Bridge of Love, 2002, 514 pages, C$41.95 tpb, ISBN 0-9538810-2-4
What a long and strange trauma it’s been.
The events of 9/11 were a shock to all, myself included. Some of this shock even made its way to these reviews and there’s no use apologizing or recanting this: It’s a reflection of what was happening at the time. (see my comments on Nelson DeMille’s The Lion’s Game for an illustration of my immediate reactions to the events)
But now, more than two years later, things have changed. The “day that changed everything” is sinking back in history, and we now have the advantage of that tiny hindsight in reconsidering our reaction to the event. Reviewing a book like Alice in Wonderland, which purports to tell the “real story” of 9/11 in the tradition of the best conspiracy theories, would have been impossible in, say, October 2001. When French journalist Thierry Meyssan published L’Effroyable imposture in March 2002, accusing the Bush government of the worst possible conspiracies in creating 9/11 (including the “no plane crashed in the Pentagon” theory), few were ready to do anything but dismiss the book as knee-jerk anti-Americanism. I should know; I was among those who called the book despicable.
But, as I said, things have changed. Two years later, tempers have cooled and logic is once again prevailing. And so it is possible for me to be at a used book sale, see a book like David Icke’s Alice in Wonderland, peek inside, see something about “world government” and “mind control”, shrug, smile at “those conspiracy nuts” and buy it.
The book’s first two chapters are indeed a masterpiece of crackpot writing. Here, shapeshifting reptilian bloodlines are controlling the world through the Illuminati, and nothing (nothing, from presidential elections to the death of Princess Diana) is anything but further evidence of a plot by “them” to control “us”. It’s easy to laugh and dismiss such rantings, mostly due to the feverish way Icke (like his partners in conspiracy theories) manages to bring everything together as a coherent whole. This is conspiracies-as-religion: the belief that, yes, everything can be tracked to wilful intentions and nothing is left to the vagaries of pure change and competing interests. There isn’t much in these first few chapters that’s not already known to conspiracy buffs, 9/11 or not.
But the book changes gears when Icke starts looking at the 1991 Oklahoma City bombing and then delves into the events of 9/11. In 400+ densely-detailed pages, Ickes raises dozens of questions and inconsistencies with the “official” version of the events. Contrarily to the “Illuminati” material of the opening (which is sourced back to Icke’s previous books), this stuff depends mostly on articles and testimonials published in the mainstream press. There are tons of real-world references and dozens of Really Good Questions. While a lot of Icke’s point can be explained by incompetence, slips of the tongue (saying “Monday” rather than “Tuesday”) and just plain confusion in the heat of the events, there are enough discrepancies to arouse interest.
In some ways, it’s just too easy to disbelieve the assertions of Alice in Wonderland. Icke has an unfortunate tendency to pepper his narrative with gratuitous references to “The Illuminati” and that makes as much sense as blaming Santa’s Elves for everything. It doesn’t help that his sources are inconsistently convincing: He makes a lot out of a rather suspicious book called The Trance Formation of America, in which George Bush Sr. (among many others) Is revealed to be a sodomite pederast who takes delight in describing his favourite perversions to an aroused Dick Cheney, who ultimately comes to join Elder Bush is his lascivious satanic activities. (!!!) Who can be blamed for dismissing such a narrative, tentative as it may be?
The last two chapters don’t help: Here, the shape-shifting lizards bloodlines make their way back in the narrative, assorted with a dastardly plot to take over the world as we know it. Parallel dimensions are discussed, along with a “solution” that isn’t much more than holding hands and believing in the power of each other. The last section of the book is poignantly titled “I love you, George Bush”, and features such gems as “I love you George Bush, father and son; I love you Cheney and Powell and Kissinger and Carlucci and the Illuminati High Council and the reptilian hierarchy in the inter-space plane.” [P.486] Woo!
There’s no need to point out that Icke’s all-encompassing Illuminati plot is ludicrous, or that he seems uncommonly adept to twists facts to fit his grand conspiracy and ignore those who don’t fit. Never mind that his interpretation of rigid top-down hierarchies fly in the fact of demonstrated incompetence. One wonders if such things as the Lewinski affair, the Enron scandal or the spectacular failure of the XFL can also be explained away by Illuminati links. No doubt he’ll find a way to make them fit in his next book.
But I found my own reaction to Alice in Wonderland to be revealing, regardless of alleged plots by shape-shifting reptilians. Strip the first and last few chapters of Alice in Wonderland, replace instances of “Illuminati” by “the abstract concept known as the cold invisible hand of western capitalism”, ignore the Bushes as child-abusers and the book simply reads as an extreme version of what many have been saying since the inauguration of the Bush II administration. The section where Icke details the biographies of the two Bush presidents and their cadre of advisers is packed with very familiar information and connections. The links between the Bushes and the bin Laden families, for instance, have been well documented in the mainstream press, and so have many of the relationships between the Bush advisers and their looong association with various Republicans administrations. Alice in Wonderland is insidious as it takes well-know facts and weaves them back into its own conspiracy theory. Bits and pieces of the book can’t be completely dismissed, and the line between truth and conspiracy is a lot harder to draw than it was even years ago. While I’m not terribly convinced that the “official story of 9/11 is a monumental lie”, let’s just say that I’d appreciate a thorough debunking of Icke’s assertions.
The reason for this is obvious: Over the past few years, the entanglement of business/government relationships in the Bush II administration, coupled with “Boy George”’s uncanny talent for acting as a divider (not an uniter), coupled with the cold wind of post-9/11 law-enforcement, coupled with the rise of corporate power over individual freedoms (see DMCA, Eldred vs Ashcroft, etc.), coupled with such things as the Guantanamo concentration camp… have all taken their toll. Anyone who still had a smidgen of respect for presidential honesty got bitch-slapped by the cold realization that the White House lied in order to manipulate America towards the invasion of Iraq. Who, a
fter those crazy four years, can still regard conspiracy theories as completely unlikely? We’ve seen one unfold before our very own eyes, in daily headlines. As Teresa Nielsen-Hayden has said time and time again on her blog, “I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.”
And so I find myself, as someone who’d rather not believe in conspiracy theories, slightly shaken by the mass of assertions made in Alice in Wonderland. The most troubling thing, I believe, is the common-sense remark that even at this moment (and here I mean “March 2004”, two-and-a-half years after 9/11), we still haven’t seen an entirely transparent congressional investigation in the events of 9/11. And what investigations have taken place so far have been marred with censorship, closed-door sessions and allegations of partisanship. It won’t take much to bring me back in the mainstream camp; just answer the questions already. [January 2005: I’ll let you know as soon as I finish The 9/11 Commission Report.]
And that takes me back to another surprisingly positive appeal of Icke’s work (and conspiracy theories in general): the doubts regarding the official version of events, the impulse to ask ever-more probing questions. “Question authority” could be the uniting slogan of all conspiracy theorists, and after seeing the meek way in which the Bush II administration was treated by the press and most of the American public, it’s hard to avoid thinking that we could all use an extra dose of scepticism. What if this book, as ludicrous as it may sometimes be, forces you and me to ask better questions? What’s the harm in that? What if more people read Alice in Wonderland?
It’s somewhat of a marvel that I’ve come so far as to take nutty conspiracy theories semi-seriously in barely thirty months. Certainly I’d like to be able to say “claptrap” and throw back the book in disgust. But as, say, newer facts start to emerge from disgruntled ex-members of the Bush administration about the inside view of the lead-up toward the invasion of Iraq (ie; that it had been planned early in the administration and that 9/11 proved to be a convenient way to justify it), the true story of what happened seems to be validating those who, at the time, had been branded as anti-patriotic conspiracy theorists for doubting the official motives. As for Icke’s depiction of 9/11 as a vast conspiracy to take over basic rights and freedom, well, can you reasonably affirm that Americans are freer now than they were in August 2001?
Uh-huh. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a conspiracy to enslave us. Maybe that’s a lesson we can now see, thirty months after 9/11.