The Men Behind It All

It’s been about a year since I started this blog so I thought what better way to celebrate than to reveal the truth behind the lies, to reveal who really is pulling the strings of the global system. Who manipulates politics, economics and business at such a high level that even presidents and prime ministers will do what they ask. Who tips the balances of the capitalist military industrial complex in their favour and reaps the rewards. Who has the odd billion stored in one of many offshore tax havens. Who somehow remain hidden in the shadows.

Perhaps, like me, you turned to The X-Files to learn the truth – that there is a cabal of wealthy, white men in grey suits who function above the law and collude with aliens to plan world domination. These men are known as the Syndicate – they’re in the picture above – just a bunch of guys in suits hanging out in shadowy rooms smoking cigarettes and drinking tea, the stuff of global conspiracy (fyi, a few X-Files spoilers on the way). The men of the Syndicate work with a bunch of aliens who want to take over the world. The men do all they can to ensure the public never knows about this: they plan and enact elaborate conspiracies to ensure abductees, alien sightings and even alien attacks are all covered up and explained away; they have the military at their disposal; they bribe and threaten government officials; they kill anyone who knows too much and often try to kill FBI agent Fox Mulder (who is always one step away from revealing their dastardly plans). In short, they pull an awful lot of the strings of power. But, the thing is, they do it very badly.

Over and over again these silly, old men make mistakes and let things slip. So many of their secret experiments using alien DNA and alien tech go awry and result in many people needlessly dying. Then they have to clean up the mess and kill anyone who spotted the mess, usually Fox Mulder. To conceal their mistakes they have to spend an awful lot on bribes and concoct exceptionally elaborate cover-up stories (often more ludicrous than the actual alient-based truth). Then they have to kill a few more people, including JFK and Martin Luther King, who threaten the balance of power. They also make a very bad team – they don’t trust each other and frequently lie to one another when they fail to successfully ‘manage’ a ‘situation’. So yeah, they’re the ones behind it all, but they’re also a bunch of idiots.

And there are times when I can’t help but think this is quite a good analogy for the real people behind the real system (unless there is actually an alien-government conspiracy and The X-Files was a documentary, not sci-fi). There’s a certain comfort in believing that a group of super-ruthless intellectuals are playing puppet master to the world’s problems and tipping the capitalist military industrial complex in their favour. And yes, there are certainly people doing this – creating/using multiple tax havens, subsidising environmentally destructive industries whilst undermining sustainable energy, investing/trading in weapons. They often do this because they’re greedy and/or it makes “business sense” (i.e. maximise short-term profit at any expense). But is it a joined-up, super smooth system of conspiracy and collusion, I doubt it, I often just think it’s greedy, insecure, selfish people with far too much power doing what greedy, insecure, selfish people do, namely look out for number one. I can’t imagine it’s actually fun being one of these people (“Hey, darling, how was your day?” “Oh, you know, the usual – I hid lots of our money in an offshore account to avoid taxes and I sold a load of weapons that will be used to kill innocent people.”). Certainly, the Syndicate don’t seem to have much fun as they’re constantly paranoid their nefarious ways will be revealed and they spend a lot of time planning how to kill one another. So, maybe those shady characters in that shady room aren’t quite so clever as the conspiracies would have us believe and, in a way, that makes it worse – such a shame that it’s a bunch of idiots bringing about doomsday far too far in advance.

Welcome To World War 3

“It’ll probably start on a Friday. What will seem like an attack on America by terrorists or Russia, driven by a well-oiled, well-armed and multi-national group of elites using alien technology that governments have been hiding for seventy years…” Art often reflects reality and this is an excerpt from the trailer for the latest series of The X-Files (my thoughts on this series here). Save for the bit about alien technology it’s a prescient observation of the rapidly escalating violence the world is witnessing right now. And, as ever, the news is bleak.

Terrorist attacks in Belgium, Yemen, Iraq and France. A war in the Middle East that has killed and displaced thousands. Pakistan’s entry into the nuclear arms race. China and Japan’s conflict over the southern islands. An economic cold war between the US and China, the former struggling to maintain its status as world emperor, the latter vying to take that title. The implosion of the EU with a worsening refugee crisis and the rise of the extreme right, including the Nazis. Russia and Ukraine. Islamic State. It almost seems as if the world has never been at peace.

Now, I’m not writing this blog to depress people (although the news is depressing) and nor am I saying we should stop striving for peace. Of course not, if anything, the violence we see in the world is yet another rallying call for the peace movement. However, perhaps what I’m saying is that this isn’t as simple as war and peace anymore – two seemingly time bound and delineated events. World War 2, for example, had a beginning and an end, whilst the Cold War was a far more uncertain series of events it has nevertheless ceased. Yet the legacies of both conflicts live on, so perhaps we could say neither have ended. Likewise, new forms of technology make different sorts of war possible – drones and terrorists navigate borders differently to ground troops and armies. Meanwhile, diplomatic and economic threat can also function as tools in campaigns of imperialism.¬†Often war need not be declared for it to be happening. So maybe it’s not about war ending and peace beginning, maybe it’s about navigating the grey territory in between.

It is not that now more than ever do we need to call on the better angels of our nature because this has always been true – we have always needed the better angels of our nature. Our compassion, care, altruism, love and joy – possessed and enacted by all. Even these angels might not prove to be enough but I’d question the notion of enough anyway – is enough when all fighting ever has ended, is enough when climate change has been abated, or is enough just doing the best we can in the time we have? I’d love to see world peace enacted and global warming avoided but the reality I’m living through is very far from that. And yes, that makes me despair, but no I won’t stop blogging! And to conclude here’s The X-Files trailer in full. However, I’d like to categorically remind everyone that the world’s problems will not be solved by one FBI agent called Fox Mulder – instead we all need to channel our inner Fox Mulders to step up to the challenge. Or just avoid X-Files metaphors entirely as it’s a pretty ludicrous programme.

The X-Files Are Back…Yawn

Just when you thought the American government couldn’t conspire to hide the alien-based truth any longer it turns out you were wrong and there are still a load more extraterrestrial twists to be uncovered. And so, over a decade after it ended The X-Files has been rebooted for six new episodes. A friend of mine was so excited about this that they rewatched the old episodes (all 200 of them) last year in order to prepare themselves for the new season. I can safely say they completely wasted their time. Spoilers, but no aliens, ensue.

And that was one of the biggest problems – there weren’t any aliens. Ok, so there were multiple flying saucers and we even saw a little grey man get shot but it turns out all that stuff that went on in those previous 200 odd episodes was just a cover up: a well-orchestrated government conspiracy to hide the advancement of the military-industrial complex (that has been using super, fuel-efficient alien technology for over fifty years) behind a smokescreen of alien invasion. Yup, all that stuff about aliens invading earth was just a cover-up to let rich, businessmen get away with making loads of money (it even turns out that the aliens came to earth to try and help us solve our problems but the nasty government men just shot and experimented on them instead). Hence, my friend not needing to rewatch all the old series as they were basically all invalidated. “I couldn’t call,” explains Mulder, “because this is going to sound crazy.” But I don’t think crazy is the right word, I think perhaps boring or clich√©. Admittedly, it was a valiant effort by series creator Chris Carter to try to summarise the entirety of globalised, militarised, consumer capitalism in a few pithy sentences involving alien conspiracies but this could also be seen as a desperate attempt to make an old series appear modern and relevant.

But it wasn’t modern and relevant because the new episode was just like the old ones. Mulder, being the guy, takes the lead and does all the actiony stuff whilst Scully stands around looking like a harried, female stereotype. “I’m just the messenger,” she says at one point, admitting to her own nature as a convenient plot device for yet another white, male’s hero’s quest, except this time he’s middle-aged and a bit wrinklier (although, mysteriously, Gillian Anderson has appeared to reverse-aged – now that’s a real conspiracy). Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully spend a lot of time looking almost-meaningfully at one another but they’ve been doing this for so long that they’re dead behind the eyes now. As for the other characters, basically just bland cardboard cut-outs that occasionally spouted some relevant exposition.

I also ended up watching a bit of a later episode about some lizard person that shoots blood out of its eyes and can morph into a human. It was as the token, hackneyed trans sex worker spoke her few lines that I realised this series really is stuck in the 90s (a white, cis, male 90s that is). If The X-Files wants to get with the 21st century it could do with killing off its leads and introducing an interesting array of new characters who don’t plod around making the same mistakes and revealing the same prejudices that they did for the last 200 episodes. Oh, and as my friend rightly asked, why does Scully not have a desk? She works just as hard as Mulder, probably for half the pay (indeed Anderson was frequently paid less than Duchovny for her acting abilities), yet he’s the one that gets to sit on a fancy swivel chair at a desk with enough room for two. I think she might want to go find her truth elsewhere.