Monday, July 18, 2016

Prologue: They Hate Him

We’ve explored here a number of parapolitcal topics over the past ten years.   In each, the purpose wasn’t so much to prove, or disprove the specific conspiracy explanations of an event.  Rather, the purpose was to clarify the issues involved. 

The term “conspiracy theory” is misleading.  There are few theoretical issues (in the academic sense) within conspiracy culture.  One could more accurately call it speculative journalism or history.  Mae Brussell, Alex Constantine, John Judge, David Emery and many others have devoted their lives and careers to finding out the hidden information, the lacunae, which riddle many official narratives.  Most of this darkness comes about through deliberate and systemic efforts to keep information out of the hands of the public, whether through dint of official secrecy (i.e., classification) or through the propagation of comfortable stories to the exclusion and ridicule of others. 

Much of the press and academia presently use the term “conspiracy theory” as a pejorative.   Given some of the racist, nativistic and anti-Semitic ideation at the fringes of conspiracy culture-- a facet which gets a lion’s share of public attention--one can see why many good and intelligent people would understandably have a knee-jerk disdain (and sometimes disgust) for any explanation smacking of conspiracy. Yet this reaction is primarily an emotional one, not a rational one. 

We like to see ourselves as reasonable, wise, and autonomous thinkers who can judge a story or issue solely on its merits.   But it’s difficult to maintain objectivity if authorities of all stripes and flavors have deemed an entire line of inquiry “wild-eyed crazy” (pathological), “moronically oversimplified” (unintelligent), or “profoundly ignorant” (held by the un- or under-educated who don’t know how the “real world” works).

 One finds great challenge in merely posing a conspiracy question within the media or academia without experiencing some degree of backlash--which sometimes includes the termination of employment and the resultant hardship to the professional involved and his/her family.*   But the social sanctions against looking into possible conspiracy are usually much more subtle, entailing such things as glass ceilings, personal mockery, derision, mild harassment, but most critically ostracization.  And no one wants to be “that guy” or “that gal” who’s “duped” by a lot of kooky stuff.

Conspiracy is hardly a kooky subject.  On any given business day there’s some prosecutor somewhere in the USA who’s putting away a defendant on a conspiracy charge.  Conspiracy, after all, is simply the agreement by two or more parties to perform an illicit act.  There’s an inherent difficulty in proving conspiracy to a reasonable doubt standard because one has to show that the agreement took place.** Yet, it’s possible to do this when one has access to the necessary resources. 

The assumption that conspiracies never occur within circles of authority might possibly stem from stereotypical notions of criminality.  It’s common to see crime as part and parcel of a particular class or type of people, who often occupy society’s lowest rungs.  In the popular mind, those who are well-educated, or from good families, or have high income (especially if they aren’t African American) are often not seen as criminals, even when everyone stipulates that they have committed a crime.*** Although we might laughingly joke that professionals lie (and in the case of attorneys cheat), we still don't tend to view these instances as criminal activity.  And even when there is a provable criminal act among elected officials, or wealthy corporate types we tend to see it as an aberration, or not serious to begin with.  Indeed, the prosecution of white collar crime is comparatively lax, despite the fact that it victimizes far more of us, and for far more money than street crime.

After delving into this subject for as long as I have (almost twenty years now), it’s very curious (and often frustrating) to me that when evidence merely suggests conspiracy within lower elements of society, many will tend to shrug their shoulders and say something to the effect of “So what?” or “That makes sense.  They couldn’t have done it by themselves.”  But if there’s evidence that strongly suggests that those who have power over our lives might have colluded in criminal activity, many people will go out of their way to believe otherwise.  This is something noted by others as well.****

So the story eventually becomes only partly about the event itself.  Understanding also requires attention to why there is widespread belief in the non-conspiracy explanation even if it is irrational or implausible.  There remain those informational gaps, and the speculation that covers them up, of course, but there’s often enough of the puzzle exposed to render non-conspiracy explanations highly doubtful, in an objective sense.  And given that the missing information is often held by those accused of conspiring, commonsense would tell us that people do not tend to hide that which proves their innocence.

Some things eventually dawned on me.

At this time I feel compelled to digress to the topic of institutional betrayal at some length.  But in the interest of brevity, let’s table that thought, at least for awhile.  Instead lets start with an idea that everyone can agree on: namely, no one likes to get flim-flammed.  Con artists realize not only this, but something much deeper, something critical to their success.  You see, only about 7% of victims ever report the crime to begin with.  The reason’s obvious.  The admission that we’ve been taken usually elicits a far harsher judgment against us than it does the perpetrator.  Friends, family and strangers who know about the theft will often ask something along the lines of “How could you be so f-ing stupid [or greedy, or needy, or lustful, or naive, or gullible or fill-in-blank]?”

There are usually many times during a con where red flags arise.  The victim might have varying degrees of alarm about one turn of events or another.  But a skillful grifter knows that in deceiving a mark, the mark is often a willing ally.  The more deeply one invests in the con, the more impetus there is to find a reason--any reason--to believe that the false hope they actually purchased is in fact not false.  Otherwise, they would have to admit to themselves that they are either f-ing stupid, or greedy, or needy, or lustful, or naive, or gullible or fill-in-blank.  The confidence gamer is consequently quite aware that the victim will believe any lie that makes sense.  They won’t question it.  They won’t look into it further.  In fact, victims, upon seeing problems within a con’s structure, often will not pull out of a fishy venture, or find some other way to mitigate risk.  In fact, they’ll often double-down on the con, investing even more resources into it.*****

When it comes to institutional skullduggery, and our stake within it, there’s likewise the tendency to see something is wrong with an official view.  Like the con, the signs and evidence of conspiracy are abundant, and foreboding.  And for the same reason as the mark, many have a personal stake in the integrity of the institution’s promise, and thus will have compelling reason to believe anything other than that which would force them to admit that something untoward has happened.  It should therefore come as little surprise that there are those who have made a cottage industry of promoting the stories that reassure us that criminal activity--especially of the coordinated kind-- has not occurred within officialdom. 

Likewise, the degree to which some have bought into the notion that conspiracy explains everything are also prone to this type of reasoning.  This is especially true in organizations like Lyndon LaRouche’s, where conspiracy is intertwined with dogma and a spiritual or quasi-spiritual belief.  In either case, the investment in the conspiracy or anti-conspiracy point of view is so large, and the personal stakes for adherents so great that objectivity and facts cease to matter.  Each side has skin in the game, and each will desperately dig in to defend these beliefs, so long as they have enough of a narrative or reason to continue believing.

Yet, there’s a fundamental difference between the con man and the institution when it comes to perpetuating a falsity.  The institution has far more ubiquity, power, authority and resources than the swindler.  The cheat cannot, to a large extent, legally forbid public disclosure of proof.  Institutions can.  And even if not legal, the institution can still have a better chance of getting away with it, and for a much longer time.  In the case of governmental malfeasance the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the government is the only body legally authorized to investigate itself.  Furthermore, institutions, through public relations, can enlist great public support for their version of events.  All it takes is a willingness for large enough sectors of society to buy repeatedly the explanatory fictions that it provides.

The available tools of institutional deception include a number of items.  For starters, there’s the power of the term “conspiracy theory” itself to steer discourse in predictable, and thus controllable directions.******   Another would be the development of straw men, or in other words citing (or perhaps creating) weak or tangential arguments that one can easily tear apart.

The most effective means for doing this consists of propagating texts that are emotionally gripping, and extremely well written.  They read or come off as novels or dramatic works.  And they all serve to strengthen the official or dominant line.  Often these accounts have much in common with the most entertaining conspiracy tales in that they are very long on narrative, and very short on facts or evidence.  And what little proof there is usually lies out of context, is often debunked by more compelling evidence, and sometimes made up out of whole cloth.

Before I conclude this post, I’d like to point out that when we talk about “official versions” we often should clarify what we mean.  There is the “official story,” the story that becomes the dominant narrative because it is deemed true by police, courts or other official bodies.  There are, what I like to call, “quasi-official” stories in which there is a dominant narrative, that is contrary to official findings.  Often this occurs when public understanding about a topic comes chiefly from a pop culture source, such as a movie or TV show that takes dramatic license with the people involved, the context and the events.  And then, there are stories where there are two or more official findings.  As you would expect, these versions are often at odds with each other.

So, it’s with this in mind that I approach the next series to appear here on The X-Spot.  It’s a story where the evidence for conspiracy is quite strong, and the evidence of non-conspiracy quite weak.  It’s also an instance where there are three distinct official findings, two of which involve conspiracy explanations. 

As you might expect, the two conspiracy explanations have, to date, received comparatively little discourse in mainstream venues.

And that prompts us to examine why that’s the case.  It also compels us to wonder why the non-conspiracy finding has become the dominant narrative.

______________
*In this blog, I’ve mentioned the stories of Professor Ward Churchill (University of Colorado at Boulder), and Dr. John Mack (Harvard Medical School).  I’ve also delved at length into the story of Fox News investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson.  I only briefly mentioned the name April Oliver, a CNN reporter who produced a controversial network documentary about a purported conspiracy involving the assassination of US military defectors in Vietnam.

With one exception, the above were fired for either taking a conspiracy position, or for simply giving serious consideration to a conspiracy hypothesis.  Harvard attempted to fire Dr. Mack because of his research into the possibility of alien abduction, but could not because of his tenure and exemplary record of research and publication.

**For a good example of a criminal conspiracy and the difficult FBI investigation that finally proved it, check out “The Fix Is In”, episode 168 of This American Life

***I saw this on the local news a few weeks back.  Despite the fact that everyone, including the culprit and his family, stipulated that he took a gun to school and shot up four (fortunately surviving) classmates, the shooter’s mom nevertheless declared that he “wasn’t a cold-blooded criminal.”

Well, since humans are by definition warm-blooded, and are really the only species capable of committing crimes (according to current law–past law is a different story), then that would seem to be true of all people who transgress. 

Less flippantly, one is a criminal because he or she executes a criminal act.  Note here that the mother’s concept of “criminal” had nothing to do with criminal activity, but rather a certain designation of person.  You can probably take a good guess at the type of individual she would see as a true “cold-blooded criminal.”

****Researcher Lisa Pease has often made the observation that many good people simply “cannot wrap their heads around” the notion of conspiracy. 

*****An excellent example: record-breaking swindler Bernie Madoff told the New York Times that the banks and hedge fund managers who invested, or encouraged others to invest in him, had to know that something was wrong:
In asserting the complicity of others, Mr. Madoff pointed to the ‘willful blindness’ of many banks and hedge funds who dealt with his investment advisory business and their failure to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information available to them.

They had to know,’ Mr. Madoff said. ‘But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.’‘
In other words, these institutions and professionals knew that they had bought into a very dangerous venture.  Yet, they invested even more money (one, up to $38 mil) despite these misgivings.

******In one example, Michael Hastings, an award-winning reporter for BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone, disclosed via e-mail to friends and colleagues, sixteen hours before his death, that he was under pressure and surveillance by Intel because of he was then working on a story about DCIA John Brennan.  This was after he had written a well respected expose on NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal.  Within a day after the fiery automobile collision that claimed Hastings’ life, a number of mainstream outlets were already using the term “conspiracy theory,”  to describe potential dissenting opinions that could arrive in the future, after the public received all the facts.  This effectively discredited any questions concerning a possible connection.

Granted, Hastings' death could have resulted from a car crash and nothing more (the official story).  Yet, if someone writes that he is under pressure from the CIA and FBI, and then dies hours later, I see little imprudence in asking questions (of for that matter exploring it) about a possible connection between his demise, and pressure bought about by two institutions, whose relationship with the writer was evidently antagonistic.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Quietly Getting Back in the Game

I haven’t done a good old-fashioned series for the past three years.

The reasons for this are numerous.  It’s not that I’ve run out of things to write about.  In fact, I’ve got quite a few things that I really want to weigh in on. 

Truth is, The last two major series took a lot out of me.  They were contentious and stressful.  I used to brag that my life is boring, but it used to be kinda weird.  Yet, in writing about the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and Theremy, my online life began to get weird too, with old intrigues from my past coming out of the blue to haunt me, and new ones rearing their ugly heads.  Even the Paul-Is-Dead series, which I considered at the time as little more than vamping, presented an element of high strangeness.  As a younger man, I could tolerate riding that turbulent wave.  In fact, I could enjoy it a bit.  Now, however, it just gets on my nerves.  I’d honestly rather kick back, pour a Diet Coke, and listen to the Reds game on the radio after a day at the office.

Then too, things have changed here in meatspace.  I’ve been writing for other people for so long, it’s more of a chore to write the things I really feel driven to write about.  And after the cancer scare, I’ve undergone some major lifestyle changes that require daily attention that can take anywhere between three to five hours. 

In the meantime, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching a number of topics, writing fiction and thinking about the future of this blog.  I’m currently considering turning it into a podcast, and have recently corresponded with Panoply  and other networks to assess the viability of doing so. 

The time has also given me ample opportunity to reflect on the blog itself.  I’ve been fielding e-mail comments and questions on previous posts and series from diverse sources – from crackpots to scholars (assuming disparity).  This has given me an opportunity to add to my knowledge on these subjects, and I thank those of you who’ve firmed up what were once merely speculations, given substantive observations, alerted me to updates, challenged my contentions, and given me encouragement.

At the same time, when looking back at all this stuff that I’ve put here over the past ten years, I began to wonder how I did all of this. 

No matter.  Whether I want to or not, I reckon it’s time to get off the sideline and back into the game.  I don’t care if blogging is passe.  It’s a medium I’ve come to know, and I should be exploiting it as long as Google affords me this space.

So in a month or so, I’ll be embarking on a new series.  And it’s a big one.  I’m waiting to get some resources from Amazon, so I’ll be going slowly at first.  But I intend to post at least once a week come August.

I’m telling you this for two reasons: (1) it’s the end of the month, and I’ve got to post something; and (2) now that I tell you that I will do it, then I will most likely force myself to do it, despite the fact that I’d rather be sipping Diet Coke and listening to Marty and the Cowboy.





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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Assailing the Tender Age: Opening the Secret

I alluded to this story back in 2013.  It dealt with the extension of the Hollywood casting couch to child actors, some of whom became household names.  Most of them will most likely remain obscure.

Last year, Oscar-winning film maker Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis) released An Open Secret.  The film generated considerable buzz, especially within conspiracy circles, because of its (a) subject matter, and (b) scarcity. 

An Open Secret chronicles the story of a number of child actors who became victimized by a fairly sophisticated pedophile ring, which operated under the aegis of movie industry titans, and indifferent investors from as far as wall street. 

Included are the stories of Todd Bridges and Corey Feldman.   But theirs are hardly the ones Berg chose to focus on.  Even more compelling were the ones of children who just didn’t make, and paid permanent consequences for that experience. 

What raised the ire of many following this story was the movie’s lack of distribution, and Hollywood’s resistance to either distributing or promoting the film.  As David Robb explained in a 8 May 2015 post for Deadline Hollywood:


The ad line for An Open Secret, the new documentary about the sexual abuse of child actors, is ‘The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You to See.’ After talking to the film’s producers, it’s easy to see why. Executive producer Gabe Hoffman wouldn’t name names, but said, ‘We went to everybody and anybody at all the biggest companies and got turndowns everywhere.’

Consequently, the film received extremely brief runs in New York, Seattle, Denver and LA.  Unless you lived near one of those metropolises at the time, you’ve probably never heard of it, let alone gotten the chance to see it.

Like many following this particular story, I had wanted to see the movie since last summer.  Then lo and behold!  Last week, someone posted the entire thing on YouTube.

After finally getting a look at it, I can tell you that the information is eye-opening, the narratives emotionally gripping, the approach sober and rational, and the pace perfect stride-for-stride.  Amazingly, Berg managed to get through this topic without pandering to the salacious or the prurient.  While it’s clear that she is only sympathetic to the victims and their families, she neither judges nor condemns the accused (only one of which gives her an interview). 

I’d have been more than willing to shell out twelve bucks to see it, in a theatre no less.  But I’ll take it as I can get it, stuck as I am in the Midwest.  I don’t know how long the YouTube thing will last.  But I highly recommend the viewing the film there or anywhere else you can find it, if for no other reason than to watch a skilled master ply her craft. 

Friday, April 01, 2016

Fatale Instinct, Dahlink

Ten years ago today, I correctly identified the late-rock star Robert Palmer as Linus Van Pelt, of Peanuts fame.  But within the past twenty-four hours, I've come across solid evidence proving the true identity of another iconic animated character.

It's all in the below video.  But you have to watch it closely to see the signs.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pardon the Interruption

A month ago, I was set to type my usual state-of-the blog anniversary post when a set of issues invaded my personal life. Specifically, two people close to me faced serious health crises. I have since spent a good deal of the last six weeks at work, ICUs and hospital rooms while living in a persistent state of anxiety. I couldn't really think of blogging at the time, or collect my thoughts, or even concentrate on writing.

The good news: both loved ones are still here, and recuperating. Now, it's not so much a time of crisis, but rather the start of major lifestyle readjustments. Things are still touchy, but a good deal will be off my chest by April 15, when a scheduled minor surgery (local anesthesia even) will take the biggest danger off the table.

So...to continue on with the state-of-the-blog.

I spent some time researching several new topics. There has also been an interesting development on a story that I've begun here (Assailing the Tender Age). But in the last twelve months, a couple of very good, intelligent and knowledgeable persons have directed my attention to three former series appearing here, and that has consumed much of my X-Dell time over the past year. They've given me much to think about and explore. I don't think I'll post any updates to those series here, but, if I write about them at all, I'll post them on one of my other blogs.

While doing research into these areas, I thought I'd vamp on the topic of conspiracy in a series of posts that I thought would end the blog. I'd been meaning to do that for some time, but kept delaying it to the point where I thought, well hell I'll save it for the end. Yet, now is as good a time as any, I suppose.

Many former peers ask me why I'm interested in this subject. Undoubtedly, they're asking this within a paradigm that processes information in a very strict way -- a way in which I've also been trained. Sometimes I feel this is unnecessarily restrictive and narrow. And given the tendency, in this publish-or-perish context, to obsess over angels-on-the-heads-of-pins arguments, important questions are left unaddressed. These questions have much to do with the nature of power and democracy, and sometimes deal with the conflicts between consensus reality and empirical observation.

I've found valuable purpose in academic rigor. All conspiracy investigators should be aware and critical of sources, knowledge gaps, and, most importantly, their own biases. These are paramount concerns of the scholar, but not necessarily the YouTube poster. And one can see the increasing one-upsmanship of the latter as she or he makes one hypothesis or the other more outrageous, and consequently more entertaining than those preceding it, thus leading to increased hits, attention, and possibly even monetary remuneration.

At the same time, much of the wildest speculation occurs in response to institutional failure to candidly address valid and pressing public concerns. There have, to this date, been only a handful of scholars who have investigated, or are seriously researching the substantial possibility of conspiracy where the stakes are high, most notably (and ably) Dr. Phil Melanson (Political Science, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth). Otherwise, we don't get much pertinent information about the distribution of power and wealth from academia, media or government.

For example, we all most likely learned about various wars in our history classes. Only a tiny fraction of us (if any) studied the espionage that supported these conflicts. There are some classes in Intel that I've seen around the country, at various universities. I've even seen an accredited institution that offers classes and degrees only in intelligence studies. The lecturers of said courses often have a background with CIA or military intelligence. While that obviously makes a certain sense, it nevertheless prompts the question of whether these instructors are mixing education with some measure of indoctrination/propaganda. At the very least, we have little reason to assume that their viewpoints are neutral or objective.

Most of the information we get about espionage comes from off the streets; or more accurately off screens large and small, where CIA's Public Affairs Office (PAO) has performed yeoman's service to increase the Agency's presence in Hollywood. Tinseltown's main business, of course, is the production of myth. The current myth of Intel contains in large part narratives of professionalism (or competence), reasonable adherence to the law, and purely national security missions.

Still, when one digs into the topic, he or she almost immediately has to confront the enormous degree of deception and complexity that occurs within intelligence operations. And after awhile, something else becomes clear: the national-security mission of many intelligence services around the globe have either become entangled with, or have downright devolved into, instruments of domestic political security.

There are other topics of concern here. Yet the above alone should give us all pause to think. I mean, the Church Rockefeller and Pike Commissions (not to mention the Senate Select Committees on mind control chaired by Sam Irwin, Daniel Inouye and Ted Kennedy) gave us ample evidence that Intel had become an apparatus for preserving the political security of the status quo. It's therefore not unreasonable to think that this arm of power saw the US public as an enemy threat. And we can also see that Intel had no compunctions about lying to the public. What's beyond speculative is that the domestic ops exposed by these five official bodies violated US law.

And what is a conspiracy? The collusion of two or more parties to execute a crime or transgression.

Despite the frequently naked bureaucratic agenda of institutional information, many people are satisfied with answers they easily receive about senseless or strange events and situations. They're thus not inclined to look much more deeply into them -- assuming they actually have the time, energy and wherewithal to do so. Yet, there are some who aren't satisfied for whatever reason. Perhaps they've been burned or shafted by political or industrial power. Perhaps they have weird lives full of anomalies that they can't explain through the informational limitations of official or authoritative sources. Perhaps they have political or spiritual creeds that morally bind them to oppose abuses of power.

In any case, one can hardly expect such an individual or organization to accept at face value the talking-point responses often doled by established channels -- especially when they deny, downplay or just plain dismiss glaring inconsistencies as "conspiracy theory." One might also expect said individuals or organizations to collate the information that they have and make the best guesses that they can.

To put this bluntly: so-called "conspiracy theory" exists for a number of reasons. Some of them are legitimate. Some are not. But in either instance, the curt dismissal of a conspiracy explanation becomes very similar to the sudden and irrevocable acceptance of same by true believers. Neither side cares to do the gruntwork of investigation. Neither addresses the valid objections raised by the other. Neither acknowledges their own prejudices (if they are indeed aware of them, or subjects them to any challenge.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The X-Spot, Year Ten

Hard to believe that it's been ten years to the day since the first post.  Truth was, I thought I'd have the blog five years or so.


As I've slowed down the rate of posts over the past two years, I thought I'd go ahead and post a series that I thought would end the blog.  I pictured ending it with some commentary about the nature of conspiracy, its vices and virtues and so on.  But since I was in the middle of researching several other topics, I took the opportunity to put the series up a bit earlier than expected. 


I planned to write something more in-depth, since there's been a lot brewing from older series, here.  But something's come up within the last twenty-four hours.  Until that resolves, I'm not going to have any time to post anything.  I'm hoping to hear some good news within the next five hours or so.



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Just Kidding, Mae

Haven’t had much time lately, to research and write.  So this month I’m posting a few humorous observations on the subject of conspiracy.
I hate conspiracy theorists. I'm sure they're all working together somehow to bring down society.
--andygosmore, Sickipedia.org:

Remember that voice on AOL that said 'you've got mail'? Turns out it was the NSA.
--Hayden Black

Ever since the government's spying scandal was exposed, sales of the novel 1984 have jumped 6,000 percent on Amazon. Yeah, 1984 shows how scary it would be if society tracked everything you do. And if you want to read it, just buy it on a website that tracks everything you do.
--Jimmy Fallon

The CIA now has a Twitter account. Don't bother checking, they're already following you.
--Warren Holstein

I was going to become a conspiracy theorist, until I heard what the government and their secret aliens do to conspiracy theorists.
--Hugh Jerection, Sickipedia.org:

I disapprove of every conspiracy of which I am not a part.
--Joke Buddha

Under the headline “USA Denies Torture,” a CIA spokesperson explained, “You say water boarding.  We say Ice Bucket Challenge!”
--Joker Z

NSA leaker Edward Snowden somehow managed to get out of the U.S. with all their information. Now where is he? He's in Russia now, going to be in Ecuador or wherever. He remains at large. Now what are the odds out of 350 million Americans, the only one the government wasn't watching was him?
--Jay Leno

It's that time of year again when all the conspiracy nuts are online with their batshit crazy 9/11 theories.  My personal favourite is the one about 19 Muslim blokes finding the wherewithal to launch a coordinated terrorist attack on a national level.
--Widowwarmer,  Sickipedia.org:

The CIA played horrible songs over and over to torture detainees. So maybe Scott Stapp's claims of being in the CIA are true.
--Adam Wolf

Conspiracy is always inspired by conspirators.
--Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

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