Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Purity Is For Losers:" The Church of Euthanasia Article

Since posting my Rich Mackin non-protest article a few months ago, I've been thinking about archiving more of my old articles on my blogs. "Purity Is For Losers," my piece on the highly contraversal Church of Euthanasia, was written back in 1999. I tried to write it for Lollipop, but that was nixed when the magazine published a letter to the editor by COE figurehead Chris Korda about their protest during the 1999 WBOS Earth Day festival, which was a large part of my article. It ended up in Shovel, a then-monthly supplement for the Weekly Dig, a Boston weekly that actually grew from, well, Shovel. Long story. Anyway, they were gracious enough to print it fully.

One of my better journalistic pieces, given that I wasn't given a lot of editorial oversight (I'd rewrite it a thousand different ways today, and I'm resisting the urge not to). I ended up working on what was going to be a in-and-out feature story for over half-a-year, due to the "suicide note" angle that dragged on for quite some time, with no confirmation on its validity even to this day. Also undetermined was how much of a hoax the "Jerry Springer" appearance was (i.e. was the opposing guest also in on the argument? The Creator Rights Party, sadly, was real). Cartoonist and animator Nina Paley had pretty strong ties with them at one point (her anti-breeding films on her site are recommended viewing). I may ask her about this soon, now that enough time has passed.

The COE website has had this article on their site for years (and even helped correct an error or two that went unnoticed by Shovel, but I'd like to have it here too. Plus, given the subject matter, I wouldn't be surprised if people who visit this site regularly would want to visit the COE web site (NOT work safe, believe me). Moreover, I'd like to include for the first time photos I took of the COE's 1999 Earth Day protest, which couldn't appear in Shovel because I was boneheaded enough to have the (incorrect) date appear on the pictures. They're still good pics, and I'm glad to have finally scanned them after years of being in one of my albums.

Though I disagree with some of their standpoints, and certain things I heard (but could not confirm) led me to distance myself from the group, I did appreciate elements of their style when protesting. It's a pity that the group drifted into obscurity during a period in America when even protesters seemed to drift into acquiescence. I may even dust off some old notes on their appearance during the Biodevastation protest of 2000 for a planned but never published article.

Suicide, Abortion, Cannibalism, and Sodomy. The four pillars of the Church of Euthanasia.

And what timing. Er, Happy Thanksgiving?

Purity is for losers
The Church of Euthanasia and Chris Korda
by Chad Parenteau


"The Church of Euthanasia was inspired by a dream, in which Rev. Chris Korda confronted an alien intelligence known as The Being who speaks for the inhabitants of Earth in other dimensions. The Being warned that our planet's ecosystem is failing, and that our leaders deny this. The Being asked why our leaders lie to us, and why so many of us believe these lies. Rev. Korda awoke from the dream moaning the Church's infamous slogan, Save the Planet - Kill Yourself."

--From The Church of Euthanasia web site.

Headed by Korda, who resides in Somerville, MA, the Church of Euthanasia, a federally recognized and therefore tax-exempt educational group, preaches biodiversity and the willful depopulation of the Earth in order to save its many species from extinction. They have one commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Procreate," and four pillars: suicide, abortion, cannibalism, and sodomy (which they define as any nonreproductive sex). Potential "Euthanists" only have to adhere to the COE commandment, adopting if children are later desired. Members with children are excommunicated only if they give birth to more after joining.

Actions have included counterattacking an abortion clinic protest with signs that say "Eat a Queer Fetus For Jesus" and "Pedophile Priests For Life," to holding blind flesh taste tests outside a supermarket (They profess to be vegetarians, and suggest the eating of already deceased humans for those who insist on eating flesh). Their comparatively subtler efforts that have more entertainment value receive more mainstream coverage than their demonstrations. These include Korda's techno CD's and their print/E-journal, Snuff It, hailed by Time magazine in 1995 as one of the "Hot 'zines on the web."

All press to the COE is good press. A part of their web site lists all the articles ever written about the church, whether they are objective or with a negative bent. Korda told me he has nothing to hide and even challenged others to dig dirt up on him. It isn't easy tracking down information; and when you find it, there isn't much his web site doesn't already tell you. He is the son of Simon & Schuster editor-in-chief Michael Korda, whose own father helped to establish the British film industry. He started experimenting with gender roles less than ten years ago. For those who have encountered Korda, all this seems to be common knowledge; you just won't get it directly out of his mouth--not if you're writing about him, at least.

Some might say it was his father's lawyer that stopped him from talking (as claimed in a gossip column of a 1996 issue of New York magazine). A year after, however, Korda--who was "Chrissy" Korda at the time, and asked writers to refer to him as a her--talked at length in Boston Magazine about his family and his past with no apparent reluctance. Recently, he informed Mark Dery, who interviewed him for the online magazine GettingIt that he is both Chris and Chrissy. Despite this, the Korda I've witnessed these past few months has seemed decisively male and gave me no requests to refer to him as a her. What happened between then and now (to me at least) is a mystery. According to Korda, his past is not as important as his self-anointed mission.

Korda expressed disappointment that when the COE is given any significant space in a periodical, it's done with an A&E slant. An ideal situation, said Korda, would be a trial over a suicide inspired by the church, something the area's premiere paper and other mainstream press would have no choice but to report. Their web site not only offers advice, but sainthood to anyone who commits suicide and mentions the COE, be it in a positive or negative light. "Provided they don't do it for some really asinine reason," added Korda.

"It's been a disappointment to me that no one's actually killed themselves and then had their parents sue us," Korda told me in the course of our interviews. "That would actually punch through the media shield."

An intended visualization for this piece came after my interviews with Korda. After he sent me a taped copy, I sat down to watch the episode of The Jerry Springer Show that he and other members appeared in over two years ago under the title "I Want To Join A Suicide Cult." The guest roster included a woman named Grace, who said she wished to join, and an ex-boyfriend, Chuck, who wanted to stop her.

As they reported on their web-site, one of the main goals was to attack Neal Horsley, head of the Creator Rights Party, whose own web-site, which applauded the persecution and murder of doctors who perform abortions, was shut down earlier this year. Watching this, I felt it was an even bigger set-up then they let on. Chuck, who said he split with Grace over her refusal to have children and didn't want to wear condoms because they were monogamous, was too perfect a foil. Grace's decision and Chuck's struggle to win her back both seemed non-existent except through Springer's monologue.

The kicker was when Springer gave what I thought was the answer to his own question of why they acted the way they did.

"Grace, in fairness, if [don't populate the planet] is all you guys were saying, you wouldn't even be on the show because that wouldn't be a major issue and people would be agreeing with you."

Korda chimed in: "That's right, and isn't that interesting, Jerry?"

Grace got up from chair and walked to the edge of the stage, sounding charged up: "Wait. You got it. Jerry, that's exactly it, Jerry!"

It was then that I remembered "A Modest Proposal," the satirical essay written by Jonathan Swift in 1729, often evoked in articles about the COE. In it, Swift, with statistics and cold logic, proposes that Ireland (his homeland) cure it's famine simply by eating their infants. This essay, when read in a teacher's class I was in, sparked such debate that one of my fellow students even said she didn't think it was satire at all, and that Swift was dead serious.

Good God, that's it. This is what the church is about. They have the modest proposal for the upcoming twenty-first century. At least, that's what I thought to myself. Being able to view the COE material in a certain context, I had at least a clearer vision of how the article would end.

By July, I found a newly posted letter from someone who announced a pending suicide. The letter closed with the following: "Thanks for the support, not that you convinced me, but I appreciate the camaraderie."

I had no proof of its authenticity when I discovered it. Still, it floored me, witnessing satire becoming dogma, if it hadn't been already.

When I first heard of them, it was through writer and 'zine publisher Reverend Richard J. Mackin, who described them to me as a "street theater group." The Jerry Springer Show described them as a suicide cult, much to the objections of fellow-guest Grace, who was inducted after the show. "You called it, 'I Want to Join a Suicide Cult,'" she told Springer. "I'm joining an educational group that's talking about overpopulation."

Korda's response when I asked him about it: "Of course we're a suicide cult."

Throughout our talks, Korda made it clear that he and the COE strive, among everything else, towards ambiguity, and to not be defined as any one thing. As of this writing, Korda has accomplished that much.

A Day In The Life

April 24, 1999. The Boston light radio station, WBOS, held another "Earthfest" at Boston's Esplanade near the Charles River, featuring an unexciting array of musicians. I hadn't come for any of this, but in fact was searching for the familiar banners of the COE, who were ejected from last year's Earthfest. After breezing past the various environmental booths, I headed down towards the River's edge and the concert stage, which the various concession stands (serving hot dogs, doughboys and other foods questionable by environmental and vegetarian standards) were next to. The tables stacked with environmental literature were a considerable distance away from the musical hoopla and placed under large tents that had all the visual allure of the hospital tents you see in war movies.

Down by the river, I found the first vestiges of the COE gathering. Young men and women by or on the docks, sporting signs with such sayings as NO ONE REALLY CARES, THANK YOU FOR NOT BREEDING and MAKE LOVE NOT BABIES.

One the water, a women rode on a kayak with the sign, LOVE THE EARTH TIE YOUR TUBES. At one point a family walked up to the docks. A little girl in a pink- hooded jacket was in tow. One of the women, presumably the mother, pointed to it.

"See the sign?" she asked the child, presumably not being able to read it herself. The family moved away soon after I heard her say that.

More children were to come at the docks, a couple even getting close enough to one member who sported a respirator mask and the sign FEELING MATERNAL? ADOPT! I walked ahead to the loosely boarded edge to better watch and film Korda and others assemble their trademark SAVE THE PLANET KILL YOURSELF banner on their makeshift raft.

"How is that saving the planet?" a kid asked me, pointing to the banner.

I said he'd have to ask them.

The Arrival

"He's never coming back to shore ever again," one member joked. "He's becoming a pirate."

When Korda finally arrived, it was not by land but by the river, as he had promised in a press release. The attack was two-pronged. From the raft, which swayed heavily from the strong winds, the church used their sound system to voice out such mantras as "Buy. Buy. Buy. Consume," while other members and supporters stirred things up on land.

Among the supporters on land: activist Ian MacKanon, preaching free radio and passing out information on Liberation Day; COE member and self-styled clown Vermin Supreme, who sported instead of makeup, a megaphone to go with his mocking voice, taunting passerby to eat more hot dogs; and Mackin, passing out free copies of his Earthfest "Litter A Park for the Earth" issue of his 'zine Protests Are Your Best Entertainment Value (PAYBEV).

(A quick aside: Supreme is possibly the second most recognizable member of the COE and has been with them almost since the beginning. "People on the street totally believe that it's real," he said, adding that he attempts to give an element of humor to the COE demonstrations for those who watch, "trying to diffuse their anger."

"Of course we are real," asserted Supreme, who also does his "political clown shtick" during elections, running for tittles he invents himself. He ran during the 1996 presidential elections for "Mayor of The Entire United States of America." He plans to run in 2000 for "Emperor for a New Millennium," pushing for mandatory tooth brushing.

"More fun than any cult you can imagine," is how he described the COE. "They just want your time.")

"The Church of Euthanasia" blared an electronic-friendly voice from the raft's speakers. "Information so powerful, you actually use less."

"They're so bad," chuckled Supreme, as he walked further away from the main body of protesters and lost himself in the crowd.

It was hard not to laugh. Especially when a powerboat started circling violently around their raft, its driver protesting the noise. This was followed by a playing of the mantra found on their dance single "Fleshdance": "Cow, Chicken, Pig, Human, What's the difference?"

The Message

The following quotes are excerpted from Korda's address from the raft to the Earthfest goers, taken from both our recordings, as Korda told me he spoke from no script.

"Let me ask you something. What does the Sheraton Hotel chain have to do with saving the earth? What does Royal Sonesta have to do with saving the earth. I know: Not much. And guess what? Royal Sonesta and Sheraton are the two biggest sponsors of the WBOS Earthfest. This has got nothing to do with the earth. This is hot dogs. This is pushing baby strollers. This is littering a park for the earth. That's stupid, and that's why we're here. We're here to tell you that the earth is dying. The planet is in trouble. This is not a joke. We don't do this because it's fun. We do this because it's real. This is what Earth Day was supposed to be about."

"They don't like to hear what we're trying to say over at WBOS. They don't like to hear it because it might interfere with business as usual. That's what this is all about, is business as usual. Buy. Sell. Buy. Sell. More stuff. More consuming. More babies. More stuff. More production. More consumption. Well, not for us. We're drawing a line. We're saying it's got to stop at some point. It's humans versus the earth. Humans may have evolved on the Earth, but they are no longer of the earth. They draw a distinction between themselves and every other species on Earth, and that's not going to work. It's not a good strategy."

"We're here to talk to you today about the bombing of Yugoslavia. Yeah! What's that go to do with the Earth? Huh?"

"You bet it does. That's right, because Milosevic is doing his ethnic cleansing, and we're doing ours. We're cleansing species. He may kill Albanians, but we kill species."

"Make no mistake. Humans are tough. Humans are very tough. Humans are like rats, like roaches, like weeds, and that's what we're going to have if we keep on down the path we're on. We're going to have a weed planet, a depleted planet on which there is no real world left with real wealth anymore. Wealth is not measured in dollars. Wealth is not measured in office parks. Wealth is in biological diversity. We're offering biological diversity. That's what we're here for. We're standing up for biological diversity. We're standing up for the diversity of species on the Earth."

"Shut the fuck up!" yelled a passer by from the shore, once Korda finished.

"You're beautiful, dude, you're beautiful," replied Supreme, who chimed in with his megaphone once Korda finished. "Save the planet, kill yourself ... Those misguided youths in Colorado? They had half the right idea. Unfortunately, they did it in the wrong order. They should have killed themselves first. Those people in Colorado would've killed themselves first, there would have been no problem now, would there?"


I arranged to meet with Korda before I could dive into the COE web site and its information, tracing from Korda's speech some paraphrasing of the Gaia Liberation Front (an organization the COE quotes but does not support because of their proposal to use involuntary virus warfare to depopulate the planet) and David Quammen's "Planet of Weeds," its full text also available through the web site. The COE dogma, however, was not what I was primarily interested in. That information was and still is readily available. I wanted to look into their strategy for spreading that information, which has received very little print in comparison to Korda's constant elaboration of the Church's commandment and four pillars.

I remembered Supreme's words about Littleton as Korda stepped in the Middle East, maybe a month after the Littleton massacre, wearing black shorts and shirt, and a long black coat, displaying his normal, unapologetic stance on issues for all to see, though we were the only two eating at a table. When he ordered his vegetarian dish, I simply had a Coke, just to stay safe.

"The fine print is that they lied to us, as they could have been expected to do," started Korda, referring to the police. "Lieutenant Bearfield, who was the commanding officer that day told us that we had every right to do what we were doing, and that we could continue to use our sound system ... to address the crowd but that we would have to do it at the docks for our own safety because they weren't confident of the construction of our boat."

"In any case," he said, "they moved us off to one side. They towed us off to the dock, and then when we'd been on the dock for maybe ten fifteen minutes maximum--by that time the big heavyweight cops had already gone, which is stupid on our part. If we'd have been smart, we would have started broadcasting immediately, just to test their mettle."

Coincidentally, police sirens wailed past us somewhere in the background as he finished berating his own actions. "But instead we waited, just to socialize for a few minutes, cranked the sound system back up and within seconds, we had two very big state police cops on us, informing us that if we didn't turn off the sound system that they would arrest us and confiscate the sound system."

The Massachusetts Police's public relations office, who I had contacted to reach this Lt. Bearfield or anyone else who would speak on this, never got back to me.

"So there you have it," Korda began again. "It's a classic cop trick. We spent the rest of the afternoon--or I spent the rest of the afternoon--chasing down various officers, including Lt. Bearfield. I got Lt. Bearfield to reconfirm that we did have every right to use the sound system, then I tried to explain that to the officer who shut us down, but he wouldn't talk to me. Basically we had a kind of tense standoff, where the officer who wouldn't talk to me was saying, 'Lt. Bearfield's in charge. Whatever he says goes. Your issue is with him, not with me. I'm not going to talk to you.' So in effect, by not giving me any assurance that he wouldn't arrest me, they were leaving open a situation where we would turn the sound system back on, they would arrest me, I would say, 'Well, hey, you can't arrest me because Lt. Bearfield said that we could do this.' They would call up Lt. Bearfield, and Lt. Bearfield would say 'I never said that,' and we'd be arrested."

Korda said he wasn't interested in this scenario, so the matter was dropped and he and the COE left the grounds with no further problems. "All throughout the standard Church of Euthanasia policy is in effect: no one's ever been arrested at a Church of Euthanasia action, and I have no intention of starting now. Once you get arrested, the police can seriously curtail your freedom to do these things in the future."

"But on the other side of that," Korda added, "we've got real trouble with First Amendment rights in Boston and everywhere in the United States." He brought up the (selectively enforced) Park Department ordinance requiring a permit for any gathering of more than two people. "Even on the public sidewalks, where they can't get away with that, they can make you keep moving; and they can get you for you obstructing traffic."

"So we've been," he explained, "in some cases, been forced to march around in circles. If we try and attach ourselves to someone else's event, for instance, like the Right to Lifers ... They can get us for interfering with the Right to Lifers' permit, or they can get us for obstructing a parade."

Although Korda conceded the futility of requesting a permit to obstruct someone else's demonstration, he said the COE plans to apply for a permit for their own parade, which is still in the planning phase. "The basic theme would be a parade to stop traffic," he said. "Of course we wouldn't advertise it as a parade to stop traffic. The city would never allow that. We would advertise it as a diversity parade, and under the banner of diversity we would try to recruit as many diverse organizations as possible, probably under some type of cover organization."

According to Korda, there's good reason for such secrecy. "I don't think there's any organizations in Boston that wholeheartedly supports us, but that's part of our position. Of course we're unpopular. What we're saying is fundamentally antisocial and antihuman. We're campaigning against five thousand years of industrialism and globalism. We're attempting to interrupt the normal flow of economics. We're against business as usual. We're against production. We're against mass society. And above all, we're against technology."

Jerry Again

"You know, I suspect most of us think this is all crazy, that these are all a bunch of loonies playing with something short of a full deck. Clearly, to the extent that these folks can influence vulnerable and impressionable minds to do destructive and harmful things, they are, of course, dangerous."
--From Jerry Springer's closing statement on the COE appearance.

"First of all, it was offered to us," said Chris, after I asked him why he appeared on Jerry Springer, of all places. "Second of all, it does reach, predominantly, poor black women who are at home and were likely--very likely--extremely likely--to have children, so that's an important target audience for us. Third of all, I personally prefer tabloid media to so-called respectable, conventional media because tabloid media is less censored. With tabloid media, you can basically say whatever you want. The only restriction is that you can't be boring."

I brought up the fact that the "Suicide Cult" theme of the show may have distilled any environmental messages they were there to convey. For Korda, this didn't seem a concern. "We're not any one thing. We're a propaganda ministry. We do whatever is going to be the most effective [thing] at any one time. The essence of Situationism--and we are situationists after all ... is perceiving the right place and the right time in which what would otherwise be a useless or ineffective action suddenly becomes very effective because it unleashes a much larger force."

"In the case of The Jerry Springer Show," he said, "we were able to manipulate a situation to our advantage. Jerry Springer wasn't expecting to have intelligent guests. He's never had intelligent guests before, and he's never had them since."

Reason Vs. ...

Not having seen the show yet, I asked Korda what reactions he received after the show. "Outrage and confusion, of course."

Is this what he wants all the time? I related to him something that happened on the Esplanade during the Earthfest protest, when a conversation was had between a normal bystander and one of the COE signholders. There was a relatively rational exchange of opinions without the cursing and lashing out other onlookers demonstrated. (I hadn't mentioned, because he probably already knew, that Mackin was also talking to others, using the COE as a draw, as Mackin said he has in the past.)

"Well, that's fine," said Korda, almost flatly. "I'm not opposed to reason .... I think that that's not really my area of expertise. I make plenty of rational arguments, of course, all day long; but the [core] of the Church of Euthanasia is that we're not bound by the limits of rationality or the limits of good taste."

"'Eat A Queer Fetus For Jesus' is a profoundly offensive statement to most people, and that's very positive." Korda's positive feeling stems from his view on how the exchanging of information is hindered today. "I think that we live in an age when almost no meaningful communication is taking place because people have been trained to separate everything, every piece of information they encounter, into neat categories, so it can be assimilated and essentially ignored. Most of the time when we're dealing with people, we're not dealing with them at all. We're dealing with their secretaries, their mental secretaries, filing, categorizing, sorting into neat dualisms of right and wrong and good versus evil."

"My object," continued Korda, "is to destroy those categories as much as possible, to present people with information that can't be assimilated and that doesn't fit into their categories. The best possible response to a Church of Euthanasia action is, 'What the fuck are you guys doing? I don't understand. Explain this to me.' That's an ideal reaction, because then we can step in and actually get people to think for themselves, and say 'Well, what do you think it means? What do these words say? Do they have any resonance at all?' And then people are forced to say, 'Well, geez, never really thought about it before.'"

"That's the kind of reaction we're looking for. We're looking for, in a sense, a form of deprogramming."

An Impasse

It was my turn to sail into troubled waters. I asked Korda to go a little into his own life. He steadfastly refused to go into family. "It's not relevant," was his only reply. Only when I awkwardly persisted for more did he shoot me down in more detail and in the process turn the metaphorical camera away from him. "What kind of interview is this really? If this is an interview primarily about me, then I'm less enthusiastic. As you can imagine, I'm a missionary of a sort. I'm a person with a mission. My goal is to communicate ideas which are profoundly subversive and antisocial, to as large a group of people as possible .... It can only be done by using the tools of Mass Society, okay? The tools of mass society are television, radio, newspapers, all of that."

Then he made the camera do a 180-degree turn. "So you are part of that apparatus, to a certain extent. In a way, my goal is to persuade you of the righteousness of this cause. To persuade you sufficiently so that you are willing to put yourself on the line, and make some of these ideas available to a larger percentage of the public. To the extent that I succeed in persuading you of the rightness of this cause, I have succeeded in my strategy. If I fail, and I convince you that I am either a crackpot or perhaps some subject for entertainment, or that it would be useful to dig up dirt on my family, then I've failed in my cause. Do you see the problem?"

After a little more banter, we focused less on his past experiences and more on his past attitudes before his vision. He brought me back to 1991, the year, Korda said, he started crossdressing. "In retrospect, I feel that crossdressing was the beginning of an attempt to restore balance within myself, in a psychological sense, specifically between my male and female polar opposites, but also between other aspects of myself."

"But I couldn't see that at the time," admitted Korda, who at that same time made a journey to Provincetown and liked it enough to stay, working as a female impersonator, experiencing house music for the first time, and entering drag-queen competitions. "Second prize was as about the best I ever did," he said. "I couldn't win, because my competition consisted mostly of tough street queens, who had nothing to fall back on except maybe hooking or drugs. That gave their performances an edge that mine just didn't have."

Korda said he returned from Provincetown "still very rough, still a lot of problems, but I built on that," ending his story with the dream about The Being. "In that dream, I first became aware of the larger imbalances around me. That awareness was expressed in the slogan 'Save The Planet Kill Yourself,' and in the lyrics of the song itself."

That song can be found on the recently released Six Billion Humans Can't Be Wrong. It's the third album CD Korda has put out to date which shows his interest in house music has not diminished. "I like its soulful quality," said Korda, who, though his background is primarily jazz, finds little difference between techno and other styles. "I think we're surrounded by a lot of really bad electronic music, but we're surrounded by a lot of really bad non-electronic music too."


"The Jews suffered terribly, but any sane person will admit that there are still Jews in the world. The same can't be said for the millions of plant and animal species that have become extinct as a result of the human population explosion. Where are the symbols of this species holocaust?" --Chris Korda's response to anti-Semitism charges from German magazine Beam Me Up.
--From The Church of Euthanasia web site. Later removed.

At the time we talked, Korda hadn't even started to try to get radio play here in America, though he made it clear that he expected the CD to do better outside the country than inside. "Generally, Europeans are much more open-minded about electronic music or about art in general. The United States tends to be, by and large, a very close minded place. Even though it's very dynamic and active in terms of being a source of mass culture, in my experience, Americans tend to be much more patriotic, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, and generally close-minded than their European counterparts."

Other topics, however, still hit hard in Catholic-influenced Germany. Topics such as religion, abortion, and most notably, The Holocaust. This caused Korda to change the cover of Six Billion Humans, originally a photo of Korda in an oven of the Dachau German death camp of World War Two. "And yet Germany would have been the one perfect place to release it," observed Korda. "Here, in the United States, we'll release it with this photograph, and most people won't get it, because they aren't well-educated enough to know that it's Dachau. They'll think it's a pizza oven."

Korda called the need to create a Germany-approved album cover, "a tragedy," but deemed it necessary in order to have a distributor that can sell a substantial number of copies. "It's all about tactics," Korda confessed, without me challenging him to. "I'm a shrewd business person. I'm not into purity. Purity is for losers. We're out to win this thing."

The Future

"Could humans choose to live in a sustainable way, at a greatly reduced population, by rediscovering ancient wisdom, without abandoning their scientific advances? Possibly, but only if the industrial nations set the example, by drastically reducing both their populations and their consumption. This is why the Church explicitly targets that tiny percentage of humanity who reap the dubious material benefits of domestication: the technological elite, the users of the internet--in short, your readers."

--Out take of Mark Dery's e-mail discussion with Chris Korda. From the Church of Euthanasia web site.

Though the parade was the first thing that comes to Korda's mind when he discussed future events, he emphasized promoting the CD as a higher priority, as it can draw attention better than other COE activities. "Mass media culture is very well set up to promote events," he said, "I think that when we have something like [the CD], we can use it as a battering ram, as a way of forcing the press to cover us, even though they would rather not."

He also sees a video documentary the COE's activities as "an easy sell," and very likely in the future. It's possible the film will show various examples of what they are against. In issue #4 of Snuff It, for example, Korda and Eccles discuss a COE trip to Gary Indiana, describing the town as being right out of the movie Eraserhead. Korda would prefer to focus on the unique footage of the Church actions which the majority of people would otherwise never see. "Novelty is definitely a factor in our calculations," said Korda. "Novelty is part of what keeps people clicking on our web site."

He also felt there was enough footage of such places as Gary, Indiana. Too much, in fact, that he felt such images were "in danger of becoming a cliche."

"People are constantly becoming desensitized in some way that we hadn't predicted before," he said, "so we always have to come up with new and different tactics."

Differing Techniques

Supporting the Unabomber for President campaign through the COE would have violated the its tax-exempt status. Korda therefore acted independently but through the organization UNAPACK, founded by Lydia Eccles, who is also a member of the Church.

At one point, Korda was able to bring up Unabomber Ted Kaczynski as an example of his approach versus that of the COE. "The Unabomber published the whole truth, the real unvarnished truth, at 30,000 words, in the world's most widely read newspapers," said Korda, "and yet almost no one read him. Most of those supplements wound up in the garbage, and the reason why is twofold. First of all, he had zero entertainment value. We're talking about 30,000 words in 10 point type. Most Americans are unlikely to read 30,000 words on any subject, not even sports, never mind the future of industrial society."

"Second of all," continued Korda, "the Unabomber failed to recognize that his audience had already been persuaded--before the Manifesto was even published--not to read it, because he wasn't an expert. He wasn't an officially sanctioned source. In fact the public had been persuaded that he was crank, a serial killer, and that they could safely ignore anything he said."

"These are serious propaganda mistakes that we're not making," declared Korda.

Korda has never talked with Kaczynski, or for that matter Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who Korda said, he would rather "admire from afar," due to the lack of admiration Kevorkian would most likely have for the COE. Korda, however, still predicts that no matter how or when he dies, "he will be the greatest saint of the Church of Euthanasia ... and we will canonize him, but I don't think he needs to know that."

There are figures that do support the work of Korda and the other COE members. Among them, Korda lists Cartoonist Nina Paley, authors Poppy Z. Brite, author and local 'zinester Pagan Kennedy, and 60's icon Paul Krassner. I pointed out the parallels the COE is showing between itself and the church of Scientology: logical arguments mixed with religious visions with celebrity (or pseudo-celebrity) endorsements thrown in. I ask him if it worried him.

"Again, we're not obliged to be consistent," answered Korda, repeating himself a little. "We're not obliged to make sense, and we frequently don't. What we are obliged to do, again and again, is to punch through people's pervasive sense that things can continue the way they are, that business as usual can continue. That's what we're here to do. We're here to interrupt that flow, and whatever tactic works well for that at any given time is what tactic we'll use. If it helps to be rational, we'll be rational. If it helps to be irrational, we'll be irrational."

The Follow Up

Looking over my interview with Chris Korda, there were one or two things that I missed. I called him again, and we met up again. This time at a Bruegger's Bagels,

"It's been a busy day," he assured me as he ordered a quick meal, with me once again electing to only watch. This time, instead of basic black, he sported dressier pants and a button down shirt. The only things that distinguished him from the crowd were his glasses and a few fingernails painted light purple. Walking to our table with his tray, it seemed he also pondered his clothing selection. "Geez, wear a clean shirt, and everyone's nice to you."

We sat down and he went over what I thought would be three small issues. Two were. The third one, however, gave him pause.

In the course of the first interview, he mentioned that he considered a transsexual operation. I had asked him why he backed down.

"Again, a change of heart. That's another story. We'll get to that in a minute." We never did.

When I asked Korda at Bruegger's to get the story, he took pause. "That's really involved in personal history," he said, wanting once again to make sure my article, "focuses on the ideas, and less on my personal life." I said it would, which was the truth, since I only had his quotes to go on, I had only brought it up because he mentioned it, and I'd accept however he wanted to phrase it.

"With that in mind," he said, "I'll express it this way. I believe, personally, that cross-dressing is the balancing of male and female aspects within a person, within a person's psyche, within their soul, if you will. And everyone has these male and female aspects. I mean, in most cases, they are grossly out of balance due to the extreme gender socialization that we're exposed to as children. Men are forced into extreme male gender roles, women are forced into extreme female gender roles. Just look at the toy store, and you'll see it in action."

"The fact that we survive our childhood conditioning with any of our integrity, and compassion and ability to love intact, is a testimony to the strength of human character. Most humans, of course, are severely damaged, and never recover. That's how the proletarian technological society perpetuates itself."

"So I believe," he continued, "that it wasn't until I became aware of my, what some people have called 'gender dysphoria,' or 'gender uncomfortableness,' that I really began to make any progress in my life, towards a real kind of balance."

"And it wasn't until I began to balance myself, internally," he said, "that I could have any hope of really becoming aware of the larger imbalances that surround me, and do anything about them."

"There's a more technical answer to your question," he added, "and it's not very personal, but I think it's the important answer, the logical answer."

For his logical answer, he brought up his issues with transexuality. "I backed away from it because it's a typically western, patriarchal, interventionist, invasive solution to a problem that could never be solved that way."

"You go to a doctor complaining that you feel trapped in an extreme gender role, and the doctor says, 'Well, if you happen to have $30,000 ... and a very, very high tolerance for pain, and personal suffering, and two or three years to spend working on this, we will gradually fit you into an equally extreme and ridiculous opposite gender role.'"

"I think it's a shame," said Korda, having taken himself almost completely out of the picture again. " I think it's a tragedy that so many people succumb to it when what they're really yearning for ... is ambivalence, is balance, to be in a state between the genders, as we all should be, to renounce the extreme and to embrace subtlety and ambiguity."

"To crossdress is to mimic the opposite gender, and that's a positive step." "But the step beyond that is to gender-bend, to occupy the space in between the genders all the time."

He spoke highly of Dennis Rodman. "Whatever else he may believe, which I may or may not agree with, he had the guts to gender-bend while being part of one of the most successful basketball teams in history. He went public and said, 'Yes, I wear a dress, and what are you gonna fuckin' do about it? You don't like that? You got a problem with that? You gonna fuck with me?' Okay? That's pretty amazing."

Korda even considered other gender-bending heroes like Rupaul. "There's a lot of gray areas. Nothing's all good or all bad."

"Remember," finished Korda. "That's one of the essential observations of the church. Nothing is all good or all bad. Even though something may hurt in some ways, it may help in others."


"I guess the thing I most wanted to say is that it doesn't have to be unpleasant or sad, it can be a peaceful, happy leave taking."
--Excerpt of the suicide note. From The Church of Euthanasia web site.

I first read the suicide note while Korda was touring Germany. When he came back, he confirmed the validity of it. It was, he said, sent with a $150 donation in a envelope with no return address, so Korda saw little point in searching for the full identity of M. Millis, whose qualifications for sainthood were still being considered. Korda wished he had more to go on with Millis, more than just an initial and a last name, but he didn't seem overly concerned. "I guess we can probably let that slide."

Most recently, I was able to talk with Supreme at the 10th Annual Freedom Rally held at the Boston Common. He hadn't heard of it yet prior to my telling him there. I asked him on the spot if he thought it was possible that the letter was fake. "It could be that," he mused. "I don't know, if it's real and it's consensual ... that's fine." It took a few minutes before he put it in a humorous context: "Hell, even if the guy didn't kill himself, if he sent a good check, damn it, that deserves sainthood right there! Let me tell you that!"

I also brought up to Supreme his prior comments of adding humor to the COE activities, and asked how it conflicted with Korda's insistence that he and the other members are serious. "Greatly, of course ... but the humor in the Church is undeniable. I think the underpinning critique[s] of industrial society are right on and are heartfelt and pretty damn serious; and the Church's response to that is to create this in-your-face dada spectacle for the people and actually take it to the streets."

"That's why they differ greatly from many, many cults," chuckled Supreme. "There's so many cults to choose from. Which one are you going to pick?"

Before and after my calling Korda and talking with Supreme, I had of course examined the letter. Millis, whether sincere or not, was very articulate and given to theatrics: "I will enjoy the slow fade, and the long awaited moment. (Bath water deep enough to suffocate me when I pass out)". By not even listing a sex, Millis has achieved a sexual ambiguity Korda can never achieve. Even beyond that, Millis is vague, identifiable only by his deed and the opinion that led to it, identifying him or herself as part of a 'we' collective, though I wouldn't be surprised if the writer was very much alone in his or her thoughts--just as I found it almost inappropriate for Chris to say "we" when he is obviously the COE's leader and its prime mover--if not the only one.

The COE just might have found its perfect and ideal first Saint, perhaps even more appropriate than Kevorkian. However, this brings them and their viewpoints no closer to the spotlight. It's like someone bringing a shrouded item to attention by putting another shroud on top of it.

I'm sure the chat area of the church is guns a-blazing with controversy even now, with this and other topics, maybe wondering if it's all a joke (just as I've wondered on and off while writing this piece whether I'm being put on or not). However, as far as the rest of the world goes, news of the church's potential first saint has fallen on deaf ears, the media shield firmly placed in front.

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