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Red Pills of the Week — February 9th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! This week our virtual mission will reveal ancient kings buried in parking lots, and Illuminati conspiracies in football stadiums. We’ll investigate shiny anomalies on Mars & fossilized monsters on Siberian lakes. And as we study the first laws banning the creation of chimeras, we’ll wonder at the invention of the first bionic man (sorry, Steve). To all the people suffering from Nemo’s chilly weather, come down to Zion where it’s still warm!

10 Our first Pill takes us back to a story we covered back in September of last year, when we announced the archeological discovery of what was thought to be the remains of Richard III, last English monarch of the Plantagenet line. This week the finding was finally confirmed, and we also found out that Richie was not a good-looking chap after all.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 4.24.21 PMWith the discovery a wave of revisionism towards the famous king was erupted, with academics & historians stepping forth in defense of the hunchback sovereign, whose illustration as a cold-blooded tyrant in Shakespeare’s play has forever shaped his place in history in the public’s imagination. One wonders what future historians make of our current leaders based on how we portray them today –though I sincerely hope they don’t assume a vampire was actually in charge of the nuclear launch codes…

9It’s no wonder people are showing such interest & admiration for good ole Richie III. After all, he’s been dead for 500 years –if he were alive today people would assume that, since he’s a member of nobility, he therefore is a Reptilian shape-shifting member of the Illuminati.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 4.25.37 PMSpeaking of the Illuminati, did y’all watch the Superbowl last weekend? I didn’t because (a) I don’t like sports on TV; and (b) I was too busy playing Mass Effect 3. But if I had bothered to at least see the half-time show with stunning Beyoncé, I would have had the chance to witness the curious blackout that occurred just after her performance, which has naturally managed to spark a plethora of wacky conspiracy theories all around the interwebz.

It all makes sense, right? After all we ALL know Lady Gaga is the darling of the Illuminati, and Beyoncé was once featured in one of her videos. Bum! enough condemning evidence to the eyes of any self-respecting tinfoil hatter. We’re on to you, girl! We’re gonna ring the alarm.

8 You might think I came down too hard on the conspiracy crowd, and you might be right. On the one hand I think it’s important to be aware that governments & institutional authorities are subject to abuses of power & corruption, and so will resort to lies & deception to cover their asses. But on the other hand, I fear that we might soon end up in a world where NOTHING that is endorsed by our leaders will be believed by common citizens –how could a civilization be able to sustain itself at that point, when mistrust becomes so dangerously entrenched?

Consider for instance a recent survey made in the United States which reached the conclusion that approximately two thirds of American population believe in some type of conspiracy theory. Here’s why I found this survey significant:

In general, the survey found, the more conspiracies a person believes, the fewer current events questions they are able to answer correctly. Forty-seven percent of individuals who believed in no conspiracy theories answered all four current events questions correctly. Meanwhile, only one-percent of individuals who believed in three conspiracy theories managed to run the table on the current events questions. In addition, belief in conspiracies tended to be slightly higher among black Americans than among white Americans.

So apparently the more conspiracy theories are part of your personal belief system, the more disconnected to reality you become. Which brings me to the next Pill of the week, dealing with an alleged 9/11 truther who defaced the famous painting Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, by painting AE911 on it with a black marker. AE911 would stand for Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a group of construction professional who have raised suspicions on the official explanation on how the WTC was destroyed on 2001.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 4.26.03 PMThe snarky tone of the comments at Gawker left me with a bad taste in the mouth. The intention of Max Read, who wrote the article, was rather clear: to portray the entire AE911 movement in a bad light, based solely on the stupid actions of ONE deranged individual –Attacking fringe ideas using the lowest common denominator has become exceedingly common on mainstream media as of late.

If you find yourself somewhat confused with where I’m going with all this, then you’re not alone –I myself am unsure as to my personal stance on the issue of conspiracy theories. I guess it boils down to not becoming too personal invested with your belief system, and ALWAYS question just why you happen to believe what you believe in: is it because the available evidence points out to that conclusion, or because it makes you feel better?

Or perhaps we should all just adopt Robert Anton Wilson’s Maybe logic. Sure seems much more healthy than wasting time & energy defending your position on Internet discussion wars…

7 When it comes to conspiracy theories, 9/11 can’t hold a candle to the grand-daddy of them all: Roswell. Considering how many hours have been devoted to discussing whether an alien ship crashed on the New Mexico desert or not would be a very tedious (and pointless) task.

Chase Brandon and his story of the Roswell box he found on the CIA headquarters were part of the Red Pills of the Year. And now the former head of the CIA (also former Defense secretary) Robert Gates has gone on the record, and in rather ambiguous although polite terms has discounted Brandon’s allegations:

Backstage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Tuesday morning, Gates said he hadn’t heard about Brandon’s claims. When presented with those verbatim assertions, Gates remained poker-faced. But he didn’t challenge Brandon head-on, either.

“I’ll respond in this way,” he said. “As director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense, I think I have had every security clearance that there is available in the United States government. I first joined the government 46 years ago and I have never seen one shred of evidence or one report of any kind of UFO or remains or cadavers or anything.”

De Void: Is there a way to reconcile that story?

Gates (quickly): “No.”

And yet Brandon is still free to spread his Roswell story on mainstream media & the Internet, with no apparent consequences or legal repercussions. Something stinks here worse than a Reticulan carcass, folks.

6 So getting back on the issue of conspiracies, perhaps the single most damaging effect of ascribing to the conspiranoid mentality is not knowing who or what to trust. And this is particularly true when it comes to the UFO field, where phony documents & phony photographs abound.

And with Youtube & the widespread availability of affordable CGI software came an invasion –see what I did there?– of phony UFO videos, which keep getting better & better. How better, you ask? Take a look at this:


Okay, so you weren’t fooled by the obvious ‘Sci-Fi’ look of the UFO & the mother ship. Also, the craft look way too sharp & focused, and the engine roar sounded fake. But what if I told you that not only the UFOs were CGI, but in fact EVERYTHING in the video –the sky, the road, even the interior of the freaking car!– were all digital models, painstakingly assembled by a group of artists lead by Aristomeni ‘Meni’ Tsirbas, director of the 2007 animated film Battle for Terra, among other Hollywood projects?

“The point of the video was to prove that CGI can look natural and convincing,” Tsirbas told Wired. ”Everybody assumes the background and car are real, and that the UFOs are probably fake, especially the over-the-top mothership at the end. The general reaction is disbelief, so I usually have to prove it by showing a wireframe of the entire shot to prove that nothing is real.”

A very clever deception, and I can’t help thinking that if Tsirbas had opted for a more ‘traditional’ aesthetics on the design on the UFO –a domed saucer, ending with a cigar-shaped mother ship– mixed with some buzzing sounds & a few well-timed expletives thrown in for good measure, a great deal number of so-called UFO experts would have been fooled by his little prank.

So the moral of the story is rather simple, boys & girls: Don’t trust ANY Youtube clip from now on. Ever!

5 Another great source of distraction for the conspiracy crowd is all the raw data of photographs taken by the rovers on Mars, which are subsequently uploaded by NASA are analyzed by a team of enthusiastic amateur collaborators. One such collaborator, an Italian woman by the name of Elisabetta Bonora, detected a rather strange shiny object which seems to crop out of the Martian bedrock.

mars-shiny-580x494In the past these types of discoveries have been dismissed by NASA as simple pieces of the rover itself which tend to fall down from time to time –a somewhat strange compliment to the people behind the construction of these complex machines, which apparently can go without a few screws lost here & there. Yet one can plainly see this is not the case with this new finding, so it will surely pique the imagination of Richard Hoagland & his minions.

Me? it’s rather obvious what this object is: a fossilized partial denture of a senior Martian –yes, guys: I do keep a couple of tinfoil hats around, just in case.

4 If Martians needed prosthetic denture, then it goes to reason they eventually withered & died. Maybe the same thing happens to lake monsters, as 3213464893_8f27886f95_oseemed to indicate by the next follow-up on a story we covered on September 22nd –you see, Sharon? some of us *do* try to follow-up on these Fortean news ;)– when we discussed how a team of Russian scientists were trying to find out evidence of an aquatic beast said to live on lake Labynkyr. The team of researchers claim that with the help of an underwater sonar they located the “jaws & skeletal remains of a large animal”. With any luck photographs of these fossilized remains will be published soon but… how will we know if the photographs are real? DAMN YOU, PHOTOSHOP!!!!

3 The skeleton of a real lake monster would be cool to see, but then again I think we all would prefer if they found a living specimen. The sight of a large unknown animal swimming next to you would probably test the nerves of most seasoned scuba divers.

But imagine if instead of some long-necked plesiosaur the diver encountered a real mermaid? That would probably be even more scary, because it would challenge all your preconceptions re. the differences between Fantasy & the real world!

Yet that apparently is what happened in Zimbabwe, that exciting land of wonder where one can find not only exploding goblins, but also hostile mermaids who like to scare off the workers of a local water reservoir:

Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, the Minister of Water Resources, reportedly told a parliamentary committee that terrified workers were refusing to return to the sites, near the towns of Gokwe and Mutare due to an infestation of dangerous (and evidently thirsty) half-human, half-fish

And even thought ritual offerings of beer have been considered to appease the mythological entities, authorities will still have a lot of trouble convincing the terrified workers that it’s safe to return to the reservoirs. Forget the beer guys: offer them mergirls some Margaritas! Problem solved.

2 And because some Southerner law-makers in the US have some serious issues with mermaids & other types of chimeric beings, recently in Mississippi Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville has introduced a bill that would punish any would-be Dr. Moreau with a hefty fine, should he or she try to create any human-animal hybrid. According to the new bill, a manimal is defined thusly:

  • Embryos that contain human and nonhuman cells, nuclei or chromosomes.
  • Embryos that were created by fertilizing a human egg with animal sperm, or vice versa.
  • A nonhuman life form “engineered” with a human brain.

I weep for the geeks living in Mississippi, for they’ll forever be denied of their dream of having a hot Nekomimi girlfriend.

1 If Representative Arnold is so antagonistic toward chimeras, I wonder how he’d respond to the idea of bionic humans. The day when most of our organs can be replaced by their synthetic counterparts might not be that far away, as evidenced by the unveiling of Rex: the world’s most complete bionic man –who kinda looks like Moby if you ask me, and come to think of it, that seems rather fitting also…

web-bionic-man-1With Rex, researchers have been able to replicate 60 to 70% of the human body, at just the bargain price of $1M –things probably looked more expensive in the 70s– and even though we’re still pretty far from the day when one could order a new bionic heart via Amazon, the new advancements in prosthetics & artificial organs raise some fascinating ethical dilemmas:

[Social psychologist Bertolt Meyer] said there would be ethical issues surrounding prostheses if they began to outperform human body parts. “Should I be allowed to cut off my real hand and replace it with something, does that gives me an unfair advantage over people who cannot afford this? I’m not saying that is going to happen but these are questions that should be on the table before that technology becomes available.”

ghost_in_the_shell1As I think I’ve stated in the past, our technology advances far more rapidly than our legal systems, hence we humans seem to be adapting to our discoveries ‘on the go’. Because of this, even though I’d like to see the day when we lived in a world as portrayed in Ghost in the Shell, the way things are going I’m afraid we’ll only end up with Repo Men.


Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. I liked how this week we kinda came full circle: we started with the molded face of a 500-year-old dude, and finished with the molded face of a futuristic bionic dude –the Matrix *does* run in cycles!


Miguel Romero a.k.a. Red Pill Junkie is a cartoonist and fortean blogger who writes at Mysterious Universe
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