While driving to work the other day, I was listening to my favorite talk show on Sirius XM. The day's guest was former American professional wrestler and governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura. I just love when he calls into the program.
Ventura, who also is a best-selling author and television show host, is always captivating. Whether you agree with his politics or not, he sure does know how to tell a story. Or should we say, conspiracy theory.
In addition to penning several books on the subject, he also hosted the show "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura," which aired from 2009 to 2012.
During this most recent interview, Ventura dropped a big one: the YMCA might be a front organization for the CIA. "What?!" I thought to myself. The YMCA?
As soon as I arrived at the office, I did a little research. It turns out, Ventura isn't the only one to have suggested this.
Back in 1989, the now deceased British lawyer Fenton Bresler published the book Who Killed John Lennon. In it, he argues that Lennon's assasin, Mark David Chapman, actually was programmed by the CIA through drugs and hypnosis to pull the trigger on the beloved member of The Beatles.
Even Bresler's idea isn't completely original. Most of us may recall Richard Condon's 1959 novel, The Manchurian Candidate, a Cold War political thriller about a son of a prominent American family who is brainwashed into becoming an assassin. John Frankenheimer brought the film to life 1962, and ironically,a year later John. F. Kennedy would be gunned down in Dallas. Many since have postulated Lee Harvey Oswald (and perhaps even his killer Jack Ruby) similarly was brainwashed by the CIA into pulling the trigger.
So what does this all have to do with the YMCA? Well, as Bresler noted and Ventura reiterated, the YMCA has offices in more than 90 countries, making it an ideal front for the government agency. Chapman had strong ties to the Y throughout his life; he worked for the organization at a Vietnamese refugee camp in 1975, and stayed at various Y hostels when he traveled the world, among other interactions.
Of course this all could be a coincidence. But there's more to the story, and the next bit is quite a doozy. So stay with me. The United States Youth Council, a nonprofit coalition of organizations that served youth, operated from 1945 to 1989. The USYC had 16 members, one of which was the YMCA. In 1967, The New York Times revealed that 90 percent of USYC's funds came from the CIA, which in turn was controlling the organization's agenda.
When you put it all together, it's definitely one fantastic tale. But is that all it is? A story? Probably so. But, if the CIA is behind it, we likely will never know either way. But one thing's for certain, the YMCA has been around for a very long time. 171 years to be exact. Today the organization is a beacon of community and strength for youth and families throughout the world. And it has been serving these groups in unsurpassed ways to ensure safety, health and fitness for all.