April 6, 2017


DEATH OF A DYSTOPIAN : Alt-right conspiracy theorists think that the government killed the aspiring Libertarian filmmaker David Crowley. The truth is far stranger. (Alec Wilkinson, 4/10/17, The New Yorker)

David Crowley began keeping a journal in April of 2014. He was twenty-eight years old, and he lived in Apple Valley, Minnesota, with his wife, Komel, and their four-year-old daughter, Raniya. The journal was "a life report, since I suspect my feelings right now in nostalgia or reflection might be of value," Crowley wrote. By the time he stopped making entries, seven months later, he had inadvertently created a psychological document of which very few examples are known.

Crowley had been a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. Afterward, he had gone to film school, and in 2010 he began writing a script that he called "Gray State," in which a totalitarian foreign regime conquers the U.S. government and a band of patriots form a resistance. On LinkedIn, Crowley described "Gray State" as "a film about a near future collapse of society under martial law."

Crowley's engagement with "Gray State" was consuming. "Every little part of this project is me," he recorded himself saying. In addition to writing six very different drafts of the script, he made three trailers, for which he auditioned, rehearsed, and directed the actors; drew storyboards; designed costumes; found locations and got permits; acted as the director of photography, overseeing as many as four cameras at once; and composed music and special effects. As if inhabiting the world he was creating, he periodically cut his hair in a Mohawk and wore combat fatigues and body armor. An actor named Danny Mason, who helped write the first draft, told me that Crowley would take him on hikes through the woods at three in the morning. "We'd come to a clearing and he'd say, 'See that field?' " Mason said. " 'Imagine there being a convoy there and fires in the distance.' "

Crowley posted a trailer for "Gray State" on YouTube in 2012. It has been watched more than two and a half million times, and the film has more than fifty-seven thousand followers on Facebook. Its supporters included "conspiracy theorists, survival groups," Crowley wrote, "libertarians, veterans," and "the military," many of whom believe that the government has plans to impose martial law, confiscate guns, and hold dissidents prisoner in camps built by fema.

Crowley had a patchwork system of beliefs. He regarded himself as a Libertarian, but he identified with the left-leaning wing of the Party, not the militant one--being a soldier had made him a pacifist. After uploading the trailer, Crowley spoke at a Ron Paul event in Tampa, hoping to raise money. "Gray State," he said, would explore such trends as "the slow yielding of our quiet American towns and streets to a choking array of federal surveillance grids, illegal police checkpoints."

Through a crowdsourcing campaign, Crowley collected more than sixty thousand dollars, much of it after the conservative radio commentator Alex Jones had Crowley and Danny Mason on his radio show "Infowars," in 2012, to discuss "the impressive film you're working on." The world depicted in "Gray State" was already "happening here," Jones said. "The people who have hijacked our country, they're admitting it. They're admitting that we're an occupied nation by foreign banks, they're admitting they're getting rid of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution."

"We have people who are living in the Alex Jones world who know what's going on, and the people who simply don't," Crowley replied. "Gray State," he added, was factual and "could be described as a documentary." (Jones declined my request for an interview.)

In January of 2015, Crowley and his wife and daughter were found shot dead at their home. Reports of their deaths appeared in the United States and abroad. The Huffington Post called Crowley a military man, and USA Today called him a filmmaker. The police determined that Crowley had shot his wife and child and then shot himself, but commentators on the Internet soon began saying that Crowley's death seemed "suspicious" and "mysterious," and that he had likely been murdered by government agents intent on preventing the movie from being made.

Posted by at April 6, 2017 6:21 AM


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