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His Pursuers are Not Theoretical

-- Movie Review --

"Conspiracy Theory"

Directed by Richard Donner; written by Brian Helgeland; produced by Joel Silver and Richard Donner; released by Warner Brothers. Running time: 135 minutes. Cast: Mel Gibson (Jerry Fletcher), Julia Roberts (Alice Sutton), Patrick Stewart (Dr. Jonas) and Cylk Cozart (Agent Lowry). This film is rated R. It includes taking the name of the Lord in vain and violence.

by Michael A. Hoffman II Copyright©1997 All Rights Reserved

The chief defense of the conspirators in this Age of Revelation (revelations largely made by the conspirators themselves), against prosecution and punishment for their crimes, has been to confuse the truth and mix it into a salad bowl of falsehood.

The agents of the System have seeded the ideas that everything causes cancer and everyone killed Kennedy. The corollary being that the study of the food that makes one ill and the food that nourishes is so fraught with counter-claims and ambiguity as to be impossible to unravel, therefore eat anything you want because you'll get cancer no matter what you do.

In a similar process, the competing solutions to the riddle of who killed Kennedy seem to carry equal degrees of plausibility in the mind of the public: Castro did it and so did the anti-Castroites; the Communists killed him and so did the anti-Communists; it was the CIA; the Mafia; the military-industrial complex; the Mossad, MI5, the masons, the Birchers, your grandmother and my Uncle Ned.

After a time the whole JFK investigation dissolves into a stew of contradictions more puzzling than the original mystery and we are left demoralized and apathetic. If everyone killed Kennedy then in a sense no one did, because indictment and punishment are impossible when faced with such a miasma of conflicting theories.

As the deliberately planted confusion grows, so does the establishment's hypnotic suggestion that conspiracy investigators are an obnoxious nuisance and just plain nuts. That has been the state of the chess game between those seeking to bring the conspirators to justice and those seeking to cover up for them so that they might continue in power.

But now we have a new revelation, in the form of the movie "Conspiracy Theory" which restores credibility to the investigators and validates their concerns.

In a subject freighted with the pompous and melodramatic, "Conspiracy Theory" disarms us with the saving grace of humor, introducing N.Y. cabbie Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) in several comic vignettes that endear us to him in spite of his whacky, paranoid beliefs. In the first third of the film we're sure he's delusional but he's won our affection with his goofy love of life (the film's theme-song includes the significant song lyric, "I thank God I'm alive").

And Jerry is delusional. But he's also right. How's that? Well, the movie shows that Jerry mixes about the same level of fact, fiction and fantasy as other conspiracy theorists. But the film makes the important point that some of it is valid, that Jerry is on to something and that just because he's wrong on some things does not signify that everything he asserts is wrong.

Jerry talks a lot of trash. He says George Bush is a 33rd degree Freemason (he's not, he's a member of the Skull and Bones society). He claims that if Hollywood director Oliver Stone was really telling the truth in his conspiracy epics, he would have been killed by now. (Jerry is ignorant of the Revelation of the Method process, in which the conspirators of the modern era sanction the release of secrets about their operations).

He's obsessed with J.D. Salinger's over-rated novel of adolescent alienation, "A Catcher in the Rye" (the favorite of John Lennon's assassin), though he admits he hasn't read it. (This writer knows of no occult or conspiratorial elements in the book).

Jerry also maintains that all serial killers have two names, but all assassins have three. He notes that serial killers Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz have two names while assassins Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray have three. In this respect, Jerry's full of it. The top serial killer of all time, with 33 victims, was John Wayne Gacy, a three-name serialist. Huey Long's killer was reported to be Carl Weiss, a two-name assassin. Jerry's wrong, but what prophet or mystic or hunch-player isn't, sometimes? The guy with the uncanny knack for playing the stock market or the horses is not infallible, he's wrong almost as often as he's right, but he's right enough times to earn his living at it.

In the realm of conspiracy-denial, the tendency is to dismiss someone like Jerry because he's got his serial killer and assassin nomenclature wrong or because he slips on George Bush's background. But the fact is, Jerry is right enough times for a powerful government agency to want him dead.

It turns out that Jerry is an MK-Ultra initiate who goes in and out of various states of lucidity and delusion. Much of what he says is nonsense but the kernel of truth he possesses is so potentially lethal that it justifies his paranoia.

And that's the message of "Conspiracy Theory." Sure there are a lot of nuts investigating conspiracies these days and plenty of disinformation, just like in the daily newspaper. But just because the daily newspaper seeks to delude us by printing nonsensical claims that the Israeli government is benevolent and the Federal Reserve is Constitutional, doesn't mean that we should reject it when it prints a story about a local restaurant opening or our old elementary school teacher dying. We sift and analyze and continue to use the daily paper as a source about which we apply our powers of critical thinking and analysis.

This is what the film "Conspiracy Theory" is telling us. Don't dismiss every suggestion that "our" government is in conspiracy against us. The fundamental wisdom concerning this world is that appearances are deceptive. Nothing is what it seems. Be vigilant.

"Conspiracy Theory" boosts our morale by showing the badly outgunned Jerry Fletcher fighting back and resisting the enormous forces arrayed against him. Time and again he foils the smug Federal agents who pursue him with state-of-the-art black helicopters, cell phones and squads of hit-men in new vans. In one scene he ties up traffic and eludes his high-tech pursuers in nothing more than a broken down old car abandoned on a bridge. The repeated frustrations of the pursuing "spooks" is a joy to behold.

"Conspiracy Theory" also serves as a message of empowerment to the hordes of Americans who do believe in conspiracies but who have gotten the wrong message from them and have become paralyzed in fear of an all-powerful Federal government. Their response is to hoard all the money they can, find a hideout somewhere and wait out Armageddon.

Millions have fallen victim to this paralysis. They have left the field of battle without a figurative shot being fired, while victory was still possible, because their opponents seeded into their minds the notion that all resistance is futile, which is the strategy of Sun Tzu, "The superior man wins the battle without fighting."

But Jerry Fletcher fights the battle, against great odds--like every man worthy of the name--and he prevails by dint of his courage and faith.

Like Jerry, the American people are also initiates--not perhaps directly at the hands of the CIA's MK Ultra project--but as percipients in the Videodrome occult theatre which works through the medium of Hollywood and the TV networks, flashing subliminal symbols and highly symbolic, brutalizing sex and death cues. The resulting parodoxical heightened awareness mixed with jaded sensibilities produces delusions and ennui swirling in our midst like a vengeful phantom from the collective subconscious.

There are a couple of false notes in "Conspiracy Theory." Fletcher pontificates against junk food-eaters ("They're in a conspiracy against themselves") but later is shown wolfing down a cardboard-looking, mass market pizza.

The movie makes a case for the notion that there are some good agents within the Federal octopus and that not all are cooperating with evil. These supposedly good agents drive off into the sunset joking with Jerry Fletcher. Are these "good Feds" anything like Lon Horiuchi, the home-schooling, conservative Catholic FBI sniper who murdered Vicki Weaver in her own home at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, while she was holding her infant in her arms?

Gibson's character also takes Christ's name in vain in a single instance (a growing Hollywood phenomenon exhibited in such supposedly wholesome, patriotic cinematic fare as "Air Force One" and "Independence Day").

Gibson might respond by asking us to be less Pharisaic in our judgment of the requirements of his acting craft, but the holiness of Christ's name is taken very seriously in traditional Roman Catholicism, where an entire men's association--the Holy Name Society--is devoted to defending and honoring it. There's nothing Pharisaic about such a concern and there are a couple of Biblical passages that make profound statements concerning the sacredness of His name (Acts 4:12; Revelation 14:1).

In spite of these flaws, "Conspiracy Theory" is a shot-in-the-arm for truth-seekers, suggesting that we come out and fight evil and that the combat itself is part of what makes life worth living. Paranoid Jerry Fletcher--warrior and truthseeker--is bursting with life.

Michael A. Hoffman II is the author of "Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare."

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