Fake News serves conspiracy theorists well

A recent article posted by Orac examined the fallacious story of FBI raids on the USA Centre for Disease Control.

What’s concerning here is that such stories aren’t just bogus claims or cherry picking from evidence or misrepresenting of reports and announcements from authoritative sources. Nope, these stories are utter nonsense with no basis at all in verifiable events.

They aim to advance malignant and anti-social agendas. In the case of the above lie that the FBI raided CDC offices, it’s clear purpose was to exploit the drooling anticipation of the anti-vaccination lobby. Mainly that with “vaccine/autism/tweeting” Trump having been inaugurated the evil masters behind mass poisoning-by-vaccine would get theirs.

A second very useful purpose is that very few people check the source of the material. Within 24 hours the fake news story may have been read by tens to hundreds of thousands. Even if the piece is refuted with evidence and thoroughly debunked, it is unlikely readers drawn to the key message will invest the time and intellectual discipline to ascertain a. the facts and b. how readers were deceived.

There’s an interesting article here examining Trump’s grab bag of lies. If you can possibly (again) bear Michael Shermer’s “rustle in the grass” reason as to why he reckons our species is prone to believe, it’s lurking there to scrape your eyes across. I find this too simplistic. It side steps the notion of risk and reward – a trait of strong human beings throughout history.

Perhaps it’s more of a factor of individual cognition. I mean if we evolved to distrust the “rustle in the grass” why did only one nutter “investigate” the bogus story of a Clinton run child sex ring. By firing his gun. Into a pizza shop? No. We haven’t evolved to believe. We evolved to think. Believers tend to be fodder. Thinkers not so.

Do read Orac’s piece. It focuses on the FBI/CDC issue nicely. Not only was this fake news story published but was followed up with further fake news boasting articles with headlines proclaiming “Confirmed”.

Fake news isn’t new to those dealing with anti-vaccination lies. The anti-vaccine lobby has been publishing deceitful articles and “announcements” for years.

It seems in the present climate it is likely we will see more fake news from a range of anti-science, far right wing, bigoted groups that are finding a damaging voice to Western democracy.

Conspiracy Theorists: obsessed and beyond reason

This morning I was met with the news that a train accident in Hoboken, New Jersey had left one person dead and over 100 injured. It was being described as “the worst NJ transit incident in the recent past”.

Moments later I was pondering what conspiracy theorists would be doing with this information. I didn’t expect much but a visit to Prison Planet – a hive of conspiracy paranoia fathered by Alex Jones – yielded some pickings. Comments lay under opening paragraphs from an NBC New York article. One read:

Yet another “accident” hundreds in serious condition, death toll still rising.

Note the press will not identify the train engineer.

Note how the press wont even identify if train was under control of “PTC” positive train control.

PTC prevents this, unless its tampered with. PTC cannot turn the power “up”, in a train, only “down”. That region was one the 1st in the USA to get PTC. Appears Mr. Obama needs a few days to work a narrative.

The author seemed to be “arguing” that the event was executed deliberately. His over confident assessment of “PTC” train control in that region suggested such an accident was unlikely if not impossible. The press, in his mind, were suppressing two vital facts: the driver’s name and the presence/absence of PTC control. President Obama thus, needed “a few days” to mislead the American public.

As it turned out the driver, engineer Thomas Gallagher had spoken to authorities “within hours” of the accident. He had been rescued from his crushed cabin and is reported to be in a critical condition.

Another commenter had worked it out using exclamation marks. This was no accident. It was the “scum Muslims”. He’s quite likely blown his ten bucks – unless the almost certainly American born descendent of Irish-Americans, has converted to Islam:

Can you say Tabotage / Terrorism !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The scum Muslims have struck again. This was no accident !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Ten bucks – the engineer was a Muslim.

Someone had posted Beastie Boys Sabotage clip, which was followed by Beastie boyz are enemy jews. Why do you listen to their music?

By this point someone gleaned the rules, summarising them neatly:

RULES FOR POSTING ABOUT THIS STORY:
1. DO NOT WAIT FOR ANY FACTS ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU IMMEDIATELY POST WHATEVER MINDLESS CONSPIRACY THEORY YOU CAN THINK OF.
2. BLAME THE JEWS

So why was I pondering what these enemies of reason would be thinking? Recently, I’ve been considering the intractability of conspiracy theorist thinking. Or is that lack of thinking? Either way it (the pondering) is likely a constant for those who value the role of evidence in public health and appreciate the harm caused by opportunists who benefit from peddling fear and confusion.

This week I’d enjoyed a discussion in a clinical setting with a physiotherapist about “vitalistic” chiropractic. Whilst familiar and infuriated with the lack of evidence behind treatment claims, she was fascinated to learn of the anti-vaccine slant in chiropractic.

I’ve been as fascinated as disgusted with the antics of David Thrussell who, as artistic director of the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival, attempted to bring the rankly deceptive anti-vaccine film Vaxxed to Castlemaine. An outstanding conspiracy theorist and blatant liar, Thrussell has played the victim whilst misleading both the media and sponsors of the film festival.

As always the delightfully unstable Judy Wilyman has been showing off her declining grip on reality. Of late she has chosen to bully the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong and also the Minister for Social Services. Wilyman’s ranting is so far from possessing an evidence base or a cogent stream of argument that it beggars belief. Unless of course, one considers it through the eyes of a conspiracy devotee.

Rob Brotherton (@rob_brotherton) authored Suspicious Minds – The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories. He suggests that to the conspiracy theorist their beliefs are unfalsifiable. There is simply no evidence to prove them wrong. In addition, driven by a need for control – a need which they cannot develop when faced with reality – the likes of Thrussell, Wilyman and Meryl Dorey, develop compensatory control.

The misleading film Vaxxed has given compensatory control to so many who lack control. We may consider Dorey’s misappropriation of funds, Wilyman’s feverish ranting about her superior “research” and Thrussell’s manipulation of others as types of compensatory control also.

Suffering from the insignificance that comes with no control over reality, such conspiracy prone personalities fall victim to proportionality bias. Events they desire to control, but can’t, must have a complicated – indeed powerful – cause. We see this also in their propensity toward other conspiracies.

Between 1/4 to 1/3 of Americans believe 9/11 was the result of some type of conspiracy. Usually the Inside Job theory. Within days of Kennedy being assassinated more than half of Americans believed Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Today, according to Brotherton, “the majority of Americans” believe some type of conspiracy led to the Kennedy assassination.

The audio below is from ABC’s All In The Mind and includes an excellent interview with Rob Brotherton. I certainly recommend it.

  • © ABC All In The Mind

 

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“Something has happened in the motorcade route”

“Something has happened in the motorcade route”

Friday November 22, 1963 Sam Pate, a reporter for KBOX Radio describing President Kennedy’s motorcade

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I was struck by recent tweets from Australia’s most troublesome, and arguably troubled, antivaccinationist.

In a splendid example of the transcendental world view that conspiracies are everywhere Meryl Dorey retweeted and commented on a pro-chemtrail tweet. Not just any pro-chemtrail tweet. This came from an account so packed with conspiracy tweets it’s almost suffocating to read. Ample antivaccine waffle, false flags, a comment on the strange absence of accents from Orlando shooting witnesses, the Sandy Hook “actors”, GMO, depopulation, etc, etc.

“TheMatrix” hashtag worked overtime and happened to accompany the tweet that caught Ms. Dorey’s eye.

Dorey_chemtrails2

This prompted a number of replies criticising the lack of thinking behind the chemtrail conspiracy theory. Meryl offered one critic:

Dorey_chemtrails

Understanding conspiracy theorists and the role implausible fallacy plays in their thinking is not as simple as accusing them of being crackpots. As individuals, they come from any age, race, socioeconomic status, education level, occupation, gender, political viewpoint. Uscinski and Parent wrote the 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories. They note on page 11 that laboratory experiments that induce loss of control and anxiety prompt subjects to draw conspiratorial explanations and see nonexistent patterns.

Such agenticity and patternicity are intuitive human qualities. Left unchecked they are qualities that steer one toward justifying the world as filled with interconnected events. Events that happen for a reason. Despite the evidence void, intuition can shape transcendental conspiracy thinking to believing the reason behind such events is generally one of malignant control.

Empiricism lacks the intuitive quality of transcendentalism. The empiricist accepts that coincidence and random events are part of reality. Any belief thus requires evidence. In this way skeptics are not prone to conclude based upon unchecked intuition. A simple but worthy example is the well used truism that correlation is not causation. For so many claims of the antivaccination movement (say, so-called vaccine injuries as opposed to genuine injuries) there is no evidence – just a claim based upon correlation.

These claims resonate with intuition. But subject to empirical examination and scientific skepticism we find these injuries (as opposed to genuine injuries) do not exist. The evidence supports another cause. With no evidence to the contrary and the inability to accept reality, we find the antivaccine lobby will cry conspiracy. Indeed there are a great many false claims kept in circulation by this lobby that are defeated with scientific evidence. Rather than accept the consensus the group cries conspiracy.

In March ABC Minefield produced Is the truth still out there? Why do conspiracy theories still exist? It’s an excellent episode. Hosts Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens discuss the persistence of conspiracy theories with guest, Patrick Stokes. Enjoy.

© ABC

Anti-vaccine Zika virus conspiracy fails to surprise

It was an event so impossible to predict it is absent from the highly respected Before It’s NewsWhat Did Nostradamus Predict For 2016? Or the Top 10 Nostradamus Predictions for 2016. Yet anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists reckon neonatal microcephaly associated with maternal infection with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, is actually due to… a vaccine.

It’s not spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito they warn. This truth of course, is being suppressed by a conspiracy.

A few days ago I wondered what potions, cures or other nonsense homeopaths might be selling to save the world from Zika. As it turned out I happened upon an article entitled Zika Virus. Are we being told the truth? The hosting blog, Homeopathy Safe Medicine is concocted by Steve Scrutton. Steve is also upset that the BBC aren’t playing ball with the CDC whistleblower fallacy that there is indeed a link between MMR and autism (also suppressed by a conspiracy)  – “particularly with black children”, and is happy enough to publish a final email exchange.

A little more searching would save Steve ample time on this point. For example Orac at Respecful Insolence, Rene’ Najera at Science Based Medicine and an even earlier article at SBM yield facts.

Or of course one may visit Snopes.

CDC_whistleblower_snopesSo Steve’s a conspiracy theorist. Anyway, to get back on track, you may have already guessed Steve’s answer to that title question above on Zika virus. From there we’re introduced to a fine upstanding crock of a site named The Unhived Mind III.

Here Steve alerts us to the delicate title Brazilians not buying Zika excuse for babies with shrunken brains. Charming, no? The author of this article, Jim Stone, applies the Judy Wilyman theme of logic. Namely that morbidity and mortality are not high enough for all this fuss. Jim quotes the BBC:

Zika is generally mild and only causes symptoms in one in five people. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and chikungunya.

And adds himself:

My comment: Ok so a do nothing virus is going around that only makes one in five people get mildly sick, with no symptoms in 4 out of 5 people.

Had he continued quoting the BBC we’d have read more on this “do nothing virus”:

Brazil is experiencing the largest known outbreak of Zika.

President Dilma Rousseff, visiting Recife in the worst-affected north-east of the country, said Brazilians needed to engage in the fight against the virus. […]

Forty-nine babies with suspected microcephaly have died, Brazil’s health ministry says. In five of these cases an infection with Zika virus was found.

Jim Stone has his own tortuous conspiracy ramble site including an utterly ridiculous piece on the Zika virus. Jim advises his poor readers:

The claim is that a mosquito naturally carried this disease across almost all of South and Central America in only six months. This defies all logic because mosquitoes have a life cycle that is too long for immediate propagation and won’t fly more than a mile from where they hatch, which would limit the movement of a totally new disease to a mile or so a month, not 30 miles a day.

Jim gets pretty worked up about reports on the Wikipedia Zika virus page suggesting the carrier can “just rip across continents to all corners in months, faster than a bush tribesman could travel. It really is that way, Wikipedia said so!”. Well, no not really. What Wikipedia did note but Jim didn’t is:

The global distribution of the most cited carrier of Zika virus, A. aegypti, is expanding due to global trade and travel. A. aegypti distribution is now the most extensive ever recorded – across all continents including North America and even the European periphery. […]

Jim has also conveniently ignored the impact of human travel. Like many who seem happy to blame the Tdap vaccine, Jim is worried that the association between microcephaly and Zika virus has not been made before. It was initially identified in rhesus monkeys in 1947 then in humans in 1952, in Uganda.

Conspiracy theorists fail to grasp that the first documented outbreak of Zika virus in a human population was in 2007 and 2013 in the Pacific (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and later in the Americas in 2015 (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde) [WHO Zika Fact Sheet]. ( Edit: The possibility of sexual transmission {2} is being investigated ). It is believed to have arrived in Brazil in 2014, and spread slowly. The outbreak in Columbia was reported by the WHO on October 21, 2015.

These relatively recent initial outbreaks are exactly why little is known about complications associated with the disease. Experts, including the WHO are not yet certain a causal link has been established between microcephaly and Zika virus. However health officials are operating under the assumption there is one.

Should this be the case it appears that infants born to mothers who had the virus during the first trimester are at an increased risk of microcephaly. The failure of the Tdap conspiracy theorists is partially evident in their inability to produce any data beyond a crude correlation. The Tdap vaccine is being offered in the third trimester (28 to 32 weeks). In the US and UK when there is a suspicion of foetal microcephaly where pregnant women have returned from Latin America, ultrasound screening will be offered from 20 weeks every 2 to 4 weeks.

Thus foetal microcephaly due to maternal infection with Zika could be evident 2 – 3 months before the vaccine is even offered. Essentially the conspiracy coincidence is vanishingly small and demonstrably false.

It would thus seem there is an opportunity to identify the time of malformation or the absence of genetic material of the Zika virus in placental tissue, to advance the case of the conspiracy theorists. Their case could do with real hard evidence as opposed to yet another vaccine timing coincidence.

The Internet is of course teeming with rubbish sites pushing the lie of vaccine induced birth defects. The Zika virus gives them something to exhaust the correlation gambit on. A nice twist that appears on No Vaccines Australia evokes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The release of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by a British biotech’ company they fund, named Oxitec has come under scrutiny. However a critical 2010 Science article suggests the Foundation had not funded a 2009 project that saw release of the mosquito on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. In a very recent article on the Zika virus the authors give the same GM project the thumbs up.

They write under There must be a better way to control mosquitoes?

Not yet but they’re in the works. A British biotech called Oxitec—which was recently purchased by Intrexon, a U.S. synthetic biology company—has developed A. aegypti mosquitoes containing a gene construct that will kill their offspring before they reach adulthood. When massive numbers of male individuals of this strain are released in the wild, they will mate with local females, producing offspring that are not viable, which has been shown to make a dent in the population.

For now I can offer the below press releases.

To wind up we can turn back to Steve the homeopath to realise that like Nostradamus he’s had a bash at predicting the future.

He writes:

If there is any truth in this, conventional medicine will have to act quickly and effectively.

  • They will have to denounce this as a ‘conspiracy’ theory.
  • They will have to convince us that it is mosquitoes, and not Big Pharma, who have caused this microcephaly.
  • They will have to move quickly to defend mandatory vaccination, especially the vaccination of pregnant women.
  • They will have to convince us that the TDAP vaccine is different to the DPT vaccine that they have been giving our children for decades.

And perhaps most difficult of all, the pharmaceutical industry, and conventional medical doctors, will have to convince us that this time they are telling the truth about this matter!

In fact if there were a conspiracy under way the amount of work needed to pull it off would simply dwarf Steve’s list. More so all evidence suggests it is impossible to convince such minds of the truth – regardless of evidence.

Regrettably this is just another opportunistic and disturbing effort by predictable conspiracy theorists.

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Plot to cull humanity via vaccines is “real news” claims Meryl Dorey

Mainstream media won’t listen to or report the REAL news until they are forced to do so. THIS is the real news – and they are intentionally suppressing it.

Meryl Dorey: October 9th 2014

I’ve lost count of the number of times Meryl Dorey has provided evidence of not just her belief in conspiracy theories, but of conspiracy theories wild and whacky.

A strident defender of Meryl, and an active critic of the notion Australian Vaccination-sceptics Network lends credence to conspiracy theories is Professor Brian Martin. Please note from here on I’ll refer to AVsN simply as AVN because in material I’ll source and at the time frame I’ll often refer to, the group was AVN Inc.

I guess Brian has a vested interest in setting up his approach to belief in conspiracy theories about as close as you can get to demanding evidence for a negative without actually saying so. That vested interest is his role as PhD supervisor of Judy – vaccines are a crime against humanity – Wilyman. In “preparing” for her PhD Wilyman has played many conspiracy cards from the paranoid to the dishonest. Little wonder Martin has argued for pointlessly high standards of confirmation before considering the AVN or Dorey entertain conspiracy theories.

I got interested in what I initially, and still, think is an unworthy issue for an academic around mid 2011. It struck me as a cheap shot to try to discredit the purpose of SAVN or defend the malignancy of the AVN over something so petty. Brian Martin summed up his viewpoint and level of evidence required on July 27th 2011 as part of an email exchange (emphasis mine):

Thanks for your emails. I think I understand where you’re coming from. You’ve provided what you think is good evidence for AVN members believing in various conspiracies. Let me state again my perspective on this. In “Debating vaccination” I noted that SAVN’s Facebook page had, as part of its basic information, the statement that “They [AVN] believe that vaccines are part of a global conspiracy to implant mind control chips into every man, woman and child and that the ‘illuminati’ plan a mass cull of humans.” I called this an “unsupported claim” because no good evidence for it was provided by SAVN or anyone else. It is, to my mind, a rather extraordinary claim, requiring persuasive evidence to be credible, for example a survey of AVN members. I consider the claim to be an attempt to discredit the AVN based on assertion rather than evidence. The claim was prominent on SAVN’s Facebook page, which is why I gave it such attention in my analysis.

There is a quite a bit of research on conspiracy theories. I believe it is accurate to say that many people believe in conspiracies of one sort or another. The obvious way to find out is to ask them, and that has been done often enough in survey research. To back up SAVN’s Facebook claim, it is not enough to show that some AVN members believe in this or that conspiracy – it’s necessary to show many or most believe in the mind-control-chip conspiracy, as stated.

Okay, so he has set the confirmation bar rather high. In fact out of reach. A survey of AVN members? Impossible for any cooperation. The “good evidence” I “think” I provided was in fact conspiracy references from AVN members, a screenshot of a post by Dorey on a video on mandatory vaccination and microchipping and part of this blurb from Dorey;

Injected Chips? To me, the scariest thing about the health smart card, is that it is only the beginning. The next and most logical step is the use of microchips which will contain all of the same information contained on smart cards but which will be injected into us and read and updated from a distance.

Now, before you start to think that this would never happen and that it’s all a bit too much like science fiction, be aware that as of January 1999, the NSW State Government has mandated that all domestic animals be injected with a microchip which would identify them. Pet owners don’t have a choice – they must do this by law or face fines. And how are these chips being put into the family dog or cat? Why, through their vaccines, of course. These microscopic chips are nothing more than contactless health smart cards. How long will it be before you or your child receive this “gift” from the government? They will sell it to us as a gift too. You will no longer have to worry about robbery because nobody will be carrying cash – this chip will contain your bank details so you can pass your hand over a reader and have the amount of your purchase automatically deducted from your account. Your child will never have to worry about getting lost because they will have an indelible identification mark which would have been inserted at birth. It’s all so exciting, don’t you think?

                            – Source Internet Archive – Wayback Machine

I won’t list all the references I sent to Brian Martin. He was defending Ms. Dorey’s management of, and honesty with free speech at the same time she was falsely claiming ownership of material to execute bogus DMCA take-downs of material on Scribd, actually owned by SAVN members. His erroneous claim that the AVN and Meryl Dorey were quite separate has been shown wrong many times. Reasonablehank touches on DMCA here, along with some seriously messed up AVN conspiracy leaning.

Suffice it to say I decided to take the statement Martin objected to, examine as much material confirming AVN members and Meryl Dorey’s belief in wild conspiracies and see how much of the statement could be supported this way. It turned out not much was needed. The offending comment Brian wanted evidence for:

They [AVN] believe that vaccines are part of a global conspiracy to implant mind control chips into every man, woman and child and that the ‘illuminati’ plan a mass cull of humans.

Could be stripped of one word and remain accurate:

They [AVN] believe that vaccines are part of a global conspiracy to implant mind control chips into every man, woman and child and that the ‘illuminati’ plan a mass cull of humans.

But yes, yes I know. Brian had already told us this. As he finished off in his email to me, it’s necessary to show many or most believe in the mind-control-chip conspiracy, as stated. So. No human culling? Perhaps he was in a hurry or something.

Let us then consult Prof. Martin’s What SAVN doesn’t want you to read, published by Martin last July 14th. I did visit this article in a post and discussed the relevant piece September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories. As you can see I chose not to focus on his reference to conspiracy theory, but instead on his reference to Peter Tierney and myself.

Do note however that Martin only refers to the mind control chip conspiracy and omits his initial concern with human culling. Again. It would seem if we were to apply the same standard of required evidence to Martin he appears to have intentionally drifted away from human culling.

Today Meryl Dorey has again confirmed her belief in this wild conspiracy of human culling through mass vaccination.

Dorey_Abel Danger

Following the link we find at one of the worst of the worst conspiracy madness sites, this delight (scroll down to CDC busted for burying vaccine related autism link);

Nanbot main text

A visit to this site Dorey refers to as “REAL news” reveals ample conspiracy – including the “Hear This Well – Vaccines Do Cause Autism” YouTube rubbish. Nonetheless what Dorey is believing here is clear.

  • Outbreak of the Ebola virus is a hoax and the plan behind it has precipitated removal of anti-vaccine websites.
  • A vaccine designed to kill human cells using a “T4 bacteriophage nanobot” and cause a human cull will be spread worldwide by the “elite” – The Illuminati.
  • This is part of the New World Order for global depopulation “and the establishment of compact slave cities that can be managed with ease”.
  • This is why “they are pushing vaccines so hard”.

♠ Elsewhere on Meryl Dorey’s “real news” page we find material contending that:

  • Jews want to “dumb down” all children via tainted vaccinations causing autism.
  • As owners of YouTube Jews are censoring audio on “many videos” and will likely remove the “Hear This Well – Vaccines Do Cause Autism” channel.
  • Vaccines are a “bioweapon”.
  • “FACT: Vaccine induced autism is an intentional act of war on Western civilization and anyone else who is in competition with a certain tribe (the Jewish race)”.

As an academic who writes extensively on dissent one would expect Professor Brian Martin to address this in depth. Arguing that AVN is not Dorey or a few AVN members are not “the AVN” just does not cut it with this mob. Any AVN members who were not Dorey clones were banned and the content deleted. Martin would argue in the absence of Dorey plainly stating – perhaps via interpretive dance – that she believes every word there is still nothing conclusive. Technically he would be right. But actually he would be wrong. It is clear he has failed to defend his claim that Dorey has no love for this depth of nonsense.

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  1. David Icke’s microchips and the human cull – copied and published by Dorey.
  2. Hank responds to Dorey’s “dossier”.
  3. Visit the corridors of Brian Martin’s mind in the comments

♠ 4 points added after publishing.