On August 5th 1996 a number of unmoderated usenet groups were bombarded with posts that, to most people, looked like spam. The majority of the posts had the same header “Markovian Parallax Denigrate” and were followed by a seemingly endless string of words that didn’t make sense together. Then around 2006 a new theory emerged from internet detectives: Could these messages have been secretly hiding a deep government secret?
Are you Ready to jump down the rabbit hole?
For years people have tried to decipher what the posts meant, but have come up empty. These so called word puzzles have confounded and frustrated all those who have searched for its meaning. On today’s episode of Clouded we try and tackle the indecipherable.
We have 4 questions we will attempt to answer:
What exactly happened on August 5th 1996?
The Markovian Parallax Denigrate is considered by most to be the first internet mystery. This is mainly because it appeared online before the internet as we know of today existed. The mysterious posts began appearing on what is known as Usenet. Usenet is sort of a messaging bulletin board system that was implemented in 1980 and still widely used in 1996.
On August 5th 1996 Several hundred strange messages began popping up inside of different discussions across Usenet. It has become known as the “Markovian Parallax Denigrate” because the majority of these weird posts had it in its subject line. This was followed by a series of words that did not make sense when read as a sentence. Here is an example of one of the many messages that was sent:
jitterbugging McKinley Abe break Newtonian inferring caw update Cohen air collaborate rue sportswriting rococo invocate tousle shadflower Debby Stirling pathogenesis escritoire adventitious novo ITT most chairperson Dwight Hertzog different pinpoint dunk McKinley pendant firelight Uranus episodic medicine ditty craggy flogging variac brotherhood Webb impromptu file countenance inheritance cohesion refrigerate morphine napkin inland Janeiro nameable yearbook hark
What are some explanations?
The first thought that comes to mind is spam. Strangely enough the very first spamming incident in internet history occurred a couple of years prior MPD, on Usenet.
In 1994 over 6000 members in different Usenet discussion groups were spammed by two lawyers. The spam was imploring people to get in line for a green card before it was too late.The duo spammers claimed to have made $100,000 from their spamming effort.
And that’s part of the reason I’m not buying the spam angle on this. Usually spam is sent in order to gain something. Whether it be financial, information, or advertising. This MPD incident did none of those.
Another explanation is that this might have been an early attempt at some kind of bot. More specifically a chatbot. The reason for this is because of a probablity theory called a “Markov Chain”. This is a calculating process that has been used in programming chatbots. So when people noticed the Markov in Markovian, they theorized that there may be a connection.
The problem I have with this explanation is that there were plenty of more “controlled” ways to test out a chatbot. Why create this program only to unleash it to a set of people who probably were not going to interact with your program. If you are creating something like this you want feedback on your hard work. This was not the way to do it.
There is also the possibility that that this was the work of an early troll. Someone who found pleasure in causing a little bit a chaos. If this is true, there will never be a way to confirm it unless that perpatrator someday comes forward with some proof. That has not yet happened.
Who is Susan Lindauer?
Only a few of the original messages remain from the original MPD attack. And one of the email addresses in one of these messages caught the eye of some keen bloggers. The email in question was email@example.com. And if you are a national security buff, the name Susab Lindauer will jump right off the page to you.
Susan Lindauer is an American antiwar activist and former U.S. Congressional staffer who was charged with "acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government" and violating U.S. financial sanctions during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Susan herself claimed to be a CIA agent. She was incarcerated in 2005 and released the next year after two judges ruled her mentally unfit to stand trial. The government dropped the prosecution in 2009.
Thus the conspiracy theory of MPD being a government agent was born. And the conspiracy flourished online and grew rapidly. The internet seems to be fertile ground for growing conspiracies. But this conspiracy was put to rest in a 2012 article on the DailyDot.com written by journalist Kevin Morris.
In this article Kevin goes through the history of MPD and dives deep into the mystery of Susan. Near the end of the article he simply points out that there was a Susan Lindauer who had graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, or UWSP, in 1994. So the email address found by those bloggers, firstname.lastname@example.org, was actually the email address that belonged to the student at UWSP.
What is the supercomputer known as the Well of Souls?
We are about to embark on a ride that goes deep down the rabbit hole. So bare with me and hit that 15 second rewind button on your podcast player whenever need be.
There is a science fiction book series called The Well World Series written by Jack L. Chalker. The series involves a planet-sized supercomputer known as the Well of Souls that builds our reality on top of an underlying one of greater complexity but smaller size.
Here’s where this series of books and our own MPD connect. The Well of Souls supercomputer was built by a now-extinct race, the Markovians, who developed the Well of Souls with the goal of creating a new species that would transcend their own.
My next question was, why would they want to create a whole new species and world? Here is what I found:.”The Markovians achieved the zenith of technological advance, to the point that they had material wealth limited only by their imaginations. They quickly grew bored with material utopia, and decided that in their development they had gone down the wrong path. Their solution was to return to their primitive roots, not as one race but as thousands of races, in the hope that one would reach supreme contentment.”
This lends itself to the theory, in our real world where you are listening to this podcast, that we are currently living in a computer simulation. There are some compelling reason why this might be true. We won’t go in depth here on the podcast about this idea but I do highly suggest you do some research on your own.
This then made me want to look up the definition of the words Parallax and Denigrate.
The definition of Parallax is: “the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions”.
The definition of Denigrate is: to attack the reputation of : DEFAME
When I put all three together it made me think: What if there was a glitch in the sym software we are currently living in? What if the AI tried to communicate with us, but we as humans can’t understand it? Would we see the truth of what we are and where we are if changed our position or view. Would we then like what we saw? Or would we desparage it by saying it wasn’t our truth?
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My name is Victor and this has been another episode of Clouded, where internet meets mystery
Article by Kevin Morris: