This is not exactly an indie show, but the fact that it was never shown in North America makes it interesting to indie folk. Basically a kind of newsmagazine for weirdos, the series covers amazing underground artists like “The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black,” insane conspiracy theories about time-travel brainwashing that can only be reversed by mutual masturbation, and truly amazing profiles of cuddly Satanists. In one bit about “Outsider Music,” there is a complete 80’s music video by BJ Snowden called “In Canada” which must be seen to be believed: embarrassing, amateur honesty that makes you almost cry as you stifle a guffaw. Somehow, the political / cultural universe collapses when you hear an African-American woman singing this casio-keyboard anthem: “In Canada, they never will be mean / In Canada, they treat you like a Queen.” Over stock footage of moose and pancakes. Really.
The thing is, this big-budget series makes most underground folk I know seem completely out-of-touch by comparison… Why haven’t any of my friends told me about insane painter Joe Coleman? And why didn’t anyone tell me about “Uncle Goddamn,” the unfathomable redneck home video in which a drunken uncle is set on fire, spray painted, and punched continuously, and whose only reaction is invariably “Goddamn!” This is, really, a great 2-DVD set.
While the first DVD carries the whole TV series, the second disk is a full recording of something called Disinformation.con, a live event in which Kenneth Anger, Robert Anton Wilson, and a number of other Alistair Crowley fans speak at length, and with intriguing philosophies, about what-we-are-all-about-in-the-universe, in our lives, and in the creative community. Who’s Alistair Crowley? Well, he seems to be some mystic philosopher who uses the concept of “magic” as a kind of unfalsifiable argument for unleashing your potential. I’m sure some of the Disinfo audience probably believe in this magic in the Amazing Mumford, a-la-peanut-butter-sandwhiches variety, or, conversely, a cynic might dismiss the whole thing as yet another pseudo-spiritual money-grabbing pyramid scheme like Est or Landmark Education. But if you examine the Disinformation series carefully, you’ll find a tongue-in-cheek attitude, as subtle as a British-American co-production could ever produce. Rather than a trippy new-age freakout, Disinfo is more like a smirking Zen riddle, with all the implied karate chops.
For instance, one woman in the series talks about being abducted by the CIA in order to bear alien babies for Queen Elizabeth, or something. A “former FBI Satanism Expert,” or some such freak, backs up her claims in general terms. Disinformation covers this story with the same “objective” verve with which 20/20 would cover a consumer-safety scandal, and the same passive voice, omniscient-journalist visual style seen on 60 minutes. Close-ups of typed pages suggest official documents; fancy graphics lend credibility. If you look closely, though, the woman’s family snapshot has all the eyes blacked out to protect their identities… including the dog.
What does this mean? Well, the show’s slogan is: “If you don’t think we’re making this up, we’re not doing our jobs.” Disinfo sows distrust against the media, and undermines their visual mystique: aesthetic elevated to truth. This isn’t a wackily-new idea, but Disinfo pursues it with such style, wit, and madness that it may as well never have been tried before. Just as the viewer thinks they’ve got Disinfo pegged, it plows into new territory, at times exploitative (filming that Satanism expert in front of strategically-placed devil horns to make him look like an idiot; the gleeful torture of Uncle Goddamn), then sublimely prankish (is Uncle Goddamn even real? Is the FBI guy an actor? What the F**K is going on?!?).
Again, in the show’s intro, the host says, “Do you see the truth, or just what major corporations want you to see?” This suggests some kind of left-wing socialist analysis. But it’s nothing of the kind; in the Disinfo.con segment, the first speaker spends half an hour arguing that “Counter Culture,” which prides itself on poverty and disengagement from the mainstream, is a dead end. The big media outlets have no ideas, they’re afraid of anyone who has ideas, and they’ll desperately purchase any ideas they can get their hands on. Take the money and run, he says, keep doing your thing and getting paid for it. I’m not sure I’m convinced, but when you combine it with jagged wit and some of the wickedest art I’ve ever seen, almost an hour’s interview with the fascinating Howard Bloom (Madonna’s former publicist, now teetering over the deep end of futurist lunacy), it just doesn’t get any more watchable than this.