Wednesday, October 21, 2020

QAnon will probably be around for a while...Unfortunately

Check out this recent article I'm quoted in about the future of the QAnon movement. What is the future of this fringe, bizarre, far-right conspiracy movement come the next presidential election? I discuss what might happen to the movement in either the event of Donald Trump's victory or defeat. In either case, I, and several other commentators, don't see QAnon going anywhere any time soon. Perhaps the movement might transform into something new at some point, but it is sure to have more life and more fight left in it.

That's quite unfortunate because they make a case for the fear that our culture might be teetering on the precipice of a new dark age of ignorance. When you take these people together with the 9/11 Truth movement, the anti-vaxxers, the "crisis actor" theorists and the rest of a conspiracy culture, a rational person might start to panic and think humanity has taken leave of its senses.

From a political angle, I think that about 99% percent of those who are center-right, from conservatives to libertarians, look at the QAnon movement as an embarrassment. Trump's tacit endorsement of QAnon is especially galling to these people. Many have lamented the long passing of an age when the right was the home of William F. Buckley's high-toned intellectualism, and they're dreading the coming of a new age when conservatism's voice is being hijacked by loud, irrational, fantasy-prone rabble. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Successful Conference: "From 9/11 to COVID 19"


What a week on this end! In fact, with all the excitement, I didn't get the chance to update this blog about our "From 9/11 to COVID-19" conference. Very successful, especially with the kind of engagement the event had with its audience.

The presentation by Noah Rauch from the 9/11 Memorial Museum was an elegant outline of why the real cause of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers - the crashing of two highjacked airliners into the buildings by Al Qaeda terrorists and the structural damage done to the buildings - just as concluded by National Institute of Standards and Technology and the 9/11 Commission, is the one and only real conclusion any rational individual can reach. Simply, as Rauch presented, no conspiracies, no controlled demolition, no mini nuclear bombs, no space-based death rays built from alien technology the Illuminati is hiding at Area 51. Period.

John Montone from 1010 WINS news radio also offered very moving recollections of being on the scene 2001, covering the attacks and their aftermath. As he also put it so perfectly about our absurd new world of 9/11 "Truthers," Flat Earth, and QAnon conspiracists, you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

"Facts," are what you can examine, test, and replicate under the strict scrutiny of the scientific method. "Facts" are not the suppositions and guesswork conspiracy theorists trade in. Facts are not your personal preferences and wishes you just choose to believe in because they make you feel good or support your preconceived biases.

But we were especially heartened by the feedback from our students and the listeners to the program. The support was fantastic and it's good to see that so many young people are willing and able to live in a world of rationality and reject the paranoid, divisive fantasies of the conspiracy culture.

Check out this link to an article about the event in the Hudson County View.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

My New Novel in 2021: FATAL POSE

Well, since I don't like to stop while I'm ahead, in the midst of all the preparations for the "From 9/11 to Covid-19" conference, I'd still like to make a new book announcement. My publisher, World Castle Publishing, will be releasing my third novel, FATAL POSE, in 2021. I'm excited to have gotten the chance to work in a new genre, too: the mystery. So here's a sneak peak at the plot:

Imagine "Pumping Iron meets Columbo." In Venice, California, you'll find the hottest beaches, the hottest gyms, and the hottest bodies. This is where ex-bodybuilder turned private investigator, Gunnar Marino, runs his business. But when a murder and blackmail scheme reaches to the top of the high-powered World BodyBuilding Federation, Marino finds himself in a battle of wits with a clever adversary that could end in mayhem no one might be able to contain.


But while you wait for FATAL POSE, I hope you'll give my newest book, THE CEDAR VALLEY COVENANT, a read!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Why We Need Our Conference...

As I had written yesterday - in the post just beneath this one - I will be taking part in a panel for a special conference at Saint Peter's University on October 13, discussing the unhinged madness conspiracy beliefs have managed to seduce so many Americans into and the depths of complete derangement this is throwing our culture into.

To see just how important it is to hold this discussion, take a look at this article in the New York Times about the Trump COVID hoax conspiracies that sprang up over the past week. And this time the conspiracy theories are not coming from the QAnon, right-wing crowd. This time the left is spinning its own creative fantasies about Donald Trump faking his illness for a variety of nefarious ends.

As the piece so correctly points out, the loss of a sense of consensus reality is not confined to any position on the political spectrum. It is a malady infecting the very culture. Plus, as the piece so ominously, and I believe correctly, points out, this malady is sure to stay with us for a long time. Even long past the November elections.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

From 9/11 to Covid 19: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News, and the Assault on Truth

Two decades of a conspiracy culture spiraling out of control.

On October 13, my school, Saint Peter's University, will be hosting the virtual conference "FROM 9/11 TO COVID 19: CONSPIRACY THEORIES, FAKE NEWS, AND THE ASSAULT ON TRUTH." I will present on a panel that also includes Noah Rauch, Senior Vice President for Education and Public Programs at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and John Montone, reporter for New York's 1010 WINS news radio.

Among the topics we will discuss will be an effort to chart how conspiratorial thinking has mutated from people seeking to reexamine the details of major events to a world where our culture is ready to reject all consensus reality.

As I have written before, these are urgent questions to address because the modern conspiracism is becoming a threat to Americans' health and safety. Conspiracism is a movement we have seen ignoring science in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a movement that has become the haven for the dangerous and unstable fabrications of the QAnon movement, and the bullies and thugs of the crisis-actor movement that harasses the survivors of mass shootings. The anti-vaccination movement has deceived people into endangering the lives of their families and communities through the use of the rhetoric of the conspiracy theory. 

Simply, if there is no consensus reality, then only chaos, anarchy, and a corrosive moral relativism will reign.

With this conference, we are hoping to set an example, to encourage education to be a bulwark against the chaos and anarchy threatening to engulf this culture every day.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

A Sneak Peak Inside "The Cedar Valley Covenant"

 With "The Cedar Valley Covenant" now available at all your favorite book sellers, take a quick sneak peak at the first two sample chapters! 


            The Handlers had relented. At last they gave in and they would let the Predator have her. He couldn’t function if he couldn’t have her. He couldn’t carry out his mission if he wasn’t allowed to dream about her. She had taken over his fantasies. She had come to possess him, to take over and control his thoughts as much as he needed to take over the thoughts of his targets tonight.

            But the Predator’s Handlers had given in. They, too, after all, were in his head. They understood the condition he was in. They understood his need.

            If the Handlers wanted the Predator to kill the two men sitting across the restaurant, they had to let him take the payment he demanded.


            Her name rang through the chambers of the Predator’s mind. He was picking up flashes of her, images of her, the closer he got to his targets.

            He needed Jessica.

            It they wanted the Predator to go through with it, they had to let him take Jessica.

            Sure, the Predator realized, they could just as well kill him and find someone else to carry out the hit, but that would take too long. They needed the Predator for his very special qualities. They needed him for his very special modus operandi. They couldn’t let all of his previous work go to waste. It would take too long to set up another assassin to take his place.

            For now, the Predator had the upper hand. The Handlers needed those two men—sitting there and drinking, discussing science and philosophy, teaching methods, the price of South Illinois real estate—dead as quickly as possible. They especially needed Dr. Nelson Danziger dead. His companion, Dr. Brock Randall, was merely a secondary target. The Handlers hadn’t cared about Randall originally. Or, rather, they didn’t care about him enough to want him dead just now. But the Predator had the power to force Randall’s execution. If the Handlers wanted Danziger eliminated, they had to let him go after Randall too.

            Brock Randall had to die because of what the Predator had discovered in his mind. When he read Randall’s thoughts, the Predator found Jessica. From the moment he found her, everything changed.

            Jessica. Brock Randall’s beautiful daughter. Randall and his estranged daughter had started talking to each other again. The Predator knew because he scanned Randall’s mind every day. He could see Randall looking at Jessica’s pictures when he was on the phone with her. The Predator saw her exquisite photo sitting on the desk in Randall’s office. When the Predator shared Brock Randall’s vision, when he intruded into his thoughts, he saw Jessica, he heard Jessica, he saw her photos all over Randall’s house. 

            But Jessica was so far away. The Predator had to get to her. He needed to bring her to Cedar Valley right now. She had become his addiction, his madness. He knew that Randall’s sudden tragic death would bring Jessica to town.

            The Handlers wanted Danziger dead and the Predator was going to kill him before the night was through. But Brock Randall would die at the same time. The Predator would not be denied. Not even the Handlers could stop him now.


            “Brock, to tell you the truth…” Nelson Danziger said and looked Randall square in the eyes. He paused, raised his snifter of scotch and smiled affably. “The impression Cedar Valley State has made on me is really great…”

            Brock Randall swirled the rum around the bottom of his glass. He thought he heard a “but” about to be tagged onto the end of Danziger’s remark. Of course, Randall wasn’t supposed to be the one apprehensive about what Danziger was about to say. Randall, a representative of Cedar Valley State University, was supposed to have been the one with the upper hand here. They were the ones about to offer Danziger a job.

            Except the truth was that Danziger, no doubt, had several other offers waiting for him. He wasn’t a desperate new Ph.D., fresh out of grad school with a few years of adjunct teaching, a pile of student loans and maybe one or two conference presentations under his belt. Nelson Danziger’s CV read like a novella. He already had five books published, two of them with commercial houses in New York. And, despite the subject matter he wrote about, his mainstream success only stood to help the school, to boost enrollment. That success was the reason a small school like CVSU was willing to spend as much money on Danziger as had been allocated for him in the hiring budget.

            “Glad to hear that, Nelson,” Randall replied but paused quietly. He could sense Danziger had more to say.

            “So now I wait and hope for the best. I hope the search committee’s been impressed,” Danziger said.

            “Oh, I’m sure about that.”

            Although Randall had been asked to take Danziger out for his farewell dinner, he wasn’t actually sitting on Danziger’s search committee. Danziger was interviewing for one of the rare full-professor openings in the Psychology Department. Randall was an interpersonal communication specialist. Cedar Valley State being so small, however, almost made the school a big family. Every department took an interest in every single full-time faculty hire. Danziger’s guest lectures, his research presentation and discussions with the Psychology Department’s search committee, had been observed by representatives from every other department. 

            Now that Danziger was about to go home to Tampa while the search committee deliberated, Randall had been asked to take him out for a farewell dinner.

            “You have to admit, though,” Danziger said and paused.

            Here came the “but,” Randall thought. He was annoyed by how much trepidation he felt, but the fact was that this entire interview process had been a seller’s market. And Danziger was the seller. The college needed him desperately.

            Randall just raised his eyebrows and waited for Danziger to complete his thought.

            “They did ask a lot of nervous questions,” Danziger said.

            “Nervous?” Randall asked and sipped some rum.

            “I think they’re asking themselves if they’re hiring a psychologist or a writer from a supermarket tabloid.”

            “That’s not the case at all,” Randall said and chuckled, regretting the words the moment they came out of this mouth. He made himself sound defensive. The key to this entire hiring process was not to make Danziger feel too powerful, too needed.

            “Well, how do you think they feel about my work?” Danziger asked bluntly. “I’m sure my books have impressed the school to a certain degree, and I guess at this point it’s up to the Psych Department’s search committee to make its final decision, but they take input from all the faculty members who’ve observed me.”

            “I think they’re trying to figure out how to deal with…with the implication that you don’t seem to think people who’ve experienced the…”

            “The unexplained?” Danziger asked and drank some scotch. “That they’re not all insane?”

            “Well, you’ve got to admit that your arguments for the objective reality of parallel worlds and the spirit world are fairly radical,” Randall said.

            “Yes, I suppose they are,” Danziger said and stared off into some distant corner of the nearly empty restaurant past Randall’s head. Then his focus came back onto Randall. “I suppose they really are,” he reiterated. “But I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea.  Do you?”

            “What do you mean?” Randall chose to evade Danziger’s question.

            “Our line of work. Research, higher education, isn’t it supposed to be a battlefield of ideas? Nothing is supposed to be too radical. We’re supposed to throw all ideas out there and see how they can be defended.”

            Randall shrugged. “Well, you don’t really have a hostile audience here, you know.  My department has a couple of committed post-modernists.”

            “Aha, the post-modernists,” Danziger said and chuckled. “Nothing exists, nothing is real, we can’t trust any rules and any reality. So my candidacy’s not entirely a lost cause.”

            “It’s the people in your own hard-sciences you have to watch out for,” Randall said and finished the rest of his rum.

            “Should I be very worried?” Danziger asked and smiled lightly.

            Randall thought he smiled a little bit too lightly. There was a cockiness emerging from this guy now. 

            “You must have met Tom Lancaster from the Physics Department, right?” Randall asked.

            “Can’t recall his face.”

            “Tall, dark-haired, good looking…”

            “Snappy suits, right…?”

            “Yeah, break those scientist stereotypes. No pocket protectors on that one.”

            Danziger laughed. “Looks like a yuppie stock broker.”

            “Yeah, that’s the one,” Randall said and guessed that Danziger must have been wondering how many students Lancaster was sleeping with. Randall, though, was certain that the answer was none. Lancaster was a real stand up you guy, he had to admit. He always pegged him as highly ethical, if not a bit stiff. He was, of course, a zealot when it came to certain aspects of his work, but he was a straight shooter, nonetheless. Maybe that’s why Randall thought he would have been happy setting him up with Jessica.

            “But anyway,” Randall continued, “he wrote a book a while ago called The Naked Ghost.”

            “Yes, of course,” Danziger said with a knowing smile. “Now I remember.”

            “Well, he’s still trying to save the world. Shining the light of science.”

            “Yes, he’s the one,” Danziger said quietly. “Good for him if he’s trying to save the world, though. Even if sometimes he writes outside of his area of expertise.”

            “He would probably take issue with some of your ideas.”

            “Who knows,” Danziger said and shrugged lightly.

            Randall thought he could sense that cockiness again.

            “Maybe he, too, believes in that battlefield of ideas,” Danziger said.

            “I’m sure he probably does.”

            “Yeah,” Danziger said slowly and drained the last of his scotch. “I remember the reviews of his book. Very zealous guy, indeed. His book was pretty successful.”

            “Not as successful as your books,” Randall said.

            Danziger returned a humble smile. “Well, whatever differences I might have with someone like Tom Lancaster, I hope CVSU will decide it’s a big enough place for a diversity of opinions,” he said diplomatically and leaned back in his chair.

            It was time to wrap up this farewell dinner, Randall realized, glancing at his watch. He still had to drive Danziger to Cedar Valley Municipal Airport, from where he would take a commuter flight to Chicago and catch his connection down to Tampa.

            After settling the bill to be placed on the school’s account, Randall and Danziger left the nearly empty restaurant.

            Only one other patron haunted Bertucci’s Tratoria this late at night, Randall noted as they headed for the front door. A man sitting in the farthest, darkest corner of the restaurant seemed to be staring at a barely-touched plate of pasta in front of him.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Teachergate and Gay Frogs

This fall semester I am teaching my class on the history of conspiracy theories and conspiracy entertainment again, and this time we’re busier than ever. As I post supplemental materials on the course Blackboard shell, it becomes harder and harder to keep ahead of the students. They’re often able to top me finding the most outlandish conspiratorial claims in the shortest amount of time. It’s especially gratifying—or is that disturbing?—to see them find older theories that somehow still finds some adherents.


For example, when one of my students found Alex Jones’ rants about the New World Order introducing chemicals into the water supply that turn frogs gay, lots of laughs were had in class. Check out this YouTube clip where someone edited Jones’ histrionics into a music video. While the clip was posted three years ago, there are still Jones fans out there worried about those homosexuality-causing chemicals in the drinking water.


The frog theory and video, aside from being hilarious, were also quite useful for our discussion of the fluoride-in-the-water conspiracy theory of the 1950s and 60s. That was a theory Stanley Kubrick had already lampooned in his 1964 classic, Dr. Strangelove. Yet fluoridated-water theory still has its staunch believers to this day.


The students’ final project will be the Do It Yourself Conspiracy exercise, where they will have to create their own conspiracy theory using the typical conspiracist’s tricks of the trade: cherry-picking facts to support preconceived ideas, quoting people out of context, making spurious connections between unrelated variables. Usually in the past I had seen some remarkable creations of conspiracy fiction that rival the professional charlatans like Jones or the people at the State of the Nation and the Millennium report sites. This year, however, I’m not sure how the students’ work will stack up against the unadulterated madness of the pros.


I mean QAnon? Really people? A vast cabal of human-sacrificing Satanists led by Tom Hanks congregating in tunnels deep underground to drink human blood? Take a look at this Time article to see how committed the QAnon followers are to their cause.


And then I noticed a series of posts on the Before It’s News site that quite impressed me. No major news event is left unexploited by the truly committed conspiracists. School closings, apparently, are suspect for a writer named Hank Wolfe, with online education being just a part of a vast 5G mind-control plot he calls "Teachergate." In his posts, Wolfe draws a line between school closings, 5G towers, the New World Order, brainwashing, and all the way to Elon Musk’s neuralink microchip and teachers being replaced by perfectly realistic artificial intelligence simulations on the screens of millions of students across the country.


Wolfe’s complete thesis can be read across the following four postings:


The one disappointing thing about Wolfe’s posts is the way he didn’t weave Satan, the Antichrist, or blood-drinking, devil-worshipping celebrities into his yarn. Perhaps it’s because A Call for an Uprising is working that side of the street. Or maybe Wolfe just didn’t get around to it yet. Perhaps that will be his next major revelation.


But with theories like Wolfe’s out there, my students will be challenged to reach deep inside their creative core and really work extra hard to top harebrained craziness.