Even a broken clock is right twice a day; that’s what they say about people who are supposed to be crackpots. It’s the idea that there is a moment in time when even the most outlandish contention, the most eccentric point of view, the most unlikely person, somehow lines up with shifting reality to produce, however fleetingly, what many perceive to be the truth.
But to accept the notion of the “broken clock” is to embrace the established, rationalist parameters of time, 24 hours a day, day after day, years arranged in ascending numerical order, decade after decade, eon upon eon, a forever forward march to an undetermined future, world without end, amen.
For some people, people like the late Milton William (Bill) Cooper, collector of clocks, time did not work that way. American shortwave talk‐show host, author, and lecturer during the millennial period of the late 1980s onward to the advent of the current century, Bill Cooper chose not to adhere to the mandated linear passage of existence. For Cooper, the entire span of time — the beginning, the middle, and the end — was all equally important, but there could be no doubt where the clock had stopped. A minute to midnight, that was Bill Cooper’s time.
This wasn’t because Cooper, a voracious reader and self‐schooled savant, was anti‐science or anti‐intellectual. He believed in evolution and, like his philosophical hero Aristotle, Cooper treasured the supremacy of knowledge and its acquisition. He had a massive collection of jazz records. But somewhere along the way, dating at least back to his service as river-boat captain in a hot zone during the Vietnam War, Cooper came to believe that something wasn’t right. What he’d always accepted as truth, what he was willing to give his life to protect, wasn’t true at all. It was part of a vast web of lies that stretched back through the centuries, contrived to rob the common man of his unalienable right to know the reality of his place on the planet. It was a deep-seated conviction that became an obsession — and a potent bridge to the current environment, where no one seems to believe anything they’re told, where long-respected bastions of truth are thought to be so corrupt as to be what Donald Trump calls “the enemy of the people.” The idea of “fake news,” along with personages like Alex Jones and QAnon (notably influenced by Cooper) are not unprecedented in American life. But none of them would have manifested as they have without Bill Cooper as an immediate predecessor.
Cooper sought to dramatize the compounding urgency of the moment on The Hour of the Time, the radio program he broadcast from 1992 until November 2001, his resonant, sometimes folksy, sometimes fulminating voice filling the airwaves via satellite hookups and shortwave frequencies. Nearly every episode of The Hour of the Time began the same way, with the show’s singular opening, one of the most arresting sign‐ons in radio history. It starts with a blaring air‐raid siren, a blast in the night. This is followed by a loud, distorted electronic voice: “Lights out!” comes the command, as if issued from a penitentiary guard tower. “Lights out for The Hour of the Time!…Lights out for the curfew of your body, soul, and mind.” Dogs bark, people shriek, the bleat of the still half‐sleeping multitudes. There is the sound of tramping jackbooted feet, growing louder, closing in.
Now is the time, a minute to midnight, 60 seconds before enslavement, one last chance. Some citizens will rise, if only from not-quite‐yet‐atrophied muscle memory. They will shake themselves awake as their forebears once did at Lexington and Concord, heeding Paul Revere’s immortal call. They will defend their homes, families, and the last shreds of the tattered Constitution, the most close‐to‐perfect political document ever produced.
The vast majority, however, won’t even get out of bed. Some will cower under the covers, but most will simply roll over and go back to sleep. They slept through life, so why not sleep through death?
This is how it will be at a minute to midnight, according to Bill Cooper. At the End of Time, a broken clock is always right.
Reputed instances of Cooper’s prescience are legion. An early roundup of these forecasts can be found in the August 15th, 1990, edition of the newsletter of the Citizens Agency for Joint Intelligence (CAJI), an organization Cooper created, billing it as “the largest private intelligence‐gathering agency in the world.” Published on a dot-matrix printer, carrying the tagline “Information, not money, will be the power of the nineties,” Cooper ran an article entitled “Every Prediction Has Come True.” He listed 16 of his most recent prognostications that had come to pass “or will soon be fulfilled.”
These included the disclosure that “the CIA and the military are bringing drugs into the United States to finance their black projects.” Cooper also predicted that “the rape of the Savings and Loans by the CIA is only the tip of the iceberg. At least 600 banks will go under in the next two years.” The current monetary structure, Cooper said, “will be replaced by a cashless system that will allow the government to monitor our every action by computer. If you attempt to stay out of the system you will not be allowed to buy, sell, work, get medical care, or anything else we all take for granted.”
Cooper continued to make predictions in his watershed book, Behold a Pale Horse. Published in 1991 by Light Technology, a small New Age–oriented house then located in Sedona, Arizona, Behold a Pale Horse is something of a publishing miracle. With an initial press run of 3,500 (500 hardcover, 3,000 paperback), by the end of 2017, the book was closing in on 300,000 copies sold.
“Behold a Pale Horse is the biggest‐selling underground book of all time,” Cooper often told his audience. Yet sales figures represent only a fraction of the book’s true reach. For one thing, as its author often bragged, Behold a Pale Horse routinely topped lists of the most‐shoplifted books in the country. To this day, Barnes & Noble stores keep BAPH, as it is sometimes called, behind the cashier’s counter to reduce pilferage. This was because, as one clerk at the Barnes & Noble near my house in Brooklyn told me, “that book has a habit of walking out all by itself.”
There is also the captive audience. Since its release, Behold a Pale Horse has been among the most popular “prison books” (in that prisoners read them), a distinction it shares with Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. During the crack epidemic of the 1990s, it was not unusual for a single copy of Behold a Pale Horse to go through enough hands in the cellblocks of places such as Attica to break the book’s spine.
Some of Cooper’s best‐known predictions appear in Behold a Pale Horse, which runs a densely typed 500 pages. Eight years before the Trench Coat Mafia murders at Columbine High School, Cooper wrote: “The sharp increase of prescriptions of psychoactive drugs like Prozac and Ritalin to younger and younger children will inevitably lead to a rash of horrific school shootings.” These incidents, he said, “will be used by elements of the federal government as an excuse to infringe upon the citizenry’s Second Amendment rights.”
For many, including those who would later claim that the seemingly endless series of school shootings were part of a plot by gun‐control advocates to take away America’s weapons, Cooper’s words took on the air of prophesy.
But Bill Cooper never claimed to be a prophet. He never imagined himself in the line of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, the ancient Hebrew seers carried off by King Nebuchadnezzar II to a 70‐year captivity in Babylon. Neither did Cooper compare himself to John, an exile on the island of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelation, which is where the title Behold a Pale Horse comes from. The phrase appears in chapter 6, verse 8, in which John is witness to the opening of the Seven Seals, the preview of God’s secret plan to once again destroy the world prior to its rebirth as the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
When the Fourth Seal was revealed, John wrote, “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”
“I am no Prophet, I am no Nostradamus, I have no crystal ball,” Cooper proclaimed. He was “just an ordinary guy.” There was nothing supernatural about his predictions. Anyone could do it. It was all in the methodology, summed up in what he called his “standard admonition,” the one rule every prospective Hour of the Time listener had to obey, “no matter what.”
“You must not believe anything you hear on this show,” Cooper declared. Nor was the listener to believe anything they heard from any other shortwave host, “or Larry King Live, Dan Rather, George Bush, Bill Clinton, or anyone else in this entire world, whether you hear it on radio, on television, or from the lips of someone standing right in front of you.
“Listen to everyone, read everything, believe nothing until you, yourself, can prove it with your own research,” Cooper told the audience. “Only free‐thinking, intelligent people who are prepared to root through all the crap and get at the truth should be listening to this show. Everyone else should just turn off their radio. We don’t even want you to listen.
“Listen to everyone. Read everything, believe nothing . . . until you can prove to yourself whether it is true or false or lies between the many shades of gray. If you don’t do this, if you cannot do this, or are just plain too lazy to do this, then I can assure you that you will march into the New World Order as a docile slave.”
Then Cooper made the sound of a sheep. “Baaa! Baaa! Baaaing all the way.”
Cooper’s most famous prediction was made during the June 28th, 2001, broadcast of The Hour of the Time. A little past his 58th birthday and drinking heavily, Cooper was doing his program from a studio he’d built in the den of his house at 96 North Clearview Circle, atop a hill in the small White Mountains town of Eagar, Arizona, 15 miles from the New Mexico line.
“Can you believe what you have been seeing on CNN today, ladies and gentlemen?” Cooper asked the Hour of the Time audience that evening.
“Supposedly, a CNN reporter found Osama bin Laden, took a television camera crew with him, and interviewed him and his top leadership, lieutenants, and his colonels, and generals…in their hideout!
“Now don’t you think that’s kind of strange, folks?” Cooper asked with his signature chuckle. “Because the largest intelligence apparatus in the world, with the biggest budget in the history of world, has been looking for Osama bin Laden for years, and years, and years, and can’t find him!
“But some doofus jerk‐off reporter with his little camera crew waltzes right into his secret hideout and interviews him!”
This meant one of two things, Cooper told the audience. Either “everyone in the intelligence community and all the intelligence agencies of the United States government are blithering idiots and incompetent fools, or they’re lying to us.”
The fact was, Cooper told the audience, no one in the U.S. intelligence services was really looking for Osama bin Laden. They knew where he was. They had since the beginning of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Bin Laden, along with his entire family, was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“They created him. They’re the ones funding him. They supported him to make their new utopian worlds…and he has served them well.” There were rumors floating around the mass media that bin Laden was planning attacks on the United States and Israel, but this was just subterfuge, Cooper said. “If Osama bin Laden is an enemy of Israel, don’t you think the Mossad would have taken care of that a long time ago?” Cooper asked.
Something else was in the wind. There was no other reason for the government to allow the CNN report but to further stamp bin Laden’s bearded, pointy face upon the collective American mind‐set. Bogeyman of the moment, the Saudi prince was being readied for his close‐up.
“I’m telling you to be prepared for a major attack!” Cooper declared. The target would be a large American city.
“Something terrible is going to happen in this country. And whatever is going to happen they’re going to blame on Osama bin Laden. Don’t you even believe it.”
Two and a half months later, on September 11th, 2001, after two commercial airliners flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in a cataclysm that killed 2,996 people, including 343 New York City Fire Department personnel, Cooper’s prediction came to pass.
By the time Cooper got on the air that morning, the towers had already fallen. Several hours passed before the name Osama bin Laden surfaced on the BBC feed Cooper was monitoring. The British station, which Cooper regarded as marginally more reliable than the American networks, was doing an interview with the former Israeli Prime Minister General Ehud Barak and Richard Perle, chairman of George W. Bush’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee.
Widely known as the Prince of Darkness, in part for his Reagan‐era support of Edward Teller’s $100 billion Strategic Defense Initiative, known as Star Wars, Perle said the attacks on New York and Washington were “clearly an act of war.”
“All our Western civilization is under attack,” Barak put in. The interviewer asked Perle if he thought the United States would be justified in firing cruise missiles at Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Perle, who along with fellow neocons Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld would soon push hard for the reinvasion of Iraq, answered in the affirmative.
The Afghani authorities had “allowed Osama bin Laden to operate in their territory,” Perle said. That alone was reason enough for a military strike. Bin Laden was involved, no doubt about it. Yes, Barak agreed, there was “every reason to believe” bin Laden was behind the attack.
It was then Cooper interrupted the transmission, shouting, “How do they know who did it?
“If the United States government had no warning like they say, if they didn’t know who was going to mount these attacks, and there are no survivors from the people in these planes, how do they know Osama bin Laden is behind it?”
So, yet again, Cooper was right. Events were transpiring exactly as his research had indicated. Osama bin Laden, the Saudi mama’s‐boy prince, was about to be officially blamed for the most spectacular foreign attack on America since Pearl Harbor.
Not that Cooper was gloating about his latest successful prediction. What had happened in New York City — thousands dead, their bodies crushed beneath tons of twisted rubble, a toxic cloud rising over the metropolis — was just the beginning of a new torrent of death. On the radio feed, Perle and Barak were discussing logistics; Afghanistan would be a target, possibly, Iraq as well.
“How can they determine that they should bomb Afghanistan?” Cooper shouted with alarm. “Who are we going to be bombing? The terrorists, or the innocent people of Kabul?”
Cooper made another prediction. “Folks, I can assure you that 72 hours from now we will be at war. We will be bombing two or maybe three countries….Because that’s how it works. When governments are attacked, they lash out. Thousands of people who had nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are going to die.
“Nothing will be the same after today,” Cooper said grimly.
“Get ready for it, folks, because that’s what you’re going to be hearing in the next weeks and months on radio and television: Nothing will be the same after today….Because I’ll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that’s what the people who really did this want you to think, that nothing, nothing, will be the same after today.
“And you know what? They’re right. They’re telling the truth about that. Within weeks the Congress will pass draconian legislation aimed at restricting the rights of American citizens. You’re going to have surveillance cameras on every street corner. You think your phones are being tapped now, just wait.
“No one is going to gain from this except a very small group of people. Everyone else will lose. No one will lose more than the American people.” This would be the most grievous casualty of the 9/11 attacks, Cooper told the audience, the nation itself, the America that could have been.
Freedom, the most elusive of qualities, best distilled in the inspired documents of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, had been dealt a fatal blow: “From now on, freedom will be whatever the law allows you to do.”
That wasn’t going to stop him, Cooper told listeners. He’d stay behind his microphone up in his hilltop studio. He’d keep sending out The Hour of the Time, speaking truth to the ultimate power, if it was the last thing he did.
It was soon after that Cooper’s final prediction came true.
“They’re going to kill me, ladies and gentlemen,” he told the audience. “They’re going to come up here in the middle of the night, and shoot me dead, right on my doorstep.”
And, around midnight on November 5th, 2001, less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, that’s exactly what happened.
Adapted from Pale Horse Rider: William Cooper, the Rise of Conspiracy, and the Fall of Trust in America (Blue Rider Press) by Mark Jacobson, to be published September 4th, 2018. All rights reserved.