Despite John's protests, I think this is pretty funny, and disturbingly topical.
Cthuluism and the Cold War
Some of the references in this parody are admittedly obscure. You have not only to know a bit about Lovecraft's fiction, you also have to be familiar with public affairs programming on the US Public Broadcasting System. It also helps to be up on the latest (circa 1998) twist of Cold War revisionism. Even then, of course, you may also have to be pretty easy to amuse to find any of it funny.
Well, here goes anyway. Happy Halloween!
Any resemblance between living persons and the dead is deeply regretted.
"Welcome to the Bob Lerner News Hour. I'm your host, Bob Lerner. That's why I am telling you this.
"Tonight, our main story is something else you have probably already seen done to death on CNN: new revelations about the role of Cthuluism in American politics during the Cold War. Our guests tonight are Dr. Timothy Turnip, professor of Comparative Eschatology and author of the widely banned `McCarthy versus the Starry Wisdom Party,' and Charles Dexter Ward, publisher of `The Burrower,' a journal of disturbing political opinion."
LERNER: "Good evening, Dr. Turnip; good evening, Mr. Ward."
TURNIP: "I've been waiting for years to get on this show. What happened to the smart host?"
LERNER: "Dr. Turnip, can you tell us about the significance of the recently declassified sections of the Venona Codex?"
TURNIP: "The Codex proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that people like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were in fact in league with unspeakable evil throughout the 1930s and `40s. We not only have names and dates, we even have Henry Wallace's fingerprints on the Silver Key."
LERNER: "And Mr. Ward, what do you have to say to that?"
WARD: "Highly mephitic, I say. This is pure American triumphalism. Maybe 100 million people have been consumed since the Old Ones returned in 1917, but that is no reason to condemn as a traitor everyone who ever attended an invocation of the Crawling Chaos. We are talking about the fundamental legitimacy of progressive politics here."
LERNER: "Dr. Turnip?"
TURNIP: "Throughout the 20th century, the term `progressive' has been the silken mask of the High Priest Not to be Described. It's people like the readers of `The Burrower' who became pacifists when the Ribbentrop-Nyarlathotep Pact was signed, but suddenly changed their minds when Hitler invaded Leng."
WARD: "This is McCarthyism of the most eldritch kind. In the 1930s, no one but the Starry Wisdom Party was doing anything in this country about racial equality and the condition of working people. That's what the Cthuluist tradition is really about."
TURNIP: "If you read the Party platform from those years, you will see that what 'equality' meant to Cthuluists was that all non-initiates were equally tasty. As for the condition of workers, you know perfectly well that the old CIO demanded that the membership surrender their souls on election day."
LERNER: "Gentlemen, please. To change the subject slightly, it is often said today that the only place that Cthuluism still finds adherents is on college campuses. Mr. Ward, would you agree with that?"
WARD: "That is a squamous calumny on multiculturalism. There are indeed a few campuses today where gender equity and anthropophagy are actively promoted by the administration, but the reality is that most institutions of higher education in this country are highly reactionary. To this day, in fact, a few colleges refuse to hire faculty who cannot tolerate direct sunlight. But doubtless this situation pleases Dr. Turnip and his neoconservative friends at Miskatonic University."
TURNIP: "The real fact of the matter is that our universities have been taken over by Black Diaper Babies."
WARD: "You know, it's people like you who see a zoog under every bed."
TURNIP: "There usually are zoogs under my bed; it's people like you who send them."
LERNER: "Dr. Turnip, isn't what you say a little extreme? Aren't you free at Miskatonic University to write and teach whatever you want about the influence of the Starry Wisdom Party?"
TURNIP: "Let me begin by saying that Dean Golder at Miskatonic has done a very good job of keeping the more obviously non-human applicants out of the tenure track, at least in the liberal arts. And it is also true that, nationally, the number of undergraduates who are inexplicably dismembered on Lammas Night has fallen to its lowest level since the late `60s. Nevertheless, the situation only grows worse and worse. Spontaneous deliquescence is now a protected condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Literature survey courses used to start with 'Moby Dick.' Now they start with 'The Pnakotic Manuscripts.' There's postmodernism for you. Most of these ideas are simply imported from France, where Cthulu always had a large following."
LERNER: "That brings us to an important point. Is it really fair to identify French postmodernism completely with Cthuluism?"
TURNIP: "Well, Michel Foucault did die by being torn in pieces by a nightgaunt over the Boulevard Saint Germain."
WARD: "Excuse me, but I think it is simply bigotry to invoke the tragic circumstances of Foucault's death as a way to discredit his ideas. It expresses contempt for the thousands of people who suffer similar afflictions everywhere in the world today."
LERNER: "Point taken, Mr. Ward. Let me bring this discussion to a close by asking you both about the significance of the events of 1989. Do you think that the fall of the Gate in that year permanently discredited Cthuluism as a viable intellectual option, or do you think that the Old Ones might be objects of worship again? Dr. Turnip?"
TURNIP: "I believe that the Starry Wisdom Party will continue to be discredited. The Shadow may grow again, but it will have to take a different form.
LERNER: "Mr. Ward?"
WARD: "If you knock down a Gate, you not only make a way for yourself to go out, you make a way for what is on the other side to come in. `That is not dead which can eternal lie; the struggle continues.'"
LERNER: "And there we must end it. Gentlemen, good night."
TURNIP: "What does Michael Beschloss know that I don't know, eh?."
LERNER: "YOG SOTH...er, yes, well, good evening."
Copyright © 1998 by John J. Reilly