Paranoia can destroy your life. But, like that great sage Kurt Cobain once said, "Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you." Tragically, Guru Cobain was shortly thereafter taken from us by the Ant People who secretly rule our media. Every once in a while, though, a paranoid suspicion is just a truth that sounds too crazy to be real until it bites you right in the ass with its supernaturally powerful mandibles.
Billy Mitchell once made the farfetched prediction that "wars would soon be fought in the air and under the sea." That seems pretty reasonable, until you consider that he said it way back in 1906. When World War I rolled along, Mitchell earned the rank of brigadier general and showed the world that he wasn't just full of hot air, becoming one of the most feared Americans in Europe as his aerial forces plagued the German ground forces with hot leaden rain.
We also imagine some rude gestures were exchanged.
Mitchell's airborne prophecies came to a head with his famous battleship trials in 1921, in which he demonstrated how properly equipped airplanes could totally kick a battleship's ass. But this is all firmly in the realm of common sense masquerading as prophecy. Things really only get weird when you consider his prediction that war with the Japanese would begin early one Sunday morning with a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor, shortly followed by an attack on the Philippines.
Yes, he got that specific.
"Let's change the subject; any eerily accurate guesses on tomorrow's lotto numbers?"
The War Plans Division filed his report under B, saying that "Since he so notoriously overestimates what could be done with air power by the United States it is not improbable that he has likewise overestimated what Japan could do." He was court martialed, convicted of insubordination, and suspended from active duty without pay for his lunatic ravings about those awkward metal sea-beasts and strange flitting gunbirds being anything more than novelty items in the grand old tradition of ground warfare.
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"Relax. What's the worst a plane could do?"
But It Turned Out ...
Thanks to your high school history teacher and Michael Bay, you know precisely how this story goes: Early one Sunday morning in December of 1941, a hundred Japanese bombers buzzed over Oahu and made short work of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, then attacked Clark Field in the Philippines just hours later, effectively drawing America into World War II. It was an attack that came as a complete surprise to everybody ... with the exception of Billy Mitchell, who had predicted it with eerie specificity nearly 20 years earlier. His lack of reaction was mostly due to his being dead at the time, but still.
Never let it be said that The Man can't play backsies with the best of 'em: Mitchell's legacy was redeemed when, in 1946, he finally received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his "outstanding pioneer service and foresight in the field of American military aviation." Today, Billy Mitchell is most well known as ... that dick with the '80s hair from the Donkey Kong documentary.
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Let's not forget the milk-curdling sneer.
But a close second as the patron saint of the United States Air Force.
Russ Tice may sound like a shitty Pokemon, but he was much closer to a professional paranoid. Tice was an intelligence analyst for the National Security Agency, serving for decades before he decided to turn whistle-blower in 2005. And when he went, he went big -- Tice ran screaming straight to the New York Times about how the American government was invading the privacy of its citizens. They're reading your emails! They're listening in on your phone conversations!
"They've got your browser history! Abort! Abort!"
What a loon. As if the government could ever guess your password. You used a "3" instead of an "E"! That's practically cryptomancy.
Unfortunately for Tice, this wasn't his first brush with whistle-blowing. In 2001, he suspected a co-worker of being a Chinese double agent and was so insistent that his superiors finally submitted him to an emergency psychological evaluation. They declared that his delusions of being surrounded by Asian 007s were less than concrete and downgraded his security clearance before eventually firing him altogether.
Thanks to his prior tug-of-war with NSA bigwigs, many wondered if Tice was simply spreading malicious rumors after his disgraceful firing. Add to that the fact that his allegations at the time sounded like a bad techno-thriller plot -- the NSA has a massive computer system that can sort and filter hundreds of thousands of conversations in seconds, and only Sandra Bullock can stop it! -- and Tice was difficult to take seriously. Critics said he was paranoid, and professional butt cheek Bill O'Reilly even went so far as to call for Tice to be imprisoned for his outrageous claims.
Always a level-headed voice of reason, that Bill O'Reilly.
But It Turned Out ...
You know exactly how that whole NSA thing turned out: In early 2013, Edward Snowden entered stage left. Unlike Tice, who had always been careful to stick to his non-disclosure agreements while blowing on the ol' whistle, Snowden began drop-kicking secrecy left and right -- the more classified the information, the better. Snowden trucked in a massive amount of physical evidence to support his case, and his revelations proved that Tice was not only telling the truth, but had in fact merely scratched the surface. The entire concept of privacy in America would never be the same! The American public was devastated by this betrayal and displayed said devastation in their own unique way: by briefly skimming the news, deciding it was too long to read, and then going right back to tweeting about celebrity sex tapes and unsatisfying burritos.
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The NSA's files on subpar Mexican food must be staggering.
In October of 2009, NYPD officers of the 81st Precinct were worried about one of their own. Officer Adrian Schoolcraft had been spreading malicious rumors about nefarious activities at the precinct and had been declared "emotionally unstable" by a police department psychiatrist, so when he unexpectedly left work early one day, his co-workers were obviously concerned. That night, they went to his apartment, talked his landlord into giving them a key by explaining that Schoolcraft was suicidal, and then helped him check into a psychiatric ward to get the help he so desperately needed. Oh, and the way they chose to help was by handcuffing him to a gurney. Tough love, you know.
"The duct tape and rope are because we care, man."
While the final report produced by Schoolcraft's involuntary committal indicated plenty of paranoid behavior -- "He expressed questionable paranoid ideas of conspiracy and cover-ups going [on] in the precinct" and "Since then, he started collecting 'evidence' to 'prove his point' and became suspicious 'They are after him.'" -- it was ultimately decided after a few days of observation that he displayed no significant psychiatric symptoms. That didn't stop the hospital from giving Schoolcraft one last kick in the balls as he checked out in the form of a bill for $7,185.
That's still pretty cheap by kidnapping standards.
But It Turned Out ...
Not only had Schoolcraft recorded that handcuff-heavy police visit to his apartment (he had two tape recorders running at the time, but his co-workers only found one), but he had been taping every roll call at the precinct since 2008. And boy oh boy, were these tapes doozies: In order to meet the quotas that the department was expected to produce, officers were repeatedly ordered to arrest people who were just standing around being all law-abiding, deliberately underreport serious crimes ("lost property" sounds a whole lot less scary than "robbery at gunpoint"), or downright ignore victims of serious crimes. Official procedure dictates employing the "Plug your ears, close your eyes, and yell 'Na na I can't seeeee yooou'" maneuver.
Those annoying potential murder victims tend to work themselves out if you ignore them.
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"Screaming followed by the line going dead again? There sure are a lot of prank calls tonight."
Note that Schoolcraft wasn't slapping bugs directly onto the chief of police's ass -- he was simply recording the day-to-day activities of his precinct, and the product was so damning that his superiors had him forcibly committed. The fallout from the tapes contributed to the end of New York City's stop-and-frisk policy and played no small part in shifting the focus of New York City police work away from producing impressive stats and back to actual police work. Or, failing that, kicking some serious ass at Candy Crush while sipping coffee in the cruiser.