Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy theory’
My brain. My poor brain. I wasn’t going to comment on current events, but this one, well, how could I not comment? Yes gentle readers, there are Sandy Hook truthers. What are Sandy Hook truthers? These are people who believe that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged by the Obama administration to give an excuse for gun control. Really? Really? Yes, really. On the one hand, it’s not too surprising. Similar theories pop up after all sorts of events. I think partly because people are trying to make sense out of them, our brains have evolved for pattern recognition to the point where they recognize patterns that aren’t there. And partly because there are people like Alex Jones who make a good living by touting conspiracy theories. It’s safe to say that for good or for ill, conspiracy theories are a natural occurrence in human culture.
For good or for ill. Sometimes there is ill. A man who acted with compassion and understanding during the Sandy Hook shooting, sheltering children and an adult in his home during the crisis, has been threatened and harassed by people who think he is an “actor” playing his role in a government propaganda event. No good deed goes unpunished I guess. I am sure others in his situation have also been so harassed. The truth is, if one gets in the public eye these days, one is going to take some flak. I had a friend who had the same listed name as someone who was in a big public shootout on a local freeway. They couldn’t answer their phone for days afterwards because of all the calls from reporters and kooks. For good? I’m not sure I find much good in conspiracy theories. Other than that they are part of the rich tapestry that is the human experience. And can act as negative examples for those who are trying to make sense of it all.
First pass at this. Is it possible that Sandy Hook was some sort of psyops operation by elements of the Obama administration? I think it’s unlikely in the extreme. First of all, one is postulating a conspiracy with hundreds of participants. I don’t see any historical precedent for something like this. Successful conspiracies involve tiny numbers of conspirators, not hundreds. so already we have some issues. Also, and an even better point, is that it is vastly easier to capitalize on some event than create said event out of whole cloth. If Obama really wanted to use a horrible gun massacre as an excuse to institute gun control, all he had to do was wait. Huge risk of exposure turns into zero risk of exposure. I mean, the conspirators are claiming that Obama has control over the media, if this were true, it makes it even easier for Obama to capitalize on whatever gun massacre he wants to hang his hat on so to speak. Basically Obama would have to be a moron to try fake something at great risk of exposure instead of capitalizing on something at zero risk of exposure. Obama is many things, but he’s not a moron. Lastly, historically, this sort of over-the-top conspiracy has been proposed. In few cases was it ever implemented, and I’m aware of no cases where it was successful. Prove me wrong.
So I’m going with the premise that this is a ludicrous theory. Yeah, and so was the idea that a Jewish fifth column was responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War One. This brings me to the crux of this post, I’m a little alarmed by the Sandy Hook truther movement. On the one hand it’s a natural outgrowth of previous truther movements like the 9/11 truthers and the birthers. This is a little uglier, in that hatred is actually being directed at people. It’s also going even further out on a limb for people who reject Obama’s legitimacy as president. Now instead of just disapproving of everything Obama does, he is being accused of doing things he didn’t do. There’s no limit to how far thinking like this can go. It’s a sign that the nation is becoming even more polarized. An observation supported by multiple other recent developments, Republican rage at Obama’s re-election, the secession movement, and ever more vitriolic attacks on liberals, leftists, immigrants, and minorities. Anne Coulter’s latest rant is over the top, but didn’t seem to take any of the wind out of her sails.
Basically the crazier people’s beliefs, the easier it is to get them to do bad things. And the more dangerous the lunatic fringe inspired by these beliefs becomes. The idea that Obama has some sort of sinister agenda and is going to seize absolute power doesn’t pass the laugh test. He’s a politician, not an ideologue. The idea that elements on the Right driven by paranoid extremism will attempt to seize power (or assassinate Obama) seems more likely all the time. And there’s a lot of historical precedent for ugliness along these lines. Stay tuned, this could get a lot worse before it gets better.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and I am a big fan of the show and plug it constantly, if anything this is free advertising for them. Credit and copyright: Futurama. I hope no one takes this post too seriously, I’m not proposing any course of action, just commenting on current events. I certainly hope I’m guilty of being too paranoid.)
Bell Island is a small island off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. (No, that’s not it pictured above.) It’s only about 13 square miles in area, and pretty low, never even reaching 400 feet in elevation. It was first settled in 1740, and was sparsely inhabited for the next century and a half, home to a few fishermen and farmers. In the late 19th century extensive iron ore was discovered on the island, and for decades it was one of the largest producers of iron ore in northeast North America. The mines extended well underwater though, and required constant pumping to keep them in operation. In World War Two the ore loading docks were twice attacked by German U-boats, 4 ships were sunk and 70 lives were lost. At low tide the wreckage of the sunken ships can still be seen. After World War Two extensive iron ore deposits were found elsewhere in Quebec and Newfoundland, deposits that could be accessed by railroad and didn’t require constant water pumping. By the 1960s the Bell Island mines could no longer compete, and they were shut down and quickly filled with water. Most of the population left, and the island faded into obscurity.
Until the sleepy Sunday morning of 2 April 1978, when Bell Island was rocked by a thunderous explosion, an explosion heard over 40 miles away. There was extensive damage to electrical wiring, and on one farm there were holes in their roof, the roof of their chicken shed was blown off, several chickens killed, and their electrical appliances literally exploded. Near the chicken shed there were several holes in the ground, as if buried explosives had gone off. Afterwards more details emerged. Some people reported a “bell like” sound before the boom. One person on the mainland reported seeing a “shaft of light” slant up from the island when the boom occurred. A young boy on the worst hit farm claimed to have seen a “hovering ball of light” after the blast. Ball lightning was first suspected, but meteorologists confirmed that conditions weren’t right for lightning, what the hell had happened? Deepening the mystery, two American scientists, John Warren and Robert Freyman from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (then called the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory) in New Mexico, showed up shortly after the blast. Why was the American government sending people to investigate a boom on a remote island in Canada?
Cue twilight zone music. And cue conspiracy theories. There were a number of conspiracy theories, all revolving around some sort of secret US or Russian weapons test. The main one involved some sort of electromagnetic beam weapon, where possibly the beam was “attracted” to the island by its vast amount of iron. All given credence by the US investigation, what had the two scientists been there for and why had they been so secretive about what they discovered? The US government certainly never made any announcements. To this day there are TV “documentaries” and web sites espousing weapons conspiracy theories about the Bell Island Boom.
Sigh. I wish people would wake up to the fact that people promoting conspiracy theories lie. They make stuff up. They omit key details. They speculate wildly, bolstered by scientific sounding words, even though their speculations usually make scientists cringe. In the Bell Island Boom case, we see all of these factors operating. Yes, the US government has experimented with beam weapons. And the results haven’t been promising. They take enormous amounts of power, and the beams produced aren’t anything like the phasers of Star Trek. Hell, a light mist or a dusty day can pretty much reduce even powerful beams to little more than a flashlight in no distance at all. The reason armies don’t use beam weapons is simple, guns and missiles are far cheaper and far more effective. And the idea that some sort of electromagnetic beam is going to be “attracted” to a deposit of iron ore apparently doesn’t even pass the laugh test.
And then there’s the “secretive” scientists. In actually they weren’t secretive at all, and freely discussed with the islanders what they were doing there. They were studying superbolts. Superbolts are extremely powerful and extremely rare bolts of lightning. They were discovered by the VELA satellite, which was designed to detect nuclear explosions. They occur in clear weather, almost always over the ocean. The two scientists heard about the Bell island Boom, checked the VELA records and determined that a superbolt had occurred on Bell island, and went to check it out as it was extremely rare to have a supervolt over land, let alone to know where it had touched down. And they weren’t bashful at all about explaining why they were there, both to the islanders and the press. Their conclusion? It was a superbolt, all of the things that happened were consistent with a large lightning strike. The “beam” seen from the mainland may have been lightning, but it may have been anything, including imagination. Other similar reports like the odd sound before hand were all extremely anecdotal and unreliable. Lighting can and does blow holes in buildings, kill chickens, make holes in the ground, and often blows up electrical equipment. In fact the only thing the two scientists found at all surprising, was that the supervolt hadn’t done more damage!
Is there a point to this post? Yes. One, to show how conspiracy theories can grow on the shallowest of ground. This was only a mystery for a few weeks, and no scientist has any problems with the superbolt explanation, but to this day some people still cite this event as a “mystery” event. As a codicil to this point, a follow-up post will document a similar event that is a mystery still, and may indeed have been a secret weapons test. My second point was that superbolts are just another reminder that new things are being discovered on Earth all the time. One could literally write a book on the dozens of similar type things about Earth that have only been discovered in the past few decades, reality is amazingly complex. I wish I had the words to express that correctly, we live in a magical world is the closest I can come. Lastly this post was a great vehicle for the image above, that’s a Canadian Forces helicopter that landed on a sea stack off of Bell Island. Yeah, that’s something Canadians would do.
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image was released into the Public Domain by its creator, David Barkes.)
Well, sure got some interesting comments on my “Age of Unreason” post. So I am going to address them, well, at least the ones that deserve a reply. I deliberately omitted the authors because this isn’t personal. Comments are in italics, spelling errors corrected:
Been awhile since my last post… As always Doug the person defining the rules wins the match. Ancient astronauts? Earth only 7 k years old? Please… Absolute stupidity. How about the ‘Karen Silkwood’ conspiracy? Valid? Or the holocaust– Germans were solid fact checkers, and even calculated the lifespan of each fire-brick in each oven used to dispose of human remains. When one adds up the number of firebricks actually used, its pretty obvious that 10 million bodies couldn’t have been disposed of… A lot of bodies? Yes absolutely, but not the numbers universally agreed as true and irreproachable. Don’t get me wrong- the Nazi Regime was one of the darkest stains on humanity, but compared to Stalin or Chairman Mao– they were pikers!
Well, the holocaust was certainly muddied by Stalin and others for propaganda purposes even before the war was over. I’m not going to go into the details of why I (and virtually all historians) look askance at holocaust denial, there’s plenty on the web for people to look at. The question I would ask is this, why then have none of the people charged with holocaust era crimes claimed “It didn’t happen?” I might do a dedicated post on the holocaust and holocaust denial some day, especially since some new information has come to light recently. I might look also into Karen Silkwood someday, I have no opinion currently.
I think you have to look at any of these “conspiracy” theories with an open mind. History is defined by the conquering force. If Hitler would have took over, I doubt there would be any mention of the Holocaust. As for the ancient astronauts, the history channel has a really informative series regarding this conspiracy, worth watching if you are curious. The moon landing, well I guess we will find out if the Americans where there if the Chinese or Russians get there in the next decade.And the young earth creation. Well I think way to many geologists and archaeologists would have way to many examples of older artifacts and rock samples to prove that conspiracy wrong. At any rate it is a great post Doug. I try to keep an open mind, then I realize that we as humans are hardwired to chose, either right or wrong.
I look at all theories with an open mind. As for Hitler hiding the holocaust, Mao and Stalin won … yet were unable to hide their crimes. In the past with far more limited travel and communication, it was most certainly possible for winners to rewrite history. Increasingly in the twentieth century historians have such a wealth of sources, and global communication and travel are so prevalent, that rewriting history has become far more difficult. Captive populations like North Korea might be fooled, brainwashed populations might be propagandized into believing nonsense, but historians are much harder to fool these days, especially on a global scale. On a related note, “Fatherland” is an interesting movie with just that as a premise, Hitler won and concealed the holocaust.
So, somewhat related.. are we to just ‘take the governments word’ and believe Bin Laden was captured and thrown in the sea? Or is it ‘OK’ to have another view, in light of who is telling us to ‘believe it’ ? Just asking.
I have always maintained that everything governments say is suspect, a government’s statement has zero intrinsic prohibitive value. It is frankly kind of annoying that I have been repeatedly accused of blindly believing what the government says, simply because I register disbelief at someone’s theory. Because I say I find the 9/11 Truther’s theory or any other theory unconvincing does not mean that I believe the government’s version of events. If that’s not clear enough, I’ll spell it out with shorter easier to understand words next time, because it’s a very simple concept. Sheesh.
As mentioned earlier – history is defined by the winners and text books are re-written continuously. Reality is relative.
• J. Edgar Hoover hides the existence of the mafia.
• Operation Mockingbird
So how much is a belief in “conspiracies” and how much is the willingness to admit we have been repeatedly lied to by media and government so it may be best to keep an open mind.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
I am about half-way through “The Creature from Jekyll Island” – a historical look at the Federal Reserve written from a “conspiracy” perspective.If we agree that alchemists and illusionists exist – then we can ask what is it they want us to see (or not see) and why is it important that we see it (or not see it)? The “Expando Earth” theory is interesting – but is it considered a conspiracy?
No, history books are relative, reality is what actually happened. I am perfectly aware that much of what we were taught as history in the USA is a lie, and other countries to a greater and lesser extent are the same. Because I express disbelief in a theory does not mean I have a closed mind, it means I examined the evidence presented and currently find it unconvincing. Again, a simple concept that I shouldn’t have to repeat.
As for the Expanding Earth Theory, I am perfectly happy to accept the scientific consensus that it is not a viable theory. At least it’s a real theory, some papers were published on it. As for the claim that scientists are afraid of a theory because it upsets so many apple carts, what a load of horsecrap. Scientists have repeatedly throughout history accepted applecart upsetting theories when the evidence in support of them became conclusive. The Big Bang Theory, Plate Tectonics, and Relativity being three excellent recent examples. Frankly, when someone claims that science refuses to look at their theory, they might as well hang a sign around their neck that says “I am a crackpot.” Prove your scientific case, don’t claim there is a conspiracy against you.
And that’s that. I’m glad I didn’t blog about anything sensitive or taboo, that would really get me skewered. I apologize for being a little snarky in some of my replies, but I think I made a good case why I was so inclined. Next, maybe a nice safe uncontroversial post about atheism.
(The above image is in the Public Domain, and may be reproduced freely. This particular WW2 submarine was indeed involved in some highly mysterious activity that to this day has never been explained. Conspiracies happen, sometimes they get exposed, sometimes they don’t, not arguing that point. It’s kind of a cool story so I will blog on it, and it’s why I am not identifying the submarine at this point. Yes, I know, tech savvy readers can no doubt identify the image and the submarine within minutes, if not seconds. Please don’t spoil it for those who want to wait for the blog post on same.)
Well, recently I have had negative encounters with both 9/11 conspiracy believers, and 9/11 conspiracy skeptics. It’s kinda what I do I guess. By negative encounters, I mean encounters that frustrated and annoyed me, I’m not casting aspersions. Not yet at least. On the plus side, it cleared up my thinking on a number of issues, and inspired speculation along several lines. Even better, it engendered a lot of passionate discourse, so it’s a perfect blog topic.
OK, I will do this systematically. To start with, my current opinion on 9/11 conspiracy theories involving controlled demolition of the three World Trade Center (WTC) buildings that collapsed on 9/11. Let us call them 9/11 Truthers, they are pretty much the mainstream 9/11 conspiracy movement now. To wit:
I am extremely skeptical for one general reason, and because of a number of “logical bottlenecks” that are difficult or impossible to explain. The general reason is that 9/11 conspiracy theories are based on zero evidence. By that I mean they are based entirely on interpretation of public records. More specifically there are as yet no computer files, memos, recordings, conspirators, etc. that have been found that directly speak of any sort of conspiracy to blow up these buildings. It’s a purely circumstantial case at this point, and hell, until there is real information, who are we going to indict?
Secondly, there are a number of questions raised by the controlled demolition hypothesis that are very hard to answer. Or the answers raise new questions, so they aren’t really answers at all. I won’t bother to list all of them, just some of what I think are the more salient ones:
1. Why? This is the question that would come up the first time the conspirators met. “Why, exactly, are we going to do this Mr Bush?” Bush looks blank. They were already in power, a few backpack bombs in subways would give them all the casus beli they needed for the War on Terror. Why such an elaborate complicated plot involving mass death and damage?
2. Why WTC 7? The plot already involves four hijacked airliners and blowing up two buildings, why complicate an already complicated plot by blowing up a building that no one has ever heard of?
3. Lastly, and thanks to the keen human insight of my august father, how, exactly, would one recruit people into this plot? This isn’t like ordering cops and soldiers to attack rioters or demonstrators or other sub-groups that can be dehumanized. “Psst, want to get in on a plot two blow up some national landmarks and kill thousands of Americans?” I don’t think that would work very well.
So, moving right along, first my annoyance with the skeptics. I have always found skeptics somewhat annoying. They often go beyond skepticism to outright disdain and ridicule. I’m sorry, but if you are claiming to be the voice of reason, then you should make your case with reason. I don’t see how it can be any other way, but I have been ridiculed and called names for even suggesting that.
In this specific recent case, it was very politic, I just got kind of bored with the group. I like to approach things from original principles. I’ve read all the evidence surrounding 9/11 conspiracies, I’m still a skeptic, but I enjoy attacking the problem logically. “If 9-11 Truthers are correct, does this lead us to any testable questions?” is a very interesting question to me. Alas, I’ve done a poor job of expressing it apparently.
On the plus side, I left the group without any snarkiness on my part, since none was warranted. I hope. The old Doug could never have done that. Heck, I really shouldn’t even have left the group, but that part of me is changing too. Still, as my friends know, under my charming exterior, I am more than part misanthrope. Since I see it’s now possible for me to find out how much Neanderthal DNA I have, maybe I’ll get to the bottom of this.
Last but not least, the 9/11 Truthers. Well, they seems to have achieved almost a cult like status. I could be wrong, but it appears to me that many Truthers are absolutely convinced that their explanation of the events of 9/11 is the only possible explanation. And that anyone who disagrees is either deluded, or an agent of the government. They can’t seem to accept even the possibility that they might be wrong.
So debate is kind of pointless, and ends up being endless argument over interpretation of the data. The particular example that got my goat is the videos showing the collapse of WTC 7. In one video there is a piece of building facing apparently falling at free fall speed, as if there was nothing underneath it. Truthers insist that this means it must have been a controlled demolition. Um, yeah. I’m not an expert at building collapse. I do know that if a lay person tells me that this tiny fragment of debris in a videotape is proof positive of their theory, I say bullshit. If they claim an expert said it, I check with the other experts. And in this case I did, a few dizzying pages of math I didn’t understand and comments I could barely parse, and one thing was clear. The experts weren’t exactly sure what accounted for this piece of debris’ apparent motion for that second or so, but there are all sorts of possibilities. Which ends the probative value of this particular snippent of film in any rational sense.
This does highlight a feature that seems common to, well, cult like beliefs. They assiduously look for evidence that supports their theory. The problem with this what some would call a “logical” approach is that with sufficient enthusiasm it can be used to “prove” any theory. In the nineteen fifties Velikovsky “proved” that Mars and Venus were comets that sprung from Jupiter in historic times. Some people still believe him. Some people believe the Moon Landings were a hoax. Some people believe Nostradamus predicted the future. I’m sure others have said it before me, but they are all falling into the same logical trap. Confirmation bias is the bane of mankind. Science is looking at all the pieces and seeing how they best fit together to make a picture. Cultists, r whatever ne wants to call them, start with the picture … and find pieces that fit.
I will conclude with this though. Some of the above beliefs are lot crazier than others. Whatever people believe, they are all normal people. The 9/11 Truther I recently met is also a vegan activist. Vegan activists are trying to make the world a better place for people and animals, what’s not to admire? And I will gladly admit that I think it’s entirely possible, if extremely unlikely, that I will get a call at 5am from the East Coast tomorrow telling me to turn on my TV. And when I do, it will turn out that a 9/11 co-conspirator came forward, and had provided to wikileaks hundreds of audio and video recordings that incontrovertibly showed that the 9/11 attacks and the entire War on Terror had been plotted by a small cabal in the White House and the CIA. And that the other conspirators had already fled or had been captured and were frantically confessing, naming names, and begging for mercy and protection … because millions of Americans were gathering on the Washington Mall demanding their heads.
Wouldn’t that be something?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s from Wired Magazine. It’s a cave man, a Neanderthal man to be exact. I used it to illustrate my Neanderthal nature. So I don’t need to explain myself, since that explains it. Right?)
OK, countdown to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Details, details. I know about a million columns and blog posts are going to be written as the tenth anniversary of the most overblown and hyped event in human history approaches, so it’s a topic that’s on my mind. And I’m already disgusted by some of the jingoistic tripe being bandied about, not to mention the lies, so I’m going to throw my two cents in. Here then is part one of a series of columns I plan to write as the great day approaches. Conspiracy theories, what really brought down the twin towers?
Gravity. See, that was easy. There is no other way for a building that size and weight to fall, it has to fall into its’ own footprint. It could only fall over sideways if there was some huge force pushing it sideways. So the fact that the buildings collapsed into their own footprints is meaningless, not proof that they were felled by deliberately laid explosives. But, but … didn’t people report hearing explosions before and during the collapses? Yes, they likely did. Take a concrete and steel column, put so much weight on top of it that it can no longer support the weight, what happens? It explodes. Any other questions?
Actually, I have a few questions. 9/11 demolition theory conspiracists generally avoid questions, but it’s my blog, and I’ll ask if I want to. How, exactly, does one recruit people into this kind of plot? I don’t doubt that there are people in power capable of murdering thousands of Americans for their own political ends, but getting henchmen to carry out acts like this historically requires very extreme settings like wars and massive internal unrest. IE Dick Cheney didn’t secretly deploy tons of explosives in his spare time, a large team of specialists would be required. I find it hard to imagine circumstances where such people would agree to participate in the plot, and even less imagine how all of these people would keep quiet afterwards.
Which leads to another absurd aspect of the controlled demolition theory. The insane complexity of the plot. Let’s review, we start with a plot that involves hijacking four airliners and flying them into buildings … and preventing any of America’s defence and intelligence agencies from interfering! Think about that, even at this point we are talking a vast conspiracy involving controlling influence in dozens of agencies including things like the Air Force. There’s all sorts of ways this could go wrong already. And then add another layer to this mess, the secret deployment of explosives in two of the world’s largest buildings. Um, even in planned demolitions things sometimes don’t work, and there’s all sorts of ways a secret like this could be discovered either before or after. In other words, this plot may work in a Hollywood movie, in real life, no one is daft enough to try something this complicated, and the likelihood of them pulling it all off is basically zero. I challenge anyone to find any successful conspiracy in history even remotely approaching the controlled demolition 9/11 theory in complexity.
And speaking of controlled demolitions, they always start at the bottom, not the top. And the twin towers were unique buildings in their construction details as well. Again, just more layers of complexity to a plot already insanely complex: The demolition of a type of building that had never been demolished before using a method of demolition that had never been used before, all based on the idea that the hijacked airliners would hit when and where required. What if one of the planes missed? Or hit the wrong place and wiped out key demolitions?
Like I said, twin tower demolition conspiracy theorists have far more unanswered questions than they propose. I think they are wrong, and I especially think they are, well, delusional when they try to claim that their case is proven. I won’t try to argue that their case is impossible, just that there are far less complicated and more satisfying explanations for the events of 9/11. That however is a topic for tomorrow’s blog.
(The above is a contemporary image of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It is public domain under US copyright law. Most may have heard of Guy Fawkes, the conspirator caught guarding the explosives under the parliament building, where the plotters planned to blow up the King and the House of Lords. It’s one of the closest analogies to the 9/11 twin towers demolition conspiracy theory I can find, it involved a vastly simpler plan with far fewer plotters … and it was a complete failure.)