Debunked: Defcon level raised [Defcon Warning System is a Hobbyist Website]

Mick West

Staff member
Defcon not official metabunk.jpg

Several media outlet, mostly UK tabloids and US conservative news aggregators have reported that the US military has raised the US "DEFCON" alert level from 4 to 3 because of tensions with Russia. However there is no evidence that this is so. The last time the DEFCON readiness level was at 3 was during the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

The claim that is being repeated here is simply the opinion of one hobbyist web site,, run by a small group of people who are interested in prepping for a nuclear war. They like to analyze world events, and they run personal radiation monitoring stations. Their guess of the defcon level is just that, a guess. Probably influenced by their fascination by nuclear war.

They make no claims otherwise, and in fact have a disclaimer
Based on postings on the message board and their contact information, it appears to be administered by "Thomas Lonely Wolf" a writer in Washington State, and Ryan Barenklau, a student at Texas A&M. Neither seem to have any expertise in the topic other than a shared interest in predicting nuclear war.

However this has not prevented crazy news headlines in the British tabloids:

This is not entirely the fault of DWS, who are giving their opinion on the current geopolitical situation. They even make some valid observations about the situation. However they are misleading people by not making it clear from the outset that they are not actually reflecting the official military readiness. Their disclaimers are hidden at the bottom of the page, or in a wall of text. It's very easy for fearmongering sites like the Express to pass is off as something more than it actually is, just the opinion of some guys interested in nuclear war prepping.

[Update Oct 20th, 2016]. As a result of the increase popularity of the site, Ryan Barenklau left to start his own site, meaning DWS is now basically a one-man operation]
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Senior Member.
So this is basically the same as the "Doomsday Clock" but using DEFCON instead of minutes and seconds to midnight.


Senior Member.
So this is basically the same as the "Doomsday Clock" but using DEFCON instead of minutes and seconds to midnight.
Maybe more like when @mamasstickygaloshes2003 posts his
"real" list of new enshrinees to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame...


Senior Member.
I've spent way more time reading over their stuff than I really should have, but a few things I noted that seem to be amateurish to me:

1. They worry a lot about posturing moves, especially by Russia. For example, the upcoming transit of a small Russian fleet through the English Channel, and several NATO members' plan to escort them through. While this happening in the English Channel is new, the event itself has decades of precedent, and the only chance of escalation is a severe breach of rules of engagement. Our ships have gotten close enough to wiggle their eyebrows at each other tons of times (occasionally even close enough to scrape the paint a few) and utterly fail to start a war.
2. Every regional conflict is the prelude to world war. Now, for Syria there's an outside chance of that, with major powers acting in support of two different factions, and alliance members on both sides not all on the same page about the matter (example: Turkey), but they also talked about the attacks on US ships near Yemen, which doesn't involve complex conflicting foreign intervention. If the US retaliated in full force in Yemen, the worst case scenario would be an Iraq-style prolonged occupation, not WWIII.
3. They fall for the media trap of every crazy member of a government speaking with the full faith of that government. For example, one of the stories they seem to reference in the alert increase is the story advising Russians to return home and prepare for nuclear war if the US elects Hillary Clinton. This is the equivalent of taking Mark Walker's "laser or blitz" promise as an actual declaration of war on Mexico - both are just random members of the legislature who say crazy things sometimes, but don't actually have the support to deliver.

I don't think they're pushing an agenda, per-se, like a lot of sites like this are. They seem to be trying to be the Doomsday Clock with a different framing mechanism, but their misconceptions cloud their objectivity.
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Senior Member.
I don't think they're pushing an agenda, per-se, like a lot of sites like this are. They seem to be trying to be the Doomsday Clock with a different framing mechanism, but their misconceptions cloud their objectivity.

They do have a shop and a donate button though.


Senior Member.
They're certainly trying to make a buck, but by agenda I mean like's absurdity is clearly meant to promote an anti-globalism/SHTF ideology. DWS reads like somebody who watches a lot of news but expects the global political scene to work like a giant game of Civ.

Mick West

Staff member
The recent surge in interest in the site has led to a bit of a schism, one Admin (Ryan) has left and taken most of the members of the discussion forum with him and set up a new site.

The following email was sent out to forum members explaining the change, and posted on the DWS site:
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Mick West

Staff member
Looks like Ryan's spin-off group took Thomas's Twitter account, and then Thomas took it back.
And currently their alert status is 4, down from 3.
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