Bill C’s Ministry Of Truthiness

Paul Raven @ 18-05-2011

You must have seen this one already, but just in case: Bill Clinton raises the idea of independent “agency for truth” to counter all the misinformation on the intertubes [via everywhere, but I got it from TechDirt].

The agency, Clinton said, would “have to be totally transparent about where the money came from” and would have to be “independent” because “if it’s a government agency in a traditional sense, it would have no credibility whatever, particularly with a lot of the people who are most active on the internet.”

“Let’s say the U.S. did it, it would have to be an independent federal agency that no president could countermand or anything else because people wouldn’t think you were just censoring the news and giving a different falsehood out,” Clinton said.

“That is, it would be like, I don’t know, National Public Radio or BBC or something like that, except it would have to be really independent and they would not express opinions, and their mandate would be narrowly confined to identifying relevant factual errors” he said. “And also, they would also have to have citations so that they could be checked in case they made a mistake. Somebody needs to be doing it, and maybe it’s a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money.”

Hmmm. File under “nice idea, but naive and completely impractical given that the authoritarian approach to truth is antithetical to the way the internet works”. Heck, you could make it as transparent as spun diamond, and there’d still be conspiracy theorists claiming that the secret chains of funding and misinformation were just brilliantly concealed. It’s a tricky post-modern conundrum which I suspect will only ever be solved some sort of universal realisation that checking things out for yourself is the route to the truth.

Which is to say it’ll probably never be solved at all for most people. Selah.

That said, this totally merits the use of a classic macro:


Because I still have a soft spot for whack-job conspiracy theorism…

Paul Raven @ 22-02-2011

… I can’t refrain from posting to the latest gem at Vigilant Citizen, wherein grating and (hopefully) ephemeral British pop clothes-horse Jessie J is revealed as the latest in a long line of Illuminati sock-puppets (presumably taking over on point from the high mistress of meat-couture, Lady Gaga), acting out their smug boasts of complete mind-control over the population through the medium of, er, pop music [via No Rock’n’Roll Fun]. Honestly, you’ve gotta love this stuff, even if it ticks every box on the checklist:

At first glance, the song has a noble message regarding the love of music winning over the love of money. What better way to convey this revolutionary message than with a mainstream, gimmicky, formulaic and made-for-radio pop song which strategically features today’s hottest crossover rapper. Alright, that might be harsh, but it illustrates the fact that there is a lot of cognitive dissonance involved with this song. Although its message is about the un-importance of money and embracing individuality, the single is obviously calculated to get the most radio play possible, while constantly depicting the artist as a puppet or toy.


Hailed as the “new face of pop”, Jessie J brings new energy to the Illuminati agenda, but she still repeatedly flaunts the One-Eye sign like so many other pop acts, proving that she is another pawn of the system. She sings the point of view of the elite: It does not need your money, it already owns most of the world’s resources. It wants to make the world dance to its beat. It wants to shape and mold the youth to think the way it wants it to think. We are witnessing an important movement of homogenization of popular culture where mainstream media is only playing a limited number of “pre-approved” artists who push a “pre-approved” agenda. So, yeah, the video is saying, you can keep the price tag. There is a bigger investment at stake here: the minds of the youth. Of course, there are exceptions within the industry. Anti-establishment rebels have always attracted tons of fans and some still manage to obtain some success … but not with the help of mass media. Not anymore. Money is not the only thing ruling the business.

Last time I looked, money was deserting the music business… but of course, that’s just what they want me to think. Remember, kids: Occam’s Razor is a red herring!

Conspiracy debunking checklist

Paul Raven @ 27-01-2011

Via David Brin, here’s Michael Shermer with a sort of Occam’s Razor checklist for assessing the validity of conspiracy theories.

While some conspiracies are genuine, most of the more popular ones are the result of our very fortuitous evolved ability to extrapolate patterns from limited data sets, which was a great survival tool back in the days when we roamed a savannah full of stealthy fast-moving predators. Its utility has been somewhat limited by the advance of civilisation producing an environment that’s significantly less threat-laden… which is clearly evidence of the Illuminati’s plan to emasculate us and bind us in servitude to defunct Babylonian deities with a taste for blood and gold (and blood-covered gold). Crafty bastards.

Anyway, that checklist:

The more that [the theory] manifests the following characteristics, the less probable that the theory is grounded in reality:

  1. Proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of “connecting the dots” between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connections—or to randomness—the conspiracy theory is likely to be false.
  2. The agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power to pull it off. People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are.
  3. The conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements.
  4. Similarly, the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes.
  5. The conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, the theory is even less likely to be true.
  6. The conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events.
  7. The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events.
  8. The theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality.
  9. The theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies.
  10. The conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth.

Just for fun, why not run this checklist aginst the “anthropic climate change is a manufactured hoax!” theory? We could make it into a game – first one to ten-out-of-ten is a cat’s-paw to the Left-Marxist conspiracy for the advancement of a less convenient world!

Expansion tectonics: the secret of Planet Earth that THEY don’t want you to know!

Paul Raven @ 10-08-2010

Thanks in part to spending my early teens as a stubborn geek outcast in a public boarding school*, I was once deeply involved with occultism and conspiracy theory, and the attraction of wild ideas and crazy-yet-almost-coherent philosophies has never truly dimmed… though I like to think I’m a lot more rational and critical of received information as an adult. (My loss, the world’s gain? Maybe… )

So here’s a corker of an oddball theory [via MetaFilter], and one I can’t believe I’ve never stumbled across before. What’s the secret? Plate tectonics is a myth. The Earth is expanding.

This modified map shows clear empirical evidence that Asia and Australia were originally conjoined with North and South America approximately 200-250 Ma, prior to creation of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

This earlier connection of Asia and Australia with the Americas is also confirmed geologically by the deep ocean trenches that delineate the Andesite Line containing andesite, the primary mineral of the Andes Cordilleran mountains running the length of South America. [Carey, 1976, p.256]

The evidence is empirical and the conclusions are obvious—the Earth ~200-250 million years ago was a single planetary landmass ~40% smaller than it is today, and at that moment in geologic time there were NO OCEANS!

Every island and seamount, and most of the water In today’s ocean basins that now cover over 70% of the planet, has evolved in the very short period of 200 million years! The Earth has been, and still is, steadily growing in size and expanding in diameter at an accelerating rate—contrary to what scientists believe because they are currently unable to detect and measure this relatively slow rate of growth.


Every hallmark of web-based outsider science crankdom is there, with the exception of explicit references to Biblical quotations and animated gifs. Fat blocky font, check; BLOCK CAPITALS used for emphasis of salient yet hard-to-swallow FACTS, especially when the word PROOF appears in a headline, check; cutting edge web design circa 2001, checkity-check check check. (It should be noted, however, that the spelling and grammar is of unusually high quality.)

Oh, it’s so easy to be cynical, isn’t it? We’ll all be sorry when this dude’s theory turns out to be true. “First they came for the anthropogenic climate change denialists, and I said nothing…”

[ * To preemptively answer the three usual questions that follow this revelation: 1) yes, there was; 2) no, I didn’t; 3) if I could explain that, I’d probably have my own successful psychology practice and a lucrative career as a public speaker on the hedge fund circuit. ]

NASA debunks the 2012 Mayan apocalypse myth

Paul Raven @ 13-11-2009

Grand Jaguar pyramid - Tikal, GuatemalaNASA has taken a step into the rough-and-tumble world of conspiracy theory by posting a point-by-point debunking of the 2012 apocalypse meme, brought to public prominence by the recent movie based upon it [image by auntjojo]. You’ve got to admire the blunt certainty of it – here’s the first of the Q&As:

Q: Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.
A: Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.

(Personally I’d have worded that more carefully, just for the sake of covering my own back. Nothing bad will happen in 2012? Nothing at all?)

The 2012 thing has been kicking around for quite a long while, at least if you move in the right circles. I was a dedicated student of conspiracy theory and speculative archaeology for a long, long time (old habits die hard – I still admire these stories for their tenacity and narrative zing), and I first encountered the idea of 2012 as an Omega point for humanity in the writings of Terence McKenna, who had that date as the end-point of his “Timeline Zero” novelty theory… which reads kind of like a psychedelic/spiritual equivalent to the Technological Singularity theories of Vinge and Kurzweil, interestingly enough (and is well worth investigating if you have any interest in anthropology, cultural evolution, psychedelic experiences, or all three – start with Food of the Gods).

The end of the Mayan calendar’s Long Count has provided a convenient hook for a lot of other related theories and marginal occult weirdnesses, too… Graham Hancock suggested it as a link to some form of cyclic geological apocalypse (if I remember correctly… crustal slippage, magnetic field reversal, maybe some combo of those two and something else), and a number of the people obsessed by the famous Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull have glommed on to the calendar’s end date as a critical moment in future history (though some suggest it will be a “soft apocalypse”, a return of benevolent deities to the abandoned tribes of the Earth or somesuch).

Most damning of all for the 2012 theory is that the Mayans themselves tend to denounce it as complete bunk, not to mention an exploitative twisting of their traditional beliefs that is putting a lot of money into the pockets of entertainment companies but none into their own. Having read quite a few of them, I suspect many of the earlier occult/secret-history theorists were motivated more by genuine (if misguided) belief, but the recent band-wagon pile-on by Big Media is a different kettle of fish entirely – we all love a good End Of The World riff, after all, and with a well-known temporal hook like that, well, you’d be a fool to pass over it, right?

Or perhaps Hollywood knows the truth, and the 2012 movie is a cynical attempt to scrape a little more hard cash out of us all so that the Secret Masters can finish building their space ark and flee the planet in the company of Xenu and his rainbow panoply of space-deities. Which, come to think of it, perfectly explains why NASA are debunking the story: it’s a straight-faced double-bluff! HOW MANY OF YOU WILL BE SAVED, NASA? EH? HOW MANY OF YOUR RICHEST AND MOST POWERFUL EMPLOYEES WILL BE RESCUED IN THE FINAL DAYS, LEAVING THE REST OF US TO REAP THE ANGER OF THE UNSEATED COSMIC BALANCE AT THE END OF ALL TIME? WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THE GRASSY KNOLL? WHAT WAS THE SECRET THAT DROVE HOWARD HUGHES SO CRAZY THAT HE HAD TO BE POISONED INTO A STATE OF CATALEPTIC INCOMPREHENSION? WHY HAVE YOU NEVER DEBUNKED THE WORKS OF ERICH VON DANIKEN, EH?

Oh, hello, Doctor – I didn’t hear you come in! Is it the red pills today, or the green ones? Sometimes I lose track of the sequence, the colours can be so… distracting…

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