In 1972, the soft-spoken psychedelic evangelist Terence McKenna emerged from the Colombian Amazon, where he and his brother had spent months trekking through the woods, ingesting heroic amounts of psilocybin mushrooms and pondering the secrets of the cosmos. Three years later, the McKenna brothers published Invisible Landscape, an esoteric tome that applied their shroom-gleaned jungle wisdom to the ancient Mayan calendar and the Chinese book of I Ching. “We believe that by using such ideas as a compass for the collectivity, we may find our way back to a new model in time to reverse the progressive worldwide alienation that is fast turning into an eco-cidal planetary crisis,” McKenna wrote. “The stupendous idea of an end of time is an attempt to negate the eternal stasis, to break the circle.”
McKenna claimed that the end of time would come in 2012, igniting a belief in the transformative powers of that date that still burned at the fringes of American thought 37 years later, when Alex Jones donned a black western shirt and sat down in front of a video camera to set the record straight. Jones, a rougher sort of prophet than McKenna, denounced the “doomsday hubbub” in a YouTube video published December 14, 2012, one week before the supposed apocalypse. The theory didn’t originate with the Mayans, he growled as an eerie synthesizer melody descended behind him. It came from “new age thinkers” like McKenna who sought to defraud and mislead the American people.
Alex Jones is a proud paranoiac, one whom might be expected to sympathize with McKenna’s message of worldwide alienation and planetary crisis. But the radio host, as he often does, sensed something even deeper afoot. He explained that a sense of futility encouraged by the 2012 theories might keep downtrodden people from standing up to their oppressors. “That is what the 2012 hoax is all about,” he said. “An artificial superstition to make people turn over control of their lives to the globalist technocrats.” To America’s greatest conspiracy theorist, even a conspiracy theory can start to look like evidence of a conspiracy.