Tag Archives: The Guardian

Conspiracy craze: why 12 million Americans believe alien lizards rule us

Around 66 million Americans believe that aliens landed at Roswell, New Mexico Photograph: The Ronald Grant Archive

Around 66 million Americans believe that aliens landed at Roswell, New Mexico
Photograph: The Ronald Grant Archive

Psychologists are trying to determine why otherwise rational individuals can make the leap from “prudent paranoia” to illogical conspiracy theories

By via The Guardian

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.

Queen of England Lizard_225pxConspiracy 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.

David Icke is a well-known political commentator and proponent of the theory that human civilization descended from reptilians in the constellation Draco.

David Icke is a well-known political commentator and proponent of the theory that human civilization descended from reptilians in the constellation Draco.

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”.

Continue Reading @ The Guardian – – –

Flat-Earthers are back: ‘It’s almost like the beginning of a new religion’

YouTube videos and spiffy websites espouse the conspiracy theory – but is the movement doomed to once again fall flat over countless schisms?

By  via The Guardian

flat earth pizza_250pxYouTube user TigerDan925 shocked his 26,000 followers recently by conceding a shocking point: Antarctica is a continent. It’s not, as he previously thought, an ice wall that encircles the flat disc of land and water we call earth.

For most of us, that’s not news. But TigerDan925’s followers, like Galileo’s 17th century critics, are outraged by his heresy. Welcome to the contentious universe of flat-Earthers – people who believe the notion of a globe-shaped world orbiting the sun is a myth.

Through popular YouTube videos and spiffy sites, they show how easy it is to get attention by questioning scientific consensus. Unfortunately, we don’t really know how many people believe in the movement because so many people in it accuse each other of being as fake as Santa Claus (or perhaps the moon landing).

That being said, TigerDan925’s admission was not a concession that the world is shaped like the globe. He merely said flat-Earthers need a new map. But for his community, he might as well have abandoned them altogether:

“Next he says the Antarctica is not governed and protected by the Illuminati, that somehow any group deciding to buy and invest in equipment is free to roam anywhere by plane or on land,” writes a user by the name Chris Madsen. “This is absolute rubbish … 2016 is the year it becomes common knowledge the earth is flat, just like 9/11 became common knowledge, no stopping the truth now. ”

Such schisms are commonplace in flat-Earthdom, where at least three websites are vying to be the official meeting ground for the movement to save us all from the delusion that our world is a globe.

Continue Reading @ The Guardian

Also See: Flat Earth Theory Is Still A Thing

Short of a conspiracy theory? You can always blame the Jews

David Cameron was right to identify antisemitism as a step towards extremism. But how to tackle it remains a major challenge

David-BaddielBy David Baddiel via The Guardian

Conspiracy theory, I said in my last standup show, is how idiots get to feel like intellectuals. I still believe this: conspiracy theory is primarily a way for people, mainly men, to appear in the know, to use their collection of assumptions, generalisations, straw men and false inferences to say, effectively: ah, the wool may have been pulled over your eyes, my friend, but not mine.worldtradetowers_0350px_825
But there are other reasons why it’s so popular these days. It provides lonely men with an online community of like-minded lonely men. It’s comforting; it’s reassuring. It provides order in a disordered universe to imagine that shadowy forces organise horrific events, rather than to have to confront the terrible truth that death and destruction happen, all the time, apparently at random. And, as David Cameron pointed out this week in his speech on extremism, it creates a way into something else that’s becoming increasingly popular these days: antisemitism.
Why do so many conspiracy theories boil down to: it’s the Jews wot done it?
One simple reason is that Jews are quite hard to spot, compared with most minorities. This allows them to be unmasked, and unmasking – to be able to say, “I and no one else (apart from all my mates on abovetopsecret.com) have spotted something hidden” – is the principal drive of the conspiracy theorist. But more importantly, within racial stereotyping Jews occupy a somewhat unique position, with a two-pronged status – both low and high.
Although they can be described as stinking and dirty and vermin, and all the other unlovely appellations ascribed by racists to every ethnicity outside the mainstream, they are the only minority who are also secretly in control, pulling the strings behind the scenes, forever conspiring to promote their own hidden global agenda.
This doublethink, which has existed more or less since we made the silly mistake of preferring Barabbas, has in our own time been turbocharged by the existence of the state of Israel. Those who have always felt that Jews were powerful, controlling and out to destroy the world can now point in the direction of the Middle East and say: there you are.

But for the conspiracy theorists  .  .  .

Continue Reading – – –

Psychic Paula: let us test your pregnancy prediction powers

By via The Guardian

After declaring that an audience member was almost certainly pregnant (much to the lady’s surprise), Paula O’Brien explained that she has an uncanny accuracy when it comes to such matters. Photograph: Paula O’Brien

After declaring that an audience member was almost certainly pregnant (much to the lady’s surprise), Paula O’Brien explained that she has an uncanny accuracy when it comes to such matters. Photograph: Paula O’Brien

I firmly believe in the importance of skeptics attending psychic shows, to see firsthand how the biggest touring psychics in the country claim to put audience members in touch with the spirits of their dearly departed – for entertainment purposes only, naturally. In seeing such shows up close and witnessing their effect on devoted audiences we get to see how seriously people take the word of a psychic, and therefore how serious an issue it is if the person making the claims doesn’t have the supernatural powers they profess.

One such show I recently attended was that of psychic Paula O’Brien, whose Liverpool show saw a modest audience of around 150 gather in a hotel function room, eager for Paula to make contact with the other side. Among the usual fare of scattergun names (“Is there a Stephen or a Stewart or a Scott?”) and random numbers and dates (“What does the number three or the month of March or the 3rd of any month mean?”) there were a few points that particularly stood out to a skeptical viewer.

psychic newspaper-1_200pxMost disturbing was the lady who told Paula she had attempted suicide on two occasions since the death of her husband. Clearly this was a sensitive subject, and one which needed to be handled with care – or, ideally, left to qualified experts. All of which made Paula’s response shocking: “I promise you, if you try again – and this is your husband’s words – you’ll be in a wheelchair sucking through a straw.”

We then learned that the audience member in question had taken to smearing her deceased husband’s ashes on her skin before leaving the house, after being advised by another psychic that she should abandon her plans to scatter his ashes, and instead should keep them close at all times. It is hard to witness such cases and still wonder whether there is any harm in seeing a psychic.

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