A review of Steve Alten's The Shell Game

A review of Steve Alten's The Shell Game (2007, Sweetwater Books)

The Shell Game is a story that, presented differently, would be almost completely unintelligible to anyone who has spent the last seven or so years watching exclusively Fox News for their information, or equivalently, living under a rock. Fortunately, the rest of us have the Internet. But from the point of view of the tragically misinformed public, Steve Alten makes his story accessible by wrapping it tightly around a thoroughly Hollywood-friendly plot.

The subject? "The end of oil, the next 9/11, the deception of a nation," according to the book's dust-cover. Set in the year 2012, amidst the circus of the next Presidential election, the story centers around a false flag terrorist attack carried out by two Iraqi men with the assistance of corrupt elements within the U.S. intelligence community. Their goal is to set off two nuclear bombs in two U.S. cities with the assistance of the U.S. government, and make it look like the government of Iran is responsible. The U.S. government wants to help them do this so that the U.S. military will have an excuse to wipe out Iran; and also so that the American public will approve of any level of international hostility or deprivation of their civil rights. The top officials who are in on the plot, the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Homeland Security, rationalize the cold-blooded murder of millions of American citizens with the twisted logic that they must wipe out Iran or else Iran will wipe out many more millions of Americans. In reality, a conflict with Iran is avoidable and the United States government is provoking the hatred of Americans it claims to be fighting. The real reason for wiping out Iran is not because they are a threat to the U.S., although they may be a (debatable) threat to Israel; it is to secure the Iranian oil fields and to protect Saudi Arabia, which a nuclear Iran would definitely threaten. The lives of millions mean nothing to the conspirators because, as indicated on the book's dust-cover, the age of oil is coming to an end. Without oil, billions of people will inevitably starve to death, although that is also (or at least was) an avoidable catastrophe. The politics of Saudi Arabia and the greed of the world's elite prevent them from planning a sustainable future for the world.

In case you don't know, that story is meant to be an allegory to the events of 9/11. The author assumes that 9/11 was also a false flag attack, assisted or planned by corrupt elements of the U.S. government. The war in Iraq was avoidable; the world really is facing a crisis of oil depletion, and we have virtually no plans to deal with it. Steve Alten presents us with a sort of worst-case scenario that, unfortunately, is all too plausible. There is as much fact in this story as fiction, each interlaced with the other.

Of course the story falls back on the typical devices of the techno-thriller genre, such as the macho male protagonist and the series of supporting characters who know exactly what is going on and have exactly the proper expertise to aid him in his quest to save the world and avenge his unjustly murdered wife. There is also the last-minute save by the gruff police officer who is just doing his duty; not to mention the requisite switcheroo at the climax, dramatically changing the situation just when you thought you knew what was going to happen. The bad guys, generally speaking get what's coming to them, give or take a comeuppance or two. But the cliches service a story that, presented straightforwardly, would only preach to the choir and confuse everybody else.

The author makes some additional assumptions that are hotly contested among those who share his point of view about 9/11. For instance, he assumes that the end of oil is coming in the near future, as predicted in the 1950's by the famous geophysicist Dr. M. King Huppert. Despite the solid science behind this prediction, and the accurate correlary prediction that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970's, many people still disagree with this point of view. Some people hold that oil is not running out, because there are plenty of oil fields yet to be discovered, or that oil is possibly generated by the earth itself, making it a renewable resource. However, despite these objections the possibility which the author portrays as certain, that Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries are overstating their oil reserves, is a very real possibility. The author points out that he has been heavily influenced by the book Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire and the End of the Age of Oil by Mike Ruppert in this regard, and it shows.

The author also assumes that human-caused global warming is a reality. Despite the certainty with which Al Gore and others propagate this point of view, believe it or not, there are sound scientific reasons to be skeptical about the cause and the degree of global warming. Perhaps carbon dioxide does not cause global warming, perhaps it is a symptom. Perhaps the sun is causing global warming. However, the author accurately points out that global warming, rather than bringing the whole world mild winters, may paradoxically trigger a new ice age, by interrupting the heat exchange system of the north Atlantic Ocean.

Perhaps most contentious among skeptics of the official 9/11 myth, Steve Alten implies with his tale of radicalized Middle-Eastern men setting off nuclear bombs in U.S. cities, that Muslims were partially responsible (with the help of corrupt government officials) for 9/11. But in fact there is a growing sentiment that Zionism, not Islam, was the real culprit there. Evidence suggests the "19 hijackers" may actually have been assumed identities or patsies. Mossad (Israeli) agents were reported cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center at the scene, and some of them were briefly detained, although all of that is officially denied. If you consult the people at Anti-Neocons, you will find detailed information about the money trail from 9/11 and the international Zionist banking conspiracy that possibly enabled the attacks. However, let's be clear: Zionism is not Judaism. Judaism is a religion. Zionism is a secular political movement intended to preserve the modern day nation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people, who have no homeland of their own. Not all Jews agree with Zionism and not all Zionists are technically Jews.

However, the book is full of details about the history of corruption in Saudi Arabia and the struggle of Iraqis against the illegal U.S. occupation of their country, which makes it clear that the author is not targeting Islam per se. If anything the book simply gives mixed signals in its message about Islam, but remains ambiguous enough on the subject to let readers make up their own minds. In this regard the author points out his other primary influence, besides Crossing the Rubicon: The documentary Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. The author is careful not to present all Muslims as extremists, which of course they are not, anymore than all Christians are KKK members or all Jews are Zionists. But neither does he explore too deeply the influence of fundamentalist religion on American and Israeli foreign policy. His antagonists are the shadowy Neocons, who hypocritically target Arabs while they are themselves the most bloodthirsty world power; but their hegemony is primarily portrayed as secular in nature.

In my own life I have often found that Americans who support the Neocons are usually Christians, and in addition to being largely ignorant of world politics, they are also heavily indoctrinated into the notion that modern day Israel is the prophesied holy land of the Bible. Religion in the U.S. is tightly associated with Zionism. Many Christian churches donate money to Israel. Many Christians devoutly believe that the End Times are near, as predicted in the Bible. Many of them are so convinced that this is true that they devalue their own lives, which is one reason why they permit the Neocons to stay in power instead of joining organizations that challenge the growing right-wing fascism in the United States. For every Obsession that might accurately portray certain Muslims, there is a Jesus Camp that accurately portrays certain Christians. But these are stereotypes; the fundamental corrupting influence in the world is greed. Without rampant corporatism and profiteering, no one in the world would have the money or power to orchestrate any foreign invasion or jihad.

The Shell Game comes into its own when it confronts the shallowness of American politics. Substance does not matter, only the perception of substance. The macho male protagonist realizes he can only win, temporarily if at all, if he plays the media game. The moral of the story is that people believe only what they see on TV. The hero's efforts superficially resolve the world's crisis, but do nothing to fundamentally change the corruption in people's hearts. The story thus reveals the world of the near future to be dominated by a radically dystopian society, enabled by secrecy and cynicism. Unfortunately for us, we are all too close to that world, and perhaps we are already living in it. In that case then the human race will surely bring about its own end, one hardened heart at a time.

National secrecy is a threat to human security.

Media - Steve Alten

Thursday March 6, 2008
Steve Alten, author of "The Shell Game", delivers 9/11 Truth to Jim Bohanon's CBS National Radio audience (4 + million)

(40 Minutes - 11 Meg)


Friday March 7, 2008
Alex Jones speaks with Steve Alten about his new book "The Shell Game" and takes questions from callers

(33 Minutes - 9.7 Meg)


Saturday March 22, 2008
Kevin Barret talks with Steve Alten, author of "The Shell Game", about their respective encounters with neoconmedia, including Steve's run-in with Jim Bohanon

(75 Minutes - 22 Meg)


Pretty fair-minded assessment

This is a pretty sound assessment of the book and of key components of our cultural matrix, neocons and all. It can still open up some minds, even if the best-seller status has been denied it.