Mont Icons

13: Brace Belden on fighting ISIS in Syria, Q Anon and Communism

Episode Transcript

DX: Daniel Stewart

MF: Mahmood Fazal

BB: Brace Belden

Warning. In this episode of Mont Icons, we discuss issues and experiences that could trigger distress or traumatic memories for people, particularly survivors of war, sexual abuse and violence.

DX: I first met Brace Belden when Total Control and UV Race were on tour in San Francisco. He was playing in a nihilistic punk band called Warkrime. Whenever I was in America, I would stay with Bryce, but we lost contact because of his drug addiction. Sometime later, I got a message from a mate saying, Brace Belden is now a communist, and he's in Syria, fighting ISIS.

BB: Like, I think there a real like vacuum of anything to believe in. And so I think people have to like, believe in something that is sort of what I like to think of as fantasy politics, right? Because for the last four years in America, you've seen, essentially two kinds of fantasy politics play themselves out. On the one hand, you have these QAnon people who have this entire political constellation and ecosystem, solar system, whatever kind of system you want to say that is filled with just myth and fantasy, right? A lot of it and some of its true, but accidentally, usually. And then you have people who are like, well, America is two seconds away from fascism. Russia is going to control us. And it's like, I think it's a combination of like, just this really fucked up nihilistic society, and a combination of like a, this real deep apoliticisation, especially here, where there's like no actual politics to fight for. And so the only way to like, make politics at all "something" is to be like, well, there's also magic and babies being eaten.

MF: In this episode. we speak with Brace Belden about his journey to fighting the Syrian civil war with the YPG, a Kurdish militia, and following his return to America, his successful campaign to form a worker's union, Bryce’s, the co host of the TrueAnon podcast, an investigation into the personal and political connections of Jeffrey Epstein. So we speak about PizzaGate, the hysteria of conspiracy theories, and the evangelist nature of QAnon.

DX: So Brace, I want to kick off with a pretty hefty question, because we've done this podcast and we've been kind of attempting to focus in some respects on what counterculture is, but we've never actually asked anyone about that. So I wanted to get your perspective. As someone who's lived a rich life on do you think that counterculture has any meaning as a term today? Does it does it?

BB: No.

DX: Yeah. So let's see. Let's see why.

BB: I was thinking about that earlier today. And like, I said, I took a long walk today. And I was thinking, like, you know, you're a 16 year old kid now or something. And like, you know, you see how things work. Maybe you live in like, you know, a city or something, you know, you got young parents or even old parents or whatever. I don't know what you would do to be part of a counterculture that had anything but like, a just directly kind of nihilistic bent to it, right? Like, if I was like, because I when I was 16, I was like, everything that like my parents like, and that older people like in that like society, like I don't like so I'm just gonna be like a shit and I'll put a swastika on a shirt, you know, blah, blah. You know, like, I'll be loud and obnoxious. But now it's like, I think this is why like a lot of people get into like, like 4chan kind of like stupid like, just really dumb racism shit, is because like, every everything around them is just so I mean, I don't know what it's like in Australia, but I imagine pretty similar because our stuff leaks over to the, to the, to the crown colonies pretty froze with some regularity. But like, I think this is why like, you see any, anybody who's like kind of countercultural or whatever, who's really young is just into this, like, totally bizarre world of just like nihilistic hatred. Because the prevailing culture we have here in America is just like this. It's not great. And like, you know, you combining, you know, with how it was before, kind of like the woke stuff, and then you have like, the really woke stuff, and it's just, I think it's just really confusing for a lot of people. And so like, the counterculture here have kind of just been, as it happens, absorbed into the prevailing culture, right? Like, there's no like hipsters, or like vice people anymore. That's just how people look in nice neighbourhoods. And like, there's not even any punk people like, I mean, there are still people in the punk but like, there's no like sort of new developments in punk or anything like that. I think. Honestly, counterculture. Now I would just overdose on fentanyl. If I was 16. That would be my that would be my big thing I would do.

DX: So I'd like to hear a bit about it. Because, like Warkrime was a pretty nihilistic band. So you you'd like experiences directly yourself like you've gone through this like nihilistic countercultural experience. I'd like to hear about how you got past that.

MF: And what was seductive about counterculture for you, when you were growing up?

BB: Yeah, that I think I was lucky because back then, it was still, like, even if you're a countercultural, you're still part of like a community of people, you were still part of, like, you know, a culture, you know, counter to the regular culture. Whereas now, I think it just kind of takes place like an alienated alienated sort of spaces online, where like, you don't actually interact with anyone in real life. And so I think, for me, it was having to interact with other people. Because my big thing was, I'm really good at like being rude. In fact, that was like, the only thing I was good at when I was in the band was just being really rude. And all of the like, you know, that the only reason anyone liked us really, I mean, our songs are all right. But really, we were just extremely what were much ruder than other bands. And at the time, I was like, this is great. Like, we came up with a specific plan. Like, we have to become so obnoxious that are we we only draw like the worst, most obnoxious, violent people as our fan base. And then we have to disavow them later in like a sort of Suicidal Tendencies type move. which worked, we did gain like a really obnoxious and in the Bay Area, at least, violence young fan base, who we did not disavow because no one asked us to, but it caused me kind of a lot of problems and which was fine. Like, a lot of the people I had problems with, you know, they fucking stuck in their own ways. You know what I mean? Like, I at least was just honest, that I was a piece of shit. They were not so honest. But I kind of just outgrew it because, like,  I realised there's like a lot more to the world than just like making, you know, this really sort of bass vulgar version of just like, making my parents my parents didn't even care. Like, they were just at work. And so like, you know, eventually kind of the stick wore thin and like, I wanted to, like play music and like, hang out with people without having to be this fucking like, character, essentially.

DX: And what was that? Was there like a turning point moment for you? Where that really clicked for you? Oh, did you just grow up?

BB: I got into heroin.

DX: Okay.

BB: Yeah. Because I, I never fully got out of being obnoxious. But once I got into heroin, I was like, everything's all good, man. You know, we don't need to fight. I hate like, I'm so sorry that I was rude to you when I was younger, like, like, you know, let's just make up and stuff like that. And so I mean, basic. And then that took me out for kind of a while of like, actually doing anything. And so, yeah, that was basic. And once I got out of that, it was like, I was a whole different person.

MF: How did you break out of that?

BB: I got arrested. And then they had to go to rehab because the court and then a bunch of like, I basically got sick of it. Also, I was doing meth for like a year, like shooting meth everyday for a year. And that really kind of takes its toll on you. And my body was kind of falling apart. And so eventually, I just couldn't do it anymore. Like I couldn't afford it. I ran out a connection. I burned all my connections got beaten up by a lot of people who, I'm thankful they just beat me up. I stole money from everybody I knew who had any kind of money. And I had burned every bridge I could possibly burn. And so my next step was a pretty would have been, I would have gotten even lower than that I already was, and I couldn't hack it. I'm a poser junkie, you know, like, I never sucked the cock or nothing. You know, I I never, you know, held anybody up. It's I was just I was, you know, I was in it, but I wasn't. I rode the way but I wasn't like under the wave.

MF: I'm happy to hear you come out the other end. I know. It's a tough, tough thing to to kick definitely hit my my dance with meth. And yeah, it can really eat you up for sure. Oh, definitely eat your morals up.

BB: Yes.

MF: Everything seems yeah, everything seems plausible. When you're in state for sure.

BB: And that's the problem is everything seems plausible. And so you end up doing some things that are highly implausible and failing at them and being very frustrated that failure.

MF: Absolutely, um, man, I want to know how someone like you goes from playing in those bands kicking the habit to fighting in a Kurdish militia that how does how does that happen?

BB: Well, I got really like I read like political stuff when I was younger, and like Most of it, I mean, being into punk it was just kind of this like, vague. Like, I don't I mean, I don't know if listeners will understand this reference, but slingshot calendar style, like, you know, like, lots of trees and like, you know, sort of like aphorisms and maxims about like anarchy and freedom and all this kind of stuff. And that always seemed very corny. To me. That was like a kind of different kind of punk that I was in. But, you know, I read some of that stuff. And like, my dad had been like a 60s radical. And so like, there were books laying around that very voracious reader, like big, and especially when I was when I was on drugs, like, I didn't hang out with anybody. I just read books. Like when I was by myself.

MF: What were you reading?

BB: I read, I think the first weirdly enough, the first like political book book I read, I think, was a book by Lenin called Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, which I had like no context for reading, in like, 2011, or something 2012. And, like, I read a lot of history books, and sort of like, understood that that actually was a leg up because I sort of understood the shape of the world, but I didn't understand kind of what coloured it in. And so reading political books. I don't know, it just became something I did when I was on drugs, because I was like, first of all, I've been on drugs. I was like, I understand all this perfectly, exactly. Sometimes it took a couple more readings when I got sober. But, uh, you know, and this kind of, like, I think, partially just like, you know, it allowed me to live in kind of a different world than the world I was living in. Which was, which was one with very few windows, like, literal windows, I lived in a basement. And I don't know, for some reason, like reading, reading that kind of stuff. And knowing that there was like people, you know, like millions of people throughout history, who you know, firmly believed in this kind of thing. I'd never encountered something like that something I actually believe in. Because punk is like, It's weird. You know, growing up, punk is almost treated like a politics like, you know, people will be like punks and skins unite, but like, unite for what like to get beer together. Or, like, you know, punk is like, treated like this political movement. When, like, you know, it's, it's, I think, a fantastic way to grow up. And it's a music I listened to and, you know, things I feel shows, I still go to today. But like, once I understood that there was something sort of bigger than that I got real really excited. And so I just, I just read for a long time.

MF: And What were you reading at the time that introduced you to the mess that is the Syrian civil war? Because it's like, the most complicated melting pot of proxy wars, you know?

BB: Yes.

MF: All sorts of religious conflicts, all sorts of madness. I gather that would have taken more than one book to really,

MF: That was, I had read it, I had read like, a book by Abdullah Ocalan who was like the imprisoned leader of the PKK, the Kurdish Kurdish sort of armed group. I'll tell you what, the book I read, didn't make a lot of sense. Later, I read a book that was like, alright, but I was the one I read, I was like, what the fuck is this joker talking about? But it was more like a philosophy book. And that stuff could be hard for my simple mind to to grasp. But uh, I, uh, I actually that was from like, I was working in a gym, I got always been, like, aware of the Syrian Civil War, you know, like, was big news for a while and continued to be big news while I was reading about it, although it's sort of faded now. But I was working at a gym was the first job I ever worked at, where I had access to a computer. It was at this boxing gym, and part of my job there was to check people in. And so I'd sit there and just kind of like, look at the news on on the computer, and I would like sort of obsessively read it. And like, one of the things that is wrong with me is that like, when I when I get an idea, like I'll just like obsessed over it and like, basically think of nothing else. Like I get a lot of ideas every day and I can't remember any I have a really bad memory. And so like when one sticks it like really sticks and like I become sort of like mentally ill around it. And not like a fucked up way or nothing. But like, I just like kept I was like all I read about and then I realised there was there was a death of this woman, Ivana Hoffman, who was this like, think Togolese German woman who died they're fighting with this group called the MLKP, which is Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Turkey. And I was like, wait, this chick is dead, like in Syria. And I started reading about her and about her life and I got really obsessed with that. And then I realised I could do that, like, I could, well not die. I could go there. And, and then I started talking to it because I've Kurdish and Turkish friends here And I started hanging out with them and like asking them about that, and some of that had been there in like, 2014 they had not as fighters, but you know, like, you know, their families are from Turkey, they cross the border. And, and so they kind of like, you know, gas me up on it. And so...

MF: I thought that I mean, yeah, oh would have been surely running away from it.

BB: No, no, no, no, no. They were like, yeah, you should definitely go like, really well, yeah. But, I mean, they've gone to and stuff they didn't fight. But like, if the thing is like fighting is the kind of thing we can get out there. And so it's like, I didn't if I could have gone and not fought, I was like, I probably would have chosen to do so at the time. I wouldn't have chosen to do that. Now. I think what I did was a good decision. But like, I if, at the time, I was like, well, I can't What do I i've never shot a gun before. You know, like, it's like what? Which, like, if you think about it, most people in civil wars haven't actually shot guns at people before, you know, that's like 16 year old kids. And so I eventually sent an email, I had to figure out like what PGP was, and like, all this encryption shit, which I still don't understand how I did, cuz I don't like computers are mystifying to me. And so I sent an email to this email address I found and they wrote back and they like, you know, after a while, they're like, yeah, come out here. And I just booked a flight to Iraq, and told everyone I was here that I was going to work on a radio station, it was the first lie that came to my head. So people, people believe that, because it's like, so it's like, why would anyone lie about something that's stupid? Why wouldn't you just pick any more plausible lie? And, and then I took, I took a plane to Iraq, and then at Iraq I was supposed to meet a guy at an airport. Of course, there's nobody at the airport. And I call his number a few times. He calls me back, he tells me to give the phone to a taxi driver, which I was like any taxi driver. And the taxi driver just drives me to this hotel. I ended up waiting in this fucking the dolphin hotel downtown Sulamani. So this is like the Kurdish region of Iraq. And so and named as such, because it's like, there's a word for dolphin in every language. Okay, go just name it like TV hotel. Yeah, yeah. Well, so I meet this guy, and like a room, I get a room, I had to pay for a room and we were there for like an hour. And like, you know, they're gonna just let us use the room. But I pay for a room and this guy is in there, or he comes in meets me in there, and he's like really skittish. I later found out he's a smuggler, and then I later find out that he was actually like, kind of like a spy stole all our information and sold it to the Turkish government. And he like, he's, like, all freaked out. The police are following him. I don't know what this dude was fucking talking about. Because the police and Sulamani do not give a fuck about this kind of shit. And he's hiding, like, there's like an armoire there. And he hides in there. And like, you know, the police come in here, they're probably gonna open the armoire. Like if they're following you, that's the only place to hide in the room. He stays in there for an hour. And I'm like, very tense at first and like, talking, like, Oh my god, I'm about to get arrested and Sulamani and then after like, 30 minutes, I'm like, I'm just like, open a book and start reading because I'm like, I don't know what it's like, I'm not gonna just keep looking at the door.

MF: Do you think your experiences with meth gave you less paranoia? And I feel absolutely I feel like I'd be far less paranoid in an environment like that just after coming off meth and breaking that cycle when

BB: Absolutely.

MF: I feel like I'd be far less paranoid in an environment like that just after coming off meth and breaking that cycle.

BB: Well this is a few years later, but definitely like, I was like, I've encountered guys like this guy's actually like half the dudes I know. And then he took me to a safe house and then after like four or five days in the safe house, they took us on foot to Syria. Well, we drove to the mountains and then through there across the Tigris, you know, dingy and then did like a 10 hour fucking hike into Syria, which sucked, but I'm not a big hiker. And then I was there for like, six or seven months.

MF: Right? What was your first impression when you got the and how much? How much money do you have to take on you and you're going to fight a revolution for the Kurds.

BB: I took $400 in $100 bills in my phone case. I didn't have any more money than that. So I was like, this is about like what I get asked, but they don't use money while the guys I was with don't use money. So it didn't it didn't turn out to be a problem at all, but it was very like, I mean, I went from being in like the safe house with a couple other Americans to like being in the mountains with these like gorillas, and then the gorillas taking a hike through a minefield but like, I'm unable to process things as like, really fucked up and scary until they like start actually, like if their ideas like if the guy's like, that's a mind field right there. I'm like, well, you know, if a mind blows up, then I'm like, holy fuck, there's a minefield, but if I, you know, he's like, we're walking through a minefield, just follow me. I'm like, oh, not much I can do about it. So it was like, I was like, it didn't hit me that there was like, a war for a second. And then, you know, we go to a base with them. And then they take us to, like, a westerners training base. And that was like, it was, it was weird, because I expected it to be like, much scarier than it was, but it was kind of just like, you know, it was like, 20, 30 guys, sometimes, just, I mean, the actual training was like, 15, 20 guys, and there was just like, some other guys in transit there. And it was just kind of like you'd expect, like people from all over the world, just like, you know, some people are funny, some people are stupid, some people are insane. And like, they totally gave us language lessons. They gave us fucking political lessons. They gave us some military lessons, which turned out to be the dumbest military like they like taught us how to do like mountain ambushes. Meanwhile, I did not see anything that was more than like three feet elevation for the rest of my time there, let alone like high grass or whatever. And yeah, it was just like, I I got used to it. And like I, you know, I like being in a uniform, I kind of like, was fine with taking directions. And then they sent me and two other guys to a heavy weapons unit, and then immediately into an operation. And so...

MF: Is that when it got real?

BB: Yeah, yeah. But it was still kind of fun. Just because the guys I mean was not fun. But like, it was like, like the guys who were such fucking goofs, not like loot, like, idiots or anything, but like, they were just like, goofing around all the time. And so like the Kurdish guys are with. And I didn't speak Kurdish at that point, like, I tried to learn at home for a long time, and I couldn't do it. And then I failed to learn in the academy, but I was able to learn it with these guys, because I wanted to fuck around with them. And because I was bored, and I couldn't. And so eventually, I was able to speak Kurdish just to like, kind of razz them and so that was like, that was more real, because there was fighting, but it was like it was at that time, it was like the fighting was like pretty far, like, not far away from us. Like we were fighting people, but like, they were far from where we like we were having to shoot really long distances. And so it's like, you could see people like in binoculars, but it wasn't like guys, like right in front of you. Because we were just in the middle of the fucking desert. Like, there's like nothing around us. And we saw like, you know, we like there was like a lot of like, car bought that car bombs, but they called the vbids, like vehicle borne IEDs that we got hit with. And we saw like, I mean, we saw all this crazy shit like cages in these towns and like, you know, like, car bomb factories. But it was mostly just a lot of waiting around. And so when you wait around, you know, you kind of just fuck around with each other.

DX: What can you remember about the first conversations you had with other people that travelled there for this? Like, what was your?

MF: Yeah, I’m interested in the other Westerners how cosmopolitan was it and where were they kind of from?

BB: Most of them are European. There was a lot of Italian anarchists who were like really kind of crazy guy. They all had like knife wounds on their faces from getting into fights in Italy. Yeah, we're from like Southern Italy, I think there was a, there was a few guys that were there was a couple pair of guys that actually became pretty good friends with one of them became pretty good friends with who were just ex soldiers who had had I mean, one guy I was like, became actually really good friend says he's the only guy I've ever hung out with outside of Syria. Like he he came and visited me a bunch of times and in the Bay Area, but he had been, you know, raised in an orphanage in the Bay Area. Joined the Marines at 17 got blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan, all fucked up, comes back, becomes a drug addict, shoots a gun at somebody goes to jail, or goes to prison, gets out of prison, joins the French Foreign Legion and then deserves the French Foreign Legion and goes to Syria. And so he was called Fucked Up. But he was really funny. And so we hung and he spoke like really good Arabic. And so we hung out a lot. But you know, there was a range, it was mostly political types. The prior people who would come were mostly like glory seeker guys, but by the time I was there, they were specifically just trying to get like political people. Or like people who were you know, who would possibly join the party as like contrary after that. And so which worked on some of the guys I was there with, they're still there. Or they went to other places with the party. But uh, yeah, it was a strange mix of people. It was like a really eclectic mix of guys and it was only guys there were women too. But they didn't, we never saw them. Like we'd see them occasionally. Like, I think I saw like three foreign fighter women. But beyond that, it was all guys and it was like mostly Southern Europeans and then a lot of Germans in fact. I gotta tell you this, the Germans I did not like so much. They were very weird.

MF: Tell us about the Germans.

DX: The first commander, the base was a German and he was like, so the way the party works is that like, they have like regular people in the party in there or in the YPG. And you're supposed to serve a term of six months, and then you can get out. And then they have cadre who were like in it for life, and you go, wherever the party tells you to do, you're celibate, blah, blah, it's, it's, you know, it's a good system. It really works for them. But there were like, German Codray who were there. And so they were like, I think I kept calling this guy Eichmann not to like his face, but I was like, because he was such a fucking taskmaster. And they would do shit. Like, you know, they'd start shooting off and AK outside our fucking room at like, three in the morning to be like, this is a simulated attack, but I'm like, I know, no one's attacking us. It's I know, it's you shooting AK-47. And any of us could kick your ass. So like this is that and eventually someone else did kick his ass. And they had to put in a Kurdish commander, which was much better off because that guy was totally insane. But the, the Germans were always like, at one point, I had two days off there my entire time. And what was on my way, way back. They let me go to Kumi slow, which is like the big city in the north there for two days. And the party gave me a pistol. Because I didn't I didn't. I didn't I gave my AK to somebody else. And well, because I was I was going home. And so the party gave me a pistol to carry around. We go to this youth centre where we're supposed to stay me in this knee and the sick dude, who I was with. And he's one of these kids is like, can I see the gun? And he's not a kid. He's like, 17 or 18. And I'm like, yeah, you can see the gun. So I unload the gun. There's no bullets in the gun, that magazine is empty, or it's out of the gun. And I let him fuck around with it. And he's, you know, again, he is like 17, 18 years old, a lot of 17 year 18 year olds with guns there. He's a cadre in the party. Like it's not, you know, and it's fucking German comes in, we're in shorts. And he's like, you can't do that. In fact, you can't be here anymore. Because like, I should show you like, what are you doing here? Like you come in here. I got our met you before. And you're like telling me like all these orders and stuff. And so that was like they were always just do every time a German would pop up, it would be like, Oh, great. Like, we're in fucking trouble now. And there's no ranks there. So I'm like, you can't really tell me what to do. But yeah, yeah, I didn't like the Germans, although good on them for spending the rest of their life doing that.

DX: Did you see a lot of those kind of internal squabbles between people with like, these firm positions that had come there for completely different reasons?

BB: Yeah. So the last, I was in three different units, I was in a heavy weapons unit. And then that we finished the operation, I asked if I could be transferred to like just a regular infantry unit. I did that. And then I was able to get transferred to a infantry unit, but it was this thing called and so really, named called the United Freedom Forces, which is it's, it sounds better in Turkish, but it's a coalition of three Turkish communist parties. One malice party, one sort of like mainline like, semi nondenominational communist party that I was in. And then there was the a homogeneous Party, which is like Ultra Maoist. And I was in the smallest one, excuse me, the one the group I was in called, it's called united freedom forces. That was the that was the Communist Party it was and that wasn't the combined group, that combined group, it's just called the International Tibor. And Tibor means Platoon over there. And so there was also like, they would take any other politicals that wanted to come, but you had to be sponsored by one of the parties. And so the malice would always sponsor the anarchists and like, so it was like maybe 40 or 50 of us, mostly Turkish, or like, 25 Turks. 25 just Westerners only like two Americans, I think it was like me and one other one. And then it was very funny, because the first thing actually, I heard when I showed up to their, like, frontline position. Was this, like, British yob playing fucked up real loud, like, putting in like, like, reinforced, you know, a window that had gotten blown out. But it was, it was funny, because like, all the three different parties, I mean, there was squabbles and stuff like that, but like, it was really like, all the stuff that anarchists would say about like, oh, there's no authority, blah, blah, blah, you know, like, we have no hierarchy that goes out the window when you're fighting because you gotta listen to somebody, right? Like, I if we're have like, you know, all free and equal man, like, you know, like nothing, you know, it's there's no, there's no hierarchy here. There's definitely a hierarchy there. And there is a party to it’s a democratic centralist male party and parties. And so like, you know, you take orders from somebody, but we did do like everything else very democratically, which led to some very long meetings, but like, you know, decide who does what chores or like, I don't know chores but like who's cooking when, the leaders could be like, you know, if you wanted to criticise somebody, you are allowed to criticise somebody. That's all thing that all the different parties out there have something they actually took from the the pflp actually wear a T shirt, which is called Tech Meal, where they have criticism and self criticism sessions every night. And so you were allowed to criticise your commander and like they were not allowed to get mad about it, which was pretty cool. But uh oh, actually, when we were in that we're in like the International Tibor, we didn't really do those because everyone got kind of sick of doing them because we thought that you had to gather every night and like, that was like an active front. And so there was always shit you had to do. And like, you know, you have to look out who people are for people. But mostly everybody got along like the guys I was really good friends with are Greek anarchists and I can't usually stay an anarchist in America. And so like, you know, it was it was pretty although anarchists in America I think are very peculiar breed. It was yeah, it was everyone got along pretty well.

MF: Who was the enemy that you came into contact with the most?

BB: When I was there, 100% ISIS, like, there was other friends got to go. Because when I went out there, I thought we were going to be connecting the cantons, because they have like three different cannons, Jazeera, Kobani, and then Afrian and in the middle of that was like ISIS territory, but also Turkish Free Syrian Army, like Turkish backed Free Syrian Army. And we thought we were gonna go fight the Turkish backed Free Syrian Army, which is basically just like, it's not the old Free Syrian Army. It's like Turkish mercenaries working for Turkey as like, their proxy for us as well.

MF: Al Nusra was almost around as well?

BB: But yeah, yeah, yeah. That's like, not not where we were. Yeah. But like, the thing is, those groups are so like, people just come and go from them, you know, and there's such a, like a mishmash of groups kind of packed into one place that like, who knows, like a couple of guys I know, got killed by like, non ISIS, Jihadi is up there. And I have no idea which group they belong to, you know. But I think Al Nusra is like further into it lives. So like, further south than that. Although I'm sure they I mean, that's the thing is like, everyone's got shooters everywhere, so

MF: And so did you how close did you come into contact with ISIS? And do you remember the first time you you saw those guys or you saw what they'd done to it to a village or town that you pass through?

BB: So the first time we saw them was the literally the day we launched an operation we were gathered in this like old, like Assad like tank base, that like kind of gotten blown to bits in this town called Inisa, which is a pretty big time, but not relatively big town. And they did the most baffling shit I've ever seen, which was send like a car bomb or like, you know, big ass like armoured cars filled with explosive. Again, a long like open desert. And so like people just shot them and they just blew up. Like, it's, you know, it's like, it doesn't because it car bombs makes sense in like a city because like, you know, you can turn a corner then blow up and you get a bunch of people in one place. But like in a big ass desert, they blow up and there's like, no one around for like half a kilometre. And so that was the first time I ever saw them. The closest I saw him I think was probably in like a month later at the end of the operation in this town called tell Simon and, you know, the town's like, I never really got to examine the towns that they had, like, fucked up. I mean, we drove through them and like we walked through houses and stuff like that. But like, the tag, the last place I was stationed, just called called the, that little town had been completely depopulated by them like they'd killed a bunch of people. And we were like, walking around me and this mean this Scottish guy Cal or like walking around doing like a little patrol. And like we found all this like really depressing shit like all these tacks lips, we found all these like their literature and like every house and stuff like that, and I can't read Arabic, but like a bunch of other people there could translate it for us. They had like they had blacked out all like the women on the like shampoo and stuff like that. And then we found a bunch of like, IEDs they had left and then that's like, what are they what kills everyone to like, they just leave mines. And we find a map mind factory, which like, was a we were poking our noses in places we should now we I think we were like, kind of just bored and exploring a little bit because they had heard reports that there was a guy the pads are like, let's go look for this fucking guy. And then because there's not supposed to be anyone in the town and only like YPG in our bases, and there wasn't anybody but we ended up kind of like getting into some trouble with mines.

MF: How much did you know about ISIS and what before you went and what was the kind of word within the military about ISIS because they've done some pretty, like it must have been quite a personal thing as much as it was a political combat especially for the Kurds.

BB: So the first time like I ever heard anyone really talk, I mean, like, we talked about ISIS and train, but like no one, you know, it wasn't really a subject we talked a lot about, because their main enemy is usually you know, it's Turkey, although, but ISIS had fought like a war of like annihilation with the Kurds. They're like they had like, fully depopulated villages. They like beheaded a shit tonne of people so I remember like before the first operation, like when I first got to the front I went to, we went to this place where they make kind of like homemade tanks and make like, you know, they put the machine guns on the backs of trucks. And this like 16 year old kid was like, hey, check out these videos on my phone. And his village had been taken over from ISIS, and it was videos, he had shot of them just like fucking executing people.

MF: Fuck.

BB: Yeah, it was insane. I was like, jesus man, you should, maybe now should be showing those videos, I don't know, it's like, you want to watch those like, don't you know those people. And, and like we saw, like, you know, cages there was like, in the last base, we were at, even like, it was a three storey school that had been an ISIS base previously, like before we had taken it over. And there was like, a room that they definitely we think we're doing some rapes in because it was like a lot of bloody underwear, or maybe someone had just like, solved the wound with underwear, that's kind of the only thing that we could think of. And just like cages, the thing that astounded me was just like cages in the town, like on the street, that they would just like lock people up in like, they didn't. I mean, I know they have prisons and stuff. But this was just like, I was sort of confused with this, because it was like, you'd be just driving down like a Boulevard. And there would just be like a big ass cage, I guess they would just keep people in so that you can see that they had people imprisoned. But I mean, it was like, it was like a black fucking hole. Like, whenever you went into their territory is that they had had, it was just like, really ugly, and like, you know, they they had, they had fucked a lot of these. And obviously, a lot of displays have been fucked up. Because, you know, they've been fighting with the Syrian army there. And then they've been fighting with the YPG. And so a lot of these towns are pretty fucked up, like, you know, from previous battles. But, I mean, they, they really, like they instituted this entire new system, and they had taxation, they had, you know, a new school curriculum, they had all this kind of stuff and finding that stuff was really jarring. We also, I guess the closest I ever got to him was we took a couple prisoners once and I, you know, watch, we took the prisoners, and then I sort of watched over them with a couple other guys for a while. And I was just like, staring at them. And I was like, what is your deal? Like we are because I mean, a lot of people join ISIS, because you know, ISIS comes to my village, I'm a fucking 17 year old kid. You know, I'm going to do what I got to do probably to survive. You know, I mean, in that circumstance, you know, it's not like, it's not like a lot of if you're still in that village, you can't, you have enough money to flee. Maybe your fucking dad's dead, or he's in the Syrian army or wherever, you know, what, what can you do? And so like, there was like, a difference between like those guys. And then there was a difference between the guys who were like, in it in it, and like, the guys that we captured were like, in it, and they weren't even fighters. They were like, Well, I think one was a fighter, the other was like an administrator. And I was just like, jesus, like, it just seems so alien to me. That like they would like, I mean, I get like, you know, you do fucked up things in the name of, you know, something that you believe in people, many people have shown that to be, you know, a common experience throughout history, but like to do to be part of something that like, only kind of does bad things to people is was just sort of jarring to me. I just didn't understand it.

MF: What interests me is that very brutal, modern version of persecution.

BB: Yeah.

MF: And then there's the old kind of Faisal Assad, who was also responsible for genocides of the Kurdish people. What were there any conversations about the kind of how they've had to bolster this resilience for from, you know, the reigning political party of the day to like this complete radicals now as well.

BB: So I think, from my understanding of it is that is that they are much more amenable to like dealing with the with the government, or like with the with Assad and with the Baptist party than they are, you know, they can't deal with ISIS, and like, they've had this sort of like touch and go relationship with with the Assad, you know, with him and his father, essentially, I mean, I'm doing Oh jalon took refuge in Syria until I think 1990 when he got kicked out by Assad, or by Assad's father, Hafez Assad alfaz office, Al Assad, under like Turkish and NATO pressure, and then, you know, the CIA and Mossad arrest odilon in Kenya, I think. And so after that, you know, there's a lot of incidences and particularly a big fire, which killed a lot of schoolchildren, which they blamed it on the government, in a movie theatre, and Camilo. When I was there, it was weird, because the the main city commission, though, is made up I mean, it's the only big city in the north and like half of it is controlled, like 75% of it is controlled by YPG. And then 25% is controlled by the central government. And so it was weird because we go through our checkpoints. And like, you know, we'd be carrying guns and like, you know, we'd be in uniform and stuff. And then we would just like put our guns away and pass by like a giant like, like building size portrait of Bashar Al Assad and like go through their checkpoint or like go right past that checkpoint. And that was, that was like, there was never any problems I was there. You're like, we were told, like don't go to this part of town because you know, you're an American. And that's like, not a good thing to be over there. But like my buddies smoked weed with some my buddies smoked weed with some Afghanies that were like Assad soldiers that I guess they'd been like lent to him by Iran. And a few people out there smoked weed with some very strange people, or some very interesting cats have have weed out there. It's not a very common thing. But it was. So they're, like more amenable to deal with them. And the thing is, they have to right, like the Assad's not getting enough power, certainly not anytime soon. And so like they and they don't want it like their whole thing is like they're not secessionist. And so there's this weird sort of delicate balance between like them, and Russia and the US there now because all these different countries and Iran, all of these different countries have troops there. And actually, in a way, the Turkish invasion of the past couple invasions of the past couple years, has sort of galvanised that relationship, and hopefully, that can lead to the sort of this political restructuring, which they hoped for. I think it probably will, because Russia, certainly, I mean, they they, you know, Russia is not exactly what's progressive force in the world, but, but they have been, at times fairly decent mediators between the Kurds and the central government. with ISIS, on the other hand, everybody, they call them cheta out there, which just means like gangsters, I guess, or Dishman, which I mean, as the Arabic word for enemy, I believe means enemy. And, and they, they're much more down on them, like they, they people would talk to you in like regular conversation about like Al Nusra and ISIS because a lot of their families have been killed by them, as opposed to the to the government, which is like a lot of people have been arrested in the past and killed in the past, but like, that was the sort of further ago and so it was like this was the more immediate thing that they were dealing with. But it's certainly it's like a very strange like it's I've never seen anything like in the world and like we didn't use stories didn't do it justice, because it was just so strange to see like in the central square commercial in the soup there are like in the market. There was just like soldiers from like, Russia and Syria and the YPG just all walking around like me and the Sikh guy fucking had sandwiches at a table. And they were just like, Syrian army guys like two feet from us. And so it's very, it's just like jarring because it's it's you can see sort of, like this political arrangement out there in miniature, just with sort of like the lowest people on the totem pole, all sort of like having us sort of stick around each other. Also, you can buy a Syrian army uniforms and YPG uniforms at the same stores, which I thought was really funny.

MF: That’s so funny.

BB: I would just I have a Syrian army jacket, like I which I took from somebody didn't need it anymore, but was not a Syrian soldier. And yeah, you can just buy all of it together and they sell patches like everyone loves patches out there. And so they have patches like me fucking I'm telling you this is some of these stores look like a goddamn Pittsburgh cross punks, pants, or somebody's got a patches, their patches for shit that I'm like, I'm here and I don't know what this is for. And so I have I have a couple of ISIS patches too.

MF: Woah.

BB: Oh, that I smuggled back. Yeah, yeah. It's like for like commanders or whatever. And I was never able to get a flag but the patches. I also, the flag would have gotten confiscated. But uh, but yeah, so it's, it's a very strange, it's like a test a totally bizarre place.

DX: Well, tell us about how you, the circumstances around you leaving. And I'd like to especially hear about the first conversations you had when you came home when you had to tell people that you weren't going to arrive for a radio station job.

BB: Well, so I had actually gotten kind of like internet famous out there, because I just like, tweeted, what I was out there, you know, I didn't have anything to do most of the time. Most of the time, you're fucking waiting around. Although, once I got to the front, you got the internet. Like once every three weeks, they had a little van that came around and updated everyone's iPads, which is what they use for maps. So like people knew I was out there at that point, but I left after onside only plan to go for six months. But you know, my relationship, you know, you Ted, people tend not to like it when you don't tell them that you're going to fight in Syria. And so, you know, the agreement came to is that you know, you go for six months, you have to if you're a volunteer, they expect you to go like that's like the tour of duty or whatever. It is six months long. And so after that, I came home. And it kind of went home was a process. They, they, we had to do the same walk over there. But in reverse. There was a lot of border activity at the time, which was not conducive to crossing. And so it was like gonna get delayed a month, but then they were like, no, we're going right now, like, you know, you have to leave this minute. And then I stayed in Iraq for about a week in a safe house, which was the most boring fucking week in my life because I'd already read all my books. And so it was very strange because in Sulaymaniyah there's like a shopping mall. I mean, to them, it is a beautiful fucking city. I wish I'd seen more of it. But they like took us to a shopping mall. And it's like a week before I had been like in the dirt on the front. And then I was like, in a mall buying shoes now because I didn't have any shoes. Very, very, very jarring. And then the party bought me a very cheap plane ticket home or not the party a smuggler bought me a very cheap plane ticket home, they gave me $200 American money and and I came home and it was weird because like I I had been so used to I mean, this this was six months, like, you know, you are in like, very, very particular surroundings the entire time. You know, you're only interacting with other guys in men and women because it's their mixed gender units. Other other men and women in your Tobor platoons. And then all of a sudden I was sort of thrust back into the real world and I I took a long flight went to Egypt where I ended up paying a guy $5 so he let me smoke a cigarette in a broom closet then I realised he didn't work at the airport and so respect if he's listening respect to you, because that was a good scam. And then I had a layover in Austria, I think yeah. Yeah, in Austria, and, and I just walked around Austria for like, 10 hours at night and I went to like a weird punk bar and I had to leave because it was like tripping me I ate a fish, which I hadn't done. And then as I was coming back to the airport, I was like, wait, no one questioned me. Like, I just walked out of the airport. And I when I got back to America, I did get questioned for quite a long time, but it's not illegal to do what I did. It's it's illegal for Europeans to do it. And a bunch of my friends are now in prison are facing charges but I was alright. And so getting back was weird because it was all anything anybody wanted to talk to me about for like a year. That was it. And I got really, really, really, really fucking depressed. And like felt very aimless and listless. And, like, by the time I got back, you know, like, socialism was like a big thing in America. And so that was like, cool to see. But it was just very different than I had been dealing with, in in the part with the party. Very, very, very different. And I don't know, it took me until I found I basically, my buddy Evan hit me up and asked me if I wanted to work in this campaign and a brewery with him and I got a job at a brewery until I can actually sort of feel like I was doing something again, because we engaged in this like, very long unionisation effort. And I sort of realised I just needed like, a task to do and that was my, that was my, once I got a new task, I started feeling a lot better. But it was weird. You know, like people, you know, at that time, obviously, I talked to my girlfriend like, she didn't. She wasn't mad at me anymore. I mean, she wasn't really mad at me when I was out there either. But like, yeah, it was, it was weird. Coming back, it was really weird. I was just I, I had this sort of just like grey miasma around me at all times. And I was unable to find joy, or, or hope in anything. And then eventually, I felt that alright.

DX: Can you talk a little about that experience with the brewery cuz I don't think many of our listeners would be familiar with that. So um, so Evan, just hit you up was like, can you help us with this campaign?

BB: Yeah, a bunch of my friends. So this is big. There is big brewery in San Francisco called Anchor Brewing Company. But everyone calls it Anchor Steam because that's the name of the most famous beer. It's an old company been around since like the 1800s. Very like associated with San Francisco. It's like, the San Francisco beer. A lot of my like shitty skater and punk friends work there. Because it's like a pretty easy job to get you get free beer. We ended up in like a two year campaign with this like radical union called the ALW, which is a dock Workers Union. They have a warehouse division, which means factories. And a brewery is basically a factory. And so I got a job there and basically worked on the line with a bunch of guys. I mean, I needed a job anyways, and like I would have actually probably gotten a job there, even if we were doing this. But we just you know, a group of like four of us just spent two years working on this. I mean four co workers and that expanded to six co workers and eight co workers. And eventually, you know, we have a lot of different guys coming to meetings. But you know, it's about 100 person workplace with like 85 people who are eligible for the union. And it was a first tech because it's technically a craft brewery union in America. And so we, we, I can't even remember the exact date that we actually got the Union as opposed to when we signed the contract. But after a very long campaign, and then a very hard fight against the management, we were able to get the majority vote and we got that we got the union, but I was really cool to do because it became this big campaign and everyone in San Francisco like really got behind us. We have like hundreds of people coming out to these rallies. It was great.

MF: So what prompted you to work on podcasts? And what what triggered the whole Epstein sort of thing?

BB: Well, like, I don't know is Pizzagate. Was that big out there?

DX: Yes. Yeah, it was it actually ended up affecting some really close friends of ours that play in this band called Low Life. Are you familiar with this story, Brace?

BB: No.

DX: This is a great story.

BB: I know who Low Life is.

DX: So the cover of their record features an image of a friend of friends Mitch and Christian and they're just like it's in Christian’s bar. And Mitch is pretending to blow him. And it's like it's it's a seedy kind of security cam photo. And someone put one of the songs from the record on the internet just with the cover. And then someone involved...

BB: Like on YouTube or something. Yeah, yeah.

DX: So then someone was like that is a photo from the pizza restaurant. The the pizza restaurant. And then so if you look it up, you can see on the lower left video there's there's one Low Life’s video that they all have like one or 2000 views. And then there's one that...

MF: Can you just give like some reference for what the pizza restaurant is, what you're talking about.

DX: Well, this is the whole thing about Pizzagate this this there's this like one particular like nefarious spot which had some connection with paedophile rings and the like.

BB: Oh, I can see it now, Dogging.

DX: It just got flooded with people who are being like you evil degenerates. How dare you do this? Like that's a photo of a of a child, and probably some incredibly rich politician or something on the cover, and it at an end ended up but the thing is, the band had no idea about any of this because Pizzagate wasn't a thing in Australia. Like we remember when it started happening. Yeah, what the fuck is about like, who is? Who is Pizzagate? Like, what does it mean?

MF: It was like 4chan people? Like, yeah, deep, deep internet, people. We were talking about it a lot.

DX: Yeah. Yeah. So this, like, inadvertently, like, Low Life became, like, embroiled within this Pizzagate thing.

BB: Well, it's like, in America, it's like, by the time I got back, something really weird happened, where like, a large portion of the American public had gone had given themselves a form of like, viral and I mean, viral in the sense like, like a disease or like a, like a, you know, germ, schizophrenia. And like, where reality had sort of like, become much more malleable to a lot of people. And so I was like, sort of fascinated repulsed by this, but also, you know, sort of funny because, you know, they believe it's like, the shitty like, we're not shitty, but like this pizza place that has like, stupid shows at it as like a sex ring in the basement. But it started started gaining gaining more steam. And it coincided with this, like, hysteria that was felt all across I think the American public, not just, you know, among pizza gate people, but you know, the Russia stuff. And then just in general, this, like, you know, this sort of like, aura of the Trump era where everyone just lost their fucking minds and went insane. Pizzagate was such a huge symptom of that, and it fascinated me and of course, I knew about Epstein, because it was just one of those things like, look at this fucking rich billionaire. And so, it was like, for some reason, Epstein's arrest coincided with like a real like, sort of not zennith because it's still I think we've sort of probably reached the centre of it but uh, but it this like upsurge in this in this Pizzagate and then went later became QAnon stuff because Pizzagate was sort of a proto-QAnon, it was the Sex Pistols to QAnons Public Image Ltd. I was entranced, you could see millions of Americans losing their minds in real time. And the Epstein stuff was like, QAnon, but it's real. And like QAnon, funnily enough, doesn't actually talk about Epstein all that much, even though it's a kind of the clearest link that Bill Clinton has to you know, people have executive, little kids. Besides, of course, the intervention in former Yugoslavia. But it was a it was just like I couldn't stop reading it was one of those obsessions the same sort of thing as a serious thing where I just got obsessed with it. It's all that I read about. And then we just started doing this podcast and people, people I think had like a real sort of hunger freakout for Epstein stuff at the time. So we sort of were just like, the right time and right place.

MF: What was the premise for your podcast?

BB: That's like, wait, I was much more advanced than how I was thinking about it. But I was my whole thing was like, I'm going to solve this. And I still like part of me is like, I'm going to solve this.

MF: Because your whole thing is like trying to figure out the truest parts and the finding the facts in this tangled mess. And all these conspiracies, right. It's trying to find, well, hold on, there may be this huge cabal conspiracy, but within it, there are small facts that are equally heinous.

BB: Yeah, well, exactly. I mean, the thing is, like, QAnon is basically right about one simple premise is that America is essentially run by like a cabal of sex freaks, you know, and freaks to basically violence freaks all sorts of any kind of freak you can name drug freaks. And so I got really like, I mean, it's it's the problem is with QAnon, is that just like, they're just wrong on a lot of stuff. On most stuff, like, for instance, adrenochrome is not doesn't make you feel good. I've done a lot of research on it. Apparently, you cannot shoot the the adrenochrome taken from a young child to to d-age yourself that is apparently not—that as pseudoscience. But uh, I yeah, I realised like, I mean, I'm not like the most conspiratorial minded guy either. But like, you know, the world has been run by essentially hidden forces for a long time. And the forces aren't hidden in some, like, in some like Illuminati Masonic thing. You know, they're hidden in these companies. They're hidden, you know, in like, there is, for instance, the deep state thing. You know, QAnon was always going on about the deep state, but to them, the Deep State was just like, some weird like, like, six paedophiles, who hated Trump, when like, there actually is a deep state. It's like the bureaucrats at the CIA, you know, people who work in places you know, at Raytheon and shit like that. And so our our podcast was, at first just about being like, what the fuck was going on with Epstein, and then through Epstein's, like numerous connections, I mean, it's essentially an unlimited supply of material because they're all connected through this guy. And then of course through each other as well.

DX: Would you be sympathetic with the idea that there's a certain like, level of like, conspiracy exploitation going on with what you're doing?

BB: Yeah, I mean, that's the thing is a lot of queueing on stuff is like, people just like will read a 4chan post and be like, well, I guess that's real. Like, yes. I guess I couldn't eat a baby and put the baby's face on her face. I mean, that's a thing we believe called the frazzled drip video, which a lot of people claim to have seen, but I've seen no evidence of it. Yeah, I mean, the thing is, is like i think i think a lot of that stems from people trying to figure out why the world is the way it is right like there's obviously certain social factors that have contributed to this insane upsurge in conspiratorial II minded thinking among people in America. I actually all over the world like QAnon is huge following in Germany is Iran, Iran, and like, Persian exiles have their own QAnon. Like, they're like, it's it's it's bizarre because q anon is like, it's like the Catholic Church where there's like split offs and then there's like, you know, reformations and shit like that. It's really it's really something so like, you'll have people who are trying to incorporate like the Pahlavi dynasty of Iran into QAnon stuff and then you'll have people who believe that like JFK Jr, for instance, is still alive and he's going to be vice president. And so like that's been really fascinating to watch and with our stuff is like, we don't really like I you know, a lot of obviously a lot of this stuff is you know, you have to use conjecture sometimes you know, you don't have you're never going to get the tell all fuckin memoir or like the interview with somebody where you know, they spill all the beans but we try to stay as like, you know, close to reality and grounded as possible. And I like you know, I through like other you know, other interests of mine like I'm really interested in symbolism and I'm really interested in like, sort of like this unconscious like effect that a lot of stuff a lot of this like conspiracies I mean, these real conspiracies have on people. You know, I think like, I mean, not to sound like too much of a whatever, but like, I mean, QAnon itself, I think was deliberate right? Like I think that like people, I have a feeling that the people behind QAnon who I have a good inkling of it, know who it is. I mean, they know who literally is posting the QAnon account. He's the guy who owns a message board called 8chan. His name is Jim Watkins. But I have a feeling that people who are sort of feeding him stuff. Like, I think it's like Bannon and the kind of guys in that sphere. And it was a really successful project, I mean, basically created, like a Fedayeen for fucking Trump, like people who were willing to die for him. You know, and people who really believed in something, because it's like, if I think that like, millions of children, which is what QAnon people think are being abducted every year for us, and like Democrat, like sex parties, I would flip the fuck out and do anything I could do to make those people not stay in power, or to get them out of power. And so yeah, I mean, I it's it's like, the way I approach the show is like, I'm trying to figure out like, the political, social, but also the sort of spiritual angles of a lot of this stuff.

MF: Yeah, it's To me, it's fascinating that people are so quick to believe it. You know, this. There's large swathes of people that are so quick to believe that powerful, rich people must have done these evil things.

BB: Yeah.

MF: Where do you think that that comes from?

BB: I think it's for me, because I've known one kind of Q person, I've known two people who are like Q adjacent but not full, like Q pilled. People in real life. One of them just kind of believes everything he reads, which I really respect, like, if like you can show this guy an article about anything as long as from like, is this from like, a website called like nature, science life news, he'll believe it. The other guy was just like a big, big Trump guy who kind of just like got swept up in it a little bit, and then then really left it behind. But, uh, I don't know, I think I think there's a variety of factors, I think one is that people don't really understand that people can lie to them online. And then another is like, there's like a million factors. I shouldn't even go into them. But to answer the actual questions, like, I think that people don't understand how so few people have so much stuff. And just like, such intense power, that they were never like granted by any public sort of forum or, you know, or, you know, political populist, or anything like that. And so like, they are like, well, they must have like, made a literal deal with the devil.

DX: Do you think that there's this—the overall decline in people being able to, like, really believe in certain kind of spiritual ideas or religious ideas that have really formed the groundwork for western morality? They don't like the way that like scientists really made it difficult to believe in, in some, like, pretty simple, like creation stories, and the like, has left this vacuum that people like, there's just going to be certain people that will believe in what they're told. Like, and, and yeah, and they're not being told enough of like, God created the world and created you like, that's not enough of they're not being told enough of that they've been told more like this kind of QAnon and conspiracy stuff. They probably 50 years ago would have been like, rabid evangelists to Christians. But today, they are rabid evangelists, the QAnons.

MF: I think, I think that that, and that's a really important point. Because from my experience of talking to these people, they're always like, but it makes sense, as though like instinctively, and intuitively, it appeals to them.

BB: Yeah.

MF: Whereas in, if you show them see, like you said, your friend believes everything he reads, the guys that I know that are involved in this shit, they don't believe anything they read? Yes, some reason that there's something about these theories, that makes sense in their head, if I show them, you know, 100 journal articles in New York Times articles, whatever trying to go, you know, really top tier reporters who are trying to find facts, in a very difficult story. They just won't believe that they think everything is a kind of fast. But there's something about this in a very religious kind of way in leap of faith in a way that appeals to their emotions.

DX: Yes, I think that is there is this prevailing myth that our times are incredibly nihilistic and no believe nobody believes in anything, which, like, is quite easy to point to, but then look at this, like this is this is a new religious evangelism, that is not at all nihilistic like, it's like it's inspired by wanting to protect, like you said, children, like it's like a noble cause. Who would not want people to be into that idea? So I think it's it I find what you're doing, to be fascinating is that this is a really contemporary moment. This birth of a new evangelism, and this birth of a new kind of religious fervour, am I trying to really like, in the in the same way that like 50 years ago, you would have been trying to confront people like trying to use eugenics, eugenicist ideas to separate, like other races, or use kind of like these kind of primitive psychology to explain why homosexuals like, should be cured of that. Like, like they now we're talking to people that have the same kind of level of being convinced by something about something that really looks to be frighteningly insane.

BB: Well, I think I think he sort of hit the nail on the head with the religious aspect of it. I I think on one hand, you're right. Like, it is really easy to point out how nihilistic society is and how, like, nobody believes in anything, but also, I think it's deeper than that. It's that nobody has anything to live or die for. Right? Like, there's no cause to take up that will really like inspire people. I mean, that's, I think a big problem, even on the left is like, you know, you get people who are like, get into it for a little while. And then like, Well, you know, nothing really changes or like, maybe we win a victory, and then I'm out, because, you know, there's no like stakes. And with QAnon, you sort of create these stakes, but you also create, like a spiritual and noble mission, right? Like, you're not just like, on the internet, you know, goofing around, and like looking at crazy articles and believing everyone, you're actually fighting against one of the most evil and unspeakable forces that that has ever been, you know, something that's literally demonic and satanic, to a lot of these people. And like, I understand that, like, I think that there is like a real like, vacuum of have anything to believe in. And so I think people have to, like, believe in something that that is sort of what I like to think of as fantasy politics, right? Because for the last four years in America, you've seen, essentially two kinds of fantasy politics play themselves out. One much more sort of blatant than the other. On the one hand, you have these QAnon, people who have this entire political constellation and ecosystem solar system, whatever kind of system you want to say that that is filled with just myth and fantasy, right? A lot of it and some of its true, but accidentally, usually. And then you have people who are like, well, America is two seconds away from fascism. Russia is going to control us, blah, blah, blah. And it's like, there's like, it's, it's people. They're not even tilting at windmills. They're tilting at things that don't even exist, right? Like they're riding around on horseback, I don't know. And like, just, you know, thrusting their lands in the air. And it's like, I think it's a combination of like, just this really fucked up nihilistic society. And a combination of like a, this real deep politicisation, especially here, where there's like, no actual politics to fight for. And so the only way to, like, make politics at all something is to be like, well, there's also magic and babies being eaten.

DX: Well, I did want to, there was a couple of things that I wanted to ask you about. One was, why communism? And that ties into what we're talking about as far as like, you know, a cause?

BB: Well, it's kind of it's kind of ironic, because communism, I guess you can say in like QAnon is is certainly inspires religious devotion in some people, but also in a way is millenarian because it cause it like, unlike a lot of the QAnon people who have this sort of vaguely apocalyptic way of thinking like, or not unlike, sort of like these QAnon people it's like I believe that like, I want the abolition of the you know, basically everything as we know it, right like all the entire way society is structured the economic basis society then then or the economic Yeah, the economic basis it all the superstructure fucking totally different. And it's, it's Yeah, I don't know. I mean, to me, communism just makes the most sense. Like it you know, I read I think really statin revolutions, but maybe be like this book by Lenin where he draws on a lot of like, what Marx and Engels said it's like, God like this this this makes sense. Like I don't understand why we live in this fucked up chaotic world where power is vested in an economic elite who obviously have, by the nature of their class, no social ties, and no interest in the public good. When we could, you know, things can be good things can be very different. I mean, if someone's got a better idea, I'm all for it. But, but it's the only thing that makes sense to me.

DX: And if you were to kind of intervene in the stage of your arm, youthful nihilism, you into heroin and interdict addiction and then into kind of the, the kind of healthy Brace lifestyle at what point would you have done it or you've just happy to roll to where you are today?

BB: Oh, yeah, I am glad all of it happened because it's it's it's at least wasn't boring you know I mean a lot of people especially in political circle I mean I tell you fucking grown up in like with around like punk and then like you know punk people who became junkies and then just junkies it's like I had a very different life than a lot of people I mean now and it's like, I'll tell people stories that are like would be like normal to like tell you guys are like, you know, like just like people you know? And the big what the fuck are you like, That's awful. And I'm like, that's fine. And so exactly. It's like, What are you talking about like this not everybody I know lives. Who I was talking, I was telling about my friend who like, I was just telling a story the other day, like that wasn't even like a much I was just like I was talking about this guy. And I mentioned that he lived in our practice space. It's almost like what he just lived in your practice space. Yeah. Tonnes of people do that. And I'm like, that's not like, that's nothing that's just like something that was like an everyday thing that people did. Like people did. That's like, that's not even a blip on the radar. It's not even near any kind of radar. And, and so it made me realise that, like, it's just that growing up, like that led to me to have me do very different experiences that a lot of people I meet now. And I'm glad for them because they weren't boring.

MF: Yeah, it's always really scary to think that, you know, we're so self centred in and we think our reality is every reality or the world kind of that we see and experience is just the world. But when you go into these different pockets of subcultures, or, you know, when you're hanging around junkies, who have a very different reality, and you get these different, or you go to fight a revolution for the Kurdish people, you're suddenly exposed to this great, vast mosaic of reality Yeah, that people just don't know, are happening simultaneously.

BB: Yeah, yeah. Well, that that's something I think of a lot is that like, I think of like, the way the world is structured is like these veins that sort of overlap the world and like, sometimes they, you know, branch off and come nowhere close to each other and sort of just run parallel, like, even in the same city, you have, you know, millions of people who are literally on totally different tracks and never cross with each other. And I've been lucky to be able to sort of, like, you know, my, the veins that I've been in have sort of changed course, and I've been, you know, thrust into other ones and I'm really grateful for that. But, you know, at heart, I'm still rock ‘n’ roller, but like, it's a, it's, it's, it's, I realised as I grew older, I thought everybody kind of just did that. They're like, you know, you were like a punk and then he got some trouble and blah, blah, blah. But it turns out now, a lot of people just stay on one track their whole life, which is, you know, it's just fine, but it's just, it's, I I will always be really grateful for having to be able to experience a lot of different things, even if a lot of those things were really awful.

DX: Brace you mentioned briefly, you're interested in like, exploring the spiritual side of what you went on was and I know that you've been are delving deep into Carl Jung. So maybe we could close with like a, like an insight that you've had from this experience.

BB: I think that like I think that the symbols and archetypes that QAnon draws on a simplistic as they are, are like, and in the attraction that people feel to those are really important. I think it's really important to look at what people are immediately like, like, like Mahmood said, like, that they they just say it just makes sense without even having to read about it, right? Like somebody can just read like a few QAnon posts and be like, I believe it. And like, there is a certain like, magic to that. I think, like not like, you know, no one's casting the spell, but it's, it's in practice, essentially identical to that to that. And, and I really, I, I sort of I have done a lot of try to research why that is, and I don't know. And what those what those archetypes are that people I mean, obviously there's sort of like the shrieking woman of Hillary could miss like evil mastermind and stuff like that. And that's, you know, a classic, classic archetype we can all get get behind you very, very entertaining. But there's something much deeper there that I like really need to discover because it it has this immediate and like, overwhelming gravity, that that just sucks people in and up ends their lives totally. And that is like, there's such intense power there. That like it's it's worth studying.

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