This is the complete transcript of the raw version of an interview held in July 2014 at an unknown location. The interviewers are Chris Mackenzie (CM) of thevoiceoftruth.com.nz and Marla Dribbits (MD) of noosenetworx.com.au, two keen investigative journalists with their eyes on a Pulitzer for having even been able to pull off this once-in-a-blue-career meeting with the third or fourth highest ranking (depending which sources you trusted) international terrorist who had used so many aliases throughout his career that he claimed he didn’t remember his original name and just asked to be called E.M..
MD: I would have thought he was taller…
CM: That is such a cliche, Marla, you gotta do better than that during the interview
MD: Seriously, Chris, he’s supposed to be some super-terrorist. Don’t they, you know, come in tall, dark, mysterious, and handsome? Or at least with a bigger nose…?
MD: OK, maybe he’s the mastermind and not the, you know, field guy…but blond?
CM: shush, he’s here.
(noises of furniture moving, steps)
CM: Welcome, Mr…ah…how can we call you?
EM: (chuckles) Hi Chris, Marla. You can call me whatever you like. But maybe today you can call me E.M.. That’s close enough to something… (mumbles, then) And it’s easy to remember and shouldn’t confuse people too much. I think. What do you think?
MD: Well, EM it is, then. Welcome from my side, too. It is such a thrill to have you here for this interview.
CM: Please have a seat. Would you like something to drink? Water? Juice? Soda? Something stronger, spirits…?
MD: (shouts) Chris! Muslims don’t drink spirits…
EM: (laughs) So, I’m billed as an international terrorist and you’re assuming I’m a muslim. And a devout one to boot. Interesting. As it were I don’t drink spirits. I sometimes drink with the spirits… (clears his throat) Diet Coke will be fine if you got that. Lots of ice and some lemon.
(sounds of drinks being prepared)
CM: (quietly) are we rolling?
MD: (surprised) yes, it’s running already…have to check later how much it got
CM: (clears his throat) OK, then, shall we? Are you ready, EM? Marla, you want to kick things off?
MD: OK…once more, EM, thanks for coming to talk to us. It’s been a huge surprise when we checked your message and it turned out that the creds were for real. One of the most-wanted, ah, international terrorists, and he just comes and wants to talk to us. What made you do that, EM?
EM: Thanks, Marla, thanks, Chris, for agreeing to this. The reason is plain and simple and already in your question. The terrorist thing. I think I’ve gotten into a dead end, a rut, and I need to set the record straight. Yes, you could put it like that, I suppose.
CM: So you’re here to tell us you’re not a terrorist but a freedom fighter? One man’s owl is another man’s nightingale and all that?
EM: (laughs) While that is of course always true it’s a bit more difficult. See, for instance, Marla’s assumption I must be a muslim because I’m a terrorist and the only significant source of terrorism these days is fanatical followers of that middle-eastern prophet of yore. Well, I’m not. Nor am I christian (protestant, catholic, or orthodox, or whathaveyou). Nor Hindu, Jew, or Jain.
MD: You’re an atheist, then? But why would you go blowing up things and killing people if you don’t believe in anything?
CM: Atheism is as much a faith-based religion as any of the theistic kind, Marla. They fervently believe in the non-existence of something. But EM, what exactly do you want to set the record straight on, then? Why is it so important for you to let people know you’re not a muslim if you’re actions are regularly claimed by supposedly islam-based organisations?
EM: Well, I couldn’t do my job properly if I were anything, really, and that’s the problem. Lately I’ve gotten, how do the media people call it, type-cast? Yes, that’s it. Terrorist. Fundamentalist, religious, all that jazz. You even expected me to be middle-eastern. You have no idea what kind of effort it took to not give in to that particular expectation…
MD: (clears her throat) Are you a mercenary, then? Working for the highest bidder? Not believing in anything? No cause except your own bank account? And here I was thinking we’d get something worth publishing. But you’re just an egotistical fucking mercenary trying to improve his marketability? How dare you…!
EM: (laughs) That came out all wrong, didn’t it? Mercenary is an interesting angle but it doesn’t do any better than “terrorist” when it comes to being accurate.
CM: But you are credited with over a dozen terrorist actions, even if most of them were thwarted and the two that weren’t were more sizzle than bang. And those are the ones that you were positively tagged on. My sources in the intelligence community tell me you’re suspected of over a hundred other actions with vastly greater impacts. Possibly even 9/11 itself. How is “terrorist” not accurate? (Unless you go for the freedom fighter angle which you said you weren’t.)
MD: give it up, Chris, he’s trying to use us to get better gigs, is all. No news here. Let’s pack it up…
CM: Not so quick, Marla. Let’s see where this goes. We’ve put a lot of work into this and even if we can’t publish it, it may still yield something.
EM: Thanks, Chris. I’m sure you’ll hear something new. Whether you’ll believe it, whether your audiences will believe it, of course that’s another animal entirely. Maybe I can give you a little bit of context? My life story, if you will? If you still want to break it off afterwards, OK…
CM: Marla, you ok with that?
EM: Thank you. OK. I’ll try not to bore you too much…
When I was young I used to be an imaginary friend. Much later I took to haunting the daydreams and memespaces. It got increasingly difficult to get through, though, over time. Until… But I’m getting ahead of myself. The kids who invented me were wild and full of whim. OK, they weren’t all the most creative, but hey, we were young, and pirates and dragons and princesses and aliens and fairies and superheroes can be fun, no matter how stereotypical they may be.
School could be a bit of a drag but history and literature gave us other things to play at when we had time. When they had time. And of course they didn’t have too much time anymore. Not to mention the medication. The lengths some parents go to to lobotomise their offspring into perfect clone-copies of themselves. Lost a lot of friends that way.
Lost even more of them to their own hormonal mayhem. For a while I was still welcome in different kinds of fantasies but when they figured out how to actually talk to the objects of their adolescent drives I was in turn driven out by snogging and what came after. To be honest, I wasn’t too reluctant to go. Those things can be embarrassing, even to someone like me.
MD: But you’re real. I shook your hand. We both shook your hand. We’re talking to you…
CM: Let the, ah, man talk Marla. But since we’ve interrupted you already, I do agree with Marla’s notion. How…?
EM: Ask any kid with an imaginary friend and they will tell you the same thing. I should know. The common conclusion is of course they must be mistaken. They have a “condition” that needs to be “treated” but that’s a fallacy, taking one subjective view to be truer than another. Yes, you can both see me and talk to me and shake my hand, and you’ll probably agree on the broad strokes of this experience if you care to compare notes.
Does that make me any more real or less imaginary? No. Neither does it make me any less real or more imaginary. But if you can bear with me, I wasn’t quite finished with my story…
CM, MD (talking over each other): Sure, go ahead, yes, of course. Sorry.
EM: Where was I? Right. The torments of puberty and adolescence. Best not to dwell on that. Especially when you’re sensitive. So, some kids remembered me…well, a very few never forgot me, but there was very little play while they were trying hard to “grow up”. So, some of them remembered me when the worst of adolescence was over and they discovered that creativity, if channeled in acceptable ways, was something they didn’t have to hide under all circumstances. And so I was invited again. Invoked. Included. Whatever.
That was the second happiest time, really. I became a treasured friend once more. Those with sufficient classic education would have called me a muse back then.
CM: Aren’t muses pretty and sexy women-like…?
MD: Seriously Chris? Macho shit like that from you…? And this time you did the interrupting. Just for the record.
EM: (laughs) What makes you think…? No, let me try again. Yes, the Greeks rendered their muses female. Patriarchal culture that they were. But the archetype of a muse is personified inspiration. Whatever helps you to drive that wild dragon of your creativity to productivity. The appearance of course is just as wildly personal. Based on your crazy artist’s personal, ah, preferences. At least as long as the friendship is a one-on-one affair.
Some close-friend groups, like bands of musicians would be together in their interactions with me and over surprisingly short time would agree on the broad strokes of their shared experience with me. Just like you would, although the reasons are slightly different and part of the problem that made me come here.
MD: Yes, why, if you’re not real (and I still think that’s complete and utter bull, just for the record), just for the sake of discussion, why do you appear to both of us in the same way? Even only in those broad strokes…
EM: That’s where the type-cast problem comes in. But bear with me. I’m almost done, almost here, if you will. Artists only need muses as long as they allow for a certain, ah, magic for lack of a better word, of the creative process. Something wild and untamed and sticky and dangerous. And especially something that has to be allowed in its own time, in its own terms. Not industrialized, streamlined, and efficiency-optimized. Which is what has been happening to human experience over the past, ah, I don’t know, maybe thirty years with an extreme acceleration for the second half of that time. Actually, come to think of it, the trend has been around much longer, but it hasn’t had much traction in the mainstream until, yes, about thirty years ago.
Look at how everything is being perfected and optimised and productized all around you. The most innocent and personal experiences have become an object of scrutiny: how is my performance? can I do better?
Don’t get me started. (laughs) Well, there. But. The point is, yes, the point is that my former friends, my clients if you will, or my benefactors if you want to be old-fashioned about it, largely stopped believing in their own innate but somehow wild and untameable creativity and instead started believing in processes and systems and efficiency. The output quantity certainly seems to agree with them. But the quality? Don’t get me started again…
Anyway. Yes, sorry, this is all a bit, ah intense for me.
CM: It’s alright. But if you could maybe focus on why and how and what all this has to do with you being a terrorist and all that…?
EM: ah, yes, of course. The last step. The last straw. In the beginning it was all spontaneous joy, you know? The games and play and make-belief. I relished being of course, but I just was without giving it even a first thought. Then it threatened to go away. School, puberty, adolescence, all that. And bit by bit I realised how much I liked being. How much I needed it. I was, I can see now, becoming seriously addicted to being. I had developed a habit. No different from what you consider life to be, actually, and just like when you are threatened with imminent death you’ll be fighting with any means necessary to stay alive, so did I.
And I can’t say I’m proud of what I did next. But enough is enough and I need to get it out so I can change. And if I can’t go back to being as I used to, I’ll give up. Kick the habit.
EM: Yes, what, indeed. I used to be an imaginary friend. When friends were no longer in demand I found out I could stick around by being something else. So I became an imaginary enemy.
EM: Exactly. I found some people…ah, this is difficult…I’m really not proud of this. I found some people who needed no more friends. But they needed an enemy. I didn’t understand why they did, nor what they needed an enemy for. I do understand now. But it’s not a deal you can just get out of just like that. You’re imaginary, after all. So I had to find another way out. And I figured, if enough people understand I’m imaginary, maybe the people who imagined me will not be able to keep doing it. And I will be free. Maybe I’ll, ah, die, in your words, but at least I won’t be used to cause all this untold suffering anymore.
CM: You mean you won’t get to blow up stuff…?
EM: No, I mean I won’t be used as an excuse for more atrocities by blowing up stuff in my name and then creating yet more suffering by pretending to fight me.
(Loud noises coming closer and louder, crashing, explosions, screams…)
EM: They found us….I’ll be back, I’m afraid…
(The last half minute of the recording is dissolved in noises of fighting.)