The Modern Survival Guide #12
This is the Modern Survival Guide, a guidebook I’m writing for things I think people need to know about living in the modern world. The views expressed here are mine, and mine alone. However, if you quote me I’ll have to go underground, because the international banking cabal is after me and my tinfoil hat just got a hole in it and oh God they can hear my thoughts! Also, in this article I want to talk about conspiracy theories, and busting them.
Hey, did you know that we never really went to the moon? Also the government requires all airlines to spray mind-altering chemicals from planes in flight (thus creating contrails, or should I say, chemtrails), and the whole world is controlled by lizard people from the center of the Earth, which is flat (although the government is of course hiding this information).
Of course, these are all conspiracy theories, and they’re all bullshit. And there are more and more of them out there; the “information age” isn’t discriminatory about the validity of information. As a result, we all have at least one crazy friend or uncle who is happy to believe something crazy and spout off about it at every opportunity.
The trouble with conspiracy theories is threefold:
- Conspiracy theories encourage incorrect views of the world that have real consequences.
- It’s virtually impossible to disprove a conspiracy theory when faced with a true believer.
- There are real conspiracies. This makes it harder to deny specific conspiracies.
Let’s start at the top. The core problem with conspiracy theories is that people believe them, and sometimes take actions based on them. For example, remember Pizzagate? That was the time when a man believed a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was supporting a pedophile ring operating out of a DC pizza restaurant, so he went there and shot up the place looking to rescue kids. Dumb, right? Well, not for him. He thought he was being a hero. But he could have easily killed a lot of people, and it’s basically blind luck that he didn’t. Oh, and there was no pedophile ring, because duh.
Take that a step further. Lots of militia groups have lots of conspiracy theories regarding the federal government, everything from death camp hysteria to allegations that the feds are slowly ceding the country to the UN. As a result, these groups are all heavily armed (to resist when the FEMA death camps start up) and many are considered domestic terror groups by the FBI because they could, at any time, start attacking government employees.
This is a problem. It’s a worse problem when you consider that disproving a conspiracy theory is almost always an impossibility. It’s very hard to logically prove a negative. For example, I assert that there is an invisible, immortal, magic rabbit behind you RIGHT NOW. No matter what you do, he just hops behind you. He can fly, swim, and teleport, because he’s magic, and you can’t see him, because he’s invisible.
Prove me wrong.
Same issue with claims about government conspiracies. If you try to disprove them, a die-hard believer will just say “Oh, you don’t have evidence because They are hushing it up.” And it’s really tough to argue with that, because the thing is, you see, there really are conspiracies. There are all kinds of back-room deals, shady agencies, black-budget projects, and international negotiations going on under a veil of secrecy, all the time. They’re just very, very rarely the ones that conspiracy theorists publicize (mostly because, in real life, they’re usually just about money and are rather boring).
That being said, there are some pretty good ways to counter a conspiracy theory, particularly in areas where you have an audience. In such cases, the point of the discussion would be to convince the audience, not the conspiracy wingnut; they’re usually too far gone. These tactics usually take the form of questions, and may include:
Would the conspiracy affect rich and powerful people? If so, do they appear affected?
The chemtrail conspiracy is a great example here. The idea is that planes spray mind-control chemicals, which create contrails, and that’s why some planes have contrails and others don’t. The people who support this theory either don’t know or care about the combustion properties of jet fuel, or the relative humidity of air at high altitudes, so let’s take a different angle.
Crop-dusting is by nature non-specific. Pouring mind-altering chemicals into the air would hit everyone equally, including rich, powerful people. So, presumably at least some rich, powerful people are in on the conspiracy (because otherwise why bother being rich and powerful?). Do we observe large numbers of celebrities or Wall Street tycoons walking around in gas masks, or refusing to go outside? No? Then we probably aren’t being dusted with mind-altering chemicals.
Does the theory violate the laws of physics, medicine, or basic logic?
Chemtrails are also great for this. Let’s assume chemtrails are real… could a normal passenger jet hold enough mind-altering chemicals to actually dose people 30,000 feet below? The answer is no, and I’ll show you why.
Let’s assume the internal volume of an average passenger jet is that of a Boeing 777. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that the interior volume is a simple cylinder with measurements of 19 ft. x 242 ft. Let’s further assume that the entire interior volume of the plane is filled with the mind-altering chemical, again for the sake of simplicity and to provide a very conservative estimate of its cargo capacity (which would actually be much less, because, you know, weight). We’ll also use 3.14 as a simplified pi. This gives us V = 3.14 x (9.5)squared x 242. Solving for V gives us approximately 68,579 cubic feet of internal volume.
Now let’s calculate the volume that the plane would need to dust. Let’s assume it’s a standard flight from Washington DC to New York City. That means the plane is flying roughly 204 miles. Let’s assume that the chemtrails emitted by the plane fall straight down, without dispersal, and cover an area only equal to the plane’s wingspan (about 200 ft.). Let’s further assume that the chemicals saturate a breathing atmosphere from 0 to 20 feet above the ground, and that all points in that range have an equal distribution of the chemical. We’re making these assumptions to give the most conservative, concentrated estimate possible for the dispersal of the chemical (which is utterly unrealistic, because wind is a thing). So now we have a volume of air that is 200 ft. x 20 ft. x 1,077,120 ft. That gives us a space of 4,308,480,000 cubic feet that the plane needs to dust during the flight.
If we assume that the chemicals are equally dispersed into this volume of space, we arrive at the conclusion that the chemical would comprise 0.00001% of the air in that corridor. That’s roughly one part in 10 million. Unless our chemical is obeying the rules of homeopathic medicine, it has been diluted to the point that it will be ineffective even in this very sympathetic spatial measurement, never mind what would really happen with wind dispersal and farther travel distances. There’s a reason why crop dusters fly low, slow, short runs.
Lots of theories have simple holes like this in them, and all it takes is a basic understanding of math and a little calculation to find them.
Does the theory make fiscal sense?
This is one that often gets overlooked in discussions of conspiracy theories. For reference, let’s consider the theory that the US faked the Apollo moon landings, considered from the fiscal angle.
During the late 60s and early 70s, the US spent almost 4% of the federal budget on the moon program. These funds went mostly to build new technologies to enable the Saturn V rocket and the Lunar exploration spacecraft, and to train and equip the astronauts.
Now here’s the thing — NASA actually built the rockets and trained the astronauts, and built all of the associated infrastructure. It’s also a demonstrable fact that the Saturn V rockets launched — there was no CGI back then, and the launches were attended by tens of thousands of onlookers. And any rocket buff will tell you that most of the cost of space exploration consists of getting out of Earth’s gravity well.
So — if we agree that the rockets worked and launched, the equipment worked, and the astronauts were trained to do something… why spend more money to fake anything? At that point, it makes more fiscal sense to just go to the Moon.
“Follow the money” is great rule for most investigations, and money applies equally to conspiracy theories. This is actually a great tie in to the next point…
If the theory is about something being faked, would it be more effort to perpetrate a conspiracy than it would to actually do the thing?
Again, with the Apollo program — NASA actually built all the stuff. None of the technology is all that complicated; vacuum sealing was certainly available in 1960, the rockets worked, and once you’re in space you’re just subject to the rules of orbital calculus and more-or-less-Newtonian physics, so navigation is mostly about orientation, thrust, and timing.
Why, after doing all that, would NASA bother to fake anything?
Safety? Remember, three astronauts died during training for the Apollo program; if you’re willing to kill astronauts on the ground, killing them in space isn’t that much of a stretch.
Cost? Remember, the Apollo program was hugely expensive anyway. Saving money wasn’t an issue during that phase of the Cold War.
Effort? All the stuff was already built! Buildings were constructed, rockets were manufactured, hundreds of thousands of people were employed. Logistics was apparently not a limiting factor.
Technology? 1960s tech was good enough for ICBMs, and rockets don’t require much more math than that to get to the Moon and back. And plotting computers for artillery had been around since WWII; space navigation is complex, but it’s not that much more complex to just get to the Moon and back. The tech was fine.
So… why bother to set up hugely expensive sound stages, special effects, and buy all the secrecy that required, when you could manifestly just blast off?
A lot of theories have holes like this. If it requires enormous amounts of effort to achieve a successful fake, when you can actually do something for real, it doesn’t make sense to have a conspiracy.
If the conspiracy is about a person, do they have rich, powerful enemies? If so, have their enemies produced any evidence?
Let’s rewind back to when Hillary Clinton was a force in national politics. Everyone remember the Benghazi conspiracy theory? The one where Hillary was supposed to have deliberately ignored the security of an American embassy, resulting in the deaths of embassy personnel and an ambassador? Remember how that ended? If not, allow me to refresh your memory: her political opponents launched multiple congressional investigations, none of which found anything.
Think about it… once Hillary ran for president, all bets were off, the gloves came off, and the fight got nasty. That would have been the point to bring out any Benghazi proof that was out there, and nothing happened. This is the kind of event that should bust many a conspiracy theory: if well funded, well positioned, powerful groups are unable to capitalize on a potential conspiracy, there isn’t one.
If the conspiracy is about a group, is the group too large to permit real secrecy?
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Three may keep a secret… if two are dead.” He was alluding to the demonstrable fact that, the more people know a secret, the less likely it is to remain secret. This is borne out in the way governments handle high-level security clearances — almost no one knows everything. Most CIA officers, for example, only know about their own specialty areas, and some only know pieces of their areas.
This is called “compartmentalization,” and it is a key element of any serious security plan. It comes with some limitations — one is that you must limit the number of people who know about something to a number of less than a few hundred, if you want it to remain under wraps. People talk; it’s part of what makes us people. If the secret in question is morally, ethically, or religiously objectionable, that number drops even further; most people don’t want to be evil.
Therefore the idea that there’s a worldwide conspiracy to hide that we’re being ruled by lizard people is kind of silly. If you’re asking me to believe that thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are all keeping a secret that wacky, I’m just not going to believe it. And no one else should either.
If the conspiracy concerns a cover-up, is there any real reason for a cover-up? Who would gain?
Let’s talk about the flat Earth idea. You can’t throw a rock in certain parts of the internet without hitting another celebrity who thinks the Earth is flat. But… who would actually gain from perpetuating the idea of a round Earth, if the Earth wasn’t round?
For things like this, follow the money. If there’s no good monetary reason to cover something up, follow the embarrassment. If it’s not embarrassing, follow the national security. But if there’s no money, no embarrassment, and no national security reason to cover something up, it’s probably not a cover-up.
Needless to say, if the Earth wasn’t round, no one would care. We’d just have some different looking maps and different pictures from the international space station. Of course, if the Earth wasn’t round gravity wouldn’t work quite the way we think it does, so I suppose the universe would care, but there’s no good reason for a human agency to cover up something like this.
If the conspiracy concerns a secretive group, is there any reason for the group to be secret?
Let’s go back to the lizardmen for a moment. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that lizard people control the world. Why are they hiding?
Seriously, what’s the point? Are they afraid we’ll rise up and depose them? They, who supposedly control all the money, and have all the power? How would we do it, then? And why would we bother? Humans have a long history of being dominated by non-human creatures (I’m thinking religion here, folks) and an equally long history of being dominated by nasty people with lots of money and power. Revolutions are rare.
Plus, it looks like the lizard people are doing a pretty good job. Worldwide, things are pretty peaceful. The economy is doing well. We’re conquering a lot of diseases, living standards are higher than ever, and PlayStation 4 exists. Good job, lizard people. Keep up the good work. Seriously, at this point most of the people on Earth would probably be fine with lizard rulers. At least then we could justifiably say that all politicians really are cold and reptilian.
Basically, if you hear about a secretive group that runs everything, it’s always a good idea to ask why they’re bothering to stay secret, if they have all this power. Power generally means you can do what you want, not that you have to hide in the shadows. Unless there’s an obvious threat, secrecy is usually too much bother for anyone who can just be part of the system.
None of these techniques are ever going to convince a die-hard conspiracy nut. They’re having too much fun, and are too invested in their theory, for you to pull them out of it with a well-placed argument. Debating conspiracy nuts is an exercise more focused on the audience — establishing enough reasonable doubt that a reasonable person gets the picture.
Busting conspiracy theories is about preventing the spread of dangerous, stupid, or ignorant ideas, not about excising them. It’s about building the mental defenses of people in general, not altering the worldview of one lone nut who wants to believe in the invisible rabbit. And it’s about self-defense; you don’t want to be the Pizzagate guy because you couldn’t tell the difference between real news and hogwash. That’s the best that you can do, in the information age.