Although the case against the founders of Sybil has officially been dropped, this investigative journalist is not so sure the Sybil Three are innocent. Following the milk crate investigation, I requested and was granted copies of all the documents found within.
As a lifelong resident of the state of Texas, Stephen Spencer's previous publication, The Eyes of Texas, a radical journal promoting secession from the Union in order to set up a communistic state, was of particular interest to this investigative journalist, so I read the few copies Buckholz had in his collection, and then took to the internet to track down the rest. Although the journal published 60 issues over its five year run, finding copies proved exceedingly difficult. In the end, I was left without a copy of issues 1-4, 8, 12, 19, 26-29, 35, 37, 40, 43, and 55-60.
Spencer, at the time, was publishing under the pseudonym Agonistes, which could either have been a direct reference to the Milton character or to the ancient Greek word for a 'person engaged in a struggle'. Either would seem fitting for his purposes as he saw himself at the time as a tragic hero engaged in a worthy and monumental struggle.
Like his Sybil co-founder, Spencer was surprisingly open to engage in a dialogue. I approached him at a bar in his local San Marcos where he was enjoying a pint before going home after a day of work. The bar, fittingly, served only Texan craft beer and Spencer seemed a familiar piece of the scenery. The bartender recognized him and knew his drink. I approached as he stood at the bar waiting, and, after asking if he would speak to me, he smiled and told the bartender to make it two.
I thanked him for the beer and followed him to a table. He pointed out a television screen playing an old movie.
"This is a great one," he said. "Have you seen it before?"
"What is it?" I asked, not recognizing any of the actors.
"It's called Branded to Kill, directed by this Japanese cat, Seijun Suzuki."
I shook my head and told him I wasn't much of a film buff which seemed to sadden him a bit.
"I don't know if you know who I am-" I started, but he cut me off.
"Sure I do. You're Obadiah Elihue, investigative journalist."
"That's right," I confirmed. "I'd like to ask you about The Eyes of Texas."
He laughed a loud, high-pitched laugh which ended in a croak and took a sip of his beer. His eyes had brightened behind his glasses and he was nodding his head even as he drank. We were sitting at a long table against the wall, far removed from the bulk of the patrons who sat shoulder-to-shoulder along the bar. He set his glass down on the table and folded his hands before him.
"Alright," he said finally. "What do you want to know?"
"I can find no record of you before the publication, but you had a rather large circulation pretty early on."
"Right, well that would be all Bessie's doing."
"Yes, Bessie Glass. I found reference to her in some letters I came across."
"You have done your homework."
"It's my job. Who is she?"
"She is my benefactor. That's all I know. I don't know who she is, how she found me, or anything else."
"But she provided you with the funds necessary to start The Eyes of Texas?"
Spencer nodded and picked up his glass for the first time since the interview began. "And Sybil," he added on.
"I thought that was the Soviets?"
"Fake news," he said, echoing the same laugh as before. "Come on, man. I thought you had the milk crate. We were never aligned with the Soviets. They lost their way long ago. It was always this Bessie Glass. I thought she had the wrong address when I first got the letter. It was addressed to Zooey Glass, you see. I sent it back to the post office and everything.
"Of course Rudy got to be Seymour, and they hid his first letter in some Pynchon book at the public library. Shit like that is always happening to him. Though, the feds were already reading his mail at that point, so I guess they didn't have much of a choice. How they knew he'd be the next person to check out that book, I have no idea. These people are next level, I'm telling you. That's why it doesn't really matter what I tell you now. Bessie and Franny, they're the fucking wind. You'll never catch them."
At this point, he began dancing with his arms and giving me jazz hands, I suppose as an imitation of the wind, but who knows. The beer was quite strong, and if I was feeling it, then this skinny bean stalk certainly was.
"So what," I said, trying to get the interview back on track, "you start receiving these letters and this Bessie Glass instructs you to start a radical journal and you just do?"
"No, man. No. I was already writing this sort of stuff and just publishing it wherever I could. It's not like she came along and radicalized me. She just provided me with the platform I needed."
"So she just provided you with all the money and let you set your own agenda?"
"That's not it either. We had the same agenda, man. It was symbiotic."
"Okay, okay. Let me ask you this: why Texas? If you're going to try to incite a workers' revolution, seems like there are plenty of less conservative places for you to do that."
"Easy. Texas is my home. As much as I disagree with its politics, I do see a certain potential in its ideals. You have this cowboy image that Texas prides itself on and what is the romantic draw of the cowboy life? It's freedom. You know, I don't understand how Texas has become so conservative and backwards and Republican-controlled if it prides itself on a romanticized view of the cowboys of old. What is a cowboy about if not personal freedom? Yet there's all this backwards ass shit that should be so obvious. Like how is outlawing marijuana compatible with this idea of personal freedom? What about not allowing same sex couples to marry? Or forcing control over women's bodies? Ending net neutrality? And The Wall, that's the very antithesis of personal freedom. It all just seems so obvious that fighting for these rights gets to the point that it becomes almost boring. Like there are so many bigger things to tackle that we can't get to because all these hurdles have been put in our way, and maybe that is why these things became issues at all, to prevent us from getting to the bigger issues.
"And I don't mean that these things aren't important. Not at all. I mean that there is so obviously a right answer that having to fight for it is just mind-boggling sometimes. Like, my boy Rudy tried to tackle this idea of whiteness recently, about the need to shed the white identity, and he sent it to me and Jake before publishing it, and we both read it, and okayed it. Actually, I think I even said something about it lacking vitriol, but the response to it was absolutely surreal. Like, maybe we overestimated people thinking they were ready for that sort of idea. Maybe they need to continue to be babied with repeated arguments over who should and should not be allowed to enter into a legal contract because of what some two thousand year old book says.
"I'm sorry. I'm getting upset and off topic. Do you want another?"
"Please, let me get this round."
Spencer thanked me and when I returned to the table he was composed again, but had become absorbed in watching the film and was not as open to my line of questioning. I sat with him and enjoyed my beer as he got me up to speed as best he could on the movie in a few muttered sentences. Then we watched it to completion and, as the credits rolled, he stood up, slammed the last of his beer, and announced that he had to go.