An Overly Long Fanmade Ace Attorney 7: Echoes of Discord Pitch: Episode 1. Possible spoilers for all main games (AA1-6)
Hey, everyone! Over the past few weeks, I've been making up a plotline that I think would fit for the inevitable Ace Attorney 7, whenever it releases. As of right now, I only have Episode 1 fully plotted out, but I'll put some of my ideas for the other cases at the end of the post as an author's note, of sorts. Considering how much I wrote for the tutorial case alone, I don't know if I'll ever continue this project, because Case 2, a case with 2 investigations and 2 trials, would basically be 4 times the length of this case, and I don't know if I have the talent to write a compelling mystery that would do a case of that length justice. The overall concept of the game would be to focus mainly on Athena and Phoenix, and it would involve Phoenix attempting to institute the Jurist System while Athena would have to deal with the Phantom's organization and her past at the Cosmos Space Center and in university. The lawyer-case distribution would be as follows: Phoenix gets 7-1 (tutorial) and 7-4 (filler), Athena would get 7-2, 7-3, and 7-5, which would all be plot relevant, and Apollo would get a Rise from the Ashes style case in Khura'in, which would be unlocked after completing the game instead of being offered as a DLC case. As this is my ideal version of Ace Attorney 7, I've taken some liberties that the writers at Capcom might not do, as I've taken the Payne brothers out of the main story entirely, but they'll still be in the game in the Phoenix Wright: Asinine Attorney case, which is unlocked after beating the tutorial case. Also, a beloved character from the original trilogy is the victim of the first case of the game, which might be controversial. But I think that the story will be overall more compelling with the changes that I've made, so without further ado, here's the first episode of Ace Attorney: Echoes of Discord! ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Episode 1: Turnabout Terror Date: Late March 2029 Location: Skye Detective Agency Defendant: Ema Skye Attorney: Phoenix Wright Co-Counsel: Athena Cykes Synopsis: Nine months have passed since the revolution in Khura’in, and after many deliberations, Phoenix has finally regained the trust of the legal system of LA and instituted the Jurist System, which has now been slightly modified since the events of Apollo Justice, the biggest change being the fact that the jurors are present in the court room, like in DGS. For the first official case under the Jurist System, Phoenix is defending Ema Skye, who has been accused of murdering her older sister, Lana Skye, at the Skye Detective Agency. Ema had been working a case abroad in Khura’in, and as soon as she returned to the US, she went to visit her sister, who became a private investigator after losing faith in the justice system because of Phoenix’s disbarment and the UR-1 incident. When Ema entered the office however, she found her sister dead from an apparent poisoning. Desperate to find out who did it, she dusted the entire scene for fingerprints, not even thinking about preserving the scene. But while she was in the middle of her forensic investigation, Lana’s co-worker, Elias Coggs (Age ???) walked in on her, and contacted the police. When the officers arrived, it was discovered that Lana ingested some Atroquinine poison from her cup of tea, and since it hadn’t been manufactured in the country for two years, Ema became the prime suspect, since she just came back from Khura’in. In the defendant lobby, Phoenix and Athena are discussing the case with Ema, and she claims that her own fingerprints were found on the bottle of poison, to which Athena and Phoenix are shocked. But she rationalizes that she must have touched the bottle when she was in a state of panic while investigating the crime scene. In the middle of their discussion, Juniper Woods enters the lobby, and she explains to Athena and Phoenix that she will be the forewoman of the jury today. She is nervous, but she’s also treating this as her first official trial experience for when she becomes a judge herself. She gives Phoenix and Athena a newspaper article that is advertising the current trial, saying that she had a hunch that they’d need it. The bailiffs call for the trial to start, and Ema mutters under her breath that the “glimmerous fop” is going to make a spectacle of her sister’s murder. The trial begins, and Klavier Gavin is revealed to be the prosecutor in charge of this case. He reveals that he’d decided to take the case due to the recent shortage of prosecutors due to the Paynes and others being fired for their incompetence and corruption by Miles Edgeworth. He displays remorse over being the reason why Phoenix lost his badge seven years ago but says that he’s still fired up for a rematch. The judge introduces the 5 jurors for the trial, who are Juniper Woods (No. 1), a male reporter from the Reality News Network (No. 2), Delicia Scones (No. 3), a female computer programmer from Blue Screens Inc. (No. 4), and a young butler resembling Shelly de Killer (No. 5). The judge then admits that he hasn’t studied up on how the reformed jurist system works, and asks Phoenix if he could give him a refresher on how the trial would work, which would serve as the tutorial for the case. Klavier calls Ema to the stand as his first witness, and she reluctantly agrees to testify about what happened on that day. She has a press-all testimony, which is pretty much identical to what she told Phoenix and Athena in the lobby, but after the testimony ends, the jury goes into a panic because all of them, minus Juniper, are convinced of Ema’s guilt. Athena becomes overwhelmed from the discord from all the jurors’ hearts, and this is where the new trial gameplay mechanic, Discordant Reasoning, is introduced. This would be similar to the Panic Debate from Danganronpa V3, where you have to pick out the statement out of the 5 jurors that’s causing the discord, based on reading their emotions like in the Mood Matrix. The Mood Matrix has now been relegated to investigations because of reasons pertaining to the main prosecutor of the game, and now works similarly to Logic Chess from Investigations 2. After presenting the article that Juniper gave them to the juror that caused the discord, the reporter from the Reality News Network, Ema resumes her testimony. She assumes that her sister’s killer had recently fled the scene, since she had recently succumbed to the poison when she arrived at the crime scene, but Phoenix points out that the killer could’ve left way earlier, since Atroquinine is a slow acting poison. Ema then gets emotional, saying that she got so caught up in the moment seeing her sister dead that she couldn’t perform a proper investigation into her death. She is overcome by remorse due to the knowledge that she never would’ve been quick enough to stop her sister’s killer. She outright blames Klavier for what happened, saying that if he hadn’t accused Phoenix of forging evidence nine years ago, then Lana wouldn’t have lost faith in the court system, which wouldn’t have lead to her becoming a P.I. after getting out of prison. Klavier reassures Ema, asking her if she knows the real reason why he took the trial. It turns out, he was certain of her innocence from the beginning, and intended to use the common sense of the Jurist System to prove her innocence. He says that he understands why she might feel the way she does about him, but the show must go on, and the only way the truth will ever be reached is if the defendant tells everything that they know, even if it’s just a hunch. With newfound courage, Ema posits that there might be a clue in Lana’s files on her computer, as Lana had confided in her that she’d been performing an investigation on a high-profile case the last time they saw each other. Luckily for them, Elias Coggs had already looked through Lana’s files and emails, and was waiting in the lobby to testify. Klavier excuses Ema from the stand for the time being, and calls Elias Coggs to the stand. He appears to be a middle-aged man with a mechanical prosthetic arm, leg, and eye, giving him the appearance of a cyborg. Klavier asks Coggs to state his name and occupation, and he complies, but when probed about his past, he states that it’s classified information. He was put into the Witness Protection Program a long time ago after an incident involving his accident, and can’t disclose anything about his past that isn’t related to the case. His testimony begins, and he states that on Lana’s computer, he found that on the day of the incident, she had been exchanging emails with two different people. The first being Connie Scout (Age 29), her most recent client, and the second being Phoebe Coronus (Age 41), an old friend of hers from overseas. After probing into his testimony, he admits that the case that Lana was investigating was an international affair, and that Coronus was helping her in the investigation. He also reveals that it appears that a USB was stolen from Lana’s office, but again, he cannot reveal its contents. Suspicions are raised immediately on Coggs, but Klavier verifies that he had an alibi, as he had been at his doctor’s office all afternoon. As Coronus is still in Europe, it becomes evident that the prime suspect for the murder has to be Connie Scout, who is a computer science major at Ivy University. The judge calls for a 30 minute recess, but right before it begins, Coggs requests that Phoenix and Athena get to the bottom of Lana’s death, as the case at hand means a lot to him. During the recess, Ema apologizes for her outburst in court, and explains the case that Lana, Coronus and Coggs were investigating in more detail. Apparently, the organization they were looking into was an international spy ring that had previously mainly been involved in various acts of cyberterrorism, but she reveals that it was actually the very same organization that sent the Phantom over during the UR-1 Incident nine years ago. Athena is shocked, as she recounts how that was the same organization that killed her mother and caused the incident at the Cosmos Space Center two years ago. Ema is surprised to hear this, as Lana hadn’t informed her of the exact details of the case, and she realizes it was probably out of fear that she herself would become a target of the organization. Suddenly, Trucy Wright appears in the defendant lobby with two important pieces of evidence retrieved from Miles Edgeworth, a report of a supposed smuggling of contraband into the country and a breach of cybersecurity at the Criminal Affairs Department. Trucy questions how these pieces of evidence pertain to the case at hand, but Phoenix and Athena clearly have a suspect in mind. The bailiffs announce that the recess is over, and Trucy says that she’ll be watching the trial from the gallery. Court reconvenes, and Klavier calls Connie to the stand. She has a visor over her face and has orange dyed hair like Athena, but otherwise she has the appearance of a normal university student. She introduces herself as a foreign exchange student from Borginia, and explains that Connie Scout was the name she chose for herself when she came to study from abroad. Klavier asks her how she knew the defendant, to which she responds that she met her at a Forensics Investigation Seminar that was being held at the University a month ago, along with Ema Skye. While she was there, she was given a luminol bottle from Ema as a gift for attending it. Afterward, she asked Lana Skye to investigate a crime of her own, though she doesn’t reveal what it is. Throughout her testimony, her lies are exposed, and she becomes the prime suspect for the breach of cybersecurity at Criminal Affairs and the murder of Lana Skye. Phoenix argues that it would’ve been feasible for Scout to have been the one who had the poison smuggled into the country. But the final contradiction in the case is how Ema’s fingerprints managed to get on the bottle of Atroquinine. The thought route begins, and after deducing that she had likely been a part of the Phantom’s organization, that she was likely the one who hacked into the Criminal Affairs Department, and considering her meeting with Ema and Lana one month ago, it becomes apparent that she could’ve obtained the fingerprints off of the luminol bottle and modified the fingerprints on the bottle of poison to look like Ema’s using the information obtained from her hacking of the Criminal Affairs Department, just like how the Phantom had framed Athena at the Space Center two years prior. Connie then confesses everything. She had been a member of the Phantom’s organization, and she had been attempting to erase as many traces of her organization’s crimes that she could. Her only reason for attending the seminar one month ago was to get some info on Lana Skye, so that she could trail her and learn everything that she knew about her own organization. She arranged for a meeting to discuss a possible case for Lana to take on, but that was all a farce-what she really wanted was the USB Lana had in her possession. When she wasn’t looking, she slipped the poison into Lana’s tea, and left the scene after stealing what she needed. When probed about the USB, she says that she already passed it on to another member of the organization. With the suspect having confessed, Klavier calls Ema back to the stand. He and Ema have a conversation, and while Ema is still annoyed by his carefree attitude, she acknowledges that she would’ve been found guilty if Klavier hadn’t given her the opportunity to speak, and thanks him for his help. The judge then pronounces Ema not guilty. In the defendant lobby, Ema thanks Phoenix and Athena for defending her, and they’re soon joined by Klavier and Trucy. Ema, while thankful that the gang found her innocent, is still understandably traumatized over her sister’s death. She expresses doubts about her career choice, considering she never imagined she’d have to investigate her own sister’s body, and she’s now considering leaving her position permanently. Phoenix presents her the luminol bottle that she gave to Scout, and asks her to remember when she began to take an interest in forensics. After recounting how her sister had given her a forensics investigations book when she was young, and briefly referencing the events of Rise from the Ashes, Phoenix reminds her of all of the strides she’s made since then, and all of the times she’s helped the Wright Anything Agency solve cases in the past thanks to her impeccable forensics work. He then reminds her that he had to deal with many bumps in the road himself throughout his career as an attorney, and that he had to learn some lessons that changed his outlook on the legal system. He encourages her to follow her own path in life, but reminds her that he and Athena would greatly miss having her around to help solve cases. Ema, moved by Phoenix’s speech, thanks him for the kind words. Trucy then brings up one last thing that she still doesn’t understand about the trial, those being who Elias Coggs and Phoebe Coronus are. Ema explains that she doesn’t really know who Elias Coggs is, but she does know who Coronus is. She was Ema’s former mentor that took care of her when she first went to Europe to study, and she’s now an international forensics prosecutor. It turns out she intended to be present in the gallery for Ema’s trial, but due to a delay in her flight to LA, she couldn’t make it. Ema then theorizes that working a case with her former mentor might help reinvigorate her love for forensics. Her and Klavier have to attend to some business at the Prosecutor’s Office, and they leave together. To wrap up the case, Trucy brings up three invitations that Juniper had passed on to her for Phoenix, Athena, and herself to attend a Murder Mystery Party at the Woods Manor out in the mountains as a celebration of Juniper recently graduating from Themis Academy while also serving as a way of thanking Phoenix and Athena for defending her two years prior. Trucy declines her invitation, as she has to practice for her first international gig that she’ll be performing with Klavier and Lamiroir, but she encourages Phoenix and Athena to go. They both agree to go, and the case ends with Phoenix’s internal monologue reminiscing about all of the trials and tribulations he’s had to go through to revamp the legal system, and that he never could’ve gotten there without the help of his colleagues. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Author's notes: -I know that killing off Lana Skye might be controversial, but I felt that she made the most sense as the first victim, considering her friend from Europe, who I've named Phoebe Coronus, would make a more interesting rival for Athena, as her adherence to the scientific method and traditionalist views on the Jurist System would be a perfect foil to Athena's more psychological driven methods and her desire to revolutionize the court system along with Phoenix. It also gives Ema another character arc of doubting if her childhood dream was really her true calling in life, which I feel would be a natural progression for Ema's character, since she has a different conflict in every game that she appears in. Finally, it just gives more opportunity to expand on Athena's time studying in Europe, since Ema and Coronus could now fit into that timeline organically. Lana's role in the story wouldn't be forgotten after case 1 either, as two of the most important characters in the game have close connections to her, which would have a huge impact on the trajectory of the story as a whole, which I feel is an important aspect that the first case needs to establish. -The pun names for this case are: Elias Coggs (Alias and Cogs, which refers to his past under the Witness Protection Program as well as his cyborg like appearance.) Connie Scout (Con and Scout, because she's conning everybody into thinking she's just an ordinary university student while also being a spy for the Phantom's organization.) Phoebe Coronus (Her last name refers to her profession as a coroner. Her first and last name actually have a secret meaning as well if one of the letters from her last name is removed, but I'll leave it up to you to see if you can decipher the real meaning behind her name. -Lastly, here are the basic plotlines for the other cases of the game. These are only going to be a couple sentences each, since this post has gone on long enough already. Episode 2-Turnabout Judgment: Picking up right where we left off, Phoenix and Athena attend the Murder Mystery Party organized by Juniper's grandmother, Willow Woods, and Juniper notes that the victim in the game bears similarities to how her own grandfather died a year ago. But when one of the guests at the party winds up dead, it's Juniper's grandmother, a former judge, that ends up in the defendant's seat, and Juniper and Athena team up to acquit her of all charges against prosecutor Phoebe Coronus while Phoenix is off helping another guest at the party with a matter of their own. Loosely based on a fancase on Ace Attorney Online: A Game of Turnabout. Episode 3-The Sponsored Turnabout: During the Summer Olympics, Juniper, Athena, and Simon Blackquill all attend a game together. But when a stray firecracker causes an explosion that causes some debris to crash onto the referee for the game, a former Borginian athlete who had a grudge against the victim and is suspected to be part of the Phantom's organization ends up in the defendant's chair, and Blackquill encourages Athena and Juniper to take on the case due to a previous connection with the defendant, and the trio have to rethink their own biases against the suspect to eventually take down the true culprit of the case, the Executive of the Reality News Network who perpetuated the myth of the Dark Age of the Law after the UR-1 incident. Coronus is still the prosecutor for this case. Episode 4-Turnabout Roulette: In the filler case of the game, Trucy makes reservations at a fancy bar where she's planning on showing Phoenix part of her upcoming performance, but when the two realize that she accidentally made reservations at the Rivales Casino, and a shooting occurs in the middle of the day, Phoenix is forced into defending Brawly Rivales after his own father was murdered. Coronus is the prosecutor again in this trial, but she's noticably more lenient on Phoenix. The main focus of the case would be on the relationship between Phoenix and Trucy. Episode 5-Turnabout for Justice: A science expo is being held at the Cosmos Space Center, and the five participants in the showcase are Ema Skye, Phoebe Coronus, Elias Coggs, a C.E.O. of a famous company, who is also sponsoring the event, and surprisingly Aura Blackquill are all participating in the event. But when an accidental explosion occurs in the middle of the event, everyone is evacuated from the scene with two notable exceptions: Phoebe Coronus and Aura Blackquill. After the fire dies down a bit, some officers go in to investigate the scene, and are surprised to find Aura Blackquill leaning over the victim, Phoebe Coronus's body. Aura Blackquill is named the prime suspect for the case, and it's up to Athena and Blackquill to find her innocence, as Phoenix and Trucy don't want anything to do with her after the kidnapping incident two years ago, and Juniper is rooting for her guilt as well, since she remembers how she used to hate Athena all those years ago. Willow Woods would be the judge for this trial, and Miles Edgeworth calls in prosecutor Franziska von Karma to head the case. Episode Special-Turnabout Reconciliation: It's been one year since Garan has been dethroned, and Khura'in is hosting an international arts festival as an act of goodwill to its new allies. Trucy, Klavier, and Lamiroir are all participating in their own act in the show, and Ema was invited by Prosecutor Nahyuta Sahdmadhi as well. But when a murder happens in the middle of the show, Lamiroir is under suspicion of murder, and Apollo and Trucy finally learn their familial secret. Prosecutor Sahdmadhi is the prosecutor for the case, and Rayfa and Amara make some cameo appearances as well. Sorry for the long post lol. Tell me what you think of these ideas in the comments.
Small rant about the UCP, Covid restrictions and the general attitude of Albertan redditors.
So i'll start with this disclaimer to avoid being called a Kenney worshipper or whatever other clever names people might concoct. I absolutely hate the UCP. As it stands I will never vote for them ever again unless drastic changes are made. I think Jason Kenney is spineless, and has actively worked to defy and contradict his campaign promises. His push to privatise heath care, and cut medical funding is unforgivable. As a student at the University of Calgary, the UCP's policies regarding education enrage me. Also, contact tracing? Don't even get me started. That being said, the protocals implemented by the UCP today are nowhere near as bad as many people are making them out to be, and at the very least are a step in the right direction. It makes zero sense in my mind to have religious institutions remain open when their services could be broadcasted online. It's ridiculous to have casino's remain open. Lastly, the fact that shopping malls will remain open blows my mind. However, my dad works in the food industry and his business could not afford another shut down like the one that occurred earlier this year. To be blunt him and his coworkers would all be out of a job. These new restrictions allow for their business to remain open while drastically reducing occupancy and limit attendance to single household units. It's not perfect but, it's a far cry from the worst possible course of action, one that I'd argue is actually pretty good. Regarding schools, Albertans need to work and having all the K-6 students stay home is just not feasible to allow that to happen. They need adult guidance to effectively learn, and are too young to care for themselves. However, older students from 7-12 are legally permitted to be home unattended and are responsible enough to effectively complete their studies. What I hear a lot of lately is how Alberta is the 'Texas' of Canada, and unfortunately regarding politics we might as well be part of the US. In the States, it doesn't matter who is in charge of the Republicans or Democrats, those with opposing views will find a way to hate them and denounce anything their party tries to implement. It's not about progressing the country, it simply comes down to whether or not the party you were raised to love is in power. Here in Alberta not much is different. Today in live discussions and posts people were already commenting about how much they hate Kenney before he uttered a single word, and were fully prepared to hate on whatever was going to come out. After the protocols, all I saw were extreme criticisms on absolutely every single thing that's been implemented. In contrast, those that love the UCP could do nothing but embrace and hang on to every word he said. My question is where is the objectivity? Today a lot of good and bad was said, so why is it that the two most common opinions reflect one or the other with little middle ground. Today progress was made, and it's important to recognize progress when it occurs, yet criticism is also essential to keep the government in check. There's a lot wrong in the province right now, and it terrifies me. This is the home that I was born and raised in, and I want it to succeed but if people can't get past their personal political feelings it's hard to achieve or change anything. I hate the UCP and want them gone as sson as possible, but I've got to admit that not everything implemented today was terrible. For once we have protocals that at least have a degree of weight and substance, and I wish others were more willing to atleast sit and think about it before coming to a conclusion prior to anything being said. Rant over, thank you, and feel free to disagree with me or share your thoughts.
An unnecessarily long analysis as to why I think Ride or Die is the best written book in Pixelberry's library
Okay, I want to start this by saying that while Endless Summer is my favorite book due to emotional attachment (Yeah, this is no longer the case as of October 31st, ROD GOAT) I still think that Ride or Die comfortably surpasses it and every other Choices story when it comes to writing quality. I've been consuming some truly kino media like Steins;Gate, The Last of Us Part II and Better Call Saul in the past few months but seeing that the tumblr side of the fandom was having a ROD Appreciation Week made me have the book constantly wrestling for time in my mind along all those other things that I greatly enjoyed (Obviously, I'm not trying to imply this is anywhere near the same level of quality as these other pieces, cause that'd just be stupid) but yeah, I've been wanting to talk in depth about why I hold Ride or Die in such high regard for a long time now, so this post is for me, for anyone else that might be big fans of the book or even for people that didn't like it and don't understand why it's a fan favorite. It's also my late, not proofread contribution to the appreciation week since I can't really draw for shit. PREMISE AND THEMES Quick summary, it’s a story about growing up and finding oneself that focuses on an 18 year old girl in her last weeks of high school that joins a criminal crew without even realizing it due to her sheltered life making her feel like she missed out on her teenage years for the past 5 years since, after her mother’s death, her dad became incredibly protective of her. As she grows attached to the crew she gets deeply immersed in their world until she realizes what the pursue of freedom, fast cars and bad boys/girls truly entails. Of course, you all know that. So, themes. Most Choices stories don’t have any big, noticeable theme that encompasses the entire story they’re trying to tell, which is completely fine since you can still write a good, compelling story without it (Unless you’re David Benioff). Of course, while not necessary, overarching themes elevate a story a lot more in my eyes if executed properly and I feel like Ride or Die excels at it. And what are these themes? Well, obviously, it’s up to every individual’s interpretation but to me the three biggest stand outs are freedom, obviously; the choice between someone’s own past and future; and how the typical Bad Boy Romance is not always the cheesy, idealized life most of us are used to. I’ll explain how the story presents these themes in the following segments. ELLIE WHEELER, aka THE MC I’ve raved about her at almost every chance I get because I feel like I can make a pretty compelling argument as to why she’s the best MC and one of the best characters PB’s ever written, but it’s about time I finally sat down to properly explain this stance. I might refer to her as Ellie at times instead of MC since I just don’t like having an essay this big and introspective and just referring to her as MC, even if I didn’t actually keep her default name myself. So, let’s start from what most of the ROD MC masterrace knows about, she’s different from 95% of the MCs. She has a clear goal, a clear personality and, one of the most rare traits in MCs, her dad’s an actual character and he has an actual relationship with her. She’s also far from perfect, she’s an incredibly smart young woman that lacks “street” knowledge and as she gets in deeper and deeper with the MPC, her previous and new relationships suffer because of it, because she doesn’t know how to juggle both sides of her life. The hardships Ellie has to face are both products of the environment she lives in and a product of her mistakes, which acts as a nice balance so that she doesn’t come of as a bumbling idiot that fucks up everything for everyone and an overly perfect protagonist who’s only flaw is that the world just plots against her so that there can be a story to tell. Her goal is a pretty simple one, she wants to go to Langston university, her dream school. The thing that stands out to me is how she never betrays her dream and it’s always present in the back of her mind, well, technically you can choose to skip out on all of her classes but that always seemed really out of character to me, so I’m not really taking that into account, since she expresses that she loves to learn and she sees it as a challenge to be better than herself from yesterday. She manages to involve Logan into her school life so she isn’t fully distracted from her studies and even when she’s living on the Gramercy Garage, she still finds time to study for her finals. Even when everything goes to shit and she starts losing sight of who she is, Logan, Colt and Mona know that being a criminal is not the life she’s meant to live and it isn’t until after prom that she realizes who she really is. There’s so many choices throughout the story that, while ultimately not relevant to the outcome, I feel can add a lot of character to her if you’re willing to “headcanon” a bit, so minor things such as picking the color of her car due to it being the same as Logan’s or the one Colt or Mona suggested, choosing to listen to rap music as she’s driving the MPC around since it can be seen as a rebellious sort of music that her dad probably wouldn’t have approved of, treating Brent’s party invitation as something of no importance to her, getting a tattoo… wait this one’s supposed to be big, why does no one acknowledge it dammit? Then there’s also some bigger choices such as her being able to tell Riya that she’s most excited about being able to leave LA on the first chapter or being able to choose to stay with Logan and help him fight Salazar, choosing to focus on her studies even when living with the MPC, and so on. Now, how is she tied to the themes I mentioned above? Well, it’s clear that her desire for freedom and independence is what initially leads her to want to be a part of the MPC’s life, when Kaneko brought her to the garage for the first time she didn’t quite see them as criminals, but as people that lived as they wanted and were still, well, humans. She’s constantly seeking her own freedom from her dad’s overbearing presence and from her own boring life and she achieves it twice, one is the fake freedom she got when she ran away after her dad found out about her involvement with the MPC and the second one is what I like to think of as her true freedom. The definition of true freedom is tied to the second theme I mentioned, the choice between past and future, after the Brotherhood attacks her and her LI after prom she realizes that she can no longer try to keep on living both lives, the nerdy valedictorian girl and the criminal that gets a thrill by being behind the wheel, the inability to choose between one and the other is what initially landed her into that mess and it’s only by finally choosing that she’s able to get herself and everyone else from the MPC out. It’s a very unique way of showing a character being strong, she got herself out of the mess she herself helped cause and she did it without the conventional strengths of MCs such as being a warrior queen, a part of an alien entity that transcends time or a literal vampire. Ultimately, she chose to embrace her future (And her past, in a roundabout way), her long time dream, which meant letting go of the life and people that once made her feel so free and alive and by doing so, she got the freedom she desired so much while also finding who she truly was and what she valued in life. That’s also tied to the third main theme I mentioned, in the end she couldn’t keep on living an idealized version of the bad boy romance where you get to keep a good life out of living on the wrong side of the law and while I could definitely go more in depth about how she embodies this theme, I’ll do that when I talk about other characters, since I’ve already talked about about Ellie a lot. LOGAN The cover boy, the boy with the car, the “bad boy”, the mandatory “good boi” LI, the only Love Interest that has managed to rival Quinn Kelly in terms of how much I love them. I feel like the love for all 3 LIs is mostly evenly distributed on this sub but I’ve definitely seen some people say that Logan is kinda boring compared to Colt and Mona and honestly, that just couldn’t be further from the truth in my mind. Prepare for another long ass analysis. Being a fan of the anime/manga series Attack on Titan has made me gain a great, great appreciation for story recontextualization and that narrative element is exactly what Logan brings to the story at the end of Chapter 10 and boy, did Luke and the team knock that shit out of the park with how they implemented that tool into their story. ROD Ch. 10 is notorious for being the chapter that officially turned the book from an initially hated book that people were slowly warming up to, to a current fan favorite as far as online communities are concerned, seriously, you can look up the discussion for that chapter in the search bar and the first comment you’ll see if someone taking back everything negative they said about the book and then it’s just constant praising for the next 6 weeks. Why did all of that happen? Because of how much starts making sense or becoming clearer because of the reveal that Logan initially started dating (?) MC because he was trying to get whatever intel her dad had on them from her, seriously, everything becomes so clear after the end of the chapter, everything starts falling into place like a carefully crafted Lego build, be it for the stories’ themes or for characterization of characters like Colt, Mona, Kaneko, Jason and Logan himself. Let’s focus on Logan for now though. A couple of chapters in, as we start learning more about his life, we can see that Logan is someone that’s never truly had someone in his life that could show him true human love and bonds, the closest he has to that prior to Ellie is his “cousin” Vaughn. Initially, it seems like a weak attempt at making the titular bad boy seem like a layered character, specially since he seemingly just fell for a random girl that literally stumbled upon him on a high school parking lot, but in reality the reason his fake interest in Ellie started to become reality was exactly because of the lack of proper, meaningful connections, which we couldn’t have known until after Colt reveals the truth. As we know, Logan always had the mentality that, no matter how good a crew might be, he should always be ready to bail when the heat is too much, that’s a philosophy that he adopted and he knows that any criminal that’s as good as him will share the same sentiment, which proves to be the case when the MPC immediately disbands after Kaneko’s death... but Ellie isn’t a hardened, professional criminal, she’s a girl that, while certainly enamored by the allure of their life, still sees them as people, not as mere means to an end that are just fun to hang out with, which is why she doesn’t run away after the escape from the mall or the encounter with Salazar’s crew at the drive-in cinema, that’s not something Logan thinks people are capable of, why would such a saint of a girl not get away from them after things like that? That’s when Logan’s guilt enters the scene. He tries to undo what he now considers to have been a great mistake since he’s slowly catching real feelings for the girl that was just supposed to spill all of Detective Wheeler’s info and leave them as soon as she realized how dangerous their life was, but how is he supposed to do that now when doing so would mean losing this person that’s so incredibly unique in his world? We see how his guilt starts weighing on him more and more as the story progresses, until he almost does something very stupid by almost revealing the truth right before the stadium job, so he probably wouldn’t have lasted much without revealing it but, for better or worse, Colt was the one that did it for him and once again Logan turns Ellie’s whole world upside down. For the rest of the book, he does everything in his power to show her that, while he was lying in the beginning, he actually did come to care for her a lot (even if his actions might’ve pushed her into the arms of Colt or Mona, or at least acted as the final push in their routes). After the MPC disbanded there was only one person I could see appearing on Riya’s doorstep when I played through ROD during release and that was Logan, because it just made all the sense in the world in my mind. Backtracking a bit, we know from his two diamond scenes on the early chapters that Logan dropped out of high school but he always liked to learn about random stuff, hence him reading while on the road, and that he always toyed with the idea of going back (He also says that he’d probably be graduating that year if he hadn’t dropped out, which tells us that he’s the youngest of the 3 LIs, which is a neat detail), so I always saw that as him showing up not just for Ellie’s sake but also for himself in a way, since it’d be a good way to live out the life he never had, even if just for a few hours. Speaking of prom night, I absolutely adore how when he tells Ellie he loves her, she can reply with “Logan… no you don’t.” since it’s only natural she wouldn’t believe him 100% since not only did they get together through a web of lies spun by him and Kaneko, but because as far as she knows, Logan can’t possibly know what real love feels like. Fast forward to the final chapter and it’s time for the MPC to go their own ways, for real this time, to avoid getting entangled with the FBI and, even if Logan wasn’t your actual LI he still shows that he’s completely accepting of the fact that he isn’t the one Ellie loves, and on both cases he shows that he also grew to truly love her by deciding to not be a part of her life any more, because it just isn’t feasible for her to pursue her dreams while also being involved with potential suspects on the FBI watch list, so he chooses her future over his because he can’t and he won’t let her risk her future for something as small as a space rock lucky enough to burn up in her atmosphere for a moment and with that, a heartfelt kiss, an explicit and tacit declaration of love, a request for Troublemaker to give ‘em hell and a brief but tense showdown with Detective Wheeler, Logan speeds off into the night. COLT KANEKO The actual leather wearing bad boy of the story that sauntered his way into the hearts of many fans, both as a character and a love interest, he’s sarcastic, he’s funny, he’s soft-ish only with the MC and he’s also a multilayered character, how could he not be liked? I want to preface this section by saying that, just like with really popular LIs such as Jake Mackenzie, Damien Nazario or Ethan Ramsey, I could never bring myself to like Colt in a romantic way, even though I can certainly see the appeal of their route but even then, just like the aforementioned gentlemen, he’s still one of my favorite characters of the series regardless of that, simply because of how much he brings to the table. So without further ado, let’s get started with Mr. “Christ, who caaares?” Kaneko’s unnecessarily long essay. Right off the bat we can see that Colt has a bone to pick with Logan due to their relationship with Kaneko, he’s always butting heads with Logan and Kaneko at the beginning because he resents both, the latter for sending him away to college and not being willing to let him in on the family business and the former for, in his eyes, being the son Kaneko always wanted, not knowing that the only reason his dad kept him away from the business and seemingly replaced him with Logan was because if Jason actually harmed the MPC he could live with the loss of Logan on his conscience, but not Colt’s. As time goes on Colt finds himself slowly warming up to Ellie, even if he initially just thinks of her as one of his dad’s mistakes waiting to blow up in their faces, and even if he does relentlessly teases/annoys her it’s very obvious that he can connect with her because of her complicated relationship with her dad and she can understand him, they both love their dads immensely but they severely disagree on the view they have of their respective child. And against Colt’s predictions, Ellie proves herself as a valuable asset to the crew (Not knowing until later on just how deep that rang true) and he eventually starts falling for her as well, which is what sets the Chapter 10 plot twist in motion. After the MPC manages to steal the super cars for the Brotherhood, Kaneko opens up to the idea of letting Colt into the business, since it’s clear he won’t just pack up and leave for college anymore, especially after Kaneko is shot and threatened by the Brotherhood and he has to rely on Colt’s plan of kidnapping one of their members and at some point he reveals the truth about their current situation to his son, where Colt finds out about the truth behind Logan and Ellie but it isn’t until after the stadium heist that he makes shit hit the fan by starting a fight with Logan and spilling his secret. That always seemed to me that it came from a place that’s equal parts being mad at Logan for using Ellie like that but also him seeing it as a petty opportunity to sow discord between them, which is why she later has the choice to unload on Colt for deliberately keeping the truth to himself until the right moment. This also marks the moment where the somewhat toxic, somewhat supportive, somewhat wholesome and entirely complicated romantic relationship between them can start to flourish, since Ellie obviously doesn’t see Logan in the exact same way she did 24 hours before and depending on the player, she could’ve actually started to develop her relationship with Colt (Or Mona) prior to the reveal. Something I haven’t seen being mentioned about Colt’s arc is how him being misjudged and misunderstood by both Ellie and Kaneko plays a huge role in it. After Ellie leaves the MPC, he decides to put the rest of his plan in motion, luring The Brotherhood into an illegal casino’s vault using the member they kidnapped and kill them via gassing. Toby completely disagrees with their actions and decides to recruit Ellie to help him stop the crew from crossing a line that they seemingly haven’t crossed yet, yes they’re criminals but much like Ellie’s initial impression of them, they’re not psychos and much less murderers, they’re still good people; so she sets out to stop them with the help of Toby and a Logan that’s desperate for atonement, but her biggest mistake was assuming that Colt isn’t the kind of person that can kill another person if it means protecting those he cares about. This is where it gets incredibly interesting and compelling to me, since not only does her misjudge of character ruin Colt’s entire plan but there’s also the possibility that she had been working for Jason and the Brotherhood the whole time, so in some cases they might’ve actually escaped the trap directly because of her and it doesn’t stop there, since as a result the MPC lose their entire advantage and are once again being targeted by The Brotherhood and that directly leads to not only another huge reveal from Kaneko’s part but also his death, him sacrificing himself so that the crew could escape as he let’s Colt know that he wishes for him to just let go of this life and do something better for himself. Before the rest of the MPC reunites at Gramercy Park, Colt tells Ellie how he plans to kill them all, to rebuild the garage and kill them all before finally breaking down on her arms as his loss catches up to him, right before the Mercy Park Crew splits up after their loss against Jason. In the end, the two people Colt cared about the most failed at truly understanding him, his dad kept him at an arm’s length for a long time, missing out on time with his son because he never considered the fact that what he wanted for Colt was not what he wanted for himself, despite of all the risks it might entail, and Ellie played a part in Kaneko’s death by not realizing that Colt would be willing to cross such a fucked up line if it meant protecting the people and legacy he cared about so much. Those two factors play a huge role in the rest of the book since they’re the reasons why Colt is pushed dangerously close to a downward spiral that will most definitely only bring him more pain at the end of the book. After Jason is dealt with, he laments the fact that he and Ellie met under such circumstances and not in a classroom where they could annoy each other and become friends and/or significant others but he doesn’t lament his current situation, he’s dead set on becoming the king of LA, on carrying on his father’s legacy, now more than ever. I’d argue Colt Kaneko is the biggest cautionary tale in this book about the dangers of the often glorified life of the bad boys and fast cars and how it can consume you, he was very special to Ellie and Kaneko but they didn’t fully understand who he was, how he was shaped by his ideal future and they couldn’t see how the most important thing for him was his past, his legacy and as a result, he’s alone against a dangerous world, but that’s a danger that he very much welcomes. If any of you have done Colt’s romance route and feel like I missed out on anything, do let me know in the comments, I feel like my appreciation for him only grew more as I wrote his section. MONA The bad girl, the loner, what even is her real name? I’m also going to dedicate an analysis to her but I also want to direct you to a post from a few months ago by user u/elbenji who has reviewed ROD from a WLW perspective that I think you should also check out if you’ve got the time. Anyway, Mona’s turn. So, who’s Mona? Well, she’s kind of the Drake Walker of the book, which is a role that you don’t usually see being filled by a female LI. She doesn’t seem to like anyone, she’s pessimistic, she rarely misses the chance to mock people, she’s damn good at her job and she’s loyal to no one but herself, to some she might actually be the worse person of the 3 LIs during the early chapters but as everything else in this book, the layers to her start to show the more the story advances. She shares Logan’s worldview of everyone only being out for themselves but unlike Logan, she knows that not everyone is necessarily like that but in her eyes those people are in for a rude awakening from the world at some point for being dumb enough to think that they can count on someone else and that’s why she’s borderline condescending towards Ellie when the topic of interpersonal relationships comes up between them. If Colt is shaped by his future, Mona is shaped by her past. Once upon a time she used to be little Miss Perfect like Ellie, honor roll, on the path to valedictorian, the whole thing, until she met a girl that she fell in love with, a criminal that made her enjoy life to its fullest and ended up becoming her whole world until one day they got caught and were taken to interrogation separately where Mona, fully trusting of her partner, lied about their involvement but was still arrested because her girlfriend ended up giving her up in exchange of freedom. That event shaped Mona’s entire philosophy, when it came down to it, people would always put themselves above everyone else and after Kaneko gave her back her freedom that’s the only code she stuck by, her own personal freedom and survival became the most important thing in Mona’s life, even when the man that saved her was in danger she considered multiple times to just leave the MPC to their luck. That is, until she met Ellie Wheeler. Obviously, in typical Pixelberry fashion, Mona doesn’t have as much screen time as her male counterparts but what she lacks in screen time she more than makes up in both narrative and thematic relevancy. As mentioned previously, Mona’s always reminding Ellie how out of her depth she is and treating her like a dumb girl that doesn’t know what she’s doing (Which, to a certain extent, is true) but when shit goes south after the stadium heist it turns out that she’s the only LI that never actually played with Ellie’s feelings and was always straight (Heh) with her. It's things like this that I love immensely about ROD, the 3 love interests have so many layers to them, they do good and bad things and they feel like actual people that exist in this fictional Los Angeles, their actions are a product of what’s established as their characters, not just as stuff that happens because the plot needs it to. Back on track, just like with Colt, this is the point where Ellie and Mona’s relationship really takes off if the player chooses to and unlike Colt, her going after Ellie feels like it comes off from a place of actual concern since she understands what she’s going through, regardless of whether their relationship is platonic or not at that point, she still sees a girl that feels like she’s got no one left that she can trust in, so she takes it upon herself to be there for her, slowly shedding her walls that she’s put up for so long, probably without even realizing it. After the failed job at the casino, Mona once again contemplates leaving the MPC in the middle of the shit storm but Ellie manages to get her to help since she owes Kaneko that much at the very least, only for her to find out a few minutes later that Kaneko knew The Brotherhood were corrupt cops from the beginning and never confided in them with that information and, in another cruel twist of fate, Kaneko ends up sacrificing himself so that Ellie, Logan, Colt and Mona could run away, once again, giving Mona her freedom even after completely betraying her trust. As the MPC discuss their course of action after that, she breaks and let’s out what’s probably my favorite quote in Choices: ”You wanted freedom? The fast cars, the bad boy, that whole life? This is it… and it’s not for you. Go home, for everyone’s sake.”, in that moment she let’s the entire pressure of the situation get to her and unleashes on Ellie, the main reason why they’re all in that whole mess. It’s an incredibly cathartic quote that perfectly encapsulates what ROD is all about, the criminal life is not something one can just juggle as if it were a part time job that’s there for the thrills, it can only lead to a life that most people, if presented with the choice, would never want for themselves. When I read that for the first time I completely forgot that I was just reading a story on a free Visual Novel app where you’d never expect to find writing of such quality. I can perfectly feel Mona’s anguish and anger in that quote, the whole weight of the events of the book finally come crashing down on us after we read those words and it’s just such a great feeling that I’ll never stop praising. Let’s get to prom night though, much like Mona going after Ellie on Chapter 11, I feel like her showing up for her prom is still really fitting and the diamond scene that follows after is arguably the best wlw dirty thirty in the app, the dialogue during it is just top tier to be honest. But even better than it to me is the scene after that, where she decides to join The Brotherhood if it means Ellie gets to run away from them since they’re obviously looking to tie up lose ends, it is especially hard hitting if she’s your LI but the version with Colt or Logan is still amazing and I especially love how she uses the hot wiring skills Mona taught her to run away. After the Mercy Park Crew’s last ride together, Mona ends up taking a bullet for the girl that reminded her so much of herself and as Ellie drives her to the hospital she talks about how hard she’s going to be to forget, before reaching the hospital and walking herself inside, knowing that she’d be imprisoned once again before the day is over. I’ve seen a fair share of people that were unhappy with Mona having to deal with such harsh consequences but I personally love, love the end of her route since Mona’s always been about self preservation and only being there for herself but meeting Ellie gets her to slip, she starts caring for her and in the end chooses to give up on her freedom if it means Ellie gets to walk away with hers, in a way being for Ellie the complete opposite of what her ex-girlfriend was to her all those years ago (The dramatic irony can be turned to 11 if you choose the options that show her slowly adopting Mona’s philosophy during the final chapters, so she can slowly become more cynical as Mona slowly sheds her cynicism). In the end, Mona might not be free but she’s still on her element, she’ll be on a place where she’d have to count only on herself and while she’ll definitely have to face some time for her crimes, I’m pretty sure she’d thrive in prison. End of Part 1 Okay, I initially wanted to talk about the supporting characters as well but this shit is truly living up to its title at almost 5K words, that’s already a decently sized one shot, so I’ll stop here since I still want to post it close to the appreciation week, though I might make some edits here and there as I reread it later on but I'm too lazy to do that right now. If I see there’s a good reception for a stupidly long post like this I’ll probably get to work on the second part where I talk about Kaneko, Jason, Detective Wheeler, Toby, Ximena and Riya and Darius, as well as maybe analysis for other books that I hold in really high regard such as the Endless Summer trilogy, Open Heart or It Lives Beneath. If you actually made it all the way here, I just want to thank you for taking the time of your day for reading my semi-coherent thoughts and definitely let me know what you think, if you agree, if you disagree, if you think I should go outside, etc. Thank you for your attention.
TL;DR: Man with too much time on his hands goes deep down the rabbit hole on a concept this sub already didn’t seem that enthusiastic about. If you really want to skip ahead, CTRL+F “verdict” and it’ll get you there. Two days ago, u/MrPhillyj2wns made a post asking whether USL should launch a D1 league in order to compete in Concacaf. From the top voted replies, it appears this made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. But I’ve been at home for eight weeks and I am terribly, terribly bored. So, I present to you this overview of what the USL pyramid might look like if Jake Edwards got a head of steam and attempted to establish a USSF-sanctioned first division. This is by no means an endorsement of such a proposal or even a suggestion that USL SHOULD do such a thing. It is merely an examination of whether they COULD. Welcome to the Thunderdome USL Premiership First, there are some base-level assumptions we must make in this exercise, because it makes me feel more scientific and not like a guy who wrote this on Sunday while watching the Belarusian Premier League (Go BATE Borisov!).
All D1 teams must comply with known USSF requirements for D1 leagues (more on that later).
MLS, not liking this move, will immediately remove all directly-owned affiliate clubs from the USL structure (this does not include hybrid ownerships, like San Antonio FC – NYCFC). This removes all MLS2 teams but will not affect Colorado Springs, Reno, RGVFC and San Antonio.
The USL will attempt to maintain both the USL Championship and USL League One, with an eventual mind toward creating the pro/rel paradise that is promised in Relegations 3:16.
All of my research regarding facility size and ownership net worth is correct – this is probably the biggest leap of faith we have to make, since googling “NAME net worth” and “CITY richest people” doesn’t seem guaranteed to return accurate results.
The most a club can increase its available seating capacity to meet D1 requirements in a current stadium is no more than 1,500 seats (10% of the required 15,000). If they need to add more, they’ll need a new facility.
Let’s pretend that people are VERY willing to sell. It’s commonly acknowledged that the USL is a more financially feasible route to owning a soccer club than in MLS (c.f. MLS-Charlotte’s reported $325 million expansion fee) and the USSF has some very strict requirements for D1 sanctioning. It becomes pretty apparent when googling a lot of team’s owners that this requirement isn’t met, so let’s assume everyone that can’t sells to people who meet the requirements.
(Known) USSF D1 league requirements: - League must have 12 teams to apply and 14 teams by year three - Majority owner must have a net worth of $40 million, and the ownership group must have a total net worth of $70 million. The value of an owned stadium is not considered when calculating this value. - Must have teams located in the Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones - 75% of league’s teams must be based in markets with at a metro population of at least 1 million people. - All league stadiums must have a capacity of at least 15,000 The ideal club candidate for the USL Premiership will meet the population and capacity requirements in its current ground, which will have a grass playing surface. Of the USL Championship’s 27 independent/hybrid affiliate clubs, I did not find one club that meets all these criteria as they currently stand. Regarding turf fields, the USSF does not have a formal policy regarding the ideal playing surface but it is generally acknowledged that grass is superior to turf. 6 of 26 MLS stadiums utilize turf, or roughly 23% of stadiums. We’ll hold a similar restriction for our top flight, so 2-3 of our top flight clubs can have turf fields. Seem fair? Capacity is going to be the biggest issue, since the disparity between current requirements for the second-tier (5,000) and the first tier (15,000) is a pretty massive gap. Nice club you have there, triple your capacity and you’re onto something. As a result, I have taken the liberty of relocating certain (read: nearly all) clubs to new grounds, trying my utmost to keep those clubs in their current markets and –importantly--, ensure they play on grass surfaces. So, let’s do a case-by-case evaluation and see if we can put together 12-14 teams that meet the potential requirements, because what else do you have to do? For each club’s breakdown, anything that represents a chance from what is currently true will be underlined. Candidate: Birmingham Legion FC Location (Metro population): Birmingham, Ala. (1,151,801) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Legion Field (FieldTurf, 71,594) Potential owner: Stephens Family (reported net worth $4 billion) Notes: Birmingham has a pretty strong candidacy. Having ditched the 5,000-seater BBVA Field for Legion Field, which sits 2.4 miles away, they’ve tapped into the city’s soccer history. Legion Field hosted portions of both the men’s and women’s tournaments at the 1996 Olympics, including a 3-1 U.S. loss to Argentina that saw 83,183 pack the house. The Harbert family seemed like strong ownership contenders, but since the death of matriarch Marguerite Harbert in 2015, it’s unclear where the wealth in the family is concentrated, so the Stephens seem like a better candidate. The only real knock that I can think of is that we really want to avoid having clubs play on turf, so I’d say they’re on the bubble of our platonic ideal USL Prem. Candidate: Charleston Battery Location (Metro population): Charleston, S.C. (713,000) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Johnson Hagood Stadium (Grass, ~14,700) Potential owner: Anita Zucker (reported net worth $3 billion) Notes: Charleston’s candidacy isn’t looking great. Already disadvantaged due to its undersized metro population, a move across the Cooper River to Johnson Hagood Stadium is cutting it close in terms of capacity. The stadium, home to The Citadel’s football team, used to seat 21,000, before 9,300 seats on the eastern grandstand were torn down in 2017 to deal with lead paint that had been used in their construction. Renovation plans include adding 3,000 seats back in, which could hit 15,000 if they bumped it to 3,300, but throw in a required sale by HCFC, LLC (led by content-creation platform founder Rob Salvatore) to chemical magnate Anita Zucker, and you’ll see there’s a lot of ifs and ands in this proposal. Candidate: Charlotte Independence Location (Metro population): Charlotte, N.C. (2,569, 213) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Jerry Richardson Stadium (Turf, 15,314) Potential owner: James Goodnight (reported net worth $9.1 billion) Notes: Charlotte ticks a lot of the boxes. A move from the Sportsplex at Matthews to UNC-Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson stadium meets capacity requirements, but puts them on to the dreaded turf. Regrettably, nearby American Legion Memorial Stadium only seats 10,500, despite a grass playing surface. With a sizeable metro population (sixth-largest in the USL Championship) and a possible owner in software billionaire James Goodnight, you’ve got some options here. The biggest problem likely lies in direct competition for market share against a much better-funded MLS Charlotte side due to join the league in 2021. Candidate: Hartford Athletic Location (Metro population): Hartford, Conn. (1,214,295) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Pratt & Whitney Stadium (Grass, 38,066) Potential owner: Ray Dalio (reported net worth $18.4 billion) Notes: Okay, I cheated a bit here, having to relocate Hartford to Pratt & Whitney Stadium, which is technically in East Hartford, Conn. I don’t know enough about the area to know if there’s some kind of massive beef between the two cities, but the club has history there, having played seven games in 2019 while Dillon Stadium underwent renovations. If the group of local businessmen that currently own the club manage to attract Dalio to the table, we’re on to something. Candidate: Indy Eleven Location (Metro population): Indianapolis, Ind. (2,048,703) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lucas Oil Stadium (Turf, 62,421) Potential owner: Jim Irsay (reported net worth of $3 billion) Notes: Indy Eleven are a club that are SO CLOSE to being an ideal candidate – if it weren’t for Lucas Oil Stadium’s turf playing surface. Still, there’s a lot to like in this bid. I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what current owner and founder Ersal Ozdemir is worth, but it seems like there might be cause for concern. A sale to Irsay, who also owns the NFL Indianapolis (nee Baltimore) Colts, seems likely to keep the franchise there, rather than make a half-mile move to 14,230 capacity Victory Field where the AAA Indianapolis Indians play and expand from there. Candidate: Louisville City FC Location (Metro population): Louisville, Ky. (1,297,310) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lynn Family Stadium (Grass, 14,000, possibly expandable to 20,000) Potential owner: Wayne Hughes (reported net worth $2.8 billion) Notes: I’m stretching things a bit here. Lynn Family stadium is currently listed as having 11,700 capacity that’s expandable to 14,000, but they’ve said that the ground could hold as many as 20,000 with additional construction, which might be enough to grant them a temporary waiver from USSF. If the stadium is a no-go, then there’s always Cardinal Stadium, home to the University of Louisville’s football team, which seats 65,000 but is turf. Either way, it seems like a sale to someone like Public Storage founder Wayne Hughes will be necessary to ensure the club has enough capital. Candidate: Memphis 901 FC Location (Metro population): Memphis, Tenn. (1,348,260) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Liberty Bowl Stadium (Turf, 58,325) Potential owner: Fred Smith (reported net worth $3 billion) Notes: Unfortunately for Memphis, AutoZone Park’s 10,000 seats won’t cut it at the D1 level. With its urban location, it would likely prove tough to renovate, as well. Liberty Bowl Stadium more than meets the need, but will involve the use of the dreaded turf. As far as an owner goes, FedEx founder Fred Smith seems like a good local option. Candidate: Miami FC, “The” Location (Metro population): Miami, Fla. (6,158,824) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Riccardo Silva Stadium (FieldTurf, 20,000) Potential owner: Riccardo Silva (reported net worth $1 billion) Notes: Well, well, well, Silva might get his wish for top-flight soccer, after all. He’s got the money, he’s got the metro, and his ground has the capacity. There is the nagging issue of the turf, though. Hard Rock Stadium might present a solution, including a capacity of 64,767 and a grass playing surface. It is worth noting, however, that this is the first profile where I didn’t have to find a new potential owner for a club. Candidate: North Carolina FC Location (Metro population): Durham, N.C. (1,214,516 in The Triangle) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Carter-Finley Stadium (Grass/Turf, 57,583) Potential owner: Steve Malik (precise net worth unknown) / Dennis Gillings (reported net worth of $1.7 billion) Notes: We have our first “relocation” in North Carolina FC, who were forced to trade Cary’s 10,000-seat WakeMed Soccer Park for Carter-Finley Stadium in Durham, home of the NC State Wolfpack and 57,583 of their closest friends. The move is a whopping 3.1 miles, thanks to the close-knit hub that exists between Cary, Durham and Raleigh. Carter-Finley might be my favorite of the stadium moves in this exercise. The field is grass, but the sidelines are artificial turf. Weird, right? Either way, it was good enough for Juventus to play a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara there in 2011. Maybe the move would be pushed for by new owner and medical magnate Dennis Gillings, whose British roots might inspire him to get involved in the Beautiful Game. Straight up, though, I couldn’t find a net worth for current owner Steve Malik, though he did sell his company MedFusion for $91 million in 2010, then bought it back for an undisclosed amount and sold it again for $43 million last November. I don’t know if Malik has the juice to meet D1 requirements, but I suspect he’s close. Candidate: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Location (Metro population): Pittsburgh, Penn. (2,362,453) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Heinz Field (Grass, 64,450) Potential owner: Henry Hillman (reported net worth $2.5 billion) Notes: I don’t know a ton about the Riverhounds, but this move in particular feels like depriving a pretty blue-collar club from its roots. Highmark Stadium is a no-go from a seating perspective, but the Steelers’ home stadium at Heinz Field would more than meet the requirements and have a grass surface that was large enough to be sanctioned for a FIFA friendly between the U.S. WNT and Costa Rica in 2015. As for an owner, Tuffy Shallenberger (first ballot owner name HOF) doesn’t seem to fit the USSF bill, but legendary Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Hillman might. I’m sure you’re asking, why not the Rooney Family, if they’ll play at Heinz Field? I’ll tell you: I honestly can’t seem to pin down a value for the family. The Steelers are valued at a little over a billion and rumors persist that Dan Rooney is worth $500 million, but I’m not sure. I guess the Rooneys would work too, but it’s a definite departure from an owner in Shallenberger who was described by one journalist as a guy who “wears boots, jeans, a sweater and a trucker hat.” Candidate: Saint Louis FC Location (Metro population): St. Louis, Mo. (2,807,338) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Busch Stadium (Grass, 45,494) Potential owner: William DeWitt Jr. (reported net worth $4 billion) Notes: Saint Louis has some weirdness in making the jump to D1. Current CEO Jim Kavanaugh is an owner of the MLS side that will begin play in 2022. The club’s current ground at West Community Stadium isn’t big enough, but perhaps a timely sale to Cardinals owner William DeWitt Jr. could see the club playing games at Busch Stadium, which has a well established history of hosting other sports like hockey, college football and soccer (most recently a U.S. WNT friendly against New Zealand in 2019). The competition with another MLS franchise wouldn’t be ideal, like Charlotte, but with a big enough population and cross marketing from the Cardinals, maybe there’s a winner here. Wacko idea: If Busch doesn’t pan out, send them to The Dome. Sure, it’s a 60k turf closed-in stadium, but we can go for that retro NASL feel and pay homage to our nation’s soccer history. Candidate: Tampa Bay Rowdies Location (Metro population): Tampa, Fla. (3,068,511) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Raymond James Stadium (Grass, 65,518) Potential owner: Edward DeBartolo Jr. (reported net worth $3 billion) Notes: This one makes me sad. Despite having never been there, I see Al Lang Stadium as an iconic part of the Rowdies experience. Current owner Bill Edwards proposed an expansion to 18,000 seats in 2016, but the move seems to have stalled out. Frustrated with the city’s lack of action, Edwards sells to one-time San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who uses his old NFL connections to secure a cushy lease at the home of the Buccaneers in Ray Jay, the site of a 3-1 thrashing of Antigua and Barbuda during the United States’ 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign. Breather. Hey, we finished the Eastern Conference teams. Why are you still reading this? Why am I still writing it? Time is a meaningless construct in 2020 my friends, we are adrift in the void, fueled only by brief flashes of what once was and what may yet still be. Candidate: Austin Bold FC Location (Metro population): Austin, Texas (2,168,316) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 95,594) Potential owner: Michael Dell (reported net worth of $32.3 billion) Notes: Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has some unexpected competition and it comes in the form of tech magnate Michael Dell. Dell, were he to buy the club, would be one of the richest owners on our list and could flash his cash in the new first division. Would he have enough to convince Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (I’m not kidding, that’s its actual name) to go back to a grass surface, like it did from ’96-’08? That’s between Dell and nearly 100,000 UT football fans, but everything can be had for the right price. Candidate: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Location (Metro population): Colorado Springs, Colo. (738,939) Time zone: Mountain Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Falcon Stadium (FieldTurf, 46,692) Potential owner: Charles Ergen (reported net worth $10.8 billion) Notes: Welcome to Colorado Springs. We have hurdles. For the first time in 12 candidates, we’re back below the desired 1 million metro population mark. Colorado Springs actually plans to build a $35 million, 8,000 seat venue downtown that will be perfect for soccer, but in our timeline that’s 7,000 seats short. Enter Falcon Stadium, home of the Air Force Academy Falcons football team. Seems perfect except for the turf, right? Well, the tricky thing is that Falcon Stadium is technically on an active military base and is (I believe) government property. Challenges to getting in and out of the ground aside, the military tends to have a pretty grim view of government property being used by for-profit enterprises. Maybe Charles Ergen, founder and chairman of Dish Network, would be able to grease the right wheels, but you can go ahead and throw this into the “doubtful” category. It’s a shame, too. 6,035 feet of elevation is one hell of a home-field advantage. Candidate: El Paso Locomotive FC Location: El Paso, Texas Time zone: Mountain Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Sun Bowl (FieldTurf, 51,500) Potential owner: Paul Foster (reported net worth $1.7 billion) Notes: God bless Texas. When compiling this list, I found so many of the theoretical stadium replacements were nearly serviceable by high school football fields. That’s insane, right? Anyway, Locomotive don’t have to settle for one of those, they’ve got the Sun Bowl, which had its capacity reduced in 2001 to a paltry 51,500 (from 52,000) specifically to accommodate soccer. Sure, it’s a turf surface, but what does new owner Paul Foster (who is only the 1,477th wealthiest man in the world, per Forbes) care, he’s got a team in a top league. Side note: Did you know that the Sun Bowl college football game is officially, through sponsorship, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl? Why is it not the Frosted Flakes Sun Bowl? Why is the cereal mascot the promotional name of the football game? What are you doing, Kellogg’s? Candidate: Las Vegas Lights FC Location: Las Vegas, Nev. (2,227,053) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Allegiant Stadium (Grass, 61,000) Potential owner: Sheldon Adelson (reported net worth $37.7 billion) Notes: Sin City. You had to know that the club that once signed Freddy Adu because “why not” was going to go all out in our flashy hypothetical proposal. Thanks to my narrative control of this whole thing, they have. Adelson is the second-richest owner in the league and has decided to do everything first class. That includes using the new Raiders stadium in nearby unincorporated Paradise, Nevada, and spending boatloads on high profile transfers. Zlatan is coming back to the U.S., confirmed. Candidate: New Mexico United Location: Albuquerque, N.M. Time zone: Mountain Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Isotopes Park – officially Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park (Grass, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion) Potential owner: Maloof Family (reported net worth $1 billion) Notes: New Mexico from its inception went deep on the community vibe, and I’ve tried to replicate that in this bid. The home field of Rio Grande Cr---I’m not typing out the whole thing—Isotopes Park falls just within the expansion rules we set to make it to 15,000 (weird, right?) and they’ve found a great local ownership group in the Lebanese-American Maloof (formerly Maalouf) family from Las Vegas. The only thing to worry about would be the metro population, but overall, this could be one of the gems of USL Prem. Candidate: Oklahoma City Energy FC Location: Oklahoma City, Okla. (1,396,445) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (Grass, 13,066) Potential owner: Harold Hamm (reported net worth $14.2 billion) Notes: There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow and it says it’s time to change stadiums and owners to make it to D1. A sale to oil magnate Harold Hamm would give the club the finances it needs, but Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (home of the OKC Dodgers) actually falls outside of the boundary of what would meet capacity if 1,500 seats were added. Could the club pull off a move to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma – home of the Oklahoma Sooners? Maybe, but at 20 miles, this would be a reach. Candidate: Orange County SC Location: Irvine, Calif. (3,176, 000 in Orange County) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Angels Stadium of Anaheim (Grass, 43,250) Potential owner: Arte Moreno (reported net worth $3.3 billion) Notes: You’ll never convince me that Rangers didn’t choose to partner with Orange County based primarily on its name. Either way, a sale to MLB Angels owner Arte Moreno produces a fruitful partnership, with the owner choosing to play his newest club out of the existing Angels stadium in OC. Another baseball conversion, sure, but with a metro population of over 3 million and the closest thing this hypothetical league has to an LA market, who’s complaining? Candidate: Phoenix Rising FC Location: Phoenix, Ariz. (4,857,962) Time zone: Arizona Stadium (playing surface, capacity): State Farm Stadium (Grass, 63,400) Potential owner: Ernest Garcia II (reported net worth $5.7 billion) Notes: We’re keeping it local with new owner and used car guru Ernest Garcia II. His dad owned a liquor store and he dropped out of college, which is making me feel amazing about my life choices right now. Casino Arizona Field is great, but State Farm Stadium is a grass surface that hosted the 2019 Gold Cup semifinal, so it’s a clear winner. Throw in Phoenix’s massive metro population and this one looks like a lock. Candidate: Reno 1868 FC Location: Reno, Nev. (425,417) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Mackay Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000) Potential owner: Nancy Walton Laurie (reported net worth $7.1 billion) Notes: The Biggest Little City on Earth has some serious barriers to overcome, thanks to its low metro population. A sale to Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie and 1.6 mile-move to Mackay Stadium to split space with the University of Nevada, Reno makes this bid competitive, but the turf surface is another knock against it. Candidate: Rio Grande Valley FC Location: Edinburg, Texas (900,304) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): McAllen Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion) Potential owner: Alice Louise Walton (reported net worth $45 billion) Notes: Yes, I have a second straight Walmart heiress on the list. She was the first thing that popped up when I googled “McAllen Texas richest people.” The family rivalry has spurred Walton to buy a club as well, moving them 10 miles to McAllen Memorial Stadium which, as I alluded to earlier, is a straight up high school football stadium with a full color scoreboard. Toss in an additional 1,500 seats and you’ve met the minimum, despite the turf playing surface. Candidate: San Antonio FC Location: San Antonio, Texas (2,550,960) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Alamodome (FieldTurf, 64,000) Potential owner: Red McCombs (reported net worth $1.6 billion) Notes: I wanted to keep SAFC in the Spurs family, since the franchise is valued at $1.8 billion. That said, I didn’t let the Rooneys own the Riverhounds based on the Steelers’ value and it felt wrong to change the rules, so bring on Clear Channel co-founder Red McCombs. Toyota Field isn’t viable in the first division, but for the Alamodome, which was built in 1993 in hopes of attracting an NFL franchise (and never did), San Antonio can finally claim having *a* national football league team in its town (contingent on your definition of football). Now if only we could do something about that turf… Candidate: San Diego Loyal SC Location: San Diego, Calif. (3,317,749) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) (Grass, 70,561) Potential owner: Phil Mickelson (reported net worth $91 million) Notes: Yes, golf’s Phil Mickelson. The existing ownership group didn’t seem to have the wherewithal to meet requirements, and Phil seemed to slot right in. As an athlete himself, he might be interesting in the new challenges of a top flight soccer team. Toss in a move to the former home of the chargers and you might have a basis for tremendous community support. Candidate: FC Tulsa Location: Tulsa, Okla. (991,561) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000) Potential owner: George Kaiser ($10 billion) Notes: I’m a fan of FC Tulsa’s rebrand, but if they want to make the first division, more changes are necessary. A sale to Tulsa native and one of the 100 richest men in the world George Kaiser means that funding is guaranteed. A move to Chapman Stadium would provide the necessary seats, despite the turf field. While the undersize population might be an issue at first glance, it’s hard to imagine U.S. Soccer not granting a waiver over a less than a 10k miss from the mark. And that’s it! You made it. Those are all of the independent/hybrid affiliates in the USL Championship, which means that it’s time for our… VERDICT: As an expert who has studied this issue for almost an entire day now, I am prepared to pronounce which USL Championships could be most ‘ready” for a jump to the USL Prem. A reminder that of the 27 clubs surveyed, 0 of them met our ideal criteria (proper ownership $, metro population, 15,000+ stadium with grass field). Two of them, however, met almost all of those criteria: Indy Eleven and Miami FC. Those two clubs may use up two of our three available turf fields right from the outset, but the other factors they hit (particularly Silva’s ownership of Miami) makes them difficult, if not impossible to ignore for the top flight. But who fill in the rest of the slots? Meet the entire 14-team USL Premier League: Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven Louisville City FC Miami FC North Carolina FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Tampa Bay Rowdies Saint Louis FC San Antonio FC New Mexico United Phoenix Rising FC Las Vegas Lights FC Orange County SC San Diego Loyal SC Now, I shall provide my expert rationale for each club’s inclusion/exclusion, which can be roughly broken down into four categories. Firm “yes” Hartford Athletic: It’s a good market size with a solid stadium. With a decent investor and good community support, you’ve got potential here. Indy Eleven: The turf at Lucas Oil Stadium is no reason to turn down a 62,421 venue and a metro population of over 2 million. Louisville City FC: Why doesn’t the 2017 & 2018 USL Cup champion deserve a crack at the top flight? They have the market size, and with a bit of expansion have the stadium at their own SSS. LCFC, you’re in. Miami FC, “The”: Our other blue-chip recruit on the basis of ownership value, market size and stadium capacity. Yes, that field is turf, but how could you snub Silva’s chance to claim victory as the first division 1 club soccer team to play in Miami? Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: Pittsburgh sacrificed a lot to be here (according to my arbitrary calculations). Their market size and the potential boon of soccer at Heinz Field is an important inclusion to the league. Saint Louis FC: Willie hears your “Busch League” jokes, Willie don’t care. A huge market size, combined with the absence of an NFL franchise creates opportunity. Competition with the MLS side, sure, but St. Louis has serious soccer history and we’re willing to bet it can support two clubs. Tampa Bay Rowdies: With a huge population and a massive stadium waiting nearby, Tampa Bay seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up for the USL Prem. Las Vegas Lights FC: Ostentatious, massive and well-financed, Las Vegas Lights FC is everything that the USL Premier League would need to assert that it didn’t intend to play second fiddle to MLS. Players will need to be kept on a short leash, but this is a hard market to pass up on. Phoenix Rising FC: Huge population, big grass field available nearby and a solid history of success in recent years. No brainer. San Diego Loyal SC: New club? Yes, massive population in a market that recently lost an absolutely huge sports presence? Also yes. This could be the USL Prem’s Seattle. Cautious “yes” New Mexico United: You have to take a chance on New Mexico United. The club set the league on fire with its social media presence and its weight in the community when it entered the league last season. The market may be slightly under USSF’s desired 1 million, but fervent support (and the ability to continue to use Isotopes Park) shouldn’t be discounted. North Carolina FC: Carter-Finley’s mixed grass/turf surface is a barrier, to be sure, but the 57,000+ seats it offers (and being enough to offset other fully-turf offerings) is enough to put it in the black. Orange County SC: It’s a top-tier club playing in a MLB stadium. I know it seems unlikely that USSF would approve something like that, but believe me when I say “it could happen.” Orange County is a massive market and California likely needs two clubs in the top flight. San Antonio FC: Our third and only voluntary inclusion to the turf fields in the first division, we’re counting on San Antonio’s size and massive potential stadium to see it through. Cautious “no” Birmingham Legion FC: The town has solid soccer history and a huge potential venue, but the turf playing surface puts it on the outside looking in. Memphis 901 FC: Like Birmingham, not much to dislike here outside of the turf playing surface at the larger playing venue. Austin Bold FC: See the other two above. FC Tulsa: Everything’s just a little bit off with this one. Market’s slightly too small, stadium has turf. Just not enough to put it over the top. Firm “no” Charleston Battery: Small metro and a small potential new stadium? It’s tough to say yes to the risk. Charlotte Independence: A small new stadium and the possibility of having to compete with an organization that just paid over $300 million to join MLS means it’s best for this club to remain in the USL Championship. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC: When a club’s best chance to meet a capacity requirement is to host games at a venue controlled by the military, that doesn’t speak well to a club’s chances. El Paso Locomotive FC: An undersized market and a turf field that meets capacity requirements is the death knell for this one. Oklahoma City Energy FC: Having to expand a baseball field to meet requirements is a bad start. Having to potentially play 20 miles away from your main market is even worse. Reno 1868 FC: Population nearly a half-million short of the federation’s requirements AND a turf field at the hypothetical new stadium makes impossible to say yes to this bid. Rio Grande Valley FC: All the seat expansions in the world can’t hide the fact that McAllen Memorial Stadium is a high school stadium through and through. Here’s who’s left in the 11-team Championship: Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Memphis 901 FC Austin Bold FC Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC El Paso Locomotive FC Oklahoma City Energy FC Reno 1868 FC Rio Grande Valley FC FC Tulsa With MLS folding the six affiliates it has in USL League One, the league is a little bit thin (especially considering USSF’s requirements for 8 teams for lower level leagues), but seems definitely able to expand up to the necessary numbers with Edwards’ allusions to five new additions this year: Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Forward Madison FC Greenville Triumph SC Union Omaha Richmond Kickers South Georgia Tormenta FC Tucson Format of Assorted Leagues – This (like everything in this post) is pure conjecture on my part, but here are my thoughts on how these leagues might function in a first year while waiting for additional expansion. USL Premier – We’ll steal from the 12-team Scottish Premiership. Each club plays the other 11 clubs 3 times, with either one or two home matches against each side. When each club has played 33 matches, the top six and bottom six separate, with every club playing an additional five matches (against each other team in its group). The top club wins the league. The bottom club is automatically relegated. The second-bottom club will enter a two-legged playoff against someone (see below) from the championship playoffs. USL Championship -- 11 clubs is a challenge to schedule for. How about every club plays everyone else three times (either one or two home matches against each side)? Top four clubs make the playoffs, which are decided by two-legged playoffs. The winner automatically goes up. I need feedback on the second part – is it better to have the runner-up from the playoffs face the second-bottom club from the Premiership, or should the winner of the third-place match-up get the chance to face them to keep drama going in both playoff series? As for relegation, we can clearly only send down the last place club while the third division is so small. USL League One – While the league is so small, it doesn’t seem reasonable to have the clubs play as many matches as the higher divisions. Each club could play the other six clubs four times – twice at home and twice away – for a very equitable 24-match regular season, which would help restrict costs and still provide a chance to determine a clear winner. Whoever finishes top of the table goes up. And there you have it, a hypothetical look at how the USL could build a D1 league right now. All it would take is a new stadium for almost the entire league and new owners for all but one of the 27 clubs, who wouldn’t feel that their property would be massively devalued if they got relegated. Well that’s our show. I’m curious to see what you think of all of this, especially anything that you think I may have overlooked (I’m sure there’s plenty). Anyway, I hope you’re all staying safe and well.
From Conspiracy to Fact: An analysis of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Information Control, and the New World Order (Appendix includes hundreds of citations) - PART 1
PLEASE NOTE: This article may be updated periodically with new information and links as they become available. All referenced information and a whole lot more is indexed and linked in the relatedappendix posts.Please feel free to crosspost, share, and take from my ideas to build your own. Namaste. Part 1 | Part 2 | Appendix A | Appendix B Hello. My name is Chris. I am nobody, really. An average citizen. I am an overweight 42 year old white male from the Midwestern suburbs of the US who has been fortunate enough to live a pretty comfortable life. I used to be a freelance graphic designer with a focus on small businesses, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that that career and part of my life is more than likely over in light of current events. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. I've always been concerned about social injustice and tried to stay politically informed, even dabbling in some activism here and there. At times I've stepped away from paying attention for my own mental health, or due to laziness, defeatism, whatever. But I've never stopped caring, or trying, to fight the good fight and do the right thing. The news recently has of course swept us all up, and touched all our lives in some way or another. The world has never seen anything like the "Coronavirus Pandemic," and it's clear that our society will be changed forever when we finally come out the other end of this mess. But I've had the luxury of time recently, and in reading the news about things that were going on, I couldn't help but notice the patterns, and that a lot of stuff didn't exactly make sense. So, here we go, with the "conspiracy theory." I hate that term, because although it's technically accurate, it's been demonized and weaponized by the media and society at large to take on a bad connotation. Tinfoil hats, alien abductions, crazy people muttering to themselves, etc. You've no doubt got a lot of images in your mind of a conspiracy theorist. And make no mistake, what I'm going to tell you here is all currently very popular conspiracy theory. However, I think that by removing opinions and conjecture from it, and focusing on facts and things that have already happened, I can present this huge amount of overwhelming, disparate information in a way that makes it less a "theory" and more a "research project." And so that is how I have approached this. I have spent the last week doing little else besides reading every news and opinion article I could find, saving and organizing hundreds of links, and assembling a coherent, logical outline to organize and present these theories, and more importantly, facts. There are a lot of less-than-reputable sites and publications out there, and I have tried when at all possible to provide sources from verifiable news sites, with a wide range of slants and focuses, to illustrate that what is happening is not part of any one particular political agenda. I hope that you take the time to check the links, really look into the information presented here, and form your own opinions. Please do not just take my word for it. To that end, there are also a few links mixed in that are labeled as having come from conspiracy. These are well-written and well-reasoned posts from other concerned citizens that I think are worth reading, and relevant to the discussion here. One last thing - If you are new to most of these ideas, the information presented here is more than likely going to seem overwhelming at first. I encourage you now, and always, to take mental health breaks for yourself, and put down your phone or turn off your computer. The information will be here when you come back. And as you'll soon understand, what is happening is an unstoppable tide, truly a force of nature at this point, and there is nothing you can do to fight it, so try your hardest to relax, put on some chill music, hug your dog, and most of all... BREATHE. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - If you start researching conspiracy theory, you're going to find a lot of information. Some much better or worse presented than others, and some much more plausible or unbelievable than others. Despite the seeming ridiculousness of some things you might read, I encourage you to always approach new information with an open mind. That said though, I have one main principle that guides all my beliefs about conspiracy theories, and that is the "Filter of Likelihood." Essentially, you have to ask yourself how possible, how likely, and how feasible a piece of information is. Furthermore, you need to ask yourself what the motivation would be. In many cases, it's quite easy to see how something makes a lot of sense based on other known info, whereas some theories seem rather implausible no matter how you look at it. I am interested only in the plausible, and where possible, the already actualized. Additionally, there's a lot to be said, and a lot that has already been written on many of these topics, so I will focus on current events and simple concepts. I will also ask you to open your mind to possibility. Please consider this as you evaluate new information:
Do you believe there are things going on in the world that you don't know about yet?
Do you believe that there is technology and science you've never heard of?
Do you believe that society is progressing at an increasing rate?
Do you believe that as populations grow, we require new societal strategies?
Do you believe that those with power and money want to retain their power and money?
Of course you believe all these things, and none of these are wild or unusual concepts. Rather, these are very basic concepts that apply to everyone, and always have. They are all part of our shared human experience, and undeniable facts of life. Populations grow, societies evolve, technology advances, and the world changes. And most important to our discussion here, people, families, and empires constantly jockey for power and control, while fighting for resources, power, fame, and... MONEY. We all hate TicketMaster, right? Who do they think they are, what the hell is this bullshit "service fee," etc. It's something everyone can get behind. But did you know that TicketMaster willingly cultivates that image? That venues, teams, and artists, in their pursuit of more money, raise fees and then let TicketMaster be the bad guy and take the heat so their reputations remain intact? There are many more people, organizations, and other entities in the world playing that same role for those who really have the money, who really call the shots. And those who call the shots work very hard and spend absolutely unfathomable amounts of money, time, and blood, to make sure that you don't ever realize who's actually taking your money. They do this in the simplest, easiest way. If you simply control information from the top down, and disseminate it when and where you see fit, you can effect great societal change without lifting a finger. Please imagine... really, try to imagine... You just read an article, saw a video, whatever, from a very, very reputable source. And it just informed you that an asteroid was 83% likely to impact the Earth next month. What would you do? What would happen in the world? Hopefully an asteroid will not hit next month, but it's important to really imagine what would happen and why, and how. Because a huge amount of information would be generated and published, people would panic, society would crumble, and the world as you know it would change forever in an instant, the moment you read that headline. Control of information is one of the most powerful tools known to mankind today. A person living in 2020 can easily encounter as much information in a day as someone in Medieval times might have encountered in a lifetime. And it comes at you from all angles, in all forms, non-stop, 24/7. Much like the water in the pipe, the information is always there, and one needs but turn it on. Disseminating the information then becomes a practice all its own, and to be sure, information processing accounts for more than half of the US GDP. And the rate at which it's spread, and way it is handled makes a huge difference in the societal repercussions. So a few different techniques are used:
The "Slow Walk" - If a large, unexpected piece of information is given suddenly, people tend to react poorly and irrationally. Also known as "letting them down easily," this technique restricts the flow of information to prevent the audience from balking or being overwhelmed
The "Steady Drip" - This technique involves keeping your audience subjected to a constant stream of the desired information, so that they become accustomed to it and it becomes "normalized"
The "Firehose" - A deluge of information flying out at full blast, designed to overwhelm the audience so that they cannot focus on anything else
It might be the greatest understatement of all time to say that there has been a lot of information passed around about COVID-19, the "Coronavirus," recently. In fact, there has never been anything like what we are currently experiencing in all of human history, and not by a long shot. And this unprecedented turn of events has caused a lot of people to react in a lot of ways, and say and do a lot of things, for better or for worse. Full disclosure: In particular, if you look up conspiracy theory, you'll see a lot of stuff suggesting that the "Coronavirus is a hoax." (You'll also find a lot of poorly-written rambling) I want to be clear that I DO NOT believe that. I am 100% sure that there is a Coronavirus, that it is making people sick, that a lot of people are dying, and that our medical professionals and many other undervalued workers are overwhelmed, and breaking their backs every day to do their best to keep their friends, families, and loved ones safe. I am extraordinarily grateful for them and admire the resolve and bravery that so many have shown in the face of this disaster. I do not think it is a hoax at all. However, I think that literally everything else that is happening surrounding the "pandemic" is. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Pandemic In the first week of January this year, I got sick. Really sick. I know when I got it and who I got it from, and honestly the exact moment I got it (I only was in proximity of the dude for a few minutes). He had warned me that he was really sick, and I blew it off. I started feeling sick a day or two later, and a day or two after that I felt like I was dying. Fever, chills, aches, extraordinary fatigue. And literal, nonstop, 24/7 coughing. I had every single symptom of what we now know as COVID-19. I commented to anyone who would listen that I didn't recall ever feeling that sick before in my entire life. The most memorable part of it though was that after a couple days, I completely lost my sense of smell and taste. Joked a lot about how you could feed me onions and soap cause I'd have no idea. I try to have a good attitude about being sick. I spent a week sleeping on the couch before I finally went to the doctor. She gave me a Prednisolone steroid pack (which has worked well for me in the past), some Trazodone to knock me out, and Benzonatotate for my cough. As soon as I took the first dose of steroids I started to feel pretty fucking great, and it was more or less a non-issue after that. I spoke to a lot of people about it then and after, and man, I can't tell you how many stories I personally heard from people I know that said the exact same thing. Then I started reading the same story over and over again on Reddit:
We didn't start really hearing about the Coronavirus in the media until the beginning of March, and we didn't hear about the "Pandemic" until just a couple weeks ago. And what a couple weeks it's been since then. But I am quite certain that it's been around for a lot longer and that I, and a lot of other people I know, had it - and DID NOT DIE FROM IT - way back in January. We now know that the first documented case in the US was on January 19th, but that word "documented" is so, so important here. That means that we had identified the virus, developed a test, and tested a person with the symptoms that day. It does NOT mean that was when the virus reached the United States. How sick do you have to be before you take a day off work? Before you go to the doctor? With America's healthcare system or lack thereof, it's almost certain that many people had this virus before we determined what it was, and how infectious it really was. There is also the matter of the statistics of severity vs the regular flu. This is a highly contentious topic and I am no medical expert, and do not wish to make any assertions. However, what I can tell you from my personal experience is this: I had a horrible "flu" in January, got basic medicine, got better. So, either I had the flu, or perhaps I did indeed have the Coronavirus. We will never know because I was never tested. But the important thing is that it doesn't matter. Either I (and many others) had the Coronavirus and it did not kill us (calling into question the severity of the infection) or we just had a bad cold or flu, but it had the exact same symptoms as COVID-19 (calling into question the extent of Coronavirus diagnoses). But logically, one of those two statements is true. Furthermore, the data keeps changing, and I don't mean increasing on a daily basis. I mean up and down, back and forth, it is deadly or maybe it isn't, etc. On January 14 the WHO told you it couldn't spread from human to human. But then on Jan 19 we saw the first case of Coronavirus in the United States. Then it turns out that the Wuhan market outbreak began earlier in December. And then it's an "epidemic," but most people will only get mild symptoms. What are you supposed to believe? And it sure does seem to come at you as a firehose, and it's hard to even think about anything because OHMYGODTHECORONAVIRUS! But let's stop and look a couple basic facts. As a matter of fact, I'm going to let Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi explain this one to you. This is a very informative 10 minute video, watch it: Sucharit Bhakdi - Very clear math showing that the COVID statistics are being manipulated So 80% of people only experience mild symptoms, and we're crashing the economy for this? The statistics aren't any more extreme than many other illnesses we've had over time, and we're crashing the economy for this? It doesn't make sense until you consider that there are other factors besides just the virus at play. Wolfgang Wodard - Explaining how the statistics are being manipulated to cause panic The media, and society at large is inundating you with terrifying information about the Coronavirus. But if it's not as bad as we originally thought, then why? We don't freak out about every illness that comes along, and we've certainly never in the history of civilization had over 1/3 of the global population locked down under mandatory quarantine. And then there's the debate about where the virus came from. We believe it came from a meat market in China, under unsanitary conditions. The science behind a coronavirus making the leap from one species to another is well-established and researched, and it is a very likely scenario. There are also conspiracy theories that state that China released it on its people intentionally, or even that the US military released it in China. Again, we will never know exactly where this Coronavirus came from. It may be natural, it may be man made, and there are very plausible paths for both. I don't know what to believe myself. So here I ask you to make your own judgement based on likelihood. What we do know though is that the state of the world this virus has been unleashed on has played a major factor in its spread. In 1950 the global population was 2.5 billion, and that has exploded to almost 8 billion people in 2020. As a matter of fact, population growth has been exponential since about the time of the Industrial Revolution. With all these people on the planet there are sure to be many disagreements and conflicts, and there indeed have been. As a matter of fact, 2019 saw global protests on an unprecedented scale, in Hong Kong, France, Syria, and many other countries. Citizens have literally been fighting police and military with rocks, clubs, arrows, and molotov cocktails. Did you know that? Despite my seeing headlines and pictures every day of the riots in Hong Kong, I have been shocked to learn that multiple of my close friends, intelligent and aware people, had no knowledge whatsoever of the protests even existing. But that is far from a coincidence; rather, it is quite by design. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Billionaires and Coincidences Another major talking point over the last 5 to 10 years has been the "1%" - the handful of super-rich individuals who posess and control the vast majority of the Earth's wealth and resources. Where it used to just be a numerical term, "Billionaire" is now a dirty word, and one of the nastiest. We all hate billionaires. They are evil, and profit off the exploitation of the rest of the world. The "Illuminati" we call them, in pursuit of a "New World Order." Crazy stuff, right? Mysterious symbols and people in black robes doing nefarious things in secret meetings, and running the world from behind the scenes. We love the Illuminati, it's a huge pop culture thing now. The subject of endless speculation, they are made fun of in the media, movies, and now Taco Bell commercials. It's so far fetched it could never really be true. And the fact that you think that is by design as well. So, we don't know where the Coronavirus came from, but it's certainly here, and there are lot of other things unfolding in the world around it. Many different current events from all different places and fields of study. Some of it seems a little too coincidental. It is certainly very coincidental that this economically destructive Coronavirus entered the world right as there were global uprisings, protests in the street, and a growing public hatred for billionaires. Well, here are a few other coincidences: Hundreds of CEOs of major companies stepped down from their positions in recent months. Multiple US Senators sold stock right before the market crashed. Even the boss of the New York Stock Exchange sold his own stock right before the crash. Did they know something they weren't telling us? Here's another coincidence. In 2010, The Rockefeller Foundation published a selection of future-predicting scenarios in the name of "exploring the ways that technology and development could co-evolve." One of these four scenarios, entitled "Lock Step," eerily predicts a global viral pandemic and the resulting hypothetical consequences, which almost exactly mirrors the COVID-19 pandemic we are in the midst of today. Also coincidental: The first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in China on November 17th, 2019. Literally one month earlier, The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted Event 201, a high-level pandemic exercise on October 18, 2019, in New York, NY. In this exercise, they discuss the potential implications and consequences of a novel Coronavirus, including an economic crash, martial law, and of particular interest, the control of information. (You can view some published highlights here) The World Economic Forum is comprised of the richest of the rich. The 1%. The Billionaires. CEO's, politicians, business owners, and many other powerful and influential figures. They meet regularly to discuss topics of global concern, and strongly control the dissemination of information. And of primary concern to many of them is maintaining their wealth and power in a rapidly-changing world. And finally, here's one more coincidence: At the exact same time as the Event 201 exercise, The World Military Games was held in Wuhan, China, Oct 18-27, 2019. It was the largest military sports event ever to be held in China, with nearly 10,000 athletes from over 100 countries competing in 27 sports. Wuhan China was, as we now believe, the source of our current global COVID-19 outbreak. Whether you think it is a "conspiracy" or not, that is all certainly coincidental, to say the least. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - "Why didn't I hear about any of this?" That's an excellent question, and one that likely has multiple answers. For starters, how much do you really pay attention? Where do you get your news from? Do you research things you hear or just accept them on hearsay? Critical thinking skills are paramount in making sense of the chaos unfolding all around us. As I mentioned before, I can tell you that I personally know multiple people who had no clue whatsoever about the riots in Hong Kong last year. As you read this, you may be one of them. And it may seem like something that is happening far away, and "could never happen here." Or you may have been aware of it but just that it was happening. But please, consider for a moment: millions of average citizens risked their lives and safety in the streets of Hong Kong for months on end, fighting police and military, and transforming the city they lived in into a warzone. WHY? Why would people do something like that? Regardless of their motivations, that many people were banding together to fight for something they believed in. And that is worth considering. It's not really your fault though that you may not catch wind of all this news. The "mainstream media" that you hear about all the time deliberately controls information - downplaying threats and overreacting to silly things - in order to make sure that you hear the version of the news that they want you to hear. Did you know that only 6 corporations control 90% of the media In America? That number is reduced from 50 companies in the 80's. And literally all the news you see on TV, at the very least, is 100% owned and controlled by these companies. Lately, distrust is growing for cable news networks, and many people turn to their local hometown station for trusted news. The problem with that though is that your hometown station is probably owned by Sinclair Media, one of the most powerful broadcast networks in the country that you've never heard of. Please watch this very brief video, illustrating the chokehold that Sinclair Media maintains over your nightly local news broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWLjYJ4BzvI Of course, not every piece of news is pre-programmed but a lot is. The real news is out there, but sometimes you have to look a little deeper than the infographics on TV news. Even if information is being directed from the top down, the boots on the ground tend to be passionate people with a variety of interests and agendas, and they are still doing their best to do real journalism despite corporate oversight. Think of those who are directing the information as steering an impossibly massive ship with a rudder. You can slowly adjust the course of direction, however it is slow to react. If you want to stop, you have to start thinking about stopping wayyy ahead of time. And similarly, once it gets underway, it is then influenced by an inertia all its own. Micro controls and adjustments aren't really possible. Our society is this giant ship. There are 8 billion people on this earth - that is 8000 million. An incomprehensible number that grows rapidly every day. As civilization grows and advances, so does our medicine, our technology, our cultural norms. These are all natural processes that are necessary to manage an increasing number of societies all around the globe. And many of the advances we're making have exciting potential benefits for humanity, although as with all tools, they also inherently possess the potential for abuse. Here are some other things happening in society right now, some you may be aware of and many you may not:
RealID - The Real ID law requires people to show security-enhanced IDs to pass through airport security checkpoints or to enter certain federal facilities.
Traffic Cameras - Most people know that there are traffic cameras in an increasing number of areas, some of which can assess your speed and issue you a ticket automatically.
Automation Everywhere - Beyond assembly lines, robots are continually performing more types of tasks from ever more companies, replacing human employees at an increasing rate.
Automated Trucks - Autonomous trucks are coming soon that can see forward over a half mile, farther than any other autonomous system in the world, and run during the day, the night and even in the rain.
Global Satellite Internet - Elon Musk's SpaceX recently launched its fourth batch of internet-beaming satellites, as the company builds a broadband internet business by deploying thousands of satellites into orbit
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency - As digital payments become more and more prevalent, digital currency uses cryptography to secure and verify transactions as well as to control the creation of new units of a particular cryptocurrency.
Voluntary Nanochipping - People are having microchips implanted into their bodies so that they don't need to carry key cards, IDs, and even train tickets.
Programmable Viruses - As antibiotic-resistant bacteria becomes a greater problem, viruses are being engineered to fight the bacteria in targeted ways
Facial Recognition Technology - Airports are using facial-recognition cameras to confirm passenger identity. Mobile phone makers are using face recognition for biometric security. Retailers are using it to prevent violence and crime, and for advertising.
Thermal Scanners - Airports, casinos, and grocery stores are screening passengers for sickness. In China, this data is being used to control traffic.
ID2020 - Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is developing human-implantable capsules that have ‘digital certificates’ which can contain financial data, medical records, tracking tech, and more.
There is an interesting chicken or egg relationship between science fiction and real world science. Sci-fi writers are inspired by the real science of the day, then they apply their creativity to imagine what might be in the future. Young scientists encounter these fantastical ideas and think they are worth pursuing, and then set about to make them a reality, and the cycle continues. Futuristic concepts are then preempted and introduced through the media to the conscious mind, as we include them in books, movies, TV, video games, and more. Eventually we start seeing headlines of these new technologies and developments happening in other places, usually Japan and China first due to their prevalence in the industrial and technological sectors of our global economy. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Hello! Here are some introductory details: • Graduated with a degree on advertising. • Currently an art director for about 9 months now. • Willingness scale to shift careers so I can leave my home country from 1 - 10, i'd say about 7. • With that in mind, current skills include graphic design, illustration, web design, art direction, and photography. Currently upskilling to UI/UX. • Travel history: been stamped twice for Schengen, currently have an eligible US visa, have been stamped a South Korean visa. Also a frequent-ish traveler, if that detail helps. Why leave: • Philippines is in its most terrible state since the 1970-1980 fascist rule. History is repeating itself. • Expedited by the COVID situation, we are now trillions in debt. The government is even now considering taxing apps like Netflix, Spotify, etc. to alleviate the growing debt. • Housing, especially in the capital city, is rapidly being taken over by under the table Chinese immigrants, even landlords are forcefully evicting current Filipino occupants because the immigrants offer double the rent pay. • Public facilities and cities are being sold to Chinese contractors. One of the provinces here are due to a "makeover" and turning it into a metropolitan & casino of the North. • Freedom of speech is being repressed surely and consistently day by day. Random arrests and killings. Elaborate lockdowns in place, with the military behaving dangerously similar to a dictatorship, in mask of calling it "quarantine". Why Netherlands: • I have a cousin there who is now a citizen and is working for a prominent shipping company. • From my travel to Holland, they give much respect to the arts/design to a point of giving a monthly stipend for artists back in the day but that is all I know. Question proper: I would like to know how feasible it is to move there, particularly in terms of job prospects. Would furthering my studies there increase my chances too? And are universities/schools keen on design/art scholarships? The need to migrate is ever present & real but I am willing to stay home for a few years more should I need to build stronger credibility. Just as long as the end game will be living in the Netherlands (or should you suggest other amenable Schengen countries). Thank you, and I hope you're all still faring well.
Source:Part 1Part 2Part 3 IM: We are now in a position where we can choose the level of suffering in the entire living world, why do it? DP: Around 850,000 or so people worldwide take their own lives each year. Tens of millions self-harm. Hundreds of millions are chronically depressed. These grim figures are just the tip of an iceberg of misery. Words and statistics can’t begin to convey the awfulness of suffering. Yet there is hope. For the first time in history, biotechnology turns the level of suffering in the living world into an adjustable parameter. The biosphere is programmable. Even a handful of genetic tweaks could massively reduce the level of suffering in the world. If used wisely, a combination of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and synthetic gene drives could eradicate experience below “hedonic zero” altogether. Life on Earth deserves a more civilised signalling system – a motivational architecture based entirely on information-sensitive gradients of well-being. Today, a few fortunate genetic outliers enjoy hints of how such an architecture of mind will function. In future, life based on gradients of intelligent bliss can be the global norm. CRISPR makes paradise-engineering technically feasible. On a more sober note, the easiest way to reduce to reduce suffering in the world doesn’t rely on gene editing, advanced technology or posthuman superintelligence. The biggest source of severe and readily avoidable suffering today is animal agriculture. Factory-farming is inherently abusive. Factory-farms and slaughterhouses are morally indefensible. Our victims are as sentient as small children, and they should be treated accordingly. The death-factories must be permanently closed and outlawed. Any civilisation worthy of the name will be invitrotarian or vegan. IM: Isn’t suffering a necessary part of life? DP: Misery and malaise are so common that it’s easy to believe they are integral to life itself. Gautama Buddha’s “Life is suffering” sounds like a simplistic slogan to temperamentally optimistic life-lovers; but for billions of human and nonhuman animals, it’s true. For over 540 million years, suffering has been endemic to the animal kingdom. A predisposition to mental and physical pain has been genetically adaptive. Discontent promotes the inclusive fitness of our genes. Evolution via natural selection is underpinned by random mutations and the genetic casino of sexual reproduction. Natural selection is “blind” and amoral. But a revolution in genome-editing promises to transform the nature of selection pressure. Parents will shortly be able genetically to choose the pain thresholds, hedonic range and hedonic set-points of their future children. Prospective parents will pick genes and allelic combinations in anticipation of the likely effects of their choices. As the reproductive revolution unfolds, selection pressure in favour of “happy” genes will intensify at the expense of their nastier cousins. Barring revolutionary breakthroughs, growth in subjective wellbeing may only be linear rather than exponential; but genetic engineering plus the pleasure principle are a potent mix. IM: If we do raise the hedonic range, do we lose other values/attributes worth keeping? DP: Engineering a world of indiscriminate bliss wouldn’t merely be risky. Uniform bliss would undermine human relationships, social responsibility, personal growth and intellectual progress. Most people aren’t classical utilitarians: getting “blissed out” would entail losing a lot of what we value as well as the miseries we hate. By contrast, ratcheting up hedonic range and hedonic set-points doesn’t entail adjudicating between different secular and religious values or sacrificing anything we hold dear. Hedonic recalibration doesn’t subvert existing preference architectures. An elevated hedonic set-point can also enhance the diversity of experience; compare how depressives tend to get “stuck in a rut”. Information-sensitive gradients of well-being can preserve what humans find valuable while enriching our default quality of life. Hedonic uplift will vanquish the feelings of emptiness, futility and nihilistic despair that stain so many lives today. Post-Darwinian life based on gradients of bliss will be saturated with meaning, purpose and significance. For sure, there are tons of complications. The biohappiness revolution will be messy. We’d do well to preserve the functional analogues of depressive realism. But the basic point stands. IM: How is genetic engineering different from eugenics? DP: Just as the Soviet experiment polluted the whole language of social justice, likewise the early twentieth-century eugenics movement polluted the whole language of genetic health. Consider the commitment to the well-being of all sentience enshrined in the Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009), or the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as set out in its founding constitution (1948): “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Lifelong health as so defined is impossible with a Darwinian genome. A living world where all sentient beings are innately healthy can be created only via genetic engineering. Societal reform on its own can’t manufacture the molecular substrates of happiness. Etymologically speaking, transhuman civilisation will be the product of eugenics. So in that sense, the critics are right. But genetically engineering the well-being of all sentience is far removed from the coercive “eugenics” and race hygiene policy of the Third Reich. That said, a multitude of legal of legal and ethical safeguards will be essential to navigate the transition to post-Darwinian life – humans are untrustworthy creatures. Not least, we should uphold and extend the sanctity of life. IM: How do we ensure genetic engineering is used safely? DP: All genetic experimentation is inherently risky, not least the gamble of having children. Antinatalists might support a hundred-year moratorium on untested genetic experiments; but such prudence is unrealistic. For evolutionary reasons, most people are determined to have children via sexual reproduction. So we should focus on minimising the risks of such genetic experimentation. Let’s try to balance risk-reward ratios. Preimplantation genetic screening will be hugely cost-effective. Later this century, all babies could and should be CRISPR babies. In the meantime, access to preimplantation genetic screening and counselling ought to be universal. For example, consider the genetic dial-settings that regulate pain-sensitivity. What level of pain tolerance is optimal for our future children – and our older selves? Even now, medical science could eradicate pain altogether simply by knocking out the SCN9A gene – the so-called “volume knob” for pain. However, instant eradication of pain is too hazardous. SCN9A-knockouts would lack not just the ghastly experience of pain but also the vital function of nociception. Children with congenital analgesia need to lead a cotton-wool existence or else they come to serious harm. For now, choosing benign “low pain” alleles for our offspring is much safer. In tomorrow’s world of advanced AI and neuroprostheses, even the mildest “raw feels” of pain could be abolished. In the meantime, we can ensure that new children (and maybe our future selves) have the same exceptionally high pain-tolerance of today’s high-functioning genetic outliers: folk who say things like “Pain is just a useful signalling mechanism.” IM: Should we still pursue genetic engineering if there was peace on earth? DP: Suicide rates typically go down in wartime. There isn’t peace on Earth for the same reason there isn’t peace among chimpanzee troops. Nature “designed” human male primates to (be genetically predisposed to) wage territorial wars of aggression against other coalitions of male primates. Let’s assume, optimistically, that we can prevent future armed conflict without any of the biological-genetic interventions discussed here. The negative-feedback mechanisms of the hedonic treadmill would ensure that countless people would continue to suffer – even in a peaceful world without war, poverty and disease. By its very nature, Darwinian life is sentient malware. Only a biohappiness revolution can fix our sinister source code for good. IM: What other types of human enhancement technologies will considerably affect the nature of humans? DP: Safe and sustainable analogues of empathetic euphoriants like “hug drug” MDMA will revolutionise human relationships. Compare the quasi-psychopathic indifference to most other sentient beings that humans display now. Robolovers, sexbots and designer aphrodisiacs will revolutionise sexual experience. Novel psychedelics, novel genes and novel neurons will open up billions of state-spaces of consciousness as different from each other as waking life is different from dreaming life. “Augmented” reality will be followed by full-blown multimodal immersive virtual reality. “Narrow” superintelligence-on-a-neurochip will be accessible to all; with digital intelligence implants, sentient beings can do everything machine intelligence can do and more. Opt-out cryonics, opt-in cryothanasia, and finally tools to defeat the biology of aging altogether will transform our conception of life and death. Transhumans will be quasi-immortal. But in my view, mastery of the pleasure-pain axis will inaugurate the biggest revolution of all. The end of suffering promises an ethical watershed. Invincible well-being for all sentience will mark a momentous evolutionary transition in the development of life. IM: What are some ethical considerations worth arguing about at this stage? DP: As a transhumanist, I look forward to a glorious “triple S” civilisation of Superhappiness, Superlongevity and Superintelligence. But more concretely, I’d like to see a coordinated hundred-year Plan to overcome suffering throughout the living world under the auspices of the World Health Organization. Here are four policy proposals for a Biohappiness Revolution:
Accelerate the development and commercialisation of cultured meat. Close and outlaw factory-farms and slaughterhouses. Rehabilitate the surviving victims.
Genetically raise pain-tolerance. Genetically recalibrate the hedonic treadmill. Create life based on gradients of intelligent bliss.
Offer CRISPR gene-therapy and preimplantation genetic screening and counselling to all prospective parents.
Spread low-pain “happy genes” across the biosphere with CRISPR-based synthetic gene drives that cheat the “laws” of Mendelian inheritance.
At times, Darwinian life can be desperately grim. Yet depressive, pain-ridden people shouldn’t feel their lives are worthless. Even malaise-ridden lives can be valuable if one prevents more suffering than one undergoes. We should all aspire to be not just transhumanists but also effective altruists. Let’s use biotechnology to phase out suffering. Humans are stepping-stones to something better – something inconceivably sublime. IM: In 2015, Bill Gates gave a chilling warning on a TED Talk that the world was in danger due to global pandemics or bioterrorism. These predictions have raised conspiracy theories that Bill is responsible for creating the novel coronavirus and the reason for his interest in developing a vaccine treatment. There are also conspiracy theories circulating about 5G technology being connected to the spread of the novel coronavirus which has led to the recent burning of 5G towers in the UK. Conversations about the use of microchips and biometrics in order to prevent future epidemics are also fueling conspiracy paranoia. Are these fears reasonable? Do they serve an evolutionary purpose or detriment? DP: “Only the paranoid survive”, said Intel boss Andy Grove. There’s a lot that medical science still doesn’t understand about the pandemic viral respiratory illness COVID-19. However, the new corona virus was not created by Bill Gates, nor is it spread by 5G towers. Nor is it a bioweapon. The truth is more sinister. COVID-19 is a by-product of humanity’s monstrous treatment of nonhuman animals. Zoonotic disease and consequent global pandemics are inevitable as long as humans practise meat-eating. Animal abuse is catastrophic for humans and our victims. Details of the spillover infection in a dirty Wuhan meat market in November 2019 are still murky; but this viral pandemic would not have happened if humans didn’t practise animal agriculture – and then butcher sentient beings to gratify a gruesome taste for their flesh. Rather than being the villain of the piece, Bill Gates is a sponsor of “clean” cultured meat. The cultured meat revolution promises to end zoonotic pandemics, save billions of nonhuman and human animal lives, and yield cost-savings of tens of trillions of dollars by preventing future pandemics. Yet human health and safety needn’t wait for the commercialisation of cruelty-free cultured meat and animal products. Wet markets, vivisection labs, factory-farms and slaughterhouses are crimes against sentience; they should be outlawed. Future civilisation will be vegan. IM: Humanity’s self-sabotaging nature exists in many forms. One, in particular, a form of self-assertion by denying, ignoring, or attacking what others consider to be true - the fear of others - is as subtle and universal as it is destructive. This form of self-defense mechanism so prevalent in modern society prevents people from establishing effective communication channels that are all-encompassing, flexible, and effective, in particular towards problem-solving. Could humans ever turn mindfulness, gratitude, hope, and a sense of solidarity into sustainable practices? DP: Evolution didn’t “design” humans to be nice to each other – except insofar as friendliness promoted the inclusive fitness of their genes. Some transhumanists worry about the spectre of unfriendly artificial general intelligence; but our biggest challenge is creating sentience-friendly biological intelligence. Maybe the shock of COVID-19 will help persuade killer apes to close the death factories and accelerate an anti-speciesist revolution. Maybe the shock of COVID-19 will help persuade free-market fundamentalists that all people have a fundamental right to basic income, homes and healthcare. I’d love to believe that humans will “turn mindfulness, gratitude, hope and a sense of solidarity into sustainable practices”, as you suggest. But unless we combine dietary, political and socio-economic reform with remediation of our sinister source code, the well-being of all sentience remains a utopian dream. Depravity is hardwired into our DNA – a lot of it, at any rate. The worst of “human nature” must be genetically cured. IM:To establish a global pandemic immunity for the novel coronavirus, our priorities are: 1. to keep people safe from getting the coronavirus through social distancing, 2. to figure out a way to contact-trace and test millions of people a day to know who can resume working, 3. to come up with treatments and vaccinations that can prevent coronavirus flare-ups, in particular third world countries, 4. to continue travel restrictions and global collaboration, 5. to improve our supply chain and infrastructure. Do you think this plan is aligned with the transhumanist goal of improving the human condition? DP: Becoming transhuman will entail overcoming deeply-rooted ethnocentric and anthropocentric bias. COVID-19 has already triggered an upsurge in racism and xenophobia. Coronaviruses and future pathogens could be readily tamed with the aid of ubiquitous testing and tracking apps. But many people are (rightly) afraid that tracking measures introduced to tackle catastrophes like COVID-19 – biometric scanning, phone location data, credit-card information, security footage and so forth – will be used by authoritarian regimes to control rather than protect us. IM: The success of a global plan to turn the economy around towards the sustainable implementation of a universal health care system that can successfully handle crisis depends not only on improving our own neural architecture but on re-defining our value system. Professor Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, also a distinguished philosopher of posthuman studies from Cabo University, Italy, whom I'm also interviewing in this issue of Immoralists Magazine (See: “The Future Of Digital Surveillance and Healthcare - A Conversation with World Leading Philosopher Stefan Lorenz Sorgner” APR-MAY 2020), makes a bold argument stating that when it comes to health and privacy, the problem isn’t about giving up privacy, but our understanding of what privacy means to us. He argues that people aren’t afraid of giving up privacy, but being sanctioned by the government. We soon realize that the fear isn’t the loss of privacy but the inability to live as one pleases. Stefan believes that the collection of digital data by means of total surveillance is needed and can be established through mutually beneficial contracts where citizens give access to their biometrics to governments in exchange for a free health care system that keeps everyone safe and healthy. He adds, "in order to collect all the relevant data, the data needs to be sold in between the companies or the companies and the government." Do you think that a decentralized, non-commercial, peer-to-peer system would be more effective, or could we instead establish a hybrid system that restricts government and companies access to people's biometrics? DP: Let’s step back for a moment. Why exactly does privacy matter? The Borg has no concept of privacy. Many Christians believe that a benevolent and omniscient God is privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings. But we needn’t invoke science-fiction or theology. If mutually “loved up” on oxytocin-releasing euphoriant empathogens like MDMA (Ecstasy), people can forget about privacy and be honest with each other: oxytocin has been dubbed the “trust hormone”. More radically, the conjoined craniopagus twins Krista and Tatiana Hogan share a thalamic bridge. In a sense, they are distinct persons. But Krista and Tatiana can partially see though each other’s eyes and taste and feel what the other is experiencing. So in another sense, the twins can share a mind as well as a body. Maybe our transhuman successors will be able to “mind meld” via reversible thalamic bridges. If so, mind-melding technologies will inaugurate a revolution of true honesty – and (lack of) personal privacy – as understood by archaic Darwinian lifeforms. Science, morality and decision-theoretic rationality will be revolutionised too. By contrast, “normal” humans today are profoundly ignorant of each other. Moreover, most prefer to stay ignorant – and prefer others stay ignorant of them. For sure, humans want to feel loved, appreciated and respected. But we also want to prevent others from truly understanding us – as distinct from acknowledging our idealised public personae. Some of the reasons why contemporary humans want to preserve their privacy may be irrational – for example, embarrassment over bodies and their functions or a taste in porn. But the problem goes deeper. Social, personal and business life depends on a web of deceptions. If our dark, Darwinian minds practised “radical honesty”, then human society and personal relationships would collapse. Today, we have the justified suspicion that if other humans learned our secrets, they might exploit such knowledge to harm us. Anyhow, to answer your question more directly: if adequate safeguards can be established, then everyone’s mental and physical health would be best served by allowing medical authorities to have full genetic and biometric data for all citizens, ideally from birth if not conception. Later this century, universal access to preimplantation genetic screening and counselling and CRISPR genome-editing should be available for all prospective parents. Centralised genetic knowledge-banks available to medical researchers would promote public health and benefit individuals and society alike. However, the risks to personal freedom from sharing such knowledge are far-reaching. I will need to study Stefan Sorgner’s proposals properly before offering comment. But in my view, universal access to free healthcare, basic income and adequate housing shouldn’t depend on surrendering genetic privacy and other biometric details. Universal and unconditional access to healthcare, basic income and adequate housing is a precondition of any civilised society. One possible solution to the privacy dilemma may involve artificial intelligence. If implemented wisely, the practice of sharing intimate personal and biometric details with smart digital zombies won’t involve embarrassment or scope for human-style abuse. We’re already heading for a world of robo-carers, robo-nurses, robo-doctors and robo-surgeons: insentient robo-epidemiologists aren’t so different – not a Nanny State, but “Nanny AI”. But I believe this kind of AI option would need rolling out over decades. The devil is in the details. IM: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are planning to partner up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to begin exploring possible COVID-19 treatments. It is known that the Zuckerberg-Chan Initiative is also on a mission to “eliminate all diseases within our children’s lifetime”. How are super longevity initiatives relevant to our quest to establish a universal health care system and happiness? DP: Humanity needs a more ambitious conception of health – the kind of conception laid out in the founding constitution of the World Health Organization. I hope that we can indeed “eliminate all diseases within our children’s lifetime”. Yet even if all recognised genetic disorders and infections were eradicated, horrific suffering would persist in the world – all sorts of physical and mental pain. Under a regime of natural selection, a predisposition to suffering and discontent is genetically adaptive. So we wouldn’t really be healthy, just not sick. Our genomes need fixing. Hence the need for a biohappiness revolution – a civilised information-signalling system underpinned by gradients of intelligent bliss. Superlongevity? Only revolutionary medical breakthroughs can abolish death and aging. We don’t yet have the knowledge. Organs and bodies can be replaced, repaired and/or enhanced indefinitely with recognisable extensions of existing technologies; but the central nervous system is more challenging to re-engineer: I’m more pessimistic than some of my transhumanist colleagues about credible time-scales for eternally youthful mind-brains. Therefore we need a twin-track approach: SENS and Calico should work together with Alcor. Universal access to cryonics and cryothanasia could potentially make a transhumanist civilization available to all sentient beings – even the elderly and infirm for whom talk of posthuman paradise is apt to sound personally irrelevant. Hormonally, I’m one of Nature’s pessimists; but I think we are destined for a glorious “triple S” civilisation of superlongevity, superintelligence and superhappiness. IM: How does transhumanism address issues of racism and injustice? DP: The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009) affirms our commitment to the well-being of all sentience. This goal sounds impossibly utopian. Consider just one form of injustice, economic inequality. Traditional routes to a fairer world involve “winners” and “losers”. Zero-sum games are endemic to human society. Worse, the enforcement mechanisms of greater fairness often turn out to be as bad - or worse - than the injustices they attempt to remedy. Consider the fate of socialist experiments of twentieth-century history. Transhuman society will be different. Information-based technology promises to erase traditional left-right distinctions by creating effectively unlimited abundance of anything that can be digitised – and that embraces almost everything. (Some transhumanists claim that everything can be digitised, but let’s postpone discussion of whether conscious minds are a classical phenomenon.) Digital information is egalitarian. Intellectual-property owners may blanch, but we can now take for granted that everyone can enjoy access to the world’s musical resources, electronic games, movies and computer software. This unfolding revolution will continue into an era of augmented reality and immersive VR. Most importantly, access to genetic information and mastery of our reward circuitry will soon be democratised. Code for the biological substrates of subjective well-being doesn’t need to be rationed any more than the source code of digital music needs to be rationed. We could all become hedonic trillionaires. Many of the world’s worst inequalities aren’t economic or socio-political, but biological-genetic: disparities of mood, motivation and hedonic range. Just consider who is better off: a rich, angst-ridden depressive or a poor, healthy hyperthymic? Transhumanism promises a civilisation based entirely on gradients of intelligent bliss. Potentially, everyone can be a hedonic “winner”. Yet what about tackling injustice now? In my view, universal basic income (UBI), decent housing and free healthcare shouldn’t be a political left-right issue, but a precondition of civilised society. Thus broadly libertarian transhumanists such as Zoltan Istvan support UBI no less than transhumanists in the left-liberal tradition. My own gut instincts have always favoured the underdog. But the neocortex is a more effective tool of cognition than the enteric nervous system. Rich and poor, black and white, human and nonhuman animals – we are all victims of our legacy wetware. Everyone will benefit when our Darwinian source code is fixed. Any prospective parent who believes that creating new life is ethically permissible should consider preimplantation genetic screening, counselling and (soon-to-be) professional gene-editing. Defeating racism? This really demands a treatise, but here goes. From antiquity to the present, dominant groups have convinced themselves they are intellectually, morally and spiritually superior to stigmatised outsiders – and touted “objective” measures to prove it. The evolutionary roots of racial discrimination, bigotry and xenophobia run deep. Everything from cultural stereotypes to the institutional racism in our criminal justice systems and even transgenerational epigenetic inheritance (i.e. transmission of epigenetic information through the germline) mean that the effects of systemic racism will take generations to overcome. Our posthuman successors may find the differences between human ethnic groups akin to the differences that humans discern between different dogs or mice or beetles. Yes, there are differences between different breeds of dog and mouse – and beetle! But humans can recognise that these differences are trivial compared to what all dogs, mice and beetles have in common. Likewise posthuman superintelligence vis-à-vis archaic humans. Education harnessed to intelligence-amplification can help overcome racist prejudice and other cognitive deficits of perspective-taking ability. But creating empathetic superintelligence will be a monumental challenge. IM: How can transhumanism positively affect policies that affect all sentient life? DP: A “triple S” civilisation of superintelligence, superlongevity and superhappiness can benefit all sentient beings. Everyone could benefit from “narrow” superintelligence on a neurochip; Neuralink is just a foretaste of tomorrow’s implantable brain-machine interfaces. Some doomsters fear a zombie coup from runaway software-based AGI; but all the benefits of “narrow” AGI can be incorporated within one’s own CNS. So transhumans will be supersapient and supersentient. Full-spectrum superintelligence will be us, not some fanciful zombie overlord. Transhumanism also offers a richer conception of intelligence than the narrow, “autistic” component of general intelligence measured by simple-minded IQ tests: enhanced social cognition, superior co-operative problem-solving skills, an expanding circle of compassion, and the tools to explore alien state-spaces of consciousness. Yet who will live long enough to enjoy triple-S civilisation? Unless you’re a hydra, you and your loved ones suffer from the lethal hereditary disease we call “aging”. Rejuvenating interventions such as regular therapeutic blood exchange can potentially turn back the biological clock. “Cyborgisation” and synthetic body parts will increasingly enhance, repair and replace biological organs. But full-blown body-replacement is still decades away. Therefore we need not just medico-genetic advances, but also a medico-legal revolution: opt-out cryonics and opt-in cryothanasia for life-loving oldsters. At its best, transhumanism is all-inclusive. Critically, the biohappiness revolution won’t be race- or species-specific. Transhumanists aspire to transcend ethnocentric and anthropocentric bias. Everyone can potentially benefit from genetically programmed well-being – a civilised signalling system to replace the dismal dial-settings of a Darwinian hedonic treadmill. There is a crying need for the World Health Organization to live up to its obligations as set out in its founding constitution. Good health should be the birthright of all sentient beings – or else they shouldn’t have been conceived in the first place. I’m personally gloomy about timescales for the abolitionist project. Centuries? Millennia? I don’t know. However, a hundred-year blueprint to eradicate suffering is technically feasible. The world’s last experience below hedonic zero will mark a major evolutionary transition in the development of life on Earth. My own focus is the plight of nonhuman animals – humble minds as sentient and sapient as small children and worthy of equivalent care. Currently, the abuse of nonhumans by humans is systematic. Factory-farming and slaughterhouses are nastier than even the most virulent racism and child abuse. Ideally, moral argument alone would suffice: I’d implore everyone to adopt a cruelty-free vegan lifestyle. But transhumanists are hard-headed. We tend to favour technical solutions to ethical problems. Cultured meat and cultured animal products once belonged to science fiction. Yet over the next few decades, the cultured meat revolution will end the horrors of animal agriculture. The death factories will close. The surviving victims will be rehabilitated. Zoonotic plagues like COVID-19 spawned by animal abuse like will pass into history. And looking further ahead, what Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus called “the great slaughterhouse of Nature” can be civilised too. The biohappiness revolution can be extended to the rest of the living world via genome editing, cross-species fertility-regulation and synthetic gene drives. The entire tree of life is programmable. For sure, pilot studies in self-contained mini-biospheres will be prudent. But post-Darwinian ecosystems won’t resemble today’s snuff movie. Post-Darwinian ecosystems will be engines of bliss. IM: What approach would you recommend for someone that intends to recalibrate their hedonic set-point and live "better than well" in a sustainable way in the current technological paradigm, before the democratization of gene-editing arrives, assuming that all the typical healthy habits (sleep, nutrition, exercise, meaningful social interactions) have been already maxed out? DP: Most people today have not “maxed out” their genetic potential. Optimising sleep, nutrition and exercise is more often preached than practised. Yet what about depressive people who done everything right and still aren’t happy? Maybe they have also tried nutritional supplements (omega-3 fatty acids, S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAMe), St John’s wort, etc) and worked their way through the officially sanctioned mood-brighteners – “antidepressants” such as the SRRIs, MAOIs, tricyclics, bupropion and so forth. Meditation, cognitive-behavioural therapy and other non-biological interventions hasn’t produced lasting relief. Nothing works. The set-point of their hedonic treadmill is too simply low. It’s tragic. I’ve no easy answers to the hardest cases. One of the biggest challenges to pharmacological (as distinct from genetic) remediation and enhancement is that the neurotransmitter system most directly involved in hedonic tone is the opioid system. We are all born dysfunctional opioid addicts with cravings to fix. Alas, exogenous opioids have well-known pitfalls for users, their families and society at large. That said, there is still scope for creative psychopharmacology. For example, the “French” antidepressant tianeptine - a full mu and delta opioid receptor agonist – can be combined with a selective kappa opioid receptor antagonist. (Kappa agonists induce dysphoria.) Also, perhaps add the novel agent LIH383. LIH383 blocks the atypical “scavenger” opioid receptor ACKR3. Blockade of ACKR3 increases the availability of opioid peptides that can bind to classical CNS opioid receptors, thereby increasing their “natural” mood-brightening action. The negative-feedback mechanisms of the hedonic treadmill can be sabotaged. However, this kind of cocktail of creative psychopharmacology is best explored with the aid of a medical specialist. If all else fails, the modern equivalent of “wireheading” would work. Intracranial self-stimulation is not the transhumanist vision of paradise engineering: superintelligent life based on information-sensitive gradients of bliss. Wireheading is clearly a last resort. But no one should be forced to suffer: it’s unethical.Fortunately, future sentience will be blissful.
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