I Tried to Get a ‘Simpsons’ Writer to Admit That the US and Fox Orchestrated the Arab Spring
Conspiracy theories about politics and the US are as big of a cultural staple in the Middle East as hummus and pita.
In Egypt, the news broadcasters served as Mubarak’s puppets until 2011 when independent news sources popped up after the uprising. State-run news still exists in Egypt, and censorship is far from gone. Journalists face imprisonment on charges for anything from defamation to terrorism if the network they’re associated with “disturbs the peace”—basically talks smack about the government. It’s not just journalists; a puppet was accused back in January for “sending coded messages of terrorism” in a Vodafone commercial.
Since Egyptians don’t know who to trust, their imaginations often run wild, conjuring their own ideas and stories about “what’s really happening” to make sense of the chaos that surrounds them. Stories usually involve Zionism, the US, and the Muslim Brotherhood in some diabolical and fantastical plan on the basis of zero logic.
Like how The Simpsons episode, “New Kids on the Blecch,” from 2001 proves US involvement in the Syrian uprising.
A quick plot refresher: In this episode, Bart, Milhouse, Nelson, and Ralph form a boy band the Party Posse, make a hit song called “Drop Da Bomb,” and in the music video, they drop a bomb on what appears to be an unknown Arab country but the Syrian opposition flag is prominently displayed on the jeep. Since the flag didn’t exist and the Syrian opposition wasn’t a thing in 2001, the conspiracy theorists took to Facebook and claimed that the US has been behind the Arab Spring the whole time. The revolutionaries are either foreign-backed, no-good scum trying to destabilize the region OR they had responded to subliminal messages sent through American pop culture that would only be in syndication in the Arab world years later therefore the collapse of the region couldn’t be traced back to the US government. Pretty fucking clever.
Well, these devious US antics couldn’t possibly get past the people who gave the world beer and algebra. The theory quickly migrated from social media to the actual news on May 5, when Tahrir TV anchor, Rania Badwy, aired the music video segment of the episode. In her analysis she points out that the conspiracy started on Facebook but she ends with, “The episode was created in 2001 before the Syrian opposition even existed… This raises many question marks about the Arab Spring and about when this global conspiracy began.”
Who knows! Maybe the US actually mapped out the Syria uprising 13 years ago, and the hard evidence is this Simpsons episode. Did the US send subliminal messages to the Arab youth so they’d revolt against their leaders? My Egyptian blood might’ve been jonesing for a good conspiracy, but I needed validation. There was only one way to find out, so I called up Tim Long, the writer of the “New Kids on the Blecch” episode, and tried to get him to admit to me that the US actually orchestrated the Arab Spring.
VICE: I just want you to know that this is a safe space, and you can be honest with me. Did you know that the Free Syrian Army would exist 13 years ago when you wrote the episode?
Tim Long: I’ve been making a lot of jokes about how I totally knew and that was the secret reason I wrote it. I don’t want to make that joke in print, because people take these things very seriously. I will say to you that I did not know that.
So it wasn’t a subliminal message sent to the Arab youth to revolt against their leaders?
It so wasn’t and the whole thing is so headachey, because the thing about being a comedy writer is that you’re a coward and you’re not willing to take stand on anything, much less a conflict that I don’t even begin to understand. It’s hilarious. The ironic thing about this [episode] is that it’s about subliminal messages. The idea is the Bart and his friends are recruited to join a boy band, but it turns out that the guy who recruited them is using it as a recruitment tool for the US Navy. There are all sorts of backward sentences in the song; it’s not a small episode in terms of its scope. Crazy things happened, but we did not take into account that it would somehow fuel the Syrian uprising.
Looks Like the Leftist Fringe Was Right About What’s Killing the Bees
Two big news stories just came out about potential causes of Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious plague resulting in the deaths of billions of bees, and triggering an endless stream of environmentalist hysteria. One news story focused on mites; the bigger story blamed pesticides.
Now that the list of suspects is being narrowed, a rift is forming between apologists for the pesticide industry, and the same bleeding-heart environmentalists who’ve been making noise about this all along. After years of wait-and-see news reports, things are getting cinematic: The evil chemical corporation might be the bee murderer after all, but if it is, it’s not going down without a fight.
These dying bee stories with no certainty in sight have been background noise for years. Even when a dire New York Times article came out in 2013 saying perhaps half of all bees needed for agriculture had died, it sounded too familiar to really shake us. Conversely when the news earlier this year was that deaths had slowed a little, we didn’t really notice that either.
But it’s been an exciting few weeks in the world of All-the-Bees-Are-Dying News.
This Man Claims Hitler Is Buried in Spain
Julio Barreiro Rivas is a Spanish sculptor, composer, writer, and historian living in Venezuela. The octogenarian was born in the Galician province of Pontevedra and since then has led a pretty interesting life: heading up a family band called Los Hijos de la Casa Grande, masterminding an alleged orgy island for senior Venezuelan military officers, and claiming to have met Hitler. In fact, Julio has an interesting theory about Hitler: He says that history’s most despised man never killed himself at all and actually died and is buried in a cemetery in Galicia, northwest Spain.
“This finding wouldn’t change Europe’s history; it would just modify it,” he told me modestly during a 30-minute international call. “People in Berlin and Russia know that Hitler and Eva were very unlikely to commit suicide one day after their wedding. Their friend Franco needed to compensate them for their favors in times of war, so he kept Hitler’s gold in Spain.”
Admittedly, there are a vast amount of holes in Julio’s story. Who are these “people in Berlin and Russia” who “know” for certain that Adolf and his lover would not have spent their honeymoon killing themselves? And how does he know that the former fascist dictator of Spain owed Hitler a favor? Still, Julio is committed to his tale and tells it with a burning intensity. When you speak to him, you get the feeling that this isn’t a prank, a joke, an attempt at being snide, or even some kind of artistic allegory. When I spoke with him, he genuinely seemed to believe what he was saying.
"Even more nonsensical is the story about their bodies being burned with gasoline in the chancellery garden," Julio continued. "Only those who would be truly interested in eradicating the memory of Hitler would believe it. That is, the Germans, who might believe it out of shame, and the Russians and the Americans, because they weren’t able to catch him.” Or just people who don’t really care about where exactly history’s most evil man is rotting. But Julio went on.
Image of the three-engine plane on which the Führer allegedly travelled to Galicia
“Hitler set off early in the morning of April 29th, 1945, aboard a three-engine airplane. He landed in a small village called Córneas, hidden amid the mountains of Lugo, where an escort from the Guardia Civil [the Spanish military police] and some donkeys carrying saddlebags full of gold bars and other relics were waiting for him. He headed for Samos, through the towns of Cebreiro, el Hospital, and Triacastela, where he would eventually meet a committee from Samos’s convent. I don’t think anyone can refute my theory, since I saw Hitler, alive and kicking, in the convent.”
Korn’s New Video Will Make You Think… That Korn Still Sucks
It’s not my fault I watched the new Korn music video. Look, any time I get a press release with the subject line “KORN Deliver the True State of the Union with New Video,” I am going to click through to the Rolling Stone premiere of that video. And when Rolling Stoneclaims that in the video “the band attacks governmental data surveillance and modern information overload,” I am going to watch the shit out that, even if the mention of Korn’s name—or just a backwards R—makes me involuntarily cringe as a deluge of embarrassing middle-school memories come flooding up from deep inside me. Korn wants to tell us about the surveillance state, guys!
Frontman Jonathan Davis told Rolling Stone, “We are all so caught up in watching crazy media on the internet and TV that we are manipulated into ignoring that our privacy has all but disappeared.” Whoa, dude, preach it! Did someone smoke a doob with Tom Morello at Lollapallooza? Imagine what that hard-hitting critique of the media-industrial complex would look like if you represented it via a combination of words, music, and visuals? Oh shit, I don’t have to imagine it—you just made it!
Anyhoo, the song is called “Spike in My Veins,” which might refer to some kind of heroin=media analogy, but the lyrics are just a nu-metal word salad—the chorus is, “Never gonna run away/ Seeking out my path/ But the pain always gets in the way/ Slowly watch me die / I’m insane, so dangerous/ Don’t you just get in my way.” So let’s ignore the Angry Yelly Guy’s Songwriter Handbook Davis is using and just focus on the images in the video, the first of which is a TV:
Oh, OK, this is like a video-within-a-video, huh? It’s a mashup of a bunch of news reports about Edward Snowden and the NSA revelations. Then our broadcast is interrupted:
Oh, a public service announcement. Alright, I assume this is, like a hurricane warning or—
OH SHIT IT SAYS DISTRACTION WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN SHH SHH DUDE THE SONG IS STARTING. (If you are wondering what the song sounds like, it sounds a lot like Korn.)
Here’s the band contemplating a bunch of TV screens, looking a lot like the tertiary characters from the later Matrix movies. What’s on those screens, you ask?
It’s the president—but on Jimmy Kimmel! Like he’s just a celebrity or something!
And… surveillance cameras? What—
Ohhhhhhhh, it’s the guy! The rapey guy, whatshisname, and #PRISM, like… That dumb song about bad girls was actually about the much-maligned NSA surveillance program? Or, is Korn saying he’s a part of PRISM? Fucking layers, people.
The Religious Right’s Anti-Vaccine Hysteria Is Reviving Dead Diseases in America
I’ve never really understood the fear of vaccines, mostly because there’s no real, hard evidence linking them to autism, autoimmune disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, or anything else. The only thing you can really like it to is making sure you don’t get sick. But, like abortion, evangelical Christians have been using vaccination hysteria as a way to galvanize support, even after Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s landmark 1998 paper linking vaccines to autism and bowel dysfunction was roundly debunked as bad science.
To be honest, I get the religious argument against inoculation way more than the scientific one. I think it goes like this: even if vaccination is not compulsory, it is a sin to thwart God’s will—if He would strike me down, I would be stricken. If I believed in a pissed-off white-bearded dude in robes up in heaven with a lightning bolt gun, I wouldn’t want to anger him or her either. It certainly makes more sense than the new age version of vaccine refusal, where suburban yuppies just slide their kids another Kombucha instead of bringing them to the pediatrician.
If Fred Phelps wants to believe that vaccines violate the word of god, thats fine. It’s no skin off my back if the evangelical community wants to believe that god doesn’t trust them with their own bodies. The problem for me is that some day I plan on impregnating a woman with my penis. Nine months later, we’ll be blessed with a little wriggly child (preferably a boy), and I want to make sure that he grows up big and strong and doesn’t accidently contract an old disease—especially one that most doctors don’t know how to treat anymore—because my neighbors decide not to vaccinate their child.
Remember measles? That old-timey disease we officially eliminated in the United States 13 years ago? Thanks to the wonder of inoculation, measles should be entirely nonexistent in this country, but yesterday the Center for Disease Control reported 159 cases from January through August of this year. This puts our country on track for the worst measles year since 1996, when there were 500 reported cases—which is disturbing, especially because doctors and nurses aren’t really trained to look out for measles anymore, because of the whole “elimination” thing.
These Nonviolent Female Prisoners Have Been Rotting in Prison for Over a Decade
A few weeks ago, I found a book at a thrift store called The Tallahassee Project. It’s a collection of photos of nonviolent female federal inmates who were incarcerated as part of the war on drugs. Each photo is accompanied by a letter from the woman depicted, explaining her situation.
The majority of the women shown in the book were charged with “conspiracy” based on the statements of informants who spoke to authorities in exchange for reduced sentences. Often, this conspiracy amounted to little more than being the girlfriend, wife, or mother of a drug dealer.
The book was compiled in April 2001 by a guy named John Beresford from an organization called the Committee on Unjust Sentencing. I googled John to see if there was any update on how the women in the book were doing. I guess there’s a part of me that likes to believe that once a horrible injustice has been brought to the attention of the public, somebody, somehow, will do something to fix it.
That’s not the case here. Unfortunately, John died in 2007, and took his Committee on Unjust Sentencing with him. I checked to see if the women from the book were still in prison, and many of them still are—rotting in prison since before 9/11 because they got messed up with drugs.
Below are some of the women who haven’t been released, along with the the letter they wrote to John 12 years ago.
Alice Jones (Inmate ID Number: 29560-004)
Sentenced to 24 years for conspiracy, drug conviction
Estimated release date: 04-24-2015
"I am a mother of two, a 19-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. For 25 years I owned and operated my own property rental business, which I began from the ground up. In 1992, I was arrested and subsequently convicted for a drug conspiracy of which I had no part. The government attempted to seize my home and business. A thorough investigation of my business and tax records proved my business to be legitimate. No drugs were even seized from me or my home. My criminal record was based entirely upon people with multiple arrests and lengthy police records, who were attempting to avoid further convictions.
I did not ever imagine such an atrocious nightmare could ever occur in the United States. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
The Sexist Illuminati Mind Control Conspiracy Behind Amanda Bynes’ Mental Breakdown
Amanda Bynes’s reign of Twitter terror ended two weeks ago when authorities placed her on a 5150 psych hold for setting a fire in the driveway of an old lady rocking a bowl cut. Doctors have allegedly diagnosed her withschizophrenia, which would explain her proclivity for twerking on gym machines, calling Degrassi star Aubrey Graham ugly, and flitting around New York in a menagerie of tragic wigs. But this hasn’t stopped a faction of the internet from believing Amanda is actually a victim of monarch mind control, an Illuminati practice widely used by the Walt Disney Corporation and Teen Nick to monetize and sexualize young starlets.
Supposedly developed in its current form by the C.l.A. to subdue American citizens, monarch mind control is being used by the Hollywood industrial complex to micro-manage child stars. The monarch mind control victims are called kittens and the executives and managers that control them are known as handlers. Supposedly, the handlers take a precocious kitten, such as an All That era Amanda Bynes, and subject her to mental and sexual abuse until her personality fractures and separates like a horcrux, making her unquestioning and compliant. The handlers then conclude the abuse with a weird Adams Family Values summer camp punishment, where the kitten watches The Wizard of Oz over and over again till submitting to her handlers gives her true happiness. After she turns 18, the handlers repeat these steps to transform her from a manageable performer into a highly profitable object of fantasy.
Are We There Yet?
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’s purpose is 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.)