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BOOK REVIEW: "Pale Horse Rider" by Mark Jacobson

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BOOK REVIEW: Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America by Mark Jacobson (Blue Rider Press) 2018

While the new book from insightful writer Mark Jacobson – Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America – is chock full of wild and sometimes chilling accounts of William Cooper’s rise and tragic end, few are more chilling or hit closer to home than Jacobson recounting Cooper’s reported encounter with two men at his secret “St. Johns Research Center” in eastern Arizona.

Cooper, an outspoken critic of the American government and what he calls “Mystery Babylon,” had a popular radio show called The Hour of the Time from 1993 until his death, shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The encounter was this – in the months prior to the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building here in Oklahoma City, Cooper says he was sought by two young men driving a “big green station wagon with a puke-yellow interior and a big television set in the back seat.” These two men – who did not identify themselves – wanted to meet their truth-talking, patriotic American hero – William Cooper.

The two men told Cooper that they admired him and his message and that they “wanted to help out, make a difference, save the country,” as Jacobson notes. But the two asked him odd questions, with the quieter, taller of the two asking Cooper what he should do if he is stopped by a police officer.

When Cooper asked him if he had any warrants, the tall one said “no.” Cooper, now a bit suspicious, replies that he should just “take the ticket” and head on down the road. But this same man adds, “You don’t think I should shoot him?”

Cooper, somewhat stunned by this question, said: “Shoot him? Why would you shoot someone over a ticket?”

The strange, young man just seemed to accept Cooper’s advice, and before they left tried to leave a copy of William Pierce’s racist book The Turner Diaries. Cooper declined, saying he already had it. But they left it anyway.

Jacobson concludes the chapter thusly: “The men got in their car. As they were pulling away, the shorter one yelled back, ‘Watch Oklahoma City.’

And of course the “taller” and “quieter” of the duo was believed to have been OKC bomber Timothy McVeigh and the shorter, louder one was Aryan Republican Army member Michael Brescia, who had been living in the white supremacist, Christian Identity-believing Adair County, Oklahoma compound called Elohim City, which the feds would investigate in the months after the catastrophic bombing in downtown Oklahoma City.

Oh, and it seems McVeigh followed Cooper's advice not to shoot, considering Oklahoma Highway Trooper Charlie Hanger was not shot when he pulled McVeigh (who was packing) over in his license-plate-free '77 Mercury Marquis with "rust coloration." 

Cooper never forgot that strange encounter (how had the two found him in St. Johns when he never mentioned or publicized that fact on his radio show or in his publications?). And when the Murrah building was bombed – exactly two years after the fire at the Mount Carmel Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas – Cooper had a chilling realization. McVeigh’s seeking him out was no accident. It was planned and, as Jacobson notes, “Since Waco, Cooper had hoped to avoid Pale Horse and the hell it brought with it.”

“Trapped in a world of homicidal maniacs and nice church ladies who read the terrors of Revelation and prayed for them to commence, Cooper never wanted bloodshed … (but) the illuminists defeated him.”

Did Cooper think that his radio program had inspired people like the Oklahoma City conspirators to commit mass murder? It's not very clear. Perhaps he did not let on about, thinking it too horrible to consider. 

Continuing, Jacobson writes: “They sent out McVeigh, one more perfect human zombie in a seemingly endless assembly line of them, to do their bidding. Now 168 people were dead, twice as many as at Waco; who knew how many would die in the next ‘terrorist attack’? For a family man anxious to watch his children grow up, it was fearsome arithmetic.”

William Cooper would live for another six years or so, until that fateful day in November 2001 – in those confusing and terrifying weeks after the 9/11 attacks, which Cooper had predicted a few months earlier – those final years, losing his wife and two daughters, increased run-ins with local and federal law enforcement officials, getting screwed by people he trusted … it was as if he had written the script himself.

And that’s what one gets from Jacobson’s outstanding and in-depth look at this big, brash, self-educated, paranoid and tragic American figure who did everything he could to stick to his guiding principles of serving God and Country and protecting his family – all while sharing the “hidden” information he had uncovered over many decades ranging from the UFO and alien question to exposing secret societies and their sinister plans for humanity.

Since the late 1990’s I had been aware of Bill Cooper and his 1991 Behold a Pale Horse manifesto – a lengthy book that resulted many in the American gulag to “get woke,” including rappers like Nas, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Tupac Shakur and one in New York who even took the stage moniker “William Cooper” in honor of the fringe intellectual who exposed them to the truth.

For me, I was well-aware of Behold a Pale Horse, a book (with very esoteric artwork on the cover, invoking the Book of Revelation) that was always dog-eared and creased whenever I saw it on the bookshelf at Borders or Barnes & Noble. I never did buy it, but I did leaf through it and I read snippets here and there over the years.

But as I found out in Jacobson’s new book, Behold a Pale Horse had a very powerful following in the prison system, amongst hip-hop artists and “preppers” alike and was one of the top books to be stolen at Barnes & Noble bookstores. People who were skeptical of the American “way of life” and the “men behind the curtain” were hungry for what Cooper had to say. And the “establishment” or the “New World Order” – or whatever you want to call it – saw Cooper’s message as a threat, at least that is the conclusion one reaches upon reading Pale Horse Rider, a book with a cover that looks like some Mark Lane title from the early 1970's. Perhaps that's the point.

So, what Mark Jacobson, a writer and journalist based in Brooklyn, New York, has essentially done in this 350-page tour de force, is show how this deeply-flawed Vietnam War veteran – Milton William Cooper – became the kingpin of conspiracy cultists and how that notoriety led to his sad demise, on his own doorstep in the still-Wild West.

A military brat whose family was always moving around, Cooper longed for stability. For answers. As he notes in Behold a Pale Horse, it was in 1966, while on a Navy ship somewhere in the Pacific, that he had his first-ever UFO encounter.

As he describes it, the saucer popped out of the water while he was on watch. He called others over and they would soon see it too – amazed at the sight.

But when his commander comes in and instructs Cooper that he did not see anything – if he knew what was good for him, the young sailor got the message and did not say anything.

But the times being what they were – when young people were no longer going for the gray flannel suit mentality of their parents – Cooper, like many other Baby Boomers, were wanting answers. The dam had broken and Cooper couldn’t resist prodding, exploring and sharing his information, particularly from his Vietnam War days where the American public was being lied to.

Before his revelation while in the Office of Naval Intelligence, he saw reports that were counter to President Nixon’s promises that bombing raids over North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were not taking place. But there were the reports, right in front of him.

“I was extremely stupid,” Cooper would admit years later during one of his lectures. “Naïve. Ignorant beyond belief. A sheeple. That was me.”

The scales were falling from Cooper’s eyes and by 1972, Cooper is telling a buddy about “the lies, the black ops, the cover-ups, the murders” that had taken place over the course of the war. And a few years later, some guys in a black Cadillac  - Men in Black? – tried to kill him while he was racing around the Bay Area of California on his motorcycle. He lost a leg, but gained a wife – for a while. In fact, Cooper would have several wives and children over the next quarter-century, and considering the crazy life he would lead, it’s surprising that these women in his life hung on for as long as they did. It is no secret that Cooper was a violent drunk and was exceedingly obnoxious at times.

While reading Pale Horse Rider, I couldn’t help but think of the late gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson – who also died from being shot, but by his own hand – and how both the hard-drinking Cooper and Thompson (Cooper a right/libertarian and Thompson a left/libertarian) – probably would have had a lot to talk about. Both were big personalities. Alpha males who also loved the written word and both of whom had large followings in the counterculture and underground scenes. 

And this would extend into “square society,” where the truth mattered as well. It’s just that those people had children to raise, bills to pay and minds to keep sane.

But Bill Cooper was not a guy who was going to let anyone tell him how to live his life or what to believe. That was for the “sheeple” to keep their heads in the sand. He had seen Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and was struck by how the themes - and things unsaid - resonated on a far deeper level and would be key to his Mystery Babylon series on his radio show. It was like a code needed to be cracked, and Cooper, who had been part of the De Molay Youth Organization, a fraternal group for adolescent boys which was named after the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar - Jacques de Molay - who was burned to death on an island in the River Seine in Paris in 1314. 

2001, Cooper would say, is that Initiates and Adepts of the "Mysteries" "believe that Lucifer was good, and God, Jehovah, was the bad one. That's because the Garden wasn't a Garden at all but a prison where an unjust and vindictive deity was holding men enslaved, in the chains, the bonds of ignorance ... Lucifer set man free with the gift of intellect. And witht he gift of intellect, Man could become God."

Yes, the "snake" was the hero to these people, warned Cooper. Eating that apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was considered a moment of liberation. Cooper wasn't buying it and told his audiences as much over many, many hours of his engrossing Mystery Babylon series.

And just like the many African-Americans thrown in prison, "getting woke" was becoming de riguer in the 1990's and early 2000's, and having a copy of Behold a Pale Horse was seen as a key to knowledge that had been otherwise kept from the rabble - those who were not Adepts and Initiates of the Mystery Schools, or Bonesmen like Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. 

Cooper would initially share information he had gathered on the UFO phenomena, attending conferences and giving lectures on the topic. And yet that very divisive subculture ultimately led Cooper to conclude UFOs were not extraterrestrial. In fact, it was part of a hoax by the government, a grand deception to keep the “sheeple” distracted and in a state of fear.

William Cooper's Behold a Pale Horse was first published in 1991 and still sells well, particularly in inner-city communities and prisons. (Light Technology)

It was during this time period that patriot groups, militias and outright racist organizations were gaining a foothold in rural America. And Cooper was well aware of it and rejected racism and anti-Semitism any chance he got. Still, that could not explain away his inclusion of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - a Russian-created, anti-Semitic book from a century ago - in Behold a Pale Horse. Jacobson notes how Cooper had befriended folks like Hollywood-linked hard-right figure Anthony Hilder, who recorded the Myron Fagan LP The Illuminati and the Council on Foreign Relations in 1967, at a studio where he normally recorded surf-rock groups. Fagan's odious anti-Semitism would only get stronger, Jacobson writes, until his death in 1972. 

Cooper, though, was excited to learn that the black community was embracing his message. It resonated because of the long history of horrific treatment they had received. He was on their side. He loved their culture and often played the music of Louis Armstrong on his radio show. He wasn't about ethnicity, he said, he was about being a true American. And insiders like George Bush or Bill Clinton were human debris in his mind.


That date - September 11 - seemed to come up a lot in Cooper's life. Discussing President George H.W. Bush's infamous "New World Order" speech, on Sept. 11, 1990, shortly after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and conscious of it or not, Cooper would repeat the date "September 11, September 11," in those years before that date would live in "infamy," as FDR said of December 7, 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor. In fact, "truthers" inspired by Cooper (and Cooper's sworn enemy and fraud Alex Jones) would refer to the 9/11 attacks as a "New Pearl Harbor," referring to a document put out in 2000, noting the need for a "trigger" to shift the priorities of the State and the War Machine.

And when the attacks of 9/11/01 occured, which Cooper had prophesized, well, there wasn't much to do. At that point in his life, things were falling apart as he was under investigation for various alleged crimes related to tax evasion and fraud. Cooper wasned to be left alone in peace. It was not to be.

Mark Jacobson spins quite a yarn in Pale Horse Rider. It certainly helped increase my interest in Cooper's writings and The Hour of the Time radio show, which I heard sporadically in the late 90's, when The X-Files had helped open people's eyes about the "secret government," aliens and the truth behind the JFK assassination. 

Ultimately, you have to accept that Bill Cooper had problems. He was too awake, perhaps. He had a compulsion to share this knowledge with anyone who would listen, like the man with the sandwich board on a street corner screaming the world will end tomorrow. And so here we are, in 2018, with a conspiracy-spouting president who is, essentially, the most powerful man in the world, and who is so paranoid he thinks someone is hiding behind every rock and out to get him. And Trump's legion of followers share their concerns about "fake news" and that we aren't being told the truth. Bill Cooper knows exactly how they feel. In fact, Hunter S. Thompson, as I noted earlier, is credited for predicting the rise of Trumpism as far back as 1967, when he was promoting his Hell's Angels book. The Angels were marginalized and on the fringes of society. Suspicious of "The Man," just as many minority groups are in America. Sadly, when you look in the mirror of history, not much has changed, just the players. And in this book, Mark Jacobson has done a fantastic job of researching this phenomenon and Bill Cooper's key role in all of it - interviewing just about anyone who had something to say about the man and his conspiratorial legacy.

Both William Cooper and Donald Trump - one a man who served his country in an unjust and illegal war - and another who co Aasted through that era in comfort and complaints of "bone spurs."

Life is funny that way, how things turn out. I suspect, after reading Pale Horse Rider, that Cooper would have strong apprehensions about this Trump presidency and what it means. But since Cooper is long dead, we'll never know.

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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