You get a lot of revealing mail if you take an interest in politics. It can show you what's really going on in the world—what the conspiracy theorists are up to, for instance.
Some of the oddest things that reach your mailbox get there because some group in which you actually are interested—say, Conservative Magazine A—gives its mailing list to a group with a somewhat different purpose—say, Governmental Watch Group B—until, through a postal inversion similar to the mutations of messages that occur in the children's game Telephone, you get something in the mail that asks for donations to the Stalinist Action Committee of Toronto.
Now the circulation director of this magazine assures me that such list switching is highly unlikely, indeed unethical, since lists are only "rented" for one-time use. But how else do you explain the recent appearance in my mailbox of a small catalog for fans of crypto-fascist survivalist books?
Oh, sure, it was fun. But it was disturbing, too. In between practical titles like Ragnar's Guide to Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives and Where There Is No Dentist were more theoretical works purporting to explain why you would want to—correction, may have to—run off into the woods to blow up dams and remove your own wisdom teeth.
The ads for books such as Descent into Slavery explain that the hidden manipulators called the Illuminati have set up the New World Order to destroy civilization. The catalog alternates between making the conspiracy sound totalitarian and making it sound libertine. On one page, IRS oppression is the enemy; on the next, it's drug users, gays, and capitalists.
Some of the ads almost sound like excessive versions of ads you might see here in the respectable pages of REASON: "Outlines the ONLY proven remedy for government oppression!…If this pamphlet cannot inflame your zeal for LIBERTY and ACTION, you are either dead or a coward!" Others make it apparent that these particular anarchists aren't upset so much by the fact that the government is oppressive as by the fact that it's oppressing the wrong people: "He surveys the race-mixing, the open homosexuality, the growing influence of drugs, the darkening complexion of the population…."
After perusing their literature, it seems to me that conspiracy theorists have a lot riding on the 1992 election. President Bush has become the climax of all those bizarre theories that say the Freemasons have been running the Federal Reserve since the Middle Ages. If the New World Order goes up in smoke in November '92, at least 200 years of plotting by Masons, Illuminati, covert Bolshevik battalions, and Satanists will appear to have ended in defeat—and the conspiracy theorists will suddenly be out of work.
Indeed, I suspect it was a secret, powerful cabal of conspiracy theorists—looking to hedge their bets—who arranged for Al Gore to be Bill Clinton's running mate. Gore, after all, went to the Earth Summit, which smacks of World Government. And this whole "New Covenant" theme the Democrats are touting sounds like a pact with Satan if there ever was one. Yeah, I'll bet the Christie Institute is in on it, too.
I must admit it's tempting sometimes to believe that there's a huge plot going on. Take the time two summers ago when a TV special alleging that Elvis faked his death as part of a DEA investigation started by Nixon was aired opposite a Three Stooges short in which a Nazi general yells, "Seize them [Moe, Larry, Curly] in the name of the New World Order!" Should we be so quick to dismiss it as coincidence? How, then, would you explain that last April, Easter, Earth Day, Hitler's birthday, Axl Rose's appearance at the Concert for Life, Shirley MacLaine's birthday, headline announcements of new evidence for the Big Bang theory, the final episode of MacGyver, and the last day of voting for the Elvis stamp all fell in the same week?
Oh, you can choose to ignore the signs if you want, my friend. But when you're weeping in the ruins of civilization, I'll be thumbing through my newly ordered copies of How to Make Disposable Silencers, Vol. 1 and Uncle Ragnar's Breath of the Dragon: Homebuilt Flamethrowers. We'll see whose progeny repopulate the planet.
Todd Seavey is a writer in New York City.