One of my first exposures to conspiracy theory were the leaflets handed out by Tony Alamo's (born Bernie Lazar Hoffman) minions back in the 80s. I had seen similar material here and there drifting into my old church- apocalyptic conspiracy stuff from people like Hal Lindsey that would show up in bundles of tracts from time to time.
There was another episode where a strange friend of my grandmother had given my father a stack of Spotlights, darkly warning him that "the news was managed." It was pretty rough stuff, but it gave me an interesting look at pre-internet conspiracy culture, which was predominantly the province of Fundamentalists and Neo-Nazis.
But it must be said that the incessantly apocalyptic tone of the Lindsey-type material appealed to my religious indoctrination- the idea that all of history is this linear progression- this narrative- moving towards a specific event (I'm just surprised the world is still here- I think I've survived about 30 predicted Armageddons). I didn't know then that the Gnostics were the original conspiracy theorists- and the original Apocalyptics. For reasons too complex to go into now the two are are closely intertwined.
But Alamo's material was by far the most intense. One headline screamed "Did you know that Ronald Reagan and the Pope are a couple of Antichrist devils who are selling America down the drain?" all in capital letters. It was all the usual stuff- Communists, Liberals, the Pope, the New World Order, Satan's hordes- but done in such an extreme, over-the-top style that it was just that much more attention-grabbing than the LaRouche or Moonie stuff you came across. Those blasts of wall-to-wall text- the universal signature of the perturbed true believer- told the story. I later discovered that his cult also made pimped-out denim jackets that were in vogue for a while back in the 80s.
As some of you have read Alamo has been arrested and sentenced to 175 years in prison. It's the usual story- the charismatic cult leader sexually abusing his flock, a story that's become so commonplace as to be almost expected. Cults and sects and other authoritarian religious groups are breeding grounds for sexual abuse. The latest scandal is in Orthodox Jewish sects, which I'm sure will be blamed on the degenerate culture outside the compound walls. That's the usual excuse.
Anyhow, given the 17 meme and the 175 years in prison, I was fascinated that Alamo was arrested in Flagstaff, AZ, which sits smack dab atop Interstate 17. And what's 17 without a 33? Read on...
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Evangelist Tony Alamo used his stature as a self-proclaimed prophet to force underage girls into sham marriages with him, controlling his followers with their fears of eternal suffering.
But the judge who sentenced Alamo on Friday to 175 years in prison for child sexual abuse warned of another kind of justice awaiting the aging evangelist.
FBI agents and Arkansas State Police troopers raided Alamo's compound in nearby Fouke in September 2008. The FBI arrested Alamo five days later in Flagstaff, Ariz., charging him with violating the Mann Act, a century-old morality law originally aimed at stopping women from being sold into prostitution.
Five women, age 17 to 33, testified in July that Alamo "married" them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas' borders for Alamo's sexual gratification.
For his part, Alamo insists the girls are bewitched, another time-honored dodge. Note the date.
From Tony Alamo
July 17, 2009
Regarding Government-Vatican Persecution vs. Tony Alamo
It is a violation of the US Constitution for the government to attack any religion, especially Christianity!! My trial is government vs. the Bible. The five young women who are falsely testifying against me have all been convinced to do so by the FBI.
The FBI paid all of their tuition to go to a place called Wellspring, which is a deprogramming center. Deprogramming is a nice word for hypnosis, brainwashing, mind-control, voodoo, black magic. Their testimony is not to be believed because it is not true, and they are not in their right mind. They are under a hateful spell of witchcraft.
Sure enough, a few months back I took the family out to eat and when we came back to the car, there was a blast from the past waiting for me- a mini-bundle of old-school Alamo text-rants protesting his innocence (note the long-dead Susan Alamo gets a byline). I'm sure he's as guilty as sin. Despite what some might say, I'm also 100% certain that he was completely sincere in his beliefs as well. It's hard to fake that kind of gonzoid intensity for that long.
Alamo's sweatshop practices earned him a lot of criticism, but abusive cult sweatshops are as American as Plymouth Plantation. And there's plenty of justification in the holy books for polygamy and child brides and all sorts of practices you can find your ass in jail for these days- certainly in the Old Testament. The religious are forever disassociating themselves from the crimes of their brethren, even though what are now seen as crimes were once seen as doing God's work.
Here's a site maintained by Alamo cult survivors if you want to read more. And here's a fascinating Atlantic article telling the untold story of the current economic disaster we're in- the role of Prosperity Gospel preachers in pushing people towards mortgages they couldn't afford. Of course, the Bush Administration played a huge role in it, thinking they could turn all of those new homeowners into GOP voters. The Atlantic headline is a bit misleading- I have a friend who's part of the 'back-to-Judaism' movement in Fundamentalist Christianity who told me with utter confidence that "Prosperity Gospel is from the pits of Hell."
Sigh- all of these "One True Faiths." I can't keep track of them all anymore.
An Iberworld Airbus A330-300 on behalf of Air Comet, registration EC-IJH performing flight A7-301 from Madrid Barajas,SP (Spain) to Santa Cruz (Bolivia) with about 170 passengers, did not land in Santa Cruz in Bolivia, but in Santa Cruz,CI (Spain), also known as Tenerife Norte or Tenerife Los Rodeos Airport.
The airplane departed Tenerife again after about 17 hours on the ground.