LIKE Milton William Cooper’s Behold a Pale Horse, Leslie Watkins’ Alternative 3, inspired by the Anglia Television hoax of the same name, is a repository for memetic cues designed to disinform and confuse. Like Cooper’s cult-classic, Watkins’ novella is printed and reprinted without editing. All typos and factual inaccuracies are preserved. It is not meant to emulate a work of serious scholarship and it would be difficult to argue that it aims to entertain, as it fails spectacularly as an engaging work of fiction. Nevertheless, it found publishers, first with Sphere Books (1978) and subsequently with Avon Publishers (1979) in the United States, now an imprint of HarperCollins. Miracles do happen, or concerted disinformation campaigns are sanctioned regularly by establishment stalwarts.
Grave structural flaws aside, Alternative 3 is not entirely without merits. Firstly, it employs intuition in the service of inquiry, and so is of immediate appeal to the gullible, which is not to condemn the gullible in the form of a would-be reader. The gullible are typically neither jaded nor militantly skeptical; they are receptive to that which is at once incredible and improbable, both conditions which do not necessarily make a piece of data or a collection of data-pieces untrue. Nevertheless, there is much contained within this so-called work of “fiction based on fact” that is flagrantly untrue, unnecessarily defamatory and reliably misleading (that many dates attributed by Watkins to events-of-note are shifted backward or forward by a handful of years is confounding). Furthermore, Watkins’ “facts” possess a peculiar speculative quality unique to disinformation projects; that data which can be verified is sandwiched between and undermined by episodes that are contrived and information that is artlessly fabricated. Secondly, it is not entirely implausible that Watkins’, like popular disinformers by whom he was succeeded, stumbled upon, inadvertently or surreptitiously, information that possessed real-world gravity, in which case, no amount of bad writing is entirely in vain. So the reader is presented with a question: away from WHAT is he being misdirected? And if misdirection is employed purposefully, are there not clues with which salient information may be filtered from erroneous information? The answer is an unqualified ‘yes.’
A little due-diligence enables one to systematically strip from the text most information that is blatantly fanciful and without substance, with one caveat: it is the nature of misdirection to steer one away from information on which one’s attention might better be trained. The reader is forced to exercise his own judgment in such a situation; to ask questions of a text—to shake the tree…all in an effort to determine not the veracity of the text-as-edifice, but as an amalgam of distinct component parts, each to be analyzed individually. It is important to emphasize that the author stresses that he “is not in the business of speculation,” which doesn’t rule out his function as an amateur agency of speculation. One does not have to be in “the business” to mount a successful disinformation/misdirection campaign; it is an art that by its nature lends itself to the innately curious and appeals to that same sense in the reader, hence the aura that surrounds Alternative 3—the book and the Anglia Television investigative report from which it was adapted.
Speculation thrives on a substrate furnished by the imagination…
…and it is the nature of speculation to anticipate; to make assumptions based solely upon intuition. It is also the nature of speculation to issue suppositions and to pass into realms from which travelers under the yoke of facts are barred. Knowledge does not always treat supposition kindly, but there are instances when so uncannily pointed is an assumption leveled by speculation that knowledge is surrendered by force majeure. It is this editor’s belief that Watkins was employed in an effort to at once simulate the appearance of a classic disinformant while affecting naïveté in the service of misdirection. In the process, the hand of the knowledge-keeper may have been overplayed and speculation-as-exercise may have been revealed as speculation-as-device, which is to concede that Watkins did not reveal a tightly-orchestrated conspiracy explicitly, but revealed what amounts to the shadow cast by a conspiracy that can only be delineated by the practice of controlled-omission.
Watkins’ Alternative 3 is a bona-fide diversion, as is the original Anglia Television hoax. Its aims are suspect as it has been permitted a life that better books have been denied; it has assumed an undeserved aura, especially as so many calculated deceptions lurk in the details. So how is one to read Alternative 3? Carefully! The heavy employment of misinformation should be dealt with expeditiously. Herein you will find a unique edition of Alternative 3 that has been edited of overt misinformation, while a large percentage of disinformation has been preserved, albeit in a form that aims to reconstitute the little truths that had previously been undermined by contrivance.
We cannot ascertain that the Moon or Mars have been covertly colonized by human assets; there is too little data in the public domain with which to substantiate such an assumption, but that does not make it untrue. On another level, we can ascertain that fear and distrust may be sewn into a population efficiently, cheaply and in a sustained way with constructed threats (global warming, the hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, the zebra mussel, etc.) which in and of themselves possess no substance beyond that afforded by faith. A threat must be nebulous, extant and it must always loom on the horizon and in Leslie Watkins’ Alternative 3, it does. Threats thrive on a substrate furnished by the imagination, and like speculation, many modern-day threats require a stay-of-logic. Moreover, critical-thinking must be suspended, if only temporarily, but herein lies the danger: if data is not considered, always, in a critical light, knowledge undergoes degradation as by slow erosion and history grows increasingly malleable…
And by history, I imply the sum-total of knowledge on which informed decisions, opinions and policy-making depend. The recreational distortion of facts should be taken into account when considering information and should likewise be taken into account when reading this book. Watkins refers to not a few compromises on which the publication of Alternative 3 depended. If the truth was Watkins’ objective, as opposed to obfuscation or mere entertainment, he might have self-published, but that he honored these so-called compromises suggests that Alternative 3 is but one more scantily-clad exercise in disinformation, or perhaps was written with no little contempt for the would-be reader’s gullibility.
This still does not answer the most glaring question of all: Why was Alternative 3 written? Why does it remain a staple text among conspiracy buffs? Why, when it seems to revel in the disembowelment of the English language, does it have “staying-power?” This humble editor concedes that Alternative 3 survives chiefly as it cursorily addresses the overarching mystery in which we all participate: SPACE. An exclusive club has reserved the right to hold dominion over that mystery which belongs to all men and beasts—equally. Watkins implies a conspiracy to misdirect the human population away from the spectacular prospect of space exploration which is his natural inheritance. Alternative 3 may have contempt for its readers, but it also has contempt (maybe mock-contempt) for officialdom and therein lays its saving-grace. Nevertheless, I venture that Alternative 3 was a haphazardly-contrived and opportunistic disinformation exercise with one primary objective: misdirection.
Only those perceived threats over which the individual has no control are able to short-circuit man’s ability to think critically. Consequently, Watkins employed the time-tested threat of environmental catastrophe. The threat of environmental catastrophe reliably galvanizes the public and appeals to its sense of institutionalized boredom and repressed desire for sudden and violent change. This alone softens man to the concessions he regularly makes to an elite that would have the public believe that it had its welfare at heart. No elite should have exclusive dominion over the mysteries from which all creatures are descended, but Watkins would have you accept after an oblique fashion the notion that the species does, indeed, require husbandry from on-high. In effect, Alternative 3 induces cognitive dissonance: it would have the reader at once decry the establishment and embrace those movements from which the establishment derives its power…
There is nothing admirable about “state-secrets.” They are kept in an effort to conceal professional failures and more often in an effort to armor the impotent. Witting or not, disinformers are the tools of those that would keep and reinforce secrets; that would divide by virtue of confusion. Leslie Watkins is one such tool.
—ANONYMOUS, 29.7° N 4.0° W, 2010