Last month, I ran down some of the rumors about HAARP that emerged after the Haiti earthquake and posted about them on Boing Boing and on my own blog .
A joint civilian/military project, HAARP (High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is an array of antennas, receivers, and transmitters in Gakona, Alaska. Its aim is to study the ionosphere, with a particular emphasis on its properties as a medium of communication and surveillance. The facility has long been a subject of conspiracist conjecture. Jesse Ventura paid it a visit on his cable TV show Conspiracy Theory not too long ago.
Theoretically, HAARP could bounce ultra-low frequency pulses off the ionosphere and onto seismically sensitive terrain; the energy would resonate as a properly pitched voice does with a wineglass or a Tesla earthquake machine purportedly does with a steel girder, ultimately causing the tectonic plates to break or move (around 1912, Nikola Tesla told a reporter from the Hearst tabloid The World Today how he had almost destroyed a half-built, steel-framed building with such a device, and how, "with the same vibrator he could have dropped the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River in less than an hour." The machine was never publicly demonstrated or patented).
Add to that this quote from a keynote address that the then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen delivered at the Conference on Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction in 1997 in support of the Nunn Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act:
"There are some reports, for example, that some countries have been trying to construct something like an Ebola Virus, and that would be a very dangerous phenomenon, to say the least. Alvin Toeffler has written about this in terms of some scientists in their laboratories trying to devise certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic specific so that they could just eliminate certain ethnic groups and races; and others are designing some sort of engineering, some sort of insects that can destroy specific crops. Others are engaging even in an eco- type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.
So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations. It's real, and that's the reason why we have to intensify our efforts, and that's why this is so important."
That was enough to feed the conspiracist meme that the US has and is using tectonic weaponry. It reached its apogee when Vladimir Acostas, writing on an official government website in Venezuela, declared that "we have the worrisome suspicion that this earthquake may be associated with the project called HAARP, a system that can generate violent and unexpected changes in climate."
It didn't take the rumor machine long to gear up after this weekend's catastrophe, even though Chile was the site of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded (a 9.5 in 1960 -- long before HAARP went on line) and has endured 13 events of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973. "The CIA has been trying to undermine the freedom-loving Chilean regime, who took-over from the 'fascist' decades-long regime of General Pinochet," a poster on a Holocaust denialist website comments. "This earthquake could be just the ticket for the opposition to seize power." On the other side of the political spectrum, vaccine denialist Deborah Dupre suggests that HAARP, "a weapon of mass destruction," could have been involved in Chile's monumental 8.8 earthquake," noting "its geoengineering capacity to trigger 'natural disasters' for imperialist political gain." Click here to read her whole post.
In 1963, in his epochal essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" Richard Hofstadter observed how conspiracists personalize and hyperbolize their enemy. "He is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman -- sinister, ubiquitous, powerful....Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional)." And now he has an earthquake machine -- like something out of James Bond, or a steam punk super villain in an old episode of The Wild, Wild West.
As the world's powers lurch from crisis to crisis -- broke; enmired in costly, endless wars; choking on the poisons that they can't stop spewing into the air -- it must be comforting for them to know that there are still a few people out there who believe they wield god-like powers.