There’s an embedded link to the full comic, but this story adds another participant in the extended game of Telephone that is our public discourse on scientific issues. And that person is a notoriously unhinged nutcase called Alex Jones.
It all started with a profile of Robert Sapolsky in Wired Magazine by the excellent science writer Jonah Lehrer. In part it covered some work Sapolsky and others are doing on a possible vaccine which may be able to reduce neural damage caused by chronic stress. This would be analogous to the first panel in the above SMBC comic.
The second panel matches up with how the Daily Fail tried to relay that information to their generally clueless readers. Here’s how they interpreted Sapolsky’s work:
Forget the age-old remedies of yoga, meditation or popping pills. Relieving chronic stress could soon be as simple as having an injection, according to scientists.
Academics say they are close to developing the first vaccine for stress – a single jab that would help us relax without slowing down.
So that’s bad enough, right? The Daily Fail failed to distinguish between our own subjective perception of stress and the purely material neurological damage it causes. But the failure of science coverage in the media has not ended yet. Enter Alex Jones:
If you don’t know, Jones is this conspiracy theorist who does a radio show which is very popular amongst people who think that the UN is going to invade Kansas in black helicopters piloted by illegal immigrants who use microchips to take away our guns and 9/11 was an “inside job,” etc…
As you might guess, he’s also against vaccinations. So when he saw that the Daily Fail had reported on something that had something to do with vaccines, he just knew that the “New World Order” must be behind it, somehow. And so he screamed in a video and on his blog about how he had discovered the hidden truth behind this article, which is that evil scientists are plotting against his normal, gasoline-huffing audience. The guv-mint, they just want to control you, see? So they make them up this here vaccine and they a-tell ya that it’ll calm ya down. But it’s really just to make you a passive and obedient SERF WHARGARBL.
So you start with a group of people who are trying to understand the damage caused by chronic stress and what can be done to reduce it. Then you add a filter of media failure and general incompetence, and all it takes to turn the story completely ass-backwards is to add a pathologically anti-science lunatic with a bullhorn into the mix. When Lehrer later followed up on this weird phenomenon, he was met by an army of angry, Jones-motivated commenters. Here is an excerpt of one I picked at random just now:
Nice try CoIntellPro Agent. Gee, I wonder how and why you got this out so darn fast, lol. If only you knew how damned obvious you are.
The word for being aware of such things as that the New World Order, or The Shadow Government is going to attempt to dumb down or pacify the people prior to culling them is not being “Paranoid” as you suggest. It is merely being “Circumspect”. If a smart Jew in the mid to late 1930’s tried to warn other Jews (and I’m sure that they did) that the Nazi’s ENDGAME was to eventually imprison and exterminate all Jews, they would not have been being “Paranoid”. They would have merely been being “Circumspect” after reading or hearing factual evidence that supported their worst fears. Learn to differentiate between the two, vastly different terms. Thee is no grey area between the two.
Oh, and, by the way, the Nazi’s also spiked the imprisoned Jew’s water supply with Fluoride to make them passive. Yep, the same stuff they have been spiking everyone’s city water with here in Amerika during the last 40+ years.
But there is a happy ending to this story, friends, because then Lehrer followed up on the follow-up (YO DAWG I HERD U LIKE FOLLOW-UPS) with a blog post about the psychology of conspiracy theories and cognitive dissonance. Very interesting stuff, and very well written. So now I’m sure the conspiracy nuts will see the error of their ways and stop supporting stupid bullshit. Or maybe not.