VSauce blows my mind. I love it. 🙂
In legal parlance, a conspiracy is when two or more people form a plan together to engage in criminal behavior, but in modern days, a “conspiracy theory” has come to mean an alternative explanation for the accepted consensus of a controversial or unusual event or belief. Most proponents of these often easily debunked plots are eccentric and harmless, but a few go beyond the boundaries of free speech. The behavior of these dangerously obsessed few ranges from the merely criminal to the outright deadly.
10 • Jim Garrison Conducted A Witch Hunt Against Clay Shaw Over JFK
Whatever truly went down at 12:30 PM CST on Friday, November 22, 1963, the movie JFK made a hash of it. One thing it didn’t get wrong, though, was its portrayal of Jim Garrison as an obsessive, increasingly paranoid demagogue who bullied witnesses, harassed “suspects,” and conducted a full-on witch hunt in the city of New Orleans.
Garrison’s list of transgressions is too long to fully detail, but the worst of his behavior was the way he almost destroyed the life of Clay Shaw, a respected New Orleans businessman. Garrison publicly outed him as gay (which could have had serious consequences in the 60’s), accused him of CIA connections, and of course, accused him of one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century, all on the flimsiest of evidence.
Many accounts of the trial have downplayed the homosexual element, but there is plenty of evidence that Garrison actually believed in some kind of rainbow-colored plot, attributing the assassination to a gay club thrill kill. He named a total of six people whom he believed were “in on it” as homosexuals, including Jack Ruby and even Lee Harvey Oswald himself. In an interview with James Phelan, Garrison called Oswald a “switch-hitter who couldn’t satisfy his wife.”
It took almost two years for Garrison’s case against Shaw to go to trial and another three weeks of testimony and arguments before a jury acquitted Clay Shaw of all charges after less than an hour of deliberation. Shaw himself ably deconstructed the JFK “conspiracy” in a 1967 interview.
9 • Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, Enacted AIDS Denial As Policy
Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, is almost certainly the AIDS denier who has done the most direct harm in the world. In a 2008 study, a team of Harvard researchers estimated that as many as 330,000 people died needlessly because of Mbeki’s policies.
Mbeki didn’t start out as a denier. His views hardened after a complex series of political and economic negotiations. They were further solidified by the bogus claims of an African university about having discovered a cure, prompting hope for an African solution to the problem, and the discovery that the apartheid government had conducted germ warfare tests that included searching for killer bugs that targeted specific ethnic populations and the state-sponsored spread of AIDS via black prostitutes. Negotiations to bring AIDS medications into South Africa at prices the poor could afford were marred by suspicions of conspiracy between Western governments and drug manufacturers.
By the mid-1990s, Mbeki had fallen under the influence of prominent AIDS denier Peter Duesberg. He even invited Duesberg to be part of a conference on the AIDS problem held in 2000, much to the outrage of the rest of the conference. Later that year, he publicly denied the scientific consensus that AIDS was caused by a virus. Instead, he claimed the disease was the result of a combination of general bad health, lack of nourishment, and poverty. Thanks to international pressure and the work of AIDS activists and NGOs, the situation did improve, but Mbeki’s delays caused many unnecessary deaths and condemned many children to live shortened lives.
8 • Bart Sibrel Confronted And Harassed Buzz Aldrin
In 2002, Bart Sibrel lured former astronaut and American hero Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, to a Beverly Hills hotel for an “interview.” When Aldrin arrived on the scene with his stepdaughter, Sibrel revealed his true colors. He was a proponent of a long-standing conspiracy theory that claims the Apollo 11 Moon landings were faked. Proponents of the theory claim that the landings were produced in a Hollywood studio to fool the Russians into believing that the US had won the space race. This is one of the most laughable and easily debunked conspiracy theories out there, but Sibrel was working on a documentary that he believed would prove his case and wanted to include a confrontation with Aldrin in the film.
What happened next is as infuriating as its conclusion is satisfying, and it was all caught on film. When Aldrin realized the real reason he was brought to the interview, he got up to walk out on Sibrel, who then became aggressive, taunting the national hero who took time out of his busy schedule to see him. He followed Aldrin, calling him a “thief, liar, and coward,” thrusting a Bible into Aldrin’s face with demands that he swear upon it.
Finally, after every one of Aldrin’s attempts to leave peacefully had failed, Sibrel started poking him and his stepdaughter aggressively with his Bible. That’s when Aldrin lost his patience and punched Sibriel right in the jaw. Aldrin never faced any criminal charges, and if he had, no jury in the world would have convicted him.
Via The Onion
(Above video: The indescribably stupid conspiracy theorist says the U.S. government has been funneling money to NASA for years.)
BARRINGTON, RI — Calling it the most scandalous cover-up of the past half century, dim-witted conspiracy theorist Daniel Burgess told reporters Thursday he believes the U.S. government has, for years, been clandestinely exercising total control over the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The 34-year-old dullard cited a wealth of evidence he said proves “beyond a doubt” that every NASA project—from Project Mercury to the moon landings to the shuttle program—has been approved and bankrolled by the federal government.
“Follow the money and you’ll find out who pulls NASA’s puppet strings: Washington, D.C.,” the unfathomable moron said. “The arrangement goes way back, too. Do you think it’s a coincidence that when NASA went to the moon they just happened to plant an American flag there? Don’t tell me the feds had nothing to do with that. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on the government’s payroll. All astronauts are.”
“Think about it: The funding has to come from somewhere,” continued Burgess, mentioning records he found online that suggest the federal budget included $16.9 billion for NASA in the year 2013 alone. “And they’ve been careless enough to leave a massive paper trail.”
The simpleminded dope said he also finds it “highly suspicious” that so many astronauts have been ex-military personnel who came up through the U.S. Air Force.
According to Burgess, all the evidence linking the government to the space program is “hidden in plain sight.” Speaking to reporters from the basement of his home, where he waded through copious binders of documents representing more than a decade’s worth of research, he alleged that “every single president since Dwight Eisenhower” has been complicit in NASA’s operation. Richard Nixon approved the development of Skylab, he said, and Bill Clinton conspired to allow the International Space Station to move forward.
“Kennedy was in on all of it, too—he was actually one of the main guys, right from the start of his presidency,” said Burgess, pointing to several pictures of NASA administrator James Webb meeting with John F. Kennedy. “I’ve seen transcripts of his speeches, and I’m convinced: Kennedy knew. He knew about NASA the whole time. In the early ’60s, he talked about wanting to see a man on the moon ‘before this decade is out,’ and guess which organization did exactly that?”
By some counts a surprising number of people believe that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax. These dis-believers point to, among other things, purported inconsistencies in some of the moon landing photos. I’ll describe the application of a new forensic technique that refutes some of these claims.
Shown below is the iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin in which the physical plausibility of the lighting and shadows has been called into question.
I have previously described how cast shadows in an image can be analyzed to determine if they are consistent with a single light source. In order to determine if shadows are authentic, we connect points on a shadow to their corresponding points on the object. These lines should all intersect at a single point (or in the special case, be parallel) — this point is the location of the light source projected into the image. The application of this forensic technique (as shown here) requires a clearly defined shadow to object pairing (e.g., the tip of a cone). Such shadows in the above photo are in short supply thus limiting the application of this forensic technique.
In collaboration with Dr. Eric Kee (Columbia University) and Prof. James O’Brien (UC Berkeley) we recently developed a new forensic technique that can be applied to ambiguously defined shadows . In this analysis, we start at any point on a shadow and draw a wedge-shaped constraint that encompasses all parts of an object to which the shadow may correspond. Shown below is one such constraint. The constraint encompasses the entire sphere because there is no systematic way of reasoning about which part of the sphere is associated with a particular spot on the shadow.
In the above figure, the shaded red region constrains the projected location of the light source. While obviously not as specific as a single line constraint, this approach allows us to analyze all cast shadows in an image.
Because we can now handle ambiguous shadow-object pairings, we can also exploit attached shadows to determine the location of the light source. An attached shadow occurs when an object occludes the light from itself (e.g., a non-full Moon). Shown below, for example, is an attached shadow on the sphere’s surface. The line that is tangent to an attached shadow constrains the projected location of the light source to be on the illuminated side of the object.
Multiple cast and attached shadow constraints can be specified in an image. If the shadows are physically correct, then all of the constraints will share a common intersection (this consistency check is automatically determined using standard linear programming). Any violations of these constraints is evidence of photo tampering.
Shown below is the result of this new shadow analysis applied to the moon landing image. The cast shadow constraints are shown with solid red lines and the attached shadow constraints are shown with dashed lines. All of the constraints are consistent (the triangular region outlined in black denotes a common intersection). Despite some claims to the contrary, the lighting in this spectacular photo is physically consistent.
 Eric Kee, James O’Brien and Hany Farid. Exposing Photo Manipulation with Inconsistent Shadows. ACM Transactions on Graphics, 32(4):28:1-12, 2013.
 Eric Kee’s presentation at SIGGRAPH, 2013.
- PHOTOS: Friday Evening’s Lunar Eclipse (thesurvivalplaceblog.com)
- Extra light source lit up Apollo 11 film footage? (planet.infowars.com)
- Buzz Aldrin Reviews ‘Gravity,’ Is ‘Extravagantly Impressed’ (news.moviefone.com)
- 6 Conspiracy Theories that have no reason to exist (illuminutti.com)