Comments: Twenty Dollar Sunday

The visuals during the "And So This is Christmas/War is Over Song" are not as appealing as they might be. Perhaps this could be redone with Santa playing with frolicking puppies, kittens encountering their first snowfall, porpoises leaping out of the water, attractive young couples skating at Rockefeller Center, a beautiful sunset behind snow-covered mountains, an elderly couple walking into church hand in hand, a mother holding her infant in her arms, a plate of Christmas cookies with a cup of hot chocolate next to it, etc. Just a thought.

Posted by Freddy el Desfibradddor at January 3, 2011 03:32 PM

Ah Freddy, careful not to use up all your creativity too quickly. Just close your eyes and listen and maybe try to hum along for a while. You'll be glad.

Speaking of insane, John Lennon got so dangerously sane that he finally ran into a lone nut who killed him because a novel made him do it.

Posted by N E at January 3, 2011 06:45 PM

Mom always said that life ain't fair.

Posted by Mike Meyer at January 3, 2011 10:43 PM

John Lennon got so dangerously sane that he finally ran into a lone nut who killed him because a novel made him do it

Opinions differ.


Was John Lennon's murderer Mark Chapman a CIA hitman? Thirty years on, there's an extraordinary new theory

John Lennon — Life, Times And Assassination, by Phil Strongman from The Bluecoat Press at £8.99

...If Chapman looked like a zombie, as he hung around after the killing and waited for the police, it was because that was exactly what he was.

Chapman, he suggests, had been recruited by the CIA and trained by them during his travels round the world, when he mysteriously pitched up in unlikely places for a boy from Georgia.

How strange, for example, that Chapman should visit Beirut at a time when the Lebanese capital was a hive of CIA activity — and was said to be home to one of the agency’s top-secret assassination training camps. Another camp was supposedly in Hawaii, where Chapman lived for a number of years.

And who funded the penniless young man’s round-the-world trip in 1975, which took in Japan, the UK, India, Nepal, Korea, Vietnam and China?

Money never seemed to be a problem for Chapman, but no one has ever explained where it came from. The distinct possibility remains, in Strongman’s opinion, that the secret service was his paymaster.

And somewhere along the line his mind was infiltrated. With Chapman, the CIA could have drawn on its long experience of using mind-controlling drugs and techniques such as hypnosis to produce assassins who would eliminate trouble-makers, and ‘patsies’, the fall guys on whom such killings could be blamed.

Strongman claims: ‘Catcher In The Rye was part of Chapman’s hypnotic programming, a trigger that could be “fired” at him by a few simple keywords [via] a cassette tape message, telex or telegram or even a mere telephone call.

’It’s certainly true that conspiracy theorists have long suspected both the Americans and their communist foes of using such techniques to activate ‘sleeper’ assassins — as fictionalised in the film The Manchurian Candidate.

The author is uncertain whether Chapman fell into the category of unwitting killer or unwitting accomplice.

But his deep suspicion is that Chapman did not act alone — any more, he says, than Lee Harvey Oswald did in the murder of JFK in Dallas or Sirhan Sirhan in Bobby Kennedy’s death. He even doubts if Chapman fired the fatal shots.

‘The bullets slapped into Lennon’s body so closely together that pathologists later had trouble marking out the different entry points. If all of these shots came from Chapman, it was a miraculous piece of shooting. Put simply, the authorities' investigation, or lack of it, into the assassination was shockingly slack and beggars belief.'

‘In fact, if any of them came from him it was miraculous because Chapman was standing on Lennon’s right and, as the autopsy report and death certificate later made clear, all Lennon’s wounds were in the left side of his body.’

There had to be another shooter involved, Strongman insists. He suggests that a CIA plant who worked at the Dakota building was the real killer.

What increases his suspicion is the cursory nature of the police investigation after Chapman’s arrest.

‘His bizarre post-killing calm was not questioned, his behaviour was not checked with a drugs test, his “programmed” state [a word used about him by more than one police officer] was not investigated, his previous movements were not thoroughly looked into.

‘Put simply, the authorities’ investigation, or lack or it, into the assassination was shockingly slack and beggars belief.’

It had to be, he concludes, that the FBI were conspiring with the CIA to cover up the reality — that shadowy figures in the American establishment ordered Lennon’s assassination....

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at January 4, 2011 07:31 AM

mistah charley, I haven't read Strongman's book and don't have time nowadays, but I did read Fenton Bressler's a Who Killed John Lennon? (British edition)a few years ago, which made some of the same observations. Bressler was a former Barrister with those attitudes towards evidence and proof, and I thought his book was quite solid. It sounds like Strongman emphasized the same obviously suspicious facts.

Now that I'm a useful engine again, I can feel once more how odd such questions used to seem to me (as they presumably feel to others whose nuts and bolts and screws are all tightened). Its pretty obvious that the role one plays in the world shapes the contours of not just behavior, but belief itself; e.g., I suspect the conclusions of the Standford Prison Experimient were just the tip of the iceberg.

Which explains, I guess, how sane can be insane and insane sane in such a crazy way, so to speak, which brings us back to what John Lennon said. And to tie it into what David Harvey was explaining in the video you linked on the other thread, for people to stop being insane (the old human nature question), they'll need to stop living in a world that makes them be that. Which is to say, per the old master Marx, it is fundamentally the relations of production that determine "human nature" and are behind the insanity, and until those relations of productions are changed the insanity (from a perspective not tethered to them) will not stop.

So I think David Harvey was right, but I'm not sure I see the historical opportunity for his view to gain much traction right now.

Okay, enough of that. Thanks for reminding me of that David Harvey video. That guy is a genius even if he has been doomed to be a town crier.

Posted by N E at January 4, 2011 09:13 AM

Here's a 2010/1 version for the Af-Pak War and UK resistance to those wars by the London Catholic Worker...


Posted by redjade at January 4, 2011 10:09 AM

There's a lot of mental gymnastics involved in imagining a murderer insane enough to be brainwashed but also slightly unusual, as if the whole story doesn't fit if he were on his own.

Every detail is more analyzed than a Rashi commentary:
"The person who assassinated a well-liked public official/celebrity had... unusual routines in his life.. Did you know that when he grew up, he ate Hershey bars? *gasp*"

New rule: nobody is allowed to read books, travel the world, or rage about threats to der homeland by nefarious ideologies and tin pot dictators. At the very least don't do it on television.

Posted by LT at January 4, 2011 10:52 AM


Mental gymnastics are the rule, not the exception. People just generally aren't aware of their own mental gymanstics and consider what they believe ordinary and common-sensical while mental gymnastics unfamiliar to them are crazy and even silly. This shows up a lot in religion but by no means only there. You may not believe that people can be "brainwashed," but it's pretty clear by now that they can and have been quite well over the ages, in newer and better ways as progress has turned the old art into a modern science. Alas, the superplasticity of the brain lends itself to such abuse.

Of course a murderer can be a nutcase and kill someone just because he heard goblins telling him to do it, or Satan, or Jesus, or the Pink Panther, but that general story you seem to have in mind "fits" best when a person doesn't examine it. And I would think you'd admit that assuming it could be done, getting a nut to kill someone would in general be a pretty effective way to get away with murder, so it shouldn't be surprising that this, like every other rotten form of misdeed, has been studied and perfected, just as the art of manipulating everyone into thinking it's crazy has been studied and perfected.

C'est la vie.

Posted by N E at January 4, 2011 12:52 PM

Bresler's theory has always struck me as intriguing, but a bit thin; and this latest iteration of it seems similar. FWIW, this is how a properly executed "op" would feel.

Knowing what we know about the case, Chapman being under someone's influence is as least as logical as the possibility he was a lone nut. And if Dakota doorman Jose Perdomo was in fact a Cuban exile involved in the Bay of Pigs, well...

That could be a coincidence. And of course that's what plots look like: lots and lots of coincidences, until somebody spills the beans.

MDC was in an altered state at the time of the shooting, all parties are definite about that. Could he have hypnotized himself? I guess--although that seems about as likely as hypnotizing yourself to, say, quit smoking. Nobody seems to be able to do that. They have to have somebody help them do it/do it for them.

But whatevs, as the kids say. I have found argument to be singularly ineffective in discussing these issues--if somebody is determined to believe in lone nuts, they select the facts to buttress that belief; and the same goes for the conspiracy side.

Speaking for myself, I find the clustering of assassinations very suspicious. The liberal/left establishment suffered huge losses through violence from 1963-80; the conservative/right did not. This alone should give us pause; whether or not Lennon's death was the result of individual insanity, national politics, or both, it is undeniable that his death left a gap in the culture. Who did such a gap benefit? Who filled that gap, and what did they do?

The gap created by the deaths of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK were filled by LBJ, Lewis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, and Hubert Humphrey; the gap created by Lennon's death has been filled by nobody, although you might nominate people like Sting and more lately Bono.

In every instance, those that followed were fundamentally less effective. The right wing suffered no such losses; George Lincoln Rockwell was a fringe character, and George Wallace, while a threat to Nixon, wasn't a legitimate Presidential candidate (as opposed to, say, RFK). Any reading of postwar American politics--and culture--that doesn't acknowledge this unequal distribution of violence is simple foolishness.

Lennon's murder cannot be taken out of the context of a stream of earlier murders, all suddenly and violently weakening one side of the political spectrum, all traumatizing the Baby Boom generation--precisely during the years in which its numbers could've transformed American society at the ballot box. Given what we know about those other murders--government involvement certain in some cases, highly likely in others--it's only rational to expect that there was more to MDC than the conventional story. And irrational to go out of one's way to expect that in this one case, the MSM was telling the full truth.

Posted by Mike of Angle at January 4, 2011 02:39 PM

Happy New Year Mike! Very thoughtful comment, though I don't think you have to assume that a conspiracy to commit murder by secret organs of the state necessarily has to serve an ultra-important purpose like killing a politically irreplaceable person. Somebody might kill somebody just because he doesn't like him--that happens all the time.

Perhaps organs of the state commissioned and empowered to commit violence secretly are more discriminating and have effective institutional controls to stop that sort of thing, but then again, maybe not. (Count me skeptical based on the pattern of assassinations you describe.) There is a little bit of a structural problem with monitoring that sort of hidden power. But Lennon was pretty damn important as peacemakers go, and there were a boatload of powerful right-wing people who hated him for opposing the Vietnam War the way he did. You know, the people like Hoover and the Cold Warriors at the Pentagon and Langley who equated the loss in Vietnam with the destruction of American global power. People who deeply believe in the efficacy and necessity of violence.

Posted by N E at January 4, 2011 04:20 PM

And right back at you, NE. Here's hoping 2011 is an improvement!

"has to serve an ultra-important purpose like killing a politically irreplaceable person. Somebody might kill somebody just because he doesn't like him"

Potato, potahto, if you ask me. People likely to set conspiratorial murder plots in motion are also likely to personalize the threat.

Funny--what I thought you were going to say in your last paragraph: "who equated the loss in Vietnam [with the loss of the homefront]." The old "stabbed-in-the-back" meme. That right there is reason enough to knock off Lennon. It doesn't matter if Country Joe and the Fish were as anti-war as Lennon was; we aren't talking about rock critics here, but old, scared men with access to guns. All the people that say, "Why kill Lennon? He wasn't a threat in 1980," make me want to say, "What, do you think Lester Bangs was the guy in charge of the hit list?"

Posted by Mike of Angle at January 4, 2011 09:30 PM

Country Joe and the Fish were as anti-war as Lennon was

see for Country Joe's activities then and now - he has a tribute to Woody Guthrie show he's currently doing, as well as a Florence Nightingale show

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at January 5, 2011 08:17 AM

mike, you are indeed funny. And thanks mistah charley, I need to listen to more County Joe.

Posted by N E at January 5, 2011 08:35 AM

Thanks, NE--as soon as I hit send, I realized that "Who do you think was drawing up the hit list, Lester Bangs?" was probably better for arcane comedy reasons, but glad to hear it hit the mark anyway.

And no offense meant to Country Joe, Mistah C. He was just close at hand.

Posted by Mike of Angle at January 5, 2011 01:29 PM

I've always liked Country Joe's version of Guthrie's "Tom Joad."

Posted by godoggo at January 6, 2011 12:46 AM

...or alternatively, without the movie clips, which I've decided are sort of annoying.

Posted by godoggo at January 6, 2011 01:11 AM