"Power Without Knowledge...": President Haig and the Era of Bad Feelings

Media Matters: Looking for Lemuria
  • In this timeline, the death of George Lucas in a 1980 car crash strangled the Star Wars franchise in its cradle, depriving the world of its influence and opening the door to decades of fan speculation about what the hypothetical series may have been. They're wide off the mark, of course, but that isn't the point of this entry. Aside from its cult popularity, the major influence of Star Wars was to lay the groundwork for one of the most iconic film franchises: it's time to talk about Indiana Jones.

    Having convinced George Lucas to cast Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the role that would kickstart the actor's career, Steven Spielberg was convinced he wanted to work with Ford to honor his fallen friend. Deciding he couldn't do the Star Wars story justice, Spielberg decided (after many long conversations with Ford) to work to bring to the screen a collaborative project he had kicked around with Lucas, a homage to old adventure fiction called Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    Released in 1981 and dedicated to Lucas, the film was an instant success, propelling Ford to the height of popularity and making Indiana Jones an icon of popular culture almost overnight. The film would go on to inspire several sequels (The Temple of Doom in 1984 and The Last Crusade in 1989), a prequel television series, and a popular series of novels. And that was where the matter rested. For awhile, at least.

    In 1993, Paramount decided once again to utilize the character, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Lemuria, once more starring Ford, would be released the following year, to much critical and popular success. Set in 1943 and featuring a Japanese expedition to the lost island of Lemuria, the film had been reworked from an earlier concept involving Nazis in Atlantis, the events in South Africa at the time leading to a creative decision that using Nazis as one-note villains diminished the inherent horror of their racial policies. Despite some protest in the Japanese market, the film would be avidly popular in the Republic of China, and the franchise would go on to become a staple of the "new" country's movie theaters.

    By the late 90's, Ford would move on to other projects for a time, and (not willing to pass up on a proven moneymaker) Paramount would cast Dennis Quaid to film a prequel, in the vein of Temple of Doom. Although critics were divided on the new film, Indiana Jones and the Hex of the Hydra would go on to recoup its budget and even turn a modest profit. Once more featuring the Japanese (and marking the only time an antagonist would reappear in a second film), Hex would revolve around the search for a legendary dragon statue with mystical properties, with Brandon Lee serving as deuteragonist.

    Although he had been praised for the role, Quaid would ultimately turn down a request to film another prequel, opening the door for Ford to reprise his role in 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Industry buzz is that another film is in the works as of this writing, with popular speculation that it will continue the juxtaposition between "sequels" and "prequels". Whether there is any truth to this (or who would play the character if that were the case) remains to be seen.
     
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    Writing on the Wall: Cosmicist Symbolism
  • Although one of the most notable symbols of global Cosmicism in the modern day is the Southern Cross, this is a relatively recent addition to the movement adopted only in the wake of the Antarctic Revolutions and the foundation of the first Cosmicist commonwealth. The Cosmicist Manifesto describes only three symbols, which would be adopted as the movement grew and spread through the twenty-first century.

    • The first symbol of political Cosmicism is of course the geometric Struggle, meant to represent a stylized black hole. An interlocked enneagram, the Struggle represents several concepts at once. Most obviously it can be interpreted to represent the three partitions of the Cosmicist Manifesto, or the tripartite Volksgeist/Zeitgeist/Weltgeist model of global Cosmicist development, or on the dynamic interconnection of social and political forces in a Cosmicist society.
    Daniel Sutter also frequently referred to the symbol as reinterpreting the Eye of Providence. "Like all products of human endeavor the Manifesto was a product of the world in which it was made. I looked into the future and was horrified by what I saw. And then I had my realization, and the Struggle was looking back at me, a beacon through the fog of a fallen world. And I knew the future could be better, if only we all had the will to fight for it."​
    • Political colors are nothing new, and there are certain global commonalities, although the United States, as previously mentioned, was the most glaring exception on the world stage. Cosmicism was no exception, and a political color was needed that lacked strong associations with a competing ideology. The ultimate decision would be burgundy.
    The association of purple in ancient days with royalism and in the late Liberal stage of the Volksgeist with populism nicely symbolized the union of opposites that Cosmicists embraced, while the modern blend of ideological red and blue nicely left the color underutilized and a perfect "radical centrist" vehicle for Cosmicist Thought. When asked about the use of burgundy in particular, Sutter would remark that "To be a Cosmicist is to seek simultaneously to learn from the past and to reach out eagerly for the future. We are all mariners adrift in a wine-dark sea."​
    • Animal symbols for global ideologies are comparatively unusual, but given the fact that Sutter had his epiphany during the 2020 election, it is somewhat less surprising given that the five (or six or seven...) parties contesting the election all had animal symbols. The animal adopted as a perfect representation of Cosmicist Thought would be the octopus, long used, in a dose of knowing irony, in the popular consciousness for sinister, grasping, nebulous forces.
    In stark contrast, the Cosmicist Manifesto drew heavily on the octopus for an entire chapter as a symbol of ideal social organization. Sutter would extoll the octopus repeatedly. "With a brain partially distributed in its limbs, the octopus, like the ideal state, is decentralized and able to better manage a body, material or civic, that under a centralized control would be unwieldly."​

    In another segment he would describe octopus skin as a "a shifting, swirling kaleidoscope of color- just as every cell is capable of changing independently to serve the needs of the body as a whole, so to does each citizen of the body politic grow and change. As they explore themselves and reach for the limit of their potential, they too form a unified whole, all struggling together for a brighter world."​
     
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    Ride the Tiger: The Birth of the Second Republic
  • Hu Yaobang had passed away at the tail end of the Year of Calamity, a final momentous event in an already historic year, and less than a year on the Chinese national program was grinding to a halt. Having struggled at the end of his life to effectively marshall the government of the PRC to enact a broadly popular series of reforms, Hu's death would see the aspects of his agenda he had been able to force through begin too erode. For the dissatisfied masses it was a bridge to far. The people exploded.

    As long suppressed regions made moves to strike out on their own, the Communist Party, discredited in the eyes of the public, collapsed in the face of truly staggering waves of mass unrest. Pulled in too many different directions at once and with elements of the security apparatus and other organs of state moving to consolidate their own fiefdoms, the center could not hold. The work of decades was (in a historical blink of an eye) unsustainable. It would fall to the late General Secretary's son to attempt to right the ship of state.

    Attempting to ride the wave of goodwill that still existed for his late father, Hu Deping had no interest in trying to somehow become General Secretary of a dying Communist Party, instead arguing for a constitutional convention, making a forceful public case that attempting to reform a sclerotic system had been the hammerblow that had killed his father, and that rebuilding the state from the grassroots was the only way to improve the lives of the Chinese people. The Chinese reform movement had a new face.

    Calling themselves the Chinese Constitutionalist Party, the younger Hu's supporters began actively pressuring government officials at all levels of government. By 1994 the writing was on the wall, and a constitutional convention would usher in the Chinese Second Republic. Although multiparty democracy was enshrined in the new state, the Communist party was a pale shadow of its former self, the Constitutional Party instead wielding a commanding mandate. The newly free market would be quickly consolidated under an oligarchy of former government actors, but for the first time in a long time the Chinese people had a say in their government.

    After domestic matters had settled sufficiently, newly elected President Hu began looking outward. Although the Republic of China had lost Tibet in the transition, that could wait for a later time. The major foreign policy focus of Hu's first term as President would be two-fold:
    1. In the nearer term, China would seek to prevent foreign meddling in the concurrent collapse of the Juche regime. The result of several horrific famines, a transition-related interruption in Chinese relief supplies, and a military coup, Hu's government would win plaudits for preventing what might have been a smaller scale mirror to the South Africa situation. Although North Korea remains the poorest nation in the region, Chinese backing has at least kept the fragile political situation stable to the present day.
    2. The far more valuable long term goal would see the Republic adopt a strategy of diplomatically pursuing the reintegration of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan with the mainland, which would ultimately succeed before the turn of the millennium as a result of several referenda and bilateral agreements made more palatable by the Second Republic's embrace of Western concepts of personal and political rights. This democratic bonhomie, alas, was not to last.
     
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    Media Matters: Finches in the Coal Mine
  • "Looking back it's clear that it was an influx of foreign talent that really saved the company. I'm not necessarily saying that about myself, of course, I'd been living in the US for a few years by the time our international recruitment strategy really began in earnest, after all! Brain drain from the Soviets was a major early source, of course, but I'd been able to reach out to a few friends who didn't care for the Kaap and were looking for work and one thing led to another. Later emigrants from China would be a welcome addition to the team, but we were back on our feet by then. There really was a sense that we could do anything, and we owe it all to the first Condor computer and (between you and me) to Darwinia."
    - Atari Corp. CEO Elon Musk in a wide ranging 2019 interview, the bulk of which would revolve around his support for a variety of DecoSec projects.

    The Atari Condor would be prove to be a sea change to the company's fortunes in the wake of an exceptionally turbulent decade, the sole bright point of which had been the widespread popularity of the Lynx handheld console. Released in 1995, the Condor would be the latest from Atari's computer division, improving on its Falcon predecessor in every technical respect. To help boost interest, the company had secured several video game exclusives for the device, but the one that stood out from all the rest was Darwinia.

    A first-person shooter, Darwinia revolved around an unnamed protagonist in what is implied to be the mid-forties discovering a derelict underground city in a cavern in the Pacific Northwest. In the game's immersive lore, the city of Avalon had been constructed before the turn of the century as an experiment in social darwinism by an industrial magnate. The player was tasked with surviving the degenerated citizens still living in the ruins, and with discovering the secrets of the city and its decline.

    Darwinia was acclaimed for its sophisticated gameplay elements but especially for the thorough and well crafted world the game presented, and for the mature story that it sought to tell. Many critics saw the game as a vehicle for an ecological or even (gasp!) Regressive message, especially with the reveal late in the game that the troglodytic citizens the player had fought up to that point had never been human, instead the result of initially nonthreatening cave bats rapidly adapting to aggressive human expansion in their ecosystem. This impossibly rapid evolution was explained away in-story as the result of a form of parasitic fungus.

    Popular enough to spawn several imitators, plans for an official sequel for the game would fall through repeatedly. An adaptation would be produced in 2005 to celebrate the 20th anniversary, designed to be run on the company's Panther III console. The resurgent interest in the IP by a new generation of critics and gamers would finally lead to a sequel. Darwinia 2 featured the same protagonist as its predecessor, but revolved around another failed utopian project in a different part of the world. When questioned, the game's design team admitted the change in venue and political focus had been decided partially in reaction to the original game's "peripheral fan base".

    It is a wellspring of irony that the Regressive movement, built as it is on an idealized counterindustrialism, was often incredibly technically sophisticated in both its recruitment and in several acts of terrorism, but the adulation for Darwinia among a notably racialist fraction of the movement must be acknowledged. How a lunatic fringe could have completely misunderstood the message of the game and conflated both the violent natural response to industrial intrusion and the vitriolic racism of that despoiling force is anyone's guess, but it would be that combination that would attract the attention of the Perot administration.
     
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    Writing on the Wall: Ultima Unbound
  • The urge to ascribe human attributes to nonhuman objects and forces has deep roots within the history of the species, and one interesting permutation of this impulse is the idea of a "national personification". From Columbia to Brittania to Marianne the tradition was quite robust into the dawn of the modern age, and as a movement that placed a concerted emphasis on harmonizing the stability of traditions and rituals with the mad dash toward a flowering future it is no surprise that the Cosmicist faction among the revolutionaries would construct a national personification to embody the new Commonwealth and the people of the southern continent.

    Conceptually, Ultima resembles a liberated variation of the Galatea myth and the Frankenstein story. In the Cosmicist conception, by transporting people to Antarctica in the first place Macondo Technologies had created a rootless and restive population, in effect carving a virgin continent into the amalgamated society that would ultimately topple the corporation's hold and usher in the world's first Cosmicist state. Originally simply called Galatea, as the concept was refined over the course of the revolution the name would be changed to Ultima, speaking to the isolation of the new land and the necessity for solidarity among its people.

    When represented in art, Ultima is traditionally portrayed as a stark white figure, meant to symbolize the poetic virgin Antarctica irrevocably destroyed before the rise of the Commonwealth. Her eyes are typically shown to be orbs of solid burgundy, and in place of hair she is depicted with flowing locks of tentacles. A Southern Cross is occasionally emblazoned on her forehead. The most famous representation of Ultima is the colossal monument on New Nantucket known as "Ultima Unbound", where she is depicted tall and strong, staring out to sea and armed with the two symbols of the Commonwealth government proper: a harpoon, representing bounty and defense, and sextant symbolizing discovery.
     
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    The Yellow Rose: The Perot Administration Abroad
  • In the wake of his election victory, Ross Perot became the first third party candidate to ascend to the presidency. This fact, though remarkable, would in the end hinder rather than help the new administration. There was no way around it. Although the Reform Party had been created going in to the '92 elections to support Perot's bid for the Executive, the fact that the party was so young showed badly in the Legislative Branch, where Reform had the smallest number of seats in both chambers. This would be the first of several outside realities that would begin to chip away at the president's base of support.

    Despite a desire to focus on internal issues, Perot's first term was consumed almost completely with the foreign legacy of the Hague Doctrine. With the Soviet sphere on the upswing, Regression gaining ground abroad and South Africa still in the process of disintegration, it was clear the administration would need to choose its battles. Engaging with the Unfree World would be a massive distraction and the Regressives were too fractious to pose a true threat to the Heartland, so the humanitarian crisis in South Africa would be the spot where the US would stick its oar in.

    By the mid-nineties, South Africa had clearly partitioned into the USS-aligned Union of Azania in the east and the US-adjacent Kaap in the west, with both sides engaging in retaliatory actions against "problematic" ethnicities and religious groups. Within the administration the thinking went that if a unified South Africa was already a lost cause then a good faith effort to make the separation amicable could both staunch the bleeding and create a bit of genuine goodwill toward America abroad as a bonus. This ambitious idea was helped along by Soviet distraction in Europe and Asia, giving Azania a bit of a freer hand to come to the negotiating table. Over the course of the contentious Camp David Summit of 1993, both sides would agree to a long list of terms in order to normalize relations, the two most crucial of which were:
    1. Azania and the Kaap would each recognize the formal existence of the other, as well as abandon any claims to former South African territory outside of the present borders.
    2. A bilateral Commission on Resettlement would be established to facilitate voluntary population transfers between the two states. Anyone wishing to emigrate from one to the other would be compensated for any immovable property at a fair rate established by the Commission.
    Not a perfect system, by any means, but it had the short term effect of stopping the bloodshed. As detailed previously quite a few unwilling to live in either the rabidly conservative Kaap or Soviet-backed Azania would just throw their hands up and immigrate to the United States. As for the Commission, it exists to the present day, having peacefully overseen the resettlement of several waves of voluntary* population transfers.

    *For a given value of "voluntary", and a somewhat nebulous understanding of "fair compensation"
     
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    The Yellow Rose: The Contract with America
  • Although his first term was largely dominated by the foreign policy fallout of the Haig years and the unfolding bifurcation in the former South Africa, it is important to realize that a large part of the appeal that propelled a political newcomer to the highest office in the land was his focus on domestic issues. The "successful" resolution of the South Africa crisis finally freed up the administration's focus for a series of policies that the president had in '92 called "my contract with America".

    Officially the full platform of the first generation Reform Party, the Contract with America was a large collection of planks with a varying level of specifics and policy intricacy, so we will analyze three specific proposals with the largest impact. In particular we will discuss the push to limit partisanship at the state level, a focus on technological development, and a promise to dismantle the web of police powers abused during the Third Red Scare.

    Although the first position would be looked upon as a partial success at best (especially with hindsight given the final Reform Party administration), the fact that it was a matter of state level political organization meant that progress would be continuous even with the South African distractions at the federal level. Simply put, then-candidate Perot had argued that the country was being not only ill-served but actively harmed by a duopoly on power between the reactionary Republicans and the floundering Democrats. He argued that the only way to restore lasting sanity to the political system was to limit the effects of partisanship, and the Contract proposed that the Reform Party would accomplish this through fighting at the state level to:
    • Split the allocation of electoral votes, to ensure voters in diverse states have a voice in government
    • Install nonpartisan commissions to draw election districts, because competitive districts encourage compromise
    • The adoption of Instant Runoff Voting, to eliminate the spoiler effect and give minor parties a greater ability to represent the will of the voters.
    While minor parties would join with Reform to push for these changes, critics within the two major parties would argue (not baselessly) that the moves were meant simply to entrench Reform at their expense. The three measures would be adopted around the country in fits and starts in the coming decades, but the fact that the "nonpartisan commission districting" was by far the least adopted proposal, combined with the drastic shifts over time in the Reform Party, would spell disaster in the wake of the 2016 election.

    Moving on to federal matters, the early push for state electoral reforms would see a surge of Reform congressmen in 1994, helping to secure funding for technological investment and research. Viewing the Haig focus on the old methods of the Cold War to have been short-sighted and unthinking given the Year of Catastrophe, Perot argued in the 1994 State of the Union that "only a focus on the technologies of the future [could] give the United States an edge going forward into a new century". Originally proposed as a (comparatively) modest series of grants and loans to technology startups (with Macondo Technologies being an early beneficiary), following a victory in the 1996 elections the administration actually put forward the idea for a new federal executive department, the Department of Technology, though any such dreams would collapse in the wake of the fallout from what the media would dub "the Regressive Roundup".

    Although he had won his second term primarily as a result of the successful handling of South Africa (and for not getting the United States into a shooting war with the Soviets in the process), the pressing national security concern would be domestic for the remainder of Perot's time in office. The simple fact was that while the government had been distracted abroad, going all the way back to the Haig Doctrine, the Regressive Movement had been radicalizing in America, growing in strength in isolated compounds and communes, joining the military for combat experience and weapons training, and even widely circulating Industrial Devolution and other manifestos on college campuses. Then the bombings started.

    The targets would vary, but were usually factories, industrial plants or extractive industries. The demographics of the perpetrators would vary, but there were more men than women, regardless of race, and they were committed radical Regressives. There was always propaganda published in their wake. And despite promises to the contrary, Perot would be forced to rely on the same informal network within the government to crack down on the perpetrators and fellow travelers alike. The problem, as during the Haig years, was that the definition of "fellow travelers" was a ludicrously broad one. When isolated religious communities came under scrutiny at the edges of the crackdown the Republicans in Congress had had enough, railing against Perot for the "restriction of religious liberty". The Grand Old Party would be joined with a smattering of Democrats still bitter about '92 to pass a series of censures of the President.

    It was a stunning rebuke, which combined with a thundering cry of "Promises Broken!" would do serious harm to Perot's standing within the party he himself had founded going in to the 2000 election cycle. The irony that it was the Republican caucus arguing for the limitation of the Haig era police powers would not be lost on critics of the next adminstration, though the largest international impact of the Roundup would undoubtedly be the exodus of Heaven's Gate.
     
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    Media Matters: Beyond Re-Animator
  • The concept of the "shared world in film", today something of a bandwagon, has it's roots in the first half of the twentieth century in the Universal Monsters franchise. Although successful for many years and a fountain is sequels, crossovers and a cultural legacy that stretches to the modern day, it would not be until the 1980s that the financial concept would be attempted again with any success. And it would be a complete accident.

    Released in 1985 and starring Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator (adapted from the titular Lovecraft story) would become a smash success, blending impressive practical horror effects with comedy in a way that would make this the model of what the later shared world project would hope to achieve. Originally a standalone film, director Stuart Gordon would follow up his success with From Beyond in 1986, also starring Combs in a new role, while the original would receive a sequel by Brian Yuzna, 1990's Bride of Re-Animator.

    The trio of Gordon, Yuzna and Combs had clearly stumbled upon a valuable niche if public reception to the three films was anything to go by, and in the spirit of auteur experimentation that had been growing in the film industry in the wake of Dune, decided to go into business for themselves. Securing the rights to From Beyond and the two Re-Animator films, Miskatonic Studios was born, and with it the first of the modern cinematic universes.

    The formula the new studio looked to execute was fairly simple, focusing on adapting the works of HP Lovecraft with a blending of horror and comedy, the use of practical effects, the recycling of a core pool of actors*, and a focus on a contemporary setting. The centerpiece of the Miskatonic Cycle would be the titular university, serving as a central vehicle linking all the strange scientific and occult goings on that would feature in the series. The Necronomicon would also feature prominently in later installments, and Re-Animator characters Herbert West and Dr. Hill also reappear several times (often after implied deaths in their previous appearances).

    Aside from the first three films, the Cycle would also consist of adaptations of The Color Out of Space, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Pickman's Model, The Shadow Out of Time, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, a duology of Indy-esque adventure films revolving around Randolph Carter, and The Call of Cthulhu**. Also crucial to the series would be the two Necronomicon films, each adapting three Lovecraft short stories and relayed through the framing device of how Lovecraft himself (played by Combs) acquired the titular grimoire and relayed it to Miskatonic University.

    Lasting two decades, the Miskatonic Cycle would go on to prove an immense commercial and critical success, though awards would be few and far between. Widely seen as the main driver of the popularization of Lovecraftian horror, it's difficult to see how the historically marginalized author could have achieved his modern level of pop culture exposure otherwise. Although the two shared universes couldn't be more different, Guillermo del Toro has cited the films as a great personal pleasure of his, and at the core of what made him try his own hand at the shared world concept.

    *A running gag in the series involves Herbert West being mistaken for deceased characters played by his actor.
    **The list is out of order but Cthulhu Rises serves as the final film in the series, released on the 20th anniversary of Re-Animator. Dr. Hill serves as Cthulhu's head cultist, having gotten his hands on the Necronomicon at the end of Dunwich.
     
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    ¡Viva Posadas!: The Final Fate of Heaven's Gate
  • Arising out of the increased environmental degradation of the Haig years, the religious movement known as "Steward Theology" would revolve around the responsibility of the faithful to build up, protect, and preserve the environment as the central call of their ministry. Growing through the latter decades of the twentieth century, Steward Theology would see growth in two important directions. The major development would be the spread of the environmental Steward emphasis to a broad array of faith traditions, an interfaith alliance that has grown and thrived to the modern day.

    During the Regressive Roundup, however, the noticable handful of Regressive groups dabbling in religious fundamentalism would be used by those opposed to Stewardship to tar the movement with a rather dark brush. Although the movement would be absolved of any ties to Regressivism after the fact, the damage in the short term was done, though the backlash to Perot's suppression of civil liberties would ironically cause elements of Steward Theology to enter the mainstream of American religious thought by 1999. Whatever else it was, however, Heaven's Gate would be drastically outside of the mainstream.

    Originally founded in 1974 by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles (who would later die in 1985), the group that would later be called Heaven's Gate relied on a syncretic belief system blending belief in extraterrestrials, science fiction, Christian eschatology, and left-wing counterculture. Although they were not a part of the Steward school of theology (or even of the Regressive movement), the intense scrutiny isolated religious groups were exposed to in the second Perot term would nonetheless provoke the Heaven's Gate group into fleeing the country, reportedly with an FBI investigation in their wake.

    For his part Applewhite claimed in 1995 to have had a vision of aliens telling them to abandon America in search of a new chosen people in preparation for an event of astronomical significance. Given the investigation and the left leaning orientation of the group it should come as no surprise that Heaven's Gate would wash up in Cuba seeking asylum from the United States. Even their strange religious beliefs could be tolerated under a new policy of vanguard pluralism, even if Applewhite was seriously discouraged from proselytizing. It would be in Cuba that Applewhite would discover Posadism.

    With a focus on aliens and nuclear war, the unusual Trotskyist variant known as Posadism had been making an interesting resurgence in Cuba under the newly pluralistic party line, and the comingling of Applewhite's theology and J. Posadas' theories would allow him to spread his message without technically proselytizing his faith. The group would begin to attract a large number of skilled and educated Cuban members, among them several doctors and researchers at the nation's hospitals and universities.

    When the time was right and the group had grown strong Applewhite revealed the true extent of the vision the aliens had shown him: on March 22, 1997 the comet Hale-Bopp would pass closest to the Earth. Actually an alien spacecraft belonging to an advanced race, the comet would take the group and other specially prepared souls on a journey to experience the true realization of Marxist-Posadist communism out among the cosmos.

    They had six months to prepare. Of special note was the method of purification: using radiation to cleanse the spirit for its long journey. How best to prepare? How best to ensure that as many good comrades as possible could come with them? The answer seemed so simple. In the lead up to the promised day members of the group worked feverishly to gain access to the the chemicals they would need, along with the more exotic ingredients. By the time they had enough, the time had come. Using radioactive materials carefully skimmed from the radiology wards of Havana's hospitals, the members of Heaven's Gate would all commit suicide on the promised day, many at the hands of radioisotope laced punch. As for Applewhite and his inner circle, they would die in more spectacular fashion...

    ...by setting off a dirty bomb in the heart of Havana.
     
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    A Horse of a Different Color: Reform 2.0!
  • Although 1996 would see another massive surge in the number of Reform partisans in the halls of Congress, increasing dissatisfaction with Perot within the party in the wake of his censuring would prevent the president from using all this newfound legislative muscle, with the 1998 midterms seeing Perot-aligned Reformers taken out in primary challenges by those looking to take the party beyond its status as a vehicle for one man's ambitions. Ironically this would make the party merely a vehicle for a different man's ambitions but that's politics.

    With a long history of consumer advocacy and a solid public image, Ralph Nader looked like the perfect member of the party for dissatisfied members to rally behind. Having served as the Reform Senator from Connecticut since 1994, Nader became the unofficial leader of the Reform movement in the Legislature, especially as Perot's image began to decline. With the 2000 election a stone's throw away, it would come down to fierce choice between radically different wings of the party.

    For his part the President would support his son and namesake during the Reform primaries, if unofficially, though the sting of the censuring would keep the bid from catching fire. Although there were other minor candidates for the party's top spot, in reality the primaries boiled down to a two way contest between two radical visions of the party. Seeking a vehicle to attack the Republicans from the right for disavowing aspects of the Haig Doctrine, Pat Buchanan had officially switched parties, seeking to use Reform as a cudgel for the conservative movement.

    Buchanan's opposite in nearly every way, Nader campaigned on a far more progressive platform of consumer rights influenced by his adoption of Steward Theology. Going into the convention unusually tightly matched, it was time for a Hail Mary play to clinch the nomination, and it was in that spirit that Nader reached out to Reform also-ran John Hagelin. The presidential candidate of Natural Law Party, a vehicle for the Transcendental Meditation movement, Hagelin had simultaneously sought to secure the Reform Party nomination in the hopes of winning the White House. Following the collapse of Perot (the Younger)'s chances Hagelin had even attracted the support of the Perot wing of the party unable to support Buchanan and not yet ready to support Nader.

    A deal was struck. In return for inserting a bit of NLP orthodoxy into the Reform platform and offering him the position of vice president, Hagelin would bring his and Perot's delegates over to Nader's side, and ensure that his NLP voted Reform in the 2000 election. It was an agreeable compromise to everyone except Buchanan, who would carry a chip on his shoulder from what he declared "Nader's corrupt bargain" for the rest of his political career. It would also bolster the latent strain of mystical thinking that had been part of Reform since the New Alliance had joined the fold, a strain that would shift and metastasize in the new century.
     
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    Totally Radical!: Y2K and the Great Leap Backward
  • As mentioned in prior chapters, the Regressive movement in the 1990s was simultaneously picking up steam and attracting an unusually technically literate crop of revolutionaries given the core of the ideology's vision for society in the wake of their final victory. Nowhere were these dual trends more apparent than the lead up to the new millennium...

    Y2K was something of a small scale panic based on a misunderstanding of computer systems. Rooted in an error that could arise based on the way the calendar year 2000 would be interpreted by computer programs, the actual scale of the problem would be relatively minor, requiring coding changes to correct. "Relatively", in this case, compared to the fringe interpretation of the problem.

    Anti-government groups and other radicals began loudly fear mongering as Y2K approached, declaring that the error would destroy global computer networks, or even that this one small computing error could accidentally spark a nuclear war and total civilizational collapse. Naturally it was this turn of events that was being championed by the most extreme, from far right Regressives in US and Europe to the Posadists that remained in hiding in the Soviet sphere following the crackdown in the wake of Heaven's Gate*.

    The primary issue was that some of the more intelligent Regressives understood that Y2K was actually far more boring and less likely to collapse society than the more rabid traffickers of the theory believed. According to the prosecution's argument presented at the "Trial of the Century" for the Regressive cell that would call itself the Superpredators, this group had sought to develop a slate of incredibly effective malware with the intent of infecting specific critical systems in the wake of Y2K. The theory went that, with the panic of the actual new millennium having proved unfounded, the government and the public would let down their guard in the aftermath, creating a vulnerability the group could exploit.

    In the end all their plans came to an undramatic end, with one of the peripheral programmers getting cold feet and turning the entire cell in to the government in exchange for immunity from conspiracy and terrorism charges. Disaster averted the nation did in fact breath a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that domestic Regressive groups were decidedly on the back foot, though the sensation of the trial would later be seen as a definite influence on the 2000 election.

    *"Vanguard pluralism has it's limits, m'kay?"- Moscow probably
     
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    Heartland
  • Having decided that fiction writing was a time-tested way to model political and social ideas, Daniel Sutter created a companion piece to his Cosmicist Manifesto in the form of an alternate history novel he would title Heartland. A fairly standard detective story in terms of basic plot, Heartland was more notable for its setting, blending a thoroughly alien 20th century with fantastical elements meant to serve as a critique of what he perceived to be the state of the early 21st century world in which he was writing.

    Revealed gradually in asides and short supplemental materials scattered throughout the novel, the divergence point for the world of Heartland is eventually revealed to be Henry George winning the 1886 New York Mayoral election on behalf of the United Labor Party. Although unable to properly exercise his platform, his sheer visibility is able to elevate Geoism at home and abroad, creating an ideological current that would have drastic repercussions.

    The ULP victory ultimately butterflies away Teddy Roosevelt's selection as VP, while William McKinley is never assassinated. The two McKinley terms see an increase in the intensity of the Philippine-American War, creating a spreading instability that engulfs the entire East Indies, destabilizing the balance of Great Power politics in the process. The Democrats eventually mount a successful presidential run, with William Jennings Bryan elevated to the Executive in 1904 and 1908. Opposed bitterly by his ideological opponents Bryan is succeeded in 1912 by William Randolph Hearst on the Independence Party ticket.

    Aside from serious metaphysical events[1] the Hearst presidency would see the crystalization of the European Quasi-War between two alliance structures: the increasingly Geoist Central Powers[2] and the increasingly Vitalist Entente[3]. A period of intense diplomatic maneuvering and colonial proxy wars, the Quasi-War would never erupt into open hostility on the European continent but would provide a new axis of alignment in the hopelessly polarized United States, with the post Hearst political environment divided between a United Labor Party advocating free trade and Geoist economics and a crypto-Vitalist Prohibition Party swollen with opponents to George's theories and increasingly turning to anti-federalism as a vehicle for cultural dominance.

    This state of affairs would only accelerate, leading to the rise of the National Union movement attempting to create a third position, the erosion of the powers of the national government, the growth of continental shared identities and the creation of an alternate 1984[4] that serves as the starting point of the actual plot of the novel.

    [1]-There's a lot to unpack with this so it'll probably be a separate entry at some point.

    [2]-Germany OTL has at least two examples of imposing Georgism on its colonies to prevent rampant land speculation. In a timeline where George is more prominent the ideology's focus on tax reforms and free trade spreads back to Germany proper and from there to its allies, creating a large bloc linked together into a single massive trade zone.

    [3]-Arising as a critique of Geoism TTL, Vitalism focuses on tariffs and trade protections as a guarantor of national sovereignty and values ethnic self-determination and even regional devolution, with the members of the Entente having devolved self-government to colonial subjects to prevent the sorts of instability seen in the East Indies.

    [4]-Sutter, being a product of the timeline within which he does his writing, is alluding to the death of Reagan and the Era of Bad Feelings as the root cause of the world political order he is critiquing. As we have seen however the actual POD is in 1978, with the Haig administration a symptom rather than a cause.
     
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    Heartland: People and Politics
  • Okay, here's the alternate party systems that evolve in the Heartland story nested within my Power Without Knowledge concept:

    Fourth Party System (1896-1916): A period that would mark the decline and eclipse of the Democratic and Republican parties, the Fourth Party System would be defined by the electoral conflict between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan, each serving for two consecutive terms. Domestically the Fourth Party system revolved around issues of corporate monopolies and citizen's rights, while internationally the Philippine-American War spiralled into the so called "Insurgency Wars" that would rage throughout the East Indies and attract the full attention of an otherwise increasingly isolationist America. The decline of the Fourth Party System would come about through the rise of the...
    • Independence Party: An electoral vehicle for William Randolph Hearst[1], the Independence Party sought to capture populist impulses that Hearst believed were not being catered to, citing the quagmire of the Insurgency Wars and playing on the extreme backlash to Bryan's attempt to implement national Prohibition. Advocating a radical populism that sought to bypass what the party called "the machine politicians", the Hearst administration would coincide with currents among the electorate to seize the power to choose political candidates away from party functionaries. Ironically this populism would be Hearst's undoing, with the backlash to his other foreign and domestic policies exacerbating the rise of the ULP and the end of the Fourth Party System.
    Fifth Party System (1916-1948): With the Democratic and Republican parties essentially powerless in the wake of the radical populism that led to the end of the Fourth Party System, and with the Independence Party disintegrating without Hearst on the ticket, the new Fifth Party System would be dominated by issues of the scope of government authority and one's position toward the European Quasi-War[2]. This period would see increasingly toxic partisanship and dramatic shifts in policy as power shifted rapidly through increasingly contested elections, leading some historians to alternatively refer to the period as the Culture Struggle, taken from the German term Kulturkampf.
    • United Labor Party: The election of Henry George as New York Mayor in 1886[3] would be the beginning of the marginalization of Marxism within the United Labor Party, and by the time of it's ascendence it would be wholly Geoist, advocating for free trade, tax reform, a formal alliance with the also Central Powers, and an end to the growing tide of isolationism. Advocating for a strong central government, the party argued that devolving too much power to the states lead to the persecution of dissenters of whatever description.
    • Prohibition Party: Following the failure to adopt the 17th Amendment[4], the Prohibition Party would withdraw all support from the Bryan Administration, shifting focus to opposing the rising, labor focused (and therefore "un-American") and increasingly ethnic ULP, eventually becoming the bastion of WASP culture in the United States. Transitioning to a new focus on states rights to advance the moral priorities of its constituency, the Prohibition Party would lobby for a weak and isolationist federal government, protective trade, and an affiliation (never "alliance") with the increasingly decentralized Entente.
    Sixth Party System (1948-1984): Through the period of the Culture Struggle the rapid shifts between Geoism and Vitalism at the national stage produced intense gridlock and dissatisfaction with the political system, though it would produce interesting and long lasting changes at the local level. Vitalist rhetoric had led to the unintended growth of informal political and cultural identities that transcended not only the state governments but also the US-Canadian border. It would be these shared identities that would give rise to a new organization, the Continental Congress, a lobbying organization and forum for these new cultural units to interact among themselves. Almost wholly removed from international affairs, North America under the grips of the American National[5] Union Party and the Canadian Social Credit Party[6] has seen the withering away of not only the ULP's centralized federalism but also the Prohibitionist's strong statism, ceding territory to regionalism that transcends traditional boundaries.
    • National Union Party: Ushered into power by the 1948 election of President William Goodale[7], the National Union Party would attempt to chart a third position between Geoism and Vitalism through a political theory Goodale called Vajraism. Inspired by Anthroposophy, Vajraism divided society into three spheres, political ("Community"), social ("Identity") and economic ("Stability"). While presented as a salve for the nation's wounds in the wake of the Culture Struggle all this has done is created two geographically distinct factions within the party (the western Natural Alliance and the Eastern People's Coalition) and left everyone vulnerable to corporations playing one group against another.
    [1]-Given altered international events Hearst in 1912 has a blend of his OTL reformist early politics and his post-WWI conservative politics.

    [2]-"European" being an increasingly outdated modifier. With both the Geoist Central Powers and the Vitalist Entente spreading their respective systems to their colonies and expanding their membership into other theaters the Quasi-War is the defining ideological split of TTL's 20th century, though actual conflict is limited to diplomatic maneuvering, economic leverage and colonial proxy wars.

    [3]-The timeline's POD, butterflying away Teddy Roosevelt's stint as VP in the process.

    [4]- National Prohibition. Ironically the fact that votes for women came after prohibition was put to the question is probably what doomed it in the first place.

    [5]- "National" in this context meaning "cultural". There's an understood nuance between "country" and "nation" TTL, with the NUP coming down firmly on the side of the latter, to the point that "Separate But Equal" is the motto of the Continental Congress.

    [6]- With no World War I, Social Credit arises slightly differently but still catches on in Canada. As in OTL, the more exotic reforms at the provincial level are prevented by the national government, leading to a shift to Prohibitionist-influenced provincial devolution arguments, creating a similar slippery slope to that seen in the alternate US. By the time 1948 comes around National Union and the Socreds are essentially two different masks for the same weird thing.

    [7]-Less noxious than OTL but still prone to mysticism and convoluted race theories.
     
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    Heartland: Metaphysics and Cosmogony
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    Writing on the Wall: An Introduction to Cosmicist Economics
  • Considered a school of the Heterodox Economic System, Cosmicist economics draws from a broad pool of earlier theories in its program for a political economy. For the sake of clarity the positions of the school will be summarized on a variety of topics.

    "Class" Struggle- Foundationally a class-collaborationist ideology in the classic sense, Sutter in his Cosmicist Manifesto describes the central struggle of the movement as one between what he called "cultural networks" rather than traditional social classes, one parasitic and the other under siege.
    • Sutter saw the Kyriarchy as a decentralized network of the powerful who exploited that power at the expense of the the downtrodden and of future generations. Sutter did not claim that there was any sort of global system to accomplish this deliberately, but rather that "... even though they may be on the surface ideological enemies, oligarchal populists of every stripe share the same mold. They do not work together to achieve their aims because they don't have to, the reality that each divergent group is pursuing power at the expense of the Precariat produces the society in decay we characterize as Nihilism". The fact that the Kyriarchy cultural network depends by nature on social, economic, and political exploitation means that members of any traditional social class can slip into the Kyriarchy, even if only as useful idiots and hired guns.
    • As the target audience of the Manifesto, Sutter wryly defined the Precariat as "... anyone who would fall into poverty with an unexpected bill." At its most basic an expansion of the concept of the lumpenproletariat, Sutter argued that ecological shifts and the resulting economic uncertainty expanded the threat of precarity to previously safe groups and traditionally bourgeoise social classes. Although the Precariat was not organized as a social class at the time of writing, one of the goals of the Cosmicist Manifesto was to provide an ideological framework for a new class consciousness.
    Factors of Production- Drawn from Georgism and Social Credit theory, Cosmicism defines four factors of production, namely land, labor, capital and culture. Under a fully realized Cosmicist program:
    • At its root, land can be rented, even generationally, but not owned indefinitely. A Cosmicist government must always balance a desire to use land productively with a moral imperative to preserve and sustain the extant biosphere and cultural heritage of the cradle of humanity.
    • Although labor is crucial to society at large, the Cosmicist program acknowledges that developments in automation have permanently hollowed out the the traditional proletarian class. Favoring a decentralization of labor, Cosmicism argues that the average person should be provided the means to live and survive, and the opportunity to further the pursuit of their passions and skills to enrich the unified human culture.
    • A prime source for the growth and furtherance of the Kyriarchy, capital is nonetheless retained as a valuable source of influence and self expression within the culture. A slippery term with a variety of meanings, Cosmicism regards capital simultaneously as "the market" and "the accumulation of wealth". Through the Dividend, the Precariat is given the means to participate in the market, while the strategic use of taxes, fines and fees allows the Commonwealth to prevent the radical accumulation of wealth that so often led to the growth of the Kyriarchy.
    • In many ways the most crucial factor of production within Cosmicism is culture, with both a backward and forward emphasis. Looking backward, Cosmicism regards the entirety of human history and development as the so-called "universal toolkit", a source of understanding and a valuable resource moving forward into an uncertain future. As such, the Cosmicist program argues for a sustained investment in historical, cultural and archeological study for the sake of expanding the toolkit. Looking forward, a good Cosmicist understands that any person may be capable of furthering the toolkit, and supports the Dividend to give everyone the opportunity to create and express themselves to the best of their ability.
    Taxation and Spending- As an HES school, Cosmicist economics argues that taxation follows spending rather than vice versa. Instead of the traditional model of the government levying taxes in order to finance programs, the HEC argues that a sovereign currency producer can issue any amount of currency (limited primarily by inflation), so long as there is faith in the stability of that government and therefore the ability to service the resulting debts. Rather than a means to pay for government operations, Cosmicist taxation is primarily viewed as a method for simultaneously reducing inflationary pressures (by removing excess purchasing power from the economy), forestalling the concentration of wealth (by taxing the inheritance of the same), and by punishing activity that threatens ecological sustainability and cultural heritage (through fines and fees, with robust government enforcement).

    The Dividend- Unlike many other HEC advocates, Cosmicist economists wholeheartedly support the concept of the Social Dividend, arguing that providing an economic cushion for the population is the surest path forward to further the goals of social stability, self-expression and the enrichment of the culture. Rather than give every citizen the Dividend in hard currency, it is common Cosmicist practice to divide it into two partitions, both paid digitally to government-issued bank cards and disbursed monthly in staggered groups. Regardless of the ratio between the two, it is a standard tenet of Cosmicist economics that the balance of the two partitions (with the addition of other government and social support systems) must always be able to support the average citizen.
    • The first, denominated in actual currency, is calculated on a biannual basis and remains consistent for that period. Able to be used for any purpose and converted into physical money, the currency payment is intended to be a resource for saving and long-term investment.
    • The second, scrip, is a Gesselian unit of value. With limitations on its use and the inability to be converted into actual currency, the main innovation of scrip is that it decays in value over time. While the rate of decay is consistent from year to year, the amount of scrip added onto the Dividend is adjusted on a bimonthly basis to factor in inflationary pressures.
    Credit- In order to best control the course of inflation in the Cosmicist economy, restrictions are enforced on private banks when it comes to the process of creating credit. Arguing that only the government can have the final say on the expansion of the money supply, this restraint of private lines of credit is considered crucial for the creation of a sane economic system, with the Commonwealth itself handling most economic activity through the Commonwealth Bank of Antarctica, holding an unassailable monopoly on economic activity on the continent.

    Debt- Although the Cosmicist economic school (and the HES more generally) regards government deficits incurred by sovereign currency producers as investments in the economy rather than debts in the traditional sense, average citizens, along with the local and state/provincial/Territorial levels of government, must act within what is called the "household model" of budgets. Inputs must add up to outputs! With that in mind the Commonwealth level of government retains the sovereign and exclusive right to forgive debts to ensure the public welfare.

    Currency Area- Although Cosmicist theory will accept nothing less than a world state (followed by an interplanetary one), it flatly denies the concept of a "universal currency", instead favoring a decentralized approach to improve economic efficiency. Under a fully realized Cosmicist system, each of the co-equal continental commonwealths would have its own currency with a floating exchange rate between them. This hybrid system is intended to simultaneously insure a balance between global interconnection and responsiveness to local conditions.

    Although regarded with the hostility by the traditional economics of the Nihilist reactionary powers, the Commonwealth is a serving as a large-scale economic experiment in the implementation of Cosmicist economics in real time. Only time will tell.
     
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    Writing on the Wall: Geist and the Leviathan
  • Ideologies of all types have a tendency to apply their systems of thought to all areas of society, even if only implicitly, and nowhere is this more clear than in historiography. Feudalism had the divine right of kings or the mandate of heaven. Marxism famously has historical materialism and liberalism has Whig history, while stripping out the convoluted race theory would still leave fascism with an overt focus on the great man theory in the creation of a national myth. Cosmicism is no different, describing relationships between historical classes and social groups using two nested metaphors: Geist and the Leviathan. The former borrowed from Hegel, the latter from Hobbes, both are split into four broad stages, with the latter entirely contained within the first stage of the former.

    Volksgeist- "National spirit", the Volksgeist is intended to represent the entire sweep of human history from the first settled states to the birth of Cosmicist thought, a process represented by the concept of the Leviathan. Filtering Hobbes' concept through the popular historical concept of the four kingdoms eschatology, the Leviathan is divided into segments, each of which builds on those that came before without completely supplanting them.
    1. Feudalism- The first stage of human society, dating back to the invention of settled agriculture and enduring more or less intact until a spectacular decline around the early modern period. The largest and deliberately most vague segment of the Leviathan, Sutter defined the vast diversity of societies that made up the feudal stage as sharing the tendency of "hereditary social class, with society and economic activity revolving heavily or almost entirely around the state and the ruling elite, often with the backing of a religious authority that exists in symbiosis with the state in the furtherance of social stability".
    2. Liberalism- Born out of "the desire for liberty", liberalism (using the classical definition) was defined as a system based on Enlightenment principles, valuing civil liberties and economic freedoms that were inherent rather than dependent upon the assent of the ruling class and religious authority. The growth of liberalism was fueled by the American and French revolutions, though the aftereffects of both, along with the dislocation brought on by the First Industrial Revolution and the somewhat narrow view of who exactly had rights under the "enlightened" liberal order, would lay the groundwork for discontent to give rise to a new segment of the Leviathan.
    3. Socialism- Crediting the rise of socialism to "the desire for equality", Sutter argued that the inherent inequalities and lingering elitism of the liberal stage would combine to produce a large portion of the population alienated from the rights and privileges that a more expansive interpretation of liberal principles would have afforded them. This group would become increasingly radicalized in the face of exploitative economic conditions and entrenched opposition to socialist goals, culminating in the apotheosis of the movement in the rise of the Soviet Union and its ideological inheritors. Viewing them as a corruption of the goals of socialism, Sutter nonetheless saw these deformed states as the root of the backlash that would move the Leviathan forward again.
    4. Fascism- Rising out of a narrow and racialist drive for "fraternity" in reaction to the perceived instability brought about by the Russian Revolution, fascism glorified the technological sophistication brought on by the Second Industrial Revolution and was born in its modern form in the crucible of World War I. Pursuing the goal of an economy subordinate to but nominally independent of the state, fascism was used as a tool to build in-group solidarity through the demonization of the other, a focus on bombastic ritual and (most damning in Sutter's eyes) a focus on führerprinzip, viewed dismissively as a return to the divine right in all but name, merely substituting "God" with "the nation". Destroyed in the wake of World War II, fascism would continue to leave traces well into the twenty-first century.
    5. Nihilism- Explicitly not considered a "natural" stage of the Leviathan, nihilism is regarded as less an organic evolution of history than as the accumulated detritus of the ruins of all the preceding stages. Although each preceding age had a precariat population, the ravages of the Third Industrial Revolution and the fragmentation following the sputtering decline in the intensity of the Cold War had produced a society languishing on the edge of an abyss. In the nihilist stage precarity grew to consume a larger population than ever before, fueled by economic predation, ecological devastation, and a diverse global kyriarchy using the tatters and remnants of the previous ages as rhetorical flourish to further entrench their power as the world burned. Faced with a death march on a planetary scale the precariat "cried out for eternity". And so Cosmicism was born.
    "As with every individual, it is the fate of every society to wither and die. Nothing lasts forever, no matter how well it is built or maintained. If a sane person acknowledges that they'll die eventually then surely a sane society must do the same. And if the human race is destined to die out, isn't it better if it's as far in the future as we can manage, and leaving wonders in our wake?"- Daniel Sutter

    Zeitgeist- The "spirit of the age", the Zeitgeist in Cosmicist historiography denotes the spread of Cosmicist thought and the growth and solidification of a precarian class consciousness. Understanding that a simultaneous world revolution was unlikely, Sutter instead advocated for the creation of what he called "zauberbergs", meant as a play on words with Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain and of the icebergs even then calving off of the Antarctic ice sheet. Like the former the zauberbergs were to be isolated from the wider society which (like the latter) they had split off from. A zauberberg did not have a set scale, ranging from a class conscious individual, to a family, to an intentional community, and on to the largest zauberberg of all, the Antarctic Revolutionary Commonwealth.

    Weltgeist- In purely theoretical Cosmicism, the Weltgeist ("spirit of the world") was defined as the point when the entire world was united under a world government, with a collection of federalist "Continental Commonwealths" working together within a confederal world state to preserve cultural history, protect vitally important wild spaces, and oversee the colonization and exploitation of the resource rich wider solar system. In practice, Sutter admitted it unlikely that the world would be united under the Cosmicist banner before the exploitation of space could begin, a concern that would be born out by history. And so we see the modern state of human affairs, the forces of reactionary nihilism on one side and the ARC on the other, bolstered by a collection of extraterrestrial possessions and an archipelago of Cosmicist allies that hold out hope to be the seed crystals of the Commonwealths that will usher in true Weltgeist.

    Gestaltgeist- The "spirit of the greater whole", the Gestaltgeist is the ideal goal for the Cosmicist movement, marking the point when extraterrestrial colonies are formally incorporated as self-governing members of a now system-wide government built on Cosmicist principles. The newly expanded and unified human polity would busy itself primarily with exploiting the rich energy resources of the system, expanding the colonization and development of new extraterrestrial bodies (with the goal of incorporating them fully once they've been developed), and the creation of space probes and generation ships to spread terragen culture and terragen society, respectively.

    Although hardly formed under ideal circumstances, the ARC represents the last, best hope at the creation of a sustainable and long lasting human society capable of expanding and surviving beyond the confines of the Earth. After all isn't it better to strive for glories than to resign to miseries? History a rising road! Straight to the stars, if only we have the will to fight for it.
     
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    Media Matters: From the Shadows...
  • Occasionally a piece of media will come along that perfectly captures the public mood, so flawlessly that it only becomes an unintentional period piece in the aftermath. The prototypical example for America in the nineties was White Wolf's From the Shadows. Tapping into the rich vein of conspiracy theories that swirled in the wake of the tumultuous decade after the Calamity, From the Shadows was a series of tabletop roleplaying games revolving around sinister conspiracies and a hidden secret war between them.

    Although the corebook focused on playing normal people out to expose them, White Wolf's designers found that expansions focused on the conspiracies themselves offered a far richer playing experience, and they would quickly become the main focus of the game's fluid cosmology. The central idea was that there was no single grand conspiracy, but rather a tangle of different Traditions, each with their own internal factions, specific enemies and hidden masters.
    • Founded in the 1830s after the discovery of anomalous ruins in the Raj, the Church of the Inner World presents itself as an esoteric organization or new religious movement devoted to self discovery but the truth is far more alarming. In reality what the founders of the Church discovered was not enlightenment but an entrance into an entire subterranean civilization, Agartha, ruled over by a decadent and brutal race armed with terrific powers and secret knowledge. And they finally had collaborators on the surface... Inspirations: The Mound (Lovecraft), the Shaver Mystery, vimanas, the Hollow Earth.
    • The Green Dragon has standards of secrecy that put the others to shame, using legions of criminal societies to exercise the will of a cabal of an immortal known only as the Master on the Mountain. With a fondness for biological weapons and exotic poisons, the Green Dragon uses engineered plagues to manipulate the course of society and create opportunities for its clandestine goals. Inspirations: yellow peril stories and lore on triads, yakuza and Unit 731
    • Existing publicly for a short time (as in the real world), the Illuminati in the game has a much longer and more robust lineage. Under the auspices of the reptilian Salamandrine Men, the Illuminati has long cultivated powerful families of human retainers, using them to control the levers of power throughout the highest echelons of western society. Inspirations: Reptilian conspiracies, Nazi occultism, the fourth reich
    • In 1947 the crash of a UFO in New Mexico would lead to the creation of a government department known only as MAJESTIC. Founded to study and cover up the existence of a group known as the Visitors, MAJESTIC would quickly spread its tendrils deep into the American military-industrial complex even as it grew darker in its isolation, eventually being suborned by the very beings it had been created to oppose. Inspirations: UFO lore, Area 51
    • Originally an organization of terrestrial explorers, the focus of the Planetary Society would change in 1880s following the discovery of evidence of... something... in a pyramid that wasn't on any map. Throwing themselves into astronomical studies, the Society has devoted itself to the goal of space exploration, infiltrating space agencies around the world in a bid to find and return to Earth with their strange patrons, which they know only as the Thoth. Inspirations: Sword and Planet, adventure fiction, two-fisted tales
    • According to legend, the Scions of the Tower date back to ancient Babylon and the earliest days of men. In their own histories, the Scions were founded by angels sent from heaven that summoned them to serve a higher power. The Nephilim are anything but angels, a race of giant extraterrestrials content to use their human catspaws to manipulate the faithful on their behalf. Inspirations: Biblical archeology, vampire conspiracies
    • With the most public presence, Taurus Partners presents itself as an influential financial institution, and its not a total lie. It's still far from the truth. With the roots of its current power in the arrival of the Conquistadors in the New World, Taurus is merely the latest face of something older and stranger, an infernal influence tracing itself back to the Roman Empire and the Mithraic Mysteries. Using wealth as the path to true power the Partners also have a disturbing trend of human sacrifices behind closed doors. Influences: satanic conspiracies, the Black Monday Murders
    With a focus on social interaction and storytelling, From the Shadows saw players attempt to outmaneuver rival factions within their own Traditions, accumulating power in order to either expand against the others, or to even attempt to seize power for themselves.

    Of course seizing the popular mood is a double edged sword. While From the Shadows saw tremendous popularity through the 1990s, changes domestically and on the world stage would see the franchise decline in the early years of the new millennium as new fears would seize the public imagination, even as aspects of the game's mythology would go on to be adapted and absorbed by actual conspiracy theorists.
     
    A House on Fire: The New Millennium and the Tainted Victory
  • Although the 19th century in particular had been marked by frequent changes in the political parties of the day, the three party system that had begun to stabilize at the start of the 20th was very much an abberation. Frankly, when the 2000 election rolled around it was remarked by the chattering classes that it was a wonder it hadn't happened sooner. A hung Electoral College. What a shambles.

    Going into the first election of the new millennium, both of the old guard parties sought to rebrand in the hopes of clawing back some of the voters that Reform had siphoned from them, something the incredibly bitter Reform party primaries had made easier than would otherwise have been the case. The Democrats, still cowering to some degree as the other parties pilloried them as "too liberal for America", turned to self-described moderate Al Gore, the sitting senator from Tennessee and occasional presidential candidate. For their part the Republicans, looking to appeal to voters turned off by what they now admitted in private were Haig's extralegal activities, needed an impeccable public face to soften their law and order messaging, and they found one in retired general Colin Powell.

    If the three major candidates could be respectful toward one another in debates and on the trail the same could not be said for their parties. Powell was a secret Haig accomplice! Nader was a big government busybody and simultaneously dangerously Regressive! Gore was dull as dishwater and soft on Socialism! Around and around it went, all while other factors (and other actors) stuck their oar in. Powell's status as the first African-American to have a solid shot at the presidency caused quite a few defections from normally Democratic voters, while Buchanan seethed on the sidelines, heaping invective on the Republicans for being too politically correct and especially on his new party for not bowing down and coranating him head of the party.

    As previously mentioned, before the birth of the Reform Party, the political colors associated the two major parties varied depending on where the results were being reported. But 2000 would be different! All the major broadcasters and newspapers had decided that it would make much more sense to standardize. Reform had chosen yellow for itself, so why not give one party red and the other blue and just switch every presidential election? Concise reporting, patriotic colors, and with no old guard party forced to overhaul all their merchandise. What could go wrong? So much for best laid plans...

    In hindsight, the only reason that Perot had won so clearly both times was because of the massive dysfunction of the other parties. But the 2000 election was a completely different animal: both the old guard parties had regrouped over the last eight years, while Reform had quickly met the reality that it was easier to run for office than it was to govern effectively. The racial and religious dynamics of the election were also far more fluid than in years past, offering an incredibly interesting case study to political science students for years to come. It boiled down to the simple fact that all three parties were playing outside their lane to some degree or other, attracting new political forces in the process:
    1. Powell attracted both conservative nonwhites and more liberal ones excited to see the first black president, weakening the Democrats in the process. The Republicans also saw outsized turnout from Christian conservatives agitated by the rebounding of Communism, Y2K, and the surge in so called "anti-Christian" beliefs and outright atheism in society at large.
    2. Nader had alienated a large contingent of his own party on the path to the nomination, bolstering both his rivals to some degree. At the same time, his alliance with the NLP activated what could probably be considered New Age (or "Alternative Belief") voters.
    3. Although widely considered boring, Gore had the solid backing of the establishment of his party, bolstered by the influx of Reformers and also by a growing tide of more confidently left-leaning activists and advocates that had been radicalized by the Haig era suppressions and disappointed by the pace of Perot's electoral reforms.
    Needless to say it was a heady mix, and it showed on election night. And for the week after. And for the month after that. It was a travesty, with recounts and lawsuits in several states as the ordeal dragged on and on, ironically cementing red Republicans and blue Democrats into the public consciousness. In the end, with several lawsuits between the state parties winding their way through the courts, the highest court in the land had their say. In the landmark Powell et al. v. Nader et al.*, the Supreme Court set out to settle the issue of the recounts once and for all in perhaps the most convoluted and important case in the high court's recent history.

    In a ruling hotly debated to this day, the court ordered every extant recount stopped, and the election sent to the Congress as per the 12th Amendment. The end result should not have been surprising, as Reform delegates of the Perot wing sought to punish Nader and the Democrats became a victim of their relatively low strength in the House. From the three candidates, Powell would be selected the forty-third president of the United States, while the Senate, perhaps in a bid at bipartisanship, or perhaps as an ironic joke, would select blue dog Democratic Senator Richard Shelby vice president, ironically giving the Republican president a more conservative Veep than his own party had given him. Depending on your politics, that one Supreme Court decision (and the resulting Congressional vote) had either saved or damned the country, but the die had been cast. Here's to life in strange times, eh?

    *Each of the three had at least one lawsuit against each of the others, depending on the dynamics of the state in question, so all the cases were just mashed together. As you can imagine it was a very full courtroom and made for spectacularly confusing news coverage, but because the Supreme Court had accepted and ruled on all the cases it was legal by definition. But still, you can imagine why tempers run high to the modern day TTL.
     
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    Writing on the Wall: Rally Round the Flag
  • Manifesto.png

    -Cover of the first edition of The Cosmicist Manifesto

    L-ARC.png

    -Flag of the Antarctic Revolutionary Commonwealth
     
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    Flag Edit
  • Here's an alternate with a globe centered on the deglaciated Antarctica, with the Struggle symbol represented as a ring of space orbits around the Earth.
    L-ARC.png

    And here's a hybrid of the two! I can't decide if it's better, what do you all think? Also happy Earth Day!
    L-ARC.png
     
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