Author of Chamelio (reviewed here)
Invisibility and the Disappearing Self: An Interview with Robert Guffey
Robert Guffey is the author of Chameleo (OR Books 2015). As the OR book blurb puts it: “A mesmerizing mix of Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, and Philip K. Dick, Chameleo is a true account of what happened in a seedy Southern California town when an enthusiastic and unrepentant heroin addict named Dion Fuller sheltered a U.S. Marine who’d stolen night vision goggles and perhaps a few top secret files from a nearby military base.
Dion found himself arrested (under the ostensible auspices of The Patriot Act) for conspiring with international terrorists to smuggle Top Secret military equipment out of Camp Pendleton. The fact that Dion had absolutely nothing to do with international terrorists, smuggling, Top Secret military equipment, or Camp Pendleton didn’t seem to bother the military. He was released from jail after a six-day-long Abu-Ghraib-style interrogation. Subsequently, he believed himself under intense government scrutiny — and, he suspected, the subject of bizarre experimentation involving “cloaking”— electro-optical camouflage so extreme it renders observers practically invisible from a distance of some meters — by the Department of Homeland Security. Hallucination? Perhaps — except Robert Guffey, an English teacher and Dion’s friend, tracked down and interviewed one of the scientists behind the project codenamed “Chameleo,” experimental technology which appears to have been stolen by the U.S. Department of Defense and deployed on American soil. More shocking still, Guffey discovered that the DoD has been experimenting with its newest technologies on a number of American citizens.”
Initial phone interview on March 5, 2015 followed up by email on March 12.
John Hawkins: Chameleo read like it would make for a brilliant screenplay. The whole thing came to life. I felt like I was reading a mash of Hunter S. Thompson, Philip K Dick, but also a bit of Elmore Leonard, with the slick characterizations. The first third is extremely entertaining, but later you bring together a lot of threads – verbatim interviews, emails and phone call transcripts, all of which makes for an interesting combination of humor mixed with striking, frightening stuff.
Robert Guffey: Yes, the first third is very narrative driven and then I get into the transcripts. I can see where the narrative might slow down some at that point. But I was hoping that at that point the reader would be interested enough to get to the end. And I wanted to maintain the transcript just so the reader could see that this was not just something I was making up. I very much didn’t want to be preaching or standing on a soapbox warning people about the coming apocalypse of the surveillance state. People tend no to listen to that and they tune it out.
JH: What influenced the structural choices you made in putting the book together?
RG: When I was 18, I discovered Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And around that same time, I discovered a book called AIDS, Inc by John Rappoport, which is a very hard-hitting investigative journalism look into alternative theories regarding the origin of AIDS. Was AIDS from a government laboratory, etc. It examines all the theories. I remember thinking it would be fascinating if you could combine the serious investigative journalistic tone of AIDS, Inc with this kind of crazy gonzo narrative thing, like in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and I think Chameleo is like a culmination of that interest on my part.
JH: A lot of otherwise open-minded readers might be repelled by your background in conspiracy theories, and yet, in Chameleo that tenuous narrative trope seems to be supported by the raw events unfolding in a kind of hyper reality. How is Chameleo different from other conspiracy-centric narratives?
RG: When conspiracy theorists publish–or, more often than not, self-publish–books, they are frantically attempting to disseminate what they feel is important, life-or-death information. This is not my main concern. I’m coming from a literature background. I’ve been publishing short stories since I was 25. Writers like John Fante, Henry Miller, and Charles Bukowski wrote about the reality around them. I’m engaged in the same process. It just so happens that the reality we live in today is over-brimming with conspiracies. If Mark Twain were alive today, I’m certain he would be writing about conspiracies. He wouldn’t be able to avoid it. I see Chameleo, primarily, as a work of literature. If the book does succeed in disseminating valuable information, it’s simply a byproduct of my desire to write about reality as I see it.
JH: Your book, especially early on, has a Gonzo journalist flavor added to the stir fry approach, which is in keeping with words attributed to Hunter S. Thompson: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” This would seem to apply to the whole concept of your book. Care to elaborate on how?
RG: Actually, it was Joseph Heller who wrote, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” The line is from Catch-22. I don’t have much to add to Heller’s statement except to say that I agree with it. When Chameleo begins, I don’t think Dion is paranoid at all; however, being constantly surveilled and harassed does indeed tend to push people over the edge just a tad. I don’t think Dion has ever been clinically paranoid, but the events that were swirling around him might have induced symptoms that could be interpreted as paranoia by those not familiar with the full details of his dilemma. After all, exhibiting paranoiac symptoms is a perfectly reasonable response to being stalked by an organized group of strangers.
JH: We live in times when government is becoming more opaque in its processes, while, at the same time, the human self seems to be disappearing with the rapid evaporation of privacy and free-thought. It occurred to me that what Dion goes through in Chameleo brought this out with great effect.
RG: This process was predicted by Marshall McLuhan. All of his books, in their own unique way, explore how to maintain one’s private citadel of consciousness in a world ruled by The Machines. McLuhan predicted this situation as early as 1946 or ’47. Here’s a quote from McLuhan: “I once wrote an article, ‘The Southern Quality.’ back in 1946 or 1947 where I explained why there was no human life on this planet. Since then human beings have been grown inside programmed media-environments that are essentially like test tubes. That’s why I say the kids today live mythically.” This “mythic” environment is one of the main subjects of a book I’m finishing now. The book is called Hollywood Haunts the World. The final chapter of this book will explore the “loss of self” you refer to.
JH: You mention that you were inspired by the humorous skepticism of Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism, but also by John Rappoport’s book, AIDS, Inc. Can you say more about ho AIDS, Inc acted as an inspiration – or, in other words, what was Rappaport’s thesis and how did his methods and findings inspire your Chameleo approach?
RG: Rappoport is a Pulitzer-Prize-nominated journalist whose approach to documenting the true nature of the 1980s AIDS epidemic was unlike any other reporter at that time. He asked questions no one else even thought to ask. The field of journalism will always be far too limiting for a searching mind like that. In fact, I think it would be incorrect to refer to Rappoport as strictly a “journalist.” He’s a journalist in the same way that Mark Twain was a journalist. He’s a writer who has his eyes wide open, and he simply reports on what he sees. In a sense, one might say that Rappoport’s style of reporting is a more sophisticated and spiritual version of Hunter S. Thompson’s subjective, drug-fueled reportage. Rappoport’s later book, The Secret Behind Secret Societies, is even better than AIDS, Inc. I consider it to be a vastly underappreciated book, one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.
JH: How would you sum up Project Chameleo?
RG: Project Chameleo, the brainchild of a scientist named Richard Schowengerdt, resulted in the creation of Electro-Optical Camouflage that could be employed by soldiers in the battlefield. Schowengerdt’s findings were almost certainly stolen by a private corporation working in tandem with the U.S. military.
JH: David Schowengerdt comes across in your book like the fictional nutty scientist in Back to the Future, or the very real Edward Teller, a kind of futuristic genius, but also the stereotypical naïf whose scientific inventions and forward-thinking get co-opted or stolen by government agencies with hidden agendas. I suppose Tim Berners-Lee is another. How do these comparisons work in Chameleo, if at all?
RG: Richard Schowengerdt is not only a brilliant scientist, but also one of the most balanced people I’ve ever met. His ongoing fascination with the intersection between science and metaphysics belies a deep and curious mind, not unlike that of Nikola Tesla. If Schowengerdt is guilty of being a little too trusting of the U.S. military, he certainly would not be the first scientist to find himself in such a situation. A fellow named Albert Einstein comes to mind. In that sense, Richard Schowengerdt is in very good company.
JH: I can’t recall a work that featured cameos by so many secret or covert agencies. There’s NCIS and SAIC and Freemasons and group stalkers and the CIA, all immersed in what you might call the sub-primal juices of the Deep State or the Deep Net. But one also thinks of all the other groups out there – the NSA, KKK, Skull and Bones, the PNAC mob, on and on it goes, until you get the sense that our society, which is supposedly built on late Enlightenment principles, falls back rather readily into the occult, fundamental religiosity, the weird and bizarre. And when you look to science for antidotes, it instead exacerbates the problem with references to quantum theory, multiverses, and the Singularity. This seems to play into a central theme of Chameleo – the contemporary fragility of the self and the reality we collectively construct ourselves within. What do you reckon?
RG: The title Chameleo has multiple layers of meaning. On a literal level, of course, it’s referring to Schowengerdt’s attempts to create invisibility technology. On a higher level, it refers to the fact that Truth itself is often camouflaged–not only in the book, but in contemporary life. Politicians and priests and psychiatrists attempt to camouflage Truth every day. We camouflage Truth from ourselves, as well as from others, just to get through an average afternoon. But because Truth is hidden, we have to try to find it ourselves somehow. Occult organizations have been formed for this exact purpose since civilization began. Secret societies are certainly nothing new. You used the word “occult” in your question, and the word “occult” simply means “hidden.” The Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, and similar organizations have been delving for hidden truths since their inception. It has been argued by Robert Lomas in his book, Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science, that “Freemasonry, supported by Charles II, was the guiding force behind the birth of modern science.” In the 1600s many scientists were forced to form secret societies, such as the “Invisible College,” in order to study the secrets of nature in ways that were forbidden by the Church. If one feels the need to form a secret society to pursue Truth, due to the fact that the climate of the day is hostile to Truth, then so be it. All organizations are made up of people. A group of Imagination Vampires will probably end up creating a corrupt organization, while a group of humanitarian free thinkers will probably end up creating a worthwhile organization. It all depends on the intentions of the individuals in the group, not on the group itself. Groups should always be subordinate to the individual.
JH: You mention that Edward Snowden’s breathtaking revelations, which detail the scope and power of the active global surveillance state, actually pale in comparison to some of the claims you make about gangstalking. That seems like a staggering claim, all things considered. Could you say more?
RG: I don’t think it’s that staggering at all. As far as I know, Edward Snowden never mentioned anything about invisible midgets, simian sharpshooters, leapfrogging robots, snooping flying saucers, and swarms of government-funded gangstalkers.
JH: If the Internet and the myriad digital technologies that have followed are like the first touch of the monolith by the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey, then one might reasonably argue that the awakening process required of human consciousness right now to overcome our profound limitations is akin to entering the Stargate. Would you agree with that?
JH: What is gangstalking? Who gets gangstalked? Who gangstalks? How do you suppose gangstalkers get away with using expressions like “He’s evil,” as they stalk, hile all the time, they are the ones committing the horrible crime of privacy invasion, character assassination, and, in some instances, conspiracy to commit brutal murders?
It’s all explained at http://fightgangstalking.com/what-is-gang-stalking/
JH: In your book you write: “Let’s not be obtuse: we’re dealing with a rule-crazy, Puritanical, hypocritical, Old Testament–style perception of reality that desperately needs to wipe out anything or anyone that is Other. Different. Contrary.” You seem to be arguing that such types are on the rise in America, and probably elsewhere as well. How do you explain such a backward, reactionary phenomenon at a time of so much futurism? If these kinds of humans prevail, what kind of future are we looking at?
RG: Back in 2003, I was fortunate enough to interview Rev. Stephan Hoeller, Bishop of the Gnostic Church in America, and during that conversation Hoeller said the following words to me: “Do you remember The Last Temptation of Christ, Scorcese’s movie? There’s a scene where Jesus is trying to tell Pilate, ‘Look, you know, we want to change the world, but we want to change it with love. I don’t want to start a revolution. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I just want to change it with love.’ And Pilate says, ‘My good man, you don’t understand, we don’t want it to be changed at all. By no means, we don’t want any change!’ [Laughs] So, it’s a little bit that way. People involved in the matrix, they are within the consensus reality, they want reality to stay that way. To poke holes into that reality by one means or the other is very disturbing to such people. Those are the deeper psychological motivations of the dislike for psychedelics, or for that matter for ceremonial magic or Gnosticism, or anything that alters consciousness in any significant way.”
JH: The other thing I wanted to ask you about is some macro pictures. If you could sort of relate all of this to the Snowden revelations.
RG: Well, I guess the over-riding motto is: Never waste a good crisis. It’s quite ironic because I think that some of these people [gangstalkers] are being sold a bill of goods and think that they’re being upright — you know, Neighborhood Watch type citizens are being told: ‘oh, you know, that guy down the street — well, in the book, Dion mentions a part where the cops stopping him and they say that they were told that he talked about ‘doing something’. It’s vague enough, you know, it sounds vaguely manipulative, vaguely ominous. And so you know I think these people are being told that this man down the street, ell, you know, he’s a terrorist, or he’s been talking about doing something, or he’s a pedophile, or whatever, and they believe it, and then they tell them to go and harass him at the local supermarket, go spy on him, and I think they might be actually doing that thinking that they’re protecting, you know, apple pie, and God and country, not realizing that they’re the terrorists.
RG: That’s the irony of it. Well, I know that hen the George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin tragedy occurred Dion contacted me and wondered: Who’s this George Zimmerman guy? And who’s he actually working for? I mean, no one’s actually looked into that. I mean, George Zimmerman, his personality, is just the perfect gang-stalking personality. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he was trained by one of these organizations. You wouldn’t hear anything about that because no one’s looked into it because of course gang-stalking doesn’t exist. so no journalist has ever looked into it.
I think what’s going to happen is that if the whole gangstalking thing reaches the kind of critical mass at some point, people are going to be surprised at the fact that the Snowden revelations are like just completely mundane compared to what’s actually going on. Just the tip of the iceberg. What Snowden’s talking about pales in comparison to whole neighborhoods being trained — basically being government-sponsored vigilantes, which sounds like a paradox — I mean, how could you be a government-sponsored vigilante — but that’s essentially what it is. I mean they’re taking these people and training them in how to be amateur COINTELPRO agents and the idea that this could happen. I mean, most people are resistant to the whole concept of gangstalking. They don’t want to think gangstalking is possible.
JH: What happened to Dion, the experience he had in his apartment with the invisible bodies bumping against him, and the phantasmagorical hallucinations out his window, that kind of shit, that’s disturbing to the core, really. It’s the kind of thing that if you realized that that was happening on any kind of scale at all, not just single individuals. You’re talking about very serious shift in consciousness, what you could call real. What would be true or real? You make reference to the Boris Vallejo paintings that seem to fill Dion’s apartment window. What do you make of them?
RG: In terms of the paintings that they were using? You know, I think that if they were using the technology that Richard Schowengerdt was describing. He on his own started talking about using the technology to be able to distort what people see, not just making things invisible but changing things into something else. So I think they were testing that aspect of the technology, to see whether they could make a landscape — just totally disappear and turn into something else.
JH: The thing I worry about out of all of this is — as you know there are like 1.5 million people are on some kind of watch list in the States, and that’s just the known lists, the publicized lists. The number of people being watched actively because they’re targets of Obama or DOJ targets. And you know they can’t all be terrorists. .So there have to be people who watch them. Then you realize the number of people out there who have these top secret clearances out there. Last I heard there as something like 450,000 people who have top secret clearance. Then you find out that all these private companies are basically stocked with people who are “retired”, meaning they left the service to go work for these companies and get lucrative awards for it.
RG: Well, there’s a surprising number of these private corporations that are currently involved in those types of operations. Last August, this ad popped up on Craig’s List. And for years I wondered what the people involved, the gangstalkers following Dion, what they called themselves? And this ad popped up, specifically looking for people — this was a corporation that was based in San Diego — and the headline of the ad read: Surveillance Role Players and Practical Exercise Role Player, San Diego. And this was the ad: “The Masy group — M-A-S-Y– is looking for motivated surveillance role players (SRPs) and scenario-driven practical exercise role players (RPs) to support military training activities in the San Diego, California region. Qualified personnel should demonstrate an established track record of conducting surveillance operations at various discretion levels, supporting surveillance training and military practical exercise training. Individuals with previous military intelligence community and la enforcement experience are highly preferred.” And then it says the mandatory prerequisite qualifications for role players is “a minimum of 5 years of counterintelligence and/or human intelligence experience, with at least two operational deployments in a CI unit military occupational specialty, or as a member of a civilian intelligence community organization.”
So surveillance role players is the term they use to describe themselves. The ad quickly disappeared after that, but I saved it. And the MASY group describe themselves as a global provider of high impact national security intelligence and private sector capital management solutions. These organizations — there’s MASY, there’s DSAC, which is the Domestic Security Alliance Council; there’s something called PKS Group, Prescient Edge; ITA International; Whitney Bradley and Brown; all these private companies working in tandem with these ex-military people. In reality, they’re actually working in tandem with people who are currently military as well.
JH: Yes. You put your finger right on it. Because that’s the problem: There’s all of these assumptions about authority, such that the accuser is an authority requiring trust. When what all this Snowden-Surveillance State business should tell us, going all the way back to Nixon especially, all of our experience should tell us totally the opposite.
It’s very Stasi-like in that sense. The Stasi brought people in and would say to people either you’re working for us or you’re going away for a long time. And so some of these people did some sick things. And that’s how the whole thing grew. I think the last figure I had for the Stasi was that their number had grown to 350,000 people working for them, in a population of 17 million.
RG: And also this happened to Gloria Naylor. Do you know who she is? She’s a very famous, well-respected African-American writer. She wrote Mama Day and The Women of Brewster Street, and a lot of other well-respected novels. I mean, she’s a well-respected literary figure. But not a lot of people know that she is also a target of gangstalking. She wrote a whole book about it called 1996, which is ostensibly a novel, but she said it’s actually autobiographical. She sort of slightly fictionalized it. But according to her she moved to an island off the coast of Maine. She was living in this isolated house off in the country somewhere but she had a neighbor, and the neighbor had a dog, and the dog ended up getting accidentally poisoned somehow, and the neighbor blamed her; that they thought she’d killed the dog. And it turned out the neighbor had a brother who worked in the NSA, and suddenly she as getting stalked. And all of the stuff that Dion describes and I described in the book happened to her to a greater or lesser extent. And that’s before 9/11. So I think 9/11 did open the door to — it just widened the door, the door was already open — this stuff was already happening but then it intensified after 9/11.
JH: I did a review of a book about to months ago, Suspicious Minds, written by two psychiatrist brothers, Joel and Ian Gold, and they write about the growing delusional trend in America, where people literally believe that they are actors in a Truman Show. Where everything is being directed by outside forces beyond their control, and that everybody else has a script.
RG: On the surface it sounds like a wonderful way for a psychiatrist to explain someone who claims to being gangstalked.
JH: I am mostly anti-psychiatry because I think they’re mostly full of shit. I think a lot of people forget that they’re not really out there to tend to individual humans; they are out to make you adjust to hat’s out there, society. As R.D. Laing said, “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.” Or bring in Nietzsche ho said, “Insanity in individuals is rare, but in nations, states and societies it’s the norm.” So it’s that kind of thing going on here you are trying to get people to adjust to a horrible shitty situation. The structure of society can be such that its lies — that individuals pick up on that and it creates a real crisis in their own identity because there are some things you can’t adjust to without losing your mind.
RG: In The Secrets behind Secret Societies, Rappaport tells the story about a hypnotist he knew who worked in Beverly Hills. And the hypnotist’s name was Jack Prue. And the hypnotist told John Rappaport — he was a hypnotherapist — that when he has patients come into his office he often found that in order to put them into a trance he had to first break them out of a trance. That a lot of his patients came in already in a trance and they had been in a trance for like decades. And he had to break them out of that trance to then put them in a trance to do the hypnotherapy on them.
If the book in any way helps to bring some of the targeted individuals together and talking to each other I would be very extremely proud. Even if it succeeded in bringing just a few people together I would be very pleased. You know, maybe things are changing. There was a Washington Post article from last July. The title was “America’s freedom reputation is on the decline a year after NSA revelations,” and the first paragraph of the article read:
“The main selling point of the US brand on international stage has long been summed up with the screech of in one word: Freedom. But in the wake of revelations of US surveillance programs from former national security agency contractor Edward Snowden from last year, the world is less convinced that the US has respect for `personal freedoms, according to new survey results from Pew Research.” It goes on to say:
“The Snowden revelations appeared to have damaged one major element of America’s global image — it’s reputation for protecting individual liberties. In 22 of 36 countries surveyed in 2013 and 2014 people are significantly less likely to believe the US government respects the personal freedoms of its citizens. In six nations the decline was 20 percentage points or more. Pew calls this decline the Snowden Effect. And some of the drops significant, especially in countries where NSA surveillance received major domestic news coverage, like Germany and Brazil.”
So that’s the Snowden Effect. Maybe there’ll be a Chameleo Effect.
JH: The thing about that Pew Poll that is interesting, America is the leader when it comes to democracy, at least symbolically, at least when it comes to freedom, the rule of law, and due process — the kingpins of the Bill of Rights, which is the single most important thing about American democracy — you always have to face your accuser and then you have a process of evidentiary revelations, the cross-examinations, the witnessing, all that kind of stuff. That was the key thing for American justice. That was it. And throwing that out, not only by what the Pew Poll is saying, but also with Obama and his Drone Kill Tuesdays, where he sees himself dealing judicial review as a form of due process. We just made it a lot easier for emerging democracies to ignore any attempt at installing a Bill of Rights, they won’t pursue them any more. If supposedly the greatest nation on earth is suspending its on due process, then there really isn’t much point for any other nation to pursue it any longer.
RG: I teach at California State University at Long Beach, and I assigned the graphic novel V Is for Vendetta by Alan Moore. There’s a wonderful line in the book early on, here the masked anarchist vigilante figure, V, is having a conversation with a statue in London: it’s called Madame Justice. He’s basically talking about the difference between justice and anarchy, and there’s one line that he says to the statue, “Without freedom justice is meaningless.” And the reason why this is in my mind is that a student of mine — I was reading his paper this morning, and basically his paper was all about that sentence. And the student wrote this really interesting introspective essay about how in the United States you hear a lot of talk about justice — the Justice Department, no justice no peace — there’s all these articles about how we need justice for Ferguson or whatever, but his whole point was that need to be focused on freedom.
And you know, this is like an 18 year-old kid; he never read a graphic novel before. And he as really jazzed about this graphic novel and wrote this very thoughtful piece about it, and so that gives me hope when I see my students come in on the first day and they’re kind of like ready to be bored, because that’s hat they’re used to and I’ll just pose questions, or I’ll give them something to read. And you see that they’re not entirely stupid; they’re not entirely sheeple. There’s a kind of a stereotype of teenagers plugged into their videogames or their iPod or Facebook, and their zombies, at least that’s the ay older people might see them, but there’s actually this creativity and this intelligence that’s ready to burst out, but they’re so used to being told not to use their imagination that they’re in a trance. So I kind of try to do what Jack Prue did; I kind of try to break them out of a trance in my own subtle way. I remain optimistic.
I wrote an article called “Concentration Campus,” and it’s an entire history of American education. My thoughts about are really summed up by that title. But I also wrote a follow-up article to that’s not in the book called “The War Against the Imagination.” And basically it’s about the current state of education, and I really see there’s `some people who seem to want to go out of their way to deaden the imagination of the students and its quite distressing to see it. But whatever I can do to kind of counteract that is what makes me want to wake up in the morning.
JH: You are writing a long essay called “Nation of Stalkers.” Can you give a rough outline of what you might be covering?
RG: Basically it’s updating things that have happened since the end of the book, but also I offer other advice on fighting back, other than the sort of more prosaic level that’s being offered by the fight gangstalking website. I’m try to go into using maybe some more esoteric methods to fight back as well.
JH: You mean like playing Bob Dylan songs backwards? That kind of thing?
RG: I know a woman named Melinda Lesley. She’s a very brilliant woman. She’s also very well-versed in remote viewing and she was trained by one of the major proponents of remote viewing. And she’s very good at it. I mean, other remote viewers come to her to ask her advice. The remote viewer could basically remote view these sort of military installations and come back and give him information. And I began to think of how that could be used in the gangstalking problem.
JH: In the book the last word on Dion is in 2013 and I was just wondering if there as any word from him since then — you know, in the last couple of years?
RG: I’m in contact with Dion. He’s living in the Pacific Northwest. At one point he was living in a van. He actually has his on apartment now. He’s painting all the time. And the incidents are now intermittent.