My friend Mick wrote this great piece encapsulating much of what we've bandied about for a while now... it was a cover story for LACityBeat magazine.
The YouTube paranoia crew claims 9/11-2 (The Sequel) will be a hundred times worse than the original
By Mick Farren
An anonymous video showing a half million plastic coffins stashed in a formidably fenced field near Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, is guaranteed to grab attention. One can hardly help but question the reason for the stacked ranks of the ugly, airtight, grey-green boxes. Is someone somewhere expecting a massive body count? And, if so, why? The veracity of the video is hard to question. A simple handheld camcorder shoots continuously from a vehicle driving along a two-lane backroad in broad daylight. The coffins are in plain sight, right in the open, piled geometrically for hundreds of yards. We appear to have a mystery, especially when an extensive Google search reveals that, aside from a single brief squib on WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, the story of the coffins in the field has failed to surface anywhere in the mainstream media. The line between curiosity and paranoia, however, can be hard to define, so I proceed with caution.
A dispassionate review of the facts makes clear that, if a large number of coffins had to be stockpiled in anticipation of some ultra-dire national emergency, Atlanta would be a good place to do it. It is a major confluence for road, rail, and air traffic. Hartsfield Jackson is one of the nation’s biggest and busiest hubs for commercial aviation. Atlanta is also home to the Centers for Disease Control. Is it the CDC that knows something we don’t? Is a plague expected and no one is telling us? As radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones wrote on his website Prison Planet, “I don’t want to alarm anyone, but usually you don’t buy 500,000 plastic coffins just in case something happens; You buy them because you know something is going to happen.”
I discover a link to a site called the Neithercorp web forum where the Atlanta coffins are under constant discussion. I’m informed that a possible manufacturer of the coffins is Vantage Products Corporation in Covington, Georgia, and the unsubstantiated plot thickens when I learn that Vantage is allegedly a government contractor, a spin-off of DuPont, and has a chief legal officer who was supposedly a former Monsanto bigwig. Unfortunately, the possible conspiracy deflates with word from a poster using the pseudonym “dingoistheman” who claims to live near the coffin dump. “These things have been there for 10 years. There has never been any activity on the site since they brought them in.” Did I really need to call the CDC for an official statement that the coffins had nothing to do with them, and a denial that we were all going to die from bird flu this winter? Instead I followed another set of links to YouTube. And, to my surprise, the conspiracy suddenly re-inflated itself tenfold.
With a combination of delight and dismay, I learned that the video clip I had already seen was only one among many. It was simple and linear, but many of the others I found on YouTube were professional-quality productions. I discovered that they were not only raising all the possible questions posed by the half million coffins in Atlanta, but also offering some truly horrific answers.
The basis of this YouTube crew’s collective theory is a near-unthinkable power scenario. It may be paranoia, but it’s high-impact. Sometime before he’s scheduled to leave office next January, George W. Bush will engineer an epic pretext to suspend the Constitution, cancel or nullify the November elections, and declare martial law. Normally a coup is when a military junta – like the fictional Pentagon plot in the movie classic Seven Days in May – deposes the civilian authority and seizes power, but Bush can seemingly be counted on to reverse the traditional sequence. According to these uploads on YouTube, he is going to use the military to ensure that he and his cronies remain in permanent command, world without end. And the coffins in Atlanta – plus more on other sites around mainland USA – will be used for disposal of those executed in the bloody aftermath of the coming Bush putsch.
Either a war with Iran, or a massively violent incident on the same scale as the falling towers of 9/11, will become the pretext to round up millions of supposed “terrorists,” “terrorist sympathizers,” and “dissidents,” and either execute them or imprison them in concentration camps run by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). This at least is the story, as presented by these YouTube videos – created by individuals and groups with names like pushforfreedom, earthlasthope, or razzaq19 – and comes with a wealth of detail. According to these YouTube subversives, the Department of Homeland Security already has comprehensive lists that divide the population into three color-coded categories.
Those with the designation “Red” have no chance. Anyone who has opposed George Bush during his eight-year reign will be arrested – dragged from bed in the dark of night, face covered, protest muffled by black hood – and held for extermination. The “Blue” category is reserved for less-threatening malcontents, petty criminals, and the rank and file followers of “Reds.” They will be held for forced labor and re-education in the joys of totalitarian capitalism. The final, and by far the largest group, are the “Yellow,” the already docile, who Kenn Thomas, of the online conspiracy magazine Steamshovel Press, describes in an interview with Karmapolis magazine in Belgium as “happy, SUV-driving, George Bush-supporting McCitizens who have no need for a tank to be pointed at them in order to get them to obey.” To view the full theoretical horror, one only has to run a YouTube search for “FEMA coffins” or “FEMA concentration camps.”
FEMA figures significantly in this whole simmering mythology. Its sweeping emergency powers are continuously cited as the crucial Trojan horse that disguises the infiltration mechanisms of the great and global – but probably fictional – oppression of what’s known in the conspiracy subworld as the New World Order. This, though, is nothing new. Conspiracy veterans recall how, in the Clinton era of the 1990s, FEMA and the New World Order loomed large in the “black helicopter” fantasies of the paranoid far right. Back in the 20th century, the militia movement, readers of The Turner Dairies, and extreme evangelicals were convinced that Bill Clinton would choreograph a phony national emergency, all the excuse needed for FEMA, supported by United Nations troops (usually from Turkey and Pakistan) to invade the country and deprive Americans of their national sovereignty as power was ceded to the NWO.
The New World Order is a more venerable preoccupation than even FEMA. It has cast its murky and threatening shadow for more than a century, perpetually poised to steal power from both hereditary dynasties and elected governments. At various times it has supposedly been controlled by Freemasons, Fabians, the British royal family, the alleged Elders of Zion, munitions barons, Communists, Nazis, Trilateralists, the Bilderberg Group, and – at furthest stretch – extraterrestrials from Zeta Reticuli. Mercifully, the NWO has always remained an apparent figment of the paranoid mindset. FEMA, on the other hand, is uncomfortably real. It was created by Jimmy Carter’s 1979 executive order to bring civil defense and disaster preparedness under one roof, and the unprecedented power it acquired in the process is well-recognized as potentially disastrous if it ever fell into the wrong hands. And many of this YouTube crew firmly believe, if George Bush and his Department of Homeland Security control FEMA, it is now in the worst possible hands.
Even the supposition that any fear of FEMA would have died after the debacle of the agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and the 2005 flooding of New Orleans, does nothing to allay the apprehension of the YouTube crew. They claim that the whole NOLA mess was merely a smokescreen. As Kenn Thomas put it, again in Karmapolis, “When George Bush patted former FEMA management head Michael Brown on the back and said ‘Good job!’ he was rubbing it in, announcing that he really didn’t give a damn about taking responsibility for Katrina’s aftermath.” On YouTube, the accusations go further. Sixteen hundred people were confirmed dead (before the search of New Orleans’s attics was discontinued), and the lower Ninth Ward was deliberately allowed to turn into a toxic swamp, to conceal FEMA’s real capabilities. The agency will function with brutal efficiency if so required by its political masters.
When first confronted by this elaborate conspiracy theorizing, the whole idea seems far-fetched and hideously implausible. Even the smirking Bush could not actually bring himself to initiate a holocaust that would deliberately take the lives of millions of Americans. Could he? Unfortunately Bush could, if he so desired. Much of what the conspiracy theorizers’ fear is already – under current federal law – more than theoretically possible. The President of the United States already has what amounts to dictatorial power. In February of this year, environmentalist Lewis Seiler and former congressman Dan Hamburg published a scary compendium of Bush’s extraordinary powers in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissenters (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse,” they wrote.
The Bush power grab began within hours of the towers falling on 9/11, when Bush put down The Pet Goat and issued his “Declaration of Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks” as defined by the National Emergencies Act. This sweeping declaration could be rescinded by joint resolution of Congress, but has actually been extended six times. In 2007, the declaration was quietly strengthened by National Security Presidential Directive 51, which gave the president the power to do whatever he deemed necessary in a vaguely defined “catastrophic emergency,” from canceling elections and suspending the Constitution to launching a nuclear attack. Seiler and Hamburg cite how the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gives the executive the power to invoke martial law, and “the Military Commissions Act of 2006 – rammed through Congress before the 2006 midterm elections – allows for the indefinite imprisonment of anyone who donates money to a ‘terrorist’ organization, or speaks out against government policies.” Seiler and Hamburg continue grimly, “The law calls for secret trials for citizens and noncitizens alike.”
If the coffins in that Georgia field were the only evidence supporting fears of a Bush dictatorship, the entire scenario might be dismissed out of hand. Regrettably that is not the case. The coffin videos are not alone. They are flanked on YouTube by similar footage of a complete and extensive U.S. gulag with camps and prison trains. The paranoia crew offers what purport to be mindbending outlaw tapes of FEMA prison trains, grim but brand-new, double-decker railcars allegedly manufactured by Gunderson Steel in Portland, Oregon, complete with shackles for prisoners and guard shacks at each end. Actual FEMA concentration camps, with full complements of guards, stadium lights, gleaming razor wire, and huge AGA gas furnaces, are supposedly ready to accept inmates. All this makes dismissal difficult. When the images are on the Internet for all to see, it’s hard to argue with groups like the Friends of Liberty who claim “over 800 prison camps in the United States are all fully operational and ready to receive prisoners should Martial Law need to be implemented. All it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the Attorney General’s signature on a warrant.”
The scenarios of the YouTube crew and the Friends of Liberty are also supported by Seiler and Hamburg, again in the San Francisco Chronicle, as they quote the claims of diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott that “beginning in 1999, the government entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of rail cars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees. According to the KBR contract the work is part of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of ‘all removable aliens’ and ‘potential terrorists.’”
In another blast from the past, the legal underpinning for something like ENDGAME in fact dates back to Orwell-apocryphal 1984, when, in the basement of the Ronald Reagan White House, Oliver North and National Guard Colonel Louis Giuffrida, in preparation for a possible invasion of the Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua, devised a plan called REX 84 to “crush national opposition to any military action abroad” by the suspension of the Constitution, the turning of control of the government over to FEMA, and “internment in concentration camps of up to 100,000 illegal immigrants and political dissidents.” At the time, columnist Jack Anderson warned it would “clamp Americans in a totalitarian vice.”
The seeds for REX 84 were originally planted during the Kennedy administration, when Executive Order 11051 provided for suspension of the Constitution and martial law in the event of nuclear attack. Under Richard Nixon it was expanded to cover multiple national emergencies including civil insurrections. Finally North and Giuffrida redefined it so it could be activated by the president alone, causing professor Diana Reynolds of Northeastern University to comment, “America is only a presidential directive away from a civil security state of emergency.” Although Iran-Contra investigations sidelined REX 84, it remains on the books.
History again repeats itself in that the majority of these YouTube videos, warning us about REX 84, ENDGAME, and a possible American tyranny, are posted by conservatives and right wingers. Many are also veterans of the 9/11 Truth movement who refuse to accept the official accounts of the attacks on Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon. Ron Paul’s name is often invoked, with followers of the libertarian-leaning presidential contender fearing they will be arrested and victimized as a result of their break with Bush/McCain Republican neo-orthodoxy. Others see the neocon takeover of the party as a step on the road to dictatorship, while still more, recalling the carnage at the Weaver farm on Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, distrust the federal government under any president. In this they are not alone. A recent Scripps Howard/Ohio University national poll of 1,010 adults revealed that “anger against the federal government is at record levels,” with 54 percent responding that they “personally are more angry at the government than they used to be.” The poll also found that more than a third of those contacted suspected that the feds under Bush either “assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them.”
But anxiety over the Bush regime moving toward tyranny and dictatorship is not by any means limited to the right. Progressive intellectuals like “third-wave” feminist Naomi Wolf also issue warnings. “Beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable – that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realize.” In her book The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, she spells out the 10 steps needed for a fascist takeover, from propaganda-induced fear to a complete suspension of the rule of law, and she is quoted in more than one of the YouTube conspiracy videos.
None of the YouTube crew has so far quoted alternative press veteran Joe Conason. His 2007 book It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush does not totally agree that a Bush coup is hard upon us, but claims to sense a move in that direction. “For the first time since the resignation of Richard M. Nixon more than three decades ago, Americans have had reason to doubt the future of democracy and the rule of law in our own country. Today we live in a state of tension between the enjoyment of traditional freedoms, including the protections afforded to speech and person by the Bill of Rights, and the disturbing realization that those freedoms have been undermined and may be abrogated at any moment.”
A dispassionate evaluation of whether this fear is paranoid fantasy or potentially terrifying reality is crucial. It’s a lurid tale, but do we seriously believe Blackwater storm troopers in ski masks and combat boots are about to kick down our doors in the dead of night? The evidence of the plastic coffins, the Gunderson Steel railcars, the KBR detention camps all comes from unorthodox sources, but it comes in sufficient quantity, and with enough plausible detail, to have an uncomfortable credibility, especially at a time when – with pitifully few exceptions – “legitimate” news sources have lost the cowboy courage to investigate any story that does not have a publicist attached. Paranoia, of course, requires a massive vanity. The ultimate narcissism is the belief that any one of us might pose such a threat to our leaders they will have to execute us or confine us in concentration camps. The argument could also be made that, after eight years of Bush, the national psyche is so badly bruised by the serial punishment of lies, deception, and vicious neocon ideology, we will believe our leaders capable of any iniquity. America has been stumbling through the miasma of neocon mistakes, cover-ups, and misinformation for so long that it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.
The comfortable course is to reject the YouTube paranoia crew as a collection of psychotic obsessives. Thinking the unthinkable is hard enough, but believing and preparing for it is even more difficult. On the other hand, to write off the video evidence as well-executed fakery is also tempting, but the clips are so damned believable it isn’t easy. Plus coordinating them would have been an extraordinarily mammoth task. With the whiff of madness on both sides, the mind casts around for alternatives. If, for the sake of argument, we accept the images on YouTube as tacit proof the federal government has indeed been stockpiling coffins, commissioning detention camps, and building custom railcars to deliver prisoners to those camps, does that automatically mean a totalitarian coup is at hand? Is it in any way possible that a gulag could really have been built, but then not used?
The observation has more than once been made that the Bush/Cheney administration is an alliance of fools, fanatics, and crooks. Would it be possible that the crooks sold the unthinkable to the fanatics? KBR/Halliburton has already given Bush and his neocon cronies a hugely expensive and hugely profitable war in Iraq. Would it be that hard to pitch an equally profitable, black-budget domestic fascism to the neocon ilk of Paul Wolfowitz, Max Boot, or John Bolton? They already have a philosophical contempt for the masses, and a fetishized worship of power. Perhaps the gulag was commissioned, but enough of the fools (and maybe the Pentagon) had enough vestigial humanity to shy away from a complete plunge into totalitarian horror, leaving those who like that kind of thing in need of a sufficiently grandiose excuse.
This story has no reassuring end. Three alternatives stare back at us. Either a crew of Ron Paul supporters and others are running a great anti-Bush/McCain Internet fraud. Or the FEMA camps exist but the neocons have yet to find the evil heart to use them. Or the Blackwater thugs will shortly be dragging us away. While friends and neighbors are not actually being disappeared, we can breathe easy and not need to study routes to Canada. While I can still write this story and have it published, democracy is still in shape and functioning. Of course, if I was to suddenly vanish it would mean
Mick Farren blogs at Doc40.blogspot.com.