Everything You Know is Wrong
The Disinformation Guide to Secrets and Lies
edited by Russ Kick
The Disinformation Company Ltd. ($24.95)
by Christopher Luna
Have you ever read a book that contained information so revelatory that your perspective underwent a complete transformation as a result? The kind of book you want to buy and give to everyone you know? The Disinformation Company's Everything You Know is Wrong is such a book. It collects a wealth of articles similar to those that can be found on Disinfo.com, a website that features information on counterculture, occultism, conspiracy theory, "deviant" sexuality, underground art and music, and government wrongdoing. Since its launch in September 1996, Disinfo has earned several awards and has expanded into other media; a censored version of the company's "Disinfo TV" series aired on the BBC's Channel 4, and will soon be released in unexpurgated form on DVD.
Everything You Know Is Wrong, the follow-up to Disinfo's successful anthology You Are Being Lied To, is a provocative and startling collection filled with persuasive, extensively researched articles on a plethora of subjects including religion, politics, pornography, the "war on some drugs," and youth culture. So much of what is said runs counter to traditionally accepted American history and media-perpetuated stereotypes that, for a person raised with a Western education, the experience of reading the book is tantamount to deprogramming. The conscientious reader is forced to face tough philosophical dilemmas, question preconceived notions, or rethink comfortable ideological positions. While this process can be painful, confusing, even life-changing, I submit that in today's climate of information overload coupled with willful ignorance, one cannot afford to miss such a wake-up call.
Richard Metzger's preface functions as a manifesto for those who have suffered from the "widespread angst that something is very wrong with the barrage of information and advertising that we are bombarded with, not just daily, but during virtually every moment of our waking days." He claims that the growing popularity of Disinfo.com reflects a growing distrust among not just left- and right-wing conspiracy theorists, but middle-of-the-road Americans as well. (The recent success of Michael Moore's Stupid White Men and Noam Chomsky's 9-11, both of which offer a decidedly critical assessment of U.S. foreign and domestic policy, would appear to support Metzger's contention.) According to Metzger, consensus reality died sometime in the mid-'90s, when the Internet became more widely utilized by citizens seeking alternative sources of information. "All of a sudden there were places - hundreds of them - where you could find high quality 'alt' reporting on a variety of topics-foreign news, investigative journalism, health, and yes, even conspiracy theories, UFOs, fundamentalist Christian doomsday prophecy, and niche sexual perversions." Metzger suggests that it is the perfect time for "what's left of the left, progressives, and everyone willing to fly their freak flag high to stop complaining about the media and become the media."
In his introduction, editor Russ Kick also expresses a desire to oppose the status quo, even as much of the country blindly rallies behind the president's so-called "war on terrorism." Despite the rise of nationalist fervor, Kick believes that "dissent is never more needed than when conformity is at an all-time high. When the fewest questions are being asked is when they're most needed." He promises that the book's contributors were chosen in an effort to avoid the "intellectual balkanization" that results in essay collections that "typically are either academic or alternative, leftist or rightist, atheistic or religious, or otherwise unified in some similar way." This dedication to egalitarianism is part of what makes Everything You Know Is Wrong such a disturbing and persuasive read. The current attention being paid to the failure of the government and its intelligence to prevent the September 11 terrorist attacks renders Kick's 16-page article "September 11: No Surprise" the centerpiece of the book; the author provides one damning example after another of warnings unheeded by both past and present administrations, up to and including the day of the attack. Like many of the essays in Everything You Know Is Wrong, Kick's article systematically presents such an array of facts that it appears virtually irrefutable.
The book begins with "Lucre," a section devoted to the effects that the free economy and globalization have had on people around the world. Jonathan Levy's "The Vatican Bank" takes a look at the financial dealings of this powerful and secretive organization, which has been infiltrated by the Mafia and which allowed gold that had been stolen from the victims of the Nazis to be transferred into Vatican accounts during World War II. In another essay, Dominick T. Armentano claims that antitrust regulation was never intended to help consumers; his "The Antitrust and Monopoly Myth" attempts to demonstrate that such laws have primarily served "to bludgeon aggressively competitive firms that innovate and lower costs and prices." Lucy Komisar's "Dirty Money and Global Banking Secrecy" examines the lengths to which businesses and nations will go to avoid paying taxes: "Between 1989 and 1995, nearly a third of large corporations operating in the United States with assets of at least $250 million or sales of at least $50 million paid no US income tax."
"The High and Mighty" contains essays which question: Senator Bob Kerrey's claims about the massacre of civilians by a group of Navy Seals under his command during the Vietnam War; the myths surrounding the industry that runs the Olympic Games; the European Union, which hopes to destroy the autonomy of individual nations in order to fill the coffers of the rich and powerful men behind the scenes; and watchdog organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the Southern Poverty Law Center, whom Cletus Nelson accuses of exaggerating the influence of hate groups in order to keep their organizations viable. The following section, "True True Crime," takes a closer look at the myths that result from the public's fascination with murderers and serial killers such as Charles Manson and Henry Lucas, whom Brad Shellady claims confessed to numerous murders that he did not commit, allowing crooked law enforcement organizations to close cases, gain publicity, and cover up their shoddy police work. In Kick's incredible "Witnesses to a Massacre: Other Participants in Columbine," the author selects excerpts from over 11,000 pages of documents related to the infamous school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. Witness after witness told investigators that they saw more than just two shooters on that day, and others claim to have heard shooting in the building more than an hour after Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had killed themselves. Kick's essay includes descriptions of a third man who was seen throwing explosives onto the roof of the high school, as well as a sketch of the third gunman by one of the witnesses.
"Mind and Body" contains informative and sometimes sickening articles about mad cow disease, the benefits of veganism, and long-held misconceptions regarding mental illness. The most important piece in this section is Dr. Peter Breggin's "Psychiatric Drugging of Children for Behavioral Control," which speaks out against the use of stimulants such as Ritalin to manage children who exhibit behaviors that are quite normal. According to Breggin, parents are being "pressured and coerced" by schools to give their children drugs that result in a host of side-effects including psychosis, mental impairment, and aggressive behavior. He also blames the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture such drugs for over-exaggerating the prevalence of attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Breggin further demonstrates that the ADHD diagnosis itself was created primarily "to redefine disruptive classroom behavior into a disease."
"Social Distortion" contains articles that present alternative views of social problems. In "The Whole Truth About Domestic Violence," Philip W. Cook debunks the myth that women are the only victims of spousal abuse, pointing to studies which found that nearly as many men are abused by their female partners. Lucy Gwin's angry and sarcastic "Postcards From the Planet of the Freaks" rails against the ways in which people condescend to the disabled. Gwin reveals how the handicapped are exploited by sheltered workshops, companies not unlike sweatshops who pay them as little as $4.15 a month to do degrading and dangerous work such as taking apart used hypodermic needles. Annie Laurie Gaylor's "Why Women Need Freedom From Religion" demonstrates how all patriarchal religions oppress women and consider their "inferiority to be divinely decreed."
"Not on the Nightly News" contains frightening articles about nuclear power, the Waco incident, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, members of the caste of untouchables known as "Dalits" in India, the increasing power wielded by China, and the stolen 2000 presidential election. It also includes a compilation of statements about the futility of the drug war by political officials from all over the world. After a series of essays on the terrorist attacks which took place in New York and Washington on September 11, the book concludes with "Hidden History." This section includes articles by Jack Niedenthal on the testing of nuclear weapons on Bikini Atoll, and Howard Zinn on the Ludlow Massacre, in which men, women, and children were murdered by strikebreakers. Educator/activist John Taylor Gatto's "Some Lessons From the Underground History of American Education" provides evidence that following the Industrial Revolution, business leaders and the so-called elite conspired to transform the education system from a focus on literacy and independent thinking to the creation of generations of conformists whose primary value was as cheap unskilled labor. Gatto includes unbelievable quotations from the men who engineered the mass psychological conditioning of forced schooling in order to contain "the menace of overproduction." Consider this statement from a speech that Woodrow Wilson made to businessmen: "We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." The book's appendices contain a number of shorter articles as well as brief book reviews to facilitate further reading.
At the time of this writing, power-hungry men are taking advantage of the fear caused by recent terrorist attacks on American soil in a deliberate attempt to strip citizens of their civil liberties and preciously guarded freedoms. Books such as Everything You Know is Wrong, though not always pleasant and reassuring, are a much-needed attempt to lift the veil from our eyes.