Psychologists are trying to determine why otherwise rational individuals can make the leap from “prudent paranoia” to illogical conspiracy theories
According to a Public Policy Polling survey, around 12 million people in the US believe that interstellar lizards in people suits rule our country. We imported that particular belief from across the pond, where professional conspiracy theorist David Icke has long maintained that the Queen of England is a blood-drinking, shape-shifting alien.
Conspiracy theories in general are not necessary bad, according to psychologists who study them. “If we were all completely trusting, it would not be good for survival,” explains Rob Brotherton, an academic psychologist and author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. “Sometimes people really don’t have our best interests in mind.”
But when people leap from thinking their boss is trying to undermine them to believing their boss might be a secret lizard person, they probably cross from what psychologists refer to as “prudent paranoia” into illogical territory.
And there are a lot of illogical ideas to pick from. Around 66 million Americans believe that aliens landed at Roswell, New Mexico; around 22 million people believe that the government faked the moon landing; and around 160 million believe that there is a conspiracy surrounding the assassination of former US president John F Kennedy.
While aliens and fake moon landings probably trigger eyerolls in many of us, defining what constitutes a conspiracy theory is difficult, Brotherton says. The government, for example, does sometimes conspire to do the unspeakable, such as the infamous 1930s Tuskegee study, initiated by the US government to examine untreated syphilis in African-American men. Researchers blocked research participants from receiving penicillin or exiting the experiment to get treatment. The study continued until a media report made it public. In this case, believing that the government was conspiring to keep people sick would have been completely accurate.
There are characteristics that help differentiate a conspiracy theory from prudent paranoia, Brotherton says. Conspiracy theories tend to depend on conspirators who are unduly evil, he explains, with genocide or world domination as a motive. Conspiracy theories also tend to assign an usually high level of competency to the conspirators, Brotherton adds, pointing out that when the government really does “shady stuff” it often isn’t able to keep it secret.
Chances are, we all know someone who believes some version of a conspiracy theory, which is why psychologists have been trying to understand what makes someone jump from logically questioning the world to looking for signs of lizard teeth in public figures. Research has shown that feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty are associated with a tendency to believe in conspiracies, says Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent in the UK. Or as Joseph E Uscinski, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami and author of American Conspiracy Theories, puts it, “conspiracies are for losers”.
Conspiracy theory that a military training exercise is going to lead to martial law.
Is a United States military training exercise really a covert operation to establish martial law? Can the governor of Texas and action hero movie-star Chuck Norris do anything to protect us? The training exercise is called Jade Helm 15 and it has some people completely terrified. Today we focus our skeptical eye at one of the more influential conspiracy theories in recent history.
Jade Helm 15 is a joint forces military training exercise that is planned for July 15 to September 15, 2015. It combines forces from the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Activity is planned for seven states, with Army Special Operations Forces working primarily in five: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Texas. According to military press releases and public statements, the exercises are meant to help train US military forces and to practice in a variety of environments. Such exercises also allow leadership to practice joint force coordination, which is often critical in military engagements. The public, in general, is not expected to see much activity because the majority of these training exercises will be conducted in rural areas.
That’s the official story. But then there are the conspiracy theories where the story the US government tells is said to be but a misdirection from the alleged “real” purpose of the exercises, which include such elements as these:
- It is really an exercise to ready the military for martial law.
- It is designed to teach how to capture and imprison dissident citizens.
- It includes repurposed Walmarts where mysterious closings and construction are underway.
- Prisoners will be re-educated in soviet-style “training” camps.
It is not really an exercise, but an actual military action against Al Qaeda forces in Mexico. And so on …
On Monday, April 27, 2015 a town hall meeting in Bastrop, Texas found Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria in front of a very concerned crowd of Texans. The audience filled the normal meeting area, and an overflow room. Citizens wanted to know what was going on with Jade Helm 15. They did not like or trust Lastoria’s answers.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott responded to the concerns of these citizens by directing the Texas State Guard (not the National Guard, as was widely misreported) to monitor the military training operation. This order was sent in a letter which reads in part . . .
An unclassified document that outlines a US Army training exercise scheduled for this summer includes a color-coded map that refers to Texas as “hostile territory” and calls a portion of California an “insurgent pocket,” leading a certain fringe on the internet to claim the exercise is really a dress rehearsal for a government plot to declare martial law.
The training exercise, known as Jade Helm 15, is scheduled to take place between July 15 and September 15 across parts of Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, and will involve Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other Special Ops forces. The uproar is over a slideshow presentation that outlines the effects the exercises might have on local populations. The US Army would not confirm the legitimacy of the document.
On the Sleuth Journal, a website that describes itself as an independent alternative media organization and also sells “preparedness and survival items,” author Dave Hodges said the drill was actually about “the brutal martial subjugation of the people of Texas, Utah and Southern California who have risen up against some unspecified tyranny.”
“A careful analysis reveals how this drill is connected to Army policies associated with the confinement of detainees in what is commonly called FEMA camps!” Hodge wrote, describing a conspiracy theory in which the government imprisons citizens in FEMA disaster camps. “This drill is undoubtedly the most frightening thing to occur on American soil since the Civil War.”
Infowars, the conspiracy-minded site founded by Alex Jones, also published a story on Jade Helm 15, calling it a plan for the “brutal martial law takeover of America [that] labels Texas and Utah as ‘hostile’ states due to their strong cultural identities.”
Also See: Was Alex Jones an alarmist 13 years ago or is he an alarmist today? (iLLuMiNuTTi.com)
by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
Yesterday we had a report from Española, New Mexico that a surveillance camera at a police station had caught an image of a ghost walking across a locked compound.
“At first I thought it was a fly or moth, then I saw the legs,” Officer Karl Romero said. “And it was a human. But not a real human. No. A ghost.”
Who or what will the conspiracists blame NOW for our weather and contrail patterns? 🙂
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) — a subject of fascination for many hams and the target of conspiracy theorists and anti-government activists — has closed down. HAARP’s program manager, Dr James Keeney at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, told ARRL that the sprawling 35-acre ionospheric research facility in remote Gakona, Alaska, has been shuttered since early May.
“Currently the site is abandoned,” he said. “It comes down to money. We don’t have any.” Keeney said no one is on site, access roads are blocked, buildings are chained and the power turned off. HAARP’s website through the University of Alaska no longer is available; Keeney said the program can’t afford to pay for the service. “Everything is in secure mode,” he said, adding that it will stay that way at least for another 4 to 6 weeks. In the meantime a new prime contractor will be coming on board to run the government owned-contractor operated (GOCO) facility.
HAARP put the world on notice two years ago that it would be shutting down and did not submit a budget request for FY 15, Keeney said, “but no one paid any attention.” Now, he says, they’re complaining. “People came unglued,” Keeney said, noting that he’s already had inquiries from Congress. Universities that depended upon HAARP research grants also are upset, he said.
The only bright spot on HAARP’s horizon right now is that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is expected on site as a client to finish up some research this fall and winter. DARPA has nearly $8.8 million in its FY 14 budget plan to research “physical aspects of natural phenomena such as magnetospheric sub-storms, fire, lightning and geo-physical phenomena.”
The proximate cause of HAARP’s early May shutdown was less fiscal than environmental, Keeney said. As he explained it, the diesel generators on site no longer pass Clean Air Act muster. Repairing them to meet EPA standards will run $800,000. Beyond that, he said, it costs $300,000 a month just to keep the facility open and $500,000 to run it at full capacity for 10 days.
Jointly funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the US Naval Research Laboratory, HAARP is an ionospheric research facility. Its best-known apparatus is its 3.6 MW HF (approximately 3 to 10 MHz) ionospheric research instrument (IRI), feeding an extensive system of 180 antenna elements and used to “excite” sections of the ionosphere. Other onsite equipment is used to evaluate the effects.
Less than 100 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada is the most famous secret military installation on the planet. Rumors swirl around this base, much like the mysterious aircraft that twist and turn in the skies overhead. Although it’s known by many names, most people call it by the Atomic Energy Commission‘s (AEC) designation: Area 51.
There are several theories about how Area 51 got its name. The most popular is that the facility borders the Nevada Test Site (NTS). The AEC used the NTS as testing grounds for nuclear bombs. The NTS is mapped as a grid of squares that are numbered from one to 30 (with a few omissions). Area 51, while not part of this grid, borders Area 15. Many say the site got the name Area 51 by transposing the 1 and 5 of its neighbor. Another popular theory is that the number 51 was chosen because it was not likely to be used as part of the NTS system in the future (in case the NTS expanded later on).
The first documented use of the name Area 51 comes from a film made by the company Lockheed Martin. There are also declassified documents from the 1960s and 1970s that refer to a facility called Area 51. Today, officials refer to the facility as an operating location near Groom Lake when speaking to the public — all official names for the site appear to be classified.
The name alone inspires thoughts of government conspiracies, secret “black” aircraft and alien technologies. Facts, myths and legends weave together in such a way that it can become difficult to separate reality from fiction. What exactly goes on in this installation? Why did the government alternatively acknowledge and deny its existence until the 1990s? Why is the airspace over it so restricted that even military aircraft are forbidden from flying through it? And, what does it have to do with Roswell, New Mexico?
Each question seems to have a million different answers. Some answers are plausible, while others stretch credulity so far that if someone said it out loud, you might feel the urge to back away from them slowly. In this article, we’ll look at the facts as far as anyone outside of the facility can determine them and examine the more popular theories about Area 51.
Where is Area 51?
Area 51’s coordinates are 37°14’36.52″N, 115°48’41.16″W. You can get a great view of it using Google Earth. Just type “Area 51” into the “Fly To” field and the map does the rest. For decades, the base remained hidden from almost everyone, but in 1988 a Soviet satellite photographed the base. Several publications acquired the photos and published them. The secrecy of the base is still of paramount importance, but as far as satellite coverage is concerned, the cat is out of the bag.
- Area 51 UFO : Bright UFO Filmed Hovering Near Area 51 (ufo-blogger.com)
- Area 51 (cyberleague.wordpress.com)
- Area 51 Declassified (globalelite.tv)
- America’s Top Secret Bases (usahitman.com)
Believing that a pile of debris from a military surveillance nuclear-testing device found in the New Mexico desert in 1947 was the wreckage of an extraterrestrial aircraft—well, it’s a plausible belief. You’d have to ignore a great deal of very persuasive disconfirming evidence and believe in an extremely large and extremely secretive government conspiracy, but, hey, a lot of people think along similar lines. Looking up at the night sky and seeing alien ships when others see Venus, unconventional aircraft, odd stellar formations, northern lights, blinking towers—or any other visual manifestations from a potpourri of earthly phenomena—hey, that’s not too strange. Some people have more imagination than others; they fill in the blanks where the rest of us stick pretty close to what their eyes tell them.
But alien abductions are another kettle of fish altogether. This is not a matter of perceiving ambiguous stimuli in a certain way or believing in conspiracies. And remember, some conspiracies do happen. But do alien abductions? Extraterrestrials kidnapping humans, taking them to their space ships, performing experiments on them, cutting them open, raping them, forcing women to bear hybrid babies? Thousands of people believe they have been abducted by aliens. Their memories of these experiences are vivid, painful, and terrifyingly real. What’s up here? Should we believe their stories?
Tales of alien contact have been narrated for centuries. Francis Godwin‘s The Man in the Moone (1638) and Ralph Morris’ A Narrative and the Life and Astonishing Adventures of John Daniel (1751), are taken today as intended fiction. However, in 1758, in Concerning Earths in Our Solar World, Emanuel Swedenborg made the claim that he had actually visited all the then-known planets, which he described in great detail, all inhabited by creatures who had devised ideal societies. We now know of the existence of planets that were not described by Swedenborg (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—the last of which astronomers have declassified as a planet), and we know the ones he described bear no relation to his accounts, and of course, all the evidence we have says they’re uninhabited. And how was Swedenborg to know that half the planets in the solar system were gaseous and can’t support the weight of solid objects, such as humans? Or that Venus is a toxic hothouse of sulphuric acid that could support no conceivable life whatsoever. The truth is, he knew virtually nothing about what was on our solar system’s planets—and he couldn’t have.
The pre-1947 literature on alien contact usually has the contactee visiting another planet. These narratives include an account given in 1890 by Helen Smith of Martians speaking a language that sounds very much like French; in 1906 by Sarah Weis, who described nonexistent Martian canals in great detail; in 1918 by Aleister Crowley, who describes contact with “Lam,” an inhabitant of a distant constellation who has a bulbous head and tiny, beady eyes; and in 1930 by one Willard Magoon, who described Mars as a beautiful, lush planet of forests, parks, and gardens.
MORE . . .
- Ancient Aliens Debunked (illuminutti.com)
- NASA Finds 461 Alien Planet Candidates, Some Possibly Habitable (space.com)
- Russian PM: ‘Extraterrestrials Live Among Us’ (exohuman.com)
- NASA Finds 461 Alien Planet Candidates, Some Possibly Habitable (livescience.com)
- Shape-shifting Aliens control the Earth (Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories) (illuminutti.com)
- 17 Billion Earth-Size Alien Planets Inhabit Milky Way (space.com)
- ‘Moons rather than planets are the best place to find aliens’ (todayonline.com)
- Moons ‘could hold alien life’ (bigpondnews.com)