Dark Plots and Secret Explanations
pirate wires #74 // tom cruise reborn (psychiatry edition), a short list of conspiracies we now call news, AOC's fake cuffs, gay frogs, and twilight for the establishment
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Maverick perspective. On the morning of June 25th, 2005, Tom Cruise appeared on the Today Show to promote his new movie, War of the Worlds, where he told Matt Lauer, by the way, there is absolutely no empirical evidence supporting the notion depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain. Also, while we’re on the topic of psychiatry, which is pseudoscientific bullshit, drugging kids for things we don’t understand is wrong, and we’re overprescribing Ritalin. The American public was already reeling from another famous Cruise interview, in which the man expressed his love for actress Katie Holmes a little too enthusiastically, thus acquiring the label “crazy.” But now he was challenging medical consensus, an unthinkable taboo. He was condemned by the psychiatric community, and eviscerated by the press. For over a decade, media personalities reflected back on this exchange with Lauer as absolutely deranged, forever associating Cruise’s work with the forbidden stink of “doesn’t trust the science” — that is until last week, when the clip resurfaced for a different reason. Long story short? Looks like our lunatic cult leader was right about pretty much everything. Oops!
Seventeen years after Cruise’s morning “War of Words,” a comprehensive umbrella review of psychiatric studies has definitively concluded there is no evidence supporting the notion depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is not to say depression isn’t real. This is not to say drugs don’t help many people. This is only to say despite all panicked screaming from the “mental illness is my personality” sphere of the internet, it does appear SSRIs neglect to treat the underlying cause of depression, which is a condition we still basically don’t understand. But on finally rewatching the interview, what I find most striking about the exchange has nothing to do with the content, or even the ensuing controversy. After so many years rehashing Cruise’s mental health “meltdown,” in which a famous actor calmly told a now-disgraced journalist to educate himself, I’ve got to say the strangest thing about it all is just how common it seems in 2022.
Over the last ten years, we’ve watched famous personalities yell at journalists about contentious, ‘forbidden’ topics with increasing regularity. Sure, there are cancellations, and actresses who buck consensus are occasionally fired (by Disney, for example). But the raging debate over whether such cancellations are morally acceptable actually seems to indicate we’re not living through a moment uniquely hostile to dissent. It rather seems we’re living through a moment in which the establishment is uniquely hostile to dissent, because establishment voices are scared the weirdos are winning.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press published what was clearly intended to be a shocking piece on America’s waning trust in experts. “A state of perpetual disbelief,” they framed the coverage on Twitter:
“A growing number of people in Western nations have lost faith in democratic governance, science and a free press, turning instead to conspiracy theories, dark plots and secret explanations.”
The piece went on to illustrate the anti-establishment trend with supporting evidence drawn exclusively from the fringe political right, including crisis actors, QAnon conspiracists, and 100 fascists in Boston. But as a well-known connoisseur of conspiracy theories, dark plots, and secret explanations, trust me when I tell you the average American has never heard of a “crisis actor,” and if they’ve heard of QAnon they’re certainly not subscribing to the newsletter. They do however remember being told inflation was a lie.
It’s true, most people no longer trust the establishment. But this is because the establishment has proven, relentlessly over the last five years, it can’t be trusted.
This month alone has been a whirlwind of wild bias. Shortly after former prime minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was assassinated, NPR, a media company I am for some reason forced by law to subsidize, characterized one of the most popular leaders in contemporary Japanese history as a “divisive arch-conservative,” a portrait countered entirely (if not directly) in a great, thoughtful analysis of Abe from Noah Smith.
A couple weeks later, celebrity Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with several of her colleagues, faked her own handcuffing while being escorted from a protest. This was characterized throughout the media as an arrest. But she wasn't restrained, brought to a police station, or fingerprinted. She wasn’t even mirandized. The congresswoman and her colleagues were offered water, and escorted to a grassy area with reporters for what appeared to be a press conference.
Behold, their chilling mugshot:
Meanwhile, over at the White House, the Biden administration’s plan to battle our recession is to simply redefine the word “recession.” Things are “bad” you say? Very well then, “bad” now means “totally awesome, actually.” Problem solved.
The loosely-organized manipulation of language by figures in government, media, and the “expert” scientific community is something I’ve written about for years (with a broader look at what this means for common ground in Tether). Most recently, definitions for the words and phrases “sexual preference,” “preference,” “court packing,” “vaccine,” “anti-vaxxer,” and, as of last week, “female” have all been changed — in the middle of fierce national debates on each of these subjects — to enter agreement with the establishment’s official position.
But not even altering our language will be enough to stop the shifting tides of culture, as establishment stewards grapple with the very embarrassing problem of “conspiracy theories” that continue to prove out. The vindication of Tom Cruise follows years of such stories.
The lab leak hypothesis, which we were prohibited from mentioning for over a year, is now a leading theory for the origin of Covid-19. Hunter Biden’s laptop? Real. Can the vaccine affect your menstrual cycle? Yup. The FBI’s involvement in the attempted kidnapping of a U.S. Governor? An unthinkable, disgusting thing to say. That happened.
You’ve been bamboozled, folks. The frogs ARE GAY.
With each establishment lie catalogued and amplified on social media, trust in the establishment deteriorates, and people look to the kaleidoscopic world of “truth” online for meaning. Today, Joe Rogan, a lovable pothead with a whacky taste for weird shit and “wait a minute, Jamie, look it up,” has something like 11 million listeners. That’s more than 18x what CNN averages in primetime. A few days ago, my (charming, intelligent, ungodly hot) boyfriend made the mistake of speaking with a journalist from an unfriendly publication before consulting with someone who lives online (me). “Why on earth would you talk to [bad person],” I asked, “they work for [bad, well-known publication]. You have to be careful. The media is dangerous.” Then, this perfect angel, this actual doe-eyed Greek statue, looked at me and said — I swear to God — “because I’ve been on the Pomp podcast, what’s the difference?”
And increasingly? Okay, maybe he’s not wrong.
It was as inevitable social media would become our news as it was inevitable the voices we gravitated toward for news on social media would feel more like our friends than our teachers. In this way, institutional credibility has begun to matter less than the opinion of specific people we don’t know, but really like. Now, for better and for worse, sovereign influencers have begun to acquire cults of personality, and wield the power of entire institutions.
It’s no surprise most of these figures are interested in stories the establishment gets wrong. But they’re also interested in stories the establishment, for whatever reason, refuses to talk about.
Epstein didn’t kill himself. Testosterone levels are plummeting. Microplastics (?!). Hermaphroditic frogs (see above). Calling all seed oil disrespectors. Sunscreen (bad, actually). Pharmaceutical efficacy. Havana Syndrome. The entire genre of Bill Gates. UFOs and nukes and aliens are landing. It’s an endless field of wildflower secret truths, and I’m of course in favor — let’s talk about it all. But even while so many of the craziest conspiracies of the past few years have proven worthy of a closer look, there are no shortage of “Reptilians in the Denver Airport.” More dangerous, of course, will be some version of the fantastical that triggers a tribal emotional reaction, and seems real. Jump.
If one were to negatively characterize the establishment’s approach to information over the last century, you might say everything the establishment did, from policy to the suppression of true information, was done in the service of maintaining power. But stability is also advantageous to power, and so stability was incentivized. Now, we’re looking at something more like the opposite. New media incentives are all toward attention. Attention is secured in novelty, and the extreme. There are important truths in the extremities, but in the forbidden realms of discourse we also find extraordinary fiction. The marriage of fantasy with charisma and persistence brings us finally to our emerging cartoon world of clown kings and dying old world giants. There are no utopian solutions, there are only tradeoffs.
Western cohesion throughout the latter half of the Twentieth Century had as much to do with a media oligopoly driving narrative consensus as it did with globalist policy. Consensus helped us navigate both World War Two and the turbulent sixties. But such consensus also made possible things like Vietnam, and the imaginary weapons of mass destruction that led us to a twenty-year war, before concluding in a Taliban Afghanistan. The new media ecosystem seems to make impossible the long-term suppression of true information — the Vietnams, the WMDs — but it likewise seems conducive to a world of chaos.
While specific individuals are still vulnerable to the establishment, sovereign influencers are in aggregate, more clearly by the day, devouring the beast. That doesn’t mean they can’t themselves become beasts of another kind. The future is a world in which nobody controls a single, unifying, national narrative. Because of this, many important truths will be uncovered, and progress will be made. But the future is also a world of cults formed up around philosophies of fiction, which will be a problem for the rest of our lives.
After 2005, and despite the Academy’s allergy to his performances, Tom Cruise never stopped turning out huge box office numbers. But War of the Worlds marked his highest grossing opening for the seventeen years following his explosive interview with Lauer. Then, about a month ago, Top Gun: Maverick shattered every record of Cruise’s career, propelling the man, now 60-years-old, back to the rank of highest paid actor in Hollywood.
Was it an omen of things to come? A mass media messiah slain and reborn? Count your thetans, baby, because regardless of what’s healthy or not, there’s no better personality reflective of this moment than an action star who is separately the secret pope of a science fiction cult, cast down into the underworld by establishment gods of yore before the Spielbergian backdrop of aliens on earth, now finally returned, after spurning the advances of the propaganda-obsessed CCP, in the cockpit of a U.S. fighter jet.
I can’t promise you the future will be perfect, the incentives just aren’t there. But I can absolutely guarantee we’ve all got front row tickets for the greatest show there’s ever been.