“Come back, Lyndon!”
by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert J. Shea

from The Organ
Issue IX, July 1971



The confession comes with weeping violins, thunder off-screen and shadows gathering in the corners. There is the gnashing of teeth and the commotions at the other end of the alimentary tract causing a noticeable tightening of the ass-hole, while the liver dies a little, and the damage to key glands and trunk-line nerves will not be discovered by conventional medicine. Still, the confession, at last, must come. We were there; we marched with the others and chanted, “Hey, hey, L.B J., how many kids didja kill today?”; yes, we signed the petitions and wrote to the Congressmen, we even gave some credence to Garrison and Mark Lane and MacBird; we longed for the day and dreamed of the day when that Texas Turd was sent home to gather flies on the banks of the Pedernales and was replaced at the Helm by somebody, anybody, who didn’t have the soul of a cattle-rustler and a face like a study in the mesmerization of the anal sphinctre. Back in Texas was where we wanted him. We most definitely wanted him back in Texas.

Well, we didn’t get somebody. We didn’t even get anybody. By the malice of a left-handed and sardonic God, we got “Richard Milhouse Nixon.”

We repent all of our sins and heresies; we recant in public. We want L.B J. back. The next time our troops withdraw from Vietnam into another Asian country, we want old Lyndon there to explain it, with those crafty lines of ham Summer Stock piety crinkling around his eyes — not “Nixon” with that no-echo sound in his voice that makes it seem as if his throat is lined with styrofoam, and that Insect Trust remoteness from all human emotion. Confronted with the alien, the perhaps mechanical, the possibly Outer Space quality of seemingly motiveless malignity in “Nixon,” we are beginning to appreciate how American, how human, how down-home Lyndon Baines Johnson really was.

And the L.B.J. jokes — remember them? They were so folksy and real and earthy — remember? Remember, “Terrible accident at the L.B.J. ranch today — somebody left the gate open and the cattle all went home”? Remember the legends about his enormous schlong, and Paul Krassner’s great line, “When he calls a joint meeting, everybody cringes”? Remember, “The White House reporters can now tell when L.B.J. is lying. When he scratches his ear, he’s telling the truth. When he rubs his nose, he’s telling the truth. But when he opens his mouth — he’s lying!” Who tells jokes about “Nixon”? Perhaps the computers at the Rand think-tank do, exchanging ghastly electronic jests as they calculate scenarios for the next Asiatic incursion. But do you know any people who relate to “Nixon” enough to joke about him? Behind the name “Richard Nixon” is there anything substantial enough to jest about?

Remember the quick adrenalin flashes and the screams of rage in the old anti-Johnson demonstrations, the most exhilarating hate-trip many of us have ever been on? Do you know anyone who hates “Nixon” that way? Turn anywhere, look at the hardest-working and most dedicated peace crusader you know, and is there any personal feeling toward “Richard Nixon”? Never. At the most there is distaste and an attenuated metaphysical dread, a hunch that behind the seeming void of the public persona might be a secret so dreadful that the human mind would crumble on confronting it. Worse: that there is no horror behind the void, nothing but another void, which conceals a still deeper void, in a mad series of 0-dimensional Chinese boxes regressing infinitely always to another void, another mask, and still another void masking yet another void, forever?

History is a game for any number of players, but that’s the key — you need real players to enjoy it. The one thing that, sooner or later, any hyperactive participant (as we sometimes think we are) has to learn is that a good game requires a spirited opposition. We of the Left need a Right. Realizing that, you come to see that your enemy is not really your enemy in any total sense — he is as necessary to you as your friend. At that point you come to value the fact that your enemy is a human being; who can work up a good political enthusiasm against a moving van, the tobacco mosaic virus or the weather in Chicago? But we have reached this point of understanding only to have the universe swat us upside the head once more: Sitting across the table from us is “Richard M. Nixon” and we have the stale, disappointed feeling of being up against a chess-playing robot. If he wins, does it matter — if we win, does it matter?

People have humanized hurricanes and other disasters, they have even anthropomorphized the plague bacteria and projected malice into its invasions, but it is simply impossible to humanize or anthropomorphize “Richard Nixon”. The best public relations brains in the country have worked on the job for years, and all they produce when the TV cameras turn on is the same dead-level computer read-out of some very unconvincing used-car salesman’s pitch of fading memory. How different it was when L.B.J. said, “With a heavy heart, I once again resume bombing,” and the delivery was so Riverboat Gambler that you could feel an almost tactile relationship with the conniving but human sonofabitch who rehearsed the words over and over until they almost captured the ring of sincerity.

L.B J. was a bad father, a father you could hate, an old Huck Finn’s Pap of a reprobate who lied his head off and stole everything not nailed down but probably cackled with obscene glee over every swindle and laughed like hell when he told his cronies about it. You might want to ride him out of town on a rail, but you knew he’d make out all right in the next town and swindle the folks there, too, and you had a sneaking admiration for that incorrigibility. But nobody can think of “Nixon” as a father, good or bad, or any kind of brother, or even a very remote cousin. Being conquered by the Martians would be existentially believable compared to being governed by “Nixon” — at least the Martians, if inhuman, must be protoplasm. Who is that sure about Nixon? If he abruptly answered a press conference question with “That — does — not — compute,” who would really be surprised or feel aught else but that a buried suspicion had been confirmed?

Even “Nixon’s” admirers don’t admire “him” and this clearly communicated early to “his” circle who thoughtfully built up Spiro as a human and believable spokesman whom people could love and hate.

Consider what could have been “Nixon’s” finest moment, the day he announced that he was against abortion because of his belief in “the sanctity of human life.” Imagine how Lyndon-Baby would have handled that line, every crease on his face emphasizing the depths of emotion an spiritual revelation, the quiver in his voice on the key words “sanctity and “life,” the whole effect mounting to a crescendo of righteousness on a level with Fields himself saying, “What? Five aces in the deck? What scoundrel could have done that?” Do you member any of “Nixon’s” performances? Nobody does; Nobody remembers any of “his” speeches. They just remember that “he” was on TV again and said something, and no one can quite recollect whether “he” was selling “his” latest invasion or Ajax, the Foaming Cleanser.

Or, look at the other side of the picture. Recall the great oration that terminated L.B J.’s three decades of opposition to racial equality, that Falstaffian performance in which he pledged all his loyalty to civil rights and concluded raptly, “And we shall overcome.” It was pure Rod Steiger, right out of the scene in The Harder They Fall where Steiger, the gangster, tells his gunsels to “show some respect” for the man they’ve just killed. You felt a deep human identifica for L.B.J. and Steiger in those scenes and wished that they could succeed in making someone believe them, wished almost that you could believe them for a moment. Can you imagine “Nixon” handling that bit? Can you hear him saying, “We shall overcome,” and getting any response any more sympathetic or antipathetic than a yawn?

Obviously, given that people aren’t completely stupid or tasteless, it is hard at times to understand how come the American electorate made the trade — the monstrous human being for the robot monster. The best explanation we’ve found is the Conspiracy Theory. In our novel, Illuminatus! (to be published by Dell later this year) we dramatize the notion that just about every catastrophe in history can be explained by the machinations of the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria, a conspiratorial organization which runs international finance, all major political parties everywhere in the world, all communications media, the Catholic Church, and the Chicago Transit Authority. While doing the research for Illuminatus! we came across the fact that on April 1, 1968, Johnson was opening his morning copy of the New York Times while spooning a heavily-sugared wedge of grapefruit into that lugubrious face (which, as he himself quite frankly stated after viewing Peter Hurd’s portrait, was “the ugliest thing I ever saw”), when a pink slip fell out. The message read, “It’s April First, and you’re It,” and it was signed, “The Fellas.” Under this there appeared a peculiar symbol, printed in red, an eye inside a glowing triangle. A somewhat similiar eye can be seen — if “Nixon’s” stewardship of the economy has left you any bread — on the U.S. dollar bill, back side on the left.

Shortly after receiving this message, Johnson opted out of the 1968 Presidential race. We learned these facts in a teen-ager’s magazine called Teenset for March 1969 in an article on the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria by a writer named Sandra Glass. The writer disappeared before the article was published, Teenset changed its name to Aum, and Aum itself subsequently ceased publication.

Assuming — as do most Illuminati experts such as ourselves, Howard Bickler and Robert Welch of the John Birch Society — that Johnson’s masters are the ones who continue to rule the country through “Nixon,” can anyone visualize them disposing of “Nixon” by sending him a pink slip? They would simply pull the plug.

We blamed the war on the Democrats. When the Ghostly Old Party gave us “Nixon” as its nominee, the proceedings were as genteel as a wake in Grosse Point, Michigan. When the Democrats met in Chicago, the boil burst in full color on television and all over the parks and streets. Richard J. Daley, rumored in some documents we’ve found to be the fifth Illuminatus Primus, destroyed Humphrey’s chances of winning by making the nominating process look as democratic as parliament run by Oliver Cromwell. Can this have been an accident? Then why did Daley shout, “Ewige blumencraft!” (an Illuminati slogan used by Beethoven and Goethe) at Abraham Ribicoff at a most heated moment,on the evening of August 26, 1968? The boil burst, but it was not allowed to drain. “Nixon” plastered it over, that it might suppurate more in the darkness.

So, you Illuminated Seers, if you be human and not a race of inter-planetary invaders who are all “Nixons,” you, too must be fed up with the banality of this particular brand of evil. You’ve outdone yourselves this time. Let us have a man back in the White House. A shrewd, stupid, crafty, clumsy, eating, breathing, spitting, belching, balls-scratching, nose-picking, guilt-ridden, boasting, overcompensating, naive, corrupt, evil and innocent human being — another L.B.J. or the original L.B.J. himself, brought back for a re-run. Do not, O Illuminati, leave us out here in the twilight with no more for host than a sincere Coca Cola machine.

Mssrs Wilson and Shea apparently underestimated our ability to become angry, even at inanimate objects, such as a “sincere Coca-Cola machine.” This was a curious failing of the well-documented prescience  they demonstrated in the Illuminatus! Trilogy. After the 1976 election, Bob Wilson told me they had  thought they were writing fiction,  but for the previous two years, every morning he opened the newspaper, he realized they had written the headlines. (The basic question of Illuminatus! was “What if ALL the conspiracy theories they’d been reading as editors of Playboy’s Forum were true?” and if that were the case, what sort of government would we have?))

Robert Shea died March 10, 1994. Robert Anton Wilson died January 11, 2007.

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