I think I stepped into a time machine and fell back into the 90s

I think the death of Art Bell put me in a time warp. Here’s an interesting story about an army fellow who actually was listening in on Art Bell’s broadcasts while looking for Russkis. He makes the same point I did, that he really was an enabler for the alt-right and wackaloon conservatism.

Once I learned what had happened, I could no longer listen to those favorite talk radio shows anymore. Alex Jones was not simply a funny or stupid clown now. I understood that he was not simply sharing airwaves with disturbed people and utter fanatics, he was borrowing their silly ideas, and listeners who would not otherwise accept anti-Semitic or racist material learned to accept the narrative frameworks of those ideas through him.

As Jones made it okay to believe in this alternate reality, Art Bell made it okay to believe whatever you liked, often on the same station at a later hour. Vampires and werewolves? Ghosts and goblins? Area 51 cover-ups of alien bodies and interstellar spacecraft? Subterranean lizard people controlling the banks? Maybe some of them were real, or maybe all of them were real.

Even greater weirdness: did you know the FBI was investigating those dangerous Dungeons & Dragons players while hunting for the Unabomber?

And then…oh dear.

Aren’t you glad to be living in the second decade of the 20th century when everything is normal again?


  1. jrkrideau says

    Aren’t you glad to be living in the second decade of the 20th century when everything is normal again?

    Check those settings on the time machine.

    Way back in the days of IBM punch cards I knew someone who used them occasionally as postcards to a friend who would reply on another punch card. They both sign the cards with name + Revolutionary Repubic of ‘whatsit’.

    The RCMP dropped by for a chat. Ratted out by the Post Office!

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Re “Punch cards”:
    Reminds me of a class at MIT that used only punchcard programming, and at springtime, every student would dump their boxes of punchcards in dorm air wells to celebrate the end of their “torture”. This was well into the ‘70’s

  3. brucej says

    This was also the era of the Great Steve Jackson Games raid, iirc. And I must object, not all of our D&D group were overweight and slovenly! Most of us were pretty svelte…and slovenly. We sure as hell didn’t play in our work clothes! (business attire for most of us, although I was lucky enough to be a lab rat and got to wear jeans and tee shirts to work).

  4. cartomancer says

    Hmm, well, I’m scruffy and frugal, but I’m actually stick-thin, so hah! in your face FBI!

    Incidentally, did the FBI actually do any real work during the 90s?

  5. says

    That was a year before the suspect was arrested. The manifesto was published in September, so the FBI hadn’t gotten the call from Kaczinski’s brother, yet.
    The FBI had a pretty large team working on the case for a long time. They must have been getting desperate.

  6. robro says

    Re “Punch cards” (since we’re on it): My first job in San Francisco in 1974 was in subscription services for a small professional magazine publisher. They had recently moved subscription management to a computer that used punch cards. One of my jobs was to go through a printout of keypunch errors then find the corresponding set of punch cards for the subscription. “Mind numbingly tedious” only approximates my feelings about the job.

  7. screechymonkey says

    I was never a huge fan of the original X – Files run, but I watched a fair bit of it and liked it fine. But I quickly got turned off on the reboot, because suddenly conspiracy theorists didn’t seem like harmless goofs any more, and asking “but what if they’re RIGHT” just wasn’t a fun exercise. (In fact, if I recall correctly, the reboot even featured an Alex Jones-ish talk show host who, this being the X-Files, was of course ONTO THE REAL TRUTH.)

  8. KG says

    Reminds me of a class at MIT that used only punchcard programming… This was well into the ‘70’s – slithey tove@4

    Punched cards? You were lucky!! We ‘ad teh impress owur cord onteh clay tablets wi’ a stylus, then bake tablets oursen – standing in t’oven wi them, mind – then carry ’em to t’operator in a hod, and ‘ee’d feed ’em int’t’machine, which wor powered by relays of slaves ont’t’treadmill…

    In reality, I worked for the UK’s Inland Revenue (equivalemt of the USA’s IRS) from 1981-1983, and for the first year of my employment, we wrote code by hand, in pencil, onto “coding sheets”; data operators then typed our code into the card-punching machine, and the cards were fed into the computer, an ICL 1900 (so-called, it was said, because that was when it was built). Paper tape was also in use for some operations.

  9. says

    Hearing occasional snatches of Bell’s radio program in the nineties was enough to inform me that the world was full of wackos. Although the extreme cases are a small minority of the population, the Internet came along to enable them to clump into a critical mass. Flat Earth, anyone? Sheesh. The joke isn’t as funny anymore.

  10. jrkrideau says

    @ 10 KG

    Of course one wrote code by hand. In pencil, often after drawing a flow chart using one’s trusty IBM computer flowchart symbol template. I only did programming at school so I had to type my own cards. Gee data operators, what luxury!

    A former co-worker had worked for ICL even before this and he talked about liquid mercury memory!

    We probably should have stuck with Babbage Machines.

  11. jazzlet says

    When we were clearing out my dad’s house some time in the early 2000s we could tell when bro #3 had read a book as it had a punch tape book mark in the back. He did his first programming at Imperial College in the 70s and which ever of the family that had read the book since had just reused the handy bookmark.

  12. Michael Birdsall says

    “Aren’t you glad to be living in the second decade of the 20th century when everything is normal again?”
    Perhaps that should be the 21st century?

  13. psychomath says


    No, actually the 9th century AD never happened, so it is, in fact, now the 20th Century. Of course, some people believe that 614 AD – 911(!)AD never happened, but those people are just kooks.

  14. Felix says

    Armed & Dangerous describes an average US citizen. It’s a completely useless category. “We have a suspect. We’re looking for a human person”.

  15. says

    blf @1: It’s a thing that RPG players very rarely play the rules as written. Even when the rules are clearly written and not self-contradictory at all, players will often short-cut, make up house rules, splice together two different rule sets, or play a previous version of a rule instead of the new version while nominally playing the new version of the rules set, so they end up diverging from the rules set fairly rapidly, so that different groups will end up playing different games from the same rulebook. Reminds me of something, can’t quite think what….

  16. Mobius says

    Many years ago a friend of mine went to work for the NSA (No Such Agency). During his security check they discovered he was a member of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms). They were worried that he was part of a pro-monarchist group.


  17. efogoto says

    psychomath @15: “614 AD – 911(!)AD never happened”

    They happened. The discrepancy is just the adjustment from one calendar to another … Julian to Wackaloon.