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Manifestos to the Editor: Insane, Outrageous Letters Claim Wild Plots and Conspiracies

Anders Hove

For many years The Tech's opinion policy box made the somewhat dubious claim that we regret we cannot publish all of the letters we receive. Dubious because the paper receives hundreds of bizarre e-mail letters from wacko people around the world. I imagine most of the world's minor news outlets have the same experience.

Not that I have a problem with crazy letters - in fact I adore them. When they come by hard copy they are a joy. And because there are a great many such insane letters that I do indeed regret we could not print, I have decided to give them some much-deserved time in the sun.

What distinguishes a Wildly Insane and Totally Outrageous letter? Hand-written address information is one tip-off. In these days of desktop publishing, the way to make a truly revolutionary screed stand out is to avoid altogether anything remotely resembling type.

"Ask the students," writes one, "who will lead? Which university or college will be the first to organize and mobilize in order to set the anti-capitalist revolution in motion?"

In this case the proponent of anti-capitalist revolution is John of Durango, Colorado. Judging from the street address I'd say that he is not a university student. His handwriting also suggests complete insanity punctuated by moments of ideological fervor - moments that tend to erupt at the center of words and end in two-inch tall punctuation.

John is not alone in claiming we can save the world, and to prove it he includes lots of clippings from his favorite fellow travelers. Most of these letters come with clippings, many of which have tenuous connection at best with the content of the scrawled notes attached.

I've already concluded that most of the folks of the nuttier variety are in their middle years or better, but here in front of me is an exception: Albert writes that he is a twenty-two year-old college student attending North Central Texas College, and he has a plan to bring about world peace: Internet chat rooms will enable him to get out Karl Marx's message beginning on Jan. 1, 2000. That message, in case you'd forgotten, is that we should stop fighting each other and contact aliens, whose existence the government has been protecting us from.

Where did all of this come to Albert? "It was a combination of my emptiness and the big party the night before Rock Fest that spawned my idea." According to our source, that night about 40,000 people were standing around in a parking lot drinking, smoking pot, and "trippen" when someone's car got stuck. When Albert and 20 others helped push it out "without any police control whatsoever" - well, that was when Albert realized that "world peace" was possible. Now apparently he's the "CEO&President" of the World Peace Initiative (W.P.I.), an organization that surely requires no abbreviation.

Perhaps the most wonderful letters are directed at an MIT audience. A certain Dr. Ugrin of Belgrade, for example, has been bothering us for a while about problems he has with "contemporary physics." It is the equation describing the force of friction that really ticks him off: he calls it a "senseless and feeble-minded course of thinking It belongs to imbecile and inane way of deduction."

Dr. Ugrin's problems with "contemporary physics" are long-standing and wide-ranging. Last summer he called up to demand that someone go down to the Cambridge Public Library and read through a stack of astronomy books to confirm they had no basis in fact, and that the whole thing was some sort of government conspiracy. When you are unsure what someone is talking about, it is often reassuring to learn that a government conspiracy is to blame. Lest I feel powerless to overcome the mighty forces of contemporary physics, Unger assured me I was a smart guy who could lick this problem on my own: "I'm sure the MIT people can solve this one." I remember feeling vaguely inspired that the Institute is held in such high regard among radical Serbian physicists.

Not all are ready to place such confidence in MIT, while still others never will do so, believing the Institute to be the very Lion's den. One former MIT student who will remain nameless has written several times to claim that he was thrown out of a degree program at MIT because the department head (who will also remain nameless) was in league with the Ayatollah Khomenei. Although he devotes almost all of his free time to protesting his department's policies, this long-suffering former student can find no redress because of an ongoing conspiracy between MIT, the U.S. government, and Tehran - a conspiracy designed to prevent him from receiving an MIT education. And allow me to reassure you, he is not alone.

It's my impression that most of the Wildly Insane and Totally Outrageous letter-writers just want publicity. A greater problem arises when they want tangible help of some kind. Take William, for example, a self-described Swiss exile and freedom fighter who wants The Tech's help securing a hired-gun attorney to represent his case against the "fascist U.S. government." And what a case! Consider the following points in his account:

"Thirty-eight (count 'em!) agents of the FBI (America's Gestapo) broke down the door of my peaceful home, high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on March 18, 1988.

"These American Storm Troopers immediately shot my small daughter's puppy (he was eight weeks old) in the head directly in her presence, killing him instantly.

"These cowards then handcuffed my hands tightly behind my back, waist-chained me, shackled my legs, and then beat me up so badly that after I finally healed, no one I knew was able to recognise me again. (I don't even recognise myself.)"

William goes on to describe scenes of torture, deceipt, and deprivation of rights that would indeed justify use of the word "Gestapo" if true. Toward the end of the letter, it emerges that the crime William was charged with (if he can be believed) was, "presiding over a corporation which was behind in paying some computer paper bills."

In other words, William had been spending a lot of money that he didn't have under the name of a bogus corporation. William signs his name "In Liberty," a sign the Southern Poverty Law Center states is an indication that the signer rejects U.S. law and considers himself totally self-sovereign. I believe the technical classification in this case is Wildly Insane and Totally Outrageous.

If the ranks of the Wildly Insane and Totally Outrageous were to swell, I wouldn't complain. Who would? Why, I'll bet that if everyone received letters like this, and if the fascist thugs that control contemporary physics would cooperate, we really could achieve world peace.