In ‘Snow’, Frank is sent a tape created by a strange female audio engineer (played by Jessica Tuck, later of True Blood) who seems to possess the power to subliminally draw out feelings of guilt and shame in her targets on cassette tapes that seem to only consist of white noise, leading to her targets’ deaths by suicide.
‘Snow’ directly follows Peter Watts’ forced confession as to the Group’s involvement in the bioweapon tests in ‘Collateral Damage’, though there’s no specific connection made in the later episode (note the radio/audiotape motif links the two in a subtle yet powerful way). Even so, the goal is to drive Frank to suicide, which no one seems to think is a very far trip.
The Group nearly succeeds when Frank returns to the mountain cabin where Catherine died and follows a hallucinatory apparition of her into the woods. But rather than surrender to the power of the subliminal hypnotic suggestion, Frank comes to terms with Catherine’s death. Even so, he nearly dies of exposure and is only saved when Emma Hollis and his friend Seattle Det. Geibelhouse search the forest and rescue him before he freezes to death.
Subliminal hypnosis is an evergreen topic for the conspiracy underground, ironic given that so many believers had already been successfully programmed by the massive Evangelical media infrastructure that appeared almost overnight starting in the mid-1970s, relying on a host of propaganda, political intimidation and neurolinguistic programming techniques to instill a state of obedience.
Lost during the rise to power of the Religious Right (that in turn fueled the conspiracy subculture) was the fact that the “ministries” of the new wave of televangelists were using the exact same mind control techniques that well-publicized cults (People’s Temple, Children of God, Unification Church, etc) were using only a few years before.
Cults that also seemed to appear fully-formed and fully-funded, out of nowhere.
Even so, the topic of subliminals first became a hot topic when their use in advertising was brought to light in muckracking journalist Vance Packard’s expose of the advertising industry, The Hidden Persuaders, in the late 50s. In Mind Control in the United States, Steven Jacobson tells us about the history of auditory subliminals:
Experiments were not limited to television. In 1958, radio station WAAF in Chicago broadcast "subaudible" commercials. Seattle's KOL broadcast hardly audible taped messages "below" the music played by its disc jockeys. "How about a cup of coffee?" was one, and "Someone's at the door" was another.
On December 8, 1972, The New York Times reported that In-Flight Motion Pictures, Inc. would begin selling subliminal commercials embedded in the movies they would distribute to all the major airlines. Supermarkets across the country are reducing theft an average 30 to 50 percent by broadcasting subliminal messages such as "I will not steal" and "We are watching you".
A more recent controversy concerning subliminals had to do with alleged "backwards masking," in which heavy metal bands were accused of sneaking tributes to the Prince of Darkness into their songs-- backwards, mind you-- as part of an effort to brainwash the youth into serving Satan.
The backwards masking advocates argue the human mind can hear a lyric being sung and reverse the complex mixture of words, intonation and musical notes in their mind like a tape recorder and then decipher it all while a song plays, with all the various electric guitars, electronic synthesizers and drums flailing away.
Unsurprisingly, controlled experiments have proven that listeners can't even detect messages when played backwards in songs (except in obscure corners of the Christian conspiracy underground, the backwards masking controversy is long over, also unsurprisingly).
Even so, British heavy metal legends Judas Priest were dragged into court in 1990 when two of their fans were somehow able to backwards-decipher the usual spiel about trolls, wizards and leathermen and boil it all down simply to “Do it.” (the song in question wasn't even a Priest composition).
The two then interpreted the imaginary "do it" as Judas Priest somehow ordering them to blow their own heads off with a shotgun (after an all-nighter of drinking and getting stoned, of course), an act which one of the fans amazingly survived for a few years.
In the end, all of the controversy and Evangelist bloviating over backwards masking simply inspired thousands of heavy metal bands to glorify the Forsaken One in their lyrics openly (the signals in my tinfoil hat are telling me that might have been the idea all along), which ultimately served to set the cultural table for a show like Millennium to later appear.
Case in point: a considerably more serious mind control hoax than backwards masking was addressed in another Season Three episode, ‘Darwin’s Eye’*.
Although the Group doesn’t appear in the story they seem to haunt it, or rather haunt the dreams of the disturbed young woman, Cassie Doyle, at the center of the drama. In ‘Darwin’ we meet Cassie as she escapes from a mental institution after decapitating a hospital orderly. She flags down a sheriff’s deputy named Joe and distracts him long enough to turn his own gun on him and take him hostage.
But Cassie has a story-- a story of a dark and elaborate government conspiracy against her-- that eventually seduces Joe into her fantasy world. Cassie later seduces Joe sexually in the same hotel room where her father used to rape her.
Frank tracks the pair down only to find that Cassie has killed Joe, just as she killed her father and the orderly. The conspiracy that Cassie clung to was her coping mechanism, her way of dealing with the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, who worked in military intelligence.
“Cassie Doyle” may well have been inspired by Cathy O’Brien, co-author of Trance Formation of America (1995), a bombshell of a book that rocked the conspiracy underground to its core and continues to reverberate to this day.
O’Brien (along with “former” CIA agent Mark Phillips) recounts her experience as a “mind-controlled sex slave” in the service of Project MONARCH (which no one had heard of before the book and of which no credible documentation has ever been found). The book names names (politicians, celebrities, and so on) and details a life of dehumanizing servitude in the MONARCH ranks.
But for some serious parapolitics watchers, the timing of the book was extremely suspicious, coming as it did on the heels of a series of well-documented revelations of Cold War human experimentation and general abuse, such as radiation and LSD experiments on unwitting subjects.
One of the parapolitics experts to cast a skeptical eye on Trance Formation was the late Jim Kieth (aka Commander Zero), who wrote extensively on O’Brien and Project MONARCH in his book Mind Control, World Control: The Encyclopedia of Mind Control (1998):
O'Brien may have been the victim of massive abuse during her life. But most likely is that the whole convoluted crazy story is delusion or consciously made up. My reasons for believing this, aside from the overall improbability of her lurid account, follow.He goes on - it's pretty comprehensive.
O'Brien states that MONARCH mind control conferred photographic memory on her, thus making it possible for her to remember verbatim the conversations of the persons in her book. What she pointedly does not remember is even a single date by which the presence and activities of prominent or not- so-prominent persons could be connected, verified, or disproved in her anecdotal accounts.
(O’Brien’s) powers of description utterly fail her when she is talking about the layout of Air Force bases, the technology of mind control laboratories, the top secret compounds of high level politicos, and offices and other interiors in Washington, D.C.
Also, there is not one incident of high level political chicanery that she mentions that could not have been surmised from published accounts, nor are there any unknown secretive dealings that could be verified independently—not one that I can find.
O'Brien's remembrance of what took place amongst the high and mighty, figures like Bush, Reagan, and Noriega, is oddly all common knowledge in the news and the literature of conspiracy theory. All of her "insider" information is confined to primitive diatribes about the New World Order, NAFTA, and Education 2000, the kind of half-baked pabulum that anyone could pick up with a cursory reading of some of the popular titles in conspiracy research.
Kieth was a hardcore believer in MK, so his disbelief in O'Brien's claims should be taken very seriously. Even so, Trance Formation has created an extremely lucrative cottage industry in its wake, with corporate-sponsored conspiracy sites spotting "MONARCH" symbolism everywhere they look. Which isn't hard, since controversy-savvy directors and stylists (predominantly in the already-decadent high fashion demimonde) eventually picked up on the meme and deliberately embedded some of the imagery (none of which is remotely secret) in their work for a while.
Feeling they had a tiger by the tail, the Millennium writing team took the mind control theme to its obvious conclusion and blew apart the original vision of the series for good with a stunning two-part finale.
In ‘Via Dolorosa’, Frank attends the execution of a serial killer named Ed Cuffle (played by Matthew Glave, who also appeared in The X-Files’ series finale), the investigation of whose case caused Frank’s first breakdown.
Frank sees Cuffle say “yes” before he’s killed and assumes it’s for his benefit (shades of "do it"). But the “yes” is directed towards Lucas Barr, a man who will continue Cuffle’s work, using the same tools and modus operandi. What Frank doesn’t realize is that Barr is actually being controlled by the Group, who will booby-trap his apartment to keep the FBI from arresting Barr and discovering his connection to them.
In ‘Goodbye to All That’, the Group has totally outmaneuvered Frank and the FBI. They’ve killed Barry Baldwin and quite possibly forced Andy McClaren to retire. Dangling a cure for her father’s Alzheimer’s disease, the group ultimately recruits Emma Hollis and installs her as McClaren’s replacement, as Frank is forced out of the FBI.
Before this all goes down Frank is shown a disturbing videotape Barr made of Jordan in her bed, which drive him to confront Peter Watts by gunpoint in his home. However, Frank soon realizes that Watts has been cut out of the loop.
Watts tries to look into Barr’s case but is frozen out of the Group’s database. He arranges a meet with Frank to hand over Barr’s aliases and tell Frank of the neurobiological process the Group has perfected, which ultimately cures Emma’s father at the same time it’s programming Lucas Barr to become the new Ed Cuffle.
The most revealing aspect of the series finale is Peter Watts' Rooster speechifying, which Frank immediately recognizes as "cult propaganda." We now realize that Watts is not a villain; he is that most dangerous of men, the True Believer.
Watts cites the principle of Alchemical transformation as the foundation of what the Roosters are trying to accomplish; taking a world they see as fallen and corrupt and remaking it in their own image. All means are justified for the glorious End.
“Man has made a mess of Eden. Our greed is only eclipsed by our tribal stupidity and our brutality. We are rushing toward an apocalypse of our own creation... Maybe not the end of the physical world, but the end of a world that is worthy of human life. And that's not that something that the Group invented, that's what the Group is trying to prevent.”What we were seeing here was the final break of the fictional Millennium Group from the real-life Academy Group: these guys weren’t simply catching serial killers, they were actually programming them. After doing so, the Group set them loose on society in order to justify their public face as heroic crime-stoppers.
It's a realization of the age–old alchemical dream, which was never about the transformation of lead into gold, but about the transformation of mankind. We can transcend ourselves.”
In other words, the Group were creating a problem that only they could solve, and used the power and influence that their success afforded them to pursue their agenda of hastening the Apocalypse, in order to recreate the world in their own image.
In conspiracy parlance, this is known as “Problem/Reaction/Solution”; creating a crisis that only the conspirators can solve by seizing more power away from the populace. Truly subversive stuff; how it made it past Rupert Murdoch’s censors is anyone’s guess.
Watts' use of alchemical symbolism in his obviously-rehearsed recitation of Rooster dogma parallels theories expounded by fringe dwellers like Stephen Knight (whose work on Jack the Ripper inspired Alan Moore's From Hell), James Shelby Downard (author of King Kill 33) and Michael A. Hoffman, the author of Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare (1992), one of the foundational texts of the modern neofascist wing of the conspiracy underground:
Many "serial" murders are nothing more than the work of a single individual acting out a graphic horror movie he saw, or responding to powerful "psychotic" impulses for aggression and predation. But others are ritual murders involving a cult protected by the US Government and the corporate media, with strong ties to the police. Such killings are actually intricately choreographed ceremonies; performed first on a very intimate and secret scale, among the initiates themselves in order to program them, then on a grand scale, amplified incalculably by the electronic media.Not your usual network fodder, by any means.
In the end what we have is a highly symbolic ritual working broadcast to millions of people, a Satanic inversion; a Black mass, where the "pews" are filled by the entire nation and through which humanity is brutalized and debased in this, the "Nigredo" phase of the alchemical process (This is the alchemical psychodrama for the transformation of humanity).
But the endless fever dreams of the conspiracy underground were often fed by Hollywood in the first place (especially in the 70s with The Exorcist, Network, The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor and so on) and Hollywood has never been shy of feeding back when its visions are recycled by religious and political extremists.
The difference with Ten Thirteen Productions is that they dug deeper and were able to get further inside the heads of the conspiracy underground. An underground whose visions were more reliant on the entertainment media they so openly disdained than they would ever be able to admit.
Chris Carter's hidden hand looms large in the intense paranoia of Millennium's third season, coupled with Chip Johannessen's complimentary mystical sensibilities. Rolling Stone interviewed Carter in 1997 and asked him why he was broadcasting all of these paranoid memes in the happy-go-lucky Clinton years:
Well, I have a basic mistrust of people. And because people are government, I have a basic mistrust of government. I think this government doesn’t care about the individual. The government cares about the government, and that’s a problem.Certainly not an attitude to ingratiate yourself to post-9/11 Hollywood.
There’s an interesting quote that one of the editors keeps on top of his keyboard: “Perfect paranoia is perfect awareness.” I think if I’m adding static to the collective awareness, that’s a good thing.
Paranoia is a good thing. It creates smart people.
But it's worth noting that shows like Fringe or The Event- which retrace Carter's steps without his radicalism-- fail to resonate while The X-Files was a worldwide phenomenon and Millennium gains new converts all the time as cult show. The former was definitely of its time while the latter-- especially the third season-- was ahead of it.
Indeed, the “nothing to lose” feeling of Season Three of Millennium ripped a whole host of shadows from the deepest corners of America’s Id for us to examine in the light.
TO BE CONTINUED
* Click here for a look at the Baptist symbolism in Darwin's Eye.