Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dr. Strangelove: A Strange and Terrible Glimpse Into the Deep State Part I


There is probably no other twentieth century film director whose films have been as obsessively analyzed and dissected as those of Stanley Kubrick. This is true of both mainstream movie buffs as well as conspiracy theorists, a state of affairs that has at times baffled "serious" film critics. After all, Kubrick's films have achieved a degree of box office success largely unparalleled for a director with such a peculiar style.

Despite often working within genres (i.e. science fiction, horror, and war films) perceived as crowd pleasers Kubrick's films are often deliberately paced and fixated upon the darkest aspects of human nature (the word "dehumanization" is regularly evoked when discussing Kubrick). The director largely abandoned any pretext of developing realistic characters by the early 1960s, leaving his films populated effectively by two types characterization: human beings almost completely devoid of all emotions and who function in a robot-like fashion (i.e. 2001 and Eyes Wide Shut) or characters whose features and mannerisms are so manic that they are essentially caricatures of common archetypes (Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, etc).



The paranoid, clinical atmosphere many of Kubrick's films evoke combined with such a bizarre approach to characterization has left more than a few critics (and viewers) cold over the years. His style is in stark contrast to someone such as Steven Spielberg, a friend of Kubrick's and a filmmaker who has at times been compared to him. While both directors got a lot of mileage out of groundbreaking special effects over the years, Spielberg's success was largely rooted in his ability to take science fiction out of distant worlds and galaxies and place it in modern American suburbs populated by characters who are thoroughly Every Men/Women. This added a warmth to Spielberg's films that average Americans could easily identify with in a gerne that was not always known for such things. Legendary horror writer Stephen King (whom Kubrick famously clashed with over his adaptation of The Shining) accomplished much the same thing in his respective field.

Spielberg would eventually helm A.I., a project begun by Kubrick before his death, with mixed results
The human element is so lacking in Kubrick's films that they have at times been described as having the feel of being directed by a computer. It is as though the events and individuals being depicted are actually observations being made by an alien race and/or an artificial intelligence in the distant future.

Needless to say, this is not the type of atmosphere commonly associated with big budget genre films. And yet the bulk of Kubrick's films, even those that have not been initial box offices successes, have ultimately resonated with audiences in a profound way. Kubrick's movies effect people deeply even though many viewers are consciously baffled by what the films are trying to express.

The power of Kubrick's films is of course obvious to those of you who are synchro-mystically inclined: They resonate on a largely subconscious, symbolic level. Even the notorious conspiracy theorist and "former" Naval intelligence officer William Cooper was aware of this dynamic and expressed it as well as anyone during his breakdown of 2001 in the midst of his famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) "Mystery Babylon" broadcasts:
"Most people who saw that movie did not understand – from beginning to end – what it was that they had experience, but they knew, everyone who saw it, that they had experienced something profound; that something had been communicated to the dark, deep recesses of their mind, which they did not understand, and indeed, which they were incapable of understanding..."
(James Shelby Downard's Mystical War, Adam Gorightly, pgs. 78-79)
William Cooper
Symbolism and archetypes (both those derived from modern American society as well as the more ancient variety) are a crucial part of Kubrick's films. Kubrick himself seems to have become acutely aware of these devices as a story teller by the early 1960s and would increasingly lean upon visuals to define his films. 2001, Kubrick's most famous picture, is almost totally dependent upon imagery to convey its story. His other films are not quite as extreme but always far more concerned with their visual presentation than characters or story.

Indeed, the visuals themselves at times seem to be telling a different story than the one being depicted in the film. Because of this it could be argued that the bulk of Kubrick's latter films can be perceived as having a macrocosmic and microcosmic narrative. The Shining, for instance, is superficially a story about an alcoholic father who loses his mind while working as a caretaker at an isolated hotel (the hotel was of course haunted in the Stephen King novel upon which the film is based by Kubrick leaves thinks a bit more ambiguous in his version) during the winter and attempts to murder his family. But as some viewers having compelling argued, it can also been seen as an examination of the dark side of Manifest Destiny with allusions to both white colonial enslavement of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans. It can also be taken as an exploration of the laden psychosis behind the American nuclear family. And virtually all of this is conveyed through props (i.e. the prominently displayed baking powder cans with a Native American's profile on the label), the sets (the Overlook and its Native American decor) and certain memes (i.e. the heavily loaded expression "White man's burden" grumbled by the Nicholson character).


So really its rather unsurprising that conspiracy theorists have long been drawn to Kubrick's films. Some of the more prominent ones such as William Cooper (as indicated above) and Michael A. Hoffman II viewed 2001 as a significant revelation while more recent researchers have been drawn to Eyes Wide Shut due to its similarities to the Project Monarch hoax (as well as Kubrick's unexpected death while the film was still be edited, a turn of events many conspiracy theorists have unsurprisingly found to be suspect). And then of course there are the allegations that Kubrick played a role in the alleged faking of the moon landing.
"A favorite moon mystery of a number of conspiracy theorists is the allegation that famed director Stanley Kubrick faked the Apollo moon landings in exchange for a virtually unlimited budget to film his classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick solved the problem of making shots on the surface of the moon look expansive by employing the cinematic technique of front screen projection (FSP). Long before the days of computer-generated imagery (CGI) movie magic, the FSP process projected scenes behind actor, so it would appear to the camera as if the actors were moving around on the set provided by the FSP. Actors could move around in a vast studio while it appeared that they were laboriously walking on moonlike scenes projected behind them."
(Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies, Brad and Sherry Steiger, pgs. 306-307)

Occultist Jay Weidner perceived coded messages of Kubrick's involvement in the faked Apollo landing in The Shining as well. Interestingly, there's a curious sequence in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever in which the legendary British spy stumbles upon a film crew shooting a moon landing on a vast sound stage located within a thinly veiled depiction of Area 51. This is just one of many sequences with Diamonds that is most peculiar. Compelling conspiratorial interpretations of Diamonds have been offered up by David Hatcher Childress in his "James Bond & the Gemstone File" essay found in Inside the Gemstone File and by Loren Coleman on his blog.

one of the many loaded scenes from Diamonds Are Forever
Its interesting to note that Ken Adam, the famed production designer most well known for his work on the 1960s-1970s James Bond films (including Diamonds Are Forever), was also designed the sets for Dr. Strangelove and initially offered a similar post on 2001. Reportedly Adam turned Kubrick down on 2001 after he learned that the director had been working with experts from NASA for over a year on space exploration.

Ken Adam
But I digress. Hundreds, and likely thousands, of articles and blogs have been written on the esoteric significance of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut. A fair amount are also available on A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. For this present series I would like to address one of Kubrick's most well known films, yet one that is rarely if ever examined in depth by conventional conspiracy theorists: the 1964 "nightmare comedy" Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. That this film, despite being rich in a host of symbolism and allegories, has been widely ignored by mainline conspiracy theorists is hardly surprising for reasons that shall be addressed throughout this series.

But before beginning to delve in, however, a final note should be made about Kubrick: The director seems to have been aligned (probably very loosely) with what I like to refer to as the "Anglo-American Establishment." When typical conspiracy theorists rail against the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Trilateral Commission, the international bankers, and the Morgans, Rockefellers and Rothschilds and so forth, this is essentially whom they are referring to. But this is not the only power elite within the international community or even the United States itself.

Quigley famously gave one of the first insider accounts of this network
This topic is far to complex to be addressed here in depth though we will touch upon it throughout the series. Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of Dr. Strangelove is its nuanced view of the American power structure and the confirmation it gives of a divide from an insider. Curious readers are advised to consult a prior article I wrote outlining the differences between the Anglo-American Establishment and what is commonly referred to as the military-industrial complex. It would also be useful to familiarize one's self with ISGP's "Four Establishment Model of Western Politics", which this researcher endorses with a few caveats.

With that out of the way, let us now consider the official narrative of how Kubrick ended up directing Dr. Strangelove. Film historian Vincent Lobrutto noted:
"Since 1958 Kubrick had been intrigued by the subject of thermonuclear war, and lately he was becoming preoccupied with it. Kubrick had reached the obsessive state that slowly overtakes him and culminates in a film project. The idea of an impending nuclear holocaust often crept into his already dark and pessimistic vision of the world. Kubrick had read intensively on the subject. Having come of age in the post-World War II era and during the advent of the Cold War, Stanley Kubrick was constantly reminded of the nuclear threat. Living in New York City, he was perpetually in fear of being in the eye of a major nuclear target. When he lived on East Tenth Street, he told David Vaughan he was considering moving to Australia – a country well out of central nuclear bomb target range.
"While still in London, Kubrick asked Alastair Buchan, the head of the Institute for Strategic Studies, a nongovernment research group, to recommend a serious course of books for him to study about nuclear weapons. Buchan told Kubrick that a film about the global nuclear situation was 'unwise because he would not be able to describe precisely what precautions the United States or other nuclear powers take to guard against the danger of accident or false command.' Buchan was concerned that this would 'mislead anxious people.' In a list of books he thought Kubrick should read, Buchan recommended that novel Red Alert, by Peter George, who been a Royal Air Force navigator and a British intelligence agent."
(Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, Vincent Lobrutto, pgs. 227-228) 
the novel upon which Dr. Strangelove was based
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is a most curious NGO. Founded in 1958, its ties to the notorious "Round Table" group (which was behind both the American CFR and the British Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly referred to as "Chatham House") were evident from the very beginning (many of the institution's key founders were Chatham House members). Indeed, it was initially viewed as a "Chatham House for defense" and would later on be linked to both Henry Kissinger and the Rothschild family. Much of its funding, however, has historically come from the Ford Foundation and other American donor organizations.

Possibly because of this the IISS has generally taken a more hawkish line than is common of the Anglo-American Establishment. IISS played a key role in selling the Second Iraq War to both the American and British public and has advocated the bombing of Iran as recently as 2007. Generally the Anglo-American Establishment was weary of the Iraq War and has been the driving force behind the normalization of relations with Iran (in opposition to the Zionist-centric neo-cons who have been obsessed with "regime change" there for years). While the IISS can hardly be accused of being as militant as a group like the American Security Council it nonetheless seems to serve as a kind of bridge between the Anglo-American Establishment (which generally prefers to work through the State Department) and the American military industrial complex.


Original IISS director Alastair Buchan was the son of John Buchan, an individual linked to the "Milner Group", an important early faction within the Round Table movement. The elder Buchan had a most suggestive life.
"During the war, Buchan was a correspondent for The Times, wrote Nelson's History of the Great War in twenty-four volumes (1915-1919), was the military intelligence in France (1916-1917), and finally was Director of Information for the War Office (1917-1918). During this period and later, he was a prolific writer of travel, historical, and adventure stories, becoming eventually, by such works as Greenmantle, The Three Hostages, and The Thirty-nine Steps, the most famous writer of adventure stories in Britain. His connection with South Africa gained him the post official historian of the South African forces in France. He was a close friend of Lord Haldane and Lord Rosebery, both of whom can be regarded as members of the Miller Group...Haldane, with Rosebery, Asquith, and Edward Grey, had formed the Liberal League to support liberal imperialism, with which Milner was closely associated."
(The Anglo-American Establishment, Carroll Quigley, pgs. 58) 
John Buchan
Alastair Buchan also seems to have been involved in this network: He attended college at Christ Church, Oxford, a constituent college of the University of Oxford. Oxford University has in turn long been a stronghold of the Round Table group and a major recruiting ground.

Its interesting that Buchan seems to have been weary of Kubrick's film from the very beginning. Kubrick did not even attempt to seek the Pentagon's help for the film, realizing it would be denied in a heartbeat. But it would seem the Anglo-American Establishment, the primary force behind the policy of "detente", was very concerned that Kubrick's film would "mislead" the public as well. To some extent its rather remarkable that a film like Dr. Strangelove would have even been made during this era in the first place. I suspect that Kubrick only managed this feat because of support from the Kennedy White House. But more on that later.

That Red Alert author Peter George had been a British intelligence agent is most compelling as well. Red Alert was of course the book that Dr. Strangelove was based upon and was adapted for the screen by George, Kubrick and comedy writer Terry Southern. Unfortunately, I have not been able to turn up much on George's role in British intelligence. Its interesting to note, however, that George committed suicide a little over two years after Dr. Strangelove's release, reportedly over his fears of a pending nuclear holocaust.

George
While we're on the topic of the screenplay, a few words should be said about co-writer Terry Southern. By all accounts the Texan was a hipster's hipster --he spent time in Paris after the Second World War, made the scene in Greenwich Village in the mid-1950s, partied in Swinging London during the 1960s and even seems to have been involved with the notorious Laurel Canyon scene. In Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon David McGowan argued with varying degrees of success that the Laurel Canyon scene (which spawned such celebrated rock acts as the Byrds, Steppenwolf, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Mamas and the Papas, the Doors and which also included Hollywood "Young Turks" such as Peter and Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and so forth) was essentially created by the US intelligence community. Southern was involved with a film closely linked to the Canyon scene.
"Returning to the countercultural films of the 1960s, the most critically acclaimed of the lot, and the one with the deepest roots in Laurel Canyon, was Easy Rider. Directed by Dennis Hopper, from the script co-written by he and Peter Fonda, the film starred Fonda and Hopper, along with Jack Nicholson. Hopper's walrus-mustachioed character in the film was based on David Crosby, who was regularly seen racing his motorcycle up and down the winding streets of Laurel Canyon. (That motorcycle, by the way, had been a gift from Crosby's good buddy, Peter Fonda.) Fonda's absurd 'Captain America' character was inspired either by John Phillips' riding partner, Gram Parsons, or by Crosby's former bandmate in the Byrds, Roger McGuinn (depending upon who is telling the story). That very same Roger McGuinn scored the original music for the film. His contributions were joined on the soundtrack by offering from fellow Canyonite musicians Steppenwolf, the Byrds, Fraternity of Man, and Jimi Hendrix. And the movie's hippie commune was reportedly created and filmed in the canyons, near Mulholland Drive."
(Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, David McGowan, pgs. 87-88)

Terry Southern was given a co-writing credit for Easy Rider's script along with Hopper and Fonda. Over the years there has been much dispute over how much input Southern had (this is also true of Dr. Strangelove, as Kubrick long downplayed Southern's input). Hopper and Fonda have long tried to minimize Southern's contributions, arguing that much of the film's dialogue was improvised by the actors themselves. Southern (and other crew members), however, has argued that he wrote the bulk of what ultimately appeared on screen. Few would dispute that Southern's early involvement with the film was instrumental in getting it off ground.

Thus, Southern was involved in some capacity with two of the most iconic films of the 1960s in Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider. What's more, both of these films were released near, and eerily echo, two of the most disturbing events of the 1960s: the Kennedy assassination and the Manson killings (which McGowan compelling argues were linked to the Laurel Canyon scene). This, combined with the circles Southern seems to have been traveling in, are most suggestive.

Southern
Before wrapping up, there's one final point I would like to make about the background of Dr. Strangelove. While many explanations have been given as to what inspired Kubrick to make the film, one glaringly obvious historical event that unfolded while work on the film was still in the developmental stage is generally left out: the Cuban missile crisis. In point of fact, the general absence of commentary on the parallels between Strangelove and events that transpired during the Kennedy presidency, even by Kennedy assassination buffs, is most striking. While I will address several of these similarities throughout this series, one point worth raising here is whether or not a specific incident from the crisis may have partly inspired the film. This incident unfolded during a period of negations between the Kennedy White House and the Soviet Union to de-escalate the crisis:
"... they received news that a U-2 plane had been shot down over Cuba. Other lower-level surveillance flights needed by the chiefs to prepare for airstrikes had also been shot at. According to the military rules of engagement, the air force had the right to retaliate against any attacks against their planes. Kennedy told them to hold off until they see what happens with the next exchange of letters and canceled the next round of surveillance flights.
"The EXCOMM Group then received news that a U-2 plane on a routine air-sampling mission to look for evidence that the Soviets were testing nuclear weapons accidentally flew in the Soviet airspace, causing the Russians to scramble jets to intercept it. Luckily, the plane got out of the area before they could reach it. Kennedy shook his head saying, 'There's always one son-of-a-bitch who doesn't get the message.'"
(The War State, Michael Swanson, pg. 344)
Not mentioned by Swanson in the above quote is that American F-102 fighters with nuclear air-to-air missiles were also scrambled to the Bering Sea during this incident. Reportedly Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara proclaimed "this means war with the Soviet Union" upon hearing this. Fortunately the U-2 plane made it back before any shots were fired.

McNamara
While this is a far cry from launching a first strike, the bulk of the Joint Chiefs were chomping at the bit to go to war over the Cuban missile crisis. The U-2 incident unfolded on October 27 after well over a week's worth of intense lobbying by certain factions of the Joint Chiefs for military intervention in Cuba.
"Despite the risks to NATO, the Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted to attack Cuba, with most of them seeing air strikes as a prelude to a full invasion of the island. By Thursday night, more of the EXCOMM members were now leaning towards implementing the blockade option. Some still wanted air strikes. McGeorge Bundy thought it might be best to do nothing. He argued that in the long run, the missiles wouldn't matter and that anything they might do would invite a Russian move on Berlin that would divide NATO.
"On Friday, October 19, 1962, President Kennedy had a tense morning meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who continued to push for military action. Maxwell Taylor opened the meeting by telling Kennedy that the chiefs understood the international political problems that a surprise attack could cause, but after they talked it over they 'were united' on destroying the missiles and the best way to do it was with the benefit of surprise...
"Kennedy thought that if he ordered them to attack Cuba, 'there's bound to be a reprisal from the Soviet Union, there always is – of their just going in and taking Berlin by force at some point. Which leads me only one alternative, which is to fire nuclear weapons – which is a hell of an alternative – and begin a nuclear exchange, with all this happening...'
"President Kennedy explained to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he didn't see how the Russians could accept an attack on Cuba 'any more than we can let these go on without doing something. They can't let us just take out, after all their statements, take out their missiles, kill a lot of Russians and not do anything. It's quite obvious that what they... I would think they would do, is try to get Berlin. But that may be a risk we have to take.'
"General LeMay continued to insist that he thought Khrushchev wouldn't do anything. Perhaps LeMay thought that if they suddenly wiped out Cuba, the Soviets simply wouldn't be able to respond out of fear of facing a devastating first strike from the United States. Or perhaps he simply had no fear himself of nuclear war against the Russians, thinking he could win one if things came to that. He could tell his arguments were not getting him what he wanted with Kennedy so he gave the president a subtle threat..."
(The War State, Michael Swanson, pgs. 324-328) 
General Curtis LeMay
But we're getting ahead of things. Suffice to say, tension between Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs was quite pronounced at this stage (and really throughout his entire presidency), which makes the U-2 plane suddenly flying into Soviet airspace on October 27, 1962, all the more curious. Even if the U-2 spy plane had simply been shot down in Soviet territory without our F-102s intervening it could have created another major international incident, one that may have prevented cooler heads from prevailing. The possibility that someone in the military was trying to provoke a response from the Soviets over this flight should not be dismissed, as shall be examined in future installments. Stay tuned.


7 comments:

  1. Glad I found this, just what I have been looking for re: Kubrick and the parapolitical angle, which as you point out, has been mostly unexplored even by the conspiracy-minded Kubrickophiles, AFAIK anyway.

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  2. Jasun-

    Glad you enjoyed the series and sorry for taking so long to respond --the holiday slam and all has been crashing upon me. Best to you.

    -Recluse

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  3. ah yes, closing out the article with a photo of Jack D. Ripper. inspiring speech he made about our precious bodily fluids. ;)

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  4. I saw that Project Monarch was indeed a hoax (I didn't know, man it has been taking off like fire over there at VC) but not MK-Ultra as I would have definitely suspected. This being said, what are your thoughts on Beta-Kitten? Not much is really talked about on it, meaning that it could be just another damn internet hoax.

    I have yet to see Dr. Strangelove, but it's next on my list for movie night (Yes, it just happened to turn out that way) which I have every Sunday night. I'll watch it first, then read the rest of your essay. As for the Moon landing, I've always felt it funny as to why we never went back.

    I have another question for you, and this is just hypothetical. Assuming the Moon landing was faked, do you think that we'd now have the technology capable of attempting the real thing?

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