’

26 Aug

 

Hey all you hurricane hipsters, hopefully Hurricane Irene will blow out to the ocean and this whole state-of-emergency situation will have just been the government’s effort to revitalize the economy through the mass purchase of flashlights (you know us Greeks love our conspiracy theories) but just in case here are some tips for staying storm styling during Hurricane Irene:::

If you’re like me and totally unprepared for any sort of emergency and don’t own a flashlight, shame on you!  By now, all the flashlights are gone.  Even finding candles in the drugstores is getting hard.  Get creative.  Barnes & Noble* is a tranquil oasis right now, and they just so happen to sell a wide variety of battery-operated reading lights.  Just because it’s for reading, doesn’t mean you can’t use it to find your can opener if the lights go out.

While you’re there, pick up the Barnes & Noble* ereader the nook if you don’t already have one.  Charge it up pronto and download some books.  If the power is out for a long time, you’ll have plenty of reading material.

It’s still a good idea to have some candles on hand.  If you can’t find any at the drugstore or grocery store, that’s okay.  Class it up with some scented candles from Bath & Body Works.  I picked up the Cranberry Woods one during the winter holiday sale and am loving it; right now their summer scents are on sale.  (PS: I’m obsessed with the Black Currant Vanilla aromatherapy line, if you ever want to buy me a you’re-my-favorite-blogger gift.  But that could be weird if I don’t know you.  Hm, never mind.)

Speaking of scents, if we don’t have access to water that means you won’t be able to shower.  I suggest some perfume or body splash to keep you smelling fresh.  I’ve got Bath & Body Works‘ Plumeria body splash (which always makes me think of my Hawaiian friend from undergrad) and Zara‘s Creme (which my sister gave me).  And remember, just because you can’t shower doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reapply your deoderant.

Now you may not be able to wash your hair but you can use an oil-absorbing dry shampoo.  I’ve used the TRESemme dry shampoo with mixed results.  That said, I do favor their regular shampoo and condition.  And, they don’t test on animals.

Another great animal- and eco-friendly company is The Body Shop, where I’ve been shopping since middle school.  I love the Tea Tree Oil line, and today stocked up on their cleansing wipes in case I won’t have access to water to wash my face.  Bonus: there’s a buy 2 get 1 free sale on select lines right now at The Body Shop.

While at The Body Shop, I also picked up anti-bacterial hand sanitzers in my most favorite scents satsuma and pink grapefruit.  I normally advise against these sorts of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers because I fear using it will lead to the creation of a resistant super-bug, but hey, you’ve got to have clean hands somehow if there isn’t good old-fashioned soap and water.  Plus these ones smell amazing, unlike some brands that smell like rubbing alcohol.

If you wear contacts, keep your stylish glasses in an easy to locate place.  In fact, make a to-go bag of all your critical necessities (medication, keys, cash, etc.).

Now in terms of food, non-perishables does not have to mean SPAM!  The Village Voice published a great piece called “How to Stock Up for Irene: A Gourmet Guide to Hoarding.”  And all you Gripsters (Greek hipsters) will be happy to know they call stuffed grape leaves (ahem, dolmathes) ” the queen of canned vegetable matter.”  A shout out to my Swedish side, they also suggest Swedish hardtack.

I’m getting word via social media that the Trader Joe‘s line is crazy insane right now (which, really, is nothing new), but another great Greek food to have on hand is the Trader Joe’s Kalamata olive spread.  If you get it fresh in Astoria like you normally would it will need to be refrigerated, which isn’t good if the power goes out.  But the Trader Joe’s version doesn’t need to be refrigerated til after it’s opened.

Nutella!

Have some nuts on hand for protein.  Unsalted is best so you don’t drink all your water.

Instead of potato chips, why not veggie chips?  I got mine from Gourmet Garage.

I couldn’t find a single jug of water.  But you know what I could find?  Perrier.  Now I can feel fancy during the storm.  And to ghetto it up, before the storm hits, fill up your Brita water filter, travel mugs, coffee pots, flower vases, sauce pots, you name it, with tap water just in case.

I’ve seen a lot of people buying alcohol.  Not to sound like your yiayia but I’d caution against drinking alcohol during Hurricane Irene.  Not only will it dehydrate you, causing you to drink more of whatever precious water you have, but should you need to evacuate you need to be as clear-headed as possible.

You should indulge in something though.  I recommend chocolate!  My friend Sally gave me a milk-chocolate bark and a dark-chocolate bark from Jacques Torres Chocolate.  Let’s not forget about the Greek American chocolate brand Chocolate Moderne I mentioned in my recap of the Gabby Awards after party.  Gourmet chocolate won’t prevent the hurricane but if you’re stuck inside your apartment during torrential rains you might as well eat something sinfully delicious.

How are you staying storm stylin’?

 

*I work for a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble.