Sunday, December 16, 2018

Steph Curry got schooled

So earlier this week the Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry set off a little controversy when on a podcast he appeared to be maybe joking but not joking that he thought the moon landing never happened. Now whether he was kidding or not is hard to tell - let's hope really was kidding - but his comments did bring some furious criticism down on him. NASA even invited him to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to show him moon rocks and explain why the Apollo moon missions were all, in fact, real.

So now Steph clarified that he was absolutely kidding about being a moon "truther" and he never believed that the Apollo missions were a hoax. If anything, he said that his comments were a "silent protest" against how gullible people are and how quickly they fall for fake information just because they come from someone famous. Silent protest? Huh? Not sure I understand that one. But I hope he means it that this was but his clever wit at work, a big practical joke on the real moon truthers out there.

Although the best reaction to all this was just posted on my new favorite YouTube channel, "A Call for an Uprising." Check it out right here. In his customarily breathless monologue, the host of this show gave an exasperated, outraged explanation about what was REALLY behind the whole Steph Curry kerfufle. Steph, our anonymous host explained angrily, is actually a part of the Illuminati and the secret bloodlines that control the world - and orchestrated the moon landing hoax for some unspecified reason - and this stunt with the podcast was just a ploy by the Insiders, the Elites, the New World Order, and Them, to discredit belief in the moon conspiracy.

Now I still believe that whoever is behind this looney tunes "A Call for an Uprising" channel is pulling off his own massive con on tens to thousands (if his subscription count is to be believed) of people out of pure, simple, uncomplicated greed. Each posting, in fact, starts out with links to opportunities to donate money to the show. But the frightening thing is that there ARE tens of thousands of people out there who are gullible, simple minded, and alienated enough to believe all the bovine manure in these videos.

Or perhaps the shadowy operative behind "A Call for an Uprising" is merely carrying out a silent protest against the stupidity of the conspiracy culture.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Whaaat?? Getting marked by "The Beast" at the airport??

With another semester winding up, I will soon be taking a little break from corrupting the minds of the young and the innocent and getting away from it all for a little winter break. All that mind-corruption, you know, is quite hard work. As I'll be doing some flying - and I've been flying quite a bit over the past year and planning on more travel over the coming year - for the break, I'm just learning that airports around the country will soon be getting turned into the centers where the Beast, the Antichrist, and Satan will be marking travelers with the "sign" and moving us closer and closer to the enslavement of all of humanity.

You don't believe me, you say? Check it out right here. This YouTube video from the "Call for an Uprising" channel will explain the whole shocking plot, that is if you can sit through all 11 execrable minutes of it. I did, shaking my head a lot and not knowing if I should laugh or cry. One wants to laugh as the idiocy of this information, laugh at the fact that this channel - and many others like it - is a con job where some Alex Jones wannabe hustler in a basement somewhere is ranting about the end of the world and the Illuminati and Satanists, telling thousands of rubes and delusionals what they want to hear, and said rubes are eating it up and believing every word of it. And then you want to cry because there are thousands of rubes and delusionals actually out there who actually believe in this and they can't understand what kind of a swindle "A Call for an Uprising" is.

As you'll see in the video if you check it out, they take the issue of planned face-recognition software at airports - something that does raise some legitimate privacy concerns - and turn it into a farce by predicting that it's the first step in some kind of a New World Order fascist takeover, and insinuating that terrorist attacks like 9/11 were "false flag" conspiracies. And so on and so forth. Again, at the core of this story is a valid issue, although, as much of a Libertarian as I am, I don't believe that heightened airport security is leading us to a fascist state. You see, the thing is that I prefer to be a live Libertarian who might be slowed down a little bit at the airport, rather a dead one, blown out of the sky by some ISIS psycho who wanted to reserve his spot in paradise. Yet the best way to completely tune the issue out is by having these conspiracist idiots start spouting their New World Order fantasies about it.

And, of course, this massive global conspiracy that will soon implant Satanic microchips in Americans is somehow allowing their evil plots to be exposed on YouTube by "A Call for an Uprising." Yeah, sure.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Book sale!

For about the price of a medium cup of coffee at Starbuck's, you can get the electronic version of my novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED at the World Castle Bookstore. Check out this link to my publisher's bookstore page! Because there's nothing like treating yourself to the gift of a book!

Friday, December 7, 2018

The California fires: It was aliens!!

Not to say "I told you so," but...I told you so. In the preface to my book, Conspiracy Films: A Tour of Dark Places in the American Conscious," I predicted that no matter what major world event - especially something bad - hits the headlines, within hours the Internet would be flooded with conspiracy theories about how the real cause of the event is some evil, sinister plot by a hidden cabal of super villains. The mainstream media, of course, are in on it all and are "keeping everyone asleep."

So the latest calamity we have been watching on the news over the past several weeks, the massive wildfires that swept through California, is now being blamed on a grand conspiracy of the "New World Order," the "globalists," the "internationalists," the Rothschild banking organization, the military, the CIA, and the Illuminati. Check out this Mercury New article about the latest in the conspiracy theorizing about the fires. But for the most cringe-inducing part of the whole article, read the feedback from all the conspiracy believers. Not to give anything away, but the comments make for a very strong argument for why laws for the involuntary hospitalization for mental illness need to be toughened. What scares me more than the idiocy of the conspiracy theories is the fact that the people who wrote the comments after that article are out there walking around on our streets.

Of course, I'm not surprised that the California fires inspired conspiracy theories. I'm surprised, though, by the high absurdity of it all. As the Mercury News article explains, the mainstream of the fire-conspiracy-believers is convinced that the fires were caused by military-controlled laser weapons fired either from space or from aircraft. I, quite foolishly and naively, thought the conspiracy web pages and YouTube videos would be claiming that "mysterious" figures have been running around in the California wilderness setting fires. Conspiracists, though, are proving to be infinitely more creative than I am, apparently. Laser weapons are much cooler and scarier than merely guys sneaking around in the brush and setting fires. Even the rhetoric of the conspiracists is full of high-tech-sounding jargon like "DEW," or "directed energy weapons" and "geoengineering." Could have come out of a real slick technothriller!

Then, according to this article, other subcultures of the fire-conspiracists are certain that space aliens caused the fires. And I'm not kidding either. Check out the article!

Spreading this nonsense, of course, are the usual suspects. Believers in the "Pizzagate" and "false flag" mass shooting conspiracies are on the bandwagon. Alex Jones' Infowars website has numerous videos espousing the theory. Because, you know, Jones is still alive. These sociopathic New World Order conspirators who are willing to launch a ray gun attack on California, murdering dozens of people so far, have not yet figured out how to kill off Jones and keep him from spreading the "truth."

Another scuzzy little web page that has gone all in on the fire conspiracy is the "State of the Nation: Alternative News, Analysis, and Commentary" page. Aside from their very long list of Satanic pizza gate conspiracy links, the fires now have jumped to the top of their agenda.

All of this would be laughable, were it not for the fact that people had lost their lives in these fires. Others had their homes, their livelihoods wiped out. For bottom-feeding lowlife like the people behind "State of the Nation" and Alex Jones, it's another perfect opportunity to profit off the grief of others.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mystery at the museum solved...

I’ve been catching up on episodes of one of my favorite Travel Channel shows, “Mysteries at the Museum,” and I was definitely not disappointed by their JFK assassination special. So we’re finally getting more of these mystery-solving type reality shows take the route of logical, evidence-based conclusions to supposedly “unsolved” mysteries, even though the more sensationalistic approach might probably get more attention and please the conspiracy crowd out there. The “Mysteries at the Museum” episode focused in on the major lynchpin arguments of conspiracy theorists and very elegantly debunked all of them. The conclusion on the end of the program was an unequivocal “no” to conspiracy. Very well done, in my opinion. Endorsing convoluted, unproven conspiracy fantasies might be the easier route to take when it comes to the Kennedy assassination. Standing by the truth, however, is the right thing to do. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Except they forgot about Elvis...

...Elvis was also a part of the JFK assassination conspiracy!

OK, some childish humor in the middle of the night as I wanted to share this link to a very good piece CBS News did on conspiracy beliefs. The story focuses on the psychology and appeal of extreme paranoia. It is good to see the media's and academia's approach to the issue taking this turn. Whether or not conspiracy theories about JFK, the Freemasons, the New World Order, and the Illuminati are real are no longer questions fit for constructive discussion. They have all been disproven beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt. All right? Deal with it! Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, the Illuminati don't exist, and neither does the new world order. What both the social sciences and psychology need to probe at this point is why do people keep believing in things that are unprovable?

This story has some great information and excellent links to understanding the psychology of the conspiracy theorist.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The latest in conspiracy fashions

Another great part of the Philcon 2018 sci fi conference was finding the latest in (anti)conspiracy fashion. Even among people who like very imaginative, out-of-the box entertainment that encourages imaginations to run very far away, today's conspiracy culture has become a theater of the absurd.

Monday, November 19, 2018

All good things...

Well, the Philcon 2018 science fiction convention might have come to an end, but I’m still impressed by how much benefit can be gained for writers starting out in fiction, those working on staying in touch with their fans or establishing their fan base, or just networking with other writers, editors, an people in various positions in the publishing industry. As one of the panels on the marketing of one’s work – no matter how big or how small one’s publishing house is, a writer today MUST be ready to do a lot of selling – some 80% of book purchases are made by people based on the recommendation of their friends. So writers really do need to get out among the fans, make a good impression, sign autographs, and tell some good stories and give good advice on panels.

And yup, that’s yours truly, signing an autograph for someone who will hopefully become a devoted fan.

And she did say that the “dark side of conspiracism” premise of CONFIRMATION was indeed intriguing!

Friday, November 16, 2018

My activity schedule at Philcon 2018

Now that I was able to finally get out of Jersey City after a night of being stranded in my office by a really nasty noreaster, I'm heading off to Cherry Hill, NJ, for the Philcon 2018 science fiction conference. The following is my schedule of panels, readings, and book signing.

Barna William Donovan

  • Fri 6:00 PM in Executive Suite 623—Readings (3330)
  • Samuel Delany (mod), Barna William Donovan, Mark Wolverton
  • Fri 7:00 PM in Autograph Table—Delany, Donovan (3343)
  • Samuel Delany (mod), Barna William Donovan
  • Fri 10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three—Room Discussion: Westworld (3161)
    Have a theory about season two's timeline? Speculation about where the show will go next? Want to discuss what it means to be human in a world that we now know can [REDACTED], or whether or not you're ready to welcome our new android overlords? Because we do!
  • Barna William Donovan (mod), Paul Levinson, Anastasia Klimchynskaya
  • Sat 10:00 AM in Plaza IV (Four)—DCEU: A Light at the End of the Tunnel? (3177)
    We all know that Warner Brothers has had a bit of the problem with their DCEU movies. But the latest trailers for Aquaman & SHAZAM look like they’re finally turning the page to a Brand New Day...
  • Barna William Donovan (mod), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Andre Lieven, Orenthal Hawkins
  • Sat 2:00 PM in Plaza III (Three)—The Robot "Other" (3087)
    Creating empathy for humanity's not-quite-human creations was groundbreaking with Frankenstein, but now, stories told from the perspective of A.I. are common enough that they've become their own sub-genre. How do these stories affect how we perceive ourselves? Have we reached the point where we have more empathy for robots than we do for other humans?
  • Joan Wendland (mod), Anastasia Klimchynskaya, Barna William Donovan, Neil Clarke, David Walton
  • Sun 11:00 AM in Plaza V (Five)—Writing A Film-Friendly Novel (3134)
    What elements should you keep in mind while writing a novel if you're hoping to eventually see it onscreen?
  • Richard Stout (mod), Elizabeth Crowens, Barna William Donovan, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Carl Paolino, Michael D'Ambrosio
  • Sun 2:00 PM in Plaza V (Five)—The Planet of the Apes (3128)
    Is the reboot of the franchise a deserving successor to the original series? Do the modern-day "prequels" reflect a change in how we view our world- and humanity's place in it?
  • Ken Altabef (mod), Barna William Donovan, Kim Kindya

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Call For An Uprising?

Yeah, maybe it should be a call for an uprising by everyone offended by ignorance in the modern world and possibly the most absurd supernatural-conspiracy-theory channel on YouTube.

Recently I have been talking with some friends who asked me to compile some of the most insane, counterintuitive, and laughably illogical conspiracy theories circulating in cyberspace today. Perhaps they could be good tools to use in my Conspiracy Films class, they said. So I thought that would be an interesting exercise…

…and I found an extremely prolific conspiracy channel on YouTube that could make for an entire class on its own. 

So check out a channel called “A Call For An Uprising” right here. This is one of a growing genre of conspiracy-theory purveyors dedicated to arguing that every celebrity and almost every prominent person in the world is a Satanist and a member of the Illuminati. And yes, this sort of thing we can call an entire genre of conspiracism, since a there is a depressingly large number of them all functioning on the same narrow set of premises and arguments attempting to “prove” that a global Satanic conspiracy is running the world and about to usher in the end of days and the Antichrist. Scary stuff! I think I will need to work these YouTube channels and websites into my in-progress book about the Apocalypse in popular culture. 

But here is a quick overview of some the oft-repeated arguments “A Call For An Uprising” cranks out in its daily videos (yes, DAILY!! Someone in a basement somewhere is putting these things together seven days a week, with each episode running anywhere from about 10 minutes to almost a half an hour).

Every single celebrity – from actors to singers, models, and even WWE wrestlers – is a member of the Illuminati and made a deal with the devil himself for their fame and fortune. And yes, "A Call For An Uprising" takes “a deal with the devil” quite literally. The origin of that term, you know, is but a metaphor. It refers to compromising one’s principles for some kind of financial or material - most often superficial and short lasting – gain. According to “A Call For An Uprising,” celebrities literally made a pact with an actual supernatural creature for fame and fortune. I would like to see some kind of proof of this pact of course. Like, hmm…I don’t know…maybe a video? Can I see footage of the dark lord of hell rising from a pit or something? Can I see the signing ceremony? A copy of the contract, perhaps? And how are these contracts negotiated? Does the devil have a cadre of lawyers hammering out the deal, or is it just the devil himself? Is the deal brokered by the celebrities’ agents? Their lawyers? So many questions! So few answers!

These Satanic Illuminati celebrities are perhaps the worst conspirators in the history of evil global conspiracies since none of them can help but keep giving the details of their diabolical plans away. According to “A Call For An Uprising,” the signs are everywhere. Movies, music videos, advertisements, TV shows, cartoons, comic books are all – yup, you guessed it, just rife with clues to how the Antichrist will take over the world. So these evil conspirators, apparently, like to operate the same way the Riddler always did in the Batman comics; they must always drop clues to their next big criminal plot. Why they would do this I’m not sure, but “A Call For An Uprising” has a catch phrase it loves repeating over and over again:

“Predictive Programming.” So whoever manages “A Call For An Uprising” just LOVES the phrase “predictive programming.” I guess it sounds very clandestine and mysterious and cool. It’s basically the Riddler principle, that evildoers for some reason don’t plot their evil deeds in secret but first need to trumpet it to the whole world by putting signs and codes and hidden phrases in their movies and music and TV shows and so forth. It makes as much sense as you plotting to rob the local bank but first going about and casing the place in the most obvious way. Imagine being that bank robber and walking into the bank, staring at the security cameras in the most conspicuous way, and perhaps even as you’re wearing a T-shirt with a huge sign on it saying “Bank robbery being planned right now.” Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

“A Call For An Uprising” also seems to have an obsession with witches. Numerous videos are about witchcraft and how TV shows are promoting witchcraft by real life, practicing, spell-casting, supernaturally powered witches. The most demented of these videos claims that Brett Kavanaugh’s problems with sexual assault allegations stemmed from his falling victim to a witch’s curse. The video even offers "proof" of this curse! And what proof, you might ask? Well, the hearings were often attended by the actress Alyssa Milano, who played a witch in the “Charmed” TV show. Clear cut proof, isn’t it?

The channel also seems to have an obsessive hatred of formal schooling. Now the American educational system, from elementary schools all the way to the halls of higher education might have its fair share of problems, but “A Call For An Uprising” claims the real dangers of schools lie in the way they are indoctrinating students in…you guessed it, Satanic Illuminati ideologies. The real reason schools require kids to study geometry, “A Call For An Uprising” argues, is to expose them to Illuminati and Freemasonic symbolism. Calculating the areas or triangles and hexagons, I suppose, is somehow brainwashing kids into becoming followers of demonic secret societies.

Now reading this, one might be tempted to shrug the whole thing off as the rantings of an obviously very sick, very delusional mind, someone still stuck in the 1980s and its oddball Satanic conspiracy theories. That, I think, is very far from the truth. Whoever is running this ridiculous web page, I am certain, functions the same way that Alex Jones does. The person—or people—behind “A Call For An Uprising” probably know how laughably insane every moment of every single one of their videos is. However, they also know that the United States in the early 21stcentury is full of enough of the disenfranchised, the unsophisticated, the ignorant and those sadly lacking in any kind of critical thinking abilities, people so alienated from a consensus reality, that they will swallow every word of every single video on this channel as some kind of a gospel truth. Just check out the channel and see how it has—as of this writing—353,000 subscribers. Then read the disjointed, paranoid ramblings of those offering feedback. 

Very sad, indeed.

Friday, October 19, 2018

My big reveal!!

So I need to take the opportunity on the public forum to finally reveal my true identity to the world. I am the Antichrist!

Yes! And that is why I took the role of a college professor when I came to Earth. This is the profession that gives me the greatest opportunity to corrupt the most minds. Young, innocent, impressionable minds!

OK, so I’m kidding. But this is actually part of my introduction to the Do It Yourself Conspiracy exercise in my Conspiracy Films class. Through the reverse scientific process, by cherry-picking facts, making spurious connections, anyone can “prove” that just about any event in the world is but a part of a massive conspiracy. Even the most ridiculous of the supernatural, Antichrist and Satanic conspiracy theories can be proven true through the deceptive presentation of actual facts. The exercise is designed to help students develop critical thinking skills and help them understand how unethical communicators can manipulate the into believing the most patently absurd claims. In the age of fake news spreading through the internet and YouTube channels claiming to prove that the Earth is flat and that all entertainers are Satanic Illuminati conspirators plotting to take over the world (completely nuts, isn’t it? The only Satanic Illuminati conspirators around are teaching on college campuses) through the use of chemtrails and tainted vaccines that cause autism, I do believe that this is one of the most important exercises I give any of my classes.

But here is the proof that Barna William Donovan is the Antichrist himself:

The name! “William Donovan” was the founder of the CIA, the organization behind the biggest conspiracies of the late twentieth century. Assassination – from JFK to RFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, Tupac Shakur, Princess Diana, and Michael Jackson – coverups from the Moon landing to the Roswell crash. And 9/11 anyone? Who but the CIA could have pulled that off?

Take a look at my books! Doesn’t all that violent imagery make you wonder? Blood? Guns? Testosterone? “A thirst for violence?” Who but the Antichrist would write such things?

Look at my blog posts arguing that there is no connection between media violence and real world violence? Is that not part of the most vile of Satanic deceptions??

Check out all the positive references to Lucifer, Satanists, and Baphomet. The work of the great deceiver himself!

Then let’s check out the fact that I teach at a Jesuit university. The Jesuits have also been accused of some of the biggest conspiracies in history. Check out this link to Jesuit conspiracies.

And let us not forget that Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Illuminati, was trained by…wait for it…the Jesuits!!

And how about the location where I teach? Saint Peter’s University is on John F. Kennedy boulevard in Jersey City.  So a link between the CIA, the Jesuits, and JFK? Coincidence, right? Well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn if you believe that!

And how about the Satanic numerology of Saint Peter’s University’s location. You, I’m sure, are familiar with the oft-proven Satanic symbolism of the number 13. So guess where Saint Peter’s University is located…?

2641, John F. Kennedy boulevard!

And 2641 adds up to…13!!!!

So can any of this really be a coincidence?

Of course it can. This is a simple parlor trick that can be used to prove anything anyone wants to prove. Some of my students have “proven” that they had relatives who took part in the JFK assassination. 

And hopefully they all walked away from the class wiser to the ways of all the deception spreading through the Internet and social media today like a malignant virus.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Yes, the threat is real! From conspiracy theorists!

OK, so the time I had to devote to posting on this blog might have been limited over the last couple of weeks, but the recent feedback I have been getting keeps proving the point I have been making and the point in my new novel. And yes, I have been keeping an eye on the constant, downward-spiraling insanity that is the current phase of conspiracy theorizing in America.

And please, go ahead and scroll through the feedback my last couple of posts have been receiving to understand what I am talking about. Please look at the astonishingly repulsive, asinine, and cruel comments about the Catherine Oxenberg book in the previous post.  

I don’t delete any comments from this blog, even if I don’t have the time to always reply and even if I don’t agree with what they have to say. But I will criticize as loudly as I can.

Conspiracy theories are among the biggest threats this culture is facing today. It is time for intellectuals, for academics, for the sciences to start pushing back. The conspiracy community today are NOT alternative thinkers who dare to be critical. They are not offering legitimate challenges to the status quo. They are malignant, dangerous threat to rationality, the downward slide of society into the new dark ages where superstition and unprovable claims demand (and often get) as much credence as empirical facts. 

As an educator in communication and media studies, I am able to do my part in combating this by teaching skills in the true critical analysis of media messages. Are the claims being made in the mass media, in the alternative media like the various social media and Internet forums, provable beyond a shadow of a doubt or not? If they are not, they are true fake news.

Plus, when I teach my course on conspiracy theories and entertainment, I do my damnedest to make sure that no one leaves that class ever again thinking that Alex Jones is a reliable source of information, that the Illuminati might be working on setting up a new world order, that lizard aliens are running the world and keeping everyone asleep with chemtrails spread by Devil-worshipping airline pilots flying out of Denver International Airport.

In a world where people still argue that the world is flat and put children’s lives at risk by refusing to vaccinate, it might be the most important thing I am doing.

And hey, here’s a bit of not so hidden knowledge…the Illuminati, this oh-so dangerous secret society our conspiracy-obsessed subculture of paranoia is so frightened of believed in such threatening ideas as the separation of church and state, representative government, equal rights for women, and the primacy of reason and rationality in life. 

That sounds pretty good to me!

Seriously! I think I’d like to join the Illuminati if they really exist. Where I can get a get a hold of the application paperwork? Can I download it from a website?

Seriously! If the Illuminati admissions department is reading this, let’s talk…

I can totally keep any secrets about where Hitler’s cloned brain is hidden in the Bohemian Grove! For reals!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Cults, conspiracies, and freedom.

“Oh, my God, my child’s thinking is not based in reality!” 

This is a line out of one of the most compelling and harrowing books I’ve read in quite a while. What makes it all the more unsettling is that the book is nonfiction and reading it left me asking some very uncomfortable questions about human nature.

The book is Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult, by the actress Catherine Oxenberg (Dynasty). It details how Oxenberg’s daughter, India, was sucked into the NXIVM sex cult. Run by Keith Raniere, perhaps one of the most repugnant figures in the history cult crimes, the group kept an inner circle of female member as sex slaves, forced them onto starvation diets, and branded them with a hot iron.

NXIVM has been garnering a fair share of media attention over the last year or so because of the utterly bizarre and revolting details of how these women were treated, along with the celebrity connections. Aside from Catherine Oxenberg’s fight to get her daughter out of the cult, another strange twist in the NXIVM story is that Raniere’s second-in-command is alleged to have been Allison Mack, a former actress and one of the leads in the SmallvilleTV show. There were also reports of the cult desperately attempting to recruit Emma Watson into the fold, along with as many other celebrities as they could get their hands on. As Oxenberg details in the book, the actor Callum Blue had attended several NXIVM meetings (and found the group and its tenets absurd), director Mark Vicente had been an active member, as was Emiliano Salinas, son of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari. NXIVM, apparently, took a page out of the Scientology playbook in its aggressive pursuit of the rich and famous.

I started reading this book soon I after I saw the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country about the cult run by the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in the 1980s and their plot to try and take over an Oregon county. Had the story of the Rajneeshes been made up for a fictional movie or a novel, it probably would be deemed too strange for the suspension of disbelief. Do check out the documentary (I binge-watched all of its 6 episodes over two days, it was so compelling) for all the details, but the long and short of it is that the Bhagwan’s followers carried out the first and still biggest bioterror attacks on American soil when they spread salmonella in the salad bars of a number of restaurants in the county. They were hoping to sway the county elections and get a majority of their own people elected to the board by keeping all of the anti-Rajneesh voters at home by way of the salmonella. Some 700 people were infected and sickened. 

The common thread between the Rajneesh cult and NXIVM that has me so fascinated was their membership roll of wealthy, well-educated, and successful people. Wild Wild Country excerpts some of the 80s news stories on the Bhagwan’s fleet of 90 Rolls Royces. It also discusses the sprawling compound—almost literally a small city—the Rajneeshes started building in the Oregon wilderness. The price tag for all those Rolls Royces and the construction must obviously have been astronomical, but since their members were among the cream of society (a very large percentage of these people were from the U.S., but some also from Europe, the upper classes of India, and Australia), and they had to sign away all of their bank accounts and assets to the cult, there was no problem for the Bhagwan in making the purchases. Moreover, the members who had been so business-savvy in their former lives also brought their skills to the management of the cult’s financial affairs and they were quite canny in the ongoing investment of all the money. We also see the Bhagwan’s appeal making its way to Hollywood, gaining several members from the entertainment industry. In fact, the Rajneesh movement would gather quite a roster of followers from a wide spectrum of the arts, business, and politics over the years, recruiting adherents who might not necessarily commit to fully immersing themselves in the group, giving up their assets, or moving into the compound. In the 1970s, while its headquarters—or “ashram”—was in India, the actor Terence Stamp (General Zod in the Christopher Reeve Superman films) had been a member. In the early 1980s Arianna Huffington had also been a member.

The reason all of this information troubles me so much, has shaken me to the core of my libertarian being, is that I have such a hard time wrapping my mind around people who willingly give up their individuality, their personal liberties. Where the world has for so long been so full of dictatorial, autocratic regimes—whether the product of political ideologies or religious dogmas—that millions have sought to escape, had risked their lives and the lives of their families to escape, what compels people in some of the most free societies in the world to willingly put themselves under the thumb of a controlling, exploitive cult leader, some guru or what have you? Why have controlling, manipulative cults been so successful in the U.S., a country whose very Constitution was based on libertarian principles? Moreover, how come some of the wealthy, people who are given the added freedom that money can buy, would choose to join something like NXIVM or the Rajneeshes, or any number of other such controlling, coercive organizations? 

Could there be something comforting in the control of the authoritarian state? There are, after all, people old enough to have lived in the former communist-block countries, others who had lived in the former U.S.S.R., who look back fondly upon the days of Stalinist dictatorships. Sure, you might have been watched all the time, told what to say, what to read, what to listen to, what to think, but at least you had someone—no matter how malevolent—watch over you. You didn’t need to worry too much about supporting yourself or managing complex finances since the state gave you everything. You got free schooling, free health care, free daycare, free housing and you might not have needed to worry about going hungry on the just needed to stand in a bread line for five hours to get enough food to sustain you. But hey, at least you got food to sustain you, right? Everyone was equal you see…even if they were equally miserable. But still, not having to think too much and having everything handed out to you if you chose to be a lazy parasite who wants to live off the state has its appeal, doesn’t it?

The more I read of Captive and as I watched Wild Wild Country, the more I also thought of the conspiracy-theory culture. I had often felt that conspiratorial belief systems were a lot like religion. Conspiracy beliefs also seek to explain how unseen forces control everything in the world, how there is some hidden connection between all the random—and often unpleasant and painful—events in the world. Whereas religion attributes causality to an invisible deity, conspiracy theories replace that deity with the Masons, the Illuminati, the “international bankers,” and the New World Order. But conspiracy communities can also behave exactly like cults and all others authoritarian systems. Check out this disturbing, eye-opening account of a German woman’s time inside the world of the conspiracy culture if you don’t believe me. Like cults, like extremist, controlling ideological movements, in the conspiracy culture there is only one way or the highway. Tangible, testable, empirical proof of wild claims is not necessary—no proof is proof enough for the committed conspiracy theorist, since “They,” “Forces,” “The System,” or the “New World Order” has suppressed proof—and dissent within the movement leads to vicious browbeating, harassment, intimidation, and excommunication. 

Life in both cults or the conspiracy culture is one that is ultimate not based on reality. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

How come no one has killed Alex Jones yet?

I ask this after a recent discussion I had with a friend of mine who insisted that conspiracy theories like the ones about the JFK assassination and 9/11 are somewhat plausible - he "doesn't exactly" believe them, but could imagine that powers within the government would be willing to attempt such plots - and they could be successful because dissenters within the conspiracy could just be killed off. He - as JFK conspiracists often do - pointed to a series of "suspicious" deaths of people connected to the Kennedy assassination.

First of all, let's just clear the air about these deaths. There is nothing suspicious about them and these people who might have "known too much" died years apart and years after the Kennedy murder. For a superb examination and discussion of this, please take the time to read (and it will take you a little while since it's over 1000 pages) the late Vincent Bugliosi's book Reclaiming History about the assassination.

But conspiracy believers are generally big on assassinations. They believe no tangible evidence exists to prove their massive, complicated accusations because whistleblowers have either been killed off or they have been intimidated into silence through death threats.

So how come some conspiracists don't stop for a second and consider why these assassins from the New World Order haven't yet eliminated people like Alex Jones and the rest of his ilk? Why haven't they offed Jones years ago and made it look like an accident (but plant secret clues to the evil deeds the way criminal masterminds do in murder mysteries or in comic books the way the Riddler always does?).

The reason, of course, is because 9/11 conspiracies, "crisis actors," or Qanon conspiracies are exactly like comic books. They're fantasies!

Unfortunate, but not surprising...

I ran across this fascinating article from National Geographic about Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Not to be too self-serving, but my immediate reaction was that it's a real-world example of the theme I was trying to deal with in my new novel, CONFIRMATION. People will believe what they want to believe, what is the most convenient to maintain their preexisting belief systems so as never to have to admit they might have been wrong or that they need to change their world views. And they will keep believing no matter what they see right in front of their faces. This phenomenon, of course, has been demonstrated over and over again in decades' wroth of research in psychology as well as in media studies and analyses of people's reactions to persuasive messages.

These unfortunate folks on Tangier Island are watching their home slowly being claimed by the ocean. Some day, perhaps within the next 50 years, the island will no longer exist due to the rising ocean levels and the global climate change that's behind it. Nonetheless, they still cling to the belief that climate change is a hoax and believe in Donald Trump's conspiracy theories about climate science being fraudulent and the handiwork of the Chinese. These people will, no doubt, stick to their belief that climate change is not real until the moment the last of them will be evacuating the island. Then they will probably claim that the rising tides were a punishment from God because of the gays.

So when we scratch out heads at how people can so adamantly believe that the Earth is flat, that we never went to the Moon, that Bush family members blew up the Twin Towers, that crisis actors pretended to get shot in Las Vegas and Parkland, or any number of utterly implausible conspiracy theories, let's take a look at the people of Tangier Island.

Belief, no matter how it might fly in the face of tangible, empirical evidence, is a mighty powerful thing. And it can be incredibly destructive when manipulated by the opportunistic and unscrupulous.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Marco Rubio is THE MAN!!

This is fantastic! Florida Senator Marco Rubio - and fellow University of Miami alumnus - threatened to lay the smackdown on a heckling Alex Jones. Check out the article right here!

Apparently Jones did what he often liked to do in the past, namely go off in public bellowing tantrums and heckling. You know, to warn the American people about what's really going on and how the Illuminati are turning the world into a fascist state. Now, ironically enough, the kerfuffle began because Jones was upset at Rubio criticizing totalitarian states' attempts at censoring the Internet. So Jones started heckling Rubio during a press conference, accusing him of turning a blind eye to the Democrats' crackdown on the Internet. The Democrats? Hmm...right! And Jones apparently has no problems with Donald Trump's recent threats against Google?

Well, but that's just Alex Jones for you...

Anyhow, Jones' harangues eventually prompted Rubio to say, "I'll take care of you myself."

But do check out Jones' whining reply in the article, beseeching the press nearby to see how he has been threatened. Because, you know, the system is trying to silence him so he can't tell the American people what's really going on.

I recently commented that it was a mistake for tech companies like Facebook to ban Jones because they're turning him into the kind of martyr he wants to become. But still, a threat of a good ass-beating by a senator is just too awesome.

Go Canes!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Foolishness is deadly...

…and it’s apparently contagious, too, spreading absurd belief systems around the world. After seeing a story on NBC news about recent cases of measles in the U.S., I ran across this article about what are purported to be record high numbers across Europe. Now according to the CDC, the number of measles cases in the U.S. is about the same as last year and within the expected range of infections—about 124. 

Europeans, however, are concerned with what they are calling record high numbers in 2018 so far, or around 41,000. This is almost double the numbers from 2017. And the most disturbing statistic, though, is that in 2016 there were 5,273 cases.

The World Health Organization is now calling on European countries to take action on this matter. As well they should, obviously, as the high volume of global travel now makes the spread of diseases so much faster. According to the CDC, many of the American cases of measles can be traced to travel to foreign countries.

But the underlying problem in this matter, according to both the CDC and the WHO, is the growing number of people who are refusing vaccinations. And all of this is still tied to one 20-year-old paper by a discredited and de-licensed British physician named Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield claimed to have found a causal connection between autism and the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. Although, again, discredited, withdrawn and disowned by Wakefield’s co-authors, the effects of this one paper just don’t want to die. It gave rise to an ever-more aggressive anti-vaccination movement around the world and their elaborate, paranoid conspiracy theories about a dark, sinister collusion between drug companies, scientists, governments, and the media. 

So when a friend of mine recently asked me about why I feel so strongly that conspiracy theorists need to be recast in the popular imagination from principled – if goofy and eccentric – outsider heroes to dangerous cranks and charlatans, I find few better examples for my argument than the vaccination controversy. These numbers out of Europe are a travesty. We are talking about a disease that had been all but eradicated. And now it’s spreading in record numbers around the world! What’s going to be next? The return of small pox? Polio outbreaks? Are we indeed heading back to the Dark Ages in the 21stcentury? Measles is making a comeback and we have regular conventions (around the U.S. at least) dedicated to the belief that the Earth is flat. 

These types of conspiratorial fantasies, this attitude that there is no consensus reality, that each and every person has to right to create their own reality and to reject the notion of empirical facts and truths need to be treated as a dangerous epidemic. Yes, scientists and academic journals need to do their absolute best to present only reliable, well-proven, peer-reviewed data. But the rest of the educational establishment needs to do its part as well in ingraining in students from a very early age that facts matter, that there is a truth with a capital “T,” and not all opinions are equally valid. As the late science fiction author Harlan Ellison once said, “no, you are not entitled to your opinion! You are entitled to your informed opinion.”

I usually start the semesters of my class on conspiracy theories with that quote from Ellison. Hopefully by the end of the class there will be fewer anti-vaxxers, “crisis actor” believers, and 9/11 truthers out there.

So yes, I am after the minds of young people and I’m trying to influence them!!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Many Special Kinds of Crazy...

...are still just crazy. And obnoxious, according to this interesting article. Beliefs in conspiracy theories apparently have some interesting gender divisions. Men seem to be not only more likely to be conspiracy theory believers, but apparently the most overbearing and obnoxious in attacking those they see as the "enemy," those they see as the purveyors of the "big lie." Furthermore, the climate-change-denying conspiracy movement appears to be, according to scientists who've had the unpleasant experience of being contacted by these people, overwhelmingly male and particularly vicious in their correspondence with the academic and scientific community. Female academics are usually the targets of these "mansplaining" conspiracists, getting obnoxious emails refuting climate science. Well, you know, why believe in academics with years of training and presentations of data that had been gathered over decades when you can watch a 10-minute YouTube video that will tell you what's really going on.

But that is not to say that women can't be attracted to a special brand of conspiracy theory all their own. Within the anti-vaccination movement there seems to be quite a large female representation. In general, women also seem to be more likely to buy into conspiracy theories when it relates to the health sciences.

I am glad to see that academic focus on the psychology and sociology of conspiracy beliefs is increasing. Trying to set believers in the bizarre, the illogical, and the absurd straight, trying to educate them can only begin when we understand why so many people choose to reject a consensus reality. We need to understand the social pathology of conspiracy beliefs before those of us in the academic fields can effectively counter them.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

My Appearance on "One on One With Steve Adubato."

The August 20th episode of the "On on One With Steve Adubato" show is available online right here. 

We discuss the dark side of the conspiracy culture and why all the Alex Joneses and "crisis actor" conspiracy fanatics have crossed way over he line of all human decency today. As I make the point in my novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED, people like that can hardly be cast as heroes any more.

And the antidote to all this madness where people who want to believe too much and want to live inside their self-constructed fantasy worlds of chem-trails and shadow governments, run by the New World Order, the Illuminati, and time-traveling Nazis commanded by Elvis Presley? Education! As I discuss the fantastic opportunity I get to teach about the conspiracy culture and its destructiveness, education must now become the bulwark against the modern Dark Ages we are slipping into faster and faster.

And you can be sure that absolutely no student will ever walk out of any of my classes believing in crisis actors or how the Freemasons coordinated the attacks of 9/11 from Denver International Airport.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Yes! Put Baph6met on Displ6y Right N6w!

This is quite an amusing story and a perfect example of what Rush Limbaugh used to call "illustrating absurdity by being absurd." And I find it quite absurd and amusing that in 2018 this sort of a public kerfuffle still goes on. So the Satanic Temple in Arkansas wants to place a statue of the devil - OK, they call it "Baphomet" - in front of the state capitol if the Ten Commandments get placed there too. If one religion is to be favored, then, if the First Amendment is to have any value, all religions must be given the same equal treatment. The First Amendment, after all, is quite clear in its prohibition against the government favoring any one belief system that worships invisible magical beings over any other beliefs and their imaginary beings.

So, yeah, go ahead and put Baphomet up in government buildings if the deities and religious artifacts of other faiths are placed there. The Satanic Temple is absolutely right.

Actually these kinds of culture wars over the displays of religious symbols in government-run places are the most absurd of all. If you don't get to put your religious iconography on public display, it does not mean that you don't get to practice your faith in the privacy of your own home or have to somehow deny your faith in the privacy of your own thoughts. If you are a Christian or a Jew, you are NOT being oppressed just because you can't put the Ten Commandments up in a public building!

And no, this kind of a prank for the sake of attention by the Satanic Temple is not another sign of the End Times or the Apocalypse or the rise of the Antichrist or the New World Order or any of that nonsense. It's a prank and simple a prank by an organization which - guess what?! - doesn't believe in a literal Satan. As I discuss with my students in my Communication Ethics class when we examine "meta ethics" and various belief systems' views on the source of our sense of right and wrong, "Satanism" today is a form of radical social constructionism. It's a belief system that advocates a very extreme form of individualism and calls for the critical interrogation of ALL belief systems that seek to control people through arbitrary rules. They especially call for the critical interrogation of belief systems that seek to control by way of commandments coming from invisible, unprovable magical beings.

Oh, yeah, and the Satanic Temple also has one of its tenets arguing that "one should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason." Sounds pretty good to me.

By the end of that class session, usually many students find that there just might be a little bit of a Satanist in all of us.

At least when it comes to the First Amendment, the Satanists right now are spot on.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

My interview on the Projection Booth podcast

I recently got the chance to talk about the classic 1974 conspiracy thriller "The Parallax View" on The Projection Booth podcast. You can check it out here. The entire show is a fantastic series of discussions about the film - and it includes an interview with William Daniels, one of the stars of the film - but my segment starts at 1:46:00.

The film really is one of the best examples of the political conspiracy theory genre, very tense and unnerving because it is plausible. The film is a product of a time, after all, when conspiracy theories themselves were plausible, well before they spun off into the realm of the false flag, crisis actor, flat Earth and chemtrail absurdity that's putting piles of money into the coffers of all the Alex Joneses out there.

We discuss the impact of the film on the genre and the evolution of "real" conspiracy theories themselves, the way these theories always need to grow, to top themselves, to make claims that are more outrageous and outlandish than before.

I also got to talk about my new novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED, and how conspiracy theorists should seldom be seen as heroes these days. Conspiracy theories have mutated from critical warnings about how power can be abused, turning instead into a demented, social-constructionist fantasy world where anyone can claim belief in anything and the lack of any evidence to back up their beliefs can always be blamed on the machinations of a big, evil, shadowy conspiracy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

An Anti-conspiracy Conspiracy? Unlikely.

So I finally got through perusing parts of - probably just a small part of - all the information cropping up in the media about the Qanon conspiracy theory. After several days of this enterprise, I just got tired of the whole thing and more than a bit irritated by the amount of stupid that exists in the world. However, I was also fascinated by the larger social phenomenon of it all, the confirmation of a number of venerable media theories that have been arguing for decades that people are quite active and facile when it comes to protecting their own belief systems, in interpreting and twisting information in the world all around them in such a way as to confirm their own preconceived notions and biases...

...You see as an eggheaded academic who tries to corrupt and brainwash America's youth by teaching them how to debunk conspiracy theories about the New World Order, to embrace the status quo and to appreciate the subversive, Satanic fun of the "Lucifer" TV series, I need to frame everything in terms of high-flown theories...

But anyway, the Qanon conspiracy theory! For those who have not kept up with this, it basically started with a series of postings on the 4chan and 8chan social media sites by someone (or maybe some parties) calling himself "Q" and claiming to be a high-level government operative with inside information that can best be described as depressingly bonkers. And I mean so bonkers that if the producers of The X-Files would ever craft an episode around it, they would make it one of their comical self-parody episodes. But the main points of the theory claim that Donald Trump had been "installed" in the presidency by a secret cabal of military brass to work together with Robert Mueller to expose and smash a world-wide Satanic pedophile ring run by Hilary Clinton, the Democratic party, and numerous A-list Hollywood celebrities. So, yup, Mueller's Russia investigation is just a ruse, a smoke-screen for the real work of taking down the global Satanic child-sex trafficking ring.

And because high-ranking government whistle-blowers would try and blow their whistles by going to disreputable online forums instead of respected media outlets...

Oh, yeah, the so-called "respectable mainstream media" are all infiltrated by sex-trafficking Satanists too. Sorry, forgot about that!

So anyway, there's no point in beating a dead horse here and repeating what so much of the news stories about Qanon have already talked about, namely how absurd all of this is and how there is no evidence to prove any of this silliness. Yes, it's all completely unbelievable and it's all stupid. And no, there is no credible evidence to prove any of these claims. Furthermore, it stretches the imagination beyond all breaking points to suggest that such a far-reaching conspiracy that would include thousands of people from the mass media, law enforcement, and politics could ever pull off a plot like this...

So let's just repeat after me, kids: 9/11 was not an inside job, JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, we landed on the Moon, mass shootings in Colorado, Sandy Hook, and Florida were not false flag operations and there are no such things as "crisis actors." Thousands of people can NOT work together on such ridiculously convoluted plots without slipping up, spilling the beans, or turning on one another. Yes, if you disagree with me, you fail the class!

What is more interesting here, however, is how the Qanon phenomenon gives evidence to how fragmented our society has become to the point of the disappearance of a consensus reality for such a large sectors of the American population. People - again, as decades worth of research on how individuals process information and how personal beliefs and desires intersect with external sources of information coming from mass media sources has demonstrated - will selectively expose themselves to information that confirms their inherent biases. We believe what we want to believe and we will aggressively ignore or reinterpret information that contradicts our beliefs. Cognitive Dissonance is the phenomenon that explains how unpleasant and how downright painful it is to be proven wrong, to hear points of view that disagree with us, and have our beliefs challenged. It so unpleasant that people will go to extraordinary lengths to escape such feelings. The easiest way to escape dissonance today is by way of the conspiracy theory. Scientific studies have disproven the vaccine-autism link you've come to believe? Well, the scientists that authored those studies are in on the conspiracy!

The Qanon phenomenon can best be viewed, I believe, through this framework of a toxic cultural fragmentation and dissonance. Some have come to despise those whose political positions they disagree with to such a pathological extreme that they are willing to embrace the head-spinning absurdity of the Qanon claims.

This article, as a matter of fact, posits that maybe the Qanon conspiracy theory was actually a creation of some leftist pranksters to make ultra-conservatives look bad. At some point, perhaps the pranksters will show themselves in public and yell "Psych! Fooled you!"  Now such an anti-conspiracy conspiracy is quite unlikely, I think. However, if someone tried to pull such a grand-scale joke, it would, no doubt, work quite easily.

Now let me predict that the political opposite of such a prank would work as well. There are demented crackpots on the left as well, and not just on the right. The repellent, violent morons of the "Antifa" movement would be just as ready to swallow a conspiracy that would blame some grand, world-scale act of evil on a vast coalition of the military/industrial complex, corporations, George W. Bush, all in league with Big Oil, FOX news, Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh.

Today, unfortunately, stupid has no exclusive party affiliation. And conspiracy theories are its favorite refuge.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

August 20: My appearance on "One on One with Steve Adubato"

The date is set! On August 20 my interview on the "One on One with Steve Adubato" show will air. Check out the program schedule right here.

We will be discussing my new novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED, along with the corrosive and downright sleazy impact of conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones on American society. Very timely, I think, especially with all the bizarre new headlines about the QAnon conspiracy theory and Jones getting the book off of social media sites like Facebook, Apple, and Spotify.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Actually, this is not a good idea.

So tech giants Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify, as discussed in this article, have just banned Alex Jones' InfoWars website from their services. These services, of course, have every right to do so as private companies and this in no way constitutes any form of censorship. Only the government can censor. Private organizations and individuals have absolutely no legal obligation to give anyone a platform for their speech.

However, this is still not a good idea.

The only thing such a move can accomplish is to make a martyr out Jones. Removing his moronic conspiracy rants from these sites will now make him even more appealing as a "rebel" who dares to "speak out" and "expose the truth" that the big, evil, New World Order mainstream media tries to keep hidden. He, in fact, is already telling his readers and listeners that InfoWars is the most "censored" site on the Internet. It makes it sound really sexy and courageous, doesn't it? I bet his dimwit fans certainly think so. This move just might have been one of the biggest favors Facebook and these companies could have done for Jones.

Banning speech by organizations in the business of mass communication, even when legally allowed, is seldom a desirable - or even ethical - thing to do. Even if this speech is the sort of absurd and repugnant conspiracy theorizing that's Jones' stock in trade, offensive speech is best countered by more speech. The very philosophical foundation of democracy, after all, is the idea that individuals must be trusted. As vast a marketplace or ideas should be provided for individuals as possible because is such a marketplace, sensible, logical and decent expression by decent people will outweigh the garbage.

The best antidote to Alex Jones' garbage is not to martyr him but to expose it for what it is.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Book release!


And CONFIRMATION has arrived! My first novel is now available in hardcover, paperback, and electronic versions. Whatever your preference, you can get the book from any of your favorite booksellers.

As Kirkus Reviews wrote, the book is “A captivating examination of humanity’s fear of the unknown, with hints of sci-fi and fantasy.” You can read their full excellent review right here!

Paul Levinson, Fordham University professor of communication and media studies, former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the author of such acclaimed science fiction novels as “The Plot to Save Socrates,” “The Silk Code,” and “The Consciousness Plague” calls the book “A media-savvy, X-Files-like, fast-paced story that’s just dying to be made into a Netflix or Amazon series.”