Culture Feature

Andrew Callaghan Interviews the Most Controversial People in America on 'All Gas No Brakes'

Neo Nazi's, Furries, Flat Earthers, UFO Hunters, for Andrew Callaghan they all got something to say

Update 4/15/2021: After announcing in March that they had parted ways with former backers Doing Things Media — over contract disputes and disagreements about the political nature of their content — the All Gas No Brakes crew have returned as Channel 5 with Andrew Callaghan.

Having lost access to their old content and revenue streams, the team are hoping to rebuild, and have just dropped their first video on the new channel, delving into this year's spring break chaos in Miami Beach, Florida.

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The Monolith In Utah

New York Post

2020 just keeps getting weirder.

The latest incident began when a group of officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety's Aero Bureau spotted something strange. The group was flying over rural Utah and counting bighorn sheep when they noticed a gleaming, alien-looking entity in the middle of nowhere.

"One of the biologists...spotted it, and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it," said pilot Bret Hutchings. "He was like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around!' And I was like, 'What.' And he's like, 'There's this thing back there—we've got to go look at it!"

The "thing" was a metallic, prism-shaped monolith, standing about 12 feet high and reflecting the desert sun.

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NASA faked the moon landing. The Earth is flat and hollow. Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.

2019 was a peak year for conspiracy theories, with numbers of flat earthers rising (or just coming out of the two dimensional closet) and the Area 51 "raid" capturing our collective distrust of the government. At least 55% of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. In fact, Americans' trust in the government is nearly at an all-time low, according to decades of surveys. Of course, an individual's propensity for believing in conspiracy theories exists on a spectrum of paranoia, a desire to be unique, and personal experiences. But in 2019, the world of conspiracy theories transformed from an eccentric subculture to a dynamic realm of political and cultural discourse: Conspiracism is both a weapon and a lens through which to understand an unraveling world.

Under every conspiracy theory is anxiety about imbalances of power. Suspicion of the status quo is fundamental to Americans' political sensibilities. In the words of two political scientists from the University of Chicago, "Conspiracism is not only an important element in American political culture, but also is expressive of some latent and powerful organizing principles behind American mass opinion." In one recent study at the Australian National University, researchers found that many active online conspiracy theorists today show "sensible" interests. "These people might believe false things, but with good reason—because similar things have happened in the past," lead researcher Dr. Colin Klein writes. Belief doesn't stem from ignorance, but rather a sense that "unseen, intentional forces exist and that history is driven by a Manichean struggle between good and evil, particularly in the high proportion of Americans who believe we are living in biblical 'end times.'"

Our Inner Eye tells us that corrupt power structures are everywhere, and positions of power are filled by corrupt men who abuse the system and those weaker than they are for personal gain: Something is afoot, Big Brother is watching, and we're all being blue-pilled by The Man. But so does the news. Anxieties about gatekeeping and what information to trust in an age of "alternative facts" have demonstrably intensified in the age of social media. When millions of followers and a blue verified check mark denote authority, then a rapper tweeting that the earth is flat has the same reach as an astrophysicist. Information is about being prolific rather than accurate, feeling true rather than being supported by evidence.

conspiracy theories 2019 Huzlers

"But It Feels True...": Conspiracy Without Theory

Unlike the tin hat-wearing conspiracy theorists of the predigital age, also called "classic conspiracism" by Nancy L. Rosenblum in her book The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy, today's version is conspiracy without theory. The echo chambers of social media, from Reddit and Twitter to extremist forums like 4chan, allow believers in "alternate facts" to find each other and rail against "disinformation" campaigns. Rosenblum writes, "Conspiracist thinking that was once on the margins of American political life now sits at its heart."

The new wave was ushered in largely with the election of Donald Trump, who rose in the public eye as tabloid fodder and then reality TV star—a man of slogans and catchphrases—and took America's highest office with the ethics of an influencer. That is to say, he's only interested in what feels true, as well as what will result in his personal gain. With 68 million followers on his private Twitter account, Trump's power to insert fallacies into public discourse is unprecedented. As of November 2019, he'd retweeted at least 145 unverified accounts that pushed conspiracy or extremist ideas. "There's no answer for it, which is why it is so seriously disorienting to people," Rosenblum notes. "We've never seen anything like it. We don't know how to meet it. It's an attempt to construct a reality, and when it comes from the president, he has the capacity to impose that reality on the nation." Myriad mental health professionals have analyzed his behavior and language to warn about his toxic narcissism, but one of its most sinister features is the disposal of foresight. Only the present matters, with the highest priority being to satisfy the needs of right now. There's no concern for evidence, society at large, or the future.

When it comes to protecting the leader of the free world–even from himself–that means cover-ups. In late 2018, a senior White House official wrote an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, exposing the administration's inner alarm about Trump's impulsivity and loss of reason. The source warned of his lack of "any discernible first principles that guide his decision making … his impulsiveness [that] results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back, and there being literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next." In agreement was Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee, one of 27 mental health experts who conferred to assess the president's stability in their book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Lee followed up with a Vice article, noting, "These reports are also consistent with the account I received from two White House staff members who called me in October 2017 because the president was behaving in a manner that 'scared' them, and they believed he was 'unraveling.'"

trump conspiracy theories Dataminr via NY Times

To the American public, today's political divisiveness (at its worst since the Civil War) isn't just a matter of picking sides in the culture war–it's grounds for suspicion. Just as in the 1890s, 1960s, and 1970s, which were peak times for American conspiracy theories, as well as times of great cultural and political upheaval (the turn of the century was rocked by the Industrial Revolution, and the '60s and '70s saw the Vietnam War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Watergate Scandal), truth is being obfuscated by our dominant power structure. To some, the most closely guarded secret is Donald Trump's worsening mental instability, while to others it's alien spacecrafts being hidden in Area 51. Rosenblum argues that modern conspiracism, one without theory or evidence, "betrays a new destructive impulse: to delegitimate democracy." Just look at Trump's Twitter feed, and it's clear that conspiracy theories can be wielded as weapons to undermine facts, manipulate public information, and create chaos.

But for most people, conspiracy theories have become a sensible response to the existing chaos that defines modern existence, from imminent climate crisis to impeachment trials. Dr. Rob Brotherton, psychologist and author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, notes that people often feel as if they're living in a golden age of conspiracy theories, but it's usually just our mind's survival instinct to make sense of a chaotic, unstable reality. "Our brain has a bias towards seeing meaning rather than just chaos," he writes. "So sometimes we may think we see a pattern when it doesn't really exist." While our deepest survival instincts tell us that there's unseen danger in the world, our minds refuse to send a warning signal without a good explanation; and if we can name it, then we can fight it. White House raid, anyone?


The Area 51 Raid Happened, Kind Of

Or is that what the government wants us to think?

Thankfully, the Area 51 raid didn't exactly go as planned.

Of course it's much easier to make promises and to threaten a revolution online than it is to actually go out into the world and make that revolution happen. Out of 2 million people that promised to attend the raid of the Nevada military base, around 50 actually showed up. On the other hand, the event's creator, a Nevada senator, and the U.S. government strongly advised people against going, because trying to invade a U.S. military base would probably be one of the stupidest things one could do, ever, though that was part of the appeal for some.

There were no arrests, as no one actually tried to storm the base. One woman tried to duck under a protective gate and was detained by the authorities and released. It seems like most people gathered wearing strange costumes and carrying signs just to see what would happen. Maybe the aliens were the friends we made along the way?


One person did manage to successfully turn all the memes into reality. During a local news report, one young legend ran behind the reporter in the Naruto run style, head down and arms held back, and his actions quickly went viral on Twitter. The Naruto run is inspired by the Japanese manga character Naruto Uzumaki, and during the event's early planning stages, organizers advised everyone to storm the base by running at it, Naruto style.

More people showed for the Alienstock music festival being hosted in Rachel, Nevada, a tiny town about 12 miles north of Las Vegas. Actually, it seems promising that someday people will look back at summer 2019 the way we now look back at the summer of '69. 1969 may have had Woodstock, Charles Manson, and the moon landing, but we've got Alienstock, Jeffrey Epstein, and the climate movement, right?

The Area 51 raid may not have been the massacre that some wanted it to be, but so far, today's global climate strikes have been incredibly successful. Millions of people have taken to the streets so far. Though we might not have freed the aliens or secured a host family on Mars, maybe there's some hope for Earth yet.


How to Choose Between the Area 51 Raid and the Global Climate Strike

Who says you can't "find them aliens" *and* save the world from existential destruction?

Odds are, you aren't going to work or school tomorrow.

This Friday, you have the choice of whether or not to do two very different (but similarly insurgent, anti-government) activities. September 20, 2019 is the date of both the Area 51 raid and the global climate strike.

Area 51, the legendary military base in the Nevada desert that has long been at the center of speculation and paranoia about alien activity, will be the location of a mass Naruto run that will occur early Friday morning. The raid was conceptualized on a Facebook event page called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All Of Us." The page garnered over a million RSVPs, and since then it's become a popular and beloved meme.

The event gained attention from the U.S. government, and an Air Force spokeswoman went on record at the Washington Post and discouraged people from trying to invade the base, saying that "the U.S. air force always stands ready to protect America and its assets." For some, the government's veiled threat to shoot down invaders only added fuel to the flames, as suicidal Gen-Zers and millennials doubled down on their commitment to "find them aliens."

Since the raid took off, Lincoln County, Nevada has declared a state of emergency, and they currently expect a crowd of 40,000 people. Things worsened when the creator of the original event, Matty Roberts, announced a music festival called Alienstock near the site. After it began to draw comparisons to Fyre Festival, the event planners pulled the plug—but all day, people have been showing up in Rachel, Nevada anyway, which makes sense when you think about the kinds of people planning on raiding Area 51 in the first place.

The actual Area 51 raid is expected to occur from 3AM to 6AM tonight. Currently, the highway leading to Area 51, also known as Extraterrestrial Highway, is expecting heavy traffic and will be heavily policed.

Tomorrow is also the Global Climate Strike, which is expected to be the world's largest day of climate change activism. This day of protest was started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who began sitting outside her nation's Parliament every Friday in protest of global inaction on the climate crisis. The event quickly grew into a movement called Fridays for Future and has gained traction as the effects of climate change have become more undeniable and tangible.

Tomorrow, there will be an expected 4,638 climate strikes around the world, happening everywhere from Moscow to New York. In NYC, 1.1 million students will be allowed to skip school for the event, and millions more are expected to take to the streets. The strike has also garnered support from global trade unions and employees of giant companies like Google and Amazon. (Find and RSVP for your local strike here).

At first glance, these events seem like polar opposites. The main difference between the Area 51 raid and the global climate strikes is that the climate strikes are essentially dedicated to supporting life and ensuring a viable future on earth. On the other hand, the Area 51 raids are nihilistic, and a lot of the online discourse surrounding them seems to imply that there is nothing worth saving.

But when you look closer at the true nature of these parallel events, the more entangled their purposes seem. Attending a global climate strike means that you've accepted the terrifying notion that human civilization will end unless we mobilize on a mass scale, whereas the Area 51 raid requires a certain suspension of disbelief and denial, a certain faith in the extraterrestrial unknown, and at least a somewhat antagonistic view towards science and realism. That means that, essentially, the climate strike is way more punk than the Area 51 raid.

Maybe the events are more similar than they are different. They are both protests against the government and the people who are currently in power. They're both essentially products of young people's growing awareness that the world is not as it seems, that we don't have to listen to the rules we've always been taught, and that there's so much more going on behind the scenes than we know.

Obviously, the climate strikes are the way to go if you care about anything at all, want to make an actual change to the way the government and the world works, and/or want to avoid seeing poor and impoverished communities die in vast numbers over the next few decades while the rich take their spaceships to Mars. Unfortunately, in a lot of ways, raiding Area 51 and finding a bunch of aliens sounds more fun. It's kitschy and spooky; it's also more appealing if you're addicted to the internet or deeply depressed, due to its fundamentally apathetic and masochistic nature; and perhaps the climate movement could learn from the Area 51 initiative's viral nature.

Fortunately, the truth is that you don't have to choose between them. You can have it all: ou can honor your depressive and post-ironic impulses while still making an effort to change the world. The Area 51 raid is going to happen from 3AM to 6AM, so you technically can go to that and (if you don't get arrested) be at the Nevada City rally by midmorning. You can "find them aliens" and save the world, while evading capitalism and giving a middle finger to the U.S. government in the process.

Yes, that entire sentence sounds like something out of an absurdist comic book, and the simulation is becoming as glitchy as a group text with one Android in it. But like it or not, we're all in this messed up cosmic group text together. Now let's take this to the f*cking streets.


Lil Nas X Won't Leave You Alone in the New "Panini" Video

It's the hitmaker's latest video, and it marks his official metamorphosis from cowboy to robot.

Lil Nas X has officially hacked the system.

The official video for "Panini" just dropped, and it's an ultra-futuristic, Blade Runner-inspired montage of neon lights and dancing holograms.

In the video, the "Old Town Road" singer essentially stalks a girl to the point that she eventually leaps out of an airplane (wearing a parachute) in order to escape his advances—of course, that doesn't work, and he floats after her wearing hover-boots. It's creepy if you think of it as a genuine depiction of stalking, but here's hoping that Lil Nas X meant this as an allegory for the fact that his songs are just impossible to get out of one's head, or that he's an inescapable presence in the media.

This seems even more likely when you remember that Lil Nas X is openly gay, and just yesterday he spoke out about why he waited until he was famous to come out. So it wouldn't make sense for him to manufacture a straight relationship in his music video (right?).

Regardless, the song "Panini" itself is a smooth one minute-and-fifty-five-second post-genre earworm. If it sounds familiar, that's because the chorus sounds borrows from Nirvana's "In Bloom"—which Kurt Cobain's daughter, Francis Bean, just officially approved. Ultimately, it proves once again that Lil Nas X is a master at revamping some of the deepest archetypes in American iconography (cowboys and robots) and putting his own charming, absurd twist on them. He's playing all of us, and yet he means it completely.

Lil Nas X - Panini (Official Video)