1. NoParty

    NoParty Senior Member

    What if I claim that everyone who disagrees with me is "a shill"?

    That's pretty "critical" thinkin', huh?
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  2. Spectrar Ghost

    Spectrar Ghost Senior Member

    If twenty of us start shilling together we'll have a pound of pure profit!

    Yeah, I'll get my coat.
    • Funny Funny x 3
  3. Wedge

    Wedge New Member

    I find also, the majority of the these people do not think past their absurd claims.

    For example: "Robbie Parker is an actor!" Now, if this were the case and Robbie Parker was an actor and not the father of Emilie Parker, might not someone come forward with, "Hey!...I know that guy!...his name's not Robbie Parker!" or, "I know that family, they don't have a daughter named Emilie!"

    It would be so easy for someone to expose this type of scam and surprisingly, not one person has come forward with such a claim.

    Or how about the claim that the 9/11 bombers are still alive. Well if they were, wouldn't make sense those identified as bombers would come forward to embarrass the US by exposing the hoax?

    Critical thinking skills, common sense and logic are not arrows in their quiver of intellectual skills.
  4. Wedge

    Wedge New Member

    Well, if someone is making money defending the truth, I'm doing wrong!
  5. Santa's sidekick

    Santa's sidekick Active Member

    It's interesting to note that CTers don't respect credentials very much but when a CT-promulgater claims to have a PhD they all call him/her 'Dr'. As I like to point out: no one says 'Dr Albert Einstein' or 'Dr Stephen Hawking', but buy an 'honorary' PhD from an online diploma mill and espouse a couple of conspiratorial ideas and you'll be 'Dr So-and-so' forever after.
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  6. Hama Neggs

    Hama Neggs Senior Member

    It's also interesting to note that CTers don't really care whether those they choose to believe have any credentials related to the subject matter at hand. BUT they quickly decry people like Mick for not being credentialed when he makes claims they don't wish to accept. They disregard the supporting evidence he provides in favor of disparaging his background. Their approach is utterly hypocritical.
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  7. occams rusty scissor

    occams rusty scissor Active Member

    Either that, or the regular "common sense" line I.E. "the sky was bluer when I was younger, I look up now and I can see it has changed, it's just common sense"
  8. NoParty

    NoParty Senior Member

    Sadly, it almost seems that it's often nothing more than what they saw first:

    If they initially read a website that says "Contrails don't persist"
    before being exposed to even 20 websites that make clear that contrails sometimes do persist,
    (and that it's well documented...for generations) that first impression can be a mountain to ever get over...
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. tadaaa

    tadaaa Active Member

    my term for this is "anti-knowledge"

    to a CTer the more actual knowledge you have on the subject is inversely proportionate to the weight/trust they give to that knowledge
    • Like Like x 3
  10. benthamitemetric

    benthamitemetric Active Member

    I think one of the most interesting takes on conspiracy theorists comes from Cass Sunstein. For those unfamiliar with Cass, he is an incredibly prolific legal scholar. When I was in law school he was the single most cited legal scholar and I think he is still in the top three. His most influential work looks at the nexus of law and behavioral economics so, while he is not a trained psychologist, he is deeply steeped in contemporary psychological scholarship, especially as relates to the behavior of groups.

    In 2008 Cass published a piece simply titled "Conspiracy Theories," which set out to analyze the driving forces behind conspiracy theory propagation and perpetuation and then propose ways in which the government could potentially address the costs that conspiratorial thinking imposed on society at large. Conspiracy theorists of many stripes latched on to the latter portion of the paper as evidence that the government was targeting them (especially after he was appointed Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget by Pres. Obama). The very interesting analytical set-up for those proposals, however, seems to be entirely overlooked by conspiracy theorists and non-conspiracy theorists alike, though it is an incisive summation and treatment of the conspiratorial mindset, at least to my mind.

    Also of note: In March of 2014, Cass published a book titled Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas that built on the ideas in the above-linked article. I have not read the book, but I'm sure it's quite good. This blurb in the NYTimes is derived from that book, for those who'd like to get a sense of its content. There are also six other authors commenting on conspiracy theories in the same panel series, all of whom are worth reading. (And of course the comments to that series are just what you'd expect.)

    (Full disclosure, I attended two of Cass's seminars in law school and I am thus likely very biased, for better or worse, in my belief that he is brilliant.)
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
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  11. MikeG

    MikeG Senior Member

    I think that your comment regarding first impressions is directly on point. I have looked at some of actual sources cited by conspiracy theorists in some detail, scholarship on the impending Arctic methane "disaster," for example. Natalia Shakhova is often cited on websites like geoengineeringwatch.org as a source for claims of impending doom. However, if you actually read her work, she qualifies her conclusions.

    What suffices for too many conspiracy believers is that first gloss. A careful examination of evidence is essentially an afterthought.

    Very frustrating.

    Attached Files:

  12. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Cass Sunstein is quite well known in the conspiracy community because of his musing about "crippled epistemology" nad "cognitive infiltration"
    He addressed the criticism in his book:
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
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  13. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    well.. JEEZ. no wonder we are all called shills. that's just brilliant, Sunstein. Thanks.
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  14. Santa's sidekick

    Santa's sidekick Active Member

    Does Sunstein propose anything that isn't already being done on MB and ISF? (Except of course that these sites have nothing to do with the US government.)
  15. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    He does discuss the role of sites like Metabunk as a fifth option (although he only mentions Snopes)

    He gives more detail on "Cognitive infiltration"

    It's a interesting book, but only the first chapter is about conspiracy theory. The rest is on other topics.
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  16. NoParty

    NoParty Senior Member

    First: Yes!! I've said for years, "If we can just tax 'stupid,' goodbye 18 trillion dollar U.S. debt!!" :D

    Second, don't most folks think of Snopes as "The poor man's Metabunk.org" ? :p

    In all seriousness, Barb's site (yes, I know David counts, but he's mostly genial ballast these days) ;)
    was one of the first places on the internet that I felt preserved what little sanity I still retained...
    I think I discovered Snopes in '96...towards the end of the Triassic :eek: 'dial-up' era.

    As the 'net grew, and associates & family began e-mailing me stupid crap, I finally made a rule that
    I wouldn't look at any "amazing" story anymore, if they hadn't at least checked to see if Snopes had
    already debunked it. Cut down dopey e-mails by about 90%! :)
    I spend more time on Metabunk these days,
    but I'm forever grateful to the Mikkelsons.
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
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  17. Santa's sidekick

    Santa's sidekick Active Member

    So he's basically saying, do what sceptics already do, but involve government agents, and have more physical interactions. Seeing as sceptics are already often dismissed as 'shills', it seems a stretch to think that actual 'shills' could do much more (though perhaps they can by saying, 'yes I'm a "shill", but nevertheless consider my argument'? Ie perhaps admitting to being a 'shill' can make that less of a focus).

    But this part is quite important, and I hope all sceptics follow this advice:

    Unfortunately there exists a temptation to mock the people one is arguing with, and doing so can be enormously counterproductive and harmful.
    • Agree Agree x 1
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  18. Santa's sidekick

    Santa's sidekick Active Member

    It's worth mentioning here that CTs can have terrible real-world ramifications. People who believe in chemtrails can be annoying, but as long as they don't shoot at airplanes the only harm they do is to themselves; but CIA/Mossad CTs influence real-world terrorists, AGW CTs make it difficult to put in place anti-carbon policies, Sharia law CTs contribute to anti-Muslim legislation and attacks, and anti-commie and anti-US CTs are used by repressive regimes to justify their crimes.

    Historically, CTs featured prominently in the minds of the perpetrators of the Holocaust, Armenian genocide, and nineteenth-century pogroms.

    Whether 9/11 was staged can seem academic, but this sort of thinking can fuel anti-Westernism and antisemitism and is a factor in some of the crimes and chaos that we see in other parts of the world.
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  19. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    lol you're cute.
  20. Jay Reynolds

    Jay Reynolds Senior Member

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  21. Santa's sidekick

    Santa's sidekick Active Member

    I'm not sure.... Is saying 'you are employed by the govt and lying about it' dehumanising? I think it's more of an ad hominem, ie 'your arguments should be ignored because you're just here to confuse us'.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  22. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    More specifically, it's "Poisoning the well"
    • Like Like x 2
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  23. Ross Marsden

    Ross Marsden Senior Member

    Classic "Poison the Well" relies on some actual small fault of the target.
    Example: Oh Ross Marsden doesn't have a published paper on meteorology to his name, so he cannot be an expert, and what he says may not be reliable." It is true that I have not published anything, but that is no reason to to discard everything I have posted. That is the fallacy of "poison the well".

    I think it's slightly different when someone is (falsely) accused of being a "shill" (for example). The well is being poisoned with an impotent and non-effectual reagent. Unfortunately, in the forums where this tactic is used, a portion of the audience do attribute some weight to the accusation, and the nett effect is much the same.

    A defense for this type of ad hominem is to say something like, "OK, suppose for the moment I am a shill. Is there anything in what I just posted that is incorrect. Shall we talk about it?"
    Mick has used this, and it is a very effective disarming move.

    Of course that will also work with the classical application.
    "Sure, I haven't authored anything in the mainstream meteorological literature. Is there anything in what I just posted that is incorrect. Shall we talk about it?"
  24. But when debunkers counter Niels Harrit's paper on the alleged use of thermite in the alleged demolition of WTC 7 by saying that he lacks the proper credentials or that the journal which published his paper was not peer reviewed, doesn't that also amount to poisoning the well?
  25. Trailspotter

    Trailspotter Senior Member

    It depends on the context, which I do not know, as I did not follow that particular debate. If the argument was that Niels Harrit's claims carry more weight in the debate because they had been published in a paper, then pointing out that this paper was not peer reviewed would be a valid counterargument.
  26. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    If someone argues that an argument is probably correct because of who made the argument, then that's a claim of authority as evidence and it's perfectly reasonable to point out if that person does not have the credentials or expertise that are being claimed. For example if you have something like this video:

    It making the claim that the opinions are significant purely because of who is giving them. In this case, Mark McCandlish, the "Defense Industry Technician", is an artist, and worked in the aerospace industry as an artist, nothing more.

    While it's worth pointing out errors (or even lies) in credential claims, it's better to look at the claims themselves. But often the credentials+opinions are the only evidence proffered.

    Tying this into psychology, it's curious that people reject authority, and yet also use these very simplistic appeals to authority. It seems the confirmation bias is the overriding factor here. Conspiracy theorists are very willing to use things from mainstream science and the media if they feel it helps their case, while simultaneously saying that the media and science are in the pocket of the conspiracy.

    What they do against Metabunk isn't attacking a claim of credentials though, as I don't claim to have any (in fact, they often use my own quotes, like "I'm just some guy", to describe me). It's an unsubstantiated claim that I'm a shill, and this site is part of the conspiracy. It's just a way of mentally not having to consider any rebuttals.
    • Agree Agree x 5
  27. Santa's sidekick

    Santa's sidekick Active Member

    Chomsky points out that despite the thousands of claimed signatories to the AE911T petition, no one has yet published a paper in a peer-reviewed journal with evidence for their claims. Chomsky sees this in itself as evidence against those claims - ie evidence from absence: had the AE911T guys any evidence to contribute or any legitimate reason to form their opinions, some of them would have published peer-reviewed papers; the fact they haven't is itself evidence that their claims are baseless.

    This argument can be challenged by pointing out that Niel Harrit did in fact publish a paper; the rebuttal would be that Harrit's paper is irrelevant, as it was not peer-reviewed.

    I don't know whether this is the context in which the remark you refer to was made, but if it was, the sceptic was not making an ad hominem but rather a reasonable rebuttal to a proposed rebuttal of an earlier argument against CD.
    Last edited: May 15, 2015
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  28. Jay Reynolds

    Jay Reynolds Senior Member

    That is exactly why I mentioned that the charge of "shill" "Troll", etc. being non specific and non-supported is a means of dehumanization. The dehumanized target is then simplistically deemed unworthy of any further consideration.

    • Agree Agree x 1
  29. Veritie

    Veritie New Member


    I'd like to add that I think most of the CTs are not well educated, and when they are faced with an answer that includes any kind of complex mathematics or scientific verbiage, they shut down...it is a lot easier for them to listen to "Joe the Event Skeptic" who has, for the most part, the language they can understand.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2015
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  30. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Most people are not well educated. I don't think this is anything specific about conspiracy theorists. Tarring them with an "uneducated" brush is not helpful. See: https://www.metabunk.org/threads/politeness-policy.1224/

    If you are using complex mathematics, then you are probably doing it wrong. At least if the explanation relies on complex mathematics. It's certainly a good idea to have the math available, so it can be verified.
  31. Leifer

    Leifer Senior Member

    It was surprising to me, when talking to people at my workplace (I use them as a gauge) how many people are unfamiliar with what a 'contrail' is, beyond the typical reply.... "aren't they that line behind a plane ?" Most are unable to explain it further, or in more accurate detail.
    If I had to guess a percentage of my co-workers (and many were college educated), their answers to:
    "What is a Contrail ?"

    It would be something like this.......

    "those lines behind a plane" ~80%
    "jet exhaust" ~30%
    "water vapor" ~15%
    "frozen water vapor (ice)" ~5% or less.
    "I don't know" ~20%

    (There is overlap, because while ~80% know that they are the white lines behind planes, but have different ideas as to why they are white.)
    Less than 1% believe the lines involve a conspiracy....so I am agreeing with Mick.
    Sometimes we unintentionally use our personal knowledge (or group knowledge) to gauge the knowledge of others, when it's simply a matter of "what did you/they study" or people's particular and devoted interests.
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
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  32. Veritie

    Veritie New Member

    I'm sorry Mick, are you correcting me when you italicize 'people'?? Please don't put words in my mouth. I meant CTs, evidently you haven't listened to the same followers that I have.

    As for your politeness policy, I was being polite. I might suggest that you take another look at it yourself Mick. Your own condescending attitude has given you and your forum quite the reputation.

    No need to ban me, I am taking myself out of the forum all together. Shame though, there is a lot of great information here.
    • Disagree Disagree x 3
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  33. NoParty

    NoParty Senior Member

    Or you could explain yourself before running away.

    In #270 Mick was obviously pointing out that it is true of most people that they are "not well educated..."
    so it can appear impolite to use the term as an explanation for the things CTs say. Not hard. Not condescending.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  34. Leifer

    Leifer Senior Member

    Evidence that some people will shut-down, at even the lightest criticism, too.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  35. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    If I tried to explain things to my mother with "complex mathematics or scientific verbiage" she'd shut down too, even though she's college educated. The vast majority of people who are not actually taking a course in math are pretty unfamiliar with even basic math like Pythagoras's theorem, similar triangles, or exponents. Many don't even really understand division that well.

    And then there's plenty of reasonably well educated people who believe in conspiracies, just look at AE911Truth.

    Sure, there're probably some correlation between education and the correctness of one's beliefs. There's a correlation between education and atheism, but if I were trying to convince someone that there's probably no god, then I don't think it would be at all helpful to note this correlation. It's seen as impolite, and it hinders the conversation. Hence I have the politeness policy.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  36. Spectrar Ghost

    Spectrar Ghost Senior Member

    I think that you'd find education has little to do with correctness of belief, at least outside of a person's field of specialty. I've heard it said that smart people are no less likely to believe in conspiracy theories, but much less likely to change their beliefs. Smart people are much better at rationalizing away contradictory evidence, for instance.
  37. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    i thought the hot from the engine in the cold air made condensation. like on the outside of your refrigerator sometimes in summer.

    which is how I know 98% of people have no idea what weatherwar101 is even saying "see that purple blob here? that's a low pressure HAARP induced convector that reacts on the red blob which is aluminum floating in the atmosphere, which causes a convex reaction on the yellow blob 4000 miles away"

    ^sounds good to me, since I have no idea what im looking at with those radar things or what any of those words mean in weather anyway!
  38. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    especially since the correlation is they think they're 'all that' and the fear of not being able to explain anything 'unexplained' messes with their psyche ;)

    edit add: the fact hat I misspelled "accept" initially is just a coincidence! hmmm actually that whole sentence is wrong.... dang.
  39. tadaaa

    tadaaa Active Member

    Education/intelligence or whatever you want to call it is far to simplistic a term to be used as a "slam dunk" differentiator between the "natural" CT'ers and people with a more skeptical outlook in life

    My elder brother is pretty well educated and a Chess Grandmaster - I would not trust him to open a crisp packet, and his mind is fertile ground for "woo" of most flavours
    • Like Like x 1
  40. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    I think it's pretty obvious in how the vast majority of CTs write, that it is an emotional element, has nothing to do with intelligence in most cases. Although not understanding the science or facts of a matter certainly doesn't help the situation of falling for woo.
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