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People online can unknowingly find themselves in an echo-chamber, having their more fringe beliefs amplified and reinforced by a lack of exposure to conflicting views and evidence. That, coupled with the fact that anyone can publish anything online, has lead to a renaissance in conspiracy theories, pseudo-medical procedures, and general bad science. One of the more interesting conspiracy theories that seems to have grown in popularity over the last decade is the belief that the long-lasting white clouds left in the sky by aircraft are actually chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed on the population for nefarious reasons. The people who believe in this conspiracy theory call these lines in the sky ‘chemtrails’ and feel so strongly against them that they recently organised protests around the world. I decided to make a series of videos investigating the weird and wonderful world of chemtrails to hopefully shed some light on a conspiracy which most find hard to grasp.
The ugly side of crazed conspiracists has reared it’s ugly head again with death threats to another meteorologist. Read about it below. – MIB
By Meteorologist Eric Sorensen via WQAD.com
Yesterday, a man called local talk radio with a report of chemicals being sprayed by planes overhead. With no credible evidence whatsoever, the report went on the air to anyone who was listening without any discussion on the subject.
As a Meteorologist, I’m conflicted hearing this. On one side, much like climate change, I want to steer clear of such a divisive, political subject. But the other side of me says, as a degreed Meteorologist I owe my viewers and fans accurate science information.
Anyone who knows me understands I am a lighthearted person. I believe you can have fun while doing hard work, even if that means you’re building a deck, driving a truck, or studying the weather. But I struck a nerve when I posted a video on Facebook about the gentleman who called into local talk radio. I reiterated that the “chemtrails” were actually condensation from hot jet engines, ending dramatically with “be afraid, be very afraid.” Because that’s what the alarmists who believe in the conspiracy are hoping more people do.
[ . . . ]
Within minutes, the comments quickly turned hateful and downright angry. One poster wished that my family be poisoned and that a brick be thrown through my head. Outrageous! Especially since the hateful, hurtful words weren’t coming from just one person. There are dozens and dozens of people who believe I am paid by the government, lying when I cast doubt on the conspiracy theory. And a surprising number of people actually wish some sort of harm.
A friend of mine shared an eyebrow-raising article on Facebook. The linked story was along the lines of “private planes stolen by terrorists in the Middle East, and an attack is imminent”. The sensible people among his friends good-naturedly mocked him. They ribbed him about how ridiculous the prediction was. And all you had to do was consider the source.
My friend had shared the story from a notoriously crackpot Facebook page. The post lacked any merit, save a few tenuous and unrelated pieces of actual news. This behavior was typical of this particular page. Often, these types of pages hook you with a kernel of truth, and then wrap it in layers of idiocy.
When confronted, this friend said, “well, we’ll see who’s right in time.” The prediction by Natural News has failed to become reality almost a year later.
The Facebook fan pages below have a habit of spitting scientific inquiry and reason in the eye. They also have an unreasonably high number of fans who share their inanity. Shares from the following pages deserve a serious eye roll and shaking of one’s head.
#10 Alex Jones
Facebook fans: 856K
What He Says About Himself
“Documentary Filmmaker, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talkshow & Prisonplanet.tv Host – Free video/audio stream”
What He Really Does
Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.
Whatever your feelings are on using legislation to increase vaccination rates, you won’t find any legitimate support for implications that vaccines contain toxic doses of chemical. Nor that there are aborted fetal cells in any of the shots we get.
Sample Fan Comment
#9 Food Babe
Facebook fans: 938K
What She Says About Herself
“Vani Hari started FoodBabe.com in April 2011 to spread information about what is really in the American food supply. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth.”
What She Really Does
Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.
Sample Fan Comment
On Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before someone pulls out the EO sales kit.
by Stephanie Pappas via Live Science
Continue Reading: Mars Hoaxes: Why We Believe
By Mason I. Bilderberg
Before i forget …
This is a video i recently saw on a facebook webpage.
The video shows a large convoy of tractor trailer trucks traveling on Virginia’s Interstate 64 being escorted by State Troopers. Take a look:
As i watched the video i couldn’t think of why these trucks would be driving in such a formation (I’ve included the answer at the bottom of this post). I didn’t think much of it, really. Most people didn’t think much of it. That’s because when most people don’t know who, what, where, why or when, they simply say “I don’t know.” But not conspiracists …
When confronted with an unknown, conspiracists immediately fill their information void with something they want to believe (usually some kind of apocalyptic plan by lizard people to starve, kill, destroy and otherwise control earth people). It’s this ability by conspiracists to build a confirmation bias echo chamber out of absolutely nothing that i find really, really entertaining.
So now, for your entertainment, here are just a few of the comments i found associated with this video. Enjoy the lunacy.
So what is reality? Why were these trucks being escorted down a highway in Virginia? Read the government’s “cover story” here courtesy snopes.com.
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
… in much the same way as mainstream readers consume ordinary news, say computer scientists.
Do you believe that the contrails left by high-flying aircraft contain sildenafil citratum, the active ingredient in Viagra? Or that light bulbs made from uranium and plutonium are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly? Or that lemons have anti-hypnotic benefits?
If you do, then you are probably a regular consumer of conspiracy theories, particularly those that appear on the Italian language version of Facebook (where all these were sourced). It is easy to dismiss conspiracy theories as background noise with little if any consequences in the real world.
But that may be taking them too lightly. In 2013, a report from the World Economic Forum suggested that online misinformation represents a significant risk to modern society. The report pointed to a number of incidents in which information had spread virally with consequences that could hardly have been imagined by its creators.
In one case, somebody impersonating the Russian Interior Minister tweeted that Syria’s President Basher al-Assad had been killed or injured. The tweet caused the price of crude oil to rise by over one dollar before traders discovered that the news was false. In another case in 2012, 30,000 people fled from the Indian city of Bangalore after receiving text messages that they would be attacked.
Clearly, the rapid spread of information can often have little to do with whether it is true or not.
And that raises an interesting question. How do conspiracy theories spread through the Internet and do people treat these ideas in a way that is fundamentally different to conventional stories from established news organizations?
Yesterday I saw an article making rounds on pro-science and anti-anti-vaccination Facebook pages that was written by a “Christian” blogger who was claiming that God does not support vaccines. (Read the article here)
The author of the article uses several classic anti-vaccination claims to spread her propaganda, although the one that was mostly talked about in that article is the claim that vaccines contain parts from aborted fetuses, which is false.
She combines this along with passages from the bible and her “interpretation” of those passages in an attempt to make it seem like God does not approve of vaccines.
Before I begin I’m very well aware that many of you reading this are atheists, but for the moment just for fun consider the possibly that God exists, and if you are someone that believes that God exists then please and hear what I have to say.
First, God is, according to Judea-Christian beliefs, an all powerful being that created the Universe and everything about it, including what does and does not work.
If God is all powerful and didn’t want people to use vaccines, then couldn’t God just will vaccines not to work?
I asked this question in the comments section, and the author responded to me:
First, before anyone points it out I believe she meant to say (although I could be wrong) that research into vaccines have not been proven to be clinically effective. This is ofcourse not true. Vaccines are very effective, and there are multiple published research papers showing how effective vaccines are. Doing a simple Google Scholar search for vaccine effectiveness will bring up thousands of papers concerning vaccine effectiveness.
The second thing the author claims is that no vaccines have a life time immunity. This is completely false.
Certain vaccines (as seen here) only provide immunity for a few years, but for other vaccines they could give a person immunity against a disease for the rest of their life, although for most additional vaccinations are recommend just to be safe, and with certain vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine, getting another vaccination several years after the first one is usually all that it takes for lifetime immunity.
I replied to the author’s reply to my comment pointing these things out to her, and also once again asking her the question if . . .
9GAG recently posted an image on their Facebook page that referenced a patent for an AIDS cure. I could go into detail about how this AIDS cure is bullshit, and how the 105,047 people who liked this post are idiots but I am far too lazy. Instead I simply ran my own google searches to find patents that show how ridiculous these people are.
Yesterday I saw something on Facebook that really p*ssed me off!
Granted I see lots of things on Facebook that p*ss me off (sometimes on an hourly bases) but the things that usually get my teeth grinding are just rude, or offensive, or ignorant, or all of the above. What I saw wasn’t neither rude nor offensive, but it sure was ignorant, and it was definitely dangerous.
What ticked me off was an infograph posted on Green Med Info’s Facebook page concerning a “study” about “GMO” insulin (which all insulin is) that claimed that certain people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes from injecting insulin. (Link to original post here)
While people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes over time there are usually several factors that can cause this, such as a person’s diet, or whether they exercise, or if they take the medication that has been prescribed to them, or genetics. Insulin is not one of the causes. Infact it could prevent a person with type 2 diabetes from developing type 1 diabetes.
What gets me so angry about that post isn’t just the sheer ignorance of it, or how outright dangerous it is for the people at Green Med Info to promote something like this (because despite the fact that it promotes quackery and fraud medicine, better known as alternative medicine, people do listen to and take “advice” from that page) this type of “info” could kill a person with type 2 diabetes if they take it to seriously and decide to stop taking insulin. Either that or result in a person developing type 1 diabetes, or slipping into a diabetic coma, or losing a body part. The very worst thing that could happen is that the parent of a child with type 2 diabetes reads that and decides not to give their child insulin and what I listed above happens to that child, and there is little they can do about because they are at the mercy of their parent (unless they tell a teacher or family member about what their parent is doing and that person gets the authorities involved).
Now, back to the original reason why I’m writing this.
I, along with many other people reported this post to Facebook hoping that the social media website would take down the post due to the fact that it could cause some people to do something that was dangerous and hazardous to their health, and warn Green Med Info not to post something like that again.
Facebook has done nothing.
Sometimes, we want other people to do things, but those people don’t want to do those things. In many cases, people have tried to solve this problem with violence or other forms of direct coercion, but some craftier people have looked into the idea of mind control. Science has found little evidence that such techniques work, although conspiracy theorists would tell you that those scientists are in on the plot. Whether it is the Illuminati, the mysterious powers that be, or your nation’s government, there is someone out there with incredible, malevolent power working to control your every move, theorists claim, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
10 • Facebook Is A Mind Control Plot
To many people, Facebook is just an annoying—if somewhat necessary—social tool, but some are convinced that it is far, far more than that. They believe that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Digg came to prominence a little too easily. As such, they must have had backing from powerful media moguls like Rupert Murdoch as well as faceless government benefactors. In turn, the media promotes these sites to encourage the masses to publicly post about their lives, making it easier to spy on them. This theory also claims that part of the point of social media is to brainwash you into silence, so you will slowly conform to what those lurking in the shadows would prefer you to be.
Some people even think that the Facebook plot goes beyond simple social engineering. The Weekly World News claims that they talked to some “anonymous men” from the CIA, who divulged details of an operation planned for 2012. These nameless sources claim that data gathered from Facebook was being used to create mind-controlling applications that would compel users to do the CIA’s bidding, leading to total enslavement of the world’s population.
9 • Brainwashing During The Korean War
During the Korean War, many US soldiers were captured and kept as prisoners of war by the North Koreans. The North Koreans were known for being incredibly cruel to their prisoners, either killing them or simply letting them die from neglect. After the Chinese took over the prison camps, they maintained an iron grip on their prisoners but halted the unnecessary killing. Instead, they attempted to undermine prisoners’ beliefs in democracy and capitalism, often holding sessions with prisoners for the purpose of indoctrination.
After the war, many people were concerned about defectors, and the specter of Chinese brainwashing was raised. However, researchers found that the number of defectors was greatly exaggerated. Very few people collaborated with the Chinese in any meaningful way, and most of those who did were already sympathetic to their cause. In fact, experts believe that these so-called “brainwashing” techniques were merely a strategy for keeping prisoners busy, preventing them from organizing. Once the Chinese got their hands on the prison camp, no one escaped.
Despite this explanation, the conspiracies theories that the Chinese were experimenting with turning prisoners against their own country for dark and sinister purposes have persisted to this day. It could be argued that this conspiracy was the inspiration for many future theories about supposedly compromised former soldiers and spies.
8 • Jonestown Was A CIA Experiment
You already know that the Jonestown cult ended with an incredibly tragic mass suicide. Shortly before the events (which were caught on tape) that created the expression “don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” a congressman named Leo Ryan had arrived to investigate the cult but was gunned down shortly after disembarking his plane. Official sources claim that the attack was perpetrated by cultists from Jim Jones’s group, who chose their own destruction under his enigmatic influence, but some theorists are convinced that something far more shocking occurred.
The theorists claim that there were signs that the body count was initially inaccurate, leading them to believe that some tried to run away. Others claim that many of the cultists were murdered by cyanide poisoning, citing injection marks on the bodies that couldn’t have been reached without help. Along with the likelihood that the CIA had infiltrated the group for the purpose of investigation, this evidence has led to some very strange theories, such as the claim that the entire Jonestown cult was a camp set up by the CIA to test mind-controlling techniques. The theorists claim that the congressman was actually gunned down by the CIA, after which the camp was quickly cleansed so that the truth of their gruesome experiments didn’t get out.
It might seem odd to believe that the CIA was present after the recording of the massacre came to light, but some theorists think the audio tape was heavily edited. One theorist claims that the lack of proof is itself evidence of a conspiracy, explaining that the rumors about the CIA’s involvement in Jonestown are so crazy and unbelievable that the CIA must have planted them so you wouldn’t know the actual truth about what they did.
7 • Fluoride In Water Turns You Into Lobotomized Zombie
If you’ve ever watched Dr. Strangelove, you’ve heard the conspiracy theory that fluoride in the water is designed to sap and pollute all of your precious bodily fluids. Many people insist that fluoride is an attempt to poison the water, but the origins of these myths are stranger then you might think. The conspiracy theorists claim that the plot began in Nazi Germany, where Hitler and his top cabinet were looking for a strategy to control minds on a massive scale. They decided that fluoride would be great because, according to the theorists, it erodes your mental function and free-will as it slowly builds up in your body. Over time, you become a pawn for the powers that be.
Of course, as fluoridation spread, conspiracy theories and myths spread along with it. This has culminated in many conspiracy theorists pushing two theories that seem totally incompatible with each other. For instance, one theorist explains his theory of subtle mind control, going on to explain that fluoride quickly poisons your body as well. It seems like zombies aren’t very useful if they’re dead.
If you want to dispense racist, historically ignorant nonsense about wealthy Jews, you can hardly do better than Facebook. Quite a few memes have been going around about the Rothschild family (which, full disclosure, I have absolutely no link to other than having the same last name) and I wanted to take a look at three that caught my eye.
The first is a picture of prominent family member Jacob Rothschild, a respected British investment banker and a direct descendent of Mayer Amschel Rothschild. While Jacob is renowned for his business acumen and philanthropy, this particular meme isn’t so respectful, contrasting him to a crudely drawn picture of billionaire tyrant character Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons.
There’s also some text, full of the usual Rothschild-related distortions and lies. Part of it reads:
“My family is worth 500 trillion dollars.”
This is a ludicrous accusation that seems to have appeared out of thin air and been accepted as gospel truth by internet conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites. It obviously doesn’t pass the smell test, but just to be sure I looked for the source of the claim. There isn’t one, or at least not one I could find. It appears to be completely made up. It’s also impossible. The entire amount of financial assets held by the population of the earth is a bit less than $200 trillion. As of 2011, the total worth of the derivatives market was about $600 trillion, and there’s nowhere near enough money in the world to pay that off should the need arise.
The richest living member of the Rothschild family, Benjamin de Rothschild, is estimated to be worth about two billion dollars. Only two Rothschilds, but not Jacob, appear on the Forbes list of richest people in the world – which, of course, has led to a separate conspiracy about Forbes colluding with the family to keep their true wealth quiet. But not so quiet as to keep internet sleuths in the dark, I guess.
As usual, this is a nugget of information that only those “with their eyes open” know.
“We own nearly every central bank in the world.”
There are all kinds of goofy conspiracies about the Rothschilds having central banks in all but 3 or 7 or 9 countries. However, as Brian pointed out in his Skeptoid episode about the Rothschild conspiracy theory, the era of the Rothschilds “controlling the world’s money supply” is long over. There are far more powerful banks around the world, controlling far greater sums of money.
The very fabric of the claim is silly. A “central bank” is by definition . . .
No, Asteroid 2003 QQ47 Is NOT Going to Hit the Earth Next Week
Well, it took three months, but we have our first notpocalypse of 2014!
Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are spreading a story that a large asteroid named 2003 QQ47 might impact the Earth next week, specifically on March 21, 2014.
Let me be very clear right away: Nope. It won’t. This story is totally wrong! Well, the asteroid does exist, but it won’t hit us next week, and in fact can’t hit the Earth for at least a century. The truth is the asteroid will safely pass us on March 26 of this year, never getting closer than 19 million kilometers (nearly 12 million miles)—about 50 times farther away than the Moon!
I’m pretty sure what’s happening here is that a very old story has been recycled and is getting spread around without anyone doing any fact-checking. It’s all over Twitter and got picked up credulously by some bigger venues like the Daily Mail, which posted it with the typically understated title of “Asteroid hurtles toward Earth.” What follows after that is a breathless and almost entirely incorrect article about 2003 QQ47 that seems to simply rehash information from more than a decade ago. Seriously.*
For example, the Mail article says the asteroid is “newly discovered,” but in fact was first detected in 2003, 11 years ago! Hence its name, 2003 QQ47. It was found to be a near-Earth asteroid, or NEA, one that does sometimes get close to us. For a while after it was discovered it was thought to have a small chance of hitting Earth, with an impact probability in August 2014 of about 1 in 250,000. But by September 2003 new observations allowed a better trajectory to be calculated, and an impact in 2014 was ruled out. This happens quite often, where a new asteroid will have only a rough orbit calculated, and an impact has long but non-zero odds of hitting us. As more observations come in the chances of impact can actually increase briefly before dropping to zero.
This is what happened with QQ47 back in 2003. Got that? An impact in 2014, this year, was shown to be out of the question more than a decade ago and was even taken off JPL’s Sentry Risk page at that time, when it was found to have no potential Earth impacts for at least 100 years. We’re quite safe from this particular asteroid.