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Conspiracy Theory Is a Hoax Gone Right?

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Operation Mindfuck was a free-form art project–cum–prank–cum–political protest of the sixties and seventies, designed to sow the culture with paranoia. The key figures behind it were Kerry Thornley, co-founder of a satiric religion called Discordianism, and Robert Anton Wilson, a Discordian staffer at Playboy. Through every means available, Wilson explained in a memo laying out the plan, the Mindfuckers intended to “attribute all national calamities, assassinations, or conspiracies” to the Illuminati and other hidden hands.

So they planted stories about the Illuminati in the underground press. They slipped mysterious classified ads into the libertarian journal Innovator and the New Left newspaper rogerSPARK. They cooked up a letter about the Illuminati that Wilson then ran in “The Playboy Advisor.” When a New Orleans jury refused to convict one of the men who the conspiracy-hunting district attorney Jim Garrison blamed for the JFK killing, Garrison’s booster Art Kunkin, of the Los Angeles Free Press, got a note revealing that the jurors were all Illuminati initiates. The telltale sign: None of them had a left nipple.

“What if there really is an Illuminati?” Wilson asked Thornley one pot-fogged night in 1968. “Maybe they’ll find out about us and be pissed.”

“I doubt if there is,” Thornley answered. “And if there by some chance is, they would probably be very happy to have wild­ass fools like us covering up for them by spreading bizarre theories.”


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