numb3r_5ev3n: Jerry Cornelius (Default)
numb3r_5ev3n ([personal profile] numb3r_5ev3n) wrote2017-04-15 12:01 am

How we got to this point.

 This week was a roller coaster. It ended on a high note, and I'm glad. The new job is really going well - which is a relief, because the atmosphere at my last two jobs over the past ten years were really toxic. But enough said about that. I realize that I basically had a nervous breakdown back in October, and I'm still having aftershocks from it, But things are going to be okay.

First off...this accelerated arms crisis or whatever it is that we're in right now is freaking me out, as it is a lot of people. I want to ask everyone I saw during the election who were all like "Trump doesn't really mean what he says! He's just pandering to the far right fringe!" (aaaaaaand what about that makes that okay to them?) and "bbut Killary will inevitably march us to war!" how the fuck they feel about their decisions now.  I wanted Bernie to win as much as the next leftist, but the choices we ended up with were a stateswoman with five decades of experience, and a volatile reality TV show host who can't even remember which country he bombed.

But I also think a lot about how we got here. And how I have the uncomfortable feeling that one of my primary fandoms is partially  responsible.

X Files was paramount in the 1990s. It was a part of our collective pop-culture consciousness for years. But  it rose to the pinnacle of its popularity during a time when I think the end of the cold war left a lot of boomers in a kind of identity crisis. We'd lost our first major war since World War II, and when Soviet-style communism collapsed in on itself, I think there was still a lot of fear and paranoia, and it needed a focus. It didn't just go away when the cold war did.

And when Bill Clinton got elected, I think it shocked a lot of people who were still clinging to the Red Dawn "Wolverines!" and Southern Strategy narratives. They'd spent twenty years or more listening to G Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh tell them how Godless Liberals were plotting to sell the country to the USSR - except there wasn't a USSR anymore, (and how ironic is it that the Republicans were the ones who sold us to Putin in 2016, anyway) and the Clinton years were a boom era that no recent Republican administration has been able to match (with Republicans, you pretty much always get recession and war instead.)  There was no one in the government that they could look at to identify with. So The Gubmint became The Enemy.

Not that there weren't reasons for this. MKultra and Cointel Pro were real things. The mishandling of Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco was a very bad look. During the time when we were supposed to be the paragons of freedom and human rights for all, we were bombing and Agent Orange-ing and napalming and deposing democratically elected leaders and assassinating and creating Banana Republics, and running drugs and guns, and planting smack and crack in poor neighborhoods. The cognitive dissonance must have been absolutely unbearable for a lot of people. The idea that The Gubmint might secretly be doing to its own people what it was already openly doing to other people around the world in the name of "freedom" must have been at the back of everyone's minds.

Militias and Neo Nazi groups were springing up all over the place (before it became a hip place to party in, Deep Ellum in Dallas was a battleground between Neo Nazi Skins and gay SHARPs. I have friends slightly older than me who witnessed this.) And right wing radio, and the advent of Fox news, unleashed a stream of disinformation upon the people. Conspiracy theories about the Clinton administration were everywhere, and people were buying into it, if for no other reason than the fact that it reinforced their prejudices and biases. 

Every week, the X Files would come into their living rooms to sell them a narrative that, strangely, comforted and coddled them by playing to their darkest fears and prejudices. "It's okay. Chris Carter believes you. We all know that something sinister is going on."

A guy who can't even coherently tie up the loose ends in his own mytharc is here to tell you What's Really Going On...or that You Already Know What's Really Going On.  

I will look for examples of this later, but the writers talk about how they sourced the plots from actual conspiracy theories that had been floating around amongst the UFO true believers - and the Flat Earthers, the anti-FEMA spazzers, and the John Birchers, and the people who were listening to G Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbagh.

I really kind of wish they'd stuck to the UFO narrative and the "Monster Of The Week" format. But Chris Carter thought he was giving people real pieces of the real truth. He claimed the FBI thought he actually had evidence of a UFO cover up.

I got into the X Files because of slash fanfiction, and Mulder/Krycek. Full stop. Then I belatedly became a fan of The Lone Gunmen - which depicts three conspiracy theorists (and their loveable doofus sidekick who ends up being way more capable of figuring out What's Really Going On than they are) who self-publish their conspiracy theory newsletter - which turns out in many cases to be a font for disinformation, as part of the campaign to create enough plausible deniability to cover the tracks of The Syndicate (the X Files term for the "Deep State" that conspiracy theorists love to rant about now.)

The Lone Gunmen were a trio of loveable geeks. These days, conspiracy theorists look like Alex Jones. They're your racist uncle, your bigoted homophobic aunt who still sends you FW:FW:FW:FW: emails about Obama being a Kenyan terrorist sympathizer, and how The Gays want to convert your children, even though you've told her to stop. 

They spread lies about "death panels." 

They spread false rumors about child sex rings in pizza parlors, so that weak-willed, easily-manipulated morons will walk in with a loaded rifle to threaten people's lives. 

They slander, threaten, and harass, attack, and murder Jews, Blacks, LGBTQ folks, Muslims, and women.

The eagerly swallow every drop of blather about Benghazi and "Her Emails!" 

They bomb abortion clinics, spurred on by videos about "selling baby parts."

They slander, threaten, and harass the parents of children who died in school shootings, because anything that indicates that there are some people who probably aren't mentally sound enough to own or use firearms *must* be a False Flag, because "Teh Gubmint Wants To Take All Our Guns Away."

I think on some level, whether it was intended to or not, The X Files made them feel validated, and encouraged them all. 

You know what happened to the Lone Gunmen in the "X Files Season 10" comic book series? It's revealed that their deaths were faked by Morris Fletcher, and they ended up working for the government. Langley invented Stuxnet. They became what they hated and railed against, with Jimmy and LoisYves presumably taking up their previous mantle and trying to fight the good fight. Alex Krycek is involved in a time traveling plot where he is zapped back and forth from the future, John Connor-style, to fight the Black Oil.

I'm still trying to write fic for this, and one of the ways I am keeping sane is trying to fucking subvert the narrative as much as possible. Fox Mulder is a mentally unstable pawn, a dupe barely kept in check by Dana Scully - who as much as she loves him, may not be able to save him from his obsessions. For nine seasons, he allowed himself to be led around by the nose by the Deep State entity led by his own biological father - the CIA assassin who killed JFK. He'd reject The Truth if it were ever given to him, because it doesn't fall in line with his preconceived biases and prejudices. 

Alex Krycek, hated and reviled as a killer, a traitor, and a liar, is the hero, the guy actually doing stuff on the front lines to try and stave off doomsday, while Mulder flails and trips over disinformation and lies and half truths; with Scully hopefully being there to catch him when he falls.

The Conspiracy is a bunch of old white men who are ultimately trying to murder anyone who isn't them - either quickly, or slowly, by degrees, as the neoliberal capitalist machine grinds their bones into grist for the mill, and the Military Industrial Complex reigns supreme. 

There is no "alien invasion." There never was. It was America - the America that the conspiracy theorists worship, the one they agree with, the one the think looks like them; the America they are trying to "take back" the whole time.

That's The Truth. And it's more of an accurate picture of what's really going on, I think.

sabotabby: (doom doom doom)

[personal profile] sabotabby 2017-04-15 01:42 pm (UTC)(link)
OMG so much this.

X-Files was my first fandom. I largely wrote embarrassing stories from the Cigarette Smoking Man's POV because I always like the bad guys more, or where Mulder and/or Scully joined the Conspiracy, with the occasional dip into Mulder/Krycek slash because obviously. I was so into the show that even after I moved to the city, I'd go back to my mom's on Friday nights just to watch it with her because I didn't have a TV. I met my BFF through the fandom, and we've been friends for 20 years.

But the show was culturally toxic. I didn't realize it at the time, because I'd grown up the child of left-wing Canadians. To us, not trusting the government = not trusting a government that maintained friendly relations with South Africa for way too long, that committed genocide against indigenous people, and was a junior partner to American imperialism. The symbol of two law enforcement agents realizing that the system that they worked for was corrupt and risking their lives and careers to expose the truth was incredibly powerful. Plus Scully was everything I wanted to be (and kind of still is).

I was intensely into it enough that I did realize the connections between, say, the depiction of the militia and the Oklahoma City Bombing. But I didn't see how fucked up it was until they announced the revival, and it occurred to me exactly how the central mythology fits into the contemporary context. Naturally I was completely right and it was a horrible racist, anti-vaccine, far-right piece of garbage. I wonder how much of an influence it actually had back in the day; I mean, it was hugely popular, but not being in the States, it's hard to tell how much was a reflection of the politics at the time and how much was influencing it.

Also, did the X-Files actually start the FEMA camps conspiracy theory? I don't remember hearing about it before that.

I have to say you're making me want to read the comics, just because I love Krycek and my love for the show died the episode where they unceremoniously killed him off.
rialian: (Default)

[personal profile] rialian 2017-04-15 09:24 pm (UTC)(link)
===If you want more brain-melting disturbing things? New Age Libertarians. Who adore InfoWars.

===I bump into these in town.

===You are welcome.
sabotabby: (furiosa)

[personal profile] sabotabby 2017-04-16 02:00 am (UTC)(link)
I am so sorry. I used to run into them at Occupy and that's probably why I'm not a pacifist.
sabotabby: (lolmarx)

[personal profile] sabotabby 2017-04-18 11:30 am (UTC)(link)
OMG of course it did. Hahaha.
inlaterdays: (krycek half face)

[personal profile] inlaterdays 2017-04-15 02:48 pm (UTC)(link)
This is an amazing piece of analysis. I really love that that put Krycek in the comics and I really hate that they killed him off in the show (and that he has - so far - stayed dead, unlike TLG, whom I also love).

I hope you do write your fic; I want to read it.
fidget: (Conspiracy!)

[personal profile] fidget 2017-04-15 03:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow. That's not a sarcastic wow. It's a genuine wow.

I've never though about it this way, but you're absolutely right. In those early days of the internet, anti-government sentiment was just about everywhere. In fact, I'm pretty sure that that's the sole reason why the "Area 51" area of Geocites existed. (I'm definitely dating myself here, but remember when your Geocities URL was tied to a little house? Good times.) There were other things, too, like the ubiquitous "Anarchists' Cookbook", the ever-popular "alt.conspiracy, and the old BBs that you could only get to through Telnet -- as if Telnet was some kind of magical thing that shielded you from the government.

Let's also not forget Art Bell. Though never quite mainstream, he was insanely popular back then. Yes, I remain a fan of those old broadcasts (because, come on, they're the right mix of hilarious, off the wall, and awesome), but it's not lost on me how that guy almost singlehandedly launched the '90s fascination with UFOs, conspiracy theories, the occult, and whatever else. Art Bell WAS the X-Files. The show (now that you bring it up) only reinforced the crazy shit that Art Bell and co. were broadcasting.

All of that has fermented and seeped into the mainstream, and now we are one nation under Dale Gribble.

On a personal note, the best episode of the X-Files was the one where Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebec were Men in Black because, come on, that's the world I want to live in.
fidget: (Popsicle Pete)

[personal profile] fidget 2017-04-15 07:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Speaking of Jesse Ventura, have you ever seen his conspiracy theory show? The better name for it would've been Standing Outside of Buildings and Yelling with Jesse Ventura because that's basically all he does. It's gloriously bad. I love it.
finch: (Default)

[personal profile] finch 2017-04-16 08:08 am (UTC)(link)
"now we are one nation under Dale Gribble" is a terrifyingly good summary.

I remember the days when I had to explain Coast to Coast to people! But I never made the connection between X-Files and conspiracy theories, probably because I wasn't super into the show after a while. Interesting thoughts though, it makes a lot of sense.
forests_of_fire: A picture of a brilliantly colored waterfall cascading into a river (Default)

[personal profile] forests_of_fire 2017-04-15 06:54 pm (UTC)(link)
This is an amazing piece of analysis. <3
forests_of_fire: A picture of a brilliantly colored waterfall cascading into a river (Default)

[personal profile] forests_of_fire 2017-04-19 04:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Yup. And, honestly, I never thought about it this way. I mean, there are probably literally hundreds of reasons why we ended up in the clusterfuck we're in, but this is definitely something to consider.
lb_lee: M.D. making a shocked, confused face (serious thought)

[personal profile] lb_lee 2017-04-15 10:46 pm (UTC)(link)
You know, I had and have no idea what X-Files was; I missed its original run. explaining it in this way does not make me feel sorry about it.

lb_lee: M.D. making a shocked, confused face (serious thought)

[personal profile] lb_lee 2017-04-18 01:18 am (UTC)(link)
I thought the first wave was Sentinel and Due South?

But yeah, I missed the first wave, I came around during the second. Too young for X-Files, and I doubt it'd do it for me now.

It sounds kinda unsettling!

lb_lee: A happy little brain with a bandage on it, surrounded by a circle and the words LB Lee. (Default)

[personal profile] lb_lee 2017-04-19 05:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I never watched either, and I was STILL aware of the fandom! (I even tried to watch a little Due South, I think, but for whatever reason never made it far at all. I really don't think either show would've done it for me, in hindsight.)