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Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1991)

“No peace until the Tribulation. Let us be done with these end times!”

Rising from the alchemical ooze in some off-grid secret laboratory comes Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America, a bizarro blitz of paranoid pulp and esoteric pseudo-history. Hushedly narrated by who might be a neo-Rod Sterling if his commanding voice of enlightenment had turned a gravelly timbre from forced MK Ultra heroin addiction, T99 spins "true" tales of alien infiltration. This underground atrocity is a "prank documentary" found-footage mashup conceived from (or perhaps rather perceived by) the brain of Craig Baldwin, a maverick with a record of re-interpreting media into lights that show dark undercurrents beneath. Stitching together countless newsreels and b-movies in a tapestry of unsettling atmosphere and sensory overload, Tribulation 99 reveals popular perceptions (or lack thereof) towards history as told by predictive programming, escapist misdirections, and Freudian slips from art, news, and other manufactured images in the information age.

Here's how the beginning of the end went down: upon the arrival of their ships to Earth, spacemen escaping the destruction of their own planet first burrowed into the (apparently) hollow center of Earth, then materialized into Latin America in Quetzalcoatl form -- a serpentine shape taken from, you guessed it, the aliens' desperate mating with snakes to survive due to their own genitals being mutilated by radiation. They continue to rule the region in the form of shadowy cigar-chomping dictators that our trustworthy psy-op experts leading the US of A must overthrow and replace.

Still on the same page, right?

Good, here are some more facts for you. The invention of "re-exploding bullets" is cited as a deterrent against voodoo-enhanced guerillas (since zombies must be killed twice). An advert showcases Faultless Spray-On Starch only for the can's star-shaped logo to be visually overlaid with Satanic pentagrams as narration warns that the aliens intend to deplete the ozone layer to make flying their saucers easier. Grenadian prime minister Eric Gairy is said to have been targeted by "psychic vampires" for issuing heedless warnings of UFO activity. There will be a quiz on all of this, by the way.

With such outrageous connections as Fidel Castro being a Billion-Dollar Man cyborg (hence the unsuccessful attempts by all the clones of James Bond to kill him) and the Bermuda Triangle housing Creatures of the Black Lagoon to ward off investigations into Atlantean technology, T99 foregrounds and problematizes the practice of relating complex political events to whatever nonsense you saw while scrolling cable television at 2 AM. It's an ingeniously ironic spin on the practice of cringey pop-culture comparisons, like all those peabrained Trump-as-Voldemort articles, to use an easy example.

Pop media in the form of tropes and icons is frequently evoked as shorthand to shepherd the masses, who will always respond most to whatever is associated with the most digestible & overstimulating emotions. Comparisons are an appealing form of persuasion because the speaker can eschew reason in favor of riding the coattails of concepts our ADHD-ridden civilization has already poured over. With its transparently absurd associations and crackpot historical claims, T99 takes the practice to such an extreme that you can't help but laugh along and, more importantly, keep an associating eye out against manipulations elsewhere.

That isn't to say Baldwin and company take politics lightly. In fact, there is a lot of actual truth in this puzzling package, particularly relating to the Globalist American Empire installing banana republics and delivering "humanitarian weapons" to destabilizers. But it's given a tongue-in-cheek spin that comedically excuses power plays with the qualifier of being done to prevent spaceman hijinks. The wacky pulp is a pretense serving as a humorous asterisk to some serious business, like saying you're going to burn someone's house down (in Minecraft). FBI boomers get freaked out by that phrase, incidentally.

Namedropping string-pulling intelligence operatives such as John McCone and puppet dictators like Manuel Noreiga, T99's veneer of sci-fi silliness is actually a cartel drug mule smuggling bits of history you'll likely not hear in school. It's an open secret that the ruling class sees little people as cattle to be guided and harvested at will. Plausible de

niability (and ability to instill fear) is in place to repel would-be revolutionaries back to their couches and screens, but as the information age continues to dwindle attention spans and morale, it becomes less necessary to avoid publicly bragging about destabilizing cultures foreign and domestic. Americans aware of the origins of many elected and unelected rulers alike can now more strongly than ever relate to the chaos inflicted upon Latin Americans whose regions were mettled with by "alien" inserts.

Truth can be stranger than fiction, yet strains of both have an obsessive gravitas that can veer into myopia. Tribulation's presentation has an ominous down-the-rabbit-hole intrigue, and the audio-visual evocations of fictional franchises from Godzilla to Mission: Impossible give it a trivia-hunt element in common with those "lore explained" videos for nerdy subcultures chewing their escapist cuds. Indeed, this haze of bleak revelation has a maddening pull, the same downward spiral that many a Bitchuter and 4channer have dove into at the expense of social life and peace of mind. Is it not obvious that such likely psyops as the moronic Q (notably a cope-fest assuring itself that their benevolent leaders have everything under control) has made opposition to the bougie status quo seem only more baseless and weak? For that matter, what good does being able to list the names and details CIA plots as if they were your favorite Pokemon or some other crap compare to putting all that mental effort into practical skills and positive experiences?

But in the whirlpool of bad omens unleashed upon our senses by global computer advancements, one is overwhelmed and begs for something greater to cling onto. Tribulation 99 scrutinizes the common desire for some great leaders and experts to swoop in from above and solve the world's problems; while given a satirical filter, this iceberg tip alludes to how almost every power-holding players in the political arena are ultimately on the same team, which sure ain't interested in advancing the cause of the property-deprived wage slave and head-down working joe. That some CIA spook or hand-shaking billionaire is going to fix it all for the meekly unassertive escapist is less likely to take place than that other pleasant's plea: that the world he fails to dig his feet into be wiped clean altogether, with some higher purpose being given to him on a silver platter free-of-charge alongside a first-class ticket on a luxury cruiser to an exotic second chance in the heavens beyond.

And he'd better not count on being given that kind of bailout, either.

Originally posted at Letterboxd on July 17, 2022.


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Freeman shows you the hidden methods & meanings of media in its varying forms.

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