From the Paranormal to Parapolitics
Charles Fort, we need you.
The writer Charles Fort, born in 1874, spent most of his
professional life occupying a succession of dire apartments
in New York‘s Hells Kitchen and the Bronx, with his wife,
Anna. Constant poverty made it a threesome; at one point
the Forts had to burn furniture for firewood.
Fort had a walrus mustache with a body to match, and wore
little spectacles as thick as coke bottles. He spent his
days plunging through library archives, searching out and
collecting odd items from journals and newspapers, and
taking thousands of notes which he filled hundreds of shoe
boxes stacked at home.
The writer was fascinated by "the damned": anecdotal
accounts and scientific reports that didn't fit the
authorized version of reality. Whether it was tales of
bizarre objects seen in the sky, or reports of atmospheric
anomalies like "red rain," he made no attempt to minimize
the strangeness of the material, or to explain it away.
I have a feeling that if he were around today, Fort would
be less interested in oddities of the natural world than
the unpleasant facts that mainstream media filters out on a
He would have had a good time with the US-led "the war on
terrorism," which Colin Powell argues is commensurate with
war on Iraq.
For starters, he would have pointed out lead suicide bomber
Mohammed Atta's reality-defying passport. This
incriminating item survived the jet impact into the World
Trade Centre and was found miraculously intact in the
debris in a matter of hours. The story of the Virgin birth
is less fantastic than the passport’s immaculate
collection, but the corporate media passed over the
unliklihood of this pristine projectile. Perhaps this is
because of the taboo inference it entailed: Atta’s passport
was planted evidence.
Fort would have tracked the paranormal perambulations of
Osama bin Laden, who, like "Schrodinger’s cat" of quantum
physics fame, is neither alive nor dead until observed.
Communications from the bearded one have appeared
sporadically since the invasion of Afghanistan, the most
significant being the video of him rapping about the
success of 9-11with a group of robed colleagues at dinner.
In a recent CBC television interview, Toronto journalist
Eric Margolis, who has interviewed Bin Laden face-to-face,
flatly stated that the man identified in the video as the
unholy warrior is an impostor. (When I first saw this
video, I thought the same. My eye for faces is pretty sharp
after twenty years of drawing caricatures.)
Another item. A recent full page photo in Maclean’s
magazine shows soldiers on patrol, filing past a verdant
poppy field. But wait: in their war on all things
mind-altering — sex, music, drink and drugs — didn't the
Taliban succeed in completely destroying the opium poppy
crops, removing billions of dollars of revenue from the
global drug trade? So why are the fields back up and
running, according to reports in the European press?
Like a good forensic economist, Fort would have followed
the money, suggesting that many western banks rely heavily
on the liquidity of laundered drug money.
Start paying attention to facts that are "damned," and you
will invariably start redrawing a few maps in your head.
You may even find some inspiration for this process in the
world of film and fiction.
In the Fortean-inflected film The Matrix, Keannu Reeves’
character is given a choice to take a red pill or a blue
pill. The red pill, he is told, will take him back to the
manufactured consent he is waking from. The blue pill will
complete his journey, spitting him out of the
officially-endorsed dreamworld and into the awful truth. He
chooses the blue pill.
Perhaps Charles Fort felt like Keannu, like he’d been
sucked down the rabbit hole, and having returned,
discovered that no one particularly cared to hear about the
crazy-ass tea party he had transcribed. At one point in his
life, the rotund writer burned 40,000 of his notes, in a
depression that they "weren't what he wanted."
He died in 1932 at the age of 58, leaving three memorable
books of "Forteana" as his legacy.
Fort’s principle lesson was that the official map of the
world — the reality endorsed by experts in many fields — is
far from being a reliable guide. Some roads and landmarks
are left off, some lands are exaggerated in scale. The map
is not the territory -- even if the cartographer is Colin
Fort demonstrated it’s up to us reclaim the maps from the
map-makers, and to redraw the territory accurately, with
all its magic and horror intact. The results may bring to
mind Tolkien more than Tom Clancy, but a good Fortean was
never frightened by new lands.