Are We There Yet? is a feature in which I break down the current issue of Endtime Magazine, the bimonthly print publication of Endtime Ministries. As you might have guessed, Endtime’spurposeis to advance the notion that the end of the world is nigh and that current news events were prophesized in the Bible’s more apocalyptic passages. The magazine has been published for 22 years without ever questioning whether the end times are actually upon us, which is impressive in a way. I’ll be writing this column every other month or so until the sounding of the first trumpet, or until I get bored with it, whichever comes first.
You’d think it would be pretty fun to write for a magazine where you constantly get to talk about the end of the world—the gigantic battle between good and evil, the seven seals, the Antichrist announcing himself, all that cool stuff. It’d be especially thrilling for you every time a new pope gets announced because, obviously, you get to ask, IS THIS POPE THE FINAL, EVIL POPE WHO WILL USHER IN THE AGE OF THE ANTICHRIST? Plus you get to run a cover of that new pope surrounded by flames and resembling a villain from one of the Star Wars prequels.
(The secret to making the Catholic church look evil is that any old man in fancy robes like that looks evil. And that collection of cardinals behind the pope on Endtime’s cover provide another ominous-looking visual. If the church wants to improve its image, maybe it should stop dressing its leaders in blood-red robes and having them assemble in high-ceilinged places full of ancient, grotesque statues? Gatherings like this look fucking terrifying. But I digress.)
The Conspiracy Theory Community Are Dangerous Enemies to Make
It was a clear day in New York when the poster-boy of British conspiracy theory made a shocking announcement. Times Square buzzed behind Charlie Veitch as he stood there, training a camera on himself and declared something so unthinkable, so upsetting, insulting, ignorant and evil, that it changed his life. To paraphrase, he said: I don’t believe the American government blew up the World Trade Center. He uploaded the video to his YouTube account and then everything went bananas. You see, the conspiracy world, of which Charlie was a central part, doesn’t like it when you question their accepted truths. Charlie’s revelation cut deep. Their champion was about to become their most hated pariah. ……….
Conspiracy theories really depress me. Hours after the bombs went off in Boston, Buzzfeed were able to publish a post called “6 Mind-Blowingly Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Boston Bombing.” Conspiracies are where the libertarian and the hippie meet, and today not a single event of note can pass without being fed through the paranoid grinder of the fantasists. But their stupidity is not the most miserable thing about them. No, the most depressing thing about them is the rate at which they’ve been taking over for the last decade.
In 2012, the philanthropic Leverhulme Trust, most notable for funding dreary desk-based research, offered a grant for academic investigation into conspiracies. “Conspiracy theories,” their announcement read, “have received remarkably little examination. Though they prompt almost obsessive attention in the public imagination, they have been largely ignored by academic research.” It’s true, encouraged by the internet, fuelled by the global economic crises, championed by popular culture (Dan Brown and The Matrix, specifically), the last ten years have seen a conspiracy boom. Perhaps, while extreme Islam has gained more press, and smug atheism is more sensible, it’s possible to argue that conspiracy theory has become the first dominant philosophy of the internet age. No-doubt, the Leverhulme Trust—with its connections to the multinational corporation Unilever—and its grant, inspired far more paranoia than academic insight.
Earlier this year Public Policy Polling conducted a survey about the public’s trust in some of the more established and outré conspiracy theories. The results are infuriating enough to drive rationalists up a tower with a rifle and start shooting. Apparently, 13 percent of respondents suspect that Barack Obama is the Antichrist, while 37 percent of Americans think that global warming is a hoax, and 28 percent of dickheads believe in a sinister global New World Order conspiracy. I’m told it’s supposed to be consoling that only four percent believed in David Icke’s lizard men, but the way I see it: FOUR PERCENT OF PEOPLE WITH A VOTE BELIEVE IN LIZARD MEN.
MEXICO CITY: WAS THE PEMEX BLAST A BOMB OR AN ACCIDENT?
The executive skyscraper at the headquarters of Pemex—Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly, where an explosion this January killed 37 people—is 51 stories tall, plus an elevated helipad at the top. The entire glass exterior has turned a flat metallic yellow from Mexico City’s brutal smog. I’ve lived in Mexico for more than five years, and I always think that at sunset, the helipad looks like it could be a sacrificial platform.
Which is now a terrible thought. The victims of the explosion at the Pemex headquarters on January 31 were mostly regular, everyday office workers. They were secretaries, maintenance guys, accountants. One of the dead was a nine-year-old girl named Dafne Sherlyn Martinez who reportedly went to visit her father that day at work. They both died.
According to official sources, a gas leak caused the explosion. But this official narrative has been called into question and some suspect it was a political attack—another deadly salvo in the hall of smoke and mirrors that is Mexican politics.
Why would anyone try to blow up Pemex? The company is the eighth largest producer of oil in the world, according to the US Energy Information Administration. It’s also a state-run monopoly, making something like $580 billion dollars a year in oil exports, or about a third of the entire country’s GDP. Mexico expropriated its oil industry from all foreigners in 1938, lionizing forever the president responsible for this, Lazaro Cardenas. The constitution still strictly forbids foreigners from owning any of the oil here, and the popular leftist leader, Andres Manual Lopez Obredor, who narrowly lost the last presidential election in Mexico, promises to “defend” Pemex from “privatization” with everything he’s got, which basically adds up to street protests if his record on the matter offers any guidance. Critics like to say that Mexico is now more adverse to foreign investment than the state-owned oil company of Cuba, a Communist-governed country that gets most of its oil from Venezuela and does permit some foreign investment in its oil holdings.
WE SPOKE WITH AL WALSER -THE EURO DJ WHO TROLLED THE GRAMMYS
Yesterday, everyone started collectively freaking out while trying to uncover how Al Walser—the dark horse candidate alongside more famous douchebags like Avicii, Skrillex and the Swedish House Mafia—managed to score a nomination for Best Dance Recording at the Grammy’s…even though nobody has any idea who the fuck he is.
Al’s “hit song,” which currently has 5,000 views on Youtube, is a low-budget carnival of cheesiness that you’ll have to endure for three minutes to understand what the hoopla is all about. Even then, it may be hard to grasp the collective sum of human atrocity happening before your eyeballs. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather listen to Skrillex’s vapid screeching for an hour than have to play that video again (so please, guys, let’s not make this a meme?).
I don’t need to tell you how horribly embarrassing this debacle is for the Grammy Academy, which has lost most of its relevancy anyway. While they haven’t commented on it officially yet, an “anonymous source” toldHouse.net that “This kind of thing doesn’t happen. [The Grammy Academy] takes this really seriously. They are super embarrassed that this happened.”
Meanwhile, Spin dug up the fact that Walser also runs a record label/PR firm called Cut the Bull—which has an incredible logo of a pissed off bull flaunting its anus, behind a pile of shit being cut by a pair of scissors (seriously). He offers consultations to aspiring musicians, but only after they provide their Paypal or credit card details. These are some of the DJs signed to Cut the Bull:
As if this story couldn’t get any weirder, a bizarre Barack Obama cameo pops up in a video posted on Walser’s Myspace page, in which circa-2007 Obama asks Walser about Liechtenstein—the tiny country that he grew up in.
Nobody seems to know what the fuck is going on, I decided to give Al a call and let him explain himself a little. The “DJ” I talked to was slick (con artist kind of slick, not put-your-dinger-in-me-now kind of slick) when he wanted to be, like when he was harping about how EDM shouldn’t be just about the the big-time artists. Or when he was recounting how he “hit it off” with Obama and Michael Jackson.
But as soon as I mentioned anything about a “hoax,” he got super agitated and started yelling about suing people for libel. So if you’re reading this, Al, fine: I don’t think you hacked the system. I think you’re a very capable self-promoter who took advantage of the fact that most Grammy voters are hopelessly out of touch with the state of contemporary music. And you networked spammed the shit out of them until they circled your name on the ballot sheet. So congratulations! You’re now as respected as Skrillex. What an achievement.
Anyway, here’s what he had to say for himself:
VICE: Hey Al, congrats on your nomination.
Al Walser: Thank you so much, Michelle. But first can you give me a rundown? What is Vice magazine exactly, is it about dance music?
Sure. But we also cover a lot of other stuff—movies, sports, politics…
So, what everyone wants to know right now is how you got nominated alongside Avicii and Calvin Harris, who are pretty much household names at this point. And yet no one has really heard about you until today. How did that happen?
First of all, I’m a big fan of all the guys that were nominated by me, I’m very inspired by them, and I’m a huge fan of some of them that did not get nominated.
I think it’s a long story. I’m going to have to start with the fact that the Grammys consist of people who are half-time musicians, and sometimes have a day job. These are people, maybe in their forties, that are not too familiar with EDM music. I just have a very close relationships…I met all these people—my fans—and I have email newsletters that let them be part of the process. I send these newsletters out to thousands of people, some of them who are also maybe voting members. So they become a part of the song, and I nourish that environment.
When someone emails me, I email them back. They appreciate it, and I don’t think that some of the other guys in that category would even have the time to do all that. So there’s a nourishment going on that the other guys probably can’t even handle because they’re too busy doing other things. That puts me at an advantage with the voting members.
Second of all, I think the voting members, and the US in general, is probably not too familiar with a DJ being behind a DJ booth and just putting their hands in the air and fist pumping to his own music. So maybe they appreciate the fact that I’m doing everything from A to Z. I’m producing my own music, I DJ, I’ve been around for decades. I’ve been performing in Japan in ’97, in front of a hundred thousand people. I’ve been in this game for a really long time. This is not a joke.
And guess what, Michelle? They connect with me because I communicate, so there is close relation right there. Are you still listening?
Yep. I’m here.
The other thing is, why should this always be about the big production with a lot of money spent? Why is it okay that the big corporations spend a lot of money all over the place, why should that always be better than an independent artist? And if you would have to quote me in one phrase, I would tell you that “this is the rendezvous with destiny for all the independent artists.”
The Young Guard is the youth wing of President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia Party. They’ve tended to exist as a less intense, less Hitler Youth-like version of Nashi, a similar Kremlin-backed, pro-Putin youth movement that intimidates people who oppose Putin’s policies, go to rallies dressed as Star Wars storm troopers to distract from anti-government protesters, and, allegedly, beat up critical journalists to within an inch of their lives.
Since part of the Young Guard’s role is to prepare young people to discharge their civic duties as stoogesof the Putinist junta, they need to maintain an air of respectability. Not that this has stopped them propagating Putin’s cult of personality by making a video reenacting his most famous publicity stunts with sexy young women in the role of Vlad.
However, being respectable isn’t the same as being sane. Responding to Putin’s recent statement on the need to “confront totalitarian sects” operating in Russia, instead of looking in a mirror and repeatedly slapping themselves, the Young Guard turned up to Mormon meeting houses last week in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities and picketed them, accusing Mormons of being “foreign agents” paid by the USA to brainwash young Russians. They also claimed that many young Mormon missionaries return to America to become members of the FBI and CIA.
When I heard that a group of brainwashed idiots were picking on another group of brainwashed idiots, I felt confused and sad at how stupid the whole world is. So I decided to talk to Elena Nechiporova, the Russian press contact for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The Young Guard presented the Mormon missionaries with a “one way plane ticket back to Washington,” complete with CIA logo.
VICE: Hi Elena, how are you? Elena Nechiporova: I’m doing great, thanks.
Great. So you’re not lying in a pool of your own blood after the Young Guard brutalized you, or anything? No. They just picketed our meeting houses, but nothing was happening there on that day anyway. The picket was peaceful.
I see. Why do you think they are targeting the Mormons? That question should be addressed to the Young Guard. We’ve never had contact with them before this. I don’t think they know anything about who we are or what we believe. We’re happy to start a dialog with them, though. We have a lot of smart and worthy young people in the church who are the same age as Young Guard members. They’d have a lot of things in common to discuss.
These Idiots Think They Are Being Brainwashed by CAPTCHAs
The inspiredly-named Swedish civil rights organization, Civil Rights Defenders, recently launched their own spin on CAPTCHAs (those irritating, unintelligible words that you have to type into that little box on secure websites) in an attempt to verify the empathy levels—and thus the humanity—of anyone typing words into said box. Those boxes are pretty essential nowadays, considering the amount of bots, trolls and horses that stalk the internet, but, until now, nobody’s bothered putting much thought into what actually goes in them. Probably because no one cares what goes into them.
The Civil Rights Defenders’ CAPTCHAs ask users a civil rights-related question and provide three opinion-based answers. For example: “The Albanian Vice Minister of Defense, Ekrem Spahui, thinks that gays should be beaten up with a stick. How does that make you feel? Fascinated, homesick, or terrible?” Then lets you through if you input the right answer.
Although it mostly provokes laughter over deep, ponderous thoughts—the prospect of feeling “sexy” about Serbian police cancelling a Pride parade sounds like a Steven Wright joke—it’s a fundamentally nice idea and is obviously intended purely for good. However, some people aren’t OK with having their opinion about Albanian ministers beating gays with sticks dictated to them. Some people want more options when it comes to expressing their opinions about homophobic physical abuse. People like the guy who sent this email. Let’s call him Tom.