The man who has no imagination has no wings. Muhammad Ali
As a child, I was a huge Star Trek fan. Even now, some of the shows have stuck in my mind. I recall one episode in which the Enterprise happens on an alternate planet Earth, at a twentieth century level of development, in which the Roman Empire never fell. This may well have been my first exposure to the genre of counterfactual historical fiction.
I have long thought that, if I ever did have the follow-through to write a novel, it would surely be in this vein. The possibilities are endless, after all. Just imagine an alternate timeline in which the American War of Independence had been unsuccessful. Or what if the Confederacy had won the Civil War? So many ideas to explore…
Along these lines, I shall now tell you of an alternate planet Earth, much like our own, though different in some ways. In what follows, when the distinction must be made, we shall refer to our own planet Earth as canonical Earth and the alternate planet Earth as Terra prime — or Terra’ or Earth’ for short.
Superficially, there is not so much difference between Terra prime and our canonical Earth. The continents and countries are all in the same places. The foremost military and economic power on Terra’, in the early 21st century, is the United States of America which, again, we shall refer to as USA prime or USA’ when there is a need to distinguish it from our canonical United States. The current president of USA’ is a loud-mouthed playboy billionaire named Randy Hump. His predecessor was the suave Baruch Mandingo, the country’s first president of African ancestry.
Actually, if you were to go to sleep one day and wake up on Terra’, it could take you a while to figure out that you were on another planet since so many things are quite similar. In fact, you would even run into people whom you recognize. For instance, Terra’ has its very own Sarah Palin, Sarah’ if you will, who often appears on the television. However, Sarah’ was never governor of Alaska. She went straight from her busy acting career to run for vice-president on the ill-fated McAbel-Palin ticket.
So, as the Sarah Palin example shows, sometimes somebody on Terra’ will have had a somewhat different life trajectory than the person’s counterpart on canonical Earth. Surely the most striking example of this is the case of Kevin Barrett. The lives of Kevin’ and canonical Kevin ran in parallel up until some point in the 1990’s and then sharply diverged. On both canonical Earth and Terra prime, Kevin converted to Islam some time in the early nineties. However, on Terra’, Kevin (Kevin’ to be precise) later turned towards an ever more violent, radical version of Islam. By the end of the century, his sermons had radicalized followers around the world and inspired a number of grisly terrorist attacks. By then, Kevin had long since left his native Wisconsin and purportedly moved to a luxury cave complex in Afghanistan, where he was protected by an inner circle of fanatical followers who would defend “the Sheik” with their very lives.
Even though, by 2000, the American CCB (Central Cleverness Bureau) listed Kevin Barrett at the very top of their “Most Wanted” list, hardly any of the insouciant American people would have even recognized his name. If you had asked just about any of them what should be done about the Kevin Barrett terrorist threat, they would have just looked at you blankly and said:
But this complacency was shattered on that fateful day of 9/11/2001, on which several huge skyscrapers, occupying prime real estate (in Manhattan prime) spontaneously imploded. Almost immediately, the television networks all knew who was responsible. The dust had not settled on “ground zero” before they were all shouting in unison:
Thus began what would become known popularly as the WOK, the War on Kevin. Patriotic young people lined up outside recruitment centers to volunteer to do their duty in this monumental battle of good versus evil.
The president at the time, Jorge Shrub, within days, declared what came to be known as the Shrub doctrine:
In this struggle against pure evil, we will make no distinction between Kevin Barrett and those who harbor him. Thus, any country that provides a haven to Kevin Barrett will be treated exactly as if it was Kevin Barrett.
On the basis of the Shrub doctrine, several countries were completely destroyed after unsubstantiated Kevin Barrett sightings.
The Invasion of Iraq. “Kevin who?”
The case of Iraq is rather special because it was never even alleged that Kevin Barrett had ever been in Iraq. The case made for the invasion, regime change, was that the Iraqi regime was developing WMD, weapons of mass destruction, that it was then going to give to Kevin Barrett.
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq,
Mossad asset journalist Wolf Blitzer flew off to Baghdad to interview the Iraqi leader. Not a man to beat about the bush, Blitzer got straight to the point.
“Mr. President, do you intend to give your weapons of mass destruction to Kevin Barrett?”
The Iraqi president, looking totally confused, muttered something in Arabic. What he said apparently was:
The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, acting as interpreter, then translated this as:
“We join America in your holy war against the evil Kevin Barrett. We have no WMD, but if we did, we would never dream of giving them to Kevin Barrett or any of his evil followers.”
When Wolf Blitzer asked whether this was a correct translation of what the president said, Mr. Aziz said it most definitely was.
“Arabic, you know, compared to English, is a very terse language.”
What happened soon after this is broadly similar to what transpired on canonical Earth. Iraq was the next country to be invaded. It turned out that there was no trace of WMD there or of Kevin Barrett for that matter.
Actually, American investigators later sifted through millions of pages of official Iraqi government documents and found exactly one mention of the name “Kevin Barrett”. It occurs in the minutes of the cabinet meeting that was held shortly after the aforementioned Wolf Blitzer interview. President Saddam Hussein began the meeting as follows:
“Gentlemen, before we get down to business, one quick question… Who the hell is Kevin Barrett?“
The record shows that this question was met with a collective shrugging of the shoulders. The government ministers responded in unison:
Don’t be an SOB!
As you can surely see by now, Terra’ is a pretty zany place. In the years after Kevin Barrett’s 9/11 terrorist attack, the government of USA’ doubled their defense (sic) budget and then doubled it again. Looking at this from our distant vantage point on canonical Earth, we might be perplexed at this. Why did no political figures point out the obvious? For example, somebody could have said:
“Look, this Kevin Barrett is but one middle-aged man who does not possess a single tank, submarine, warplane, or any other modern weapon of war, nor does he have any means to make any of these things. So, perhaps the trillion dollars we are now spending annually on the WOK could be better spent elsewhere.”
Of course, there is a simple reason that nobody said the above. In the post-9/11 climate, it was political suicide to appear to be SOB, i.e. “Soft on Barrett”. In fact, politicians were in a perpetual contest to see which one could present himself as the biggest HOK (Hard on Kevin).
In his campaign for the presidency, the climactic moment in Juan McAbel’s standard stump speech was when he vowed to the cheering crowd of supporters:
“I’m gonna chase Kevin Barrett to the very gates of Hell!”
senile old foolgreat war hero McAbel was confident that this made him a shoo-in to win the election. “Surely,” he reasoned, “people will want to see that!”
Well, surely they did, but it was still not enough to overcome his better looking, more youthful, well-spoken opponent, Baruch Mandingo. No, poor McAbel never made it to the White House. He went back to his seat in the Senate while his running mate, Sarah Palin, returned to her lucrative career in MILF porn.
You can’t win ’em all…
The Known Unknowns
While it is certainly true that Kevin Barrett did not possess any military armament to speak of, he did wield a pretty impressive knife in the various beheading videos that he regularly put out to terrorize the American population. The videos were filmed in an unidentified location that was popularly known as the “Barrett Cave”.
Right after 9/11, President Shrub had vowed to “smoke Kevin Barrett out of his cave”. However, years later, the CCB, with all its resources, was still unable to ascertain the location of the “Barrett Cave”. This was not for lack of trying. There was something of a scandal when it became known that the CCB had been rounding up goat herders in Afghanistan and
torturing themsubjecting them to enhanced interrogation. It is now known that these interrogation sessions invariably began the same way.
“Tell us where is Kevin Barrett!
“Where is the Barrett Cave?”
“The what cave???”
In the face of such stonewalling, it is perfectly understandable that the CCB interrogators would resort to increasingly harsh methods. And it worked. Eventually, after the requisite amount of
tortureenhanced interrogation, these poor wretcheshardened terrorists would admit that they personally knew Kevin Barrett and would offer to lead their interrogators to him, if only they would not be torturedinterrogated any more.
Still, years went by and they could never locate Kevin Barrett, and all the while, Kevin was mocking the United States of America, putting out more beheading videos. Also, from time to time, some troubled individual would go shoot some kids in a school, but only after declaring his undying loyalty to Kevin Barrett on TwitBook. Naturally, Kevin would claim responsibility for these incidents and declare that the perpetrator was a holy martyr now enjoying his virgins in paradise. (The number of virgins for the martyrs in paradise was originally 72, but later, to bolster recruitment efforts, Kevin would increase the number, and eventually, he declared the number to be unlimited. He had received the divine revelation that paradise, for martyrs at least, was an all-you-can-**** smorgasbord.)
When grilled about the repeated intelligence failure in locating the Barrett Cave, and asked what progress had been made so far, the Secretary of Defense, Ronald Dumsfeld explained:
“We know for a fact that the Barrett Cave is either in Afghanistan or is located some place outside of Afghanistan.”
Dumsfeld called this a known unknown. He then added wistfully: “You know, the damnedest thing is that that Barrett makes me ashamed to be from the Midwest.”
Of course, Dumsfeld was not alone in not wanting any association with the now public enemy #1. A study showed that the vast majority of legal name changes were now from “Kevin” to something else. While “Kevin” had always been a fairly popular boy’s name in America, since 9/11, there were hardly any baby Kevins — though “Kevin” was still slightly more popular than “Adolf”.
Yet another way in which Terra’ resembles canonical Earth is the presence of conspiracy theorists. (Don’t you just hate those guys?) Just as in our world, they make all kinds of absurd, unfounded claims.
For example, some have even said that the various Kevin Barrett beheading videos are fake, that the blood is just ketchup. One such conspiracy video claims that the dreaded “Barrett beheading knife” is a cheap article made in China that couldn’t cut through brie cheese, much less behead anybody. (They demonstrate this in the video, having purchased the very same knife at Walmart for $1.99.)
Their absurd nonsense knows no limits. Some even go on to claim that it’s not even the same person portraying Kevin Barrett in all of the videos. In one particularly annoying “Truther” video, they film some of the people that Kevin Barrett is supposed to have beheaded hanging out on the beach in Tel Aviv. (With their heads firmly in place of course.)
What these “Truther” vermin are trying to do, of course, is to undermine public confidence in the government’s handling of the WOK, and this has made it necessary to remove their various videos from TwitBook and other social media sites. Like the canonical USA, the USA’ constitution has a First Amendment affirming “freedom of speech”. However, these sick conspiracy wackos cannot be allowed to poison people’s minds with their deranged theories.
“The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”
Will you take your tea before or after the beheading?
Now, it is true that some of these Kevin Barrett videos have some strange aspects. The beheading video that the “Truthers” have had a field day with is the one in which Kevin’s English butler makes an appearance at the beginning.
KB: “Can’t you see that I’m busy, Alfred!”
Alfred: “Excuse me for interrupting, Master Kevin. I just wanted to know, will you be taking your tea before or after the beheading?”
KB: “Ah, I see. I shall take my tea after the beheading. Thank you very much, Alfred.”
Alfred: “Very well, sir…”
(The video is hard to watch. During the above dialogue, the camera pans over to the people that Kevin is about to behead who are looking on with a sort of forlorn angst.)
Just as on our canonical Earth, it is one crazy conspiracy theory after another. One particularly unhinged conspiracy theorist has claimed that, in this video, Kevin is portrayed by a minor Venezuelan soap opera actor who only vaguely resembles the real Kevin Barrett, and that the “Barrett Cave” is actually a Hollywood set that has been used in various James Bond movies.
Kevin is Dead (KID) Long live Kevin!
Now, Dear Reader, those of you know know me through my work are already well aware that I hold no truck with these deranged conspiracy theorists. (The ones on Terra’ are just like the ones we know so well here on canonical Earth, a bunch of losers living in their mothers’ basements, who never get laid. On Terra’, they spend an inordinate amount of time watching Sarah Palin videos…)
However, that said, we cannot dismiss everything they say out of hand. You see, the government, both here and on Terra’, has been known (albeit only very occasionally) not to tell the full truth about everything. I think we must be honest and admit that there are enough oddities in this Kevin Barrett narrative to cause a reasonable person to be suspicious. So, I think we should overcome our aversion to these conspiracy nuts just enough to examine some of these viral conspiracy theories, if only to debunk them and put our minds to rest.
As I said, many of these conspiracy theorists claim that the Kevin Barrett in the various beheading videos is not the real Kevin. Fascinating…. Well, the first question to ask these nutters is: “
“*Okay, if this is the case, then… Where is the real Kevin Barrett?
It turns out that, if you wade into the conspiracy literature, there are a variety of answers to this. One important strand is KID (Kevin is dead) according to which the real Kevin Barrett died in an automobile accident some time in the nineties and then was replaced by an actor. (Or possibly a series of different actors.) The KID thesis received an important boost when David Ray Griffin, perhaps the most prominent Truther, published his book “Kevin Barrett, Dead or Alive”, which, after meticulously analyzing the evidence pro and con, leaned towards the view that the real Kevin Barrett had been dead for years.
Still, some of the evidence looks rather tenuous. For example, the KIDders make a lot of hay out of an old video that surfaced of a young Kevin Barrett playing the guitar left-handed. Meanwhile, the older Kevin (whom the conspiracy theorists sometimes call Fevin, “Fake Kevin”) is clearly right-handed, since he always holds the beheading knife in his right hand. Well, this is the kind of weak evidence that these conspiracy wackos typically use. Obviously, it is perfectly possible that somebody would play the guitar left-handed yet behead people right-handed. (After all, that Kevin Barrett is one weird dude!)
Meanwhile, at the very fringes of the conspiracy theory world are those who claim that Kevin Barrett did not die (either in an automobile accident in the 1990’s or of kidney disease in the early 2000’s) for a very simple reason: Kevin Barrett never existed in the first place! According to the no-Keviners, Kevin Barrett was nothing more than an Intel agency psy-op from the very beginning.
The KIDders and the no-Keviners have a very acrimonious relationship, each side accusing the other of being government shills, trying to undermine the Truth movement by creating absurd distractions. The funny thing is that, somehow, neither side realizes that their point of disagreement, whether the pre-WOK Kevin even existed or not, is actually of little practical importance. Other than that, both groups broadly make the same overall case, which goes as follows:
The breakup of the USSR in the nineties posed a great problem to the military industrial complex. It looked like peace was breaking out, which would be terrible for business. Something needed to be done. Living up to their name, the Central Cleverness Bureau surmised (correctly) that the American people could be presented with Kevin Barrett as a drop-in replacement for America’s erstwhile enemy, the Soviet Union, and thus, the cold war seamlessly morphed into the WOK.
Business as usual.
Meanwhile, the more mainstream 9/11 Truth movement does not doubt the authenticity of the head chopping Kevin Barrett of the videos. However, they insist that Kevin was a CCB asset from the get-go, on the Bureau payroll then and now. This explains why they have never captured him; they don’t want to.
Down the Rabbit Hole. My own “where is Kevin” theory.
I was thinking long and hard about the foregoing conspiracy theories and I found myself leaning towards the view that the KIDders probably had it right. Things just didn’t look very good for Kevin. (Kevin’ to be precise.) I reasoned that if the CCB had perpetrated an identity theft and created a fake Kevin (Fevin for short) to use in their ongoing propaganda, then the continued existence of the real Kevin would pose a grave risk for them. Of course, if Kevin had already conveniently died in a car accident, as the KIDders claim, there would be no need for them to liquidate him with extreme prejudice. In either case, the “Kevin is dead” theory would be correct.
This put me in a rather prickly position. You see, I know and like Kevin (canonical Kevin) and had no desire to kill him off. (I mean kill off Kevin prime, not the canonical Kevin.) Besides, maybe Kevin wouldn’t appreciate getting killed off. Of course, one would think that he would understand that the Kevin Barrett being killed off is simply a literary character in an imaginary parallel world and would not take it personally. Still, people can be touchy about such things. I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t like getting killed off either. In fact, if somebody killed me off, I likely would never talk to the person again.
Truth told, Terra’ was taking on a life of its own (in my own mind) and I had to remind myself that this alternate reality is my own literary creation and I have complete narrative control over it. So finally, it is up to me to decide whether Kevin is alive or dead. On Terra’ anyway…
So here is what really happened.
Muhammad Abd el-Krim
In the late 90’s, Kevin was living a peaceful existence in Morocco. He first became aware that he was leader of the fearsome terrorist organization Al Qaeda when, one day, he happened on a week-old copy of the International Herald Tribune left behind in a cafe by an American tourist. There he read about the evil terrorist with his name and initially thought: “Wow, what a strange coincidence that this person has the same name as me!” The horror of the situation gradually dawned on him when he realized that he was the victim of a blatant identity theft.
After discussing the situation with some close friends, Kevin decided that the best course of action would be to fake his own death. So, Kevin did “die” in a car accident on a treacherous stretch of highway in the Rif mountains in Northern Morocco. The death of American expatriate Kevin Barrett was indeed reported in the local newspapers. Also, copies of the accident report and death certificate were duly filed in the nearest American consulate. In Morocco, a country where just about anything can be arranged for a price, Kevin acquired the identity of Muhammad Abd el-Krim, who was born in a remote Berber mountain village in 1960.
As luck would have it, “Abd el-Krim” won the green card lottery a couple of years later and a homesick Kevin emigrated to the United States using his new identity. Back in the States, looking for a way to make money, Kevin saw the potential of Internet marketing. He started a website selling specialty items.
After the 9/11 attacks attributed to Kevin Barrett, his company, Abd el-Krim productions, was doing a brisk business selling patriotic items (made cheaply in China) such as American flags and dartboards with his own likeness on them. (To be clear, his likeness prior to undergoing extensive plastic surgery. Now, he was the spitting image of a more youthful Omar Sharif.)
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, there was a campaign to boycott anything French and even purge the English language of French words. On noticing that the word “toilet” was of French origin, various departments of the U.S. government put out memoranda saying that, henceforth there was no such thing as “toilet paper”. It would be called patriot paper.
It took people a while to adjust but they eventually got the message. Like so:
(Somebody comes out of the men’s room) “Hey, I just saw we’re out of toilet paper.”
(more loudly) Toilet paper!
I have no idea what you’re talking about. (winks)
(thinks a minute) Oh, yeah. We’re out of patriot paper.
In this environment, Abd el-Krim productions made a killing with their line of
toiletpatriot paper with Kevin Barrett’s face on each square. As per the marketing literature:
This special line of patriot paper serves to remind people on a daily basis that our nation remains in an existential struggle against Kevin Barrett and his Al Qaeda terrorist organization that is trying to destroy America.
“Kevin Barrett hacked our election!”
Even before his narrow victory in the 2016 presidential election, Randy Hump was under constant attack as being SOB (Soft on Barrett). Admittedly, some of his statements had not helped matters. In an interview with
Mossad assetnewsman Wolf Blitzer, Hump had sounded rather dismissive about the Kevin Barrett threat, leading to this exchange:
Blitzer: “But Kevin Barrett kills people!”
Hump: “Hey, you don’t think America also kills people?”
All of the media ridiculed Hump for making such an absurd claim, calling him the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief. Actually, the ongoing campaign to discredit Hump was just getting started. After the election, the CCB put out the story that Hump had only won the presidency because Kevin Barrett, with his team of elite computer hackers located in the Barrett cave, had managed to hack the election.
Abd el-Krim productions seized the moment by putting out a line of T-shirts with Hump as a puppet on a string being controlled by Kevin Barrett. The caption was “Hump the Chump”. Anti-Hump websites put out the rumor that Hump was a secret convert to Islam.
To Be Continued
Let me close by reminding you, Dear Reader, that Terra’ is a completely fictitious place, and while there may seem to be some slight resemblance to events on our own planet, I can assure you that this is purely coincidental.
In this opening installment in the story of Terra prime, I quickly went over nearly two decades of the important recent history. I know that is a lot for a reader to take in. For now, various plot elements are left dangling.
Will they finally locate the Barrett cave and storm it?
Will Randy Hump be impeached?
Will Sarah Palin retire from acting and take a run at the presidency?