How come so many Christians fall for conspiracy theories?

 

Progressive Christian blogger Joe Forrest has a great piece up on Medium about conspiracy theories, that begins with the story of how he convinced his sixth grade class that the moon landing was faked. He rounds up plenty of thoughtful links, quotes, and observations about these dangerous beliefs in general, but also how they seduce and appeal to those who worship Jesus.

Maybe it’s because, from a young age, many of us were taught the “scientific establishment” was out to destroy our belief in the Bible.

Or maybe so many of us were convinced by the Left Behind books that a satanic one-world government was on the horizon, it just makes sense we need to be as vigilant as possible right now.

Or maybe because we’ve already been conditioned by our own belief system that there exists a hidden spiritual reality that making the leap to a hidden “shadow government” reality isn’t all that big of a deal.

And it’s important to note that a lot of Christians share conspiracy theories out of good faith. They believe they’re “exposing the truth.” But most conspiracy theories are rotten at the core. It’s obvious they’re rooted in fear, insecurity, and loneliness. And they’re often designed to give us more reasons to loathe our ideological enemies.

Forrest's faith is clearly one of radical empathy, not of evangelical self-persecution, which gives him a unique perspective. He's clearly familiar with all kinds of Christian life, and writes with that audience in mind. Read the rest

Someone dubbed Alex Jones' ranting over video of Chuck E. Cheese

This makes Alex Jones surprisingly more palatable, but doesn't really impact Chuck E. Cheese's standard level of creepiness either way. Read the rest

Trump pushes false Obamagate conspiracy, abuses female reporters in White House press conference

Trump has snit, verbally abuses 2 female reporters, ends press conference abruptly

Pentagon releases UFO footage

Pentagon confirms that the guy from Blink-182 was right about UFOs. Unless he's a patsy.

Woman opens fire on cellular tower workers

A woman in North Carolina was arrested this week in November 2019 after opening fire on workers maintaining a cellular tower near her home, reports WSOC TV in Charlotte. None of the workers were hit.

[The woman] was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after court documents show she fired a a 22 revolver pistol. We can hear the 911 call made from the tower this weekend where a crew of three people were doing work south of Taylorsville.

The woman has prevously contacted authorities to inform them of "hearing voices from the tower", says local Sheriff Chris Bowman. Her gun is legally owned.

CORRECTION: The incident happened months ago, not last week. Read the rest

"Bigfoot Watcher Chasing Chemtrails Records a UFO"

At Mysterious Universe, Paul Seaburn writes:

In what can be considered an unusual convergence of conspiracy theories, a man who runs a Bigfoot videos YouTube channel was chasing chemtrails when he claimed to have recorded a UFO chasing them as well. If you’re playing Conspiracy Scrabble, ‘Chemtrail’, ‘Bigfoot’ and ‘UFO’ is a triple-word score.

According to his commentary during the video, Marc Abell –the CEO of Colorado Bigfoot, a provider of Bigfoot videos – was recording a plane making a contrail over a snow-covered terrain in Vail, Colorado, and believed the color and shape changes in the contrail were signs that the plane was actually spraying something rather than just trailing the usual water vapor and jet exhaust.

That's when Abell spotted the UFO.

Read the rest

The worst thing about deepfakes is that we know about them

Roko's Basilisk is a notorious thought experiment regarding artificial intelligence and our own perceptions of reality, particularly as it relates to a hypothetically powerful AI. It's kind of like Newcomb's Paradox, with a little more Battlestar Galactica-style AI genocide.

If you want to know more about it, feel free to click the link. But be warned: the whole point of Roko's Basilisk is that the mere knowledge of Roko's Basilisk also makes you complicit in Roko's Basilisk. If Roko's Basilisk is real—a question which is intrinsic to the thought experiment itself—then the potential contained within that hypothetical idea is enough to sow the seeds to self-destructive doubt. And that's how Roko's Basilisk wins.

You don't need to know the specific details of Roko's Basilisk to understand how the concept could relate to the growing phenomenon of deepfakes—the manipulation of deep Learning technology to create deceptively realistic videos, like adding Nicholas Cage's face into every movie. The cybersecurity firm DeepTrace recently released a report on the myriad ways that deepfakes threaten our trust in knowledge, and in our own eyes. And their conclusion? The mere idea of deepfakes is enough to bring the worst case scenario to life—even if we never actually reach that worst case scenario in practice.

Nicholas Cage as Amy Adams, because Deepfakes.

In reality, deepfakes haven't actually been used to successfully falsify videos of politicians to use as large-scale propaganda; like most things on the internet, they're mostly used for porn. But the fact that they could be used to deceive the public is itself enough to make public trust spiral downwards, causing us to debate both what is true, and the methods by which we determine what is true. Read the rest

Republic of Lies: the rise of conspiratorial thinking and the actual conspiracies that fuel it

Anna Merlan has made a distinguished journalistic career out of covering conspiracy theories, particularly far-right ones, for Gizmodo Media; her book-length account of conspiratorial thinking, Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power, is a superb tour not just through the conspiracies that have taken hold in American public discourse, but also in the real, often traumatic conspiracies that give these false beliefs a terrible ring of plausibility. Read the rest

Did the US try to weaponize ticks?

The US House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that orders the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to "conduct a review of whether the Department of Defense experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975." The amendment was spearheaded by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith. From CBS News:

The theory, which sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel, contends that bioweapon specialists packed ticks with pathogens that could cause severe disabilities, disease and death among potential enemies to the homeland. Smith said he was inspired to add the amendment to the annual defense bill by "a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at U.S. government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland and Plum Island, New York to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons."

Those books, however, have been questioned by some experts who dismiss long-held conspiracy theories that the federal government aided the spread of tick-borne diseases, and federal agencies, including the CDC, may have participated in a cover-up of sorts to conceal findings about the spread of Lyme disease.

Here's the amendment.

image: "Chelicera of the sheep tick" by Richard Bartz (CC) Read the rest

Seth Rich conspiracy was a Russian military operation: Yahoo News

The Seth Rich conspiracy traces back to an SVR operation, reports Yahoo News today. Huge if true, and possibly the Russian military's biggest coup yet, not counting the one that landed Trump in the White House. Read the rest

Courts and cops don't know what to do with "sovereign citizens," the delusional far-rightists who claim the law doesn't apply to them

The "sovereign citizen" movement is a grifty, anti-Semitic/white-nationalist-adjacent cult whose conspiratorial beliefs include a bunch of reasons that neither law enforcement nor courts have jurisdiction over them, and also that the federal government is not allowed to own land (this being the rubric for the Cliven Bundy terrorists' seizure of the Malheur Oregon Wildlife Refuge. Read the rest

The weird grift of "sovereign citizens": where UFOlogy meets antisemitism by way of Cliven Bundy and cat-breeding

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the "sovereign citizen" movement/conspiracy theory (previously) has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to a combination of the rise of antisemitism (long a dogwhistle in the movement, now out in the open), an increase in financial desperation and a sense of betrayal, and the movement's ability to realize real cash for its members, who have systematically defrauded the underfunded and resource-strapped IRS of move than $1B. Read the rest

Alex Jones's deposition over his role in the harassment of Sandy Hook parents is a total shitshow

As the lawsuit against Alex Jones for his role in directing and encouraging the vicious harassment of the parents of children murdered at the Sandy Hook shooting has led to a lawsuit, and that has led to discovery and depositions that reveal much about how Jones deliberately and cynically created the campaign of terror against the grieving parents -- and the role that organizations like the NRA play in the creation of cruel and destructive conspiracy theories about mass shootings. Read the rest

Study suggests that Flat Eartherism spread via Youtube

The rise in a belief that the Earth is flat is bizarre and somewhat frightening, a repudiation of one of the most basic elements of scientific consensus. Texas Tech University psych researcher Asheley R. Landrum attended a 2017 flat earth convention and interviewed 30 attendees to trace the origins of their belief in a flat earth, finding that Youtube videos were key to their journey into conspiracy theories; her findings were bolstered by a survey of more than 500 participants. Read the rest

Ten years after Juneau ditched water fluoridation, kids racked up an average of $300/each in extra dental bills

It's been ten years since the people of Juneau, Alaska succumbed to conspiracy theories and voted to ruin their kids' teeth by removing fluoride from the drinking water, and it shows. Read the rest

#D5: Advice for people who just realized that Qanon is bullshit

Qanon is an unbelievably stupid conspiracy theory whose underlying bullshittery is mathematically provable, and whose primary proponents are pallsy with the President, and whose adherents include mass-murderers whose crimes are linked to their belief in the Qanon conspiracy. Read the rest

On Thanksgiving Eve, Facebook quietly admitted to hiring dirty tricksters to publish an anti-Semitic Soros hoax smearing its critics

When the New York Times published its insider report detailing how Facebook executives had hired the Republic PR firm Definers, known for it dirty tricks campaigns, and then directed it to spread lies linking Facebook's critics to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that George Soros secretly directs political campaigns in the US and abroad, Facebook lied and said that the New York Times was wrong. Read the rest

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