Posts Tagged ‘Conspiracy theories’


It’s been a while since we’ve posted one of these, so this’ll be a bit longer than usual. Given these dark times and the need for comic relief, we’re mostly featuring Funny Internet Crap this time around. We’ve found some choice items so, as always, hang onto your hats and enjoy.

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  • Deadstate is always good for a few laughs amidst the political and religious horrors it tends to cover. Our current favorite story is “University psychiatrist: Saying Trump is mentally ill is a ‘terrible insult to the mentally ill.'”
  • Rudy Rucker’s Juicy Ghost is a  “a political sci-fi story,” that the standard sci-fi magazines thought was too hot to handle. (Rucker is a very well established sci-fi author — normally the mags would gobble up any short story he submitted.) So, because none of the magazines would publish it, Rucker put it up in its entirety on his own blog. It’s short, but highly enjoyable.
  • Everyone loves a good prank, and for some fun examples see this story about Jeff Wysaski’s “obvious plants.” They good, but not as good as the following fake poster plastered all over Santa Cruz a couple of years ago:

  • And everyone loves to indulge in schadenfreude (feeling joy at another’s misfortune). And it’d be hard to top the amount of pure joy one feels when viewing this video taken inside a restaurant in China by a live-streamer who filmed herself trying to eat a live octopus. By far the best thing about this is that she did everything from planning this animal-abuse atrocity to attempting to execute it herself. Bon appetit!
  • Speaking of animals and sheer nuttiness all wrapped up in a conspiracy theory, check out this story about the Birds Aren’t Real campaign. (Yes, birds have all been replaced by surveillance drones.)
  • If you think most modern pop music utterly sucks, you’re right. For an entertaining exposition on just how and why so much of it does, check out Axis of Awesome’s “How to Write a Love Song.”
  • And what better to finish with than what might be the funniest short video ever posted on Youtube dealing with fishing, rednecks, and beer. You’ve gotta love this guy.

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


A few days ago, an old friend I haven’t seen for some time dropped by for a shoot-the-shit session. We’ve never been especially close, but always enjoyed hanging out and, in the old days, did some home brewing together. He’s a smart guy, an ex-Army officer, and fairly progressive politically.

It was late afternoon, approaching evening, with a deep blue sky overhead, with a jet streaking to the northwest leaving a lengthy contrail behind it, with both of us sitting in the shade around the back-patio table. We were about two beers in, and as the contrail spread out and drifted straight above us, I pointed to it and drawled, “Chem trails!” thinking we’d have some fun talking about conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

I was wrong.

He proceeded to vigorously expound the chem-trail conspiracy theory, but couldn’t provide anything approaching coherent explanations of why? how? — what’s the purpose? how’s it work? — who’s doing it (the government, of course)? or how could “they” cover up a massive conspiracy over a period of decades?

It was like trying to nail mucilage to a door. He retreated into a cloud of ever-vaguer (hence harder to debunk) claims, and eventually withdrew to the ultimate conspiracy-theorist position: “You can’t prove I’m wrong. Prove it!” Never mind that the burden of proof is on those making claims, especially extraordinary claims.

I then asked him where he was getting his information from. Guess, just guess. It was all on the ‘net of course, and the first site he mentioned was — wait for it — Infowars. I took a deep breath and asked him, “You don’t look at The Guardian, CNN, NBC, New York Times, AP, Al Jazeera, El País [Madrid daily, which has a great online site], or any of the other normal news sites?” Nope. They’re part of the “cover up,” and he only trusts Infowars and other sites that are “consistently accurate.”

At that point, I said something to the effect of “You’re out of your goddamned mind!” “No you are!” etc., etc., until we decide to have another beer and switch topics, to something we could agree on, such as that Trump is a cancerous polyp lodged in the colon of humanity.

My pal’s immersed in an alternate-reality bubble that’s hermetically sealed, and that confirms his faith in the reality of “chem trails.” Oh dear! Sigh.

The chem trails “theory” (a bad misuse of the term “theory”) sounds fairly harmless, but it isn’t. Why? Once you abandon rationality and evidence-based decision making — i.e., the scientific method — in any area, you’re totally adrift, vulnerable to emotional appeals, and with no even remotely reliable means of determining the real from the imaginary.

Thus, medieval clerics believed that witches caused thunderstorms, contemporary religious fanatics insist that a mass of cells smaller than the head of a pin is a human being, others insist that the world is ruled by a cabal of Jewish bankers, and still others insist that a mean-spirited sexual predator and con man who’s never done a day’s work in his life and began receiving a $200,000-a-year allowance at the age of three, is somehow on the side of the working man.

All of these irrational beliefs and conspiracy theories have obvious, real-world consequences.

So, how do we debunk conspiracy theories? Critiquing them and presenting massive contrary evidence seems, by itself, to have no effect. Just look at the Trump personality cult. Trump openly bragged that he could murder someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and no one would care. It’s probably more extreme than that. As I’ve mentioned previously, Trump could probably strangle a puppy and then sodomize its corpse live on national TV, and his sycophants would excuse his behavior as “Trump being Trump,” “a different kind of president.”

Trump flaunts this immunity by resorting to ever more blatant lies, lies that a third-grader should understand as lies, and that demonstrate his hold over his followers. A recent example is his claim that China will pay the tariffs he imposed on Chinese goods. It would take an absolute moron or a totally subservient, brain-washed cultist to buy this obvious denial of reality. Yet, millions of people apparently do buy it.

So, what to do?

Regarding Trump’s goose-steppers, they’re only 26% of eligible voters (in 2016, Hillary got 28%, minor party candidates 5%, and fully 41% were so disgusted they didn’t even bother to vote), and once economic reality hits them in the face — especially the upcoming recession [my guess, mid to late 2020] and ever-increasing medical bills — some will abandon him. Most won’t, but some will.

In a broader sense, cultists are almost unreachable. Until physical reality smacks ’em in the face, they’re unreachable — and even then most will cling to their Glorious Leader and his scapegoating, turning their hate on the helpless and near-helpless.

We need to reach those who haven’t yet fallen into the clutches of cults and those who are wavering.

How?

One of the most important ways is the teaching of science and critical thinking skills in grade school and high school. Give people these tools early, and they’ll use them to safeguard themselves, their friends, and their families. (It’s no accident that the leading dissidents in the USSR were scientists.)

Another way is through ridicule. Irrational, cultist beliefs are invariably absurd, and often harmful, when held up to the light of day. Ridicule won’t reach brainwashed cultists, but it will reach the young and those with doubts. We need a legion of George Carlins and Christopher Hitchens to tell the scathing truth (honorable present-day shoutouts to Jim Jeffries, The Onion, and The Satanic Temple).

A third and important way is to present factual, well documented information. For decades, this was the only approach used by rationalist and atheist groups, and it’s clearly inadequate. But in combination with these other approaches, it’s invaluable.

There are probably other good ways to combat conspiracy-theory/cult beliefs, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Please add your ideas in the comments section. I’d love to hear them.

 

 


Here’s the latest installment in our ever-popular Internet Crap series, which mixes links to sick and absurd but amusing crap with links to useful crap. Enjoy!

  • Feeling a bit down, a bit left out, like you just don’t fit in? You might be a psychopath. Then again, you might not. Find out now with Channel 4‘s  Psychopathic Traits test. Their Spot The Psychopath game is also good, clean fun.
  • If you’re a writer, you’ll want to check out Ralan.com. It has by far the best collection of useful links for writers that we’ve ever seen. (Thanks to Ted Weber, author of Sleep State Interrupt, for this one.)
  • We hear a lot lately about Donald Trump and fascism. For a good, short dissection of the topic, check out Chris Hedges’ “Trump and the Christian Fascists.” (If the title of the piece aroused your curiosity, no, veteran journalist Hedges is not a militant atheist — he’s an ordained Presbyterian minister.)
  • If you’ve ever wondered why so many MLM and other scams target conservative religious believers, wonder no more. Mette Harrison does a good job of explaining it in “10 reasons Mormons dominate multi-level marketing companies” on the Religion News Service site.
  • The Guardian reports that earlier this year, a 21-year-old Spanish student, Cassandra Vera from the Murcia region, was convicted of “glorifying terrorism” and sentenced to a year in jail for a series of jokes she posted on Twitter in 2013. The funniest one concerned the 1973 assassination of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, the Spanish prime minister during the last years of the Franco dictatorship.  Carrero Blanco was killed when the Basque terrorist group ETA detonated a huge bomb beneath a street as Carrero Blanco’s car passed over it, with the explosion hurling the vehicle nearly 70 feet into the air. That’s a long set-up for Vera’s joke, but necessary to understanding it. Here’s the joke, and it’s worth the wait: “ETA launched a policy against official cars combined with a space program.”
  • In these days of “fake news” and deliberate muddying of the waters by the president and his enablers, how do you tell what’s real from conspiracy theories? Hero whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was viciously persecuted by the Obama administration and spent nearly two years in jail as a result, tells us how in “How to Challenge Media Narratives Without Being Called a Conspiracy Theorist.”
  • Ever wonder what’s the most effective thing individuals can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Environmental Research Letters reports that, as should be blindingly obvious by now, the most effective individual action by far is to have fewer kids. (Of course, organized crime — the Catholic Church, LDS church, et al. — will never admit this, because they don’t care about the environment nor the common good; they just want more money and more blindly believing foot soldiers.)
  • We seem to constantly hear about the “civilizing effects” of religion. Here’s a prime example from a deeply devout area, in this case a deeply devout Islamic area. The title says it all in the CNN report, “Pakistani village elders order retaliatory rape of 17-year-old girl.” One can only imagine what these people would be up to without the “civilizing effects” of their “great religion.”
  • Since no Internet Crap post would be complete without at least one link to a cybersecurity how-to story, here you go. The Intercept has an enlightening piece in comic-book format titled “How to protect yourself against spearfishing: A comic explanation.”
  • If you were puzzled as to why so many Alabama “values voters” were ready and willing to vote for an alleged (have to get that in there) pedophile, Kathryn Brightbill does a good job of explaining it in her Los Angeles Times op ed, “Roy Moore’s alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles.”
  • Finally, in still more religion news, the AP reports that “a woman shot her boyfriend in the head after he asked her to kill him because he thought the leader of a cult they belonged to was a reptile posing as a human.”

And . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig