An essay about my reaction to a Vigilant Citizen article. Knowledge is Power entry.
When I read articles like ”The Occult Symbolism of the Los Angeles Central Library” by Vigilant Citizen, I often find myself of two minds about it. On the one hand, I think it’s incredibly important to recognize subtext and symbolism in our aesthetic design choices. On the other hand, since symbolism and subtext are often subjective in nature, I think ascribing meaning or ulterior motive to it can be a slippery slope.
Let’s take the article’s statement that the Star of Ishtar (an eight-pointed star, sometimes with a circle inscribed around it) is often found in the lower level of “occult buildings” and is thought to represent the underworld. However, a little cursory research also indicates that the exact meaning of this symbol is unknown. Since Ishtar was a mythological figure with a widespread sphere of influence (the article itself acknowledges that she’s associated with fertility, love, war, and sexuality), some believe the Star of Ishtar is representative of the underworld, while others seem to associate her with the opposite: the heavens. And absent any definitive documentation from the person who decided to put that image there, it’s impossible to tell what meaning they intended for it to have, or if they intended it to have any meaning at all. Sometimes architects and designers choose symbols for purely aesthetic reasons.
The same is true of the swastika. Most people associate the swastika symbol solely with the Nazis, but the swastika was a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religion long before the Nazis appropriated it. In Jainism, it’s one of the ashtamangala, or “eight auspicious signs” and prominently displayed in many temples and other religious gathering places. In this particular case, the Nazis actually rotated the image slightly so it’s easier to figure out where someone’s inspiration to use the symbol in this day and age comes from, but the point remains that depending on the context and the circumstances, symbols (especially simple, elegant designs) often have multiple meanings and contexts.
Whenever symbolism is used to ascribe intention, I always find it useful to do a little independent research. This article, for example, states that, “[architectural sculptor Lee Lawrie’s] unique style and knowledge of occult symbolism, ancient mysteries, and Masonic principles apparently made him the elite’s artist,” and yet I could not find anything in any other publications to indicate a connection between Lee Lawrie and the occult, the Freemasons, or anything along those lines. By all other accounts I’ve read outside this article, Lee Lawrie and architect Bertram Goodhue seem to be talented artists who were quite popular at the time the Los Angeles Public Library building was being designed, similar to the way Frank Lloyd Wright was highly sought out a few decades later when he was at the top of his game. It stands to reason that these men were hired not because of their sinister connections to some secret society, but because they were popular and capable artists that inspired the project managers with their design ideas.
Which brings me to the next phase of my independent research. When two sources seem to offer different accounts or interpretations of of historical events, I look into the veracity of the sources themselves. For the counterpoint to Vigilant Citizen’s assertions, I read articles on the Los Angeles Public Library from the LAPL archives itself, as well as an article by an established arts journalist writing for KCET, an independent public-access educational media station. For Lee Lawrie and Bertram Goodhue, I consulted a variety of articles and encyclopedia entries from renowned and well-respected publishers such as Wiley and W.W. Norton, two of the preeminent academic publishers in the country.
By contrast, when looking into Vigilant Citizen’s background, I discovered that it is frequently listed alongside sites like Infowars as one of the most conspiracy-minded sites on the Internet. Here are the titles of some other Vigilant Citizen articles:
“Satanic Sculpture Installed at the Illinois Statehouse”
“Beyonce Accused of ‘Extreme Witchcraft’ by Ex-Drummer”
“This TEDx Talk Attempts to Normalize Pedohilia”
“The Movie ‘Show Dogs’ Contains Scenes That ‘Groom Children for Sexual Abuse’”
“Kat Von D’s Wedding Was an Occult Elite Ritual”
“Samsung Launches a Site That Can ‘Erase Your Memory’ With Hypnosis”
If that’s not enough, Vigilant Citizen was a significant contributor to the “Pizzagate” tragedy when they promoted an article entitled, “Pizzagate: How 4Chan Uncovered the Sick World of Washington’s Occult Elite,” which prompted Edgar Welch to enter Comet Ping Pong with a loaded rifle looking to uncover Hillary Clinton’s secret underground child kidnapping, abuse, and molestation operation. Vigilant Citizen has since removed the article they published and denied any association with the now thoroughly-debunked story despite the fact that Edgar Welch himself specifically named Vigilant Citizen as one of the two sources he got the story from.
When faced with these two avenues of research, I’m inclined to believe that Vigilant Citizen’s claims about the provenance of Los Angeles Public Library “assumes facts not in evidence,” a phrase that attorneys in a courtroom often use when objecting to a particular response that assumes the truth of something for which there is no factual support or backup. This article offers no factual proof that Bertram Goodhue or Lee Lawrie were beholden to a secret society, or that the Los Angeles Public Library was designed that way to appease “occult elites,” regardless of the implied symbolism of some of their artistic choices which haven’t been proven to be inspired by the occult. The Vigilant Citizen itself, however, seems to have a history of erroneous reporting.
The Vigilant Citizen’s article ends with the following two questions:
Do you use knowledge to guide, inspire and enlighten or do you use it to control, manipulate and deceive? We have seen in previous articles how the elite uses their knowledge to manipulate the masses. What will you do with yours?
Ironically, it’s those exact two questions that cause me to disbelieve their article. Now that I have knowledge (not just of article’s assertions, but also of its provenance), I am letting it guide and enlighten me as to the likely truth of the matter. Whereas Vigilant Citizen is using its position to manipulate and deceive people, I choose to enlighten others about the larger picture, to show that the assertions in this article are more likely better suited for a Dan Brown conspiracy thriller novel than as newsworthy piece of professional journalism.
Written for: "Knowledge is Power" and "Invalid Item"
Prompt: Read and write a story, poem, essay, etc. with thoughts about this article