Conspiracy Theories

The Great Rock'n'Roll Conspiracy

Your weekly dose of Paranoia


The Nervous Breakdown took an unusual approach when it interviewed me about my book The United States of Paranoia. It just fired phrases at me and asked me to free-associate. For example:



A: There's a weird poetry to the word salad that people think they hear when they play records backward.

So here's to my sweet Satan/The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan/He will give those with him 666/There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer/Sad Satan.

That was supposed to be encoded in "Stairway to Heaven." It's nonsense, but it's compelling nonsense: I've reached the point where I enjoy the spooky sensation of hearing the song backward more than the worn-out pleasure of listening to it the way it's supposed to be heard.

There have always been rumors that something evil is lurking in popular music. If you look in the Monkees' FBI file—yes, of course the Monkees had an FBI file—you'll see that someone at the bureau's Los Angeles field office got it into his head that the band had included left-wing "subliminal messages" in its live show. In the 1970s a man called John Todd traveled the circuit telling congregations that he was a defector from the Illuminati, that the Illuminati control the music industry, and that Elton John had never created a song that wasn't written in "witch language." These days half of hip hop is supposed to be under Illuminati control, and YouTube is filled with intricate analyses of the symbolism the secret society has supposedly concealed in pop videos.

But the most potent conspiracy story about music is this idea that backward Satanic messages have been inscribed in rock records. The fact that the bands have almost always denied that the incantations are there didn't matter—even if they're telling the truth, the story went, the Devil could have inserted the messages himself.

Other phrases I was asked to react to include "KKK," "The Illuminati," "The Dead Kennedys," "Christian Rock," "Twin Towers," and more. You can read the rest of the interview here. The site also published an except from the book; you can read that here.

While I'm on the subject, I might as well do my weekly roundup of book links:

• Bill Kauffman discusses the book in The American Conservative.

• David Halperin—author of the novel Journal of a UFO Investigator, which has been on my to-read list for a while—reviews the book on his blog.

• Woody Brown reviews the book in Artvoice, and then he writes some more about it in Case Magazine.

• Jack Kirk reviews the book in The Red Wire.

• Radio New Zealand interviews me.

• And now, an opposing view.

NEXT: Cruz Says Hecklers at Speech Are "Obama's Paid Political Operatives"

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  1. You know who else answered a question about backward masking?

    1. Ozzy Osborne?

    2. cimsacras

    3. Or Riaper Worceracs.

  2. A good friend of mine since high school is a born again, spirit filled, on fire for god type. I love him even though I think he has imaginary friends. In 1982 he showed me the funniest back-masking I ever heard, from the beginning of Judas’ Kiss by Petra. Played backward it says, “What are you looking for the devil for, when you ought to be looking for the Lord?”
    I could just imagine all the conflicted old biddies.

    1. I’ll just post this *Bloom County* cartoon here:…..?iid=80248

      1. Where have you gone Berkley Breathed, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you…..

      2. Oh and thanks for making me kill ten minutes by google image searching some old Bloom County.


        1. I think that same series with Bloom County included Opus watching Mr. Rogers.
          “Can you say Mr. Rogers deserves a raise?”
          “Can you put it on a postcard?”

          1. I remember that one.

            Early BC was the best.

    2. My parents had a VHS about Satan’s influence in the music industry. They spent a lot of time on the musical Hair. Titillating stuff for a young teen raised in an incredibly socially conservative milieu:


      Father, why do these words sound so nasty?

      Can be fun
      Join the holy orgy
      Kama Sutra

      Had to look up some of the words. It was well worth it.

      1. Hey, do you need a new shirt to wear to your convention?

        1. YES!

          Were it not $90 I would buy that in a heartbeat and start wearing it to work.

          1. Dude, that’s down from $180. You’d be a sucker not to buy it.

            1. Damn it all. They’re out of large and XL. In a medium I’ll look like sausage in casing and in an XXL I’ll look like Roseanne Barr in a particularly homoerotic muumuu

              1. I’ll look like sausage in casing


  3. flesruoy kcuf og.

    1. orb ,yrots looC

    2. Yvan eht Nioj.

      1. nice Simpsons reference. I loved LT Smash in that one.

        Lets not forget the backwards scene in Top Secret!

  4. YouTube is filled with intricate analyses of the symbolism the secret society has supposedly concealed in pop videos.

    Any recommendations/links to the most entertaining?

    1. Mark Ames must have a pretty serious rage boner. He also did a retarded hit piece on Balko earlier this week.

      He must have walked in on his girlfriend getting rammed by a libertarian or something.

      1. God that Balko piece was just embarrassing.

      2. Many of Balko’s progressive followers, unaware of his long career inside the GOP think-tank network, have mistaken Balko’s criticisms of police abuse and the War On Drugs with a larger progressive politics; they’ve assumed he shares many of the same progressive assumptions they do. So every time Balko comes out with a pro-corporate, reactionary position ? boosting for privatization and guns, defending Stand Your Ground, savaging Naomi Klein and teachers’ unions, or taking misleading and reactionary positions on the Trayvon Martin murder case ? his progressive readers are left confused, but without a broader understanding of where Balko comes from.

        Ah, the one-drop-of-TEABAGGER rule.

        1. “savaging Naomi Klein”

          I lol’d.

          1. Yeah, she *wishes.*

        2. I see, pro-freedom = pro-corporate, reactionary.

        3. or taking misleading and reactionary positions on the Trayvon Martin murder case

          HA!HA!HA!HA! You mainstream media motherfuckers got caught in lie, after lie, after lie, after lie, after lie, after lie, to spin the issue into race riots and a guilty verdict, and you still have the chutzpah to claim the other side, validated by ALL the evidence presented in court, were the manipulators. You are lucky you didn’t get the race war you so crave even as you call us nihilist. It would have been your corpses hanging from trees, you enumerate dumbasses.

        4. Ames uses the work reactionary twice in that paragraph unironically. Pretty much tells me what I need to know about his ideas.

        5. I hadn’t read the piece, because why add fuel to my perma-rage, but this right here is hilarious: his progressive readers are left confused, but without a broader understanding of where Balko comes from.

          He just straight up admitted that progs have no idea what this “liberty” thing is all about.

          1. My bad. An anchor tag where I should’ve put an italics tag.

      3. I don’t think Ames quite understands what Stand Your Ground means.

        1. like Iowa City does?

      4. Love the guilt by association. The meat of the article is building cases against, not Balko, but rather any organization he’s been associated with in the past.

      5. Add another one to the “crank” list. In a just world, Ames’ screed would be relegated to mimeographed papers handed out by homeless people in exchange for cigarettes.

    2. Under Koch’s influence and funding, LeFevre started publishing reams of what libertarians call “historical revisionism”

      Historical revisionism is heroic when leftists do it. But left-leaning libertarians try to do the same work about the same subjects, and it’s a euphemism for Holocaust denial.

    3. FFS. They really are flailing about quite hilariously at this point. Next we will accused of using the blood of carefully photogenic mixed race kids to bake our low-carb bread.

      1. low-carb bread

        I don’t think I’ve ever been so disgusted with something you’ve written.

        1. And it’s gluten, dairy, soy, and tree nut free. Although it is made in a facility that processes monocles.

          1. *blink*

            *blink blink*

            *rends clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes, and goes out into the midst of the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry*

        2. It can also be also be made from seaweed. I was demonstrated this when a friend asked for financial backing in his idea for a seaweed based restaurant. I didn’t, if you were wondering. His venture to sell origami at a antique house booth rental proved more successful.

      2. Hey! I was young and needed the money!

        1. Your partial self-racism is tearing you apart.

            1. It’s really very simple. You are a libertarian and all libertarians are rich Christian white male racists. Therefore you must hate the part of you that isn’t rich or white or male or Christian.

              Ultimately you must destroy your poverty-stricken Latina atheist clitoris.

    4. A new and circumstantial report about the roots of the Tea Party tries to tie conservative donor Charles Koch and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to libertarians who deny the Holocaust, prompting a sharp retort from Koch Industries, long the punching bag of liberals.

      So, are the Kochs conservative or libertarian? And the same can be asked about the Tea Party.

      Me thinks the author is a bit confused about the definitions of some of his terms.

  5. The idea of backmasking is pretty dumb. The idea that a message you couldn’t understand could somehow infiltrate your mind and then cause you to act in a certain way is just ludicrous. Compared to that, people thinking the Illuminati or the Stonecutters are behind everything is pretty rational.

    1. Uh, that’s actually how I became a libertarian.

      1. Listening to records backward?

        Actual groups of people conspiring to do things does happen, so I don’t view people who hold anti-Masonic or anti-Illuminati views in the same low regard I have for people who believe in backmasking or Keynesian economics.

        1. My grandfather was a Mason. I didn’t think anything of it until they came to his funeral, revived him, and took him into space.

        2. I was an uptight SoCon before I started listening to Hootie & The Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View.

    2. Sad. Another victim of backmasking programming.

      Ever notice how a lot of libertarians are Rush fans? Canadian intelligence backmasking intended to soften up the U.S.

      1. Rise of teh diabeetus in the US roughly coincides with Rush’s existence.

        Just sayin’…

          1. Don’t forget AIDS, which kind of became a big thing not too long after Moving Pictures put them on the map.

    3. It’s even dumber, because you can’t hide real backmasking in music. Once you’ve heard language played backward you will never mistake it for sung lyrics ever again. You simply can’t hide backmasking in music, it’s as obvious as hell [sic] when you do it.

  6. What a weak-ass way to conduct an “interview”. They lazied out on you, Jesse, and made you – the guest – do all the work.

    And you walked right into their trap….

  7. Don’t forget about the fifth Beatle – Clarence – who Paul and John said “Let’s get rid of Clarence and steal all his good ideas” on a record when played backwards.

    1. Everybody knows that the fifth Beatle was Billy Preston.

      1. Warty Hugeman wearing Billy Preston’s skin was the Fifth Beatle. And the Ninth.

        1. [Baron Harkonnen voice]Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.[/Baron Harkonnen voice]

      2. No it wasn’t. It was Prince.

  8. If you play an Eagles record backwards, it says “you paid *money* for this? You’re a sucker!”

    1. Then you stab your lover.

      1. No that would be the effect of a Johnny Cash tune. Eagles, you sip on a frilly Tequila Sunrise, unbutton the midrift of your shirt and stare at your belly button while affecting deep contemplation.

    1. The wealthiest 1%ers are the worst:

      louis23Kate Dries

      I’m sorry but this will never work; people will take extras home to avoid buying tampons.

      I have to admit I have done this myself at my country club ? not even to save money, just to avoid that awful moment when you forgot there are no tampons in the house. (I can’t be the only one who does this.)

      1. Yes, that was excellent. Although Poe’s Law might be in effect.

      2. WTF, just go to CVS that is probably less than a mile from your home.

      3. Just about every other comment is women admitting to stealing all the tampons when they’re given away. Wonder why companies don’t put free tampons in the bathrooms.

    2. It’s like they want to be the kept woman, replacing the older, married man who would pay for their apartment and utilities while they pursued a art history degree on their daddy’s dime with the state.

      1. This being Jezebel I have to assume they would want this to be mandatory.

        Reminds me, the state rep from the bowl movement of Durham running on potty parity as his main one issue back in the 90s. I shit you not.

    3. Oh great googly moogly. Look you stupid Jezebelian dipshits, if you don’t want to buy tampons just get a moon cup and you never have to buy another tampon again. I am embarrassed that I share a gender with these idjits.

      1. I wonder what idjits did before the invention of tampons? I also wonder where the phrase “on the rag” came from? So many questions, so few answers.

  9. In addition to the church’s chicken thing with the kkk, you should of included the marlboro cigarette thing.

    If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically that their are 3 ks symbolized in the marlboro pack design. Also, if you flip the pack upside down the font turns “Marlboro” into “Horrible jew”. Additionally, and also when the pack is turned upside down, the crest will reveal two hooded figures holding up a flag.

    It’s a stretch, but a lot of idiots believe it.

    1. If Marlboro is so racist, why do they make menthols?

      1. They’re just trying to keep the black man down with cool minty lung and throat cancer?

        1. Full Disclosure: I smoked menthols from age 14 to 29.

          1. I remember riding to the convenience store on my bike at fourteen to get mom her menthol Kools, getting sniggers from the old deadbeat working there who would try to push the unfiltered Camels on me.

            1. I started on Players, moved to Kools, and finally settled on Marlboro Menthol Lights. Initially it was because my mother couldn’t smell them on me for some reason.

              I could never stand Camels. My best friend smoked them and when I had to bum one it was tough.

              1. That is some rough shit, indeed. Has there ever been a test linking brands to cancer? If Camels turned out to be be over half of those linked, I would not be surprised.

              2. My little brother skipped straight to Camel Reds. I tried to explain the natural progression of smoking from bumming some of your mom’s Virginia Slims* up through Marlboro and eventually out to Camels, but then I realized he was an idiot just doing it to manufacture street cred and I gave up.

                *My mother doesn’t actually smoke.

            2. Nowadays I understand they put special marks on the drivers licenses of people under 18 warning that they can’t buy tobacco.

              If the license is red, the tobacco sale is dead!

              1. I never thought I would see the day North Carolina would prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants, but the ’06 wave (thanks Bush) brought in a fresh batch of transplant assholes to tell us what to do. Thankfully, the ’10 backlash against Asshole Prime brought back some meager sanity.


                  1. That’s why I qualified that with ‘meager’, they are still Republicans, after all, with a few of them stupidly making headlines with their dumb little socon mouths.

                    1. To give you an idea of the typical mental retard that came to office in the ’06 shit for brains wave, yes, the first name could not be more apt —


                    2. As I understand, the criticism is that they’re (a) starving the poor with budget cuts, (b) bringing back Jim Crow with Voter ID laws, (c) selling out to The KKKorporashuns, and (d) restricting abortion. Only (d) looks like a socon issue and it’s a close call politically.

                    3. One of the new legislatures said something really dumb and irrelevant to the policy that got picked up in media. I’ve blocked out the details because of the inanity, but it would help if they didn’t feed into that.

  10. The absence of Yelkcub Rof Royom buttons in Rosemary’s Baby should have long ago alerted exorcism-conscious social conservatism to the dangers of reading The Weekly Standard backwards

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