Tag Archives | Conspiracy Theories

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

Joel Achenbach is frustrated that you don’t believe everything that scientists tell you. He’s going to call you irrational if you don’t buy in. Or a conspiracy theorist. Or derogatory term du jour, an anti-vaxxer. He vents at National Geographic:

There’s a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s comic masterpiece Dr. Strangelove in which Jack D. Ripper, an American general who’s gone rogue and ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, unspools his paranoid worldview—and the explanation for why he drinks “only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure grain alcohol”—to Lionel Mandrake, a dizzy-with-anxiety group captain in the Royal Air Force.

Dr. Strangelove - Ripper and Mandrake

General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) shares an intimate moment with Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers)

 

Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?

Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes, yes.

Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?

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Harper Lee’s New Book Sure to Fire Truman Capote Conspiracy Theory

Harper Lee Nov07In case you hadn’t heard, there will finally be a second book from Harper Lee, the famously reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s called Go Set A Watchman and the events it depicts take place after those in To Kill a Mockingbird, although it was actually written first according to the New York Times:

…On Tuesday, Ms. Lee’s publisher announced its plans to release that novel, recently rediscovered, which Ms. Lee completed in the mid-1950s, before she wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 304-page book, “Go Set a Watchman,” takes place 20 years later in the same fictional town, Maycomb, Ala., and unfolds as Jean Louise Finch, or Scout, the feisty child heroine of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” returns to visit her father. The novel, which is scheduled for release this July, tackles the racial tensions brewing in the South in the 1950s and delves into the complex relationship between father and daughter.

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Teen Who Stormed Dutch TV Obsessed with Freemasons and New World Order

You probably won’t find too many kids with fake guns bursting into TV studios in the United States demanding airtime, mostly because people with real guns would be likely to shoot them. In Europe, on the other hand, not that many people carry guns, so Dutch teenager Tarik Z actually made it on air in Holland (he was also a lot better dressed than most of his American counterparts).

The Telegraph reports that he’s really into some of the classic conspiracy theories, like the Freemasons and New World Order:

Former classmates of a teen who stormed the studios of Dutch national TV demanding airtime before being arrested described him on Friday as a “normal guy”, but one fascinated by conspiracy theories.

tarik z

“Clever, pleasant and a bit of a loner, but certainly not a crazy guy,” one of the 19-year-old’s former classmates at Delft Technical University told the daily Algemeen Dagblad.

Another former classmate told the NOS public broadcaster, where the drama played off, that the teen, seemingly normal, had a rich imagination and was “often in his own world.”

“In recent years he was interested in conspiracy theories involving the Free Masons and a ‘new world order’,” the student said.

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Did the Chernobyl Disaster Cover Up Something Even Worse?

Did you hear the one about the Russian Woodpecker? Newsweek tells the tale:

Dormant for a decade and a half, the Russian Woodpecker appeared to return in December 2013. Once, the notorious tapping of the massive Soviet over-the-horizon radar had frustrated and puzzled Western radio operators, who could discern neither the origin nor purpose of the strange signal. It was coming from somewhere behind the Iron Curtain; its frequency, 10Hz, made some think it was intended for mind control. In 1981, an NBC newscaster wondered, “Are they trying reduce us to a zombie stumbling and groping around and waiting to be told what to do?” And, no, he wasn’t hosting Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

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DUGA Radar Array (Russian Woodpecker) near Chernobyl, Ukraine. Photo: Ingmar Runge (CC)

 

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, the 14,000-ton military radar installation in northern Ukraine, near the border with Belorussia, has remained a mystery to outside observers, largely because it sits right next to the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station, where a reactor meltdown in the spring of 1986 rendered the surrounding area uninhabitable for the next, oh, several thousand years.

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Who Falls for Conspiracy Theories?

Tom Jacobs reports that “new research finds those on the political extremes are more susceptible [to conspiracy theories] than moderates,” at Pacific Standard:

As we noted last year, belief in conspiracy theories is surprisingly common. So who is particularly susceptible to falling for these often-outrageous narratives?

New research from the Netherlands suggests the answer is people on the political extremes.

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Those on both the far right and far left tend to “adhere to their belief system in a rigid fashion, leading them to perceive their political ideas as the simple and only solution to societal problems,” writes a research team led by psychologist Jan-Willem van Prooijen of VU University Amsterdam.

“Conspiracy beliefs feed into a core feature of political extremism, namely a desire to make sense of societal events through a set of clear-cut assumptions about the world.”

This in turn “induces them to perceive evil conspiracies as causal explanations for various events,” they conclude in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

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Charlie Hebdo: The Inevitable Conspiracy Theories

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey. Photo: Randam (CC)

It seems that no mass murder or terrorist event can occur without a variety of “false flag” type conspiracy theories immediately circulating from the usual suspects. The Week summarizes some of the Charlie Hebdo theories:

Islamophobia to blame

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu was among those marching in Paris on Sunday, but the next day Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference that the wrong people were being blamed, reports the Financial Times. “The duplicity of the West is obvious. As Muslims we have never sided with terror or massacres: racism, hate speech, Islamophobia is behind these massacres,” he told reporters. “The culprits are clear: French citizens undertook this massacre and Muslims were blamed for it.”

Israel behind the massacres

Still in Turkey and Melih Gokcek, the mayor of Ankara, had a different theory. He claimed that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, was “definitely behind such incidents” in an effort to “boost enmity towards Islam”.

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Are Conspiracy Theories All Bad?

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A veritable skeptics’ smorgasbord is offered up in the New York Times “Room for Debate” section devoted to the proposition “Are Conspiracy Theories All Bad?”:

The United States has a long tradition of conspiracy theories – a reflection of a widespread suspicion of powerful groups secretly undermining democratic society.

Though some are fueled by discrepancies in the official accounts of certain events, many conspiracy theories persist despite strong evidence to the contrary. Why is there such a strong predilection toward these narratives? What role does this kind of skepticism play in society?

Here are links to the various opinions:

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Five Most Insidious Conspiracy Theories of 2014

You know it’s close to year-end when wrap up stories like Alternet‘s “5 Most Insidious Conspiracy Theories of 2014″ start appearing. This one’s kind of amusing:

Conspiracy theories are like bellybuttons, everyone has one but some are just out there more than others. This year, the Internet was rife with vile gossip and wild beliefs; I couldn’t even possibly list all the wacky new chemtrail and illuminati theories in just one article. And let’s just quickly drive a stake through the rumors that  Ebola victims are rising from the dead,  reptilians disguised as humans run the U.S. government, and Pharrell,  Keanu Reeves and  Madonna are actually vampires.

I’ve found that the conspiracy theories spread most widely — and the ones that seem plausible to many, unfortunately — are those based on current headlines and often propagated by public figures such as politicians, celebrities and media figures. They travel by word-of-mouth at light speed and become “a known fact.” These theories are often believed by those who assume there must be a coherence behind world events and occurrences don’t just happen randomly.

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Danny Casolaro and ‘The Octopus’ – The Stage Play

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Danny Casolaro

Long time disinfonauts will surely remember one of the legends of modern day conspiracy investigations, Danny Casolaro, and his revelations of ‘the Octopus.” Casolaro met an untimely end and his investigation petered out. He’s not forgotten, however, and his life and work are about to be immortalized in a stage play, reports American Theatre:

A journalist is hot on the trail of a con­spiracy whose scope seems ever-expanding. Nicknamed “The Octopus,” the plot connects shadowy private-security contractors with an international criminal bank, government piracy of law-enforcement database software, a corrupt Native American reservation where experimental weapons are developed, and even Reagan’s October Surprise.

The journalist hopes to break the whole story all at once and find fame and fortune. According to his book proposal (quoted in Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen’s The World’s Greatest Conspiracies), he’s after a “web of thugs and thieves who roam the earth with their weapons and their murders, trading dope and dirty money for the secrets of the temple.”

Before he leaves to meet a source in West Virginia, he warns his family that, if anything happens to him, they shouldn’t believe the official story.

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Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?

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Michael Shermer. Photo by David Patton (CC)

Scientific American gives Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society and its magazine Skeptic, a platform to ridicule conspiracy theories and those who believe in them:

President Barack Obama has been a busy man while in office: he concocted a fake birth certificate to hide his true identity as a foreigner, created “death panels” to determine who would live and who would die under his health care plan, conspired to destroy religious liberty by mandating contraceptives for religious institutions, blew up the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig to garner support for his environmental agenda, masterminded Syrian gas attacks as a pretext to war, orchestrated the shooting of a tsa agent to strengthen that agency’s powers, ordered the Sandy Hook school massacre to push through gun-control legislation, and built concentration camps in which to place Americans who resist.

Do people really believe such conspiracy theories?

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