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o Mason Lang
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Related Analysis


The Philadelphia Experiment

According to some of our analysts, The Invisibles explores the term "The Philadelphia Experiment" in two ways - referencing both the alleged time travel experiment of the US Army and also the 'experiment' of American democracy. Both aspects are explored here, under different headings.

The meaning of "The Philadelphia Experiment"

'The Philadelphia Experiment', the title of issues 15 and 16 of Volume 2 of THE INVISIBLES, obviously refers to the alleged time-travel experiments conducted by the United States Government during World War II. In a more obtruse sense, however, it could also refer to the experiment of Liberal Democracy, which symbolically (if not actually) began with the signing of the American Declaration of Independence in the city of Philadelphia (the capital of the USA before Washington, D.C., was built). If this is so, then Grant's commentary on the experiment indicates that he believes it hasn't been entirely successful; that it has, in fact, betrayed itself.

There are a number of little details which confirm this reading, for me. Firstly, when Takashi is handing over the liquid hard-drive of the time-machine, the General asks him who "runs the world?" [Issue 2.15, PAGE 25; Panel 5] It's a rhetorical question: the General obviously believes that the military does, working with the industrial-scientific complex. Many commentators, Noam Chomsky included (I have gleaned most of this argument from ol' Noam), have demonstrated that since WWII the US and the other Western Powers have been on a more or less constant war-footing, if not actually at war (even if only a 'Cold' War). As Mason notes in Issue 2.16 [PAGE 2, Panel 4], the perfect fascist state can only be an efficient political, economic and *psychic* entity if it is constantly at war. This is the second element of my argument. It's not a new insight - George Orwell made a similar point in "1984." What Orwell didn't forsee was how the Entertainment industry would be used to reinforce this point. Thus, the Military-Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned us about has mutated into the Military-Industrial-Entertainment Complex. The recent spate of violent, propagandistic and jingoistic movies -- like Starship Troopers (the movie Mason and John ['a' Dreams?] are discussing) and Independence Day - are only the most obvious of the devices which this Complex uses to keep people paranoid and to convince them of the need to continue spending billions on 'defence' research (President Clinton has, since coming to office, actually increased the amount of money the US spends on the military and defence industries).

Thirdly, when Mason is brought by his parents to see the Liberty Bell, symbol of American Democracy, he can only wonder why the bell is broken [Issue 2.16, PAGE 3, Panel 3]. Mason is the epitome of the American Dream: young, handsome, single, white, a self-made millionaire. And he betrays it. He pisses off a skyscraper onto the world below [Issue 2.16, PAGE 22, Panel 5], this Master of the Universe, displaying an obvious contempt for it (the fourth detail of my argument). He is possibly playing games with the forces of Eternal Freedom, the only ones who can realise the dream of freedom and liberty for all; he is possibly in league with John 'a' Dreams, who is possibly in league with the Archons. In Mason, we see exactly how and why the values embodied in the Liberty Bell are broken.

It's a great image, Mason pissing in the foreground, backgrounded by Manhattan. Resonant, and very depressing. Or was that just me? I found Mason's betrayal of Mob and Co. very depressing. Maybe it's another red herring. Maybe Grant just wants us to think that Mason has betrayed the gang. If it is a red herring, than this argument is a pile of shite ... and you'd do well to ignore it.

Zenkidu [zenkidu@fiberia.com]