Saturday, 28 October 2017
Maybe I'm just another upset progressive on the internet who is whinging and whining because things aren't going the way I want them to. After all, what kind of experience does the “Absurd Word Nerd” have with the real world? He is just a writer, he doesn't even leave the house that often. How do we know that he's not just making all this up, like all those other stories he's written?
Well, I am here today to tell you that I have, in fact, experienced my fair share of ignorance. For two months, I was the resident skeptic in a group of conspiracy theorists.
It wasn't an official title, mind you, that's just what I called myself. There was an online group that appeared to believe in every single conspiracy theory from Flat-Earth; Ancient Aliens; the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon; the Evil, Gay agenda; the Jewish cabal; Creationism; Chemtrails & even Magic.
I didn't seek out this group, one day the main administrators added me. They merely said “do you like debate?” I said “yes”, and lo and behold, I was added to a group of the most ignorant people I've ever interacted with. Despite disagreeing with most of what they said, I had a great many discussions with them.
I only was there for two months. Not because I left, mind you. I was banned. I was booted from the group three times in total. But the first time I was re-added, because of a conflict in one of the administrator’s beliefs. The last time, before I said anything, I was re-banned because the administrator once again, fell victim to his gullibility.
I'm not bothered to have been removed, since dealing with these people wasn't exactly "fun". Sometimes, I was disgusted at how prejudiced and bigoted they were, and although I was always kind and courteous, and gave people the benefit of the doubt and did my best not to be offensive, they showed no such restraint.
It is because of this group that, during this Countdown, I keep stating and restating that these people are not unintelligent. They are quite smart in several ways, but they SEEM stupid because some of the simple things we take for granted, they doubt or misunderstand horrendously. Don't get me wrong, their beliefs are cruel and shameful and I am not defending their bigotry, and my attempts to speak with them as a peer, and expressing my opinion, I was called a "Jew" a "fag" a "troll" a "moron" and a "paid agent of lies" - but, I am merely saying that it is foolish and self-delusory to call them "unintelligent".
I'm going to tell you a few of my experiences from this time. I don't have any transcripts, because the group was often reported for hatespeech, or "infiltrated" by what the group considered to be “neo-liberal trolls” and so they had to constantly delete the group and recreate it, meaning I have to repeat all of this from memory, but I could never forget some of these exchanges.
They changed their group code very often, it was #conspirative at one point, I think now it may be #conspirac, but (at least during the the time that I was a part of it, the group was titled “Anti-System”.
One of the first conversations I had in this group was about recreational drugs. Some of the members believed that drugs could broaden your senses, and allow for greater spiritual awareness. When I stated that I did not believe in the soul, one member with a username constructed of random letter from the Cyrillic and Greek alphabets insisted that I needed to try LSD, and then I would believe.
All I did in response was explain how drugs, whilst they could be enjoyable, did not promote so much as diminish our senses. I also spoke about the chemistry of LSD, as it often produces synesthesia by diminishing the connections in our brain, forcing the brain to reroute these connections, and as a result causing unusual sensory information. I explained that this was a dysfunction of the senses, not an expansion. For saying this, I was called close-minded.
I tried to explain that I was open to being convinced, that I could consider these concepts and was trying to understand, but the quality of their proof was insufficient, as it was either ill-informed, or not based on anything testable.
For this, I was told that I was a victim of system propaganda.
This is something that you will see often, if you ever encounter a conspiracy theorist. If you do not or cannot believe what they believe, then you are the one that is brainwashed - this is an "Argument from Incredulity".
In another conversation, someone was explaining how the world is flat, and gravity made no sense because “the horizon is a flat line”. I explained that the horizon rolls back further than our vision, and that if the world were flat, because of the density of air, then the horizon would not look flat but “blurry”. When you see mountains in the distance, they look blue and hazy, because they are further than the horizon can be at sea level. But, if the horizon was “infinite”, or as far as the radius of the world, then the horizon, where the land meets the sky, would be hidden behind the blur of air particles.
For this, I was called stupid and uneducated. I tried to explain the science, but once I had said that the "flat" horizon was evidence that the horizon was "not flat", they had decided that I was a moron, and unable to be reasoned with.
This is something else I faced often. If a conspiracy theorist doesn't understand what you're saying, they assume it's because you are wrong and too stupid to understand their much simpler explanation - this is the "Dunning-Kruger Effect".
I can't actually pinpoint a single instance of this, because it happened quite a lot, but on a few different occasions, I brought up the fact that I was an atheist. This was not something I sought out to do, but sometimes, when people were arguing for their particular conspiracy theory, they would explain that Allah (or the Qu'ran) was proof of their claim - more often than not, the theists in this group were Muslim, but I don't know if that's representative of the broader conspiracy theorist community [please, don't presume that it does] - and so, God's existence proves their theory. Now, I was not prepared to explain to these people that their does not exist, because I was there to discuss their theories, not dismiss their theology. But, if they pressed the issue, I would explain (as kindly as I could) why their god did not exist. Whenever I did this, or sometimes when someone just went on a "fuck those atheists" rant, I was told that I just "hated god", that I "just wanted to sin" & that I was a "satanist".
In my experience, the reason why conspiracy theorists are so antagonistic towards disagreement, is because they don't actually know what others think, so they will tell you what they think you believe - this is called a "Straw man Fallacy".
There was one occasion that I will never forget, because at the time I was struck speechless at how unknowledgeable the person I spoke with was. On this occasion, I must reiterate, I had spoken to this person before, and they were educated in several other respects. But, on this occasion, they were severely uneducated. This person told me that the Earth was flat, because "of course it is". I told them that, in fact, the Earth is round. They pre-empted my claim by saying that I probably believed in gravity, and so I was being foolish because "gravity doesn't exist".
Confused, I asked this person what they thought made things fall down. I was simply told "weight", because "heavy things fall down". It took me a long, long time even to understand that he was, indeed, claiming that "weight" (i.e. the force that gravity exerts upon mass) not only made things fall down, but was somehow proof that gravity is a debunked theory.
I eventually asked them why the moon doesn't fall down, and I was told that the moon was not very heavy.
This, I'm afraid, is something that is often encountered when it comes to conspiracy theorists. They may be so uncritical of their thought that they can claim to believe something that is fundamentally wrong - or, as some might say "Not even wrong".
Now one final, and I fear, most important, little anecdote. A lot of the beliefs of this group were incredibly bigoted and prejudiced. They were vehemently anti-Semitic, blaming Jews for most of the world's problems, from ISIS, media and politics to the economy, and claiming that anyone who was part of the problem was most likely a secret Jew. But, worse (from my perspective) was that transgendered people were seen as sick, disgusting perverts and homosexuals were just considered to be sex-crazed paedophiles.
When I explained that this was wrong, and that homosexuality was basically just 'love' by a different name - the first time I said this, I was banned from the group.
I was eventually brought back in, but later when I explained that homosexuality was not paedophilia, I was presented with photos from LGBT Mardi Gras and Pride Parades, and bilous explanations that it was degenerate, disgusting filth.
Now, I've never been to a Gay Pride Parade, mostly because I'm not gay, I'm not really into self-declared "pride" and I'm not a fan of parades; but, they seem like a lot of fun for those that go. However, I was presented with pictures of men wearing little but jocks and peacock feathers, whom were called "ugly, disrespectful pigs" and drag queens and transgender women called "degenerate freaks". Worst, in my eyes, was the description of two men and a boy which - after some googling, I managed to find the picture - showed them kissing, and it was called "pedo scum".
Now, maybe I am just a brainwashed fool, mislead by the evil Jewish media, but to me that picture looks like two married men adopted a son, and on the day out one of his dads lifted him on his shoulders, and amidst an atmosphere of fun and community, the boy gave his dad a kiss. It's stuff like that which made it really exhausting to talk to conspiracy theorists.
But this is something I saw time and time again. Something innocent, natural, normal or easily understood by most, to them it was twisted and warped into something disgusting and despicable - this bias is just an "Appeal to Emotion".
So you see, I have dealt with ignorance, directly. For two whole months, I spent several thousand words a week dedicated to conversations with people that thought I was a "paid disinformationist", a "troll", a "Jewish agent" and a "devil"; and even the ones that didn't thought I was a moron, a brain-washed victim of the 'System' or a secret homosexual. All because I enjoyed debate, and I believe in equality.
I was capable of getting through to some people on some subjects, but because I was one person and they were almost fifty, my voice was often drowned out by those who wanted to reinforce their beliefs in their fellow conspiracy theorists. One man, alone, is not enough to convince forty-five strangers on the internet, some with a poor grasp of English (some spoke English as a Second Language, which made informed, scientific debate nearly impossible) that maybe "science" is more accurate than "common sense".
You can see why, after two months, I was actually gladdened to finally be banned at the same time as the group made yet another membership purge, and changed its name. I think they call themselves "The Elite" now, but I am not interested in joining. After all, I never "joined" in the first place, I only ever came along for the ride. But, as a final farewell, I sent the group administrator a final message, explaining (in genuinely heartfelt, but nonetheless curt terms) why his views of "Freedom of Speech" were contradictory with his desire to silence "Jewish and homosexual propaganda", and that he should practice some introspection, and ended with a list of every adjective that described his bigoted views, and ended with a 'gif' of an Obama mic' drop. I did not swear, but I admit that I was pretty annoyed, and it came across in my words.
See, I was ultimately sick of it. When it comes to fiction, conspiracy theories can be fun; but in the real world, it's just boring, time-consuming and frustrating.
I have a great deal of patience with those who disagree with me, and I can still look back and see these people as nothing more than some people that have made simple mistakes, leading to some potentially dangerous ideas, but I do not recommend this to anyone with a short temper or little patience.
But do you want to know what I consider to be the silliest part of the conspiracy theory crowd? Well, I have a theory of my own. Not a conspiracy theory, just a hypothesis about a correlation between them. I call it the “Lens Cap” theory.
I believe that the cause behind most Conspiracy Theories is that conspiracy theorists don't understand how cameras work. Although this is somewhat amusing, it is not a joke, I'm serious. Think about it . . .
Bigfoot? Well, some people confuse photographs of darkly contrasted shapes and poorly focused creatures for a humanoid monster, they don't understand that it's just an illusion in the photo.
Ghosts? People don't understand how night vision cameras pick up light, and confuse dust for “spectral orbs”, or they confuse low-quality images for “ghost photography”.
Flying saucers? Well, people don't understand how poor photography is when taking photos of the sky, due to how far away most airborne objects are, or how extreme the contrast is at night, so confuse distant objects, or nearby insects, for alien craft.
Faked Moon Landing? Some people claim that the footage was faked on a soundstage,correlating test footage with a dress rehearsal or not understanding the particulars of “high speed” footage, and why it cannot explain moon landing footage.
Reptilian overlords? People don't understand that when a person on television blinks, even high-quality footage creates compression artifacts which make people's eyes look yellow during the freeze frame.
Flat Earth? Well, flat-earthers claim that “round earth” evidence (photos and footage of spheroidal planets, like Earth) are “faked” for various reasons from lighting issues to claims of CGI rendering - all explained by a misunderstanding of space photography.
September 11? Some people watch and rewatch WTC attack footage, looking for supposed anomalies, or look at photos of the related Pentagon crash, and report finding supposedly “anomalous” visual features, claimed to be inconsistent with a plane crash.
Chemtrails? Well, most of these claims are based around how some photographs of aeroplanes leaving contrails supposedly show “unidentifiable planes”, due to digital zoom and high contrast obscuring the plane. Or, they correlate unrelated photos of unpopulated cargo planes.
Anti-Vaxxers? Yes, even beliefs which linked the MMR vaccine to autism were based on faulty endoscopy readings (i.e. readings from the camera you stick down someone’s throat), and misinformation presented during this researcher's televised press conference.
This is just a theory, and we must remember that correlation is not causation - the fact of the matter is that images and short videos are much more easily transmissible viral memes, which could easily explain their correlation with popular conspiracy theories. And keep in mind that cameras have a complicated artistry behind them that many don't understand and they are one of the most sophisticated and also most easily accessible investigative tools available to the public. It's therefore not a surprise that the peculiarities of their function are often overlooked.
If you're interested in learning more about the inconsistencies in conspiracy theorist claims, then I highly recommend CoolHardLogic’s World of Batshit playlist on YouTube; he's considerably less forgiving than I am, often insulting and laughing at conspiracy theorists, but the content can be most enlightening, and this is presented as entertainment, as well as providing more evidence for my particular Lens Cap theory.
In conclusion, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and i want to make it perfectly clear - on the record - that I do consider my theory just a bit of fun. If anyone takes my Lens Cap theory as gospel, or claims that it is some kind of conspiracy by camera manufacturers to mislead the gullible, I will be incredibly disappointed in you . . .