A note from the margins of today’s rally in Washington Square. As thousands gathered to reckon with racism and brutality, the usual fringe groups dotted the edges of the park: garbled Christian faith-dealers, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and a man wearing a tall wizard’s cap who cast spells upon the hedges.

And there was a new style of paranoia. Old men with amplifiers delivered gnostic interpretations of the facial expressions of various health officials. They said coronavirus tests were mechanisms for microchipping our blood. They talked about eating particles of silver for protection.

One of them shoved a glossy flyer into my hands. The language starts like a low-rent legal advertisement before veering into magnificent science fiction. Are you suffering from insomnia? Headaches? Brain fog? Irritability? According to the flyer, we’re actually suffering radiation poisoning from wifi and cellphone towers—but “they” will blame these symptoms on the “virus.” The pandemic is a ruse to keep us indoors while the government installs new infrastructure with frequencies that control us. Our telecommunications companies are carrying out the orders of Moloch, the “ancient Ammonite god who demanded child sacrifice by parents.” The flyer ends with an all-caps warning: Do not trust your government. Do not trust the police.

For the briefest moment, it seemed significant that the last sentence of a batshit conspiracy—an invention for feeling aggrieved—would reach the same conclusion as the very rational and real voices in the center of the park.

Vatican Shadow – Encryption Nets

Ghosts of Chechnya | Hospital Productions, 2012/2020 | Bandcamp