Sunday, July 29, 2007

Update: The Deaths of Duncan & Blake were Badly Mishandled by LA Times/Who has Constructed an ARG Around Theresa Duncan's "Suicide?"

Two articles here. The first addresses the awful writing on the death of Theresa Duncan by the LA Times' Chris Lee. The Times is insidious in its reality-defining strategies, and this is but the latest example of the newpaper's manipulation of its readership.

ARG deception game concepts are explained below. (9/11 activists may note a similarity between an ARG and infiltration/manipulation of grassroots investigation by intelligence cut-outs and cults.) Someone has an interest in misdirecting bloggers researching facts related to her death - to conceal the circumstances?

The woefully misleading, incomplete Times' story by Chris Lee is a step in the wider context of ARG strategies.

- Alex Constantine

“…the Apparent Double Suicide…” UPDATED
July 25th, 2007

A rank odor rises from the LA Times’ belated coverage of blogger/filmmaker Theresa Duncan’s death and the subsequent disappearance of her boyfriend, the artist Jeremy Blake. After rehashing what everyone else said days ago — the deaths were “confounding,” the art world is in shock — writer Chris Lee gropes in the dark for explanations that are clearly beyond the facts in his notebook, and in doing so, inflicts needless damage to their reputations.

If someone knows why two talented, popular people with the world on a string would kill themselves, they can choose to tell that story. When it comes to prominent people — and there’s no question Duncan and Blake courted attention — the trade-off between violating the privacy of the deceased and offering a coherent narrative to explain a senseless act tends to favor telling the story. But only if you have a story to tell. Lee doesn’t. He has a hodge-podge of disquieting details that add up to a big, contradictory blob of nothing that perhaps tells us more about Lee than his subjects.

According to Lee, Duncan and Blake believed they were being stalked and harassed by Scientologists, “according to several friends and art world peers.”

Actually, Lee didn’t need to go to unnamed sources for this news. Duncan herself wrote about the alleged harassment incidents at length on her blog, Wit of the Staircase. On LA Observed last night, Kevin Roderick pointed to this May 2007 entry, which is exhaustive. In it, Duncan draws a series of links between an old girlfriend of Blake’s, the old girlfriend’s wealthy adoptive father and his connections to the CIA and conservative think-tanks, the Church of Scientology, an FBI file about her own past work as a labor organizer, and some incidents of social-climbing bed-hopping in the art world. Duncan painted the ex-girlfriend as possible perpetrator of the harassment, but also possible unknowing victim of her adoptive father and the shady underworld of which he supposedly is a part.

In a comment to her own post, Duncan claimed that the harassment — “including a dead cat, grafitti on and near our property” — started when Blake worked with the indie singer Beck on an album cover. It is, frankly, hard to tell how much of what Duncan wrote is relevant to the harassment. Reading it over a few times, it strikes me that Duncan put all this out there in violation of Occam’s Razor (“the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible.”) It could simply have been that the ex-girlfriend carried a torch, and went overboard. Assuming the adoptive father is connected to high-level espionage and secret business, why would he want to risk exposure by having his operatives harass a couple of artists?

But, oddly, the Times’ reporter focuses on the aspect of this story that seems the least subject to challenge. He questions whether the harassment took place at all. He strongly implies it was a fantasy. His proof? Christine Nichols, an art world colleague of Duncan and Blake’s “did not see any evidence of that.” Did Ms. Nichols live with them? What was the extent of her involvement in their lives that would lead Lee to conclude that if Nichols didn’t see something, it probably didn’t happen?

(This story went through at least one editor, right? Neither Lee nor that editor saw the logical fallacy in using Nichols’ comments to prove a negative? Neither Lee nor that editor thought to call LAPD, which Duncan cited specifically in her blog? This is the kind of thing that enrages readers of the LA Times and makes us indifferent to its future, irrational as that might be.)

Then Lee reaches out to the rock star Beck who, through his manager, describes the professional relationship between Blake and himself as “very cordial.” Beck, I was stunned to find out, is a member of the Church of Scientology. The Beck Sea Change album on which Blake worked was acclaimed, and the graphics drew positive notices. Why would an uneventful and successful project that benefited a famous Scientology member lead to harassment by the Church of Scientology? Duncan never explains, nor does the Times.

But the Times does add, with an air of authority, an irrelevant comment from the NYPD that the Scientology angle is not being pursued. Why would it be pursued? These are “apparent suicides.” Despite Lee’s best efforts, he fails to draw any connection between the deaths and the harassment — which he cues us to doubt even took place.

Here’s what I think Lee wants to say, but can’t: Duncan and Blake’s paranoia about Scientology was a symptom that one or both of them were losing their grip on reality and going insane, and at the end of that road was suicide. That’s the clear impression he leaves with his floating chunks of data and oddly disconnected quotes. The second half of the story is all about how well their lives were going, and how attractive they both were to “the brainy, moneyed people who occupy the intersection of art and technology.” Lee betrays more than a little envy of both of them. Stuck with a story for which he has few worthwhile facts but a bellyful of jealousy, he tells the world in so many words that both of them were crazy.

This is a hit piece, disguised by the language of compassion. The Times’ speculative implications are completely meritless. The fact is, we don’t know their mental state, and because the police say they aren’t looking into the Scientology/harassment angle, we can assume they didn’t see evidence to justify a connection. Keep in mind the police have seen both suicide notes.

For all the artifacts and writings both artists left behind, we really don’t know them. We don’t know what transpired between them. We don’t know what mental or physical conditions they were dealing with. We don’t know about stresses in their lives. We hardly know anything. And based on the quotes from friends, their friends hardly knew anything either.
This is Not a Game: The Mysterious Death of Theresa Duncan
July 26th, 2007 at 6:36 pm (Uncategorized)

Theresa Duncan, artist, writer, perfume critic and video game pioneer is dead. The police aren’t making it official yet, but the papers are calling it suicide. Her longtime partner and collaborator, Jeremy Blake, is alleged to have stripped off his clothes and taken a one-way swim into the ocean. A body was recently discovered that fits his description.

(I first learned about all of this via Jeff Wells’ Rigorous Intuition blog and I have included links to all his posts on the subject at the bottom of this post.)These people were real. But almost everything else about this case seems false. When I initially went to Duncan’s website, my first thought was that the whole thing seemed very much like one of those alternate reality games or “ARGs” which you often encounter on the internet. These are stories which are not written out in one central narrative but consist of an introductory website and a series of clues. It is up to the readers to piece together the larger story. The more immersive ones will bring in other media…players might receive emails or phone calls, or be given phone numbers to call which actually work. Real websites not affiliated with the game might be referenced…videos produced…fake photographs created.

Duncan’s site looks very much like a “rabbit hole”, the term for the entry way into an ARG. Here’s another ARG term: puppet master. That’s the person or group running the game. What follows is what is likely to be a long series of investigative pieces into who the puppet masters are in this case. It will bring together some of the themes we’ve already introduced on this site.

In this first few posts, I’d like to explain a little about why I think there is some sort of structure behind Duncan’s website and numerous websites which connect to it which is designed to lead the reader onto some kind of trail. If you aren’t familiar with ARGs, and I was not that familiar with them until just recently as I researched them in another context, this will seem a bit nonlinear at first. What I have to offer is not proof, but simply an analysis that is highly suggestive that something “ARG-like”, for lack of a better term, is going on here. But I am feeling more and more certain that I am correct about this. In fact, already some ARG-like clues have been put forward in other places. Links to websites containing nothing but mysterious pictures, seemingly pointless lists, and cryptic text. These don’t prove anything, of course. But they are exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to find in an ARG. The difference here is that the “characters” are very real and two of them, apparently, are dead.

We will also see that the dead lovers have connections in various ways to the very community of people who create ARGs in the first place: internet innovators, “new media” theorists, occultists, chaos worshipping Discordians, and perhaps even a few intelligence agents along the way. This is the culture Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake already were a part of.

The research that is already underway is far too unwieldy to contain on this blog, so I’m not exactly sure how to proceed. I don’t want to be disrespectful to the dead couple and I cannot at this time figure out how to reconcile the ARG nature of this material with the very real deaths of these two artists. There are others researching this material with whom I am working though they prefer to stay anonymous.

What I am going to do with these first posts is give a brief summary of some of the factors that have led me to conclude that this ARG really exists, for whatever purpose. But let me give you a little more background on ARGs, particularly one ARG, so that you can see what I’m talking about a little more clearly.

One of the more famous ARGs that was never completely owned up to as an ARG was called “Ong’s Hat.” It centered around rumors of certain documents about a device that allowed people to go back in time. It sounds silly, I guess, but it roped a lot of people in. Here is one summary of the structure of an ARG written by a veteran of Ong’s Hat

Create a interactive medium that immerses the public in an addictive, tantalizing story but keep the content restricted to certain personality types. Reveal concepts and ideas that generally represent your beliefs.

Along the way, feed this portion of the public information which may or may not be true about the story. (Filtration of the idiots)

Those that breach the truths and untruths may pass to the next level of information. Introduce more directed and personal information. Once again reveal accurate and inaccurate information. (Further idiot filtration)
As this select group narrows, inject information that more specifically reveals their personal belief systems, ideals, goals.

If the users ideals, beliefs and goals have been properly modified by the process or the user already fits the mold, those persons are then accepted into the “fold”.

Notice, if you will, how those same words might be used to describe a sophisticated disinformation campaign. Indeed, with Ong’s Hat, there were many who thought the whole thing was real. Probably still some who do. And this sort of trickery has been going on since way before the internet began. Two non-web-based ARGs which come to mind are the alleged communications from aliens from the planet UMMO which eventually ran to thousands of documents, and all of the material around the Priory of Sion that ultimately found its way into a blockbuster book and movie. It doesn’t even matter that BOTH of these have not only been proven to be primarily based on hoaxes, and that the hoaxers themselves have admitted as such; people still believe. I’ll bet if you think really hard, you can come up with some other examples. I know I can.

Unfortunately, one of those examples turns out to be the whole area of MKULTRA and mind control. Not that MKULTRA didn’t exist…but at least one ARG drew heavily on the MKULTRA material and, I would argue, did much to obscure whatever truth lies in those dark and murky waters. The ARG was called “El Centro.” And here (this is a pdf link) is what the creator himself, Joseph Matheyny, said about it:

One (goal of El Centro) was to set up a multi-leveled puzzle scenario that
would serve as a ‘survival of fittest’ course so that we could find candidates that had the unique qualities that we desired
in a PM.

I’d like to suggest there was another goal. And that was to fuck with people’s minds. Here’s an excerpt from the El Centro material:

Him: “Ok. Ever heard of Mind Control Programming?”

Me: “MKULTRA, Monarch, etc.?”

Him:”To name but a few, but yes, exactly. Ever wonder how many of those Mind Controlled morons there are running amuck out there?”

Me: “Not exactly..”

Him: “I’ll tell you how many. A lot. A whole fucking lot. That’s how many. A bloody majority.”

Me: “How does that tie in..?”

Him: “I’ll tell you how but you won’t want to hear it. There are varying layers of programming. I’ve managed to hack a few of those over the last several years. Of specific interest to me was the OMEGA layer. This is the failsafe layer, the self-destruct button if you will. Recently I’ve learned how to trigger it.”

Me: “I see…”

Him: “Do you? I’ve grown tired of trying to figure out a way to deprogram large groups of people. There’s too many of them out there and more are created every day. It’s like being in a ground war with the Republic of China. You deprogram one and they throw 20 or 30 more at you. They wear you down through attrition. So I’ve come up with a more elegant solution. I’ve discovered a method to trigger the OMEGA response en masse. They’ll off themselves. Every single agent, sleeper or active, that comes into contact with El Centro will have their OMEGA response triggered. Oh sure, we’ll see a period of mass extinction that will be unprecedented, but..”

El Centro is off line but is archived here. However, I don’t know how long those archives last.

And this brings us back to Theresa Duncan and her blog, for as you’ll easily see if you look around, aside from perfume reviews and Kate Moss updates, she began to write about various Mind Control/MKULTRA/Project Monarch topics AND she also claimed she was being stalked by forces related to those. And then, I suppose we are to infer, her “OMEGA” programming kicked in. As we’ll see, her life in intersects in a variety of ways with guys like Matheny who are behind some of the more well known ARGs. I’m not saying that some evil ARG writers killed Duncan, only that something ARG-like has been constructed around her. Whether she was witting to that, or was being somehow led to do it, I don’t know.

I’m going to end this section here. Take the time, if this story interests you, to get the background at RI. And then have a look at the comments. Some of the commenters are part of the game and have begun to leave a little trail of clues. But be careful, as I have no idea where all this is leading so I’m not even going to point out just yet which comments I believe are deliberately planted. You’ll have to come to your own conclusions about that but I’d suggest looking for the links lead….because some of them lead to some pretty weird shit.

And I want to reiterate…I am the one who is “outing” the ARG nature of this game but I have nothing to do with it. In fact, I think the people behind it, especially given the two deaths that are somehow related, are malicious in intent, whatever that intent actually is. But my goal is very simple. I would like to expose these motherfuckers. I hope you’ll join me.

Links to the background from Rigorous Intuition:

Next up…hopefully later today, I will outline some of the telltale signs that Theresa’s Blog was being used as an ARG “rabbit hole”. I’d ask those of you who are wondering if I’m making a huge leap here to bear with me. The case becomes very convincing, though it will be particularly convincing if you familiarize yourself with the nature, structure and some of the major “authors” of recent ARGS. But it’s going to take a little time to develop this idea. Please don’t call the paddy wagon on me just yet.

Oh, one other warning. Once this article gets “on the radar” we will have new people leaving comments here. PLEASE remember that you don’t know anything about who other commenters are. Already I’ve had some games played in my comments section (not related to this post…but similar kinds of folks). So be careful. I don’t want anyone to be paranoid, but the folks who do this stuff are really good at building trust and manipulating.