"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 28 February 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
White Men in Hammerstein Ballroom



The Muzak version of "Smells

Like Teen Spirit" blared over

the PA, followed by something

with a theremin and chanting in

German. Big screens all over the

place showed fragments of

vintage kitsch, Johnny Rotten,

hard-core porn, and Klaus Nomi.

Peter Giblin, introducing the

proceedings from behind a podium

decorated with a huge devil's

head, announced that heckling

would not be tolerated and that

e-chocolates were available

downstairs, next to the free

samples of fake absinthe, the

US$3 cans of Red Bull, the Dream

Machine, and the coat check. In

New York City's Hammerstein

Ballroom recently, we'd come

together for Disinfo.Con, a

conference put together by

Richard Metzger, the nonmusical

Boyd Rice. Metzger is the guy

behind disinfo.com, a

clearinghouse for

countercultural and

conspiratorial links. Together

with Giblin, he'd arranged 11

hours of speakers,

demonstrations, and video

projections for us.


Who "we" were was a little

unclear, except that we weren't

"them," and there weren't nearly

enough of us to fill the

ballroom at $100 for a day

ticket — many of us seemed

to be on the guest list anyway

(by Metzger's report, at least

250 out of the 830 people in the

audience were "guests"). After a

Sanskrit sing-along led by

Madonna-beneficiaryVyass Houston

("This is the most beautiful

song I've ever heard. Let me

lead you in it.") and a few

words about "random acts of

revolutionary mutation" and the

conference's being "a sort of

magical rite of passage,"

Metzger and Douglas Rushkoff set

the tone for the day by

declaring that the culture war

is over, we've won, the term

"counterculture" has lost its

meaning, and all we have to do

now is get rich: "Let them in!

Take their money! Let's accept

their surrender!"



The Invisibles' writer Grant

Morrison followed that tack a

little further, announcing that

"we" should give "the culture"

something that will consume it

like BSE. He was also drunk out

of his skull and, he informed

us, coming up on some more

drugs. He described how he went

to Kathmandu in 1994 in order to

be abducted by aliens (it

worked), attempted to cite

"phylogeny recapitulates

evolution or whatever the fuck

it is," taught the audience how

to make magic sigils, and

finally declared that

individuality is a crock and

that it should be abandoned in

favor of what we now call

multiple personality disorder,

which is "more coherent, more

useful, more meaningful." If

nothing else, that's a novel way

of defining the current

constituency of what used to be

the counterculture: everybody in

the world, by proxy, sort of

like the Plastic Ono Band.


So where was everybody? The

theme for the day was "Find The

Others" — apparently a bon

mot that Timothy Leary uttered

after eating his favorite snack.

There are some "others" that

were missing for sure. "How many

black people are going to be in

this building today except the

ones carrying ice for our sodas

in the back?" Rushkoff asked.

(Answer: None that we saw, and

there's something incredibly

icky about watching Feral House

publisher Adam Parfrey

snickering about Louis Farrakhan

while standing behind a

devil's-head podium.) And there

was exactly one woman among 20

or so featured speakers —

Jodi Dean, part of a panel on

conspiracy theory — not

counting the naked, body-painted

"Girls of Karen Black," who

demonstrated their "wall of

vagina" trick for the

delectation of the front rows.


A few days after the conference,

we asked Metzger what was up

with that. "Three different

women came up to me and asked

me that question," he said, "and

they were really irate about

that. I almost think that it's

kind of a knee-jerk reaction. It

wasn't like we sat down and

said, 'Oh, how do we exclude

women from this conference?' It

wasn't that at all! We tried to

get speakers that the

Disinformation audience is

listening to. I've interacted

with the audience on a daily

basis for the last

three-and-a-half years, so I

figure I have a good feel for

it. I chafe at that kind of

criticism, even though only

three women asked me about it.

My two best friends are women,

you know what I mean? And both

of them just kinda went 'pfft'

when they heard it. But in

retrospect, I wish we would've

asked Diamanda Galas to be a

speaker. I've seen her concerts

so many times, and I really dig

what she does; she would've been

so absolutely perfect for that

crowd, and I fuzzed on it! A

week before the event, somebody

went, 'What about Diamanda Galas

and Sadie Plant?' And I went,

'Fuck!' Diamanda Galas would've

been perfect. But Sadie Plant

wouldn't have been, 'cause I

don't think she would've sold

one ticket. Not to put her

down--I like her book."


But as much as the

post-counterculture wants to

make nice with the world (or, at

least, the world of rich

people), it can't let go of its

grudges and paranoias and petty

hobgoblins. In the context of

Disinfo.con, "the government"

always meant "the homecoming

kings who beat us up in high

school and watch us from black

helicopters now" — and

sometimes literally: Marilyn

Manson, lit from his good side

and wearing a big floppy hat,

appeared via satellite to mumble

something about how "everyone

knows that jocks rule the

school" and complain that

football killers are out on bail

while his namesake is still

rotting in a cell. Less than

half an hour into the

conference, the assassination of

JFK Sr. was cited for the first

time — and not the last.

During the conspiracy panel,

Robert Sterling raised eyebrows

when he wondered aloud if JFK

Jr.'s death maybe was

accidental. And the crowd roared

with approval whenever "the

media" was blamed, which was

weird, considering how many of

us were sporting press passes.



The sort of people who were in

RE/Search books 10 years ago are

no longer defining themselves in

opposition to everything else in

contemporary culture. But even

if they've gained a toehold

— or taken the entire

mountain — they're not

leaving the weirdo trenches just

yet. Disinfo wasn't devoted to

new enemies so much as to old

friends. R. U. Sirius announced

his presidential campaign,

although early polling showed

him lagging somewhere between

candidates Pigasus and Tom

Laughlin. Paul Laffoley

accompanied slides of his

obsessively detailed but

gorgeous paintings by rambling

interminably and incoherently

about the connection between

Frank Lloyd Wright, the Great

Pyramid, a secret land base in

Greenland, a "woman physicist"

at Harvard, waves that can be

generated by lucid dreaming,

Gurdjieff, a time machine linked

to chakras, Klaatu's spaceship,

and the little cylindrical

implant in his head. There was

even a warm welcome for shopworn

former controversialist Joe

Coleman, who's been running his


routine into the ground for

decades like a drunk old uncle

who belches the "Moonlight

Sonata" at every family

gathering. (Endearingly, he

pronounces what appears to be

his favorite word "exCREEment.")


Genesis P-Orridge, purring

schoolmarmishly, spent half an

hour introducing the concept of

mind/body duality to anybody in

the audience who happened to

have missed the last 400 years

or so of Western culture, but

broke new ground with his claim

that we are "at war with DNA,"

the crafty little breeding acid

that produced the Internet as an

offensive tactic. And he

concluded that "maybe the Roman

Catholic Church got it right

with celibacy." At least he gave

"Internet" a definite article,

unlike bitter old Borscht-Belt

joker Robert Anton Wilson, who

ranted about federal reserve

notes and the government's plan

to criminalize vitamin C before

taking a firm stand against the

burning of books and padding out

the end of his monolog with

Monica Lewinsky jokes. Kenneth

Anger decried the kids of today,

who don't know how to read

Aleister Crowley books from

front to back any more, and

turned the end of his appearance

into an infomercial for his new

stop-smoking video.



Which left us wondering what

kind of person prefers Lucifer

Rising to Nicoderm. So we asked

Metzger: Who is Disinformation's

audience? "Primarily male —

it's over 65 percent male.

Probably like 67 percent. It's a

really, really great demographic

to tell advertisers. Obviously,

they've got computers, and most

of them are in college or have

just gotten out of college. It's

like 18- to 34-year-old males

who are real smart and really

into information and weird

stuff. I'll tell you:

Post-conference, we're getting

at least five ad inquiries a


courtesy of The Cloud of Unknowing
picturesTerry Colon

The Cloud of Unknowing