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Book Review: Chameleo by Robert Guffey

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Book Review: Chameleo by Robert Guffey OR Books (2015) 280 pages Available in print and e-book

Hamlet's Ghost and the Mouse-Trap Empire

By John Kendall Hawkins

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, a melancholy Hamlet tells his stoic sidekick, Horatio, and by the time you exit - if you can exit - this Five Act Hotel California of tragic truths and consequences, you damn well believe him. Stuff happens, and there are spaces and places in the fissures of human consciousness where we don't mean to go, but there we find ourselves: weird places; undine spaces of horror illuminated by mere hints of occult wisdom; what Freud called The Uncanny, where Thanatos and Eros mud-wrestle in the dark and our minds are the small stage on which they do their existential porn.

That's how I felt reading Robert Guffey's memoir Chameleo: A Strange But True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction and Homeland Security.

The simple narrative drift of the tale goes like this: Dion Fuller, a down-and-out heroin addict living in San Diego, allows a guy named Lee to crash at his pad during a 'rave' (turns out Dion allows pretty much anyone to crash at his pad), blissfully unaware that Lee is an AWOL Marine from Camp Pendleton down the road, who has apparently stolen from the base valuable assets, including a Department of Defense (DoD) laptop, a dead Iraqi general's pistol, and, of key interest, 21 night vision goggles. The party gets raided by NCIS, with ravers, including Lee, scattering and leaving behind enough drugs to put Dion behind bars for, by his own estimation, "a long, long time." But though arrested, Dion is not busted for drug possession, but instead becomes the prime target of clandestine investigators who decide to experiment on Dion's mind in an effort to recover the night goggles.

Enter invisible midgets who proceed to gang stalk Dion, using a variety of techniques borrowed from intelligence services psy-ops field techniques for disorienting and encrazing a target. He is followed everywhere - everywhere - including in his own home, where he can feel invisible homunculi bumping into him. He is doused with electromagnetic radiation; presented with optical illusions, including a window out which he sees a holographically projected phantasmagorical world; he is subject to directed sound bursts.

For sure, Dion's in deep doo.

Interestingly enough, this early section of the book reads like a mixture of Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick. The narrative has a kind of junkie's angst to it that actually serves to bolster the bizarre happenings. But more than anything else it struck me as a could-be scene from the cult TV series Breaking Bad - specifically the 'Open House' episode, in which a meth-encapsulated Jesse invites ravers to his home to party and collapse, and you get the sense that anything goes and anything could happen.

Though the narrative centers on Dion, it is delivered by his friend, the author, Robert Guffey, who flits in and out of Dion's physical presence at various stages of the tale's timeframe. Guffey cleverly makes up for this potentially fatal hearsay trap by essentially delivering up transcripts of his emails and phone conversations with Dion (and others), so that one always feels the pulse of Dion's fate unfolding. (The one exception being when Dion escapes to Kansas in his 'death van' and goes silent for several months and we get a later summary of his doings there.). While the key missing asset stole from the military are the night goggles, that the DoD and its shadowy contractors are dogged in pursuing, clearly the principal illusion that shakes Dion's sense of reality to the core is the invisibility mechanism that his stalkers use, creating an overwhelming sense of paranoia that Dion struggles mightily to survive.

The book is a work of creative non-fiction. And about two-thirds of the way through the tale we are introduced to Richard Schowengerdt, the key personage who transforms the narrative from a potentially far-fetched junkie's hallucinatory fable (although Guffey is quick to point out that heroin is not a hallucinatory drug) to a much more disturbing discussion of military secret weapons in the works, including the now overexposed invisibility cloak that can disappear people before your very eyes (or appear to). Schowengerdt, a scientist and inventor, was the director of one Project Chameleo, which was an attempt by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to come up with a camouflaging technique that would make battlefield assets 'invisible' to enemy recognizance.

Guffey's long verbatim interview with Schowengerdt certainly adds credence to not only Dion's sighting of invisible midgets, but also to the existence of a parallel Dark State system beyond democratic governance and rules of law, which, of course, leads us back to the 'gloves off' days of Dick Cheney and the current global apparatus of all-pervasive surveillance and the machinations of Endless War that Edward Snowden's revelations have now taken the lid off.

The final section of Guffey's narrative is the most chilling. For here, Guffey, supported by Schowengerdt and other experts, argue that elements of the US government - spooks - intentionally target select individuals who cross some intangible line separating the Dark State from the presumptively normal Enlightened state. As Guffey puts it, Dion has been "placed on a list that nobody wants to be on," and adds grimly: "Let's not be obtuse: we're dealing with a rule-crazy, Puritanical, hypocritical, Old Testament-style perception of reality that desperately needs to wipe out anything or anyone that is Other. Different. Contrary."

A few years ago I reviewed Thomas P. Keenan's Technocreep, which exhaustively detailed the myriad ways we have lost our privacy to the technological, and the psychologist Gold brothers' Suspicious Minds, which introduces the rising category of delusion called the Truman Show delusion. While those books were sobering enough, Guffey introduces and confirms a secret malignancy directed at the public not seen since the COINTELPRO days of the Sixties when the CIA and its spooky contractors were putting unaware targets into LSD nightmares to brainwash and play with the mind of others. An anonymous Bush henchman (later attributed to Karl Rove) once told a New York Times reporter: "We [presumably the PNAC crazies] are an empire now, and we make our own reality."

It is also clear that the Dark State agencies, in their quest to rebuild the world order, will in their 'disruptions' intentionally create chaos, seeded with superstition, occult symbolism, and Pavlovian propaganda. The Cold War has been sentimentalized, and the Nietzschean Gà tterdà mmerung has been walked back to make room for a very useful symbolism and the re-ascendancy of Good and Evil. Indeed, imagine, if you dare, Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, neoliberal enforcer, laying down the new, same-old immoral code, with this warning offered up to John Pilger: "Get used to it world. We're not going to put up with any nonsense." Call it the neo Golden Rule.

When I was a young man in the post-Sixties, I would delve into weird spaces - Edgar Cayce's out of body recountings, Carlos Casteneda's mystical tales, Herman Hesse's Jungian stories, Joseph Campbell's 'synchronicity'. But I stepped back, because there are shadow worlds best left alone. But now the spooks and those spaces are encroaching on the normal, and people are beginning to Break Bad everywhere. Soon Jesse's apartment will be filled with AWOL sailors, raving. Hopefully Guffey will be there to document the invisible when it comes to light.

An excerpt can be read at OR Books.

(Article changed on May 25, 2021 at 2:44 PM EDT)

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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