Possibly Subversive Flower Arrangements
by Kerry Wendell Thornley
Originally published in Factsheet Five № 26 (p. 51), May 1988. Errors in spelling and grammar are presented as they appear in the original publication.
Anti-intellectualism was something for which LBJ was famous — as was the Gang of Four, as were the Hippies of 1967, especially the Timothy Leary faction, which was most conspicuous and therefore probably had LBJ's backing, with the slogan "Turn on, tune in, and drop out." Dropping out of school was particularly encouraged - both in China and the U.S. It wasn't simply a conspiracy to create an ignorant mass that could be ruled more easily; it was a reflection of LBJ's conviction that intellectuals were fools — that pragmatic knowledge mingled with folk wisdom was the basis of true, useful intelligence — influenced probably very much by LBJ's resentment of the Kennedy and State Department intellectuals, who probably made him feel defensive and possibly gave him an inferiority complex.
People like Adlai Stevenson and Dean Rusk and Pierre Salinger were always suspect. (This, too, seemed to be the way Brother-in-law felt, or pretended to feel.) McNamara's faction (Remember Tom McNamara!), necessary for conducting the war, were called Whiz Kids - an indication of how much their specialized knowledge distinguished them from the rest of the administration. A popular saying of the day was that "An intellectual is a man who is educated beyond his intellect." To resort to Ayn Rand's bizarre metaphor, Atilla was wary of the witch doctor — and also in awe of actual witch doctors.
Mac Hall once spoke to me glowingly of a nuclear physicist who'd dropped out of school to study the I CHING.
Johnson probably also, like most of us — or at least like me — felt bewildered by the technocracy and feared that scientists and technocrats would simply overwhelm elveryone else until they were the only ones who knew what was happening. (I understand the feeling; I think LBJ's response wasn't particularly realistic, though.)
So the idea was to keep everyone comprehensible to good old boys like Johnson. It was a backlash to the Sputnik Era of the late fifties and early sixties, also. In China of course it served the added purpose of retarding the technological development of a potential enemy.
To join the Church of the Sub Genius — which seems to me very much a satire on this sanctified yah-hooism — the one requirement, they say, is that your I.Q. has to be below Genius.
Robert Anton Wilson underwent his mysterious change in his letters after Nixon was elected — to perhaps, a gung-ho Leary man. (Leary also underwent the same changes in line — from anarchistic counter-cultural themes to darker stuff, magick and space technology — at the same time, particularly space technology in Leary's case.) He was Devils' Advocating the secret teachings of the Presidential clique.
I probably liked Johnson's ideas more than Nixon's. The new Wilson wasn't as colorful, and of course the intellectualism of anti-intellectualism was there in both cases — except, in Nixon's case, a Hitler-like worship of technocracy combined at the same time with more magick (mystification).
LBJ, for all his faults, was trying to create a new culture and probably actually was something of a Marxist Satanist or Dark Trotskyist. Nixon was just dark and politically conservative and culturally unimaginative. So I grew puzzled and bored with Wilson's letters and our correspondence dropped off.
In any case, with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolutions as with everything else, the more exotic the phenomenon, the more mundane the explanation.
What annoys me most about the whole situation, is that I've been ripped-off of every second of my life, at least since 1952 when Harry Truman founded the N.5.A. Figuring that the best defense is a good offense, these bastards try to make me feel like I owe them something! There are people who, when in the Army, got dosed once with LSD, who've sued the government for thousands of dollars.
Beteen LBJ's Wilson and Nixon's Wilson is the same distinction as between Kissinger and Nixon or Garrison and Howard Hunt — some maniacs are sociopaths with a certain amount of style and intelligence; then there are the ones who are just sadistic neurotics — who, even if brilliant or shrewd, are essentially without imagination. Neither type is a bargain. The flamboyant sociopaths probably make a contribution in terms of stimulating creativity that at least compensates slightly for having the endure their oppressions. The neurotics of power are just an unmitigated pain in the ass.
The difference is only between a madman and a thug, though.
"And I've just discovered someone's tapping my phone! (I dropped my harmonica, Albert.)" — Simon and Garfunkel That was probably when I reported Jonathan Leek to the F.B.I. — Albert Jenner being the focus of anarchist ideology among the assassins. All with various ideas about how I should behave in the year following 1963. Jenner wanted an anarchist harmonica player who roamed the country alone, according to my understanding. I reported Leek to the F.B.I. when a repairman on the telephone pole in our backyard was observed — since I decided I was being set up and wanted to keep myself in the clear, since Leek was too violent and irrational for me anyway.
The Individual Principle: You own your own body.
The Egoistic Principle: You own your own nervous system and the contents of your own mind.
The Labor Principle: You own the socially useful services you perform — the activities of your body and mind.
The Revolutionary Principle: You own any raw material not already being used to which your labor is applied.
These four principles, seen as aspects of a whole by most people, would cause all necessary social change.