Let's start with a thought experiment: You're making an argument, for some silly reason, that Danny DeVito is the Antichrist. For proof, you can only use publicly available information. In this scenario, you can't, for example, claim a friend of a friend worked wardrobe on Throw Momma from the Train and saw 666 carved into his taint. Your challenge is to pool an array of decent examples from his known past to support the idea that he is Beelzebub. To this end, maybe you'll touch on his death scene at the end of Batman Returns, every moment of his performance in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or whatever #TrollFoot is... What I'm sure wouldn't end up on your evidence stack is that music video for One Direction's single "Steal My Girl", where the DeVito plays an eccentric director trying to urge the boy band to "lose their inhibitions".
But that's not how William Tapley, self-proclaimed "Third Eagle of the Apocalypse" and "Co-Prophet of the End Times", plays this game:
If you didn't watch all 12 minutes and 39 seconds of the the video, that's fine. No one should. The main thrusts of his arguments are encoded in the music video's symbolism, specifically how it's proof of an Illuminati conspiracy to bring about the apocalypse. "The scene begins in the desert and ends with rain", he says, which is clearly symbolic of the Antichrist bringing rain to a parched Earth. He points out that DeVito's El Dorado has three sixes – not together – on its license plate. And that two dudes carry a red couch, a stand-in for the Second (Red) Horseman of the Apocalypse.
This isn't Tapley's first rambling rodeo – no one makes just one video like this. In his examination of a scene with two sumo wrestlers, he gets self-referential by claiming it's "reminiscent of the scene in "Gangnam Style" where the man in yellow, representing Pope Benedict after he is defeated by the Antichrist (duh), drives off in a car with a license plate with three fives on it. (The fives are symbolic of the Catholic Church, apparently.) It's all confusing, and best left to the mental septic tank.
But one thing I couldn't stop asking myself after watching this video was, What's the whole point of creating and posting this video at all? If it was pushing an idea like, "9/11 was an inside job", or, "The government puts mind-control drugs in the country's water supply", the goal would obviously be to expose the nefarious schemes of the evil men (or lizards) who control the world. And, sure, this video is ostensibly attempting to expose the Illuminati. But if you're a true believer like Tapley, isn't the approaching apocalypse cause for celebration? Christians have been waiting for it to jump off for 2,000 years, after all.
"People have an ambivalent relationship with that kind of conspiracy", said Dr. Michael Wood, a professor of psychology at the University of Winchester who's authored numerous studies on conspiracy believers. "Secular theories categorize what 'they' are doing as bad. But when you get into the more religiously-themed ones, things get tricky. Ultimately, the endgame of this is Jesus coming back and everything being great".
However, there's another thing going on here. That symbolism in the video – DeVito's triple-sixed license plate, the couch-horse of the apocalypse – may not just be an announcement about Doomsday, or gloating by the Illuminati because they've usurped the Vatican. This could be a case of the Powers That Be trying to use sympathetic magic, the performing of a shamanistic ritual that brings about, well, pretty much whatever they want.
This idea goes way back, beyond Voodoo dolls, all the way to cavemen. Some theorize that the paintings of animals being hunted down on cave walls were painted before the hunt actually took place as a ritual to ensure the hunters' success. So to Tapley, Danny DeVito shown biting into an apple in the video is an attempt by the Illuminati who created the video to (*fingers crossed*) bring the real Antichrist to life, who will then bite into the apple of our souls! Highlighting this fact will, theoretically, expose the sympathetic magicians and get them to stop their wicked deeds. (Although, again, if you're a believer, wouldn't you not want them to be stopped?)
But these conspiracy videos aren't cute bits of harmless inanity for all. They're hurtful to one very specific group – other conspiracists.
"Ask your average high school student what the Illuminati is, they'll tell you it's this secret society of celebrities and rap stars", said Mark Dice. "What's been lost is the real Illuminati".
Dice is a conspiracist who's self-published a slew of volumes about the Illuminati, including 2013's Illuminati in the Music Industry, which focused on the belief that musicians such as Rick Ross and Christina Aguilera are members of the shadow government. "I used the celebrity phenomenon as bait, really, to rope people in and them feed them real issues", he said. Issues such as the vast, shadowy network of power brokers that introduce global policy and decide when wars are waged and who fights in them.
But being allowed to use social media to get his message out is a double-edged sword. While Dice's YouTube channel has received over 85 million views, the social media landscape has polluted the message he's preaching. "Pre-Facebook, pre-YouTube, someone interested in the Illuminati would have to search for themselves", said Dice. "They'd have this burning desire to figure out this world we live in, to see these organizations that shape the political landscape". But now? "They're introduced to this material on a surface level, and it's blown into this mythological fairytale. The truth has been lost in this viral explosion of data".
This infighting amongst Illuminati conspirators isn't unique, either. The 9/11 "truth" movement, for instance, can be thought about as a Venn diagram. The big circle is anyone who believes whatever happened on September 11, 2001 is not the "official" story the government's given us. But within that circle are plenty of smaller ones – those who think Building 7 was a controlled demolition, those who think there were no planes at all, those who think Bush personally assassinated the victims. Sometimes, those smaller circles don't overlap. And that's when the finger-pointing starts.
"There are accusations from the No Plane People that the Controlled Demolition People are 'controlled opposition'", said Wood. "They're planted by the government to distract people from the truth". That kind of thing works both ways. "The Controlled Demolition People say that the No Plane People are planted 'to make us look crazy'".
Tapley's "Danny DeVito Is the Antichrist" hypothesis is a perfect example of this kind of infighting. His YouTube video is, in fact, a response to another video posted by someone named the Groxt, who originally put it together that the One Direction's music video was full of New World Order symbolism. But whereas the Groxt believes a monkey in the video symbolizes Ebola, Tapley knows that "the monkey symbolizes Darwinism". Those tiny disputes are where grand schisms begin.
"It's almost the perfect cover", said Dice. "The general public is focusing on what Jay Z or Beyonce is wearing. Meanwhile future wars are being planned, the economy is being shaped, and Orwellian illegal spying is happening".
So, how do the conspiracists consolidate their muddled message? Is there any common ground to be found?
"Celebrities are evil. Most of them are demonic dirtbags", said Dice. "And this is what our culture mimics. So, in a sense, they are Illuminati puppets".
Certainly that's a sentiment the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse can get behind.
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