Welcome back to Gaming: For Official Use Only.  When I first decided to do a series on gaming conspiracies, one of the first entries on my list was Deus Ex.  Deus Ex is a game built around conspiracies, so it was only natural that I’d cover it, but the two main conspiracies really need to have entries of their own, so they will.  I’m throwing up the SPOILER ALERT here.

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JC Denton of Deus Ex wondering where this spotlight came from.

Deus Ex is nothing short of a masterpiece. It skillfully blends FPS, stealth, RPG, and puzzle games into a seamless whole that winds through an incredible story that never once puts the player into a “one answer only” problem. Other writers whose talent exceeds mine have waxed on about the amazing gameplay of Deus Ex, but that’s not what this is about.

Deus Ex’s story line blends modern-day conspiracy theories with imagery of the Apocalypse. Due to this, it was only inevitable that the two biggest conspiracies of today would show up: The Illuminati and The Majestic 12 (MJ-12). As you likely surmised by the title, this article will focus on MJ-12.

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Talk to the hand…I’m sorry.

In the world of Deus Ex, The Majestic 12 are a splinter cell of the world domination group known as the Illuminati. The Illuminati had decided that to maintain control of the planet, they would need to control both the economic sector and the emerging technology of the Information Age. To do so, they formed two smaller groups: The Bilderberg Group, which features into many conspiracy theories and will be a separate FOUO, and the MJ-12.

The Illuminati orchestrated the US government’s creation of MJ-12 in 1947 as a group to research the technology discovered from the crashed alien spaceship in Roswell, New Mexico. The game never actually says if an alien crash occurred accidentally, or if the Illuminati orchestrated this as well to establish MJ-12.

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Welcome to Earf.

With their power base intact, the Illuminati dig their claws into the technological infrastructure of the world, and lead it to many scientific advances. They are at the forefront of developing nanotechnology into actual science, and are working at altering human DNA to be compatible with the nano augmentation that forms much of Deus Ex’s RPG elements.

This genetic experimentation goes further into developing new species such as the Greasels, which is the game’s version of the infamous Chupacabra, and the legendary Greys, which are made by messing with the genetic material of alien bodies. As the background story leads up to Deus Ex, the Illumanti and their MJ-12 underlings control a large portion of the planet’s tech base, but struggle to control world communications.

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We’ve taken care of everything, from the words you hear, to the songs you sing, to the pictures that give pleasure to your eyes.

While cell phones and other satellite-based communications were easily subverted, the emergence of the Internet threw a wrench into the works. The sheer vastness of the Internet was costing large amounts of MJ-12 resources to control. At the same time, around 2050 or so, the Illuminati made the decisions that would cause MJ-12 to splinter off. The USA was reeling from a 2030 earthquake that rendered much of the West Coast into a disaster area, along with a slew of various disease epidemics.

The Illuminati decided to allow the US to fall, as they were a European-based group. This is a fine bit of trivia, as the original Illuminati was in fact founded in Bavaria, Germany and is sometimes referred to as the “Bavarian Illuminati.”

The Illuminati’s problem is that America won’t let natural disasters and plagues end them, dammit! Thus, the US emerges from the crises. Disgusted by the Illuminati’s willingness to let things happen instead of taking direct action, MJ-12 takes over most of the Illuminati’s power structure, essentially controlling the governments of Europe and Asia. They decide that in their quest to unite the world’s governments under their rule, they would conquer the USA first, proving them superior to their Illuminati forebears.

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Okay, so his computer controls global telcom. But can it play Crysis?

Trillionaire – that’s a million millionaires in one – industrialist Bob Page grew tired of the Illuminati’s standard procedure of subtly influencing the planet from the shadows, so he decides to just dominate it the old-fashioned way. He starts off by engineering a nanotech plague, the Gray Death, which can only be stopped by a vaccine his company just happens to be the only manufacturer of.

Page’s company releases this plague to help foment the already rising terrorist organization in the US, the National Secessionist Forces, which leads up to the destruction of the Statue of Liberty in a terrorist strike. The UN and their anti-terrorist group UNATCO are already under MJ-12 control, and intervene in the US to ostensibly help with the terrorist threat.

Meanwhile, the nanotech revolution helps the MJ-12 get closer to achieving one of their biggest goals: the control of the entire Internet. Now, I don’t understand why controlling the majority of Earth’s porn supply is so important, but that’s why I’m not in The MJ-12. Using their vast technological holdings, the MJ-12 engineer an artificial intelligence (AI) and a communications hub, Aquinas, that all world telecommunications are routed through. The AI secretly monitors and controls all of these communications, giving MJ-12 the dominance they long sought.

During the game, the protagonist JC Denton goes from UNACTO agent, to reluctant ally of the Illuminati in a quest to destroy MJ-12 and their control over mankind. The Illuminati attack the universal constructor that produces the Gray Death plague by destroying it at the MJ-12 base inside the infamous Area 51. The MJ-12 attempt to take over the only other universal constructor, going as far as planning to nuke the damn thing.

The Illuminati stop the nuke, but have to mitigate the MJ-12’s control over telecommunications. They try to do this by releasing an AI called Daedalus onto the Internet to counteract the MJ-12 AI. The MJ-12 return fire with another AI, Icarus. The two AIs merge to form Helios, the most powerful artificial intelligence ever – essentially a nascent technological god. The endings feature JC Denton’s choice of what to do: He may choose to kill Bob Page and allow the Illuminati to go back to subtly controlling the Earth, follow the advice of a hacker friend and destroy modern telecommunications, or merge with the Helios AI to become a benevolent dictator-god.

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It’s quite accurate to a real UN logo because it’s ugly.

Yeah, it’s a pretty deep game… and it freaking rules.

What’s very cool about Deus Ex’s version of The MJ-12 is that it was created the same way as the normal conspiracy: by President Harry S. Truman. As the theory goes, on September 24, 1947 President Truman put together a team of twelve advisors. Six were high-ranking military minds, of which three would go on to be directors of the CIA, and six civilian scientists who worked on high-secrecy projects. These men would research the UFO phenomenon, especially the recent crash in Roswell, New Mexico. They would investigate sightings while researching physics and engineering breakthroughs that could be discovered from the alien technology. Yeah, they’re pretty much how XCOM’s science department works.

I’m going to digress for a short bit and focus on the name “MJ-12.” According to the documents uncovered by researchers, the actual name of the group is “MJ-12.” It is never called Majestic 12 in any “official” documentation. The only codeword style name the group is ever called in most “official” literature is “Majic 12.” There is one instance of the group being called “Majority 12,” but that makes even less sense. Tangent over.

Most of the information we have comes from a rather strange source. I’m going to not make points about accuracy here, I’m just going to give the story as the conspiracy theorists believe it, just for narrative’s sake. The story goes that in December of 1984, journalist Jaime Sandera received a package in the mail with no return address. Giving into his curiosity, Sandera opened the package to find a single roll of 35MM film. It turned out to be a set of briefing documents written by a Vice Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter briefing President Eisenhower in 1952 about the alien craft and bodies recovered from a crash in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.

I am going to state for the record that Vice Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter is likely the single greatest-named individual I will ever have a chance to write about. The main part of the information is where President Truman authorized the creation of a task force of twelve men to investigate this event. This was the birth of MJ-12.

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Shandera later uncovered more information alongside author William Moore – no relation – by digging through the declassified files in the National Archives. They come across a memo from 1954 by a General Cutler that details the upcoming meeting of “MJ-12 SSP” or Special Studies Project. This “Cutler Memo” has become a cornerstone of the MJ-12 conspiracy and is heavily debated to this day.

What’s unique about this memo for the purposes of skepticism is that it’s one of the very few times I am aware of that the conspiracy theorists argue its legitimacy amongst themselves. A large portion believe the memo was a plan from a military official to throw investigators off of the MJ-12 path. I find it interesting that we have conspiracy theorists in-fighting about this memo, often to intense levels. The only other memo I feel like mentioning is a rather recent find, supposedly a memo from 1954 called the “MJ-12 SOM” or Special Operations Manual, which details how to handle alien crashes and bodies. I’m telling you, these guys are turning more and more into XCOM.

The important part of the MJ-12 conspiracy is the purported members list. As fitting a government group who would deal with technology, all of the members are high-level military or scientific experts. Here’s the list from Wikipedia:

The list below in convenient picture form.

The list below in convenient picture form.

From the top left:

-Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter: first CIA director.

-Dr. Vannevar Bush: chaired wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development and predecessor National Defense Research Committee; set up and chaired postwar Joint Research and Development Board (JRDB). Yes, he’s President George H.W.Bush’s father and Grandpa to Dubya.

-James Forrestal: Secretary of the Navy; first Secretary of Defense (replaced after his death on MJ-12 by Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, 2nd CIA director).

-Gen. Nathan Twining: headed Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB; Air Force Chief of Staff (1953–1957); Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff (1957–1961).

-Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg: Directed Central Intelligence Group (1946–1947); Air Force Chief of Staff (1948–1953).

-Gen. Robert M. Montague: Guided missile expert; 1947 commander of Fort Bliss; headed nuclear Armed Forces Special Weapons Center, Sandia Base.

-Dr. Jerome Hunsaker: Aeronautical engineer, MIT; chaired NACA after Bush.

-Adm. Sidney Souers: first director of Central Intelligence Group, first executive secretary of National Security Council (NSC).

-Gordon Gray: Secretary of the Army; intelligence and national security expert; CIA psychological strategy board (1951–1953); Chairman of NSC 5412 Committee (1954–1958); National Security Advisor (1958–1961).

-Dr. Donald Menzel: Astronomer, Harvard; cryptologist during war; security consultant to CIA and NSA.

-Dr. Detlev Bronk: Medical physicist; aviation physiologist; chair, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council; president Johns Hopkins & Rockefeller University.

-Dr. Lloyd Berkner: Physicist; radio expert; executive secretary of Bush’s JRDB.

That’s a pretty stacked council there. Most of the members had worked in some way with the military during World War II, which would make sense for them to be considered for such a top secret and important project. It doesn’t really surprise me that Vannevar Bush shows up, as he gets mentioned in half of the conspiracy theories about shadowy groups inside the American government. This doesn’t even include the reptilian crap – another post, I promise.

Beyond the actual MJ-12, they had some of the greatest scientific minds of the time as advisers. Here are just a few: Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project; Edward Teller, creator of the hydrogen bomb, which is the first time mankind harnessed nuclear fusion; Werner von Braun, German rocket scientist who invented the V-5 rocket for Hitler and helped develop America’s Apollo program; and Albert Einstein, I shouldn’t have to point out what Einstein has done.

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Everyone knows this formula. Yes, there’s a reason why it’s so well known.

Now these men also often had connections with Cold War-era UFO investigations. General Vanderberg actually was head of the US Air Force during Project Blue Book, which was the official government investigation into the UFO phenomenon that famously found that, although quite a few sightings had no known explanation, aliens were not responsible. Not only that, but he met with Dr. Bush on the morning after the Roswell incident in an emergency meeting over what was found. Bush was the director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which used people who had religious objections to being drafted in very questionable experiments, and also housed Section S-1 which became more famous, or perhaps infamous, as the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb.

Bush was also working with his Joint Research and Development Board which was known to have handled the press after Roswell. Admiral Hillenkotter was later famous for being a large part of the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena, one of the very few respected civilian UFO research groups. Interestingly, they claimed often that there was a government coverup of UFO sightings. Dr. Menzel became a well known UFO debunker later in life, which of course is used by conspiracy theorists to say he helped in the coverup operations.

I mentioned that a few members of the MJ-12 list went on to become directors of Central Intelligence, but there is a documented group that led to the current National Security Council that has been called the “closest we actually come to a documented version of the rumored Majestic 12 group.” It was called the CIA’s Office of National Estimates, or ONE. It was created by General Walter Bedell Smith, who is a supposed member of MJ-12 itself and who designed ONE to provide “national intelligence estimates.” At least one meeting is supposed to have been regarding UFOs or aliens. Perhaps this is the one kernel of truth at the middle of wild guessing?

This guy rules. Ancient Aliens is my favorite science fiction show on TV.

This guy rules. Ancient Aliens is my favorite science fiction show on TV.

After all that, what did MJ-12 actually do? That’s just it, there’s no concrete information. There’s the standard explanation that they reverse-engineered alien technology at Area 51, which led to the invention of stealth aircraft. But there’s also information technology and the integrated circuit, along with its predecessor the transistor – the very foundation of electronics.

We know for certain that the stealth fighter and bomber were developed at Area 51 by the government’s own admission, but they obviously didn’t say anything about it being reverse-engineered from alien tech. However, there are theories for all kinds of things involving MJ-12 from controlling the world à la Deus Ex, to even waging a secret war against alien invaders.

The sheer amount of varying “information” on what MJ-12 actually does is a lot of what makes me not believe there’s any truth to the theory. If there was something concrete that everyone could agree on, it would be far more logical to the average person to think there might actually be something to this MJ-12 thing.

Strictly for the record I’m going to state unequivocally that I do not believe that aliens have ever been to this planet. I just as strongly believe that aliens do exist; the universe is far too big for them not to. The size of the universe also leads me to believe that we haven’t been visited. As I’ve said before, light can only travel around 186,000 miles-per-second in the vacuum of space, but at that speed it still takes it almost ten years to get from our Solar System to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

With the exception of traversable wormholes, which we would definitely notice, there are only two theories for faster-than-light (FTL) travel that we are aware of. The Alcubierre drive is essentially a real life theoretical construct of Star Trek’s warp drive. It uses a bubble of compressed spacetime in front of a ship, and expanded spacetime behind the ship to create a bubble that can cruise faster than light, because spacetime itself can go FTL.

There are quite a few problems we have with constructing one, mainly the power requirements are far beyond what our fossil fuel-based infrastructure can support and the possible need of negative mass which has only been proven outside of the Casimir Effect very recently. I am an unabashed fan of the Alcubierre metric but I’ve mentioned it before, so I’ll go into Heim Theory.

Developed by Burkhard Heim in the late 1950s, the theory attempts to meld the incompatible, but both provably true, theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity. I won’t go into the gory details here, but part of the theory involves using magnetic fields to access higher spatial dimensions that allow for FTL travel (hyperspace). The problem is that a lot of the the “predictions” made by Heim Theory have been off by small amounts.

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Entering Heim Theory style hyperspace.

Basically, what I’m getting at is FTL is either very very hard or actually impossible. This would mean the aliens must have been very long-lived to have made it here from elsewhere. When I say “long-lived” I mean it, too. The distance from our home system to other stars are nowhere near as close as Proxima Centauri. They can range from a few light years – the distance light travels in a year, or about a million million miles – to light millenia.

The idea that any species that can either do FTL travel or survive that distance implies that they are far ahead of us technologically. The problem here is that any civilization that far ahead of humanity would either be totally disinterested in us morons or straight up curbstomp our sorry asses into submission. So if aliens had visited Earth they would ignore the primitive mammals on the planet or either turn us into dinner or pets. Or both. Beyond that, we’ve never received any sort of signal, accidental or otherwise, that would indicate a sentient species in human space. There have been no radio, infrared, radiation or light that would say “Hey! There’s alien shit going on in here!!” In any case, the odds are stacked against Earth having yet seen extraterrestrials, so MJ-12 couldn’t have used alien tech to kick start the modern day Information Revolution.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think there could have been a group of high level advisors who had something to do with our modern day tech base. I could find reason to believe an MJ-12-like group had a hand in the development of our modern stealth aircraft, as well as something unclassified. I like this idea because I get to turn the conspiracy on its head: the group doesn’t research UFOs, they create them.

The advanced aircraft, perhaps the long-rumored Aurora, are the source of many UFO sightings. Instead of using alien technology, they use Earth-based tech just at its very bleeding edge. This of course is just wild-ass guessing, but I point out there has been a government program of high-level military with brilliant scientific minds that created something that was previously not believed to be possible. I am talking about the Manhattan Project, which allowed the US to create the atomic bomb; and it was the very first time mankind unleashed the power of the atom.

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Yes, their only protection when investigating an A-bomb test is foot baggies. And Oppenheimer was a physicist.

I’m going to do something I have never done in Gaming: FOUO: I’m going to recommend the Wikipedia article on it, because it features a fantastic section of points for or against the existence of the group that is far beyond the scope of my article here. You could easily make a whole website arguing for/against the existence of MJ-12, and others certainly have. However, my intention is only to educate you on the basics of a conspiracy, not every little intricate detail. I’m not Hideo Kojima, making you sit through another three-hour cut scene, after all.

I hope you enjoyed this first half of my Deus Ex ramblings, and I look forward to seeing you in the conclusion for my take on the Bavarian Illuminati. Until next time.

About The Author

Derik Moore

Derik Moore has been gaming for over a quarter of a century and hails from the bootheel of Missouri. He enjoys games from the NES all the way up to PS4. He collects video games, and has a weird attachment to handhelds. You can also follow him on Twitter @ithinkibrokeit.

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  • Rizzard Core

    Love the 2112 reference…can’t wait for part 2.

  • Anytime I can make a Rush reference, by God I will. The kids today need to know good music.

  • Damn good explanation, Derik! I’ve played Deus Ex numerous times and I’ve never caught on to the fact that Greasels were Chupacabras. I also didn’t know MJ-12 was a real group. Now I need to replay it.

  • Thanks, Aaron. I’ll say again that I’m a deep skeptic so I doubt there’s an actual MJ-12 but the real conspiracy theory is actually more interesting than the Majestic 12 Deus Ex showed, at least to me.