All photos by Erik Anderson 
"I'm talking about satanic Jews,” Texe Marrs announced from the stage of the Santa Clara Marriott. Well fuck me, now I need a drink. And so went the climax of my trip to Conspiracy Con 2010 , the tenth annual convention of don't-call-them-conspiracy-theorists-they're-scientists, and dabblers in the world of trust no one. Damn it Marrs, you portly ex televangelist end days minister, why you gotta be so creepy?
I totally believe that Osama Bin Laden had little to do with those buildings falling down. The fact that our government is hypocritical is like, a total no duh for anyone who's been outside the country, and processed food is for sure killing us. I came to “Con Con” in good faith. Things are getting crazy out there, and if nothing else, the “truthers” that I have known all foster a healthy sense of criticism towards the powers that be.
So I strapped on my most open mind, tipped my hat to the North America Chinese Semiconductor Association (sharing the Marriott that weekend), and got ready to hang with the paranoid wierdos. After all, the Red Queen told Alice it was healthy to believe in six impossible things each day before breakfast. Here, I could hit that mark within ten minutes of entering the vendor hall. I made the obligatory trip to the registration table, where I declined the chance to buy video footage of all the presentations for $60, and got over to the hawkers of conspiracy wares.
I find looking at what's on sale is often the best, if possibly the most cynical way to get a bead on a gathering. At Conspiracy Con, aisles of devout truth seekers sold photos of your aura, magnetic jewelery, ghost meters, and mountains of home recorded DVDS on chem trails and secret warfare. A man in a leopard print hat blew into a didgeridoo, its bell inches from the ear of a blissful woman. She sat, eyes closed, absorbing its healing powers. A sign next to him read “Sonic Shamanic Tonic.” So. Groovy. I like it!
And overall, the paranoid weirdos are pretty awesome bunch. Eager to share, eager to listen. Outside the hotel, I watched an exhibition of an engine that can run on Pepsi and urine . I hear they sent one to BP, and they refused to use it in the Gulf clean up! Evangelo Kalemanis of Las Vegas stood beside me, wearing a sharp white blazer and fedora that made him stand out amidst the crowd, who was mainly older, many male, mainly white. Fashion wise, however, we were fairly diverse. Around me I saw T-shirts that read “If guns kill people, then... spoons made Rosie O'Donnell fat,” Republican monkey suits, and conversely, loose tunics and crystals.
Kalemanis told me that he ran across Conspiracy Con three days ago, while uncovering a conspiracy of his own. He is the founder of a website (www.conspiracycrazy.com ) that consolidates useful links to information on different conspiracy theories, information he found elusive when he first started researching the subject. “When I was searching, it would take me hours.” The site started getting over a hundred hits a day -- and he says his success cost him. Google the words “Conspiracy Crazy” today, and the site is impossible to find, buried pages deep in the results. But Conspiracy Con was showing up in his queries – and Evangelo made the snap decision to drive to California to check it out.
The conventioneers were an earnest bunch on the whole. Most had come to share what they'd found in their auto-didactic search for truth, and to be reassured that they weren't the only one that thinks that information is being hidden from us purposefully. Answers were being looked for. Like the man in a straw hat from Santa Clara, who I met on a much needed break at the sports bar, and who would only identify himself as “George Carlin,” for fear of... I don't know, SFBG being on some kind of a watch list maybe? I mean, not that we aren't.
"George" told me he spends full time hours researching the Fed. “You know that it's not run by Americans, right?” he said, conspiratorially (ha!). He gets riled up about the shadowy ownership of -- and lack of legal precedent for-- the Fed, a subject that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the viral cult movie Zeitgeist . Seconds later, he's whipped out a series of dollar bills folded into the shape of paper airplanes. When lined up numerically, the $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 depict the World Trade Center exploding, then falling along the center crease. “Who do you think prints the money?” he asks me with a small, weary smile.
“I know half this audience have their own lecture they could do,” says Mr. Lobo, host of the sci-fi series Cinema Insomnia , who emceed the convention, and who provided some much needed moments of levity on stage. We sat down after a particularly long-winded question and answer session, two semi-outsiders to this crazy scene. “These people wouldn't be here if they weren't passionate about an awakening of sorts,” he tells me. “It's odd, because a conspiracy convention shouldn't even be possible, it's like herding cats. Everyone looks like they're from whichever decade they blew their mind in -- they just stopped buying clothes at that point.”
The enthusiasm and belief in the impossible that the attendees of Conspiracy Con showed was exhilarating. Self-motivated learning and critical thinking bodes well for the heterogeneity of democracy. But their openness made the "expert" profiteering on stage all the more of a bummer.
Like that god damn Texe Marrs. “I'm not trying to make a profit here, at all. But I do have a video out called Rothschild's Choice: Barack Obama and and the Hidden Cabal Behind the Plot to Murder America.” It was available in the lobby for $25, besides his bestselling book, The Synagogue of Satan. I vacated for beers soon after his “satanic Jew” comment, but the numbers who remained in their seats was more disturbing to me than the rants themselves.
Signing books in the vendor room, I caught Dr. Michael S. Coffman, PhD. Coffman's was the first presentation I watched that day, an assemblage of charts and graphs that highlighted why human caused global warming is a scam created by the government in order to control the world's energy usage.
Attired in a navy blazer with gold buttons, Coffman lacked the vitriol of Marrs -- even if his message that carbon dioxide “is not a pollutant,” did strike me as a little troubling. “I basically am a scientist leading a multi million dollar research outfit,” Coffman told me when I asked him how he made a living.
I asked him if all the conspiracy theorists here believed what everyone else was saying. “There's many different factions here,” he said quickly. “I talk to people that vehemently disagree with me. I sat in on Texe Marrs' presentation, and I don't believe in all the the things he had to say.” I hardly my suppress my deep sigh of relief before the clock ticks back on truth time. “But we all agree that global warming is man made. Even if maybe some of us didn't know before the conference,” Coffman concluded.
My six impossible things had grown to hundreds. Reptiles from other planets created the human race. Jackie O killed Kennedy. There's poison in the tap water, Illuminati everywhere, and Neil Armstrong left the moon because the aliens that were already living there freaked him out. Somehow, Kobe Bryant's face found its way onto a speaker's graphic, which also includes Barack Obama, the all seeing eye, and the White House. The run through the rabbit hole had left my open mind totally fried, the air conditioning was on too high, and I'd only seen four of the ten featured speakers. Time to get the hell out of the Marriott. And that's the truth.