Saturday, May 12, 2018


Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to answer questions about my upcoming novel, my writing process, and how my academic work informed what will be my first published work of fiction. This link to the Ask Me Anything web page has all the answers to the questions I had a chance to reply to. I was able to answer some excellent questions about the culture of conspiracy theories and their dangers and the way the issue provides a major theme for my new book.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Talking About Conspiracy Theories and Education in Los Angeles

In two weeks I'll get the opportunity to visit my favorite city in the world and give a talk about teaching college students to become more critical consumers of information at the University of Riverside Spring Global Education Conference. I will be discussing exercises I use in my Conspiracy Films class to teach students how to deconstruct and debunk the most absurd of conspiracy theories circulating on the Internet and pop culture. Yes, conspiracy films can be fun, but we need to know how to distinguish between fantasy and reality, don't we? The need for a more media literate generation of young people has never been more important than today.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

My first novel to be released on July 16

While this is something that has been in the works for a while, I now wanted to announce that my first novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED, will be released this July 16 by World Castle Publishing. It will be available in both print and electronic formats from all booksellers.

This is a project that I am particularly excited by because World Castle Publishing gave me the opportunity to combine several of my main interests from fictional entertainment to concerns I have written about as an academic and media commentator. A science fiction/suspense hybrid, the story focuses on an unexplainable event that shocks the world and the chaotic ripple effects it sends through societies everywhere. Much of the chaos is caused by the fear-mongering of unscrupulous conspiracy theorists.

So keep an eye open for more updates on the book, a cover-reveal coming soon, excerpts, and more cool things.

But as the jacket copy will read:


In Mount Shasta City, California. In San Francisco. In New Jersey. In San Diego. Then in Scotland, in Italy, and Cairo. In dozens of locations around the world, 20-ton granite globes suddenly appear. They usually turn up overnight, sometimes in remote locations and other times in the middle of cities in places no one could have put them without detection. For the first time, the world is witnessing a truly unexplainable phenomenon.


As Rick Ballantine and Cornelia Oxenburg, cast members of the low-rent supernatural reality show "Confirmation: Investigations of the Unexplained," quickly realize, the globes' greatest effect is the way they make people speculate about their origins and purpose. Some think the globes are placed by aliens. Others think it's all a hoax. Many more fear sinister government conspiracies behind it all. But each of these points of view believes they're absolutely right...and others who disagree are dead wrong...and dangerous...and must be dealt with by any means necessary! Before the true, incredible origins of the globes is finally revealed, the "Confirmation" cast comes to see the extremes people are capable of when their beliefs are challenged and threatened...even in their own group.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to Deal With a Professional Scumbag

If anyone was still doubting that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is one of the most vile human beings around today, his rantings about "false flag" attacks and "crisis actors" being behind mass killings like the Colorado theater shooting, the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Parkland shootings, and the Boston Marathon bombing should erase all doubts in any sensible mind. And they should erase all doubts in any one with any tiny sliver of human decency.

Now notice that I didn't write anything along the lines about his rantings being "demented" or "delusional" or "insane." Alex Jones is among the lowest dregs of humanity exactly because he is completely sane and knows what he is doing. His bovine manure about these crisis actor conspiracy theories, accusing grieving families of lying about the loss of their loved ones, are carefully calculated to rile up a very specific sector of society - the disaffected, the ignorant, those with significantly diminished intellectual capacities, the fantasy prone, the losers of life who need to look for scapegoats to blame their lot in life on. People like this are Jones' bread and butter and he knows exactly what he needs to do to keep them listening to, watching, and reading his bilge. These people need to have their siege-mentality paranoia fed and Jones tells them exactly what they want to hear. They want to hear about the Illuminati and the New World Order and the Bilderbergers and the International Bankers coming after them to enslave them and throw them into FEMA camps in Area 51 and under Denver International Airport. Jones provides these losers with the exact product they are looking to consume.

Except these losers have been subjecting the grieving families and survivors of these mass killings to vicious harassment and threats. And Jones knows this. He has known this for years and kept stoking the rage of these conspiracist morons with no regard to the viciousness they are capable of.

Except now the victims are fighting back. Jones has been hit with defamation suits by the people he has been tormenting. As this excellent op-ed piece explains, ignoring conspiracy theorists no longer works because it mere emboldens them. Since Jones and his sleazy ilk love words like "war" and "fight" and battle, it's time they were given the war they have been asking for.

This article will definitely be a tool I will be using in my own classes on conspiracy theories to do my own small part through academia to combat this sort of reprehensible conspiracy sewage spill that has been polluting American culture.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What If Agent Scully is Really the Good Guy?

So I just finished binge-watching season 11 of The X-Files and reflected on my changing feelings about this show and its characters. To be sure, I was a devoted fan during its original run, watched the two theatrical films - own both of them on DVD - and I was looking forward to its season 10 revival in 2016. I was curious, though, if the revival could be pulled off effectively given how every sensible person today should be leery of anyone calling himself a conspiracy theorist. Can conspiracy-believing Agent Mulder still be seen as admirable in an age where conspiracists are propagating offensive nonsense like "crisis actor"" theories and their most visible public representative is a bloviating charlatan like Alex Jones?

It was interesting to see that at the start of the season 10, the show was kind of aware of this. The Internet conspiracy theorist character (Joel McHale) appeared to be the sort of unhinged nut a writer would create if they tried to pay homage to Alex Jones. One couldn't help but completely side with Scully in the scenes where the McHale character unspooled his claims of far-reaching, all-powerful cabals and their diabolical plots. The show could have taken a fascinating opportunity to examine the dark side of the conspiracy culture and conspiracy entertainment itself. It could have made a more pointed commentary about when we cross the line between healthy skepticism of authority and a delusional world of post-fact fantasies so much of American culture is sinking into.

As of this writing, there is still no word from Fox about whether the show will be renewed for a 12th season. The ratings for Season 11, after all, have been declining. Could the reason for this be that viewers, too, are coming to realize that conspiracy theorists are no longer the good guys?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Conspiracy Theorists

I am quoted in this article about a new study into the psychology of conspiracy beliefs. It's fascinating to read that insecurities kindled in people from the time they are infants will shape their predisposition to believe in fantastic, irrational, and unrealistic claims of massive conspiracy theories later in life. These findings are not surprising, though, as a growing body of research has been affirming that people who tend to be the biggest fans of the most outlandish conspiracy theories are also those who feel the most powerless, alienated, and insecure. "Individuals with anxious attachment are preoccupied with their security, tend to hold a negative view of outgroups, are more sensitive to threats, and tend to exaggerate the seriousness of such threats," the study says.

Raising well-adjusted children who are given adequate feelings of security and control in their lives might be a good start to help keep us from raising another generation of kids who will believe that the Earth if flat, that LBJ, J. Edgar Hoover, the Dallas police, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, aliens, oil billionaires, Elvis Presley, Oliver North using a time machine, Frank Sinatra, and John Wayne shooting from the grassy knoll killed JFK.

Moreover, as I argue in the article, the educational system needs to do its part in teaching logic, critical thinking skills, and media literacy skills to help young people deconstruct the messages of paranoia hucksters like Alex Jones and the flat Earthers, to understand all of the underhanded and unethical communication tactics conspiracy theorists use to convince the gullible and unwary of everything from "crisis actor" conspiracy theories to the fantasies of the anti-vaccination crowd.

I incorporate such exercises in the class I teach about conspiracy films and American culture at Saint Peter's University. In their semester projects, students need to manufacture their own conspiracy, creating one using tactics such as the reverse scientific process to cherry-pick facts that support preconceived notions, inaccurately assigning causality between unrelated variables, and launching all manner of character assassinations against one's critics. Once students can see how easy it is to create vast conspiracies where none exist, they should hopefully be able to recognize all the flat Earth theories, Moon landing hoax theories, and 9/11 Truther claims for the simple parlor tricks they are.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Anyone Still Think Conspiracy Theorists Are Heroes?

So this was certain to happen within hours, if not minutes of a tragedy like the Parkland, Florida mass shooting. The conspiracy theorists peddling their "false flag" scenarios are flooding the internet with claims about the shooting being a hoax and the victims and survivors being crisis actors. Some kind of a sinister "They" are behind the shooting to enact gun-control laws and take away our freedoms and advance the agenda of the Illuminati and the "globalists" and the "international bankers" and so on and so forth.

I'm fascinated by just who exactly "they" are supposed to be right at this moment. In the aftermath of the Colorado theater shooting and the Sandy Hook massacre, "they" were the liberal minions of Barack Obama, with Obama supposedly masterminding and pulling the strings behind the killings to advance his gun control agenda. But how about now? With Donald Trump in the White House and Republicans holding the legislative power at the moment, can this conservative power in Washington also be a part of this shadowy, malevolent "them?"

Oh, wait a minute, "they" control everyone, right? Conservative, liberal, libertarian, everyone. They pull the strings from the Bohemian Grove and Denver International Airport and Area 51 and the meetings of the Bilderberg Group. OK, got that. Sure! Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones have exposed all of that. Gotcha!

Actually, making sense of these sorts of demented fantasies is similar to sitting down and trying to discuss logic with the inmates of a lunatic asylum. But at least the ever more critical coverage of the conspiracy subculture by the media is becoming somewhat heartening, like in this piece on CNN. No longer do these people seem to be ignored as goofy, colorful, and ultimately harmless group of cranks who exist on the fringes and harm no one. Their maliciousness and utterly shameless sleaze is finally being called out for what it is.