Telephone_OfficialConspiracy theorists have seized on Lady Gaga’s latest music video, “Telephone,” as evidence that she’s a mind-controlled agent of the CIA. If that sounds like a stretch, consider that has raked in over 1,300 comments on its conspiratorial analysis of “Telephone.” Hundreds of thousands of people have likely read it, and perhaps many believed.

Vigilant Citizen’s warning to America is that Gaga and other singers have been given the full Manchurian-Candidate treatment under the CIA’s “Monarch Program” and unleashed on pop culture to rep the devil-worshipping Illuminati. The wider goal of the conspiracy remains hazy, but it has to do with seducing and softening up the hoi polloi with a mind-controlling pageantry of outrageous sex, decadence, murder, madness, and technological excess — all elements in “Telephone” and preparatory ingredients in a transhumanist, authoritarian New World Order.

But let’s backtrack. What is this CIA “Monarch Program”? Vigilant Citizen talks about it as if it’s a well-established fact. Curious and unwilling to put anything past the CIA, I went in search of credible sources testifying to its existence. But the whole notion of the program originates with one woman named Cathy O’Brien and I wouldn’t call her credible. I would call her batty.

The “Monarch Program” is a figment of O’Brien’s “recovered memories.” The inducement of such memories, almost always fabricated, was a fad in the 1980s, and fueled that decade’s satanic sex abuse scare. Michael Barkun, in Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, writes that O’Brien was hypnotized by her husband and began recalling her brainwashing under the Monarch Program and subsequent work as a CIA drug smuggler and sex-slave to George H.W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. The claims were so outlandish that her critics included the late Jim Keith, an originator of the black-helicopter conspiracy theory, and the author of Saucers of the Illuminati and Casebook on the Men in Black. Culture of Conspiracy notes that a Ufologist investigated O’Brien’s story with an open mind and gave up after finding her accusations “never came backed with hard evidence.”

I don’t mean to imply the CIA hasn’t tried controlling people’s minds or programming them. It has. You needn’t look any further than Project MKULTRA for proof of that. But Vigilant Citizen stakes its Gaga theory on the existence of a separate, unsubstantiated CIA conspiracy that’s been dismissed as improbable by the black-helicopter people — and for that the website loses all credibility.

More interesting than the question of Lady Gaga’s dark history with the CIA is that of Vigilant Citizen’s popularity. How to explain it? The easy answer is that conspiracy theorists have always been around. But there’s no denying we live in especially paranoid times, and Vigilant Citizen’s popularity is helped by the fact that an oligopoly controls the airwaves – raising perhaps legitimate concerns that content is being screened and manipulated by a small cadre of record executives. It also helps that Lady Gaga’s music is unprecedented and provocative — and that she’s thrown red meat to the conspiracy theorists by, for instance, posing in a Masonic temple wearing Hello Kitty dolls.

And I admit with no reluctance that Vigilant Citizen is an entertaining read and makes astute points here and there. The website was somewhat correct in linking Gaga with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the dystopian sci-fi film from Weimar Germany. She derived her name from “Radio Gaga,” a Queen song whose promotional video was set in Metropolis. And she’s posed for a photo shoot (caution: graphic) in a robot outfit, scaling skyscrapers with a Zeppelin and sprawled naked bodies in the background, leaving no doubt that she’s fashioned herself after Weimar modernism. That fact itself is a riddle of the zeitgeist.

But maybe the deeper meaning in Vigilant Citizen’s popularity is that music — and I mean everything from the marches of John Phillips Souza to Elvis’s alleycat yowls to Lady Gaga’s androidal croon — is moving and terrifying, a force of nature as well as a reflector and creator of culture. If the Puritans ascribed to music occult, evil, and paranormal properties, so do some modern Americans. Vigilant Citizen speaks for them.