Update at the end of the post
Members of the UCF know what I'm going to talk about this morning, God knows we've beaten the subject to death elsewhere for the last couple of days.
I want to talk about insanity.
Twenty years ago, when I was stationed on the island nation of Iceland, there was no off-base housing. So all of us single folks lived in the barracks. Iceland is a strange place, at least it was back then, and for a number of reasons - the endless winter darkness, the brutal cold, the surly hostility of the insular Icelanders, the confined quarters, the intense mission, the irregular and endless workload - it tended to exacerbate people's natural quirks and tics. Most folks could handle it, oh we drank a bit more, or lost our temper a bit more, or became a bit more prickly, or became a bit more withdrawn or outgoing than usual, but mostly we did OK.
But some people, well some people just went bugshit.
There was this guy, a enlisted Navy Journalist. He was one of the AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio/TV System) newscasters and was on the local base closed circuit TV news each day. He seemed normal enough, if canted towards the weird end of the human spectrum. But over a period of months he became more and more distant. He would do odd things, like roam the corridors late in the night, knocking on doors, or suddenly leaping up and changing the channel on the lounge TV without asking the people watching it for permission. Then, well, then he got the Jesus and was born again - and that's when things really started to go pear shaped. He'd rave, and mumble disjointed bible passages at people, he'd knock on my door at odd hours of the night and shout "He's the ONE!" when I opened the door. He ate alone, and talked to himself, and gradually it reached a point where you couldn't hold a coherent conversation with him at all, on any level. But, see, at work in front of the camera, he was perfectly normal. We'd see him, calm, collected, professional on the TV news - and then he'd come back to the barracks on the bus and he'd get off twitching, literally twitching.
The thing was, nobody was completely normal, isolation does strange things to people, and because I find extreme religious belief goofy under the best of circumstance, and because his descent into batshit craziness was so gradual, I just didn't recognize it for what it was.
Then, one day, during a live TV interview with a visiting Four Star Admiral at the base airport, he snapped.
It was bizarre, like a Bugs Bunny cartoon - the one where Bugs' ears go flat out, his eyes cross, and his whiskers suddenly become rigid and he starts making that ack ack! noise. One second the Journalist would be asking the admiral a normal question, and the next he'd starting twitching and making strange expressions and shout "He's the ONE!", then he'd be suddenly normal and resume the interview, and then it would happen again. We watched it unfold live on TV, and the admiral's perplexed expression was absolutely priceless. Welcome to the edge of the world, Admiral.
And then, like a wind-up clockwork mechanism suddenly tearing itself to pieces in a cloud of flying springs and cogs, the Journalist threw down his microphone, and ran away across the apron, tearing his clothes off in the subzero temperatures and screaming "He's the ONE! He's the ONE!" - live and in color on the evening news.
We all ran upstairs onto the roof to watch the spectacle in astounded fascination, drinking beer and shouting encouragement. It took a squad of MP's over an hour to catch him. It was utterly hysterical - a group of huge apes in camouflage and helmets, trying to catch one scrawny arm-waving naked guy running about on the tarmac like a demented chicken in a barnyard. Eventually the Marines cornered him and dogpiled on top. They brought him back to the barracks, wrapped in a blanket, kicking and struggling.
He wouldn't stop screaming.
Eventually the medics got a needle into his arm and pumped him full of sedatives. But, even sedated he wouldn't stop, the medics and the Marines kept trying to stuff him into a straightjacket, and he kept popping out and shouting for Jesus - it looked for all the world like a group of guys trying to fold a beach umbrella in a hurricane. Eventually he had the bad misfortune of landing a blow on the nose of a pissed off Jarhead. The Marine returned the favor, plus interest, with a fist the size of a Buick and the kid went limp and bloody. After that they had no trouble whatsoever putting the restraints on. That was the first time I'd ever actually seen a straightjacket, let alone somebody actually being put into one - but it wouldn't be the last. Then they took him away. What happened to him, I do not know. The Master-At-Arms cleaned out his room and packed his stuff into boxes and the movers came and took it away. He went out on the next transport plane, still wearing his spiffy coat with the zipper out of reach on the back, bound for the psychiatric care unit at Bethesda and how the hell he took a piss on that fourteen hour flight I'll never know and don't want to - and we never saw him again.
It wasn't until they pulled out the coat with the buckles and straps and long sleeves that I understood that I was actually looking at real batshit crazy. Certifiable, clinical, textbook, stark staring, barking at the moon mental illness.
And suddenly it stopped being funny, right there - and just became sad and pitiful. He was one of us, and somehow he just broke.
See, I had no experience with mental illness and just didn't recognize the signs. He just seemed, well, a little odd. Then a little odder. And then a little more. But the truth of the matter was that there was something fundamentally wrong in his brain, a structural defect, crossed wiring, a short circuit, a chemical imbalance, something, I don't know. He seemed like a normal if eccentric human being, but like that unchecked clicking sound in your transmission, it just kept getting worse, until one day BOOM!
Over the years, I've seen similar things happen. I've met many folks who suffer some form of mental issue. I've seen the VA waiting rooms full of guys with PTSD. I've seen guys jump off the fantail and try to swallow the ocean. I've seen guys drink themselves out of a marriage, a career, life. I've seen guys who talk to invisible friends and shout at imaginary enemies. I once saw a 2nd Class Electronics Technician tangle himself up in a communications cable on the pier in San Diego and thrash and thrash and thrash, shouting and squealing like a gut-shot pig, fighting invisible enemies, until he was completely hogtied - next to the Iceland episode, it was one of the damnedest things I've ever seen.
I don't pretend to be a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or any other kind of mental health expert - but I will say that, to me, mental illness seems to fall into to two basic categories - people either know they're mentally ill, or they don't.
Take depression for example: a person suffering from depression may not realize that it's depression per se, but they generally know something's wrong. They look around and think, hell, how come everybody else is happy, and I'm not? They often seek help, sometimes in a bottle and sometimes in a doctor's office.
Then there's the other kind of mental illness, the kind where you look around and think, why am I happy and why is everybody else wrong? These people don't get help, they set out to fix the world in their own image - or create a world of their own making in which to live. They revel in their insanity, and feed it like a pet every day. They don't want to get better, because that fantasy world is all they have.
And over the course of the last couple of days I've come to believe that Walter L. Wagner is the later type of nuts.
See, just like with the journalist in the sea story above, at first I just didn't realize it. I thought he was your garden variety crank. A guy who is terribly afraid of being nobody, a guy that wants to be special and knows he's not, a guy that has told so many lies, and bullshitted so many people that he just can't keep it straight any more. A man who is desperate to be somebody, anybody, if only for a moment.
And while Walter L. Wagner may have started out that way - little by little, over time, he has come to believe in his own sad self-fabricated reality. In his mind, Walter Wagner is the ONE!
My friends in the UCF warned me, but I just didn't see it at first. But I've come to agree with them.
Those in the UCF, our closed on-line community, have all had run-ins with this pitiful little man, and with members of his deluded and paranoid following - themselves equally mentally defective or even more so (really, ignore Tankersley's post and read the comments, especially the ones claiming to be scientists). But for those of you who read this blog and are not members of the UCF and have not been following along, Walter L. Wagner is a Conspiracy Theorist of the worst kind (really, note the byline). He has filed suit in US Federal Court to halt activation of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and highest-energy cyclonic particle accelerator, located and controlled by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. Wagner feels that the LHC will create sustained and non-evaporating micro-black holes that will eventually devour the entire planet Earth. The case was dismissed on the grounds that the US has no jurisdiction in the matter. Wagner, according to his own words, is filing an appeal. He claims the LHC is unsound and he makes this claim based on "research" that only he can understand, because you see, Walter is a genius.
Yes, Walter L. Wagner fancies himself a true genius, a polymath of the highest caliber, a doctor of science and of the law. He proclaims himself a self-made scientist and has directly and publicly claimed superior expertise in physics, particle physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics, biology, botany, nuclear medicine, general medicine, advanced mathematics, and especially US Law. He has publicly claimed to be an attorney and a chess grand master. He claims to have made astounding scientific breakthroughs, and to have had the credit for those earth shaking discoveries snatched away by acclaimed Nobel Laureates. He claims to have published widely accepted scientific papers in peer reviewed journals.
He has made these claims online, in court, and in media interviews. He has made them repeatedly and frequently, and he has continued to do so, as recently as yesterday.
If true, Walter L. Wagner would be one of most celebrated geniuses the human race has ever produced.
Sadly, all of these claims are complete fabrications.
All of them.
I thought, at first, as I read each unbelievable claim, that Walter L. Wagner was a simple con-man, hoist on his petard. A contemptuous and contemptible liar, braggart, fraud, and charlatan. But, over the last few days I've come to realize something: Walter Wagner believes, truly believes, that he is indeed all of these things - and more.
I'm not good at recognizing the subtle signs, but I know outright lunacy when I see it running naked across the tarmac flapping its arms. In my admittedly layman's opinion, Walter L. Wagner is mentally ill.
Again, I am no mental health professional and I'll avoid the terminology of the profession, since from me it would be Wagnerian pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo at best. But, it is obvious, even to a layman, that like my little friend from Iceland, Walter Wagner has constructed a fragile bizarroland of his own making, and somewhere in the remaining rational portions of his mind he knows it. He actively and aggressively avoids anything that would challenge his little house of cards, constantly and consistently turning aside questions regarding his self-proclaimed expertise, and dismissing the inconsistencies in his elaborately constructed fantasy. Without fail, Walter L. Wagner turns any question of his credentials into a personal attack, and then transparently attempts to turn the question back on the questioner and always, always, always avoids answering the question directly.
UCF member, MWT has done an excellent job of summarizing the Refugees From the City comment thread on his own Blog of Siram. If you haven't been following this sad chicken chase from the rooftop, read MWT's post first before diving into Refugees. Refugees is a UCF member blog and where we all got actively involved as a group (though Wagner has appeared elsewhere within our community - and specifically emailed UCFer Janiece at Hot Chicks regarding some of her comments). The comments on Refugees are pushing around a hundred at the moment and it's a long and painful slog through the thread.
UCF member, John the Scientist, an actual scientist - a physical chemist to be precise - and a blogger at Refugees, has examined Walter L. Wagner's scientific credentials in detail here with the detached and detailed analysis he is known for. Additionally, UCF member, Eric, a practicing attorney and graduate of one of the top law schools in the country, takes Wagner's law credentials apart in detail in the original Delusional post comment thread - where you will also find the rest of the UCF comments regarding specific details of Walter Wagner and James Tankersley's (A deluded Wagnerite) comments.
If you are an accredited mental health professional or you happen to know one that would be interested in looking at the links, we in the UCF would love to hear your/their comments - understand, we'll probably check your credentials too, so come prepared.
Here's what we've managed to verify. With the single (possible) exception of a Bachelor's degree from Berkeley in 1973, Walter L. Wagner has no credentials at all. None.
His claims of being a lawyer are bogus, his law degree is a worthless piece of paper from an unaccredited diploma mill in Sacramento. And even though he did specifically claim that he worked as a lawyer representing clients, so far as we can determine he never took or passed a Bar exam in any state (unless it was, you know, a bartender exam). Yet he repeatedly introduces himself as a lawyer and as an attorney. The records are quite clear, Walter L. Wagner is not an attorney and never has been.
His claim of being a physicist of any kind is bogus. He minored in physics, that supposed BS degree from Berkeley, with a major in biology. That's it and that's all. No further education in physics at all - by his own admission. He did a stint as a minor lab tech while in school, which he has exaggerated into the epic scientific discovery of the century when it was really less than a forgotten footnote. He claims to have aced a grade school teacher's exam twenty or more years ago, and uses this as proof positive of his expertise in modern high energy, cutting edge particle physics. He wrote a letter to the editor of Scientific American, and claims that this is published scientific research in a peer reviewed and credible journal (Note: I have the highest regard for SciAm, but they'll be the first to tell you they ain't any peer reviewed journal of any kind). His so-called expertise in astrophysics comes from, God it pains me to say this, involvement with a kid's astronomy club. His claims of being a nuclear physicist come from a stint as a Radiation Safety Officer at the VA hospital - i.e. the guy who monitors the X-ray machine and makes sure the film badges are properly disposed of - note, he also uses this job to claim that he is a Doctor of Nuclear Medicine (though, he, ehem, doesn't practice).
He planted a garden in Hawaii, this makes him a Botanist. [see update below]
He plays a mean game of chess, this makes him Bobby Fisher - or Deep Blue.
And he believes it all and gets hostile and outraged when questioned. Again, I'm no shrink, but I knows 'em when I sees 'em.
So, why am I posting this? Wagner would accuse me (and probably will in the comments) of being mean and vicious and of engaging in ad hominem attacks on his honor and integrity - in a taunting the retard sort of way, I suppose. He and his adherents consistently resort to such tactics when challenged. They get angry and hurt and sullen. They could, of course, put me in my place and stop all such challenges by simply putting their cards on the table, i.e. naming the dates, places, institutions of their credentials and accomplishments.
No more so then Elwood P. Dowd could produce Harvey the Giant White Rabbit upon demand (the difference being that in the end, evidence for Harvey's existence was shown to the audience, Wagner's hat trick has yet to produce a single bunny).
I'm posting this, one because I felt like definitively summarizing my opinion of this pitifully deluded quack and charlatan and two because it needs to be said, far and wide and as many times as necessary. Because the news media and those on the Internet consistently give this crazy bastard a platform without restraint or caveat or challenge.
Walter L. Wagner is nuts. He's a crank, and while his illness may not be his own fault, he's a crank nonetheless. He is costing you money in tax dollars and court cases. He has instigated fear and hysteria in the general population which in turn has caused death threats to the scientists at CERN. He is a raving nutcase and he needs to be called on it loudly and often and rebutted at every step along the way. He's used the power of the media and the Internet and the court to call attention to his particular brand of insanity, and I fully intend to use that same power to counter his false message at every turn.
His is not just a differing viewpoint: or rather it is, but it's the viewpoint of a madman, a deluded fake, and charlatan.
Note: I'm going to leave the comment thread unmoderated for the moment. Yes, I know that's like leaving the office unlocked in the Mental Ward.
I have my reasons.
addendum 1: 10/20/08
Christ, this just keeps getting more and more bizarre. And frankly more than a little sad.
- That garden I mentioned up there in the post - well, there's an interesting story about that and Walter and a little fast shuffle with the accounting.
- Walter Wagner has done some some pretty crazy things with a Geiger counter and kitchen tiles.
Go here, read Eric's post. Or go here and read the original article about the tiles
addendum 2: 10/21/08
Walter L. Wagner and his adherents claim the support of a "growing number of scientists." These scientists, as you might expect, are of the same cloth as Wagner himself. Some are outright frauds, nuts, and kooks. Some, while scientists, are on the fringe of actual science itself, or completely outside their area of expertise. None are actually qualified to evaluate Wagner's alarmist nonsense, and have jumped on the bandwagon largely for the same reason Wagner has. An excellent breakdown of these people can be found at the On-screen Scientist.
addendum 3: 10/21/08
And again. The more we examine Walter L. Wagner, the more and more disturbed this man becomes. He is mental ill, and to a far greater degree than we had originally imagined. From Giant Midgets:
Mr. Wagner hasn't made this easy. According to Classmates.com, Mr. Wagner started at the McGeorge School Of Law, an accredited school, and finished at Lorenzo, an unaccredited school. So why didn't Mr. Wagner just come clean?
Why didn't Mr. Wagner just come clean? Well it seems he's a convicted and disturbed nutcase who stalked a fellow classmate, both in school and years later. Eric ran the whole sordid mess to ground and it can be found here, in an update at the end of the main post.
Walter L. Wagner is one sick silly son of a bitch, and that's putting it as nicely as I can.
John, over on Chicago Boyz takes the media to task for their failure to do even a modicum of background checking on Walter Wagner.
Wagner and his band of merry pranksters have been snooping around Stonekettle Station, and the various UCF member blogs. And while they were outspoken in their defense over on Refugees they've been remarkably quiet here. As I said in the post above and elsewhere, when confronted directly with the facts and when they have their nose rubbed in their own bullshit - they run away.
Anyone who gives these people credence in any way should consider this simple fact: they've lied repeatedly about their past and their credentials, why would you believe their physics?