Greg Carlwood of The Higherside Chats on the difference between conspiracy data and interpretation.
photo by: Skeptiko
On this episode of Skeptiko, I’m joined by Greg Carlwood to talk about his podcast, The Higherside Chats:
Greg Carlwood: …I consider myself a conspiracy talent scout. I scout out the researchers and I’m like, “This guy, he makes a good case for his position,” let’s have them do their thing and help walk them through their own research, because it’s often very dense… it takes a lot of framing to be like, “This is where we’re going to go today. We’re getting off on this level of the elevator today.”
… one aspect that’s important to me is separating data from interpretation. I know you talk about a lot of data here; that line is something Gordon [White] has just drilled into my head… when you’re listening to a guy talk for two hours about [his] research, you have to be able to say, “Where was the research and where was the spin you put on it?” Because you can look at the same data and come to different conclusions, so it is important to separate data from conclusion.
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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Greg Carlwood to Skeptiko. Greg is the creator and host of The Higherside Chats podcast, a popular and very influential alt-media kind of thing that explores all manner of topics most people would lump into that category we so lovingly call “conspiracy theory.”
What was the first conspiracy? What was the first thread on that sweater that started you down this path?
Greg Carlwood: Well, I was always rebellious in general. I loved punk music, which is very anti-authoritarian. And I went to a really rigid private school, so I was just anti-authority from a young age. I guess I was always looking for excuses to keep that worldview in order to validate it. And so when you start digging into what authority is usually doing — which is unusually abusing people, abusing their position and the people below them — it really solidified me as just being an anti-establishment growing up. But [as far as my first conspiracy] it had to be 9/11.
Alex Tsakiris: Really?
Greg Carlwood: It’s kind of cliché, everybody says that now, but I was in high school and we came in and everybody had to get in the gym, and they announce this thing and we see it on the TV and even that day, I was like, “That doesn’t really look right.”
Alex Tsakiris: Really?
Greg Carlwood: Yeah, I was, “That doesn’t look right.” And I had a couple of good friends who…we could never offend each other. We loved the most offensive comedy, so I knew I wasn’t going to lose a friendship for bringing that up. I was like, “Yeah, it’s a little odd,” but it kind of went away. And then later, Loose Change, the documentary came out and my buddy’s like, “Dude, this thing, we didn’t think it looked right, here’s somebody who’s like, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t look right. There’s a big conspiracy here. It could be an inside job.’” And that was kind of what set me off. I was like, “Okay, that’s not abstract anymore. It’s very real.” And I’d say as cliché as it is, 9/11 was the first conspiracy that really set me off.
Then, there were people who were like, “I won’t watch that documentary. I don’t want to hear you guys talking about that documentary,” and that’s when I realized, “Whoa. Maybe I am a little different…” Because when I hear that I want to hear more. I’m like, “Oh, that’s intriguing. ” (. . .) That’s kind of what [The Higherside Chats] is about, and sometimes people make their case and it’s great and it really does make you think, and sometimes it falls short of that. But I really love those mindbenders that move you further down the field, in terms of [whether] it’s all a big grand conspiracy. I like messing with it, shaking people up and messing with them a little bit, but that was the first time I ever saw in a real way. I was like, “Wow. Why are you so against the idea of looking at a documentary that suggests something strange?” And then I was just like, “Wow. I guess half the people I grew up with are just different and they’re never going to go down this route. Well, maybe there’s some conditioning there.”
I kind of consider myself a conspiracy talent scout. I scout out the researchers and I’m like, “Okay. This guy, he makes a good case for his position,” and have them on and let them do their thing and help walk them through their own research because it’s often very dense; it’s where the interest come in. It takes a lot to set up some of these people because it’s such dense stuff and it’s so off the radar that you’ve really got to frame it. It takes a lot of framing to be like, “Okay. This is where we’re going to go today. We’re getting off on this level of the elevator today.”
Alex Tsakiris: Some of the listeners to this show are probably already off the elevator. They’ve left. They’re like, “Nope, I’m out of there.” But I keep pounding on these conspiracy theories because they seem to crop up everywhere and for me, they seem to be part of the personal transformation process. They seem to be not just a counter-cultural, “let’s go out and protest,” they seem to be part of what I need to be able to go forward with what is essentially, a spiritual thing – “Who am I? Why am I here?”
So, if you start with 9/11, right, that was your starting point, let’s start there. Real briefly, who are some of your favorite 9/11 guests that really solidify your understanding that, in simple terms, “9/11 was an inside job,” that is, 9/11 was not what we think it was?
You did a great job, Judy Wood.
Greg Carlwood: Yeah. She has been the only one, I think, that has moved the needle further into understanding what it could have been, or if it wasn’t a controlled demolition, she seems to have – I think – really good evidence to suggest that it was something more than that. She refers to it as a “dustification”. The thing that I felt was most interesting is the seismic data that she pulls up. Now, I haven’t gone to the primary seismic data and made sure that hers is exactly right, but taking her at her word and her book is like a textbook on 9/11.
Alex Tsakiris: Yes.
Greg Carlwood: It’s not flowery language whatsoever; it’s hard science. The seismic data from that day does not show the impact of tons of steel hitting the ground and creating vibrations; it doesn’t show that. It basically shows nothing. So her theory – or her premise – is that all this material did not collapse into the ground; it kind of vaporized. She has pictures that show certain things like the (steel) spire, shows frame by frame; it doesn’t just topple over. And this is something that wasn’t touched by a plane, it’s on the top of the tower, it should remain stable all the way down till it hits the ground and shatters or whatever, but it falls apart. It “mystifies” in the air. So, you look at that stuff and you’re like, “Well, you’ve got to come up with some kind of answer. Why isn’t there a giant impact?”
[Judy] talks about something called the bathtub, which is the Twin Towers are built down into the ground and there’s this cement bathtub-like structure that keeps the water from coming in because it’s right there on the coast. Why didn’t that fall apart and why wasn’t Manhattan just flooded? Well, there wasn’t an impact and so that’s information that you have to come up with an answer for. She thinks it’s exotic free energy-type technology that just breaks into part of the molecular level, and I think there might be a case for that.
Alex Tsakiris: …and she talks about the people who are actually walking down one of the stairwells and they look up and there’s a blue sky.
Greg Carlwood: What’s that about?
Alex Tsakiris: So whatever was above them, and this is a large number of people who were together and we can verify that they were there on the scene, and they’re saying, “Yeah, this is what happened.” How do you get around that?
What I think it should really give people a sense for, if they listen to that interview on Higherside Chats, is that you’re not afraid to go super scientific. I mean, if there’s anything about Dr. Judy Wood, she puts people off because she’s so kind of confrontational about the science. Because she is a scientist. She knows her stuff and she doesn’t like people who don’t know their stuff. I heard her lecturing people on reasoning, “Your reasoning skills are not good,” and you really were able to kind of hold your ground there because I think you do have this pretty deep knowledge about the subject.
I felt the same way when you talked to Russ Baker, about the Bush family, but the difference there, I think, is that 9/11 contains itself pretty well. Something happened to these buildings and there was a reason for it. Even if you go down the conspiratorial path like you and I do in a way that seems obvious, hey, the event that started the war on terror and why the hell wouldn’t you want a war on terror? It’s the best damn war you could ever imagine. Unlimited budget who isn’t afraid of terror and unlimited end time. It ends when we say it ends. We can get that script.
What I found interesting about where you went with the Bush interview with Russ Baker is that it gets, in a lot of ways, a lot deeper and into some of the spiritual kind of what’s going on on another level, [the] bloodline thing, and all of that stuff. Tell me what you took away from your investigation into the Bush Family and into the Russ Baker thing and all that stuff.
Greg Carlwood: Well, what I thought was great about Russ Baker is he wanted some answers to how did George W. Bush become President. He basically started researching the Bush dynasty, the Bush Family, and he really equates most of their success to what he just calls networking; really good efficient networking.
Alex Tsakiris: Doing “bidness.”
Greg Carlwood: Right. Which starts really, I mean, they weren’t Skull and Bones, that’s what [that] thing is kind of made for. And I thought one point that he made that was really good is that when you start bringing up these connections like Skull and Bones, people roll their eyes.
Alex Tsakiris: Right.
Greg Carlwood: They don’t want to go there and they think it’s not serious, but it’s serious to the Bushes or they wouldn’t have done it. These are very serious people and they have a tendency to gravitate towards Bohemian Grove clubs, Skull and Bones, Freemasonry, these organizations that – if you bring up those connections – you’re the crazy conspiracy person, but it’s a fact; it’s not conjecture. They really were involved.
The aspect of that that I think is interesting is the blackmail aspect. If you went to Skull and Bones in college and you’re meeting all these common people that are also in the organization and then you go onto eventually become President; if the rumors are true about things like the rituals in Skull and Bones… there’s a guy out there who has a video of you jacking off in a coffin and crying about your worse sins, and you don’t want that out there. So this guy has you from the age of 20, all the way to wherever you end up in the line; I think that’s interesting. But the Bushes, obviously, they go back… what he brought up is that they go back to the Civil War, were selling fake munitions, and stuff like that. One member of them in the old days was a victim of the Salem witch trials; he got burned as a witch, I thought that was interesting. But the Gog and Magog stuff, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that necessarily, or if we went into it too deep in the interview, but Magog is something from the Sumerian text. That was George Poppy Bush, George Senior’s name in Skull and Bones. So that gets into manifesting these Biblical prophecies, which seems to be a big part of what some conspiracy theorists think that these guys are doing as they’re trying to force these things that were written down a long time ago. They want to make it happen; I don’t know why.
The Christian conspiracy theorists who think to chalk it all up to Satanism – I think that’s a simplistic world view – but you can’t deny that they’re doing something. Again, taking something very serious that if you bring it up in the mainstream, they’ll roll their eyes about it. But they take these ancient things seriously, and there are researchers who go deep into 9/11, that it was ritualized to basically be a paradigm changer and this is a post-9/11 world? I don’t see us ever being a post-9/11 word; things definitely changed then, and when am I going to get to wear shoes to the airport? When are we ever going to be done with this? Like you said, it’s the never-ending story.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, you just covered some ground there that I thought was really great and exactly what I wanted to kind of hone in on, because what you point out there is that if you take the Bush conspiracy, just kind of the surface level like Poppy’s dad was a friend of the Nazis… a Nazi banker; that’s just proven. I mean, you just go look and see the damn documents; [he was] the only guy who was ever charged in that way. That’s really easy to put your finger on.
And the Skull and Bones thing is equally “out there” kind of thing. Where I think you’re able to go that I don’t see other people going, is that you cross-reference [Skull and Bones] with some of the UFO stuff, the abduction stuff and in particular, the MILAB stuff (military abductions), and dammit if it doesn’t start popping up again. This idea [that] bloodlines seem to matter. This idea of life commitments or life pledges, or “selling your soul” to use the term, seems to crop up and we don’t have to say we know what it is, but here are these people that are like you just said, they believe it’s real. They’re playing that game and some of them are in some very strange places like in the deepest bowels of military intelligence who are keeping secret [the abducting of people] for purposes of some kind of alien contact.
Greg Carlwood: Right. Well, that’s what we got me into magic initially. I thought magic was a little out there. I didn’t know if there was much to esoteric rituals and that kind of thing, but, you know, you look at the elite and they clearly pay attention to it; they clearly think it’s important.
Alex Tsakiris: What are we playing for here? What are you playing for? What is the ultimate end game for you, in terms of The Higherside Chats? Because I get frustrated sometimes when I talk to somebody like James Corbett, and we’ve both talked to him. I have a lot of respect for James, unbelievable respect for what he does and the amount of information he puts out. But when we talked, you know, you push him on the end game and it’s like, “Well, it’s going to be volunteerism and we’re all going to… anarchy. [Anarchy] is kind of okay and I get that anarchy is really a misunderstood word, and it really just means self-responsibility more than anything else, but doesn’t it come down to something like a majority rule? Something like a democratic process? And in that sense, I worry about what you’re advocating and what I’m advocating because we’re going to have a hard damn time finding a majority. What is the end game in this? Is it political, or is it kind of a cultural transportation kind of…
Greg Carlwood: Well, my end game with the show, what I’m trying to do with the show is just to get people to entertain radical ideas because I felt relatively isolated in the Midwest going over a lot of these ideas, with friendships I had for a decade because they couldn’t bear to look at it so I was like, “Let’s present this stuff. It’s still basically at digital stage. Put the researchers on it in a way that’s not interrupted by a bunch of commercials or George Noory’s conservative, religious viewpoints.” I like getting people to entertain that stuff, but the end game really, I don’t know. I used to think it was to change the world. I used to think that, “Oh, once we get everybody thinking like this, then we’re going to lead the charge and we’re going to overtake it and everything’s going to be fine.”
But it was Gordon Lightfoot in his most recent pieces… he has a line about [how] the magician’s goal is not necessarily to change the system because [previous] people with authority [are] the same as the new authority; it’s just a change in a face. You’re never going to get out of that because if you remove power, then there’s a power vacuum and somebody’s going to get into it. So it might be kind of fruitless to try to really change the system because even you’ll recognize that alternative movements get infiltrated almost right away; if they’re not funded from the beginning, they’re infiltrated so quickly. So good luck actually changing the system because by the time you get to the point where you’re actually a threat in the system, you’re already going to be a part of it.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s part of the scientific overlay is until we’ve ordained it; none of your experiences really matter. And I do think you’re so right, I think that is one of the really positive things that has come out of this psychedelic movement and all the aesthetics is that you can’t bullshit those people. They’re like, “You know, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. I know. I was there.” And I think on a just more immediate level what I always say is, “Is there a voice inside your head?” And when you ask that question, you get an answer inside your head and whether the answer is yes or no, who the hell was answering it? There was something there.
I think what you’re doing is just jumpstarting that conversation with that other aspect of yourself, so that’s cool. So, where might that take you? How are you synthesizing that into some of the topics you’ve covered about? I think you’ve already laid out some of that groundwork, but one of the things that intrigues me is if there are these other entities, and some of these entities are monovalent. There’s evil out there and anyone who doesn’t think there’s evil out there, I mean, … there’s people who abduct little kids and use them for these horrible sexual purposes and low and behold, we’ve come out; some of those people are in the White House and in the highest [circles of] government. If you don’t believe that, look up the Franklin affair and look up some other stuff that is just supremely, tightly documented, where the people say, “I never wanted to believe this. I wish I didn’t encounter it, but this is the truth.”
But anyways, isn’t that kind of chilling, that there is this evil in this extended consciousness realm as well? Then that suggests that there is this higher battle that we’re kind of engaged in; what do you make of all that?
Greg Carlwood: There definitely might be spiritual puppet masters that get into the Peter Levenda stuff, the “sinister forces,” as he refers to it. I really like that idea, the idea that not only are we messing with a physical humanly, but we’re also dealing with something on a higher plane or another dimension — another sliver of this reality — that we don’t necessarily see, but also has great influence.
I mean, who knows, how do you know why you do what you do on a daily basis? When you have an inkling to go do something, did that come from you, or did that come from somewhere else? Did somebody put that in your head? Are your thoughts your own? And that’s where it gets into the idea that it’s very important to get into meditation; it’s very important to get into these spiritual practices that make you stronger minded so that you can actually identify your own thoughts from other thoughts, and that gets back to Gordon.
He has really opened my eyes to the idea of spiritual influence, not just in the sense that George Bush might be doing some weird rituals with Skull and Bones and they might be contacting some entity that gives them ideas, because I definitely think that kind of stuff happens; I think that’s why they have rituals (…) because they’re tapping into something. But I used to put it way out there and say, “Well, little ol’ me isn’t going to have those kind of experiences; little ol’ me isn’t going to be influenced by these things,” but any artist knows the concept of the muse, that is a spiritual influence giving you information. I used to want to be a stand-up comic, and any good comic knows when they get on a roll, they’ll all say, “It doesn’t feel like it’s coming from me. It’s coming through me, but it’s coming from somewhere else.” They’re tapping into a certain wavelength where they’re getting great inspiration on the floor and it’s coming out, and I’m like, “Man, how did they come up with that? Yeah, how did you come up with that?”
Give that some thought, because maybe it came from somewhere else. So, the muse isn’t necessarily bad, but just as people have a wide range of personalities and agendas, I think the spirits might too. It’s a hard thing for me to rationalize when you get into [discussions of] life after death because — as Gordon has pointed out to me several times — there is a way to contact spirits, and not just like these big ancient spirits or ancient gods that we think of, but [ways to contact] your own ancestors. Another thing pointed out to me is that over the course of the human timeline, it may seem very strange to have an ancestor altar and to talk to your ancestors today, but the sliver of time where it isn’t weird is much, much larger. [During] The whole human timeline we’ve paid homage to our ancestors, except for right now.
Alex Tsakiris: I think there’s a limit to rational inquiry into those topics. I don’t know, but it does seem to make sense to me that part of the way that the whole thing is structured is that we are going to have very limited access to that information. People are trying to work the system, so Bushes are going through the rituals and other people are going through these rituals and saying, “Give me more. Give me more access.” But, when you look at some of the spiritual seekers, the legitimate ones through time, what they’ve said is really kind of the opposite; they’ve said to avoid that. They don’t say it’s not real. They don’t say you can’t talk to the spirits. They don’t say you can’t develop these psychic abilities, for lack of a better term, but what they say is that’s not really going to get you anywhere…
Greg Carlwood: Of course.
Alex Tsakiris: …where you really want to be.
Greg Carlwood: Of course that’s what they say. In terms of some kind of spiritual presence, I consider myself pretty energetically dense. I’ve been to really haunted areas where people say they feel something, I don’t feel anything. I appreciate it, from a third party standpoint, but there’s probably something there; they’re not all lying. So I don’t experience much personally that isn’t driven by psychedelics.
But, a quick story, I was on this tour to promoting this move. We were going to a few different stops of this movie Don Peyote. It’s kind of like (. . .) psychedelic thing. We went to a few different premiers up and down the West Coast, and when we got to Big Sur, I knew getting on this bus that there was a good chance psychedelics were going to get involved, and I had said to myself, “I’m kind of done with that.” Like Timothy Leary says, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.”
I don’t need anything but weed anymore. I don’t really want to go down there. So I was pretty much guarded and had made my mind up. I might take a cap or something, a mushroom maybe, but I’m not going to go deep. And the world had other plans for me, man, because I had never done LSD. I’ve done a lot of things, not LSD, in particular. And we get picked up by this mom and daughter and they’re driving us through the woods of Big Sur; then they tell us that they’re on LSD that they had found at a concert, and I’m like, “You’re driving us on LSD with your daughter?” And from a perspective of a spiritual world manipulating me, they put me in the safest environment. They tricked me. It was total trickery because it was the most comfortable safest way to introduce this thing because I’m like, “Okay. This mother and daughter, they’re very disarming; they seem together.” And so they’re like, “Here, we’ll give you a hit,” and I’m like, “Okay.” Forty minutes later I don’t feel anything; they give me another hit. I take five hits of this acid and then the second I’m separated from the group, it all hits me like a ton of bricks, and I’m way out of my mind and I’m like, “What do I do?”
I felt, when I reflect back on that, I felt played from a higher level. I felt like these were kind of actors who were put in place in a Truman Show [kind of] way, to make me comfortable with the idea. I already had decided, I was like, “Definitely not going to go down that route,” and when it was all said and done at 3 o’clock in the morning when everybody’s passed out and I’m wide awake and peaking on acid, I look up at this particular star. This star basically, in a consciousness to consciousness way, was like, “Hey, man, what’s going on? Here’s what’s going on in my entire life.” And I saw… time was going, who knows how much time it took, but a star walked me through the timeline of its existence and the planets that have been revolving around it and, “Oh, we had life pop up on this one for a little while and then it went away. This one ran into that one.” It showed me all this in a matter of like ten minutes and I was like, “This is what the ancients were doing. Right here what I’m experiencing now, this is how it works.” The fact that all our gods coordinate with celestial bonds, this to me is getting right at the heart of what they were all about, so I felt this experience played me and it got me to this particular node of understanding, and that was the purpose. And with the Peter Levenda stuff, that’s kind of my own personal experience where I’m like, “Yeah, there are spiritual forces that do influence things and they can manipulate you.” And people always talk about practicing mindfulness, that’s a part of mindfulness. Being in the moment, all the buzzwords… really do consider it and consider why you’ve made certain choices in your life, and you’ll find that there are puppet strings on us in all kinds of ways, spiritual, conspiratorial. There’s a lot going on that people are not paying attention to.
When you see these pyramids aligned to Orion’s Belt and you see these references to the stars, now I see how they could actually communicate, and that’s [given] me an animistic perspective that all living things have a consciousness, and how can you communicate with a star, you stupid head case? Well, I don’t know, but that’s the experience I had.
Alex Tsakiris: The conspiratorial world view, if you will, is all about that story. It’s opening up to experience more. It’s letting the camera lens open up and then still filtering it, but not filtering it until it comes all the way in.
Greg Carlwood: Yeah.
Alex Tsakiris: So as we wrap up, talk more about what you’ve learned about conspiracy theory, if you will, in terms of how it relates to other aspect of life, which I think that [story] is a great example, as is your whole willingness and openness to say, “Hey, you know what? I threw spirituality out the window and I shouldn’t have. I’m going to let it back in because I’m into paradigm busting, which is really what conspiracy theory is all about.
Greg Carlwood: Definitely. One aspect is that it’s important to separate data from interpretation. I know you talk about a lot of data here; that line is something Gordon has just drilled into my head. He’s been a pretty good mentor, to tell you the truth, but you have to be able to — when you’re listening to a guy talk for two hours about [his] research — you have to be able to say, “Okay. Where was the research and where was the spin you put on it?” Because you can look at the same data and come to different conclusions, so it is important to separate data from conclusion. Not to go too off the rails on some of their interpretations and conclusions when the data doesn’t necessarily get you there, so that’s kind of an important aspect of it.
The other thing is singular narratives. I am very attracted to singular narratives. The idea that I want to figure out who is the capstone of the pyramid, that’s who it is and everything else is underneath and I think that, in a conspiratorial mind, is something that a lot of people gravitate to.