Perhaps the most notorious Discordian Jake ever perpetrated—or at least the one that received the most national media attention—was cooked up by a Discordian cabal called “Sam’s Cafe,” a three person art collective consisting of the husband and wife team of Mark and Terri Keyser, and their conspiratorial cohort, David Shire. Sam’s Cafe operated out of a former greasy spoon of the same name located on University Avenue near the UC Berkeley campus.
Starting around 1970, Sam’s Cafe orchestrated several Discordian flavored capers, a sort of cross between performance art meets culture jamming. In 1971, the group reached the pinnacle of prankdom with an op dubbed “Sam’s Collection Agency” that entailed mailing “false collection notices to twenty thousand people, demanding that they each send $76.40 to the return address (which was the San Francisco Chronicle’s TV station). The notice listed the phone numbers of news papers, TV stations, and the Bank of America, which were flooded with more than ten thousand angry calls. The artists made front page news in both local newspapers. Two days later, when Sam’s Café revealed themselves at a press conference—at which they handed out press kits that included vials of human excrement—they were arrested and indicted…” 00001
According to a March 20, 1971 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer entitled “Hippies Admit 20,000 Fake Bills In Attempt To Create Mass Chaos,” Sam’s Cafe was charged with mailing a “vile and filthy substance” in “small plastic jars of what appeared to be excretion. These were sent to news media Wednesday along with the announcement of the hoax…”
Ultimately, Discordian justice prevailed and Sam’s Cafe was acquitted of all charges following a two-day trial, an acquittal based largely on the testimony of the expert witness in the case, San Francisco Chronicle art critic Thomas Albright, who stated “that the act was in fact conceptual art.” 00002
“In the end, the judge shook his head and proclaimed, ‘Well, if the expert says it’s art, it’s art, but don’t do it again.’ Sam’s Cafe believed that by using print media, the postal service, and other ordinary means of communication, artists outside the system could reach a broad public audience. At the same time, they showed how easy it was to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service…” 00003
According to this note found in the Discordian Archives, Sam’s Cafe put out feelers to Greg Hill to see if he was interested in testifying, although it’s unknown how extensively Hill became involved in the case.
00001 Lewallen, Constance M., and Moss, Karen. 2011. State of Mind: New California Art, Circa 1970. University of California Press.
On page 274, a “grinning young man with a Frisco-style Jesus Christ hair-and-beard” welcomes Joe Malik and Simon Moon to the Joshua Norton Cabal located at “a normal but untypically clean hippie hangout” which perfectly describes Greg Hill and his San Fran abode during that late-60s period chronicled in Illuminatus! (Amazon).
On page 275 the character of Doc Iggy (short for Dr. Ignotum P. Ignotius) is formerly introduced. Doc Iggy—according to Discordian lore—was the successor of Malaclypse the Younger (aka Mal-2), Omnibenevolent Polyfather of Virginity in Gold (OPVIG)—both of course being alter egos of Greg Hill, as documented in the following pronouncement dated Syaday 3136 (May 23, 1970).
As for the Joshua Norton Cabal, Greg Hill once described it this thusly:
“The 1969 Discordian Society was an exchange between independent artists of various kinds. Norton Cabal was just me and my characters and I used the other cabals as sort of a laboratory. In return, other Discordians would bounce their stuff off of me. We would toss in ideas and anybody could take anything out. It was a concept stew. Principia was my product from my perspective. Thornley, and Wilson and Shea, had other perspectives, which had substantial influence on me. It was mutual, but without the exchange each would have done something similar anyway. The exchanging of ideas and techniques broadened and encouraged all of us.”
As noted on Page 276, Emperor Joshua Norton—although a pauper—issued his own currency which some considered a joke but was just the same accepted by many businesses in old San Fran. To this end, Wilson and Shea mention a couple of anarchists—William Green and Lysander Spooner—who also tried to establish their own respective currencies but were put down by The Man.
It was in this spirit that the early Discordians came up with their own alternate currency (flaxscript) as outlined in this “statement of policy” that Greg Hill—still in his incarnation of Malaclypse the Younger—drew up in 3135 (1969).
On page 282, the Yin Revolution is mentioned in passing, which happened to be a phrase and conceptual framework that Kerry Thornley was tinkering around with in the late-60s/early-70s as found in this article from 1970 by Chairman Lao (aka Kerry Thornley) on “Yin Revolution.”
I’ve been on the road of late and so finally getting around to commenting on the most recent Illuminatus! group reading (after a couple weeks MIA) reporting from an undisclosed location somewhere in Spook Central, VA where I’m using my ipad mini to read from a kindle version of the book—and it seems that the page numbers don’t always correspond with the paperized version, hail eris!, so bear with!
Laughing Buddha Jesus (short for LBJ) was a Discordian cabal Kerry Thornley cooked up back in the day, although I don’t know if Kerry ever referred to it with a “Phallus” added to the end—as the John Dillinger character does on page 127. For those versed in the alternate Dillinger legends, perhaps the addition of “Phallus” (to the end of LBJ) is associated with rumors that Dillinger was well equipped with a massive 23-inch you-know-what that was pickled for posterity and is now hidden away in the vaults of the Smithsonian.
To this end, Dillinger identifies himself as President of Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus, Inc. (LBJP), a distributer of rock music LPs that Johnny D.—in cahoots with the Justified Ancients of Mummu (JAMS)—started as a front organization to counterattack the Illuminati’s strangle-hold on the rock music industry. In conjunction with this anti-Illuminati operation, Dillinger mentions that the LBJP had disseminated Illuminati revelations through certain unexpected channels such as The Christian Crusade, which—in “real life”—is exactly what the Discordian Society perpetrated via Operation Mindfuck (OM), a topic previously discussed here at Historia Discordia—so if you are still confused by the term “OM” (Don’t Leave OM Without It!) do a search of this site—or if all else fails, a pineal gland consultation has been known to work wonders.
Above is one of the famous Bavarian Illuminati hoax letters that RAW, Greg Hill, Thornley, et al, cooked up in the late, great Sixties. This one in particular is addressed to Rev. David Noebel who wrote a handful of somewhat provocative books (many of which inhabit my arcane library at Gorightly Hindquarters) including such startling titles as Rhythm, Riot and Revolution (Amazon) (mentioned in the Bavarian letter hoax letter)—as well as The Beatles: A Study in Drugs, Sex and Revolution (Amazon) and Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles (Amazon)—each of which includes, on their respective covers, some caricatures that bear uncanny resemblances to the Fab Four… sort of. The hoax letter, in this instance, was most likely composed by RAW (in the guise of Rev. Charles Arthur Floyd II) given the Evanston, Illinois mailing address, this during the period when RAW was under the employ of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mag in Chicago.
Although Rev. Dr. Noebel wrote the above-mentioned titles way back in the 60s, he’s apparently still hard at it, penning additional classics along these lines and preaching from his pulpit situated somewhere deep in the heart of Texas. Noebel also has a presence on facebook but when I tried to friend him a couple years back he shined me on. 🙁
Below is a snippet from a lecture by Rev. Noebel on Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, which pretty much lays out his commies-infiltrating-rock-music thesis:
On page 133, the “Norton Lodge in Frisco” is mentioned, which in the “real world” was Greg Hill’s pad in San Fran. A couple paragraphs later we see the first mention of flaxscript, an alternate form of currency that Dillinger and the JAMS are using to get over on the Illuminati’s Federal Reserve note scam, which is exactly what the real Discordians were up to when Greg Hill and his Discordian confederates—inspired by Emperor Joshua Norton (who had previously issued his own currency)—likewise followed the good Emperor’s lead with what became known as Flax Notes (or alternately, flaxscript.)
Included among those listed as taking part in this exchange of Discordian currency were Malaclypse The Younger (Greg Hill), Lord Omar (Kerry Thornley), Mungojerry (Bob McElroy), Mordecai Malignatus (RAW), Hypocrates Magoun (Robert Newport), Iona K. Fioderovna (Jeanetta Hill) and Harold Randomfactor (Tim Wheeler).
The Discordian Archives are filled with Greg Hill’s interests and hobbies. One such hobby of Hill’s was the use of simple ciphers.
Hill’s dabbling in cryptography and the promotion of secure communications is evident in this undated, but most-likely late 1960s, missive from the Joshua Norton Lodge entitled “Some Useful Information Regarding Simple Cyphers,” probably sent to his Usual Suspects zine mailing list.
In it, Hill lays out a simple algorithm that replaces the same number of characters for each letter to encrypt and decrypt a given message. So not a secure code, per se, but a simple substitution cipher, used through-out history going back to at least Julius Caesar’s reign of the Roman Empire and all the state secrets he had to secretly and securely communicate about across the World’s Most Successful Empire to keep that shit going right-as-rain on a daily basis. Julius did a pretty damn good job with his ciphers and kept things a-moving for the Empire until he got him all stabbed-up by his buddies in the Senate. Yet, his cipher lived on. Hail Caesar!
An interesting 21st Century Internet cypherdom tie-in to note is Hill’s usage of the term “cypher” vs. “cipher” in the late 1960s, a very prescient pre-cyberpunk name-styling considering the era of the original missive in the 60s and how such geek-spellings were later adopted by fringe computer users and hackers starting in the mid-to-late-80s. Whether this is a “style” choice or a simple misspelling by Hill is hard to determine. Yet, also of note, is that Hill includes a “cypher” in the Fourth Edition of the Principia Discordia on Page 00071 entitled “Discordian Society Super Secret Cryptographic Cypher Code,” a wonderful silly cryptic redundancy.
In the Principia Discordia, Hill encodes “HAIL ERIS” as the example and provides a step-by-step encryption methodolgy of the phrase that produces a nonsensical result once decrypted. In this Principia Discordia example, “HAIL ERIS” = “AEHILRS” as the decoded term. And then Hill declares, “This cryptographic cypher code is GUARANTEED TO BE 100% UNBREAKABLE.” Indeed, it is.
On a side-note, this “cypher” page of the Principia Discordia appears in the Rip-Off Press Fourth Edition with the Eye-in-the-Pyramid base pasted-on the lower-right facing outwards towards the book’s bleed, while the Loompanics Fourth Edition reproduction of the page has the Eye-in-the-Pyramid base facing inward towards that edition’s staple binding.
I’m sure this is an encoded message I have yet to decypher.
The letter includes some great Erisian Mysteries insights. Such as Shea’s back-story on how cover artist Carlos Victor (Carlos Ochagavia) learned about Illuminatus! to create the individual book covers. I find this amusing as it must have been quite an endeavor by editor Fred Feldman and the interpreter to communicate to Victor such a strange and bizarre concept, which Victor nails solidly.
Another great nugget is Shea’s admiration for the latest in 1975 photocopier tech, provided by his employer, Playboy magazine, used to photocopy the Illuminatus! book cover proofs attached to the letter.
Greg Hill had, by the time of this letter, long-ago hacked how photocopiers could be used with paste-ups to produce artwork that left no cut-marks or seams when reproduced and liberally employed this production technique for Third and Fourth Editions of the Principia Discordia. Eventually this approach was ubiquitous in the mid-to-late-80s zine scene explosion, no doubt also helped along by Kinkos’ great photocopier equipment and liberal policies of photocopy production (while looking the other way on copyright infringement).
One can imagine “Faster/Clearer/More Gradients!” as a mantra that Shea and Hill would have embraced in their pursuit of top-notch photocopier tech of the time.
The following is a draft excerpt from my forthcoming book Chasing Eris. The book documents my worldwide adventure to experience modern Discordian culture, meet its personalities, and discover elusive Erisian mysteries. —Brenton Clutterbuck
Discordia has long been immersed deeply in copyright liberation and geek culture. What you may not know though is the surprising role it played in the birth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose history begins in Austin, Texas.
Robert Anton Wilson, who I’m sure you will recall as one of the Early Discordians, released his popular The Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1975. In 1981, Steve Jackson, who published the “black cover” Principia Discordia, held discussions with freelance artist Dave Martin about adapting Illuminatus! into a game. Instead of taking on the book, due to the complexity (and, one might speculate, perhaps payment for creative rights), his company, Steve Jackson Games, began to make a game built instead on the concept of the Illuminati generally, throwing in a couple of explicit Discordian references. To play with their interest in conspiracies and Discordianism, Steve Jackson Games had on their BBS the tongue-in-cheek announcement:
Greetings, Mortal! You have entered the secret computer system of the Illuminati, the on-line home of the world’s oldest and largest secret conspiracy. 5124474449300/1200/2400BAUD fronted by Steve Jackson Games, Incorporated. Fnord.
In 1990, Steve Jackson Games was also working on another project, GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System), a system allowing players to develop role-playing scenarios of their choice. The company was developing materials for a GURPS Cyberpunk role-playing game, written predominantly by recent hire Loyd Blankenship.
In other circles, Blankenship was known as +++The Mentor+++, an experienced computer hacker. He’d moved to Austin in 1976, in grade five or six. Without knowing anyone, he began to get into computers, mostly just for the gaming. At his mother’s workplace he met a number of the system operators who maintained the PDP Mainframe, who showed him a text-based game called Star Trek, which he then convinced the operators to printout the BASIC code for him. It was through porting the game over to a CompuColor computer in the college library where he used to hang out that he first began to teach himself BASIC.
He began to break into computers when his guest password expired on the university computers he’d been using.
By 1988, Blankenship was fairly established as a hacker and attended Summercon, the longest running hacking convention in the U.S., where he spent time with The Leftist, Doom Prophet, Phantom Phreaker, Control C and Urvile/Necron 99 amongst others. Together, they became the second incarnation of a group known as the Legion of Doom.
Summercon was arranged by a hacking magazine called Phrack, established in 1985.
We jump to 1989: As well as writing the GURPS manual, Blankenship was running a Bulletin Board System called The Phoenix Project which helped to distribute Phrack, as well as participating in the Steve Jackson Games completely unrelated Bulletin Board, Illuminati.
Computers were a big thing; a new forefront for industry and crime. The government was busy with Operation Sundevil, an operation to crack down on hackers. The U.S. Secret Service also had another target in mind for an operation, technically unrelated, but still after those wascally hackers: Phrack magazine.
In 1989, the 24th edition of Phrack published the contents of a text file giving information on the E911 system. E911 is an enhanced service for handling emergency calls. These calls take place ordinarily on the public phone lines, but are managed so as to take priority over all other calls. According to a Secret Service affidavit, the file had been stolen from Atlanta telecommunications giant BellSouth by Robet J. Riggs, and was edited into a hacker tutorial by one of the Phrack founders, Craig Neidorf (Knight Lightning).
March 1, 1990: Steve Jackson Games is unexpectedly raided by members of the United States Secret Service, accompanied by Austin police and at least one civilian expert from “the phone company.” The Steve Jackson Games webpage says agents cut locks, tore open boxes, and forced open footlockers. They confiscated four computers containing GURPS Cyberpunk files, two printers, and other hardware and files.
Steve Jackson Games was told they would get their computers back “tomorrow.” In later statements, a judge said that the Secret Service could have duplicated the material they needed in between a couple of hours and eight days. Rather than the next day as promised, or eight days, the majority of confiscated material wasn’t returned for a whole four months. The majority of the GURPS Cyberpunk manual had to be reconstructed from snippets, planning and memory. Steve Jackson Games was impacted by the raid, and had to lay off nearly half their staff. Later, Judge Sam Sparks would seek to dispute the assertion that Steve Jackson Games had been nearly bankrupted by the raid.
Why did Secret Service agents target Steve Jackson Games?
The key was Loyd Blankenship. Agent Timothy Golden had based the raid of Steve Jackson Games on the fact that Loyd Blankenship was working there, ran a bulletin board system popular with hackers from his home, and also ran a completely separate BBS at Steve Jackson Games.
In response to the Steve Jackson Games case and other similar cases, John Gilmour, John Perry Barlow, and Mitch Kapor founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990. They would later, in 1993, support Steve Jackson Games in a legal battle seeking damages from the Secret Service.
When Steve Jackson Games sued the Secret Service, the judge’s comments concluded, amongst other things, that Foley had seen the “Greetings, Mortal!” message on a printout of the Illuminati BBS, and concluded, without further investigation, that this was evidence that the Illuminati BBS was a hacking space. Judge Sam Sparks added in his comments that it would have taken only hours to determine that Steve Jackson Games was a legitimate publisher, who would have been willing to cooperate with Foley’s investigation. The judge was critical of Foley, who despite being an attorney, was led to violate the Privacy Protection Act, simply by not being aware of it. Fellow Agent Golden was also unaware of this act, and when informed in the process of the seizure, that Steve Jackson Games was a gaming publishing company, did not place importance on the fact, or realize this meant his actions were illegal.
Judge Sam Sparks was scathing of the Secret Service, whose warrant, he said, did not even meet the standards set by the Secret Service itself. He criticized Foley for not creating copies of the computer content to be made available to the company, and for the impact of the case on Steve Jackson’s personal reputation.
He asked a direct question of Foley: had he considered that his actions could harm Steve Jackson economically?
Foley replied with “No, sir.”
“You actually did, you just had no idea anybody would actually go out and hire a lawyer and sue you,” replied Sparks.
Steve Jackson Games was awarded over $50,000 for damages sustained by the raid and the retention of property belonging to the company.
Riggs was sentenced to 21 months in prison for his part in stealing the E911 code.
Craig Neidorf, aka Knight Lightning, was charged, though these charges were dismissed after only 4 days with no conviction, incurring $100,000 in legal costs. This dismissal was in part due to the revelation that the stolen document which was estimated by BellSouth at a value of over $70,000, was in fact available from BellSouth unedited at a cost of $13.
Loyd Blankenship, for his part, was never charged.
[Edit 02/19/14: Jackson didn’t state himself that the choice to adapt the concept of the Illuminati mythos rather than adapting the Wilson and Shea book Illuminatus! was related to royalty costs. I’ve adapted the article to reflect this. —Clutterbuck]