We surf the net, stream our films and save stuff in the cloud. Can we get all the nature we need from the digital world?
by Sue Thomas
Getting back to nature: a visitor takes a photo of jellyfish in the aquarium in Wuhan, China. Photo by Reuters
Sue Thomas is a writer and digital pioneer. Her latest book is Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace (2013).
There are fish in my phone. Some are pure orange with white fins; others have black mottled markings along their orange backs. They glide, twist and turn above a bed of flat pale sand fringed by rocks and the bright green leaves of something that looks like watercress. Sometimes they swim out of view, leaving me to gaze at the empty scene in the knowledge that they will soon reappear. When I gently press my finger against the screen, the water ripples and the fish swim away. Eventually, they cruise out from behind the Google widget, appear from underneath the Facebook icon, or sneak around the corner of Contacts. This is Koi Live Wallpaper, an app designed for smartphones. The idea of an aquarium inside my phone appeals to my sense of humour and makes me smile. But I suspect its true appeal is more complicated than that.
In 1984, the psychiatrist Aaron Katcher and his team at the University of Pennsylvania conducted an experiment in the busy waiting room of a dentist’s office. On some days, before the surgery opened, the researchers installed an aquarium with tropical fish. On other days, they took it away. They measured the patients’ levels of anxiety in both environments, and the results were clear. On ‘aquarium days’, patients were less anxious and more compliant during the surgery. Katcher concluded that the presence of these colourful living creatures had a calming influence on people about to receive dental treatment. Then in 1990, Judith Heerwagen and colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle found the same calming effect using a large nature mural instead of an aquarium in the waiting room of a specialist ‘dental fears’ clinic. A third experiment by the environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich and colleagues at Texas A&M University in 2003 found that stressed blood donors experienced lowered blood pressure and pulse rates while sitting in a room where a videotape of a nature scene was playing. The general conclusion was that visual exposure to nature not only diminished patient stress but also reduced physical pain. I’m not in pain when I look at my mobile, though I might well be stressed. Is that why I take time to gaze at my virtual aquarium?
A simple answer to this question is no. Katcher’s fish were real. Mine are animations. But there is increasing evidence that we respond very similarly to a ‘natural’ environment, whether it’s real or virtual, and research confirms that even simulated nature experiences can be remarkably powerful. In a 2008 study of Spanish energy consumers, the researchers Patrick Hartmann and Vanessa Apaolaza-Ibáñez at the University of the Basque Country examined responses to a new TV marketing campaign by one of the country’s leading energy brands, Iberdrola Energía Verde. The company was attempting to ‘green’ its image by evoking a virtual experience of nature through the use of pleasant imagery such as flying eagles, mountain scenery, and waterfalls. The intention was to evoke feelings of altruism and self-expression (‘Now, every time you switch on your light, you can feel good because you are helping nature’). The researchers found that consumers responded positively to the new branding, no matter whether they were already environmentally conscious or among the ‘non-concerned’. The ads brought the benefits of a ‘warm glow’ and a positive feeling of participating in the common good of the environment. The visual simulations were meeting a human desire to experience nature and reap its psychological benefits (pleasure, stress reduction, and so on). The research concluded that in societies where the experience of actual nature is becoming scarce, and life is increasingly virtual, the consumption of ‘green products’, especially those that evoke virtual contact with nature, can provide surrogate experiences.
The psychologist Deltcho Valtchanov at the University of Waterloo in Canada reached a similar conclusion in 2010 when he found that immersion in a computer-generated virtual reality nature space prompted an increase in positive feelings such as happiness, friendliness, affection and playfulness, and a decrease in negative feelings such as fear, anger and sadness. There were also significant decreases in levels of both perceived and physiological stress. Again, he and his colleagues concluded that encounters with nature in virtual reality have beneficial effects similar to encounters with real natural spaces. In other words, it seems that you can gain equal benefit from walking in a forest as from viewing an image of a forest or, as in my case, from watching virtual goldfish as opposed to real ones.
But what do we mean when we refer to ‘nature’? It’s a common term that seems to have an assumed collective meaning, often romanticised and sentimental. We speak of ‘getting back to nature’ as if there was once a prelapsarian baseline before we humans interfered and spoiled it. Gary Snyder, the American poet and environmentalist, offers alternative definitions from which we can choose. In The Practice of the Wild (1990), he distils down to two ways in which the term ‘nature’ is usually interpreted. One, he argues, is the outdoors: ‘the physical world, including all living things. Nature by this definition is a norm of the world that is apart from the features or products of civilisation and human will. The machine, the artefact, the devised, or the extraordinary (like a two-headed calf) is spoken of as “unnatural”.’
The other meaning is much broader, taking the first and adding to it all the products of human action and intention. Snyder calls it the material world and all its collective objects and phenomena. ‘Science and some sorts of mysticism rightly propose that everything is natural,’ he writes. In this sense, ‘there is nothing unnatural about New York City, or toxic wastes, or atomic energy, and nothing — by definition — that we do or experience in life is “unnatural”.’ That, of course, includes the products of technology. This is Snyder’s preferred definition — and mine too. However, though it’s not always made clear, I’d venture a guess that environmental psychologists might have a preference for the former, human-free definition of nature.
Either way, it’s been claimed that the love of nature derives from ‘biophilia’, or the biophilic tendency. The term, coined in the 1960s by the German social psychologist Erich Fromm, was intended to denote a psychological orientation towards nature, but it became better known when popularised by the American biologist E O Wilson in Biophilia (1984) as an ‘innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes’. Note that Wilson avoids the ‘n’ word, referring to ‘life’ instead. Of course, today the digerati are deeply engaged in conversations about what ‘life’ will mean in technologies of the future, a debate that will continue for a long time to come. More recently, the concept of biophilia has been celebrated by the Icelandic musician Björk in her 2011 album and musical project of the same name.
Perhaps biophilia can soothe our connected minds and improve our digital well-being
The notion of biophilia draws upon a genetic attraction to an ancient natural world that evolved long before we did. It appears that our urge for contact with nature can, as shown in the experiments described, restore energy, alleviate mental fatigue, and enhance attention. It also appears to be surprisingly transferable to digital environments.
In 2004 I began collecting examples of metaphors and images of the natural world commonly found in computer culture — terms such as stream, cloud, virus, worm, surfing, field, and so on. I intended to find out what can be learnt from them about the intersections between human beings, cyberspace, and nature. I quickly amassed a long list of examples but found myself unable to suggest a reason for this phenomenon, until I came across Wilson’s theory. I realised that the story had been right in front of me all the time. It can be found in the images on our machines, in the spaces we cultivate in our online communities, and in the language we use every day of our digital lives. It began the moment we moved into the alien, shape-shifting territory of the internet and prompted a resurgence of that ancient call to life, biophilia.
Our attempts to place ourselves in this new world nourished the growth of a new spur, a hybrid through which nature and technology become symbionts, rather than opponents. I have coined the term ‘technobiophilia’ for this. It’s a clumsy word — probably not quite the right one — but for now it helps to spell out what is happening so that we can understand it better. Is there the possibility that perhaps biophilia can soothe our connected minds and improve our digital well-being? How can we harness and develop our technobiophilic instincts in order to live well in the digital world?
One option would be that rather than keeping the virtual and the natural worlds separate — turning off our machines, taking e-sabbaticals, or undergoing digital detoxes, in order to connect with nature — we think about them all as integrated elements of a single life in a single world. There is already a growing sense in the wired community that connections with the natural world are vital to digital well-being, both now and in the future. This same community needs to pay attention to biophilia and to its implementation in biophilic design. With the help of biophilic insights, we can connect the planet beneath our feet with the planet inside our machines.
Of Cultures Destroyed by Western Sexual Exploitation and Violent Religious Prudery
By Jesse Bering |
In working on my latest book Perv, some of the saddest material I came across involved the stormy cross-cultural conflicts erupting between Western ideals of sex and those discovered among other “exotic” societies. The field of cultural anthropology has its own dark history in this regard. For an embarrassingly long time, in fact, some unethical scholars were in the dubious business of publishing thinly veiled “ethnopornographies” of their trusting subjects.
With revealing titles such as Untrodden Fields of Anthropology(1898), Neger-Eros (1928), and Erotikon (1966), these researchers seemed far less concerned about educating Western audiences than they were in titillating readers with lurid true stories of savage lust. Some of these scandalous volumes even included explicit “photodocumentation” of the subjects at hand, which arguably involved the production of sexually exploitative images of indigenous people.
It’s disturbing stuff. Yet in terms of the sheer amount of damage that Westerners have done to other cultures in response to their simply having different (and usually harmless) sexual customs from our own, religious missionaries definitely take the cake. In a distressingly large number of cases, the Church’s historical encroachment into far-flung corners of the globe has served to level whole societies through its many aggressive campaigns to save “savage” souls from their carnal “sins.”
The Gikuyu of Kenya, who had very rigid codes of sexual convention, thought the public displays of affection among Europeans were unspeakably vulgar. Ironically, however, early 20th century missionaries punished these conservative people for their timeless tradition of encouraging adolescents to be sexually responsible by experimenting with romantic relationships through a cuddling ritual. In this tightly regulated Gikuyu practice of ngweko, which was primarily used to assess a young couple’s lifelong compatibility in possible matrimony, the young lovers would lie together with their legs intertwined, which kept them from thrusting. “The chief concern in this relationship,” explained the native anthropologist Jomo Kenyatta, “is the enjoyment of the warmth of the breast … and not the full experience of sexual intercourse.” The rules were strict and clear: the girl must wear a leather apron covering her groin, the boy must tuck his organ between his legs, the girl couldn’t touch said organ, and neither party could sleep with their back turned to the other. Instead, they’d simply coo and fondle each other’s bodies, rubbing their chests together, talking until falling asleep. Yet zealous missionaries couldn’t be persuaded that coitus wasn’t, in fact, occurring, and so they forced any teenagers who’d engaged in ngweko to repent for what they saw as the sin of premarital relations.
Among the most despicable of prudish missionaries was a dogmatic French priest named Honoré Laval, who managed to nearly wipe out the entire Mangareva culture of French Polynesia in the mid-19th century. When he and his fellow clergymen first set foot onto the Gambier Islands in January, 1834, the free-spirited Mangarevans (whom, Laval assured the bishops in Bordeaux, were ignorant pagans seething with lasciviousness and therefore in desperate need of salvation) numbered at over nine thousand. After a few short decades of his unbridled theocratic rule on the islands, in which he banished anyone who dared to question his sacred cause, it numbered at just a few hundred. During this time, Laval destroyed every last Mangarevan idol and artifact and replaced the ancient temples with cathedrals and convents. The latter he stocked with young native women, whom he saw as being especially vulnerable to the Devil’s lewd temptations. Instead of swimming bare-chested in the azure waters of the archipelago as their ancestors had done since time immemorial, they could now only wander aimlessly along the convent halls while fingering their rosaries, draped in the suffocating habits of old French nuns.
Lazal’s religious tyranny ended in 1871, when a traveling merchant doing business on the islands, shocked by the conditions he saw, smuggled word of the priest’s isolated demagogic regime to the governor in Tahiti. When a special French envoy finally liberated the Mangarevans that year, two little native boys were said to have stumbled out of Laval’s overflowing prison, explaining that they’d been ordered jailed by the priest for the grievous offence of having giggled during Mass.
Should we forgive Laval and the many other missionaries who’ve since come and gone, and in fact continue largely unabated to this day, foisting their biblical sexual ethics on other cultures? After all, they’ve only been doing their evangelical duties. Frankly, I see little evidence of their love and benevolence, only tragic tales of cultures forever lost to the ideological bulldozer of Christian homogenization, the self-righteous flag of original sin waving arrogantly in the breeze. I’m reminded of the Eskimo’s famous lament in Annie Dillard’s remarkable book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. “If I did not know about God and sin,” the Eskimo asked the priest, “would I go to hell?” “No, not if you did not know,” replied the priest. “Then why did you tell me?” responded the Eskimo.
About the Author: Jesse Bering is the author of The Belief Instinct (2011), Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? (2012) and Perv (October, 2013). He began his career as a psychology professor at the University of Arkansas and is the former director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast. Bering now lives in Ithaca, New York with his partner, Juan, along with a very big cat and two pathologically friendly border terriers. In addition to his books, Bering is also a regular contributor to many popular magazines, including Scientific American, Slate, New York Magazine, The Guardian, The New Republic, Discover, and more. Follow on Twitter @JesseBering.
Over 360,000 Gun Deaths Since 9/11 — From the Outside It Looks Like America Is a Country Gripped by Civil War
Should the outside world intervene?
Last week, Starbucks asked its American customers to please not bring their guns into the coffee shop. This is part of the company’s concern about customer safety and follows a ban in the summer on smoking within 25 feet of a coffee shop entrance and an earlier ruling about scalding hot coffee. After the celebrated Liebeck v McDonald’s case in 1994, involving a woman who suffered third-degree burns to her thighs, Starbucks complies with the Specialty Coffee Association of America‘s recommendation that drinks should be served at a maximum temperature of 82C.Although it was brave of Howard Schultz, the company’s chief executive, to go even this far in a country where people are better armed and only slightly less nervy than rebel fighters in Syria, we should note that dealing with the risks of scalding and secondary smoke came well before addressing the problem of people who go armed to buy a latte. There can be no weirder order of priorities on this planet.
That’s America, we say, as news of the latest massacre breaks – last week it was the slaughter of 12 people by Aaron Alexis at Washington DC’s navy yard – and move on. But what if we no longer thought of this as just a problem for America and, instead, viewed it as an international humanitarian crisis – a quasi civil war, if you like, that calls for outside intervention? As citizens of the world, perhaps we should demand an end to the unimaginable suffering of victims and their families – the maiming and killing of children – just as America does in every new civil conflict around the globe.
The annual toll from firearms in the US is running at 32,000 deaths and climbing, even though the general crime rate is on a downward path (it is 40% lower than in 1980). If this perennial slaughter doesn’t qualify for intercession by the UN and all relevant NGOs, it is hard to know what does.
To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it’s worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics fromicasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.
That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, “secondary smoke” obsessions that characterise so much of American life.
Everywhere you look in America, people are trying to make life safer. On roads, for example, there has been a huge effort in the past 50 years to enforce speed limits, crack down on drink/drug driving and build safety features into highways, as well as vehicles. The result is a steadily improving record; by 2015, forecasters predict that for first time road deaths will be fewer than those caused by firearms (32,036 to 32,929).
Plainly, there’s no equivalent effort in the area of privately owned firearms. Indeed, most politicians do everything they can to make the country less safe. Recently, a Democrat senator from Arkansas namedMark Pryor ran a TV ad against the gun-control campaign funded by NY mayor Michael Bloomberg – one of the few politicians to stand up to the NRA lobby – explaining why he was against enhanced background checks on gun owners yet was committed to “finding real solutions to violence”.
About their own safety, Americans often have an unusual ability to hold two utterly opposed ideas in their heads simultaneously. That can only explain the past decade in which the fear of terror has cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars in wars, surveillance and intelligence programmes and homeland security. Ten years after 9/11, homeland security spending doubled to $69bn . The total bill since the attacks is more than $649bn.
One more figure. There have been fewer than 20 terror-related deaths on American soil since 9/11 and about 364,000 deaths caused by privately owned firearms. If any European nation had such a record and persisted in addressing only the first figure, while ignoring the second, you can bet your last pound that the State Department would be warning against travel to that country and no American would set foot in it without body armour.
But no nation sees itself as outsiders do. Half the country is sane and rational while the other half simply doesn’t grasp the inconsistencies and historic lunacy of its position, which springs from the second amendment right to keep and bear arms, and is derived from English common law and our 1689 Bill of Rights. We dispensed with these rights long ago, but American gun owners cleave to them with the tenacity that previous generations fought to continue slavery. Astonishingly, when owning a gun is not about ludicrous macho fantasy, it is mostly seen as a matter of personal safety, like the airbag in the new Ford pick-up or avoiding secondary smoke, despite conclusive evidence that people become less safe as gun ownership rises.
Last week, I happened to be in New York for the 9/11 anniversary: it occurs to me now that the city that suffered most dreadfully in the attacks and has the greatest reason for jumpiness is also among the places where you find most sense on the gun issue in America. New Yorkers understand that fear breeds peril and, regardless of tragedies such as Sandy Hook and the DC naval yard, the NRA, the gun manufacturers, conservative-inclined politicians and parts of the media will continue to advocate a right, which, at base, is as archaic as a witch trial.
Talking to American friends, I always sense a kind of despair that the gun lobby is too powerful to challenge and that nothing will ever change. The same resignation was evident in President Obama’s rather lifeless reaction to the Washington shooting last week. There is absolutely nothing he can do, which underscores the fact that America is in a jam and that international pressure may be one way of reducing the slaughter over the next generation. This has reached the point where it has ceased to be a domestic issue. The world cannot stand idly by.
Whether or not we have the degree of free will most of us like to believe we have, I don’t see how that would be a get-out-of-jail-free card. When it comes to being held responsible for our actions—however determined—we are.
Strict determinism, the kind that says everything we do is already set for us, would mean that if you go far enough back in time, or manage to obtain a “high” enough perspective to see every single pattern of actions unfolding from one to the next, then you have no free will, no way to make your own choices.
No one can get that kind of omniscient perspective, however, and that is clear to atheists. No God or gods, no supernatural being to set it all in motion or to direct it one way or another. The best science can do, for now, is trace an action back in time as far as possible in order to make good guesses as to all the predetermining factors that went into a particular decision by a particular person at a specific point in time. Both psychology, neuroscience, and physics are helpful in such lookings-back.
HOW WE DECIDE
Based on my own education in social psychology and human development, my philosophical views are grounded in humanism. The fact is that we all make decisions based on what we know at the time, what we believe to be true or the way our brains are habituated to come to conclusions. That resembles like a form of free will, though mitigated by all that we don’t know or that we misbelieve or a lack of imagination of options that might indeed be available to us at any turning point.
If we’re necessarily ignorant of many of the factors that have gone into any one of our choices, does that mean we’re blameless for our “mistakes,” for our actions that are deemed immoral by most other individuals? Sometimes I figure it doesn’t matter where we place actual blame, because, as a society, a group of people attempting to live peacefully with one another, the greatest good is to agree on a few major points of law and then to corral bad actors away from the rest of us.
A good definition of free will is that we can imagine future courses of action, decide which one to pursue regardless of competing desires we may have, and that we make such decisions without unreasonable external or internal pressure. Such free will is not magical, nor does it depend on a soul or suchlike which is totally free of any physical process. Our decisions are not determined in such a way that they aren’t influenced by our conscious thoughts. We would hate to think that no matter what we try to do, our decisions are inevitable.
The findings of neuroscience suggest that our actions (little ones, like pressing a button) are caused by unconscious processes that don’t even enter our awareness until a bit later. That certain neural activity precedes “decisions” doesn’t mean you have no choice. But it may mean that we probably do have less free will than we think.
I particularly like the sophisticated comment someone (R.A.) posted on NYTimes.com:
I would argue that as we approach making a decision, we observe competing outcome scenarios predicted by subconscious processes. We then sense how we feel about these scenarios based on dopamine production. Our feelings can then influence the subconscious creating more nuanced outcome scenarios. All of this happens again and again in the nonlinear environment of the brain and is subjected to all kinds of butterfly effects. Eventually the decision happens and we act. Our recollection of how the scenarios changed based on our emotional responses makes some of us think we had complete control over the outcome.
YOU WILL READ THIS BOOK (OR NOT)
A recent book showcases its stance by its title: Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (Lexington Books, 2013). It’s a compilation of 16 essays (all but one original for this volume), edited by Gregg D. Caruso, assistant professor of philosophy and chair of the humanities department at Corning Community College, SUNY. The contributors are an international array of philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists, many of them also professors and authors.
One of the issues explored in the volume is what is the responsibility of professionals in light of the way the mass media headlines the scientific claim that free will probably doesn’t exist. Will individuals and crowds run around doing horrible things (more than usual!)? Some worry about that possibility, while other essayists contend that our lives wouldn’t significantly change if we accepted a lack of free will.
The authors of one chapter that tackles a possible “dark side of believing in free will,” admits that the research thus far is “preliminary and messy,” but suggests that a belief in free will seems to correlate with a belief in right-wing authoritarianism, among other things.
The topic of moral responsibility is a huge and complicated one, and I relish the idea that academics and others are debating it. Can we agree that we should be held morally responsible even if we accept that our stance is based on non-philosophical reasons? I’d like to think so.
One of cartography’s most persistent myths: mapmakers of yore, frustrated by the world beyond their ken, marked the blank spaces on their maps with the legend Here be monsters. It’s a pleasing hypothesis. For to label a cartographic vacuum with the stuff of nightmares solves two problems at …
The end of Nazi Germany in two words? Pincer movement . After it turns the tide at the bloody battles of Stalingrad (August 1942 – January 1943) and Kursk (July – August 1943), the Red Army relentlessly steamrollers westward to Berlin. The Anglo-American push eastward, also in the general …
What to do with a dream that’s too big for reality? Among many other things, you could map it. Such a representation could serve as an exhortation – This is the plan, get going! But if the gap between cartography and reality remains unbridged, the exhortation becomes a souvenir of the road not …
What was first, the chicken or the map? That question is perhaps as unanswerable as the one featuring hen vs. egg . Not that it matters. Stare long enough at these twin images, and you will never see a map of China again without thinking of an agitated chicken flapping its wings as it runs …
Question: Which contest is the nec plus ultra for puzzle fans and quiz aficionados everywhere? Answer: The MIT Mystery Hunt (MMH), which kicks off every year on the Friday before Martin Luther King Day  on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. The …
Do Norwegians feel curiously at home in Chile, and vice versa? Do South Africans have a strange affinity with Italians? And Filipinos with Maldivians? They should, at least if they’re map nerds: each lives in a country with a territorial morphology  that closely resembles the other’s …
This is a map that takes some time to get your head around; quite literally, because to appreciate it fully, you need to consider it both with its north side and its south side up . The world, ‘upside up’. To spare you the risk of neck injury, we’re providing both versions below …
It was this map of Greenland that triggered this post. I say map, but I mean hole in a drainpipe. This picture was sent in by Ruland Kolen, who was struck by this hole’s accidental resemblance to the shape of the world’s largest island: “Both Greenland and this hole look like a lion’s head …
Occasional exceptions notwithstanding, this blog steers clear of maps from the twin realms  of fantasy and alternate history. This might seem odd, as both genres rely heavily on maps to flesh out the world they describe. Consequently, both fantasy and alternate history teem with non-standard …
It’s a question on the minds of many, this gift-giving season: What do you get someone who already has everything? The problem gets a bit more pressing if you’re the British Cabinet, and the Queen is coming round to visit. Their solution? Clever: two gifts – 60 table mats, and a chunk of Antarctica …
“Today, Montevideo is on a par with the great capitals of the world, like London, Milan and Rio de Janeiro. Finally, Montevideo has its Metro.” – Estero Bellaco, Engineer and President of the Corporación Metro de Montevideo (CMM). Those words were spoken at the inauguration of the metro …
Why get done today what you can put off until tomorrow? Anyone who knows that feeling is an honorary citizen of this virtual country: Procrasti-Nation. For Freud, the need to procrastinate is a function of the Pleasure Principle, which dictates that we seek gratification, or least avoid pain …
Last week, the world didn’t so much lose an island, as gain a phantom island. To map-lovers, the former is a regrettable but increasingly common occurrence , what with rising sea levels and all. The latter, on the contrary, is an exciting event, all the more since it was presumed extinct. We …
War, as Clausewitz said, is the continuation of politics by other means . But sometimes, war itself is being continued by other means – cartographic means. Maps are an excellent propaganda weapon against a (geo)political enemy. We trust cartography instinctively to ‘show us the right way’, and …
How do you determine the value of a place? The answer to that question often reduces ‘value’ to ‘yield’: how much money does it generate? The genius loci  of a place is calculable by the monetary value of the crops it generates, of of the oil and gas that we frack out from under it. There’s …
A dubious psychotherapist who helped stoke the fire of “Satanic Panic” in the 90s, appears to have jumped on the bandwagon of the Jimmy Savile scandal in order to peddle her Christian-rooted paranoia.
Valerie Sinason, a Trustee of the Institute for Psychotherapy and Disability and former lecturer at the Tavistock Clinic, was uncritically quoted in last week’s Sunday Express, claiming two of her patients were victims of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” at the hands of the now deceased celebrity.
“She had been a patient at Stoke Mandeville in 1975 when Savile was a regular visitor,” Sinason told the Express about a girl who was allegedly 12 years old at the time.
“She recalled being led into a room that was filled with candles on the lowest level of the hospital, somewhere that was not regularly used by staff. Several adults were there, including Jimmy Savile who, like the others, was wearing a robe and a mask.
“She recognised him because of his distinctive voice and the fact that his blond hair was protruding from the side of the mask. He was not the leader but he was seen as important because of his fame.
“She was molested, raped and beaten and heard words that sounded like ‘Ave Satanas’, a Latinised version of ‘Hail Satan’, being chanted. There was no mention of any other child being there and she cannot remember how long the attack lasted but she was left extremely frightened and shaken.”
Dr. Sinason continues with another extraordinary allegation from a woman who was 21 years old during the alleged ordeal:
“A second victim approached me in 1993. She said she had been ‘lent out’ as a supposedly consenting prostituted woman at a party in a London house in 1980.
“The first part of the evening started off with an orgy but half-way through some of the participants left.
“Along with other young women, the victim was shepherded to wait in another room before being brought back to find Savile in a master of ceremonies kind of role with a group wearing robes and masks. She too heard Latin chanting and instantly recognised satanist regalia. Although the girl was a young adult, who was above the age of consent, she had suffered a history of sexual abuse and was extremely vulnerable.”
While the nature of the long overdue Jimmy Savile scandal invariably means that discovering tangible evidence is unlikely (this thanks to the culture of cover-up and inaction within some of Britain’s most respected institutions), it can also give rise to fabricated and distorted claims. At this point anyone could literally say anything about Savile for an infinite number of dubious or delusional reasons. The truth lies in the overall body of allegations, their consistency and their corroboration.
Because of this I for one am airing on the side of caution when it comes to sensational topics like “satanic ritual abuse”. Those who have made claims of its existence in the past (Dr. Sinason herself included) have never provided tangible proof. There are no hordes of dead bodies, despite claims of babies being secretly bread for ritual sacrifices. There are no credible former Satanists who have provided evidence against their so called brothers. Locations where these events are supposed to have taken place are either unknown or void of any physical evidence upon insepction. There is literally nothing empirical beyond accusations.
If Jimmy Savile was considered “important” in these rituals or even a “master of ceremonies” where are all the other victims that would have seen him? Where are all the witnesses that were wittingly or unwittingly involved? Where exactly are the locations where this abuse was supposed to have taken place and do they match the allegations? And what exactly is “satanist regalia” that can be easily recognizable?
We definitely know that Savile is guilty of abuse and used his high position in society to gain access to the most vulnerable. We know this because hundreds of alleged victims and witnesses have come forward, each with similar stories. Out of these hundreds the only sign of “satanic ritual abuse” comes from Dr. Sinason, and she has not provided any evidence for the allegations. Instead they boil down to two stories her patients told her during psychotherapy sessions. Assuming these patients even exist (we’ve heard nothing directly from them), just because somebody supposedly said something in a therapy session does not make it true. Yet sectors of the media have swallowed Sinason’s account hook line and sinker.
Stories of horrific rituals and sacrifices at the hands of so called Satanists are nothing new. They’ve been so common at certain periods in history that the term “Satanic Panic” was coined to explain the phenomenon. The last time this panic set in was during the 90s, primarily among Christians in America, although Dr. Sinason and others also promoted the idea in the UK.
An example of the absurdity of this time was a TV special hosted by Fox News reporter Geraldo Rivera. Exposing Satan’s Underground which can be viewed on Youtube features ambiguous and outright sensational documentary footage, spliced with a live studio audience, as the mustachioed hack went on the hunt for the Devil. Looking back at it now I’m just as bewildered as poor Ozzy Osbourne, who was paraded out to answer for his evil song lyrics.
The problem with the type of allegations that involve “satanists” is that they are often presented from an ignorant, religious or sensationalist perspective, with all the themes and theatrics of a Horror movie. They rarely acknowledge what Satanism actually is.
According to believers of “satanic ritual abuse” Satanism is when scary people dress in robes, chant Latin, drink blood and play with pentagrams. Unfortunately in reality such a concept lives only in the minds of those making the claims.
While there have been lone-nut “satanists” or “pseudo-satanists” in the past who have acted on imagery from religion and pop culture as part of their deranged crimes, or ridiculous ceremonies such as the Cremation of Care annually partaken by some of America’s corporate and political elite, you’d be hard pressed to find an organization, group or “ring” of satanists that actually dress in robes, chant for Satan of the bible and commit real sacrifices. In my opinion Satanism in this context is a paranoid projection of Christianity, an entertaining theme of Hollywood, and the goofing off of powerful people, who are probably quite thankful that the sensationalism of their yearly past-time obscures their corrupt closed-door dealings.
Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, of which I’m obviously a big fan.
Most Satanists don’t actually believe in Satan or God, they adopt Satan as a symbol for human nature, freedom, and to rebel against dogmas like that of the Church. Even Theistic Satanists, who revere Satan as an actual Deity/God, do not worship evil, they worship knowledge and self improvement. They believe that the Serpent in the Bible set man free from a God who was pulling the wool over their eyes.
It is of course theoretically possible that a group of sick criminals and child abusers have chosen to adopt a mish-mash of sensationalized pseudo-satanic themes and the garb of aristocratic Masquerade parties, as part of their criminal activity, but to call that Satanic would be unfair to Satanists. And if this is supposed to be taking place, victims and believers perhaps need to start gathering evidence, or at least offer coherent and corroborative allegations that can be taken seriously.
The Hollie Greig Hoax:
A lesser known story that fizzled out just prior to the Jimmy Savile scandal was the Hollie Greig Case. The plight of a Downs Syndrome girl said to have been raped by a gang of paedophiles, reaching the top levels of the Scottish establishment captured the hearts of many. Well-meaning internet activists launched the “Google Hollie Greig” campaign and some even took to the streets to protest the stomach churning crimes of the elite.
The story, which is all it seems to have turned out to be, morphed in to whatever the current alternative media celebrity wanted it to. Satanists, Freemasons, or in the case of David Icke, Satanic-Freemasons controlled by Reptilian entities outside our visible spectrum of light.
Wading through the nonsense to find the original allegation, it turns out that even some of the named members of this paedophile ring that had supposedly operated for over a decade in Aberdeen, Scotland, have left no record of even existing! Other alleged victims unashamedly named by Hollie’s mother Anne and her Spokespeople Robert Green and UK Column chief Brian Gerrish, were either not yet born or were adults before they even met Hollie, publicly denying they were harmed in any way!
In spite of claims about documentation and medical reports, when these were made available to the public they revealed that there were “no signs of inappropriate sexual experiences,” and certainly nothing to suggest a 22 strong gang of abusers had damaged Hollie for years on end. If an isolated incident of abuse had taken place at some point, the rabble that ran with the story have well and truly buried it deep beneath a mound of complete hogwash.
Hollie was found to be an unreliable source of information by the Police Complaints Commissioner and after questioning the accused, investigators found nothing to substantiate the allegations.
I interviewed a group of disaffected members of the campaign and two of the alleged abusers on the WideShut Webcast:
TheHollieGreigCoverUp.net thoroughly documents the rise and fall of this terrible hoax, or perhaps more accurately mass delusion.
Dr. Valerie Sinason and Satan’s Psychotherapists:
Valerie Sinason the “doctor” peddling the Savile Satanic stories, is part of a grouping of Christians, politicians and psychotherapists (the Committee on Ritual Abuse) that actively promote the idea of “satanic ritual abuse”, although they have yet to substantiate this beyond claims from the shrink couch. In 1994, as “Satanic Panic” was on the upswing in the United States, Sinason edited a collection of essays entitled Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse which claimed she had unearthed a pattern of similar abuse in her patients in Britain.
Due to Sinason’s and similar claims a three-year Department of Health inquiry was undertaken by the anthropologist Prof Jean La Fontaine. 84 alleged cases of ritual abuse were examined, and not one turned out to be anything of concern.
Regardless of the inquiry and similar conclusions in the US, by 2002 the panic created by the CRA had infected elements of Westminster. A private meeting chaired by Lord Alton and evangelical Christian Wilfred Wong, promoted the idea that “ritual abuse” should be enshrined in law so that “hundreds, if not thousands” of crimes could be brought to justice. Of course if real abuse had taken place in any of these instances current laws were quite capable of serving justice if the evidence was brought forward.
According to research by TheHollieGreigCoverUp.net, in 2011 Sinason, Wong, MP Russell Brown and other members of the CRA invited Robert Green, the mouthpiece for the Hollie Grieg fantasy, to one of their meetings at the Houses of Parliament. In subsequent alternative media coverage Green then began to promote a ritual abuse element to the Hollie Greig story, a sort of satanic “sexing up” of the original allegations. Perhaps Green thought if he won the support of the looney pyschobabble Christian lobby (CRA) the case would get more publicity. Fortunately the only people left clinging on to the tale are the pseudo-celebrities of the online conspiracy theory community, such as the UK Column and Belinda McKenzie, the former landlady of ex-MI5 agents Annie Machon and David Shayler. Even David Icke, who includes “satanic ritual abuse” as one of the central themes in his books has stopped publishing stories about the…story.
Prof La Fontaine’s verdict on Valerie Sinason and co goes to the heart of the problem, writes the author of a 2002 Telegraph article.
“It’s depressing to find someone who has a position at leading London hospitals who is so cut off from what research methodology is, and what rational evidence is,” she says.
The article continues: When Miss Sinason announces that she has “clinical evidence” of infanticide and cannibalism, she means that her patients have told her stories about them. The implication is that, because the suffering of these people is real, their “memories” must be accurate.
Naturally this has given rise to the idea that some psychoanalysts, rather than uncovering cases of satanic abuse, are actually implanting the idea in to their patients minds, or at least nurturing and encouraging them during sessions. Rather than helping vulnerable people to work through their psychosis, the likes of Sinason might be making the situation worse.
The tragic case of Carol Myers may be an example of this. Myers, a 41 year old former patient of Sinason was found dead in 2005, leaving behind a statement saying she had suffered Satantic child abuse at the hands of her parents. It was discovered that she had spent years in and out of psychiatric hospitals and private clinics after she’d estranged herself from her family in her 20s. Upon hearing about her death the family felt shattered about the claims she’d made in her life assessment – and confused reports a 2011 Guardian article.
She said she’d been abused [by her parents], who were the high priest and priestess of a satanic cult, and that during her teens she’d had six children – some fathered by Joseph [her father] – that she’d been forced to kill. She also said she had an implant in her eye that would explode if she spoke of the satanists, and that a friend she’d confided in was murdered in front of her.
Just like the Hollie Greig story, Carole’s charges were easily proven to be false, continues the report. The sister, whose murder she’d apparently witnessed, actually died of heart problems two years before Carole was born. The house fire, too, predated Carole’s birth….It seemed the mental-health professionals rarely challenged these impossible horrors. Worse, they’d concluded that Carole’s psychological problems came as a result of this fictitious abuse.
Though it’s not clear the methodology used by Sinason on her patients, if such abuse was regularly taking place, one would assume a large cross-section of therapists would have had similar cases. The fact that only Sinason and a handful of others have unearthed allegations of satanic abuse, suggests they are in some way creating them.
Today the Satanic hysteria of the 80s and 90s is considered a moral panic , and the majority of mental health experts and accredited psychotherapists dismiss these early and subsequently discredited claims of “ritual satanic abuse”. Various methods originating in the United States for dealing with (or some might say implanting) satanic allegations, which were often practiced and expanded by amateurs such as preacher and conspiracy theorist Fritz Springmeier, are rejected by experts.
Fritz Springmeier, author of The Illuminati Formula Used to Create an Undetectable Total Mind Controlled Slave.
Recovered-memory therapy, a lose term that refers to unproven methods of recovering alleged buried memories, has been explored in many successful lawsuits against therapists who encouraged false allegations in their patients.
As the Savile scandal races forward, it is important to address each claim on its own merit and apply it to the overall body of allegations. Uncritically promoting the currently baseless allegations of “satanic ritual abuse” gives undue legitimacy to its proponents and may end up discrediting legitimate allegations by association.
A Dominican Death: Giordano Bruno, 17 February 1600
“Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence upon me with greater fear than I receive it.”
He said that last week. Now he shivers in the corner of his cell, wondering whether, for once in his life, he could have chosen his words more temperately. What seemed, a week ago, to be a fine mixture of courage and defiance was not absolutely true even then; and now, on the morning of his death, Giordano is beginning to realize just how frightened he is.
The state of being dead will not be unwelcome, for Giordano feels he has nothing to fear from God, whereas his murderers will someday cringe under divine judgment – but the dying itself is a hideous mountain to climb before he can rest. Pain is not something one gets used to, even after seven years in the care of the Roman Inquisition. Giordano has learned that too much courage does not pay. Pain borne in silence leads to more pain, and more, and yet more, until finally one’s screaming point is reached and the questioners are confident they have gained one’s attention.
The morning is February-cold. He could almost, he tells himself, welcome a fire – and at that irony, he laughs for the last time in his life. And then he hears footsteps and voices on the stairs, and he opens his body to the cold as if he could suck it into his pores and store it up against his imminent dire need. The reverend brothers of the Company of Mercy and Pity have returned from their breakfast.
Dignity, he tells himself. Above all else, dignity. And maybe a few words at the stake, words that will be better chosen, more pointed, more memorable, than those words of hasty defiance when judgment was pronounced. Since die he must, he would like to die in a way that men will remember – but what to say? Never mind: for fifty-two years he has been a man of many words, and he is sure his tongue and talent will not fail him at the end.
Hooded figures, self-styled dispensers of mercy and pity, hover black in the smoky candlelight: “Giordano Bruno, born Fillipo Bruno of Nola, once of the Brotherhood of the Dominicans – do you know why we are here?”
“Yes, Robert, I know.”
“For the last time: do you recant your heresies?”
Giordano sighs. “I’ve glorified God in my own way, not the Church’s, and that’s all there is.” He pauses to order his words for a last debate with his inquisitor – his life has been a string of spirited debates – but a nail is already point-down on his tongue, and a moment later it is driven home; and even as he tries to scream, a second nail is driven upwards through his lower jaw into the palate. The blood pouring into his throat chokes him into silence. He hardly has attention to spare for the leather-and-iron clamp of the gag.
“Did you imagine we’d let you vomit your heresies in public?”
Now he is in violent motion, jerked along, stumbling and staggering between two of the righteous. He realizes dimly that he has shat himself. Breath and blood struggle for passage in his throat. They pause under the arch of the gate – Giordano sinks to his knees and frantically pulls air in through his nostrils, but the respite is brief. It is Grazio who tears the robe off Giordano’s back, Clemente who wads it up and wipes the scarlet trickles from the underside of Giordano’s jaw. Officially, the heretic’s blood will not have been spilled. Clemente does not clean off the backs of Giordano’s legs, for it is only appropriate that heresy should come to its just punishment naked, smeared and stinking.
Thus – Giordano, all dignity a bitter memory, is hustled naked into the cart and trundled through the streets, freezing in the last dark minutes before a winter dawn. He shivers, and Grazio hisses into his ear: “you’ll be hot enough soon, heretic.” The cart stops on the edge of the Campo del Fiore, the Field of Flowers, where a small but gleeful crowd hugs itself for warmth in front of the high-piled faggots, the premonitory torches. The crowd howls as the procession crosses the square, animal noises, a wallow of pigs, a snapping of dogs, a hooting of Barbary apes. Giordano hears them through his agony – shame sickens him. He digs his naked heels into the cobbles and tries to fight, rearing his head, panicking, eyes wild as a horse’s at the sight of fire. They roll heavenward, up to where God’s little lights are still visible, fixed to the crystal globe of the firmament, obediently rotating around the terrestrial centre of God’s little universe.
Giordano stops fighting. He stares up. He has not seen the stars for seven years. He looks up, up, up, through the mantle of the air and past the moon, beyond the purview of the sun and across the dark void. He shrinks to a particle on a whirling grain of sand. Clemente, another insignificant particle, shoves him from behind. Infinity arches above them. Giordano is entranced. He lets himself be propelled unresisting towards the crowd, the torches, the stake. He is busy trying to number the glitter of the stars, a count that he knows he will never finish. This does not seem to matter. He would shout for triumph if the clamp would let him.
Now they are binding him to the stake, pinching his flesh in the cold coils. He pays no mind. Robert shoves the crucifix almost into his face – he shies from it impatiently. He wants to cry, “Look up, you fools! It’s so obvious! You’ll see I’ve been right all along!” Impossible, alas, with his mouth nailed shut; but he has a strange idea the future will speak for him.
The Company of Mercy and Pity has provided no strangler. With his own hand, Robert plunges the torch into the faggots at Giordano’s feet, and steps well back. Giordano makes no sound, then or ever again. He watches the sky for as long as his eyes last, though the stars begin to fade in the dawn and the smoke thickens over his head. They are so clear to him: other suns, great suns, distant suns blazing down on God’s uncountable worlds, all of them swarming with God’s creatures, an infinite universe filled with the music of a mighty massed choir of spheres.
One Denver psychic has been convicted of theft, a second was arrested this month in California and Denver prosecutors are still seeking to arrest a third psychic accused of convincing clients she was a “witch doctor.”
“In these cases, where after they’ve paid money for services rendered, they take additional money, I believe through theft and deception, through magic and things like that and then don’t give money back to the victims … that’s when we get involved,” said Stevenson.
Denver psychic Cathy Ann Russo is currently on probation after being pleading guilty last August to felony theft and misdemeanor theft. Over the course of five years, beginning in 2007, Russo conned a Hispanic man out of $35,250. according to court records.
She is still acting as a psychic, although when a CBS4 producer went to see her for a tarot card reading, she identified herself as “Miss Anna.”
Earlier this month, authorities in California arrested Denver psychic Isabel Costello on an arrest warrant for theft and conspiracy to commit theft issued by the Denver DA’s office.
They say the two women conned at least four victims out of thousands of dollars by convincing them their money was cursed, and the more money turned over to the psychics, the easier it would be to remove the curses.
In order to convince clients of their “powers”, they did things like making grapefruits bleed, tomatoes taste like salt and cracking eggs open revealing black yolks. Anyone have info on how these tricks worked?
The psychics took advantage of clients’ belief in black magic and curses.
When will ALL psychics who take money be able to be charged with fraud?
The Heretics is an accessible and absolutely compelling read
Homosexuality leads to paedophilia. Las Vegas is full of aliens in wigs playing the gaming tables. We have eyes in the back of our heads.
These are just some of the beliefs, ranging from the farcical to the toxic, explored in journalist Will Storr’s utterly engrossing series of interviews.
Laced with self doubt and, at times, intense irritation with his subjects, Storr sets out to discover why individuals nurture beliefs that fly in the face of scientific evidence, from climate change denier Lord Monckton to the late UFO believer and Harvard professor John Mack.
Yet this is no Louis Therouxstyle “let’s laugh at the oddballs” narrative as Storr delves deep into the world of neuroscience. He grapples manfully with attempts to explain how our brains can deceive us and selectively create a universe that slots in with our belief system, despite a lack of consensus among the disciplines that research the workings of the mind.
“Intelligence is no protection against strange beliefs,” Storr tells us.
He admires the raw IQ of such heretics as David Irving and creationist John McKay while failing to be remotely convinced by their arguments.
On the other hand, when speaking to the internationally renowned doyens of science, rationality and reason Richard Dawkins and James Randi (an opponent of anyone who believes in the paranormal and the occult), Storr discovers an astonishing amount of subterfuge and skulduggery at work to prevent their own beliefs being tested too rigorously.
There never seems to be any danger of Storr buying too deeply into the polemics of any “enemies of science” but he also mounts a considerable attack on the smugness and arrogance of those who attack believers in homoeopathy, past-life regression and creationism.
At one point, Storr takes part in a mass public overdose of homoeopathic medicine which claims to “prove” the uselessness of the products and he is amazed by the participants’ lack of knowledge. “Have you ever read any scientific studies into homoeopathy?” Storr asks one of the organisers of the overdose. “Not personally,” is the response.
Storr sets out to discover why individuals nurture beliefs that fly in the face of scientific evidence
This kind of complacency and hubris irritates Storr who, not unreasonably, suggests that perhaps the high-handed approach of the sceptics is masking a deeper insecurity. How else, he asks, can one explain James Randi’s belligerence? He takes part in a series of last-minute dodges to avoid participating in scientific tests with people who believe they can prove the existence of paranormal power under controlled conditions.
Perhaps predictably, many of these “heretic” believers turn out to be rather damaged individuals. The motley crew of racists, conspiracy theorists and fantasists who join Nazi historian David Irving on a concentration camp tour are granted the opportunity to expand upon their opinions. The result is an achingly heavy vista of dead air punctuated by bigotry, self loathing and personal loneliness.
Despite the appalling personal characteristics of many of the people he bravely manages to engage, The Heretics is an accessible and absolutely compelling read, Storr leaving us with a distinct lack of trust in the verity of our own beliefs. The most dangerous thing anyone can do is dismiss as stupid the beliefs of fringe extremists.
Unfortunate sons: CIA and DoD betrayal of their own
Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus at the New York Stock Exchange, where the CIA commemorated its 65th anniversary in September.
Credits: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Projects included involuntary human research subjects, failure to obtain informed consent and conducting surveillance. Symptoms experienced by research subjects included perceptions animals came through walls, amnesia and post traumatic stress disorder. While UFO buffs and self-described investigators might be quick to tell a person describing such an ordeal that they were likely abducted by aliens, it was actually the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense and associates that designed, conducted and concealed such research projects.
Covert operations consisting of abusing and monitoring involuntary human research subjects escalated to what could be described as unconscionable proportion during the mid 20th century. Victims included but were not limited to U.S. citizens and members of the armed forces. Such circumstances led select UFO researchers to strongly suspect the intelligence community was much more responsible for what came to be known as the modern UFO phenomenon and alien abduction than some would prefer we consider.
This writer’s plunge into the implications resulted in assessing that further research is indeed justified. My work with Leah Haley, a former self-described alien abductee who now believes herself to be a victim of covert research projects, revealed a number of relevant yet unanswered questions. The same could be said for circumstances surrounding such cases as the extremely intriguing Gulf Breeze Six and my interactions with certain additional members of the UFO community.
Similarly, my work related to members of the intelligence community who jockeyed to become staples of UFO conventions revealed numerous potentially important yet often unaddressed issues. Such individuals and their circumstances included the incredible claims and career path of Commander C.B. Scott Jones. I also considered the manner Military Intelligence Hall of Fame member Major General Albert N. Stubblebine III publicly claimed knowledge of covert mind control operations continuing after Congress ordered them ceased, yet the general failed to respond to multiple requests for clarification. I additionally had the opportunity to observe a man who is chronically interviewed yet rarely asked relevant questions, Colonel John B. Alexander, refuse to participate in a previously agreed upon interview with this writer. I continue to welcome their statements should the general or colonel ever decide to address issues I presented for their consideration in such posts on ‘The UFO Trail’ as ‘John Alexander, Contradictions and Unanswered Questions’ and ‘Ufology and Alleged Post-MKULTRA Mind Control’.
So, you might ask, why would some researchers immerse themselves in such circumstances while running down stories of black budget operations that go back some 60 years? One reason would be because the stories remain current.
Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al.
The San Francisco law offices of Morrison and Foerster are collectively representing Vietnam Veterans of America, Swords to Plowshares (a veterans advocacy organization) and a few specific veterans in a suit currently pending. The case is being handled pro bono against the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, U.S. Army and Department of Veterans Affairs. The suit states:
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief only – no monetary damages – and Plaintiffs seek redress for several decades of diabolical experiments followed by over 30 years of neglect, including:
the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances and perhaps most gruesomely, the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in a ghastly series of mind control experiments that went awry;
the failures to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;
an almost fanatical refusal to satisfy their legal and moral obligations to locate the victims of their gruesome experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;
the deliberate destruction of evidence and files documenting their illegal actions, actions which were punctuated by fraud, deception, and a callous disregard for the value of human life.
The Complaint asks the Court to determine that Defendants’ actions were illegal and that Defendants have a duty to notify all victims and to provide them with health care going forward.
Readers familiar with the Project MKULTRA saga and related authenticated documents will be aware such circumstances as cited by Morrison and Foerster have long been acknowledged and conceded by the CIA. Basically, the agencies being sued do not deny what took place, they just want no current responsibilities in the matters.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in October that the suit could continue forward, setting the stage for a 2013 summer showdown. Judge Wilken denied repeated government attempts to derail the suit, ruling that federal regulations require notifying participants of increases in knowledge of potential health hazards. She additionally ruled the suit could include involuntary research subjects and their heirs dating as far back as 1922.
Sources such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Military.com reported an estimated 7,600 service members were abused in experiments conducted at Edgewood Arsenal from 1955 to 1975. As many as 100,000 people are suspected of being subjected to hundreds of drugs, chemicals and biological agents without their informed consent and spanning over 50 years.
Plaintiff Frank D. Rochelle served in the Army in the late 1960’s and volunteered to be stationed at Edgewood for what he was apparently led to believe were harmless tests. During one incident, Rochelle stated, “I stayed high for two days.”
Rochelle experienced hallucinations of animals coming out of the walls and at one point he used a razor blade to try to remove what he thought were bugs from beneath his skin. Upon leaving Edgewood, Rochelle says he was instructed to never tell anyone about his experiences there. He was later assigned to Vietnam.
Congressional hearings into MKULTRA were conducted during the 1970’s. Testimony from individuals such as former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner included assurances a list would be produced of exploited veterans. Turner further stated that the participants would be notified of their involvement and provided proper medical care. The commitments were never fulfilled.
“Over 30 years ago,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan stated, “the government promised to locate the victims of the MKULTRA experiments and to take care of their needs. It now is painfully obvious that what it really wants is for the victims to just quietly die off while the government takes baby steps. VVA cannot leave these veterans behind.”
Potential significance to UFO Land
Researchers with whom I discussed the lawsuit were confident the CIA will never produce a complete list of involuntary human research subjects or notify all of them of the circumstances, regardless of what courts may rule. Reasons included possibilities that some victims might be prominent figures.
Many members of the UFO community avert from the implications for any number of reasons. I nonetheless invite consideration of just a few of the many potentially significant possibilities.
What if we were to find that a famous political figure had been an MKULTRA research subject? Would you find that interesting?
How about an infamous criminal? Would it interest you if you found out such a person had been an involuntary research subject?
More specific to ufology, imagine if we were to discover a high profile, self-described alien abductee was a former mind control subject; or an iconic researcher of alien abduction. Might you find those kinds of things worthy of further research?
What if you found out a family member was among the unfortunate sons? What would you think about that?
How about if you were notified that you were a former uninformed research subject? Then would the topic interest you?
Vietnam veteran Frank D. Rochelle and his fellow plaintiffs find themselves at the center of what became a decades-long saga. Them, and about 100,000 or so redacted others.
FIELD & STREAM ‘GUN NUTS’ COLUMNIST ZAPRUDERS SARAH PALIN
by REBECCA SCHOENKOPF
Poor Sarah Palin. She got fired from Fox (probably, why not) and doesn’t even have a reality show anymore. Since nobody in her family seems to have a job, ever, who is going to keep her in Taco Bell? And now the “Gun Nuts” columnists at Field & Stream are examining a three-year-old video from when she did have a reality show, and saying that Little Miss Authenticity is a nitwit loser phony who can’t even shoot large meese? WHAT THE FUCK, FIELD & STREAM.
Take it away, “Gun Nuts”!
In my previous post, I was surprised that no one defended John McCain against my accusation that he’s at least partly nuts, which probably means that he is at least partially nuts. Some of you, however, took umbrage at my interpretation of Sarah Palin botching the shooting of a caribou. I felt so poorly about this that I went back and re-viewed the tape (You can see it below. It runs about 3 ½ minutes) and it made me even more depressed than I was before.
Ms. Palin is an extremely inexperienced shooter.
First, she allows her dad and the guide, who are both apparently nitwits, to jabber at her continually throughout the performance, make suggestions, swap rifles when it turns out that the first one has a bum scope (!), and allow her to blaze away at a moving animal. […]
If nitwits are yammering at you, you tell them to shut the f**ck up because you can’t concentrate. No experienced shooter would put up with their nonsense. […]
Why, before the fatal shot was fired, did the editor of the film superimpose a bogus crosshair on the poor dopey caribou? Why do we not see Ms. Palin firing the rifle? Is it because she did not do the shooting?
Finally, look at the way she carries the rifle as the party walks up to the late lamented ungulate. No experienced shooter carries a rifle like this.
I have nothing in particular against Sarah Palin. But I do believe in watching politicians with a critical eye, especially if they try to palm themselves off as something they’re not. She undoubtedly hunts, and is undoubtedly is OK with guns, but to say that as a shooter she’s anything but a rank beginner is wishful thinking.
So happy Valentimes, Sarah Palin. We are sorry that even Field & Stream thinks you suck.
Urban Legends vs. The Pill: How the Christian Right Uses Propaganda Against Reproductive Rights
by Amanda Marcotte
Conservative fundamentalist Christian culture has always had a tradition of showing one face to the outside world and one face to each other, and negotiating how much of the latter can inform the former has always been a complex task. It’s only grown more confusing in the age of the internet. On one hand, the internet makes it very easy for people to create their own media bubble, which means conservative Christians can and often do only consume media made with them specifically in mind. On the other hand, the internet means that it’s easier than ever for outsiders to have access to media materials that are intended for Christian right insiders only, which is the bread and butter for websites such as Right Wing Watch.
The result is becoming a problem for the Christian right. Their insular culture encourages ever more bizarre flights of fancy, competitive demonstrations of misogyny, and making up of their own facts—and then all that is transmitted in a way where outsiders can tune in and expose the inner workings of the Christian right to the outside world. Kevin Swanson of Generations Radio is simply the latest person to fall into the trap of speaking to insiders where outsiders can hear. And outsiders are astounded at what Christian right culture looks like on the inside.
Now Swanson’s show got another round of media coverage for his claim that the birth control pill turns a woman’s uterus into a “graveyard” full of “dead babies”.
I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.
As our own Robin Marty noted, this is the sort of thing that doesn’t really need comment to refute. Still, as she points out, this is ignorance of biology on the level of believing women don’t poop or something: “[E]ven if somehow there were tiny mini babies stuck in your uterus, they would come out when you menstruate since THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF MENSTRUATION.” Swanson is married to a bona fide uterus-haver, who, having only had five children, clearly did not spend her entire reproductive life pregnant. Which, in turn, means some kind of menstrual product probably came into his home at some point. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think Swanson isn’t actually ignorant of menstruation and probably not ignorant of the fact that zygotes aren’t actually miniature babies.
These other kinds of urban legends can’t really be considered fiction — they’re more like simple lies. Such stories are not told in the hopes of eliciting delight, but usually in order to create or to foster a sense of aggrieved victimhood and resentment.
Such stories, in other words, are propaganda. They are about sowing division, heightening the antipathy between groups or factions. They are about creating and enforcing and sustaining tribal conflict.
Swanson is clearly doing this: Telling an urban legend of vague “doctors” and “scientists” finding teeny-weeny “dead babies” in the uteruses of women that they’re opening up for some unknown reason. The anti-choice movement basically lives off these urban legends, telling themselves lurid, propagandistic stories about everything from what’s supposedly going on in abortion clinics to a laundry list of claims of all the ills that will befall you if you defy the patriarchal God’s orders and use contraception. This “dead babies” thing is a classic example of this.
Of course, nowadays a lot of these urban legends are being passed off in the mainstream as if they were the same thing as arguments, instead of weird stories that Christian conservatives tell to titillate each other. The “dead babies” weirdness stems from an equally absurd anti-choice urban legend that claims that the birth control pill and emergency contraception work by “killing” fertilized eggs; in reality, they work bysuppressing ovulation. This propagandistic urban legend—or what Fred Clark would call a “simple lie”—is used to make their opposition to female-controlled birth control sound less misogynist than it is. This bit of nonsense has, sadly, become part of the basis for attacks on insurance coverage of contraception, even though it makes about as much sense as arguing that there are teeny-weeny baby skeletons lurking in the uteruses of women who’ve used the birth control pill.
Terrified Glenn Beck: Technology Leads To ‘Transhumanism’ And Nazi Atrocities (Video)
Glenn Beck is the king of fear-mongering and he routinely instills irrational and paranoid delusions and fears into his listeners as well. Of course, he does this because his idiot disciples will buy gold, and seeds and other snake oil garbage from his worthless website. He’s a charlatan, a fraud. A freak.
So what is terrifying Beck now? Something called “Transhumanism” brought on by a technological singularity. The “Singularity” is the moment when the exponential growth of technology intersects and surpasses the processing of the human brain. This is an idea conceived by Ray Kurzweil and others.
Transhumanism, abbreviated as H+ or h+, is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. SOUNDS TERRIFYING!!!! We think the reason Beck is so scared is that he counts on his audience NOT using their brains.
Here are the psychotic ramblings of Glenn Beck on the subject.
The way of things to come?: Or are UFOs just a CIA conspiracy?
Ufology is a faith that includes many beliefs, from the oddly popular one about Nazi aliens who live under the ground to David Icke’s contention that the Duke of Edinburgh is in fact a shape-changing, blood-sucking alien lizard.
But here’s the core of the faith – that some UFO sightings and encounters are real, the U.S. government knows all about these extraterrestrial visitations, and they’ve mounted a huge conspiracy to keep the aliens secret and us in the dark.
This book threatens to demolish that faith. Because here Mark Pilkington sets out to prove that the U.S. government really has been conducting a top-secret UFO conspiracy – only one designed not to hide UFOs but publicise them, fuelling and even creating the major UFO myths. Flying saucers, alien abductions, crash-landed spacecraft, secret underground bases in New Mexico – they were all created by the U.S. government.
As Mark Pilkington immediately acknowledges, that might sound only marginally less ridiculous and emptily melodramatic than claiming that the Royal Family are actually alien reptiles. But he begins to build a pretty convincing case that U.S. agencies really have been conducting just such a long-running disinformation campaign to promote UFOs. And it does make sense.
UFOs make the perfect cover story to hide experimental aircraft from prying Russian eyes as well as those of their own citizens. Ufologists are a particular pest to U.S. Air Force security, for ever trying to root around their secret projects and hack into their systems – they need to be led up various extraterrestrial garden paths and far away from finding out about actual highly-classified experiments in weaponry or aircraft.
The Roswell Incident: were alien bodies really found?
Pilkington’s theory would certainly explain why so many of the key UFO sightings and events happen near U.S. Air Force bases – such as Roswell, home of the famous ‘incident’ when an alien craft was supposed to have crash-landed, with a couple of aliens aboard.
And why so many extraterrestrial spaceships seem to behave like the pilotless drones and stealth aircraft developed by the U.S. Air Force. And why flying saucers should first turn up at the start of the Cold War, just when the U.S. Air Force was beginning to experiment with exotic new types of flight.
According to Pilkington, the campaign to promote the idea of UFOs was masterminded in the Fifties by the head of the CIA, Allen Welsh Dulles. More recently, many of the leaked fake documents and bogus stories seem to have come from the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).
One victim of fake UFO documents evidently supplied by the American government was Timothy Good, whose international bestseller about supposed contact with aliens, Above Top Secret, included completely bogus papers planted in the American National Archives.
Another is George Adamski, an early fan of flying saucers whose bestselling books in the Fifties described his meetings with a chap called Orthon from Venus and his own trips in flying saucers.
I came across one of Adamski’s mad books in my local public library when I was a boy, and I remember being disturbed and perplexed – this was a book, a proper printed book, so all this stuff about going to Venus and meeting Venusians … it had to be real, didn’t it? Now, it seems Adamski was an innocent, eager dupe and that Orthon and the spaceships weren’t figments of his silly or venal imagination but real people and vehicles supplied by the CIA.
Fake spaceships, fake aliens, fake documents and even a fake underground alien base – it might all seem unduly elaborate and indeed expensive.
But the Americans certainly had the money for it, budgeting billions of dollars for the CIA’s black arts.
The Pentagon already had a good bash at that themselves, sponsoring a recruitment film of the Seventies, which claimed that UFOs were real and which included footage of a flying saucer landing at a U.S. Air Force base and a couple of aliens disembarking.
And that, you might think, is the Pentagon bang to rights. But at this point in the book, things begin to get even more complicated.
An AFOSI agent takes Pilkington aside and confides the real ‘truth’ – yes, there is a huge government conspiracy to produce a smokescreen of nonsense about UFOS, of course; however, it’s designed to hide not supersonic test-flights but … real UFOs.
Because, you see, by offering up a series of scary stories about UFO invasions and alien abductions, this will gradually desensitise the public to the eventual truth that the U.S. government really has been in contact with aliens.
Argh! Clearly, obviously, surely, this is more hokum, an attempt to exploit Pilkington with a slightly refined version of the same old stories – but he has previous as a Ufology believer and he can’t quite shake off the thrill of thinking that maybe, just maybe, an alien spaceship did crash-land at Roswell. That’s typical of a book that isn’t quite the rigorous hard-hitting investigation it could and should have been. Pilkington just about manages to hold on to his scepticism but ends with a spiel about nobody knowing for sure what the truth can be and Ufology being a murky, grey area.
No, no, no. There’s nothing grey about it. Either we have been visited by aliens and the American government is covering this up or we haven’t and it isn’t.
Either that debris at Roswell was part of a crashed flying saucer or it came from a test-flight that went wrong or a knackered high-altitude weather balloon. Either the Duke of Edinburgh is a blood-sucking alien reptile seeded from a distant star system or he is a human from Greece. So. What do you reckon? Great credit to Pilkington, though, for revealing who Orthon really was/ those aliens really are.
A future common theme on this blog will be that governments don’t just partake in conspiracies, but they also create and amplify conspiracy theories. Note the difference here. The former is legal term about individuals colluding in secret; while the latter pertains to a narrative about these collusions. One is ontological to do with the world; while the other is epistemic to do with beliefs about the world.
There are various reasons why governments would need to create a belief in conspiracy. Sometimes it is to cover up black projects or intelligence failures, i.e. covering up real conspiracies. Other times the conspiracies are created as offensive weapons against some international actor, i.e. creating fake conspiracies. For the moment, I’d like to discuss the aforementioned reason from a case that is in actual scholarly literature: Operation INFEKTION, which was the Soviet disinformation campaign to pin the origin of AIDS on the USA.
A good source on this disinformation operation is an essay entitled “AIDS Made in the USA”: Moscow’s Contagious Campaign, which is from the book The New Image Makers: Soviet Propaganda & Disinformation Today. The author is the noted historian of counterintelligence Roy Godson. You won’t find this essay published on the Internet, which is unfortunate given it is a well-reasoned argument giving us a clear example of governments creating conspiracy theories (I may get around to scanning it, and putting it up on this blog). The reason why this clear example is so important is because it allows us to draw some broader themes of how governments go about spreading disinformation. True believers in high weirdness and conspiracy circles often accuse each other of spreading disinformation, and it sometimes becomes hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. A clear non-bullshit example can be quite illuminating.
Godson argues in the essay that the “AIDS was made in the USA” disinformation campaign was created by the KGB in 1985. They continued this disinformation campaign for around two years. Godson identifies five reasons why they did this:
To discredit the United states by falsely claiming that AIDS originated in CIA-Pentagon experiments.
To discourage undesirable political contact with Westerners by portraying them as potential carriers of the disease.
To create pressure for removal of US military bases overseas on the grounds the US service personnel spread AIDS.
To undermine US credibility in the Third World by maintaining that hypotheses about the African origin of AIDS are an example of Western, and especially American, racism, and;
To divert attention from Soviet research on biological warfare and genetic engineering and to neutralize accusations that the Soviet Union has used biochemical agents in Asia.
Notice the two wider themes here of using conspiracy theory. (1) to (4) are all examples of undermining the ethos or moral stature of some actor or groups. (5) is an example of diverting attention away from an actual conspiracy. These twin themes of undermining ethos and diverting attention from actual conspiracies will arise again in future posts about government use of disinformation. Also, when I say ethos, I mean in the rhetorical sense. To undermine someone’s ethos in rhetoric is to undermine their character. This is important in rhetoric, as building rapport with the audience by appealing to one’s character and moral stature is one of the foundations for a rhetorical speech.
I won’t recount the timeline of how this disinformation campaign came about. You can read the Wikipedia article above on the operation to recount this. But some other tidbits worth noting here are the following:
The disinformation campaign started in newspapers in Russia and India. They then spread to radio, and then other sources from around the world picked up on the disinformation. This disinformation campaign was also backed by pamphlets, which were spread in Africa. One of these pamphlets was written by biologist named Jacob Segal, and was backed by (what appeared to be) scientific reasoning. Segal was then cited in a news article in England, which then spread the disinformation about the planet like wildfire. Once major papers from around the planet picked up on it, the KGB no longer used their primary sources. Instead they started spreading the disinformation by stating other major papers from around the planet had confirmed the theory about AIDS. What we can learn from these is that:
disinformation can be sophisticated. It can use individuals that people trust (like scientists), and can dress itself up with reasonable arguments.
disinformation campaigns can use multiple sources (radio, newspapers, pamphlets).
disinformation campaigns will try to hide the original sources. Once the campaign is in the open, they may switch to sources that their targets may trust (in this case, domestic newspapers). In rhetoric this is a combination of using kairos (the opportune moment to switch sources), combined with exploiting ethos (sources people trust).
Godson also has a lengthy paragraph on how the AIDS campaign was, “a diversionary tactic against claims that the Soviet Union has used biochemical weapons in Cambodia, Laos, and Afghanistan and is engaged in genetic-weapon research.” The first claim about chemical weapons pertains to Yellow Rain. Those interested in disinformation should also read that Wikipedia article on Yellow Rain for a possible similar campaign conducted by the USA. The second claim about genetic-weapons pertains to US attempts to undermine Soviet bioweapons research via UN arms control treaties (Godson quotes a State Department report here). Godson states that one of the aims was to “muddle the debate” between bio-chemical weapons and AIDS.
So finishing up, we have the two aims of government use of conspiracy theory:
To undermine ethos, and;
To divert attention away from actual conspiracies.
We also have some general properties of these disinformation campaigns:
They can be epistemologically sophisticated.
The sources will change themselves according to the opportune moment for spreading the disinformation.
They will take into consideration the targets of the campaign, and will use sources that the target trusts.
Now, true-believing conspiracy theorists might state something along the lines of, “Yeah, but how do we know this Operation happened? It could be a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory.” The answer to this, is that it actually happened. You can look up old news archives and find the disinformation spread in actual newspapers. There are also multiple corroborating sources that this event occurred, including sources from the Russian parliament and members of the East German Stasi admitting to the campaign. Godson has 26 footnotes to his essay, most of which are primary sources. I will endeavour to upload a scan of this essay in the future.
Stampede Kills 10 at ‘Largest Gathering in History’
MASSIVE GATHERING ATTRACTS UP TO 30M DEVOTEES TO BATHE
By the Associated Press
(AP) – At least 10 people were killed and a dozen more injured today after a stampede broke out at a train station in the northern Indian town where millions of devout Hindus gathered for a religious festival dubbed the“largest human gathering in history.” As many as 20 people are feared dead, and some 30 others injured. News reports said the large crowds caused a section of a footbridge at the station to collapse leading to the accident.
News reports said tens of thousands of people were at the train station at the time. Television showed large crowds pushing and jostling at the train station as policemen struggled to restore order. “There was complete chaos. There was no doctor or ambulance for at least two hours after the accident,” an eyewitness told NDTV news channel. An estimated 30 million devotees were expected to take a dip at the Sangam, the confluence of three rivers—the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati—today, one of the holiest bathing days of the Kumbh Mela, which lasts 55 days.
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Hindu devotees take a holy dip at ‘Sangam’, the confluence of Hindu holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during the Maha Kumbh festival at Allahabad, India, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.
Those not afflicted with conspiracy-phobia will be reminded of Operation Paperclip, a confirmed post-World War II US intelligence project in which Third Reich key personnel were targeted for recruitment. Select Nazi scientists were provided asylum in the States in exchange for their contributions to American intelligence interests. “Our Germans are better than your Germans,” went the Cold War era running joke between the CIA and KGB.
Further concerns might be raised by the fact US-based funding entities, including the Rockefeller Foundation, financially aided eugenic research conducted in pre-World War II Germany and elsewhere. This has long been accepted as fact among historians and as reported on George Mason University’s History News Network, among any number of sources defined as credible by the professional research community.
Now, any self-respecting realist will find nothing surprising about world powers demonstrating double standards. Most of us are all too aware politics courts hypocrisy, so let us move along to further considerations of how such circumstances might be relevant to ufology.
Progeria and Genetic Testing
A couple years ago, a valued associate and good friend, Iza, known on line as stiver, brought Progeria and its implications to my attention. She contributed substantially to my understandings of the following information.
Progeria is a rare childhood genetic disorder, typically including an enlarged head and absence of hair, in which accelerated aging occurs. According to the Progeria Research Foundation, the disorder is due to genetic mutation.
Dolly’s taxidermied remains.
Iza studied other evolving genetic research, including cloning. She noted the curious similarities between symptoms of Progeria and certain clones, such as Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Dolly developed arthritis and other disorders common to much older sheep, resulting in her premature death at the age of six years, only about half the life expectancy of the average sheep. Essentially, Dolly died of old age while still young, Iza noted, just like those stricken with Progeria.
If any doubts remain that intelligence officials would take serious interest in genetic research, consider a BBC report about cloned cattle. Scientists observed in six cloned cows what was literally termed reversed aging! The cows simply aged at a significantly slower than normal pace.
A small number of UFO and alien abduction researchers have considered the implications of Progeria and genetic research. Some of their resulting work is reasonably well conceived while some leaves more than a bit to be desired.
Nick Redfern tried to raise awareness of relevant possibilities. He wrote about Progeria and related circumstances in some of his books, as well as posted about it on UFO Updates List. Redfern wrote the List, “And I still find it interesting that I found files – forwarded to the Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft people at Oak Ridge and the Biology Division at Oak Ridge, no less – in 1947 on radiation experiments undertaken that summer on people with Progeria.”
I find it interesting, too. I also find it interesting that those diagnosed with Progeria so closely resemble descriptions of supposed human-alien hybrid beings as described by alleged alien abductees. Let us explore such things and the potential ties to Oak Ridge, also known as Atomic City and as cited by Redfern, a bit further.
A 1977 article titled, Private Institutions Used in CIA Effort to Control Behavior and published by The New York Times, delved into mind control experiments perpetrated by the American intelligence community during Project MKULTRA. Among other noteworthy items, the article cited some 25 years of covert experiments conducted at colleges, medical institutions and research facilities, funded by nonprofit organizations acting as conduits for the Central Intelligence Agency.
During the 1990’s the Clinton administration established the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. The committee was created to investigate allegations involuntary human research subjects were deceived and abused during radiation experiments, some of which were alleged to have been perpetrated by MKULTRA personnel. The committee ultimately concluded an estimated 11,000 people were treated negligently by the US government in the course of radiation experiments, some of which were fatal.
The advisory committee heard testimony, sometimes absolutely horrific in nature, from individuals claiming to be victims. One such self-described victim was Suzanne Starr, a woman who, among other nightmarish allegations, stated she was subjected to an induced pregnancy resulting in her baby boy being taken from her, presumably for further experimentation. One reasonable interpretation would be that a primary difference between testimonies narrated by Starr and those narrated by some possible alien abductees is that Starr blamed CIA operatives for her abuse rather than aliens, whatever that may or may not ultimately indicate.
It should be noted that certain MKULTRA victims, some of which were indeed conclusively verified to have been among those abused during the notorious operations conducted at Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal, claimed to have observed pathetically mutated individuals at the facility. The details and existence of such alleged mutated individuals cannot be confirmed and may of course indicate circumstances other than actuality in at least some instances. My point being there are demographics in addition to alien abductees that describe experiences similar to that of abductees, including allegations of extensive testing, including genetic, the circumstances of which have historical precedence and substantially more likelihood.
All things considered, if a claim of a stolen fetus or ominous encounter with a child having wispy hair, large eyes and an enlarged head were to ever be substantiated, could we sincerely look one another in the eye, with full knowledge of factual information such as cited in this post, and say space invaders were really the most likely explanation? Really?
THIS IS THEBLAZE’S POINT-BY-POINT SANDY HOOK CONSPIRACY THEORY DEBUNK
By Billy Hallowell
Was Adam Lanza really the only shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Why are there supposed inconsistencies surrounding the weapons that were used during the attack? And are some of the parents really “crisis actors” brought in to make the situation that much more believable?
Those are only a few of the questions that have been posed by conspiracy theorists who have used the Internet to virally spread their doubt about the horrific massacre that unfolded in Connecticut on Dec. 14.
The main crux of the arguments presented in documentary-style videos is that the Sandy Hook massacre is either a government-planned hoax intended to lead the nation to overwhelmingly embrace increased gun control measures. Or, at the least, those who have put the videos out believe that essential information is being withheld from the American public surrounding multiple shooters and other game-changing elements. The motivations of those who have created these theories are difficult to pin down, as most are spouting their views anonymously.
A video documenting purported inconsistencies surrounding the tragedy that killed 20 children and six adults inside the school has gone viral, gaining more than 11 million views in just two weeks. And a follow-up “documentary” has also been released, adding further “evidence” to the claim that the event either didn’t unfold at all or that it happened contrary to the media narrative that has been advanced.
To most people, the idea that any of it is true is repulsive. So we decided to visit the most popular of the theories and break them down in a point-by-point debunk.
In addition to questioning the official account of weapons used and whether or not crisis actors were employed by the government, theorists have taken aim at parental reaction to the shootings and have claimed that memorial pages for the victims were published before the shooting took place. And these notions only scratch the surface that is the bizarre world of Sandy Hook Trutherism.
The shadowy individual behind the first video, entitled, “The Sandy Hook Shooting – Fully Exposed” (30 minutes in length), weaves together sparse details and attempts to poke holes in the overall story. As for the first video, Snopes.com, a web site known for debunking untruthful information, dismissed it as “a mixture of misinformation, innuendo, and subjective interpretation.” You can see the clip here:
The second part of the Truther initiative, titled, “Sandy Hook Fully Exposed” (19 minutes in length) tackles similar themes, builds upon the first video and attempts to defend those individuals who are questioning the details associated with the event. In addition to asking a variety of questions about family members who lost children, the videos even devote time to questioning whether “crisis actors” were brought in to speak with media in the wake of the attack. See Part II, below:
“Isn’t something like Sandy Hook just what the government needs to start disarming the public so they don’t have to worry about people being a threat to them anymore?,’ text embedded in the video reads.
TheBlaze has decided to go through both videos to provide you with a recap of the major points that Truthers are raising. In addition to presenting the arguments that those perpetuating an alleged hoax are positing, you’ll see reasonable explanations that essentially debunk their claims and questions. In any crime scene – especially one as traumatic and dramatic as what unfolded at Sandy Hook – information flows quickly and it isn’t uncommon for incorrect details to make their way into media. This, as you will see, is the case when it comes to numerous elements surrounding this tragic shooting.
THE MAN IN THE WOODS & ADDITIONAL SHOOTERS
Sandy Hook Truthers have spent a great deal of time and energy reporting about a man who was allegedly chased in the woods nearby the school; the individual was subsequently apprehended and the entire spectacle is captured on video — footage that is now being used to advance the idea that there was another shooter. The first “expose” shows media interviews with witnesses who claim to have seen this individual in handcuffs following the incident. If it is true that there was more than one shooter, this would obviously turn on its head everything that has been said about a lone murderer (i.e. Lanza).
The man in the woods, though, isn’t the only theory about additional shooters floating around. Additionally, others claim that there were two men who fled the scene in a van. Initial media reports did say that there may have been more than one shooter involved, but as the details came in and the events were clarified, Lanza was the only gunman named and the evidence cleared every other initial suspect.
While conspiracy theorists continue to question where these additional suspects are and why the media has allegedly failed to report about them, there are some pretty convincing counter arguments and debunks surrounding this matter.
The Newtown Bee, a local outlet, reported that a law enforcement official told them that the man seen in the woods had a gun and was nearby the school. He was apparently an off-duty tactical squad police officer from a nearby area. Also, Chris Manfredonia, the father of a 6-year-old student at the school, was handcuffed briefly by police after he ran around the school in an effort to find his daughter. And another unidentified man was briefly detained, but later released when he was found to be an innocent bystander, Snopes.com claims.
Those being interviewed by media likely saw one of these individuals, leading Truthers to suspect something sinister. Lt. Paul Vance, a media relations representative with the State of Connecticut, dismissed the notion that there were other shooters, while also highlighting and confirming the fact that authorities did end up detaining and quickly releasing other individuals.
“Were there other people detained?,” Vance rhetorically asked. “The answer is yes. In the height of the battle, until you’ve determined who, what, when, where and why of everyone in existence…that’s not unusual.”
THE WEAPONS USED INSIDE THE SCHOOL & THE VICTIMS’ BODIES
Another point of contention that Truthers seem to be focusing upon is the weapons that Lanza used in committing his crime. In the first video, the narrator claims that, according to media, three guns were found at the scene (two handguns and one assault rifle). Four handguns were also allegedly found inside the school. The inconsistency here comes from the Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, the chief medical examiner, who said following the incident that the assault rifle appeared to be responsible for the children’s deaths.
Here’s why Truthers are jumping all over the claims surrounding the assault rifle. The first video alleging a hoax claims that this particular weapon was later recovered from the trunk of the car that Lanza was driving. If this is the case, then critics are questioning how Carver’s claims could be possible. The shooter clearly couldn’t have used the assault rifle to commit his crimes if the weapon was in the trunk of the car the entire time.
But there’s an understandable answer here as well. A few days after the attack, clarity surrounding the guns finally emerged. Lanza left a shotgun in the car, but he had three other weapons that were brought into the school – a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm (the latter two are handguns). The fourth weapon – the shotgun – was left in the vehicle’s trunk. Carver was correct in making his claim that it was the AR-15 that was responsible for the children’s deaths – a firearm that was not in the trunk as the first video indicates (CNN actually has a great primer on the weapons that expounds upon this in detail).
While we’re on the subject of Carver, it’s important to dispel another rumor – that the parents never saw their children’s bodies. While they did not identify the bodies in their entirety, pictures of the kids’ faces were provided to the families. This wasn’t done to be sinister or to hide details; quite the contrary, the doctor was trying to spare the families the pain of seeing the horrific injuries the children sustained, so photos of their faces were used instead.
SCHOOL NURSE’S ALLEGED CLAIMS ABOUT THE KILLER’S MOTHER
Andrea McCarren, a reporter for WUSA, reported in the wake of the killings about a conversation she had with Sally Cox, the Sandy Hook school nurse. Cox, who McCarren described as “fairly traumatized,” apparently told the reporter that she knew the killer’s mother, a kindergarten teacher at the school. Initially, media reported that Lanza may have been the son of a teacher, but this was soon dispelled.
Truthers are questioning this story, though, obviously wondering how McCarren was given information about the killer and his mother that ended up being entirely untrue (they argue that the school nurse should have had the information correct and that her mention of a teacher at Sandy Hook is curious, especially considering the details we now know).
During McCarren’s report, the journalist also said that the nurse expounded, claiming that Cox said that the kindergarten teacher was kind and exactly the person one would want his or her children to spend time with. Snopes notes that the USA Today also “mistakenly reported…that Nancy Lanza” was a teacher at the school. Perhaps this report and McCarren’s were based on the same misinformation.
Some have also claimed that Cox is also not a registered nurse, but her real name is Sarah and a search of that name does, indeed, yield results that show that the woman is a registered nurse in the state’s registration system. Since “Sally” isn’t her birth name, it’s obvious that a license attacked to that name isn’t available in the Connecticut database (see above).
ROBBIE/EMILIE PARKER & LYNN/GRACE MCDONNELL
Emilie Parker, one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook, is a central character in Truthers’ questioning, as they throw a number of theories about her very person and her family’s reaction to her death into the mix. In addition to claiming that the young girl was Photoshopped into at least one family image, those questioning official accounts claim that her father, Robbie Parker, can be seen getting “into character” before a press conference — something they dismiss as proof that he may, indeed, be acting or playing the role of a grieving father.
This latter accusation relies upon footage of Robbie purportedly laughing before a press conference. In the clip, he can be seen smiling, taking a moment to compose himself and then allowing emotion to overtake him. “How many parents are laughing and joking a day after their first child has been shot,” a text message reads across the screen in the first hoax video. Later, the words, “I smell B.S.,” are added to describe the father’s reaction.
The video also claims that Parker wasn’t in her class photos and that she appears in images with President Barack Obama following the shooting (something that obviously wouldn’t be possible had she been killed during the incident). But the below video explains that the little girl shown in the image is one of Emilie’s sisters, not the young girl who perished just days before:
At least one other parent was targeted for the same reason – for appearing too chipper in the wake of losing a daughter in the horrific incident. Footage of Lynn McDonnell, mother of a child named Grace, came under scrutiny after the parent spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about her immense loss. While remembering her young child, she expressed facial expressions of joy. However, considering the content of her commentary (she was remembering her young child) it seemed entirely appropriate (in fact, TheBlaze covered the inspirational interview when it aired in December).
CHILD SECURITY EVENT PLANNED FOR DEC. 14
Those embracing the notion that Sandy Hook was a hoax also question an event that was put on by the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (this department falls under the state’s Division of Emergency Services and Public Protection). This particular event was purportedly planned before the shooting and aimed at helping explore strategies for protecting kids in the result of emergency situations like what happened that same day at Sandy Hook.
This event did occur, but it isn’t as surprising as some might assume. On the surface, it may seem odd that the FEMA class, called “Planning for the Needs of Children in Disasters,” was offered on the same day that Sandy Hook unfolded. But this course was also offered six additional times in the state of Connecticut during November and December. It wasn’t a rare occurrence only planned on the day of the shooting; it was an event that had been repeatedly held within the state’s boundaries during recent days and weeks.
MEMORIAL PAGES & ASSOCIATED INTERNET TIMESTAMPS
The Truthers are particularly fired up about various memorial pages and social media initiatives that they claim were created days before Lanza’s crimes at the elementary school. In addition to teacher Victoria Soto’s Facebook memorial page, which they claim was created on Dec. 10, four days before the shooting, the individuals behind the video and movement also point to a GoFundMe initiative, among others, as also having timestamps that precede the event.
Inquisitr explained how the Internet, despite being quite advanced, still has its hiccups. Here’s a brief recap that explains some of the reasons behind date stamps seeming incorrect on various posts and web sites:
To understand the Sandy Hook websites that seem to have been published early, you must first understand the way the internet reconciles dates as well as how Google crawls them. If a page is repurposed to host other information than it originally displayed, it may show up as having been “published” earlier.
Further, servers and sites often have incorrect dates. Having used a number of WordPress panels in my career, it is a job to keep track of where dates and times are set in order to avoid publishing in the past when scheduling a post, something that could be at play and an easily explainable factor not often acknowledged by Sandy Hook truthers.
And given the fact material can run afoul on an individual computer, a site’s panel and then a search engine, sites like the United Way’s Sandy Hook page could easily register as a prior date on Google.
When it comes to Google results – another target the Truthers point to – the Internet giant isn’t always correct. Sometimes, search results have the incorrect dates associated with them, clearly a factor that is overlooked in the conspiracy theory videos. As for the web sites that seem to have an earlier date stamp, another theory is that certain donation and Facebook pages that were created for other reasons were edited and amended to assist with Sandy Hook efforts following the shooting. While they retained their earlier creation date, their intended purposes changed.
TheBlaze spoke with Justin Basch, CEO of Basch Solutions, a web site production company. The tech expert dismissed conspiracy theorists’ claims, calling them “nonsense.” He explained the many ways that dates can be manipulated in WordPress (the platform running at least one of the web sites at the center of the debate).
“It’s very, very easy to manipulate a date that content was published — whether it’s through text, whether it’s through date manipulation, etc.,” Basch explained.
THE SYMPATHETIC AND HELPFUL NEIGHBOR: GENE ROSEN
Then there’s Gene Rosen, the neighbor who lives nearby Sandy Hook. He began appearing in media immediately following the shooting, telling of his involvement in housing six children who had escaped the school that fateful morning. Rosen has been interviewed numerous times by the mainstream media and he has explained how he entertained the children inside of his home after they fled the school in terror.
The Truthers, though, claim that Rosen’s story has some troubling inconsistencies. Among them, they charge that he is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG), a professional union of acting professionals (thus, advancing the theory that he might be a crisis actor). They also claim that Rosen’s story about discovering the children in his driveway changed and evolved during various appearances. While in some interviews he described the six kids sitting with a female bus driver, in at least one other account, he described a male adult talking harshly to the children, the video proclaims.
Additionally, Rosen, a retired psychologist, told reporters that the children told him their teacher, Ms. Soto, was dead. Initially, some media reported that only one child escaped the classroom where the majority of the kids perished, but this ended up not being the case (others seemingly escaped as well). Rosen also said in one interview that he saw the list of victims not long after the shooting, but conspiracy theorists claim this isn’t possible, as it wasn’t released until after the time he claims to have seen it.
A list of casualties, though, was released the day after the shooting and, as Snopes documents, the Gene Rosen who is a member of SAG is a different individual – one who has never lived in Connecticut. The retired psychologist at the center of this particular case has always lived in the state (while both are in their 60s, the actor is 62 and the Newtown resident is 69).
LANZA’S VEHICLE ON THE DAY OF THE SHOOTING
In the second video, which spent some time defending Truthers against attacks, an bizarre claim is made about the vehicle that Lanza drove to Sandy Hook on Dec. 14. While it has been widely reported that the car belonged to his mother, whom he also shot dead before heading to the school that morning, hoax theorists believe that the car is registered to a man named Chris Rodia.
While it may be tempting for those looking for holes in the story to wonder if Rodia was complicit in helping Lanza with the attack, Snopes.com debunks this, claiming that Rodia was pulled over at a traffic stop and, thus, ended up being named on a police scanner. Salon recaps how this particular element of the story was debunked:
This one was debunked by the theorists themselves just a few days after the shooting. Blogger Joe Quinn obtained the police audio, which definitively debunking the myth. (Rodia appeared on the scanner because he was getting pulled over in a traffic stop miles away, but his license plate doesn’t match Lanza’s car). “This was a huge blow, because lots of people were making big leaps on this … but we now have to look elsewhere,” another amateur investigator said on YouTube.
To clarify: Rodia is not a suspect and he did not own the car that Lanza drove to the school, as the video seems to allege. Rodia was also not at the school at the time of the shooting. Snopes claimsthat “he was driving a different vehicle in another town at the time.”
CRISIS ACTORS DEPICTED IN MEDIA
Truthers’ have gone out of their way (there’s even a disclaimer at the start of the first video) to claim that they are not trying to dismiss the event as though it never happened. Instead, they say that they are merely asking pertinent questions and, in a sense, exercising their civic duty as caring and in-tune Americans (a tactic likely being used to separate themselves from the criticism being thrown their way). Among those curiosities, a consistent theme emerges: The idea that crisis actors were used.
We already covered Rosen and the theory that he is one of these individuals. But there are others who are being dubbed potential crisis actors. One couple in particularly has come under scrutiny. CNN interviewed Nick and Laura Phelps, parents of two children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the exchange, Nick becomes emotional while describing the principal at the school as “a very special person.” It’s clear that the family was impacted by what unfolded.
But Truthers question the motivations, sincerity and identity of Nick and Laura, claiming that they may actually be Richard and Jennifer Sexton, two actors from Florida. This bizarre claim — that the couple was brought in to merely depict parents who have children at Sandy Hook Elementary, is one of the more curious ones being floated. The evidence being posited?
The hoax video shows images from an alleged Picasa account belonging to Richard and Jennifer (the actors). Those who believe that something isn’t quite right about Sandy Hook claim that the photo album was deleted after it gained attention. In addition, Truthers are using a clip showing Laura (or Jennifer) giving what appears to be an audition or performance.
But Snopes claims that the husband and wife duos merely resemble one another and that they are not, in fact, the same individuals. While the videos seem to indicate that there may be a connection between the Crisis Actors company – a group that provides actors to simulate traumatic and disastrous events, there is no connection between the actors provided by the group and the individuals shown in media interviews. Plus, a simple web search shows that the family does, indeed, live near the school.
Crisis Actors (the company) also makes it clear that its performers do not engage in real-life events. While the video alleges connections between the Sandy Hook families and these individuals, no such connections exist. In fact, the company has gone out of its way to dispel such rumors.
See Anderson Cooper address some of these controversies:
UNDERSTANDING THE VIDEOS AND THEIR CREATOR
While the conspiracy-laden clips have intrigued some, others find themselves completely horrified, sickened and offended by their contents — especially considering the pain that the families of Sandy Hook victims have already endured. Following the publication of the first video, reaction and media coverage was swift. As noted, the creator of the videos made it a point to vehemently defend himself against critics.
“This video was made to clear up confusion and shed light on new information. Apologies to anyone offended by the past videos,” a caveat at the beginning of the second clip reads. “[W]e hope this one is easier to digest. Would you rather be hurt temporarily by the truth, or comforted forever by lies?”
Later, the anonymous individual behind the clips claims that it is unfair for critics to label him and others supporting his ideas as “Truthers” – or even “conspiracy theorists.” Such labels, text embedded in the video reads, implies that those questioning the event are “over the top, crazy, and against everyone else.”
“These are millions of everyday people that deserve answers to their questions,” the text continues. “And it seems by labeling them like that, it’s easier to dismiss them and not have to look at the facts.”
However, those looking to debunk the Sandy Hook debunkers would dismiss these views as fringe. Even the person who created, “The Sandy Hook Shooting – Fully Exposed” and its companion video was surprised by its viral nature. In an interview with Gawker before the video released, he seemed surprised by its viral nature, telling the outlet that he would have “spent more time on it” if he knew it would be so popular. TheBlaze reached out to him to get further comment, but we did not receive a response.
“[I]t all started when me and my friends used to research 9/11 in high school,” said the source, who refused to identify himself to Gawker. “That’s what really got me started when it came to researching government cover ups…Once I learned about all the false flag attacks in history that have been proven to be true, I knew it was only a matter of time before another came a long.”
Apparently, in the mind of the individual behind the videos (which were published on a YouTube channel under the account ThinkOutsideTheTV), Sandy Hook was next in this purported line of government cover-ups. The individual went on to tell the outlet that he felt as though the event was “too perfect” and that the people and the town involved had an “artificial vibe about them.”
Since Sandy Hook unfolded, other conspiracy theories have emerged, although the aforementioned YouTube clips have become the most pervasive and widespread. TheBlaze already told you about James Tracy, a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and his controversial comments about the Sandy Hook massacre.
Tracy, too, appeared on radio interviews, where he advanced the crisis actor angle, claiming that the Obama administration might have deployed these individuals to stage the attack in an effort to further crack down on guns. On his personal blog, he cited InfoWars.com as well. Later, he clarified his comments, claiming that while “one is left with the impression that a real tragedy took place,” images and information have been withheld from the public.
The entire ordeal, which captured national attention and was covered by TheBlaze earlier this month, led FAU to separate itself from Tracy’s comments. Lisa Metcalf, director of media relations, said, “James Tracy does not speak for the university.”
In the same Blaze report, Jason Howerton covered Dr. James H. Fetzer, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). In an op-ed published in an Iranian (state-owned, of course) outlet, he charged that, perhaps, the Mossad (Israeli security forces) were responsible for the attack.
“The killing of children is a signature of terror ops conducted by agents of Israel,” he wrote. “[W]ho better to slaughter American children than Israelis, who deliberately murder Palestinian children?”
These, of course, of just two of the numerous alternative conspiracy theories being floated. There are plenty of other ideas that have circulated since Dec. 14. However, the growth in popularity of the latest videos creates some serious questions that deserve to be answered in order to properly educate readership.
At least one father of a first-grader at Sandy Hook took the issue to heart, showcasing his frustration in an on-air phone call that was placed to radio host Glenn Beck. The father, named “Pete,” expressed his dismay at the conspiracy theories, calling Trutherism an “unimaginable way to even look at a tragedy or horrific event.”
“I was there. I’ve been to the funerals,” he told Beck. “I know the families very closely. I know a lot of those children. It happened. It really happened.”
But if thats not convincing enough, consider BuzzFeed’s logic: ”The evidence on which these budding theories are based is, even by the standards of fringe conspiracy theory, remarkably thin, and demand massive collusion between hundreds of private citizens, the federal government, local authorities, and the news media.”
While the viral nature of the videos has begun to simmer, the mainstream media has not provided a level of coverage that would disseminate the truth fervently enough to dispel the rumors. Setting the record straight and showcasing the truth, though, is essential.
Swanson: Wombs of Women on Birth Control ‘Embedded’ with ‘Dead Babies’
SUBMITTED BY Miranda Blue
Well, here’s some medical research we hadn’t heard about. Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who last week delved memorably into feminist theory, tells us this week that “certain doctors and certain scientists” have researched the wombs of women on the pill and found “there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb…Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”
Swanson: I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.
Peeples: We’ve actually heard on both sides of that. We’re researching that and want to make sure we speak correctly to that in our second film. But we have medical advice on both sides of the table there, so we want to make sure that we communicate that properly.
Swanson: It would seem, and I realize that people are a little split on what are all the effects of the birth control pill, but it would seem that there’s a tremendous risk in the use of it for the life of children.
Earlier in the interview, Peeples and Swanson discuss how birth control came to be widely used and accepted by many churches. Women, Peeples laments, “desire the men’s role” and are now missing out on “the role God put them in that he laid out in Genesis.” Before World War II, Peeples claims, “abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together” until “Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically.”
Peeples: It starts with men and women fighting and not being happy with the role that God put them in that he laid out in Genesis. So whenever you seek to desire, when women seek to desire the men’s role, they lose the part and the idea of what children does, not just for the kingdom and not just does with their family, but does for their gender role.
Swanson: Are you saying that the population control stuff, egalitarian feminism, birth control, abortion, they’re all sort of interrelated?
Peeples: Yeah, it wasn’t until after World War II that they begin to separate them. Abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together, they were all kind of a package for eugenics and population control. Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically, and so they said, ‘Hey, let’s kind of take this back, let’s get rid of the negative things and let’s play on Christian liberty, let’s play on freedom, let’s play on people kind of taking this upon themselves to control population rather than forcing it on them. So, again, it’s just another effect of not researching our history to know what happened in the world alongside of the Church.
Chris Wallace to LaPierre: You’re “ridiculous” (updated with video)
Posted by coolelegans
Just to show how much LaPierre has been boxed into the fringe, Fox News host Chris Wallace destroys him on his show, watch the whole thing, it’s great!
Wallace pointed out that the president’s children face a larger threat than most.”Tell that to the people at Newtown,” LaPierre replied, referring to the town where an armed shooter killed 20 young children at an elementary school in December.
“Do you really think that the president’s children are the same kind of target as every schoolchild in America?” Wallace asked. “It’s ridiculous, and you know it, sir.”
For LaPierre to justify his abhorrent political ad by bringing up the children of Newtown is just despicable, and Chris Wallace rightly put him in his place.LaPierre also lies about gun registry and Chris Wallace smacks him down:
He predicted a universal gun registry is next — a measure that, as Wallace reminded him, has not been proposed.”Forgive me, sir, but you take something that is here and you say it’s going to go all the way over there,” Wallace said. “There’s no indication — I mean, I can understand your saying that’s the threat, but there’s nothing that anyone in the administration has said that indicates they’re going to have a universal registry.”
“And Obamacare wasn’t a tax until they needed it to be a tax,” he said.
The argument that Obamacare is a tax was made, primarily, by the conservative Justice John Roberts, so LaPierre is using a conservative argument to show that Obama is a liar. My mind is officially blown at this man’s insane logic. Many Kossacks have also pointed out that Obamacare has nothing to do with guns, so now he is just reduced to parroting Tea Party talking points. And look at how fast Wallace points out
“well it was the supreme court that said that [Obamacare is a tax]”.
Chris Wallace is not having this nonsense on his show! And all LaPierre can do, is ignore that statement, since he doesn’t have a retort, and say “I don’t think you can trust these people.” He then tries to pivot to his talking points, but Wallace says “forgive me sir, I’m going to conduct this interview”. Wow. Brilliant stuff!When, Chris Wallace says that Obama “is not taking away shotguns”, LaPierre, lies and says that the Feinstein bill does include such a clause. NO ONE is taking away shot guns or hand guns. This man is LYING.
And finally, offered without comment, since it’s been beaten into the ground:
“If you limit the American public’s access to semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive,” LaPierre said.
But I would also like to point out that with main stream conservatives like Chris Wallace distancing themselves from this nonsense, we may be winning the debate.
Photo: Cardinal Roger Mahony featured prominently in the published documents. (Reuters)
Victims of child sex abuse by Catholic clerics in the US have voiced anger after newly released records showed church leaders discussing how to cover up priests’ alleged crimes in California in the 1980s.
Prosecutors said they wanted to study the previously confidential records, including memos by then Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony – although experts said the statute of limitations would likely prevent any legal action.
Excerpts from the documents were published by the Los Angeles Times, including exchanges between the now retired Cardinal Mahony and a top aide talking about how to conceal paedophile priests from law enforcement.
The records include secret memos between Cardinal Mahony and Monsignor Thomas Curry – his top aide on sexual abuse cases – about how to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to the church that they had abused young boys.
Specifically, Monsignor Curry suggested stopping suspected priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities about alleged abuse, or keeping them outside of California to avoid police investigations, the Times reported.
One such was Monsignor Peter Garcia, who admitted abusing children in mostly Spanish-speaking parishes for decades. He was sent to a New Mexico treatment centre, and Cardinal Mahony ordered that he stay outside California.
“I believe that if Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” Cardinal Mahony wrote in July 1986.
“There are numerous – maybe 20 – adolescents or young adults that Peter was involved with in a first-degree felony manner,” Monsignor Curry wrote in May 1987.
Joelle Casteix of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said “we were shocked and disgusted to see these documents”.
“[Cardinal Mahony] and other high-ranking [LA clergy]… worked diligently to ensure that men who hurt children, who abused children and who destroyed communities were never going to see a day behind bars,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the LA District Attorney’s office said prosecutors “will review and evaluate all documents as they become available to us” in remarks reported by the Times.
But former DA Steve Cooley, who led a five-year probe into Catholic sex abuse, said a three-year statute of limitations meant that there was little prospect of successful prosecutions.
The Truth Behind UFO Sightings and the U.S. Air Force
‘Mirage Men’ author Mark Pilkington discusses how the military used UFO stories to keep aircraft projects secret
By Alex Kingsbury
Are UFOs a mirage, conjured up by the Air Force to obscure classified flight projects? In part, argues Mark Pilkington, a British journalist and filmmaker who writes about society’s oddities. In Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs, he makes a persuasive case that much UFO-logy canon was started or encouraged by the government trying to conceal Cold War military projects. He recently chatted with U.S. News about the origins and effects of UFO mythology around the world. Excerpts:
How has the UFO story been shaped by the government?
These ideas do generate themselves to some extent, but there is evidence that they were specifically shaped in some instances. I don’t think this is some long-running grand conspiracy, I just think that the UFO story has been deployed and used at times when it was convenient. Just about everything that is popularly believed about UFOs has been exploited, shaped, and, at times, generated by people working for the U.S. Air Force and the intelligence community. The idea that UFOs crashed on U.S. soil, that the U.S. government was harboring and hiding UFO technology, that it was denying its citizens the right to know that aliens have come here and visited—all these things have been deliberately seeded into the culture.
UFO stories are used as a cover story for the flight-testing of experimental and clandestine aircraft. If you look at the places where UFO sightings are frequent, they are also the places where the military tests its experimental aircraft. For the first few years that UFOs circulated in popular culture after World War II, the public didn’t talk about UFOs as being alien. Rather, they were talked about as advanced U.S. or Russian aircraft.
How long has this been going on?
Much of it dates to the first flights of the U2 spy plane back in the 1950s. The CIA’s in-house journal had a story about 10 years ago that said that one of the functions of Project Blue Book [the official Air Force investigation into UFOs] was to monitor how visible the U2 was to people on the ground. Someone would see what they thought was a UFO and then the Air Force would send someone around to talk with them. Of course, the Air Force would have a schedule of the U2 flights and be able to tell if what the person saw was indeed a U2. By talking to all these supposed UFO witnesses, the CIA could assess how visible the U2 was.
Were the Soviets a target for this?
There are other, more subtle motivations from the U.S. side. One is the idea of a super weapon. If unfriendly nations believe that you harbor alien technology that you have integrated into your own weapons systems and aircraft, then they have good reason to be afraid.
The first incident took place early one morning in July. It was reported extensively in the newspapers that a number of unknown objects appeared on radar screens around Washington. Now, it looks very plausible to me that the Washington incident was a demonstration of a technology from the Defense Department, known as Project Palladium, which allowed the operator to project radar blips onto other radar screens. Later on, the technology became very sophisticated to the point where you could change the shape of the blip and its speed and so forth. We go on in the book at length about the evidence that suggests that the Washington radar incident was a planned operation.
Do UFO fanatics know it may be they’re duped?
Certainly. I’m not the first person to tell them this. UFO lore has transcended to what has become a religious matter for many of those involved. We talk to a man called Bill Moore, who in the 1980s was one of the most respected people in the UFO community. He was co-opted by Air Force intelligence to act as a mole passing information to the Air Force about what people were researching and to pass disinformation back into the UFO community. When he came clean about all this at a UFO convention in 1989, people ran out crying into the hallways. But what happened to the larger UFO lore? Nothing.
Is this a worldwide phenomenon?
The UFO story is a global one, but I think it has its origins in American culture. Not long ago there was a major UFO wave in Iran. Not surprisingly, all the UFO incidents happened near the country’s known nuclear sites. Initially it was odd lights in the sky, then over a few days, the stories started getting more dramatic. They were describing small robots hovering in the skies. I read an interesting article recently that described the impact of the drone use over Pakistan and Afghanistan. The villagers describe the drones as being spiritual beings with a life of their own that live in bedrooms in space and come to feed on women and children. It is fascinating to watch, because I feel like I’ve seen it all before. It will be different for every nation, as they develop. Perhaps every nation will get the aliens it deserves.
Kentucky Neo-Nazis Charged in Gruesome Murder, Dismemberment
Posted by Don Terry
The 25-point manifesto of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) makes several hyperbolic “demands,” such as “all non-Whites currently residing in America be required to leave the nation forthwith and return to their land of origin: peacefully or by force.’’
But it appears that two Kentucky members of the neo-Nazi group and an accomplice took at least one of the over-the-top mission statements deadly serious.
Point 17 says, “We demand the ruthless prosecution of those whose activities are injurious to the common interest. Murderers, rapists, pedophiles, drug dealers, usurers, profiteers, race traitors, etc. must be severely punished, whatever creed or race.”
On Jan. 9, according to the authorities, the men lured a white, 19-year-old alleged small-time drug dealer into the back seat of their car, choked him, beat him with fists and a metal pipe, dragged him out of the car, slit his throat, stabbed him in the chest, rolled his body down a hill and left him dead in the bushes, covered in brambles, in a field in Boone County, Ky., essentially a suburb of nearby Cincinnati.
The next day, the men returned to the field and began dismembering the body with knives and a hatchet, apparently scattering the body parts in the field and a landfill. “The head, hands, feet and legs,” Detective Jeremy Rosing of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office testified at a court hearing last week.
The accused killers – Anthony Baumgartner, 23, Stephen Harkness, 22, and Jeffrey Allen, 21 – are being held without bail on charges of kidnapping, murder, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse.
The men told investigators that they disliked drug dealers and that is why they targeted their victim, who was identified by a tattoo of a cartoon character on his severed torso as Daniel Delfin, of Walton, Ky.
“Their thing was, we know he deals drugs, we’re against that,” Deputy Tom Scheben, a spokesman for the Boone County sheriff, told Hatewatch today. “They said he was a drug dealer and, in essence, a blight on society.’’
Both Baumgartner and Harkness are admitted members of NSM and can be found on the group’s social media forum discussing their interests and dislikes.
“Stormtrooper First Class Baumgartner NMS Kentucky” wrote on the forum that he dislikes “race traders [sic], greed, ignorance, drugs, jews, niggers, spikes, gooks and chinks and anybody that hates National Socialism.”
In the “About Me” section, he says that he was part of the Ku Klux Klan but left a long time ago on good terms and now wants “to get back in the race war so me and a few other boys in my area are starting to clean up area of drugs and so called street gangs.”
Harkness’s dislikes include: “Drugs, Gangs, Hippies, Faggots, All other races, People who think Jews deserve our pity.” As hobbies, he listed farming and gardening, and re-reading the works of “Herr Hitler and Commander Rockwell,” as in George Lincoln Rockwell, the former Navy commander who founded the American Nazi Party in 1959.
It is unclear if Allen is a neo-Nazi. But, “they’re all pretty tatted up with that stuff,” Scheben said.
The deputy said Allen told investigators that he had planned the attack on Delfin a week before. “I’m sure he’s not the only drug dealer they’re familiar with,” Scheben said. “But he wore the real baggy pants, the baggy clothes. In a small town like Walton, Kentucky, you stand out dressing like that.’’
Scheben said the men lured Delfin into their car on Jan. 9 by saying they wanted to buy heroin. Delfin was arrested last May for trafficking heroin in the area. “I would say we have a very definite heroin problem,” Scheben said. “It is the drug of choice in the tri-state region. It’s much cheaper than your pain killer pills.”
Harkness was driving. Baumgartner was in the passenger seat. Allen was in the back, sitting next to Delfin, who he “proceeded to physically assault” with his fists and a pipe, Rosing told a Boone County courtroom.
Rosing said Delfin suffered “severe head trauma” during the attack and apparently slipped into unconsciousness or death. The men drove to a field next to Allen’s home where Allen slit Delfin’s throat and stabbed him, the detective said, “underneath the ribcage, up into the heart and twisted the knife and then pulled it out.”
The next day, the men returned to dismember the body.
On Jan. 13, Delfin’s sister reported him missing. On Jan. 14, authorities got a tip, leading them to the three men, who were arrested on Jan. 15.
“Allen was the first to admit it,” Scheben said. “The others followed suit. Allen walked us to where the torso was.”
The authorities found Delfin’s torso and legs in the field. They searched a nearby landfill, using four pieces of heavy equipment for six hours before calling the search off without finding the rest of the teenager.
The owners of the landfill “told us up front, you’re pretty much looking for a needle in a haystack,” Scheben said.
The three men are being held in the Boone County Jail without bail, waiting to go before a grand jury in the next few weeks. “Their story now is that they were just going to assault him and work their way up the chain until they found the drug kingpin,” Scheben said.
Calls today to the men’s public defenders were not returned.
On Thursday in Verona, Ky., nearly 100 people attended Delfin’s closed-casket funeral. Two songs were played at the service: “Amazing Grace” and “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
Zero Dark Thirty has a lot to say about torture. It’s a lot of thoughtful and insightful and nuanced stuff, and Zero Dark Thirty actually gets to the nub of the issue, very clearly condemning the culture of “enhanced interrogation”, in a way that is much more effective than any of the commentators seem to realise.
I’m fascinated by the role of morality in cinema, and our reaction towards the various ways that it can be presented. Sometimes, earnest condemnation of a particular philosophy or movement or practise is necessary. Most would agree, for example, that Schindler’s List is a tremendously powerful piece of cinema that is not diminished by the direct approach it takes to its subject matter. There is not ambiguity in its depiction of a historical atrocity, because there is not ambiguity about that historical atrocity. Sometimes we need to be confronted with these powerful and shocking images so that we might move closer to comprehending the horror of what occurred.
However, sometimes that earnestness can be too much – particularly for recent events. There is a reason that The Washington Times referred to The Dark Knight as “the first great post-Sept. 11 film.” One of the most powerful explorations of murky War on Terror morality came from a blockbuster about a man dressed as a bat chasing a clown around Chicago. More earnest films like Lions for Lambs or Rendition had tackled the issues too bluntly, trying to reduce an entire moral quagmire into a selection of glib moral cliff notes far too simplistic to really delve into the issues.
Let’s talk about torture. It’s an issue that has dwelt on the public consciousness for quite some time. Even before those iconic images of the prisoners in Abu Gharib were released, the question of how we respond to the threat of global terrorism plays a significant role in defining the morality of the twenty-first century. It’s worth noting that Zero Dark Thirty is not set at the same level as those abuses occurred. The torture depicted in the film is not conducted by a bunch of soldiers recording their actions for their own perverse pleasure.
The “enhanced interrogation” in the film is mostly conducted by Dan, the CIA operative played by Jason Clarke. Clarke is not a low-level army officer. He’s a veteran CIA officer. He keeps (and feeds) monkeys. He has a PhD and is characterised as quite intelligent. He uses words like “tautology”, and it’s clear that he has some idea what he is doing. While he manipulates those people in his custody, he is consistently portrayed as level-headed and rational. He’s not an angry sadist lashing out some pent up frustration or aggression at a hapless victim.
Reading that description, it’s easy to see how the film could be argued to be “pro-torture”, as many of its detractors have claimed. Certainly, it avoids making easy choices that could be read as condemnation. After all, quite a few of the conventional criticisms of torture are not really handled here. There’s a stock supply of arguments that people who object to the application of torture will present to support their position. There’s the question of what happens if we torture the wrong person, for example. Or the question of whether we can trust the information we receive under torture.
Neither of these arguments against torture gets a lot of space in Zero Dark Thirty. If anybody in the film is wrongly accused, we never hear about it. There’s never a moment of realisation where our investigators pick on a character we know to be innocent, or who later turns out to be innocent. Of course, we have only the word of the characters that these suspects are guilty. A few give up information that would point to their guilt, but there are a couple who we don’t see offering anything insightful or meaningful. So, in its portrayal of torture, the film never really delves into the question of guilt of the victim.
Similarly, we never question the information we receive under torture. Early in the film, the operatives fail to stop a high-profile terrorist attack. Quite simply, they do not “break” the suspect in time. The attack goes ahead, and people die as a result. This might seem to acknowledge the fact that torture doesn’t work, but it’s hardly a black-and-white condemnation. After all, no other method of information-gathering proves more effective, and the torture of the same suspect proves to ultimately pay off.
The CIA agents rather shrewdly trick their suspect into thinking that he broke and then get him to reveal all his information over a nice meal together in the sunshine. Some might argue that this is not a depiction of torture procuring vital information, but that is a bit over-simplistic. After all, the trick is only possible due to the short-term memory loss that develops as a result of the sleep deprivation, which is a method of torture employed by the CIA.
So Zero Dark Thirty avoids these two easy arguments against torture. However, I wouldn’t consider that as evidence of a pro-torture bias. Those arguments aren’t the root of the reason that we condemn torture. There’s a reason that they are used so frequently, but they aren’t the core of the issue. We use the “wrong victim” argument and “incorrect information” argument to attack the practicality of torture. They’re easy to relate to, and to understand. They are possibilities, of course, and they grab us because they directly affect us.
Somebody we know could be wrongly tortured. We could be wrongly tortured. It’s easy enough to see how such an argument makes a compelling case against torture. Would you really trust the state not to make a mistake? Would you really give the government that much power? It’s a raw, visceral, powerful argument – but it’s not the heart of the issue. Similarly, the argument about incorrect information is easy enough to understand. Would you really do that to a person if nothing of use would come from it? I mean, even if you knew you had the right person? And, based on that other argument, that’s a big “if.”
These arguments are appealing. They are easy to understand. They are useful in the argument against torture. However, they dance around the central point. They are practical arguments that skirt around the real moral issue. After all, surely if you are against torture, you should be against torture even in situations where you have the right person and it will give you the information that you need? Because if you accept that there is one case where torture would be justified by meeting a set of hypothetical circumstances, then it becomes a numbers game.
If it’s right to torture that one guy to save thousands of lives, then can we balance the possible mistake against that metric? Fighters may be dispatched to shoot down a hijacked passenger airplane; innocents will die, but more lives will be saved. If your objections to torture are purely practical, then it becomes a simple question of scaling the numbers. How many lives does “enhanced interrogation” have to save before you’re willing to write off one mistake, one miscalculation, one error?
These arguments are susceptable to the “ticking clock” scenario, one very common in the early years of 24. The notion that torture is only objectionable because of the chance of harming an innocent party, or because it is potentially ineffective, suggests that there are situations where one might somehow be able to mitigate those risks, or counter them entirely. These objections to torture are easy to understand, and are quite appealing, but they also belie the root philosophical problem with torture.
Any sincere objection to torture must be grounded in the notion that any application of torture – no matter what surrounding circumstances or outside concerns – is inherently immoral. Torture is wrong, even if you are torturing a guilty party. Torture is wrong, even if it will get you the information you want. The fact that the party might be innocent and the information may be incorrect are concerns, and are very serious possibilities, but they don’t form a fundamental objection to the philosophical idea torture. And it is shallow to suggest that just because a movie doesn’t play to either of these arguments, it must be “pro-torture.”
A strong argument against torture must be rooted in the concession that it might be possible to torture a guilty person, and it might be possible to garner useful information from it. In Zero Dark Thirty, the nugget that leads to Bin Ladin doesn’t originate under torture, but the revelation of this pre-existing piece of information during torture solidifies its importance to our lead character, Maya. In the opening scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, a terrorist is tortured and he gives information that prompts our protagonist to find Osama Bin Ladin, years later.
And – here’s the thing – it’s possible for Zero Dark Thirty to show an effective use of torture and still condemn it. In fact, its condemnation is stronger because it concedes the appeal of torture. The CIA did not have a systemic policy of “enhanced interrogation” because the technique was entirely useless. It trained interrogators and operated secret facilities because those methods produced information that was of use. From a purely financial and resource-driven point of view, there wold be no reason to use “enhanced interrogation” if it didn’t work. And it is very important to concede that just because it could be useful doesn’t mean that it’s right.
A fundamental objection to torture doesn’t care if torture is completely entirely effective. It doesn’t care that the person being tortured might be guilty. The fundamental objection to torture doesn’t believe that torture can be mitigated or tempered by success. Torture taints. It doesn’t just taint when it fails, it also taints when it succeeds. Every time it is used, it says something about our society. Not every time it is used against an innocent, or every time it fails to stop an attack. Every single time torture is used, it diminishes us and says something about our way of life that we should be ashamed of.
And that is what Zero Dark Thirty argues. Those torture scenes are damn uncomfortable to watch, and they should be.The CIA might use the term “enhanced interrogation”, but what we see is cold-blooded torture. We see waterboarding up close. We see suspects kept awake and delirious. We see them walked around on leads like dogs. We see them locked in boxes. We see them beaten. We see them tied up so long that they soil themselves.
This isn’t meant to be heroic. This is mean to be unnerving, disturbing and sickening. It is tough to watch. It is repulsive. There is no ambiguity there. Dan suggests that there’s “no shame” if Maya wants to stand outside. We might suggest that there’s no shame if Kathryn Bigelow had opted to whitewash all this out and pretend it never happened. Certainly the temptation must have been there. After all, if she had left these scenes out, the film would have probably generated less controversy. Personally, I bet she’d have an Oscar nomination.
However, to leave those scenes out would have been dishonest. It would have been cheap, and it would have avoided a vital issue. It is very easy to rationalise and justify torture if we ignore the fundamental unpleasantness of the act, the way that it cheapens us and undermines our authority and morality. This conduct isn’t fiction, and neither is the idea that it might provide workable intelligence. To ignore either reality is to do a disservice to an anti-torture argument. To pretend it’s not there, or to pretend it is always ineffective, cheapens any stance against this.
These scenes taint our view of the characters, and they should. Maya doesn’t directly participate in the first torture scene, but she is compromised by association. She enables. She passes Dan the water to waterboard a suspect. She uses the information garnered. Maya never directly tortures. Later on, she even uses a surrogate pair of hands. However, the film is absolutely unequivocal. She is torturing. And that torturing taints her.
We see that with Dan as well. He might be smart, and he might be educated, but it’s clear that he has been tainted by what he is doing. Mid-way through the film, he opts to get out of the torture unit. And he complains about the death of his monkeys. It’s a moment that exists to make his priorities clear. This is a man who routinely tortures and causes suffering to human beings. At the end of it all, however, the only sympathy he has is for a bunch of monkeys. If you want to talk about the dehumanising effect of torture, it doesn’t get more effective than that.
Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t opt for a feel-good simplistic condemnation of torture. Instead, it dares to suggest that torture is inherently abhorrent even if you torture the right people and get the right information. It’s a brave and thoughtful argument, and one well constructed. It’s a shame that so many missed the point.
Field Guide to the Conspiracy Theorist: Dark Minds
When does incredulity become paranoia? Radio personality and filmmaker Alex Jones believes an evil cabal of bankers rules the world.
by John Gartner, Ph.D.
Alex Jones is trying to warn us about an evil syndicate of bankers who control most of the world’s governments and stand poised to unite the planet under their totalitarian reign, a “New World Order.” While we might be tempted to dismiss Jones as a nut, the “king of conspiracy” is a popular radio show host. The part-time filmmaker’s latest movie, The Obama Deception, in which he argues that Obama is a puppet of the criminal bankers, has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.
When we spoke, Jones ranted for two hours about FEMA concentration camps, Halliburton child kidnappers, government eugenics programs—and more. When I stopped him to ask for evidence the government is practicing eugenics, he pointed to a national security memorandum. But I found the document to be a bland policy report.
Jones “cherry picks not just facts but phrases, which, once interpreted his way, become facts in his mind,” says Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, who knows Jones, a fellow Austin resident. When I confronted Jones with my reading of the report, he became pugnacious, launching into a diatribe against psychologists as agents of social control.
Conspiracy thinking is embraced by a surprisingly large proportion of the population. Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe President John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, and 42 percent believe the government is covering up evidence of flying saucers, finds Ted Goertzel, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University at Camden. Thirty-six percent of respondents to a 2006 Scripps News/Ohio University poll at least suspected that the U.S. government played a role in 9/11.
We’re all conspiracy theorists to some degree. We’re all hardwired to find patterns in our environment, particularly those that might represent a threat to us. And when things go wrong, we find ourselves searching for what, or who, is behind it.
In his 1954 classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, historian Richard Hofstadter hypothesized that conspiracy thinking is fueled by underlying feelings of alienation and helplessness. Research supports his theory. New Mexico State University psychologist Marina Abalakina-Paap has found that people who endorse conspiracy theories are especially likely to feel angry, mistrustful, alienated from society, and helpless over larger forces controlling their lives.
Jones insists he had a “Leave It to Beaverchildhood.” I couldn’t confirm such an idyllic past. When I asked if I could interview his family or childhood friends, he insisted his family was very “private” and he had not kept in touch with a single friend. When I asked if I might look them up, he became irritated. He doubted he could “still spell their names,” and besides, I’d already taken up enough of his time. “I turned down 50 or 60 requests for interviews this week,” he wanted me to know.
The number sounded wildly inflated. Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history, Hofstadter held. Jones has a “messiah complex,” Black contends. Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.
Even well-grounded skeptics are prone to connect disparate dots when they feel disempowered. In a series of studies, Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern demonstrated that people primed to feel out of control are particularly likely to see patterns in random stimuli.
Might people be especially responsive to Jones’ message in today’s America, marked by economic uncertainty and concerns about terrorism and government scandals? “There is a war on for your mind,” Jones insists on his Web site, infowars.com. He calls his listeners “infowarriors.”
Information is the conspiracy theorists’ weapon of choice because if there’s one thing they all agree on, it’s that all the rest of us have been brainwashed. The “facts” will plainly reveal the existence of the conspiracy, they believe. And while all of us tend to bend information to fit our pre-existing cognitive schema, conspiracy theorists are more extreme. They are “immune to evidence,” discounting contradictory information or seeing it as “proof of how clever the enemy is at covering things up,” Goertzel says.
Conspiracy theories exist on a spectrum from mild suspicion to full-on paranoia, and brain chemistry may play a role. Dopamine rewards us for noting patterns and finding meaning in sometimes-insignificant events. It’s long been known that schizophrenics overproduce dopamine. “The earliest stages of delusion are characterized by an overabundance of meaningful coincidences,” explain Paul D. Morrison and R.M. Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. “Jumping to conclusions” is a common reasoning style among the paranoid, find Daniel Freeman and his colleagues, also at the Institute of Psychiatry.
Indeed, there are no coincidences in Jones’ world. In a scene from The Obama Deception, Jones dives “into the belly of the beast,” the hotel where purported conspirators will be meeting. As he begins a telephone interview, the fire alarm goes off. “The bastards have set us up,” he says.
Jones says that he has been visited by the FBI and the Secret Service but can’t discuss the interviews. It may be that federal agents, in fact, wanted to evaluate whether he is a threat to the president. There’s no reason to believe he is—but the same can’t be said of his listeners. In 2002, Richard McCaslin, carrying an arsenal of weapons, entered the Bohemian Grove, a campground in California that annually hosts a meeting of the political and business elite. He told authorities he had been planning his commando raid for a year, after (he says) hearing Jones claim that ritual infant sacrifice was taking place there.
The “war”continues. In a video promoting The Obama Deception, Jones urges, “We know who they are. We know what they are. We know what has to be done.”
The odometer turned today…over 1,000 murders by gun violence since Sandy Hook Elementary School 33 days ago. In the time it took for those 1,000 adults and children to die the country has begun a process of solving some of the causes of the deaths. It will be a long process.
We have, as a country done two very predictable things. First we separated into political corners…many proponents of both sides of the very hard discussion intractable in their views, unable to move forward, toward common ground in order to prevent at least some of the deaths. But this seems different. The energy and anger are coming from the very large middle of this country, those neither pro-gun nor pro-regulation, having little or no opinion on the 2nd Amendment or gun control. This shift in public opinion is fueled by the anger that in the past year our restaurants, workplaces, malls, churches, theaters, and schools are not as safe as they were…as they can be.
Second to that, we have seen a media frenzy take over much of the flow of information on gun violence, gun control and the 2nd Amendment. The good of it is that we have at our fingertips hundreds if not thousands of facts to present our case…the bad is that the frenzy has contributed to the division that will impede success in slowing down deaths. Politicians have, for the most part had to stand up and defend their long held position…many funded with tens of millions of dollars spent by the lobbyists at the NRA or Gun Owners of America.
And yesterday, the last day of sub-1,000 murders President Obama released the results of VP Biden’s month long research group to look at options. And so, we look to the next step…Presidential Executive Actions designed to spur research, to define privacy within the Affordable Care Act to allow mental health considerations to be shared with those who now approve purchases of guns for buyers at gun shops across America, to streamline and strengthen the on-line NICS system that verifies buyers, to provide a mechanism to pay for security in schools that request them, to refocus law enforcement to enforce the myriad of laws that are currently on the books.
And further, submitting proposals for legislation to Congress so that they may consider new laws for returning the Assault Weapons Ban, regulating the capacity of magazines, and closing of loopholes in the current way firearms buying and selling is administered.
One month, 1,000 murders, a plan…the journey down the long road to finding and executing a successful set of solutions to the national problem of gun violence has begun. In the next year America will either reach out a hand to help save some of those who will die from gun violence or they will simply turn away because it is against their beliefs. The 12,000 who will die and 250,000 injured in this next year are watching.
The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational
The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any computer currently in existence. But that doesn’t mean our brains don’t have major limitations. The lowly calculator can do math thousands of times better than we can, and our memories are often less than useless — plus, we’re subject to cognitive biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions. Here are a dozen of the most common and pernicious cognitive biases that you need to know about.
Before we start, it’s important to distinguish between cognitive biases and logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is an error in logical argumentation (e.g. ad hominem attacks, slippery slopes, circular arguments, appeal to force, etc.). A cognitive bias, on the other hand, is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability).
Some social psychologists believe our cognitive biases help us process information more efficiently, especially in dangerous situations. Still, they lead us to make grave mistakes. We may be prone to such errors in judgment, but at least we can be aware of them. Here are some important ones to keep in mind.
We love to agree with people who agree with us. It’s why we only visit websites that express our political opinions, and why we mostly hang around people who hold similar views and tastes. We tend to be put off by individuals, groups, and news sources that make us feel uncomfortable or insecure about our views — what the behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner called cognitive dissonance. It’s this preferential mode of behavior that leads to the confirmation bias — the often unconscious act of referencing only those perspectives that fuel our pre-existing views, while at the same time ignoring or dismissing opinions — no matter how valid — that threaten our world view. And paradoxically, the internet has only made this tendency even worse.
It’s called a fallacy, but it’s more a glitch in our thinking. We tend to put a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing that they’ll somehow influence future outcomes. The classic example is coin-tossing. After flipping heads, say, five consecutive times, our inclination is to predict an increase in likelihood that the next coin toss will be tails — that the odds must certainly be in the favor of heads. But in reality, the odds are still 50/50. As statisticians say, the outcomes in different tosses are statistically independent and the probability of any outcome is still 50%.
Relatedly, there’s also the positive expectation bias — which often fuels gambling addictions. It’s the sense that our luck has to eventually change and that good fortune is on the way. It also contribues to the “hot hand” misconception. Similarly, it’s the same feeling we get when we start a new relationship that leads us to believe it will be better than the last one.
Remember that time you bought something totally unnecessary, faulty, or overly expense, and then you rationalized the purchase to such an extent that you convinced yourself it was a great idea all along? Yeah, that’s post-purchase rationalization in action — a kind of built-in mechanism that makes us feel better after we make crappy decisions, especially at the cash register. Also known as Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a way of subconsciously justifying our purchases — especially expensive ones. Social psychologists say it stems from the principle of commitment, our psychological desire to stay consistent and avoid a state of cognitive dissonance.
Very few of us have a problem getting into a car and going for a drive, but many of us experience great trepidation about stepping inside an airplane and flying at 35,000 feet. Flying, quite obviously, is a wholly unnatural and seemingly hazardous activity. Yet virtually all of us know and acknowledge the fact that the probability of dying in an auto accident is significantly greater than getting killed in a plane crash — but our brains won’t release us from this crystal clear logic (statistically, we have a 1 in 84 chance of dying in a vehicular accident, as compared to a 1 in 5,000 chance of dying in an plane crash [other sources indicate odds as high as 1 in 20,000]). It’s the same phenomenon that makes us worry about getting killed in an act of terrorism as opposed to something far more probable, like falling down the stairs or accidental poisoning.
This is that effect of suddenly noticing things we didn’t notice that much before — but we wrongly assume that the frequency has increased. A perfect example is what happens after we buy a new car and we inexplicably start to see the same car virtually everywhere. A similar effect happens to pregnant women who suddenly notice a lot of other pregnant women around them. Or it could be a unique number or song. It’s not that these things are appearing more frequently, it’s that we’ve (for whatever reason) selected the item in our mind, and in turn, are noticing it more often. Trouble is, most people don’t recognize this as a selectional bias, and actually believe these items or events are happening with increased frequency — which can be a very disconcerting feeling. It’s also a cognitive bias that contributes to the feeling that the appearance of certain things or events couldn’t possibly be a coincidence (even though it is).
We humans tend to be apprehensive of change, which often leads us to make choices that guarantee that things remain the same, or change as little as possible. Needless to say, this has ramifications in everything from politics to economics. We like to stick to our routines, political parties, and our favorite meals at restaurants. Part of the perniciousness of this bias is the unwarranted assumption that another choice will be inferior or make things worse. The status-quo bias can be summed with the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — an adage that fuels our conservative tendencies. And in fact, some commentators say this is why the U.S. hasn’t been able to enact universal health care, despite the fact that most individuals support the idea of reform.
People tend to pay more attention to bad news — and it’s not just because we’re morbid. Social scientists theorize that it’s on account of our selective attention and that, given the choice, we perceive negative news as being more important or profound. We also tend to give more credibility to bad news, perhaps because we’re suspicious (or bored) of proclamations to the contrary. More evolutionarily, heeding bad news may be more adaptive than ignoring good news (e.g. “saber tooth tigers suck” vs. “this berry tastes good”). Today, we run the risk of dwelling on negativity at the expense of genuinely good news. Steven Pinker, in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, argues that crime, violence, war, and other injustices are steadily declining, yet most people would argue that things are getting worse — what is a perfect example of the negativity bias at work.
Though we’re often unconscious of it, we love to go with the flow of the crowd. When the masses start to pick a winner or a favorite, that’s when our individualized brains start to shut down and enter into a kind of “groupthink” or hivemind mentality. But it doesn’t have to be a large crowd or the whims of an entire nation; it can include small groups, like a family or even a small group of office co-workers. The bandwagon effect is what often causes behaviors, social norms, and memes to propagate among groups of individuals — regardless of the evidence or motives in support. This is why opinion polls are often maligned, as they can steer the perspectives of individuals accordingly. Much of this bias has to do with our built-in desire to fit in and conform, as famously demonstrated by the Asch Conformity Experiments.
As individuals trapped inside our own minds 24/7, it’s often difficult for us to project outside the bounds of our own consciousness and preferences. We tend to assume that most people think just like us — though there may be no justification for it. This cognitive shortcoming often leads to a related effect known as the false consensus bias where we tend to believe that people not only think like us, but that they also agree with us. It’s a bias where we overestimate how typical and normal we are, and assume that a consensus exists on matters when there may be none. Moreover, it can also create the effect where the members of a radical or fringe group assume that more people on the outside agree with them than is the case. Or the exaggerated confidence one has when predicting the winner of an election or sports match.
We humans have a really hard time imagining ourselves in the future and altering our behaviors and expectations accordingly. Most of us would rather experience pleasure in the current moment, while leaving the pain for later. This is a bias that is of particular concern to economists (i.e. our unwillingness to not overspend and save money) and health practitioners. Indeed, a 1998 study showed that, when making food choices for the coming week, 74% of participants chose fruit. But when the food choice was for the current day, 70% chose chocolate.
Also known as the relativity trap, this is the tendency we have to compare and contrast only a limited set of items. It’s called the anchoring effect because we tend to fixate on a value or number that in turn gets compared to everything else. The classic example is an item at the store that’s on sale; we tend to see (and value) the difference in price, but not the overall price itself. This is why some restaurant menus feature very expensive entrees, while also including more (apparently) reasonably priced ones. It’s also why, when given a choice, we tend to pick the middle option — not too expensive, and not too cheap.
Images: Lightspring/Shutterstock, Tsyhun/Shutterstock, Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock, Everett Collection/Shutterstock, Frank Wasserfuehrer/Shutterstock, George Dvorsky, Barry Gutierrez and Ed Andrieski/AP, Daniel Padavona/Shutterstock, wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.