Cryptoscatology: Conspiracy Theory as Art Form, by Robert Guffey***

cryptoscatologyThis particular book is not in my wheelhouse, but I was offered a free copy in exchange for a fair and honest review, and the person doing the offering is a friend of the author’s and of mine. Thus, I found myself spiraling down the rabbit hole, reading about everything from Watergate  to the connection between the Freemasons and the Mormons. This book is available to the public right now.

Guffey’s purpose as stated at the outset is to offer an encyclopedic view of every conspiracy theory prevalent today. He organizes his book into sections dealing with pop culture and ‘mind control’; secret societies; conspiracies and the dominant Western religions; conspiracies in ‘high places’, which refers to heads of state, with the most attention being focused on Bush, Cheney, and Hitler; and conspiracies and the paranormal.  He tells us he wants to tease apart the conspiracies that have been proven to be true, such as the Watergate cover-up, from those that are from among the lunatic fringe, such as those that claim, despite all evidence to the contrary, that President Obama is secretly a Muslim and not really an American citizen. But most of what he discusses is material that he considers to be fuzzy and ambiguous, a matter of perspective.  Most of these things I regarded before and after reading Guffey’s book as more material for the lunatic fringe.

To be sure, there are some vital nuggets to be found here. Many people aren’t aware, for example, of programs of involuntary sterilization. Guffey points out that that Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California, had been convinced that there was no moral wrong in sterilizing African-American men that landed in Californian psychiatric wards and in prisons, because after all, these had been proven to be the most violent members of the population…right? Furthermore, Black kids, categorized as “pre-delinquents”,  that hadn’t actually done anything wrong might receive brain implants without their knowledge or consent so that they might be tracked and studied. However, Guffey also points out that this program was killed by more sensible people in state government and it was never implemented. This and much of the other meaty, credible material in his book was made available through the Freedom of Information Act, and because it was relatively easily found, I was frustrated that Guffey didn’t offer more widely known sources to back up his statements.  And I was also frustrated that he didn’t discuss the involuntary sterilizations of poor Black women in New York that sought abortions in the 1970s. It was ripe fruit hanging from a vine, but he left it where it was, and without providing it any mention, went on to talk about Jonestown and mind control.

Reading Guffey’s findings in a wide variety of places, one might readily accept his leaps as he adds his facts to sometimes astonishing conclusions, because he’s a good writer. He’s very fluent, but as a researcher I found him wanting. This reviewer’s spouse, who more or less skimmed, said it looked like solid work, but he didn’t read the sources cited at the ends of the chapters. Anytime something seems peculiar or surprising—no, anytime one is reading nonfiction material based on research—it’s absolutely essential to read the sources. Such audacious claims as are bandied about here should have multiple citations from as wide a variety of well known sources as is possible. In some cases it would have been fairly easy to come up with a lot of great sources in a relatively short time span, yet it isn’t done.

My conclusion: Guffey is a good writer but a less than conscientious researcher. Because of this, it’s impossible to tell which of the widely touted conspiracies examined here are actually verifiable when he hasn’t shown much proof, and which are scantly cited because there’s nothing out there beyond a few tin-foil-hatted survivalists that think it’s true.

There are those that will love this book because it offers at least the benefit of a doubt to the conspiracies to which they already ascribe. I can see these folks right now, sitting in a basement rec room somewhere telling each other, “See? And look here! He says…”

What I didn’t find was any basis for the art form mentioned in the title, beyond a few literary phrases tossed in here and there.

For those interested in today’s most popular conspiracies, this will provide hours of juicy reading. But for academics that need credible sources, this book won’t provide what you need. And that’s kind of a shame.

 

Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security, by Robert Guffey****

 

ChameleoastrangeChameleo is a twisted but true story of an addict who unwittingly becomes an experimental subject in a classified government research program, and the bizarre events that took place then and in the aftermath. My thanks go to the author, who provided me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Dion Fuller (not the person’s actual name) had been released from a psychiatric hospital in Southern California. He had procured some heroine and nodded off, permitting various equally marginal characters access to his home. Sometimes he was out of it and had no idea what was happening. It was likely during this time that the guy with the stolen classified documents and a couple dozen pairs of night-vision goggles belonging to the US government made his way into Dion’s apartment. The ensuing chaos proves once and for all that just because a person is crazy does not mean nobody is out to get them. Just ask Dion!

Guffey, the author, is a Cal State creative writing teacher who found himself involved in Dion’s situation. He had a free term at the same time that Dion, an old childhood friend, called for help. With a certain amount of necessary remove, he did his best to advise his friend while taking copious notes. Soon he became convinced that his old friend was not hallucinating.

“Imagine a ridiculous college fraternity with the resources of the entire black budget of the United States of America deciding to play one long prank on some faceless guy in San Diego. And imagine that the faceless guy is you.”

The author’s description of a malicious antic known as “Street Theater” in government circles reminded me of the dirty tricks that the Democratic Party played on the Nixon camp during the early 1960’s—cruising into town in advance, for example, and moving street signs around so that the Republicans would get lost and be late to a speaking engagement—which were later used in turn by Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President in 1972. Dion hoped that leaving his home, which was located very near a Naval installation, would make it all stop, and it did. He left California and headed cross country, but every time he got close to a US military installation, a whole train of personnel would follow him once more, like a trail of ducklings after their mother, right out there in the middle of the freaking desert.

Guffey’s story, which includes the Masons, the Illuminati (note the cover), and assorted other conspiratorial ingredients that would ordinarily cause me to stay completely fucking clear of this whacked out tale, follows Dion as far north as Minnesota, then oh dear God, to Seattle where Guffey was staying. But just as it seems it can’t get any more strange and stressful, the whole thing becomes hilarious! Your humble reviewer sat and laughed out loud about two-thirds of the way into the story, and the lighter tone that marks the book until near the end is what prevents the whole thing from degenerating into a bottomless abyss.
My only quibble with this story—and it’s a small one—is that if we must read entire transcribed passages of conversations, then the persons involved in the conversation in question should all be named, with no pseudonyms involved, so that the reader can use that transcript as a primary document if they want or need to. If that can’t happen, then some of these conversations ought to be summarized or paraphrased, at least in places. But this shouldn’t keep you from getting a copy of this memoir and reading it.

In fact, those that question authority and wonder just how far the US government has strayed from its stated ideals will welcome this strange little book, which is just well documented enough to convince me that it’s entirely true.

It’s available for purchase now.