Music legend of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” fame, Charlie Daniels, issued an emphatic if chilling warning to Taco Bell over Twitter, after the company’s peculiar but nevertheless unmistakable nod to the Illuminati in a recent ad bristled the singer’s feathers.
“Hey Taco Bell,” Daniels tweeted Monday. “The Illuminati is not a frivolous subject.”
Hey Taco Bell
The Illuminati is not a frivolous subject
— Charlie Daniels (@CharlieDaniels) January 9, 2018
According to TheWrap, “While Daniels failed to elaborate on his warning — perhaps out of concern for saying too much — the musician was presumably referring to Taco Bell’s recent ‘Belluminati’ campaign, which employs conspiracy-themed language and imagery to reveal the ‘powerful connection between the dollar and Taco Bell’ — namely, a line of menu items available for $1 each.
“Taco Bell has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment on Daniels’ words of caution — possibly because they’re awaiting guidance on a response from the Lizard People who control the Pentagon — but Daniels’ doom-signal to the brand drew its own responses on social media.”
All joking — or not? — aside, Taco Bell’s awkwardly brazen allusion to the much-maligned topic of online discussion has indeed raised eyebrows. In debates over national and world power structures and their systems of control, the Illuminati — a storied group ordinarily symbolized by a pyramid inset with the all-seeing Eye of Providence and whose elite ‘members’ purportedly pull strings to wield uncompromising influence throughout the spheres of, among other venues, Hollywood, sports, and politics — inevitably surfaces.
So fraught is the topic of the Illuminati and so frequently the target of hushed theories that the corporate media has even succumbed on multiple occasions, addressing the group’s presumed symbology, supposed methods of delivering messages, and occasionally its putative members. Slate, for instance, ran a piece in 2011 unabashedly asking, “Is Lady Gaga a Satanist Illuminati Slave?” — a negligibly tongue-in-cheek primer which notes the first widespread references to the, well, shadowy organization began surfacing in early-1990s hip-hop and rippled outward until the era of internet and information washed the subject in a deluge of popularity.
“Now,” reported AdWeek in December around the debut of Taco Bell’s ad, “with the new Belluminati spots, [company CMO Marisa] Thalberg sees the brand’s value effort as ‘clever, but it’s also strategic, this powerful connection between the dollar bill and Taco Bell … also, the sort of playful idea of, “How do you get into a secret society where enlightened people are enjoying all of this decadence?” Well, entry is a dollar, admission is a dollar, so it’s a not-so-secret secret society.’”
All wishful corporate thinking aside, symbology found on the dollar bill is believed among Illuminati theorists to be one and the same in many regards, particularly, the aforementioned all-seeing eye, unfinished pyramid, and inscribed Latin motto, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM — roughly translated and modernized to mean, “A New Order of the Ages” — all contained in the Great Seal and located on the currency.
“Historians say that refers to the birth of a new country,” Marketplace explained in 2014. “And FDR liked the way it jived with his New Deal. But, for conspiracy theorists, the words ‘new order’ on the dollar bill were a signal that the U.S. government had been taken over by evil forces.”
Understanding where public perception of the Illuminati — a group ostensibly devoted to enlightenment upon its conception — soured to the belief its members were ruled by dark forces isn’t an easy task. In part, Jonah Weiner wrote in 2011,
“The Illuminati were an actual group, founded in Bavaria in the late 18th century by a philosopher and law professor named Adam Weishaupt. In The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte, the historian Frederick C. Beiser describes the Illuminati as ‘a secret society devoted to the cause of political reform and Aufklärung’ — the German Enlightenment. In Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, the author Glen Alexander Magee notes that the group was marked by its ‘opposition to traditional religion, superstition, and feudalism’ and its ‘advocacy of scientific rationalism and the rights of man.’ It is hard to say precisely why the Illuminati became wedded in the paranoid mind with devil worship, but seeming reasons include Weishaupt’s anticlerical streak and a popular ‘history’ of Freemasonry written in the late 19th century by Frenchman Léo Taxil, who purported to expose Masons’ Satanic rituals. (Taxil later revealed that his ‘journalism’ was actually a satirical hoax.) The melding of secret societies and occultism persists today, of course, in pop-cultural representations of creepy, chamber-congregating Skull and Bones members or masked, orgy-prone captains of industry in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
“Weishaupt’s Illuminati ran afoul of Bavarian Elector Karl Theodor, who caught the seditious wind and issued a decree in 1784, Magee writes, ‘commanding them to disband.’ Born as a reformist bogeyman opposed to, and ultimately snuffed out by, entrenched power, the Illuminati went under in 1787, but it has lived on in the conservative imagination. In a 1995 New Yorker article about the rise of conspiracy theories in America, Michael Kelly mentions the Illuminati as major phantasms in the so-called New World Order theory, the basics of which were laid out in, among other places, the John Birch Society’s 1958 Blue Book. (The Order of the Illuminati figures centrally into the Rev. Pat Robertson’s 1991 book, The New World Order, too.) In the New World Order theory, Kelly writes, the Illuminati are just one link in the nefarious chain of ‘secret and semisecret societies arcing across time and cultures’ from ‘early-Christian-era agnostics,’ through the Freemasons, to ‘twentieth century schemers.’ The perceived goal of shadow puppeteers such as the Illuminati is ‘to destroy the established Christian order of Western nations and replace it with an atheistic, socialistic global government.’”
It need not be said this topic is far too broad in scope to be adequately introduced, much less explained, in the space of a single article — but its inescapable symbols cannot be missed in Taco Bell’s curious choice.
Despite Daniels’ legendary status, however, his as-yet singular warning to the fast food chain garnered an expected onslaught of ridicule across social media, if also virulent support. It was the musician, after all, who mentioned the Illuminati in 2015 to similar public reactions, writing in a post quoted by FOX,
“I do have some very deep suspicions about people who operate behind the scenes and have undue and unmerited influence in the halls of power of the international political scene.”
Daniels has not yet elaborated any further on what he intended by the cryptic tweet.