Jesse Ventura has had many titles. He has been a Navy seal, a professional wrestler, an actor, a mayor and Governor of Minnesota, and now with his new truTV show Ventura is taking on a new title: conspiracy theorist.
On "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura," which premieres on Dec. 2nd at 10 pm, Ventura and his team of researchers take on a number of curious conspiracies and postulate if the terrorist attack on 9/11 was an inside job, or if the mysterious High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) complex in rural Alaska has the power to create tidal waves and control minds. Starpulse spoke to Governor Ventura about developing the show, his conversation with Fidel Castro and if the government is even capable of pulling off such elaborate stunts.
Starpulse: How long have conspiracy theories been an interest of yours?
Jesse Ventura: Well, it started back actually in my days when wrestling made the transition from the 26 territories to being a nationwide sport. Well what that did was it took us out of automobiles and put us on airplanes. And if you've ever traveled a lot, at one point I wrestled 63 consecutive nights in a row, you find out there's a lot of dead time in an airplane and an airport so I read. I got into reading to reading conspiracy, particularly the John F. Kennedy assassination that happened when I was a child, and I find it very intriguing reading because you realize there is always the possibility that what you are reading is true. And there's always the possibility that who you read about are actual living, breathing people, or they were. It's not a figment of a novelist's imagination or characters made up in their head. And so I have always found that intriguing and it was natural that this show would come about because of my passion for delving into this type of thing.
How do you pick what conspiracy theories to cover for the show?
That was a battle between myself and the network. We decided that this first run we would keep all of them within the decade, within the last 10 year period, so there won't be shows on Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy or that nature. They're all within the last decade, and we would just put a batch of them into the pot and we'd start going through the pot, we'd have a bit of a tug-of-war. We finally settled on the 7, we did an initial pilot, and then when they ordered 6 more, we settled on the 6 more, forged ahead and got the job done.
In researching what theories that you covered, did you find that any of them were false or didn't have as much there as you thought they would?
That's gonna be really up to you the viewer. We're going to present the theory to you. You will hear live interviews and at the end of it, you can use your good judgment on whether you think it has validity or not. We don't take that presumption. We're just investigating the chances that it could be true, and we try to exploit that it might be true, and ultimately it's left up to you….
Originally we were going to show both sides, but in one case in which generally it's the government, they don't cooperate at all. You can't talk to anyone, they don't answer any questions and they virtually stonewall you. Well, in light of that fact, it becomes very difficult then to portray their side. So it ends up that the show evolved to the more conspiratal side, or the opposite side of the government. Which to me is good, because it gets on the record that there is other thoughts about some major event or events not necessarily what the government told us. And let me add, my doubts on the government have accelerated since I left office over the many things that have happened, including the fact that in 2004 when I was teaching at Harvard, McNamara came through and said the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened. Well, my government's lied to me so often now, they don't have a big credibility with me, and so I tend to look away from them for the answer.
On the show you work with a team of researchers. Who are they, and what are their backgrounds?
They come from a variety of backgrounds. They're young, aggressive people who can ask questions. June [Sarpong] is a very accomplished reporter. I mean, she's on a first name basis with Tony Blair; she's interviewed a marvelous array of people worldwide. And so she's a valuable asset because she knows how to conduct an interview properly, and get information and doing it in a not so much in-your-face manner that I tend to do. So we tried to get people who could work opposite to the way I tend to work. We thought we could accomplish more doing that. And the others, Alex [Piper] is the proverbial skeptic. I mean just about every one we do Alex don't believe it, and you get the sense of that. But, you know, we still forge forward. He still gets his assignments and he carries them out professionally, even though you can clearly see that most all the time he doesn't believe it.
With the show, it seems that you're more interested in raising questions than you are in answering them, is that true?
We don't have the time to answer them! We don't have the budget to answer them, and we don't have subpoena power. I think to get the answers to these questions you'd need to have subpoenas, because the government ain't talkin. So how can you get to the bottom of anything? Yes, the show is completely to raise questions, and there's nothing wrong with that. When did we become a country where you couldn't question? We've lost sight of that. We've been told now you can't question things, especially in the case of 9/11. You're called unpatriotic if you ask a question about it, and I find that offensive. I was trained in demolition by a chief warrant officer who taught me there is no dumb question. If you don't know the answer to it, then it's certainly not dumb to you. And I think that works well with demolition, because in demolition you can make a mistake by not asking a question, and you could blow up one of your teammates--which would be the worst thing I can imagine. And so I've lived my life living that, that there is no dumb question. So I ask questions, and the problem is you just don't get answers. Why?
For the show, were there any conspiracy theories that you thought were too out there for you to consider? Like the David Icke theory that the world is controlled by an Illuminati shape-shifting reptile-men?
I didn't go into Area 51 at all; we stayed away from any aliens and all that. We tried to do theories that had good foundation to them. Even though some of them are… Like take the "Manchurian Candidate…" Records show that in the 50s, 60s and 70s, they were using mind control. That's undeniable, it's in their own documents, and we believe it's being ramped up again. You know there's interesting things like that that seem way out there, they seem far fetched, but I think when you watch the show, it will put them in some perspective for you to where you can understand that they're not that far fetched.
In your book "Don't Start the Revolution without Me" you recount meeting Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and that he talked to you about the Kennedy assassination.
That's true, yes.
What did he tell you?
Well, I brought it up. I was sitting with Castro and I had one hour and I glanced at my watch and I had 20 minutes left. He was that perceptive at that time, I don't know about his health today. But when I glanced at my watch, Castro said "I'm sorry, am I keeping you from something?" And I was honest, I said "no." I said "I know I only have 20 more minutes and I'd like to ask you a personal question if I could." And he said "Ask me anything you'd like." So I went into the scenario with Kennedy and how I'd studied all these years, and how in numerous scenarios [Castro] was very prominent and I said I'd just like your perception of what happened, and I couldn't keep him quiet for 20 minutes. Had I had another hour he would have happily filled that hour.
He told me it was an inside job. He told me at the time he was not suicidal, he had nothing to do with it. Plus he said "if I would have killed Kennedy, Cuba wouldn't exist anymore," and I think that's pretty good logic. And then he said he was very close to the Soviets at that time, and that the Soviets' response to Kennedy, what they told Castro, was "You can talk to this man." So, clearly the Soviets did not have animosity towards Kennedy. So that certainly leads you to believe that it wasn't foreigners who did it. Kind of the same scenario you have with President Obama today.
How do you mean?
It's something we hope would never happen, but if something were to happen to President Obama, I wouldn't look to it from outside the country. I'd look inside the country first, and I'll leave it at that *laughs*.
That sort of leads to my next question. Do you feel that conspiracy theories can be used to create false dissent? Meaning that there are people out there who still don't believe that Barack Obama is a native born American or is a secret Muslim sleeper agent-
Oh, those are silly, that stuff's silly. You know, that's the problem, it's like third party politics. You can have solid third party politics, but the problem is you're all lumped in to all the fringe groups. That's a stereotype that happens. How do you think conspiracies thrive? They thrive upon the fact that they've convinced the public that they're all these way-out loonies. When if you truly look at it for a moment, the government only provides theories, what proof do they provide? I'll ask you right now, what proof has the government provided Bin Laden did it?...
Well, there's the 9/11 Commission.
And that thing's a joke! That wasn't to determine guilt. They said it right at the outset. So what have they proven? Here's my point: have they indicted Bin Laden? No! Why haven't they indicted him for the crime? That's the process. Why hasn't the government convened a grand jury, put forth their evidence and indicted him? Yet they've convicted him and they put a bounty on him. Boy that sounds more like the Wild West to me. And the fact that we now allow torture, when that's against the law? Why are we circumventing the system when it comes to dealing with terrorism? You have to accept the rule of law even when it's inconvenient, if you're going to be a country that bides by the rule of law.
One reason that conservatives and Libertarians fight to keep government small is that they see it as a shambles of red tape and ineffective leadership, and it's a system where the president has difficulty passing legislation that he endorses. But many conspiracies portray the government as a sinister all know entity. Do you think that the government is capable of some of the elaborate secrets and set-ups required for many of these theories to be true?
Absolutely, absolutely. Our government is so secretive today. They mislead us, they--let me put it to you this way, they have no credibility with me because they've lied to me so often. They lied to me about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, they lied to me about weapons of mass destruction, they lied to me about ties to Al-Qaeda. You know, arms for hostages, I mean you go down the line, lie after lie after lie. And then it turns out that all conspiracy things, all of a sudden now they're telling the truth? Well if they're truthful, how come they have to lock everything up because of national security? What can knowing the truth affect our national security?...
My point is that they're not forthcoming. I fought making this show, we got zero cooperation. And like the HAARP show, I mean this is called an unclassified research center, well if it's unclassified why can't I go in? We didn't bulrush the gate; we put forth three or four requests through proper channels and were flatly turned down. And yet it's funded by DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - ed.], the most secretive part of the Pentagon. Well always remember something, judge a person not by what they say but what they do. If they tell you it's unclassified but it's paid for by the most classified part of the Pentagon, what do you think the reality is? And why are they being deceitful about it? After all, don't I pay their checks? My taxes are paying for it, don't I have a right to know about it?... Now you know the rampage I'm on *laughs*.
"Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura" premieres on Dec. 2nd at 10 pm on truTV