Posts Tagged ‘conspiracy theorists’

Annie Jacobsen opposes the kinds of conspiracy theories she started

August 15, 2011

It’s silly to believe they’re aliens… They’re clearly part of a Nazi/Communist alliance’s propaganda campaign!

If I were to write a BEAST editorial about how journalists these days are being too offensive to people of faith and spirituality, everyone who read it would rightfully think of me as a huge hypocrite. Or maybe they’d think I’d suffered some kind of brain injury. When you’ve written about faith issues in the way I have, you kind of forfeit your right to complain about people doing the same

Similarly, if you write a book about Roswell and then promote it largely based on the final chapter which invents one of the most out-there conspiracy theories ever, you forfeit your right to complain about loony conspiracy theories. At least you should.

Apparently the NY Daily News doesn’t think so. Last Sunday they featured a mostly reasonable column by Annie Jacobsen about how America has become what she calls a conspiratocracy. It gives a crash course in the history of American conspiracy theories, and speculates as to why they’ve spread so rapidly recently.

There isn’t much with which to disagree in her piece, aside from that the subject she’s writing about is much too wide for a 450 word column. All of the conspiracy theories she mentions are definitely silly and deserving of increased mockery. But it’s definitely odd that Jacobsen would choose this as a topic given her recent past.

A few months ago, Jacobsen released a book about Area 51, the secretive military base which UFO believers claim is the headquarters of the government’s secret research on extraterrestrials and flying saucers. I have not read her book, but I did pay attention to how she promoted it, as authors do, in the media. Here she is on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but probably the most in-depth interview I heard was on NPR’s program Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I’ll get to that in a minute.

From what I’ve heard, most of the book is in the same vein as the NY Daily News column, rightfully debunking loony conspiracy theories about Area 51. But when you get to the last chapter, she introduces a bizarre conspiracy theory of her own to explain the 1947 Roswell incident which many believe to be a case of an alien spacecraft crashing in the New Mexico desert which was then quickly hushed up by the government. Here’s how she explained it to Terry Gross:

“The child-sized aviators in this craft [that crashed in New Mexico] were the result of a Soviet human experimentation program, and they had been made to look like aliens a la Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, and it was a warning shot over President Truman’s bow, so to speak. In 1947, when this would have originally happened, the Soviets did not yet have the nuclear bomb, and Stalin and Truman were locked in horns with one another, and Stalin couldn’t compete in nuclear weaponry yet, but he certainly could compete in the world of black propaganda — and that was his aim, according to my source. …

“What is firsthand information is that he worked with these bodies [of the pilots] and he was an eyewitness to the horror of seeing them and working with them. Where they actually came from is obviously the subject of debate. But if you look at the timeline with Josef Mengele, he left Auschwitz in January of 1945 and disappeared for a while, and the suggestion by the source is that Mengele had already cut his losses with the Third Reich at that point and was working with Stalin.”

So let’s count how many layers of absurdity we have here. The Soviets collaborated with the notorious Nazi Josef Mengele (1) in order to scare Americans by sending a flying saucer (2) across most of the continental US without detection until it crashed (3), presumably because it was piloted by mutated children disguised as aliens (4). And all of this is substantiated solely by one anonymous source speaking about something which allegedly happened over 60 years ago (5-infinity).

In that same interview, Jacobsen speculates that Mengele’s “child-sized aviators” were the subject of either surgical or genetic mutation. So the latter option would mean that Mengele rounded up people with odd genes in order to selectively breed them specifically for this program to be launched decades in the future in collaboration with the Russians. He must have had pretty amazing foresight in order to predict such an unlikely partnership.

Obviously this is all pretty ridiculous. If you have really low standards of evidence then it’s pretty easy to get away with this kind of “reporting” – all you have to do is find an old man far enough gone to make some kooky claims about having worked on this or that secret government project a lifetime ago, and you’ve got yourself a story. Make it the last chapter of your book and you’ll get on all the talk shows and sell lots of copies. It’s probably not a coincidence that “Con artist authors making up bullshit” doesn’t appear anywhere in Jacobsen’s explanation for why America’s become so obsessed with bullshit conspiracy theories lately. But it probably should be.

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Troofers get serious, like srsly

July 4, 2011

For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, “truthers” have finally performed repeated experiments, written them up, and submitted their reports to peer review. They will be published in a credible scientific journal.

No, I kid. They made a comic book. From the USA Today:

In The Big Lie, the heroine is a woman named Sandra, who lost her husband, Carl, during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. A particle physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider, she figures out a practical way to travel back in time, so she ventures from present day to Manhattan an hour before the first plane hits the towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Carl Carlson, killed when terrorists flew planes into the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant on 9/11.

So you can probably see how this is going to turn out. Sandra’s going to try to warn the authorities of the attacks only to discover that those same authorities are the ones behind it all this time OMGWTF. Betrayed by her own government… trying to save her husband… in a world where nothing is as it seems… One woman stood up to… THE BIG LIE. I hope you read that in the movie trailer guy’s voice, except for the title, which would obviously just be shown in the trailer in black and white, full screen.

Let’s learn more about the people behind this comic book, Rick Veitch:

Going into this project, he didn’t consider himself a “Truther,” yet living during the eras of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran/Contra and the invasion of Iraq, Veitch admits that he’s skeptical about any “official” story provided by the government.

OK, does any 9/11 troofer not say that? I haven’t heard of any. They all seem to believe that whoever happens to believe something just a little bit crazier about 9/11 is the “truther.” “Hipsters” work the same way.

I suppose it’s a good sign that some truthers might not want to be lumped in with people who believe that there were no planes flying into the World Trade Center and that what we saw in the video footage were plane holograms. On the other hand, some believe the more outlandish claims like that are CoIntelPro-style disinformation campaigns meant to discredit truthers as a whole. They sometimes call it a poison pill. Veitch explains:

“If one scratches the surface of the commission report, one finds huge holes in the official story. There’s also a lot of disinformation out there and oddball conspiracy theories that need to be debunked.”

The thing is that there aren’t many things a cross-section of troofers would agree on. The various stories of what they say happened have different points of emphasis, stories of who was involved often contradict, even who was involved in the planning is under dispute amongst them. They have no real consensus except they don’t believe the “official story.”

That should send up red flags warning that maybe they’re wrong on their basic assumptions. Usually, as you get more evidence about a historical event, a certain general narrative emerges as the most probable. That doesn’t happen in this case. What you get is a mass splintering of different, mostly independent narratives. Since they’re unwilling to reconsider their basic preconceptions, it will become necessary to explain how all these other ideas about what happened had arisen. An individual truther will say that the others couldn’t possibly have just been following the evidence to see where it leads, because that’s exactly what they had been doing and they came to a completely different conclusion. That’s when it’s time to invent another unfalsifiable conspiracy theory, like the disinformation campaigns Veitch refers to.  He continues:

People who are paying attention are asking for a real in-depth investigation into all these nagging questions.

But that’s not what they’re getting. They’re getting a comic book. Funny how all the people talking about how everyone wants a “real investigation” never get around to actually doing one and always get distracted by for-profit enterprises selling their bogus fantasies to gullible suckers.

More 9/11 “truth” news

February 1, 2011

Every time I think the 9/11 troofer business has died out, within a few months another crazy news story comes out which breathes new, paranoid life into it. This time we have two.

First of all, one of the “Loose Change” filmmakers has been arrested for selling heroin. Obviously this has set off some speculation that the arrest itself was yet another “inside job.” That makes sense though: The Bush Administration came to power and had 9/11 set up within 8 months, but it takes the Oneonta Police Department about six years to plant drugs on someone. And with crowds like this about to overthrow the US government, we need even more reasons to distrust 9/11 troofers now more than ever.

The full NYC Chapter of 9/11"Truth" meets with its Boston Chapter.

The other, much more awesomer thing to happen was when this lady tried to sue P Diddy for causing 9/11. It turns out that Valerie Turks lost income from the collapse of the World Trade Center. She is demanding $100 billion, which is probably about right. She also wants $900 billion in child support from him because – well at least this is what she claims – she dated Combs when he was a teenager and had one of his children, who is now 23.  She also wants a restraining order against him because she claims he’s been abusing her:

Valerie then goes on to say in her statement that is riddled with spelling and punctuation errors: “He date raped me 24 years ago and knocked me down him and Kim Porter and Wallace Wright, then Sean Combs and Kim and Wallace Wright came back 18 years later and raped and sexually abused my children and knocked my children down and crushed me and my children daily.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that maybe it wasn’t P Diddy crushing her daily, that maybe what was crushing her daily was her vague awareness of her own situation as a deranged person.

But don’t worry, P Diddy! You won’t have to pay this Turks’ $100 billion loss of income demand on your own. Because, as he surely knows, Combs plotted 9/11 with Rodney King. At least that’s what Turks is claiming.