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13 May, 2010

Millennial Rants in Three Ring Binders

An interview with Joan d'Arc in /P/P/J (Psionic Plastic Joy) Winter 2008-2009

by Jason Rodgers (POB 1683, Nashua, NH 03060)

PPJ: If Paranoia had an occult slogan, what would it be?

Joan d'Arc: I would say our sensibility is more kitsch than occult. So I would steal Paul Laffoley's slogan and say it's "beyond the kitsch barrier."

PPJ: Can you tell us a little bit about the publishing history of Paranoia?

Joan d'Arc: Sure. Frank Difficult and I started a bookstore called Newspeak in April of 1992, which had a focus on anarchist and conspiracy titles and underground magazines, and we rented kook films from Frank's collection. I got immersed in conspiracy literature and rekindled my earlier interest in the JFK assassination. I soon found myself being pulled by the top of my head into the fascinating genre of horror known as UFO abduction literature. Not only did it scare the pants off me but I came back with my pants on backwards!

That summer I started the I-Am-Providence Conspiracy League after H.P. Lovecraft's tombstone epitaph. We started collecting information in 3-ring binders that we kept open to the public. When we had amassed three binders full, Al Hidell came up with the idea of publishing a zine called Paranoia. Luckily, having no idea how to manage a publishing empire didn't stop us from doing it!

Basically, we didn't really expect to get Paranoia off the block. But a couple of distributors picked it up and it got on the newsstands and started to catch on. The first issue was copied at Kinkos. It had an interview with Tribulation 99 filmmaker, Craig Baldwin, who used to come to Providence quite a bit to show films at Brown. After that we found a printer who used that crappy newsprint that turns baby-shit brown after a few years. I'm looking at it now, and I’m sneezing.

The first four issues were black and white tabloid style covers and then we introduced color on the fifth one. Initially, the articles were written mostly by members of the group, but by the second issue we had an article by John Judge on Jonestown and an interview with Alan Cantwell on man-made AIDS, which at the time was just so far outside of people's perception. Now it's an accepted theory.

I'm not quite sure how we actually caught the wave into the new millennium unscathed. It's a phenomenon in itself. I guess we were at the right time and right place; at the point where the world changed and we stayed the same. We came to appear less and less outlandish as the world became more preposterous. At first people thought we were ridiculous, but we seem pretty normal by today's standards. I remember one radio interview we had in 1993 where they were totally laughing at us. That radio station is now long gone. Who's laughing now?

The magazine seems to have little in the way of formal dogma or agenda. It seems more like a convergence of diverse trajectories.

Joan d'Arc: Thank you. That's a fair assessment and I'm glad you see it that way. The sense of editorial invisibility partly derives from necessity. In the beginning we were a small group of people who couldn't on their own have continued to keep the content varied and interesting over time. If we had stayed that small, and there was no email, no internet, then it would have just been this insular clique of paranoids from H.P. Lovecraft's hometown. But we always had the sense that we didn't want Paranoia to have, as you call it, an agenda. Unless you want to call subversion an agenda.

I think the reason for the detectable convergence from all directions derives from the fact that we have essentially allowed synchronicity to rule. We're not into editorializing or popping our "expert" fat heads in to say, "here's what WE think is going on." First, because we don't feel that we're experts. Secondly, because we've always had an understanding that the magazine is not a platform for our own ideas, nor is it a pedestal for our own egos. Third, because we really don't have an agenda. We want to stay in the background. We're still collecting millennial rants in three ring binders. That's still an accurate portrayal of what we do.

PPJ: What do you see as the value of presenting these outsider, heretic, and extremist points of view?

Joan d'Arc: I hadn't noticed that we had extremist points of view! I'm too buried in it to see over the mountains of information being generated now in the 21st century. I don't really pay attention to insider thinking. The outsiders are my people. I don't watch TV, I don't listen to talk radio, I don't read the newspaper. I don't juxtapose insider news to outsider news and try to figure out which one is the "truth." There's nothing to hold it up against, really. Some things are truer than others, you might say, but largely the media has lost its grip. The fringe is populating the interior now, like black spots on a white soul. Or are they white spots on a black soul? Conspiracy theories still seem ridiculous to some people, although I will say, George Bush has put Paranoia on the map, speaking of someone with a black soul.

In terms of value do you mean "services" or "disservices"? I guess there's a "value" on a societal level, from say a democratic point of view. Freedom of Information is what we like to call it. In America we "get" that, although there are still some people who would exercise fascist control over what they believe is a ridiculous or impossible worldview. But on a personal level, the value is that it opens your mind to all the possibilities on the color wheel. It's not just black and white and you're not in Kansas anymore.

In terms of disservice, I would say, there are people who are highly sensitive to the viral sensorium. I've seen them fall; get shattered; lose their sense of balance. Over the years I've been able to fend off this malaise by growing a crust over my sensitive areas, wherever they're located, so I don't end up in the nut house and my family has to bring me my pajamas. That's the only way to deal with some of this material if you're going to be playing right in the chemical slop of it. There's a disservice for sure. If you don't want your joy stolen; if you want to keep a tight grasp on your naïve, childlike worldview, don't read Paranoia. That should be the warning label.

Of course, we don't have a warning label because we don't want to treat people like they're children. We start with the basic assumption that people are capable of sifting, handling and managing large volumes of information to find their own proofs and make their own judgments, if that's the way they wish to spend their time. Be aware that you might also end up falling out of your chair laughing. As someone put it to me recently, we have an extraordinary balance between serious and funny. We're masters of juxtaposition and frying-pan-over-the-head journalism. Here's a bit of trivia: Paranoia got first place in an article on pull quotes in the Washington Post a few years ago for a pull quote about the Queen being a shape-shifting, baby-eating reptoid.

Washington Post article :,3939819

"The Reptoid Invasion" by Alexandra Bruce in PARANOIA All Girl issue #24 (Takes a minute to open)

Obviously, conspiracy theories can be both informing and disinforming. In fact, our disclaimer reads: "We do not knowingly publish disinformation, but sometimes it's hard to tell." Beyond checking pertinent factoids in someone's article, reading it for internal consistency, checking the references, how do you make a judgment that something is completely baked? Whose truth do you judge it by? How do you apologize for someone else's embarrassing worldview? I've got my own and I don't apologize to anyone for it.

PPJ: Existentialism is a recurring theme in your work. What is your interpretation of this school of philosophy?

Joan d'Arc: Well, I'm essentially interested in the cover-up concerning the true nature of reality, and I've tried to see where the existentialists and phenomenologists can help us see the situation we're in. Phenomenology describes exactly what it's like to be in your body looking out, without any prior concepts or constructs. By stripping off layers of socialization, phenomenologists like Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Sartre can help us understand the role of shared personal constructs in the development of our consensus reality.

So how I apply that is, in an article entitled "Beings in NothingDrive" (issue 39), I analyzed the Travis Walton alien abduction of 1975 (see the film Fire in the Sky) from the point of view of being in his body and trying to think as he may have thought. I brought in the theories of Jean Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty as they might be applied to this scenario. The result was admittedly kitsch, but nobody complained. I would say, I try to have fun and stretch the boundaries of conspiracy and paranormal studies with other avenues of thought from, say, Carl Jung to P.D. Ouspensky.

PPJ: What is the most bizarre paranoid thought you regularly entertain?

Joan d'Arc: That would probably be the idea that the earth is a wilderness protectorate with ET "game wardens" making sure we don't venture too far from home. But those thoughts were entertained regularly in the 1960s by space agencies and think tanks like the Brookings Institute. It's known as the Zoo Hypothesis and, although it certainly seems bizarre, that’s because you're judging it through a filter that's been foisted upon you since birth.

The view that earthlings are the only humanoid beings in the universe is brought to you by the materialist paradigm holding up your worldview, specifically, I have pointed out, the Darwinian paradigm, which is the ruling scientism on the top of the entire pyramid of control. As I explain in my book, Phenomenal World, Darwinian evolution keeps us from the truth of our ancestry from the sky rather than from the water. All other control paradigms line up behind that one. If that one falls, the dominoes fall. My belief is that if we came out of the water, it was because that's where the space capsule landed.

Connected to that is the idea that the Earth is a controlled DNA repository for the ongoing creation and dissemination of life forms, including humans. It is in this sense that the world of our perception (the phenomenal world) can be considered a "construct," and I mean it here in a physical sense. I might add here that I’m not a Scientologist, although it might sound like I am. I've read a lot about Hubbard, but mainly my sources are Richard Hoagland and pictures he has discovered of our own celestial backyard taken by NASA.

PPJ: On the flipside, what conspiracy theory do you feel has the most solid historical backing?

Joan d'Arc: The JFK assassination has now been proven to be a conspiracy. The best book on this subject now is Joan Mellen's Farewell to Justice. The government drags out the skeletons every year in November to do the amnesiac shuffle, but everybody knows the truth. Lee Harvey Oswald was a "patsy" as he said he was. He was a CIA counterintelligence operative; he was recruited when he was very young; and the CIA used him as the scapegoat. He had no idea what he was even being arrested for.

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