Manson, Discordianism & Fusion Paranoia: Adam Gorightly Speaks


If there's one conspiracy writer that can go headlong into the furthest reaches of murder, madness and mayhem and come out still smiling, it's Adam Gorightly. Over the course of his career he's written on all the major story arcs  - UFO flaps, mind control assassinations, LSD, the Manson Family, death cults, you name it.

Sure, the internet is filled to the brim with wild speculators with intricate maps of interconnected global string-pullers. What makes Gorightly stand apart is his keen sense of humor and healthy skepticism. After suffering through much hysteria myself, it was refreshing to come across a researcher unbent by a political or religious agenda. What I've found in his writing is a curious man, fascinated by the truly unbelievable synchronicities that lay right there just beneath the surface of some of histories most arcane events.

Having recently read his sweeping overview of the Manson Family saga, The Shadow over Santa Susana: Black Magic, Mind Control and the Manson Family Mythos, I reached out to him to discuss some questions I was left pondering. Of course if you have a chance to pick someones brain who has touched on so many aspects of the last 50 years of weird happenings, you have to try to cover as much ground as possible. 

Gorightly certainly did not disappoint. From the 60s counterculture movements up to the debacle of Trump and the 2016 Presidential election – get strapped in and prepare to blast off into the skies of high strangeness. I'm proud to present a captain of conspiracy and master of "crackpot history," Adam Gorightly.


Specifically in your Manson book that I just finished, you lay out every scenario and theory that has developed around the potential motives behind the Families crimes. In your work, is it important for you to prove or disprove theories, or simply to present all the threads that you find and allow people to come to their own conclusions? 

Yes, that’s my approach, not necessarily trying to prove or disprove, but just weaving all the threads together and letting the reader arrive at their own conclusions. So you answered your own question correctly!

The Shadow Over Santa Susana

The Family ordeal is an incredible tale of mind control and hypnotic techniques. Do you see Manson’s conviction as an official on-the-record statement on the reality that mind control works in practice? 
Well, that was basically Vincent Bugliosi’s positionso it was the official position of the Statethat Manson had formed a cult around himself, and like any good cult leader there was a certain degree of conditioningor mind controlgoing on. Manson used a lot of the tried and true techniques; breaking his member’s links to the past by separating them from their parentssevering those linksand Charlie becoming their new father and authority figure, having his children adopt new personas and different names, along with a new belief system and buying into a worldview that seemed to morph over time. At the beginning it was a peace, love and flowers trip but later turned to darkness and death. 
From all accounts, the trip Charlie laid down was a hodge podge of eastern religion meets apocalyptic Christianity, with an emphasis on killing your old self, killing your ego, to be reborn into a new, free self, unfettered from the past. 
The Family
Sex and drugs factored heavily into the equationand fear, as wellas deprogramming and re-programming tools. LSD certainly can have beneficial results if used in the proper set and setting ala Leary. But if you flip the “set and setting” script and use acid and other psychoactive drugs as a means to promote confusion and chaos, then they can certainly throw a person out of balance with the worldleave them grasping for meaningand into that vacuum comes Charlie Manson presenting himself as father, lover, guru, devil all rolled into one, filling the void or the emptiness with this new imprint. 
The Manson Girls on trial
Group sex was often employed, with Charlie as the ringmaster, having everyone drop acid while he would take a smaller dose himself to maintain control over the proceedings. The acid fueled orgies were used to break down inhibitions and break through the boundaries imposed by an uptight establishmentit was all about shattering the taboos laid down by society, to create a new reality, the dawning of Aquarius. 
Charlie, it’s been said, would orchestrate who fucked who, and so would have guys on girls on girls on girls and guys on guys and everybody on everybody, because they were all One. Not that there’s anything wrong with bisexuality, but it was a way of shattering taboos that Manson felt had been set down by society.

 The public has been taught that all ritual magic is “Black” or Satanic in nature. You used the term “Black Magic” in the book title. Is this distinction helpful to separate what Manson was doing from white magick that is explicitly opposed to creating harm or manipulation of others? 

Well, having not actually been there myself, much of this is speculation about Manson using Black Magic. There are many anecdotal or apocryphal tales attributed to the Mansonoids involved in dark rituals and it can be assumed that half of these stories were probably made up and the other half embellished upon to some extent. And like any other slice of weird history, the different participants involved have told somewhat different versions of the tales, or drastically different telling of the tales. That’s why the subtitle of my book included “mythos”, as it was a way of looking at all the rumors and mythologies swirling around The Family. It was an exercise to cobble all of these stories together, connect some dots, and attempt to weave it all into a comprehensive examination of the Manson story. 
Manson Girls outside the murder trials
Whatever the case, tales of weird rituals certainly turn up in different versions of the wild stories attributed to the Manson clan. At the very least, they were certainly putting a lot of negative vibes in the air and, if anything, that in itself could be considered a form of Black Magic. 
The desert is really where the final act of the Family unfolds. Is the desert a place that attracts madness? What is it about the barren desert landscape that captivated Manson?
The desert can be a vacuum, a place where you can remove people from outside influences —akin to Jonestownand groupthink can settle in, and the group becomes Oneof One Mindspending all their time together as a Family unit with a charismatic father/guru figure directing the thought traffic, dropping acid and talking about the apocalypse over a campfire, singing songs of “freedom”. The old age coming to an end and a new age waiting just around the bend. That’s the rap Manson was laying down. 
Barker Ranch
The desert has a mystical vibe; its silence, stillness and beauty can be awe inspiring contrasted to the cacophony and chaos of the city. Out in the desertaway from society “reality”, or one’s worldview, can be slowly stripped away and reshaped; old imprints discarded and new imprints initiated. 
Manson saw himself at home in the desert, the leader of a coyote pack.
Spahn Ranch 
Spahn Ranch
 Have you read Timothy Wylie’s insiders autobiography of the Process?  
Yes. Wylie’s bio Love, Sex, Fear, Death:The Inside Story of The Process Church provides an interesting perspective in contrast to a lot of the Boogieman stories surrounding The Process. It was published by Adam Parfrey of Feral House who has a pretty good BS meter in my estimation, and seemed like a sincere effort on the part of Wylie (a former high level Process member) to tell the story through his eyes, presenting the group in a pretty much benign light while not concealing the fact that they did indeed evolve into a cult. However, none of their activitiesaccording to Wylieinvolved the story Maury Terry laid out in the Ultimate Evil about murder, snuff films, pornography/prostitution rings, drug dealing and involvement with the Manson Family. 
The Process Church of the Final Judgement
Wylie presents the Process as a collection of artists and philosophers using and creating different religious structures to form a sort of social movement, as a challenge to the status quo. The most ominous thing to come out of the book was Mary Anne DeGrimston’s role, who was the true leader of the group, describing her as a highly manipulative person, kind of like an ice queen who ruled with an iron hand, causing a lot of mental and emotional anguish, particularly in the final days of the group before they morphed to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
In my contacts with former Process members, I tend to believe that all the Manson connections (outside of the one article they published) have been manufactured and sensationalized for a public that loves an old, Satanic murder cult story. Maury Terry and Ed Sanders offer a lot of unnamed sources to lend their allegations credibility. Did you feel very confident in relying on their research for your book? 
As we discussed earlier, I included all the weird Manson stories for readers to wade throw and come to their own conclusions about. At the time I wrote the first edition of the bookway back in 2001I was kind of up in the air concerning a lot of Ed Sanders claims, so I just rolled with themlaid them out for others to puzzle overbut as time has passed it’s become pretty obvious that a lot of the sources Sanders used were of dubious merit and he should have seen that. I think Sanders had his blinders on (perhaps intentionally so) and just wanted to cram as much sensationalism as he could into his book, The Family. 
One of his main sources was a guy named White Rabbit (real name Larry Melton, as I recall) who made all kinds of crazy claims about black magic-sex and death rituals, blood guzzling, etc. Melton claimed inside knowlegde about the Manson Family, and that he was a member for awhile, but in reality it appears he only met Charlie’s clan briefly, if at all. 
I think Maury Terry was more legit, although he relied on some of Sanders stories to bolster his own theories, which is also problematic. Whatever the case, I think Terry uncovered some interesting leads; certainly within the ranks of NYPD there were detectives convinced that David Berkowitz was much more than a lone nut and that he was connected to a larger occult network that was, in turn, connected to the Process Church, or some splinter group of The Process. Whether you could directly tie any of this to the Process Church leadership is another story.
One of the most fascinating people covered in the book is Paul Crockett, the man who “de-programmed” Paul Watkins and Brooks Poston. I was completely impressed by the stories of his ability to stand toe-to-toe with Manson, calmly undermining all of Charlie’s mental tricks. And the fact that Charlie never brought harm to him over it all. Is this a case of a white magician overcoming a black magician at his own game?  

Well, it could be viewed that way. Or just one alpha dog scrapping with another, and having a healthy respect for each other. Crockett had been a Scientology auditor and was quick to pick up on some of Charlie’s Scientology tricks, and called BS on his schtick and turned the game around on him, which of course got Manson off-balance because he prided himself as someone who maintained control of his surroundings and the people within his span.

Paul Crockett
Do you think the specific worldview Manson used to indoctrinate young people would work on anyone today or was something that really only had power because of the late 60’s counterculture attitudes of the day?

Well, I think cult induction techniques will work in any time and place but the setting of the 60s counterculture was specific to the Manson Family sagathe sex, love and drugs and the revolt against the Establishment going on during that period. So in some ways it couldn’t work today, because that setting was specific to the time. In some ways things were a lot more loose and freewheeling back then. Manson had a lot of underage girls in his group, and nowadays that kind of scene would be hard to get away with. Back then some parents, it seemed, were a bit more naïve when children in their teens ran away from home; it was a more innocent time, and this thing about children running away from home to wear flowers in their hair in the Haight Ashbury was more accepted for some reason. Also there wasn’t this vast law enforcement network in place that we have nowadays, and the use of media and internet to find missing children, the whole Amber Alert business. 
What did you make of Gov. Jerry Brown overturning the California review board’s decision to grant Leslie Van Houten parole?  Do you think Brown really believes that she poses “an unreasonable danger to society” or more that she deserves to die in prison because of her crime? Or is the decision purely a safe political move for him to make?
 It’s hard to answer that without looking at what evidence was presented at the parole hearing, and admittedly I didn’t review any of that, so I probably can’t give a fair assessment if keeping her locked up was justified. 
Just viewing it from a distance, I would doubt Van Houten is much of a threat at this point, but it’s become such a political hot button issue still after all these years, and what Governor wants to be remembered as the guy who approved the release of one of the notorious Manson Family members?

It’s been about 15 years since the book came out. Would there be any new information or twists you would have included in it, had it come out today? 

I would probably add the bit about that young woman who was supposedly going to marry Manson awhile back. From what I heard, that was basically a scam to obtain the rights to some of Manson’s material, his music and whatnot. When Charlie realized he probably wasn’t going to get laid, that was the last we heard of this supposed marriage, which appeared really to be some sort of con job. 
 Shifting gears, what was the most fulfilling book or topic you’ve tackled so far? 

I would say Historia Discordia:The Origins of The Discordian Society, which really had less writing in it because the majority of the book was presenting the archival material that was passed on to me in 2009. You can read more about that here.
Currently, I’m putting together a book of Discordian letters. Hopefully, that will be available in the next year or so.


What first got you interested in Robert Anton Wilson’s ideas? 

Well, Cosmic Trigger I think was the first book by Wilson that really blew my mind. (‘Tis an ill wind that blows no minds!) I attempted to read Illuminatus! back in the early eighties and that was really tough going for me at the time, but Cosmic Trigger was easier to process by the time I read itprobably in the mid 90sand it really helped steer me in a certain direction, or more accurately, helped rewire my brain at how I look at things; on the one hand to be inquisitive, and at the same time think critically, not to jump to conclusions, but attempt to remain open ended. Wilson used the term model agnosticism to describe this approach; to open yourself to all the wild theories out there in the wooly world, but at the same time to look at both sides of every story, or as many sides of even given theory, and attempt to view it from as many perspectives as possible. I think this keeps the brain growing. One of my favorite Wilson sayings from Cosmic Trigger is this: 
“My own opinion is that belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence. The more certitude one assumes, the less there is left to think about, and a person sure of everything would never have any need to think about anything and might be considered clinically dead under current medical standards, where the absence of brain activity is taken to mean that life has ended." 

Robert Anton Wilson
The guy really seems like one of a kind in the way he thought and communicated. Has there been anybody in the underground culture that has taken up the mantle? 
We probably won’t know until we know, will we? And we won’t call that person the next Robert Anton Wilson, it will be whatever his or her name is because they will take it another step further, evolve the ideas of Wilson and others and keep the ball rolling…or the Golden Apple, as the case may be. 
RAW was pretty unique in a sense, although I think that some of Terence McKenna’s work was along the lines of RAWand Leary, for that matteras both RAW and Leary were connected to the hip for a period of time. Of course, Terence is long gone, and people are now looking for the next Terence McKenna, too. 
Alan Moore is some respects could be considered in the same vein as RAW, but all of these guys are unique unto themselves.
Do you think Discordianism reached its peak back in the day and is dwindling into obscurity or are you seeing an increase in interest from newer generations?  
Well, it’s all a matter of perspective, really. Everyone who is a Discordian sees Discordianism somewhat differently than any other Discordian…or a whole lot differently. “We Discordians must stick part,” as the saying goes. 
Adam & Bob
With all that being said, there’s been an uptick in the revival of interest in the founding fathers of Discordianism over the last few years, not only with my books and the HistoriaDiscordia website, but with the Cosmic Trigger Play based on the life and times of Robert Anton Wilson that had a run in Liverpool and London in 2014, the brain child of Daisy Eris Campbell and her gang of pranksters. The play features not only Wilson and Shea as characters but also appearances by Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill characters. 
I had the good fortune of attending the Liverpool performance and it was an amazingly funny and equally heart breaking production. Daisy’s master plan is to bring the Cosmic Trigger Play to the states for a performance in Santa Cruz, CA on July 23, 2017 which has been formerly christened by the mayor of Santa Cruz as Robert Anton Wilson Day, or Maybe Day. July 23, 1973 was the date of Wilson’s contact with the dogstar Sirius and is also National Hot Dog Day. In response to the Cosmic Trigger Play there was Festival 23, which happened recently, July 23 again, over in the UK. So there appears to be a strong revival going on in the UK of RAW and Discordianism. 
Cosmic Trigger
But there are many different strains of Discordianism under the sun, or the dual stars of Sirius, as the case may be. Facebook is lousy with Discordian groups, but what you find in some of these groups is often pretty juvenile or gross humor that seems light years away from the spirit of what Hill and Thornley intended and in somebutnotall Discordian forums you’ll sometimes find vicious trolling going on, all of which seems really contrary to the playful and creative spirit of chaos invoked by the original Discordians.  So for someone whose introduction to Discordianism was the Principia Discordia who innocently wanders into some of these Facebook groups or internet forums they might have a rude awakening and soon wonder what the hell is all this vulgar and sometimes sexist or racist stuff going on? Or just people treating people with a lack of respect. 
Of course Discordianism was never intended to have one singular definition. It can be whatever the practitioner wants it to be. And that, I think, was Greg Hill’s original intent, to let it mutate however it was going to be mutate, because how can anyone control a religion based on chaos, it’s counterintuitive.  
Sacred Chao
So it has became a very odd and divisive community, at times, and competitive, for some peculiar reason, ala my version of Discordianism is better than yours, which is the exact opposite of what Greg Hill intended. But now here I am putting my own definitions on a movement, which shouldn’t be defined…and that in itself is a definition.
A Discordian viewpoint is the thing that helps me put current events like the insanity of this 2016 election, into perspective. Where do you see the application of the philosophy being put to its best use? 

Discordianism should be spontaneous a reaction really to any given set of circumstances, political or otherwise. The early Discordians were certainly commenting on the politics and cultural climate of their times. 
To this end, someone like Banksy seems Discordian to me. And perhaps Anonymous to some extent owes a certain debt to the anarchist wing of the Discordian Society. But once again, that’s all in the eye of the beholder, as Discordians come from all political persuasions. 
As you noted, national politics have become increasingly surreal of late, specifically during the current Presidential election cycle. Donald Trump’s embrace of conspiracy theories mirrors, in an odd way, the same comical conspiracy world constructed by Wilson and Shea in Illuminatus!, and some of the stuff Trump spouts even makes Illuminatus! look almost pedestrian in comparisonit almost seems that Trump is performing Operation Mindfuck on the masses with a lot of the crazy stuff he says and then says he didn’t say and then he says, well, a lot of people are saying it and I was just retweeting it or that’s what I said but that’s not what I meant. It seems like a kind of sociological experiment to see how much cognitive dissonance a culture can take before imploding. 
ILLUMINATUS! Trilogy
It’s obvious Trump is an avid consumer of the type conspiratorial fodder you see ad nauseum on the internet these daysor what some are referring to now as the Alt Right. And, in fact, “some people are saying” that Trump really never had any intention of actually becoming President and that the ulterior motive behind his campaign was to launch a new media venture that will further move this right wing conspiratorial worldview more into the mainstream, and that’s the reason he got in bed with this Breitbart publisher, Stephen Bannon, and why Roger Aileswho just recently got the boot from Foxis also in the mix with his campaign. So it is a conspiracy within a conspiracy, so to speak, or a conspiracy to start a new media outlet that will further promote conspiracies. This would explain why Trump seems to be continually sabotaging any chance he has of winning the election by popping off with one kooky thing after another; he never really was serious about becoming President, it was all about taking his brand to another, weirder, level. 
20 or 30 years ago if you said there was a presidential candidate who endorsed conspiracy theories I would have been all inyou know, someone who was going to blow the JFK assassination wide open or spill the beans about what the Government really knows about UFOsI would have thought cool, the time has come. But now all of this nonsenseall these different conspiracy theories that have been being floated during to this presidential election cycleseem like nothing more than distractions, or the propaganda tools of political hacks. 
When Trump promoted the claim that Ted Cruz’s father was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald it was one of the high points (or low points) in this surreal circus; a claim promoted by one of Trump’s most trusted advisors, a guy named Roger Stone. Stone gained some notoriety a couple years back with his book claiming LBJ had orchestrated JFK’s assassination, which some have suggested was just a means of distancing Richard Nixon from his alleged role in the assassination due to the fact that Stone had worked in the Nixon White House and is probably the biggest Dick Nixon fan on earth and even has a huge tattoo of Nixon on his back! 
It could be assumed that Stone’s influence inspired Trump to model certain aspects of his campaign on the Nixon presidency, which is also somewhat surreal given the fact that Trump presents himself as the anti-corruption and anti-establishment candidate, whereas Nixon could be considered the poster boy for political corruption at the highest level. At the 1968 Republican Convention, Nixon billed himself as the Law and Order candidate, which Trump similarly used as his tagline and openly admitted modeling much of this year’s RNC after Nixon. 
See the secret hand symbol?
Recently I’ve been listening to the Jeff Rense Showmainly to keep tabs on what conspiracies are percolating on the extreme end of the conspiracy spectrumand I noticed, at some point, that Trump seemed to be repeating a lot of stuff I was hearing on Rense’s show. I mean, on at least a half dozen occasions over the last couple of months, I’d hear Rense make some conspiratorial claim related to this election cycle and then, I swear to Eris, the very next day, or shortly after, I’d hear Trump repeat the same conspiracy rumor, sometimes almost word for word. For instance, the whole bit about if Trump doesn’t win the general election, then it must be riggedRense was going off about that. Then a day or two later, Trump came up with that same stuff, how the election was going to be rigged if he doesn’t win. 
And then the whole bit about Hillary’s health, how she bumped her head or somesuch and is now acting wackor the bit about Obama being a closet Muslim, that he created Isislike clockwork  you’d hear Trump using the same rhetoric a day or two later, and I really think Trump is just doing this stuff off the cuff, he’ll hear something from Jeff Rense, or Roger Stone will blow in his ear about something, and then he’ll repeat it or riff on it at one of his rallies to get his troops fired up, and then the next thing you know the mainstream pundits will have more crazy fodder to chew over for the next news cycle. 
Another example was on one of Rense’s recent shows where he was going off about how the media is “disgusting and corrupt” because of their unfair treatment of this “honorable man, Trump”, and then, almost the next day, Trump was saying the same thing, I mean using the exact same words, to describe the “disgusting and corrupt media.”
Popular TV shows like Stranger Things and Mr. Robot as well as many others are mainstreaming conspiratorial ideas about the way corporations and governments operate but at the same time a see an article every couple of weeks, totally mocking “conspiracy theorists”. Why do you think there is this societal fascination with dark plots in entertainment but at the same time rejection and belittling of individuals who seek to explore the possibility that these things do actually happen?
Conspiracy theories have certainly become more mainstream due to shows like The X Files, for instance, and with the explosion of internet, making information (for good or ill) more readily available. It’s interesting to note how over the decades the conspiracy research community seems to have shifted across the political spectrum, from one end to the other, how it has evolved—or devolved—as the case may be. 
If you track back the conspiracy research scene over the last 50 years or so—back to its roots in contemporary culture—a lot of it gained traction with the JFK assassination, and many of the early researchers looking into the JFK/RFK/MLK assassinations were often associated with left, or radical left, and the magazines that featured these conspiracy oriented viewpoints were often progressive or counterculture publications like Ramparts, or Paul Krassner’s The Realist, which published some of Mar Brussell’s early work. Generally speaking, those early conspiracy researchers were often left leaning activists or radicals involved in the anti-war protests and civil rights movement, and by and large they were opposed to the Administration, and its law enforcement branches and agencies, like the FBI and CIA, whom they accused of complicity in many of these conspiracies. 
The Realist
Concurrent with these activities of left oriented conspiracy theorists, there were also right wing theorists who emerged in the 60s, who were much more obscure and even further out on the fringes, and sometimes these right wing theories dovetailed with some of the left wing conspiracy theories. Many fringe right theories evolved out of the Hollywood blacklist period focusing on a communist conspiracy that were promoted by such groups as the John Birch Society, for instance, that talked about an overarching Illuminati conspiracy—which was basically another way of alluding to International Jewish Bankers and the worldwide monetary conspiracy outlined in the book None Dare Call It Conspiracy by Gary Allen—about this group of bankers and global financers who had actually propped up both communism and fascism during World War II—basically playing both ends against the middle—and used the United Nations to promote communism and socialism, which in turn led to the rise of the counterculture and  antiwar movement in the United States, who were merely  puppets directed by the hidden hand behind of all of this, the secretive Illuminati. At the time, a lot of these theories were pretty obscure. 
The Christian Identity movement also echoed similar theories and wove in stuff about Biblical prophecy and how the Mark of the Beast 666 was going to take over the monetary system, all part of this grand Satanic-Illuminati plan which would be instituted by The United Nations, who had actually infiltrated the United States Government, which made any and all government agencies de facto agents of Illuminism. So that was the common overlapping theme, a mistrust of the governments and globalists—whether coming from the fringes on the radical left or the extreme right—Birchers blamed the rise of Communism on détente by the likes of Nixon and Kissinger and the Rockefellers. Meanwhile, the left connected Nixon and Kissinger and intelligence agencies as being responsible for the escalation of the Vietnam War and Cointelpro and all the dirty tricks going on during the period. 
So you started seeing this overlap—or what became coined as “fusion paranoia” —linking the radical left conspiracy theories with some of the theories on the extreme right.  
Many on the left proposed that the CIA killed Kennedy while the John Birch Society claimed it was the Illuminati who killed Kennedy, and over time—with the help of fusion paranoia, so to speak—the idea coalesced into the theory that the Illuminati-sponsored CIA killed Kennedy. Over time this concept of fusion paranoia brought these two ends of the political spectrum together, and this is exactly what Robert Anton Wilson picked up on when he was an editor at Playboy in the late 60s. He started receiving all these letters sent into the magazine claiming all types of weird conspiracies, coming from both the left and right, and different stories about some obscure group called the Illuminati that was supposedly responsible from all the bad things happening in the world. 
Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus! ran with this concept of fusion paranoia and competing conspiracies overlapping with each other—with  the conspirators often unaware of what their competing conspirators were up to—as they conspired with and against each other; a patchwork of world leaders and intelligence agencies and organized crime leaders and international bankers and secret societies and Nazi occultists and Freemasons and religious fronts and radical activists—all part of one grand, diabolical design—and at its apex, the Eye in the Triangle overseeing it all, the dreaded Illuminati. 
In Illuminatus!, Wilson and Shea presented the “world’s oldest and most successful secret society” as being responsible for all the ills of the planet, but as the story progressed we learned that the Illuminati somewhere along the way had been infiltrated by the Discordian Society in an attempt to overthrow the old school leadership and use the Illuminati network to ultimately enlighten mankind—and that was kind in joke among  Discordianians back in the day: the new paradigm would take over the old one by way of a comic conspiracy that would ultimately liberate humankind. 
But to return to your question about what draws people to conspiracy theories: I think it’s because conspiracy theories are a form of the occultthe hidden that becomes unhidden or a mystery that leads to more mysteries unraveling.  And people love mysteries; going on a journey into the darkness to discover the truth.   
This light at the end of the tunnel is what I think pulls people down these rabbit holes, though often what they find is more darkness there instead of light. 
Conspiracy theories (or conspiracy facts, or whatever you want to call them) provide simple answers for some who feel overwhelmed by a world gone crazy, and their place in a crazy world they feel they can’t influence; they feel they’re a pawn or victim in the game, getting fucked around by global elitists, which explains why they have a shitty job and can’t pay their bills at the end of the month and are buried in debt or why their girlfriend dumped them or whatever perceived rut they can’t climb outand a million other reasons that can all be traced back to JFK’s assassination, because as we knowor as legend has informed usJFK would have never got us into Vietnam and would have gotten rid of the CIA and the Federal Reserve and would have reinstated a gold backed currency and everything would be cool now if the Illuminati hadn’t stepped in and taken JFK down in his prime. Perhaps that is true, but we must remember that while JFK was still alive there were those that were promoting the very same rumors about him that we now hear about Obama (or really, whoever ends up in the White House, from whatever political party) that he’s in bed with the commies or Isis or the latest boogieman, real or imagined. 
So somebutnotall of these conspiracy theories (be they true, half true or rubbish) are confirmation to those who want to believe that everything is engineered by this global elite, and that any tragic thing that happens is a false flag filled with crisis actors, or any natural disaster is due to weather modification or HAARP or CERNall of which are ultimately designed to deprive you of having the type of life you think you deserve or that you would have if the damn global elite would just stop fucking over everything and make America great again… I mean really, really great.
There was recently a flap in a discussion group I belong to as to whether or not, or to what extent, the 60’s counterculture was manufactured by the CIA. The book Acid Dreams, clearly lays out the origins of LSD and the existence of agent provocateurs amongst various groups. At the same time, the groups themselves seem to me from their roots, look to have been a genuine article. Where has your research led you?  

It’s an intriguing topic, and I’ve read Acid Dreams and most of the other books on the topic, and I’m familiar with the work of most of researchers exploring these theories. That the CIA dabbled with LSD is beyond dispute, and so it would make sense that some of the people connected toor who served in the CIAwould later become psychedelic proselytizers.  I know if I had been a CIA spook (which I can neither confirm nor deny) and gained access to LSD back in the dayand had the opportunity to dose myself in the right set and settingI probably would have left the Agency, grew my hair out and gone to Woodstock. And I think that’s what people find most confusing about a lot of this, when they realize that the acid Leary tested had come indirectly from the CIAas well as the stuff Kesey and Garcia were fed at Stanfordthat the CIA had bought up this huge stash of Sandoz acid and was using academic institutions to test it with volunteer guinea pigs. 

And yeah, I’m sure our friends at The Company would have loved to use it as the total mind control drug, but it didn’t work out like thatLSD is just way too mercurial of a substance to use it in that manner    
and once the genie was out of the bottle, the CIA acid tests got co-opted by counterculture pioneers like Owsley Stanley who started whipping up righteous batches and once it got into the hands of the freaks that was a game changer, taking it out of the labs and into the streets. 
The overarching theory is that all these elements were stirred into one great witch’s caldron made of rock music, MK-ULTRA, Project Artichoke, the counterculture and psychedelic movementsone great vat of test tube baby boomersthe ultimate design of which was to brainwash the 60s generation, which ostensibly led to a loosening of morals and scrambled brain cellsas the theory goesand allowed illegal drugs to become big business, flooding the inner cities and turning the youth and minorities into mindless, drug addled slaves sucking at the foul teat of government, which would allow the Elites (cough, Jewish Bankers, cough) to ultimately declare Martial Law and take everything over and slowly depopulate the planet, and on and on and on… 
A volunteer undergoing LSD research project at an honor camp in Viejas, California, Sept. 6, 1966
But thenat the same time the 60s generation was supposedly becoming obedient brain washed slavesthey were meanwhile defying the government by burning draft cards and protesting the war and burning bras and promoting civil rights and sexual liberation and making some cool music along the way. 
So the theory seems to contradict itself, or is so convoluted I find it difficult to take very seriously.  It’s another one of those everything-thrown-into-the kitchen-sink-unified-field-theories.  And I brought up the depopulation angle because I often hear that woven into this narrative; that the ultimate goal behind the 60s rock music and drug culture was entwined with these theories of mind control and population controlthat it’s all some sort of outgrowth of the Nazi eugenics programwhich then takes an awkward leap to Planned Parenthood, for instance, as being part of this overarching conspiracy that liberals and progressives have been duped into…and on and on and on… 
And it all seems to come full circle to what a lot of 60s activists were protesting; the ideal of allowing people to be the sole navigators of their minds and bodies free of government interference, the sort of anarcho-libertarian mindset that Wilson and Shea promoted in Illuminatus!, all of which stood in stark contrast to the Establishment of the time that wanted to put a kibosh on all the fun. 

So when someone hears that Bob Weir went to Bohemian Grove, then those are the type of connections that make internet conspiracy sleuths say, “Aha, the Illuminati runs Bohemian Grove so they must be directing Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead!”A lot of this started with John Coleman’s claim in his book The Committee of 300 that The Beatles had been created and groomed at Tavistock Institute, but when you trace this back to the original source, you find there’s no “there” there; that the sole and original source for this whole Tavistock caper was simply John Coleman, because there’s no other evidence supporting the claim—it seems to have started and ended with Coleman aloneor it should have ended there. But this is one of those assertions that gets regurgitated over and over again and becomes accepted as gospel, or bias confirmation. 
Another book that set this notion in motion back in the 60s was Rhythm, Riots and Revolution: An Analysis of the Communist Use of Music by Dr. David Noebel, who presented the theory that rock music and the drug culture put the youth into voodoo trance states and turned them into rockabilly zombies, and that black roots music was an influence on rock n’ roll which further ushered in multiculturalism and free sex and interracial coupling and all the other bad hootchie-kootchie stuff that I guess the Illuminati is keen on and of which Aleister Crowley would most assuredly approve. To this end—according to the theory—rock musicians were unwitting dupes spreading the message of peace, love and drugs, which is exactly what the commies wanted so they could bring the United States and capitalism to its knees. 
Occultism gets a really bad rap in conspiracy lore. The majority of occultists I know are interested in pushing the boundaries of conventional consciousness as part of a personal spiritual trip. The general population only seems to be aware of the cartoonish theatrics of LaVeyan Satanism, which was all a shock act. RAW himself was a practitioner of Crowley’s Thelema system - and he certainly wasn't trying to take over the world. Isn’t it about time we stop blaming everything on the Freemasons, etc.?  

Yes. Let’s start now. 
When you want the best and most trustworthy information on conspiracies, current events or the paranormal, what are your favorite sources? 

I can’t say that I have any go-to sources for information on conspiracies, mainly because there’s so much noise out there these daysdrowning out any intelligible signalthat I don’t willingly go out hunting for the latest and great conspiracies because you get bombarded with so much of this stuff non-stop on social media these dayswhether you’re looking for it or notso I spend more time tuning out a lot of this noise rather than intentionally looking for more. I figure if it’s interesting enough—whether it’s a story on conspiracies or the paranormal—it will find its way to me.  But with that said, I do monitor, for instance, Jeff Rense to get a pulse of what’s going on in the far right conspiratorial margins, just to get a bearing on where some people’s heads are at these days. 
If there’s a breaking national news story I want to keep tabs on, I think Twitter can be a powerful toolusing tweetdeck, for instanceand following certain search terms. That way you can see what’s trending with any particular search term and then sort through the different links to boil it down to the most pertinent, fact based, info. 
The type of stuff that more interests me these days are sites like Atlas Obscura or Messy Nessy Chic that focus on travel or pop culture. 
What themes or currents have you been researching this past year? Can we expect a new book that you can touch on?
Well, I’m working on a half dozen different book projects at this time with some recurring themes: Discordianism, UFOs and Disinformation, James Shelby Downard…coming soon to an internet book seller near you.
- Follow Adam Gorightly as he tweets crackpot history @AdamGorightly

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