In 1998 I set about writing my first novel. My goal was to write a political fantasy set in the very near future that foretold what could happen if current trends continued unabated.
The genre has a long history and some prominent benchmarks, most notably Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and George Orwell’s “1984,” quite possibly the gloomiest book ever written.
On the American right, the genre took a still darker, less helpful turn with works like William Luther Pierce’s “Turner Diaries,” of which Timothy McVeigh was alleged to be a fan.
Writing before my real job each morning, I set out to craft a novel that had some predictive power but that also suggested a reasonably bloodless solution to the problems at hand.
I also tried to write a romance without explicit sex, an action thriller without explicit violence and a political tract without profanity. I succeeded, but the third condition proved most daunting.
I set the novel in a section of New York state I know well, Chautauqua [pronounced sha-TAWK-wa] County, in the year 2003. By the time I finished and found a publisher, I had to move the action at the heart of the novel back to 2006.
It was that year in which Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia first died. It was his death that set the stage for the “rising” that followed.
“We are reaching, I fear, a turning point in American history,” wrote one character in the book, a small-town editor. “Since the untimely and inexplicable death of Antonin Scalia and the ascension to Chief Justice of Laurence Tribe, the forces of federal and judicial usurpation have gone virtually unchecked.”
The many vintners in western New York resented the Gore administration’s squeeze on independent grape growers. The nearby Seneca Indians openly resisted the administration’s crackdown on tobacco sales.
The many gun owners in this ornery part of the world feared for their Second Amendment Rights. And the traditionalists of all faiths – the Amish most notably – dreaded the Supreme Court approval of the “Children’s Defense Act,” which would have all but forbidden homeschooling and parochial schooling.
The fact that Scalia died unexpectedly in his sleep made everyone all the more jittery. “After a hasty investigation,” I wrote, “the D.C. police ruled the death carbon monoxide poisoning.”
To be sure, “Not everyone bought the explanation.” I continued, “Talk radio jocks began to demand a fuller investigation. As usual, the outcry was quickly dismissed as right-wing conspiracy blather.”
I titled the book “2006: The Chautauqua Rising.” The proximate cause of the “rising” is a school shooting. The original reports at the scene suggest that the shooters were of Mideast origin.
Within hours, however, the story changed, and the media began to insist that the shooters were homegrown American extremists.
Knowing the likely consequences, our protagonists “watched in awe and horror, marveling at the ability of some unseen hand to shape the news to its own design like a vase on a pottery wheel.”
Not to give too much away, but the many and varied oppressions, none of them so horrific as to stir our betters, inspire a grass-roots insurrection in western New York that in many ways anticipated the tea party insurgency of 2009-10.
In the wake of Scalia’s real death, several publications, mainstream and otherwise, have taken note of my prescience.
Inevitably, however, they lump me among the conspiracy theorists. “Of course, author Jack Cashill would be remiss if he didn’t get in on the paranoia party,” writes Maggie Serota in deathandtaxes.
“After all,” Serota continues, “he wrote the book on Scalia’s death. No, seriously, he authored the 2006 political thriller ‘2006: The Chautauqua Rising,’ which featured Scalia dying under mysterious circumstances.”
The New York Daily News considers my literary efforts in an article headlined, “Who killed Antonin Scalia? Conspiracy theories blame Obama, Cheney, Mr. Spock.”
Somewhat more generously, the London Daily Mail reviews my book under the heading, “FROM CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING TO ASSASSINATION: THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES SWIRLING ABOUT JUSTICE SCALIA’S DEATH… FROM THE PLAUSIBLE TO THE RIDICULOUS.”
No one gave me credit for my spot-on description of what would happen in the wake of a mysterious Scalia death: “Talk radio jocks began to demand a fuller investigation. As usual, the outcry was quickly dismissed as right wing conspiracy blather.”
Nor do the media understand that sometimes “conspiracies” are more than just “theories.” In their effort to discredit the right, the media have missed some astonishing stories.
My next book details the most astonishing media miss in the broadcast era. “TWA 800: The Crash, The Cover-Up, The Conspiracy” will be out in time for the 20th anniversary this July.
Scoffers, I am happy to talk.
Jack Cahill’s latest book illustrates how the neo-Puritan progressive movement came to mimic a religion in its structure but not at all in its spirit — order “Scarlet Letters: The Ever-Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism”
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