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Everything Is Under Control

If you look in the "pop culture" section of your local Big Record Store, or if you look in the occult section of your local bookstore, you'll probably find Robert Anton Wilson's latest book: Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-ups. This oversized paperback is apparently RAW's attempt to cash in on the "hipness" of conspiracy theories; not that there's anything wrong with him trying to make a buck off of Pink gullibility, of course. My Queen of the Fucking Universe picked this one up for me as a gift, and I've been flipping through it for the past couple of days.

The book is an oversized paperback printed in large type, obviously meant to appeal to the same crowd that Ivan Stang's famous High Weirdness by Mail aimed for. It presents itself as an encyclopedia of many of the most famous, infamous, and wide-reaching conspiracy theories, their authors, and the publications that spawned them. It delves into the histories of the past, and provides glimpses at major events in the development of conspiracies, up to and including the advent of the Internet.

Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy is often promoted as a must-read for faithful SubGenii, but I've found his writing hard to get into. He's rarely boring, but his scholarly, dry style can make those books a tough read, especially when he piles on his plots upon sub-plots galore. Everything Is Under Control has a simplistic, A-to-Z presentation that suggests the book is presenting itself as A Beginner's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson as well as a basic introduction to conspiracy theories. It's easy to read, and you can spend hours just flipping through it and scanning hundreds and hundreds of topics you've probably heard of, but don't really know much about. Like most encyclopedias, the book doesn't cover its subjects with extraordinary depth, but it does give you enough basic information to provide you with a starting point if you want to look more closely at the intriguing topics therein. Each entry also includes a suggested reading list, Web sites, and ample references to Wilson's own books for anyone wishing to do additional research.

The topics covered include the Illuminati, One World Government theories, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Hearst conspiracy to ban hemp, Diana's death, Philip K. Dick's "Great Satanic Blasphemy," the Church of the SubGenius, Discordianism, Inslaw and the infamous PROMIS surveillance system, the IRS, Aleister Crowley, the famous zine Conspiracy Nation (known to most of the denizens of alt.conspiracy), Freemasonry, alien abductions, the A-Albionic Research group, and hundreds of pamphlets, books, and people I've never heard of. Modestly referring to himself as "the present author" (as when he states that Lyndon LaRouche called him a member of the Illuminati), Wilson presents all of the data within the book as honest truths (in much the same way that Donna Kossy does). He tries to keep his biases and opinions to a minimum, instead providing us with a supposedly "honest" presentation of the "facts;" though even he can't resist the temptation to let fly with a barb or two. When describing ZOG (the Zionist Occupational Government), for instance, Wilson notes: "I would like to live in a world where all the conspiracy theories are as absurd as this one." When noting the incident when the CIA's Web site was hacked and the hackers called themselves the "Swedish Hacker's Assocaition," he suggests that this "may provide the Agency with a clue as to where this gross indecency came from. The present author would suspect anywhere except Sweden." (Of course, this is the CIA we're talking about here.)

Maybe it's the skeptic in me, but I've tended to enjoy writing in this area where the author doesn't take himself or his subject matter seriously. In this respect, this book would look good on your shelf right next to The Big Book of Conspiracies which also presents all of the conspiracies as fact, though the presentation also suggests that everything should be taken with a large grain of salt. The subject matter of Everything Is Under Control is also deserving of a hefty dose of skepticism, but Wilson's portrayal of the world according to Them doesn't seem as disbelieving as you may want to think. Of course, Wilson has been researching these subjects for most of his life, and he may know a lot more than he is telling us here.

Wilson also introduces the book with a ten-page essay describing his fascination with the fringe. He also ends with a warning: after delving into the world of conspiracy theories for even a short period of time, you'll begin wondering which of the many conspiracies are fake…and which ones are NOT. When something strange or unfortunate happens to you, is it just a coincidence? Or…maybe they really ARE out to get us?