Effective Debunking in Forums

Mick West

Staff member
There’s a lot of online discussion about conspiracy theories. Some takes place on Facebook pages, some on the comments to YouTube videos, some on Twitter, and some comments to news stories.

But the place where the most in-depth online discussions takes place is in discussion forums. There are several general conspiracy themed forums, such as Above Top Secret, or Godlike Productions, where the majority of participants are firm believers in one conspiracy theory or another. Then there are general skeptical and debunking forums, such as the James Randi Educational Forum (JREF), or my own Metabunk.org. Here the debunkers are in the majority, and the discussion hinges around debunking theories rather than promoting them.

In both of these type of general forums however, there are generally people from both sides of any argument. There’s a surprising number of debunkers on Above Top Secret, and there’s quite a few conspiracy theories (of various flavors) on JREF and Metabunk.

Besides the general purpose forums, there are also dedicated single issue forums for most conspiracy theories, and even for most individual aspects of those conspiracy theories. There’s several 9/11 forums, and some for other topics like chemtrails, fluoridation, gang stalking, moon lands, etc. Some of these are hyper specialized - promoting either a very idiosyncratic theory (such as gang stalking), or a very particular minority take on a broader subject (such as the “no planes” 9/11 theory).

From a debunkers perspective, forums are a mixed blessing. On the one hand they provide an endless stream of things to debunk. Should you view debunking mostly as entertainment, as a pastime, then online forums are the equivalent of online crack. There’s always someone promoting one theory or another, and they are usually quite willing to have a go at defending their theory, and get into the nitty-gritty details. One can quite easily get caught up in threads with hundreds, even thousands of posts, wheeling freely from one subject to the next, endless streams of bunk being debunked to one extent or another.

But if you view debunking partly as the opportunity to do some good, then that type of thing is really a waste of time. What does it benefit the world if you write a brilliantly worded explanation of how contrails form, if it’s lost half way down the twelfth page of a thread that started out with the title “Red wine test for Morgellons”, and the first seven pages barely mention chemtrails at all.

People generally do not read long threads in forums. After the first few posts, the thread is basically just a conversation between a few people - often just between two people. People read the title of the thread. They might read the first post. Possibly they might read the last post. But literally only a handful of people besides the actual participants are likely to read the entire thread.

If you put effort into debunking, and you’re not just doing it for entertainment, then you need to make it count. There’s a saying in many crafts: measure twice, cut once. For debunking I’d rephrase that as “think twice, debunk once”.

We debunkers have all had the experience of seeing someone bring up the same old tired argument that we’ve seen literally hundreds of times over many years. We wearily get our fingers into gear and type out a response explaining why the argument is wrong. Well, wouldn’t it be better if, instead of typing variations on a debunking a hundred times, you step aside after the first few times, and make an effort to write a clear and concise debunking, something accessible, with references, with clear illustrations. Nothing too long, just something that debunks the argument really well. So next time the argument comes up, you can just point to the explanation.
Last edited:


Senior Member.
Indeed. As long as that first post or 2 (3?) clearly spell it all out and summarize the bunk...

its when the humans get involved after that when the thread goes all to heck :)
Thread starter Related Articles Forum Replies Date
Rory Where online is debunking most effective? Practical Debunking 14
Mick West How effective is Cloud Seeding? Contrails and Chemtrails 17
walliswallis OU Study: Use of the Word "Sheep" Effective in Defeating Reason Practical Debunking 9
Mendel Can US churches be debunking? Practical Debunking 12
D Help debunking local UFO claim Skydentify - What is that Thing in the Sky? 8
T Need Debunking: Alfred Kinsey claims that child sex abuse is harmless General Discussion 6
T Need Debunking: Sayyid Qutb was a Liason for the Communist International General Discussion 2
Mendel Standards for debunking Practical Debunking 6
Oystein Debunking resource: Engineers Assess the Truth in AE911Truth (Scott & Hamburger, 2021) 9/11 36
S Needs debunking: Pentagon plane could have been shot down 9/11 10
C Need Debunking: Concert photograph from 8/27/21 (Billy Strings) fans claiming UFO. No eyewitness that I know of. UFOs and Aliens 12
ki_cz Need help debunking FE video Flat Earth 42
V Needs debunking: flat earthers claim this reflection to show a harness in ISS video Flat Earth 10
FatPhil Debunking backfiring Practical Debunking 36
M Need Debunking: Apollo 12 LM caught on a wire Conspiracy Theories 12
P Need Debunking: "Experimental Vaccine Death Rate for Israel's Elderly 40 Times Higher Than COVID-19 Deaths" Coronavirus COVID-19 7
Mick West Gabriel Sterling Debunking Trumps Accusations from the Raffernsperger Call Election 2020 3
Edward Current Needs Debunking: That the GPS does not implement time corrections from Einstein's relativity Science and Pseudoscience 7
A Needs Debunking: Proposed COVID Vaccine will become part of our DNA, make us programmable Coronavirus COVID-19 37
gtoffo Needs Debunking: "UFO crash" near Rio de Janeiro UFOs and Aliens 17
Code-Beta Needs Debunking: CE-5, humans initiating UFO sightings UFOs and Aliens 15
Mick West Debunking Correlations Between 5G deployments and Coronavirus Coronavirus COVID-19 14
Pumpernickel Need Debunking: Foucault's Pendulum debunked through Mach's principle (the Earth is a static object in the center of the Universe) Science and Pseudoscience 16
Mick West TFTRH #34 - Stian Arnesen: Debunking, Censorship, 9/11, and UFOs Tales From the Rabbit Hole Podcast 0
H Need Debunking: Hernando County platforms from more than 10 miles Flat Earth 9
Bill Statler Needs debunking: "Magnetic water" for treating diabetes Health and Quackery 8
Mick West TFTRH #14: Rory – Flat Earth Debunking and Spiritual Journeys Tales From the Rabbit Hole Podcast 6
Qulaey Two problems need help debunking and debating tips? please. Flat Earth 9
Scaramanga The Easy And Logical Debunking Of UFO 'Size' UFOs and Aliens 1
Mendel MediaWise #IsThisLegit program Practical Debunking 1
brad fuller Does the inverse-square law apply to the flat-earth debunking tool chest? Flat Earth 4
mudr0 Need Debunking: Video claiming zigzaggin objects and movement prove EVA filmed in pool General Discussion 33
vooke Need debunking: Writings in the sky Skydentify - What is that Thing in the Sky? 11
Mick West Debunking 9/11 Microsphere Myths 9/11 0
Starman Debunking Bob Lazar's drawing of S-4 hangers UFOs and Aliens 15
Mick West Debunking Guidelines for: "Convex Earth - The Documentary" Flat Earth 0
T Debunking needed – anomalous mp3 recording distortion Ghosts, Monsters, and the Paranormal 12
Mick West Here's to the "Debunker"! Practical Debunking 1
ConfusedHominid Need Debunking (Claim): Metabunk Curve Calculator Does Not Calculate for Angular Size Flat Earth 13
Mick West NY Times: In Italian Schools, Reading, Writing and Recognizing Fake News Practical Debunking 60
Mick West Debunking: A Meta-Analysis of the Psychological Efficacy of Messages Countering Misinformation Practical Debunking 5
Whitebeard Martymer 81 Practical Debunking 4
N Neeson's anti-debunking thoughts Site Feedback & News 15
Mick West Fireproof Cabbage, Burning Snow, Flat Earth - Are Some Things too Silly to Debunk? Practical Debunking 7
Mick West Burying the Debunk: How Fake News about "Pyramids" in Antarctica Creates False Balance Ghosts, Monsters, and the Paranormal 2
Mick West Debunking911.com offline - How to Preserve Good Debunking Sites? 9/11 3
Sam Hill Debunking "That's not a Space Station, it's an airplane" Flat Earth 1
Mick West When Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence in Conspiracy Theories Practical Debunking 35
Rogerpenna Debunking Flat Earth with the Southern Hemisphere Flat Earth 11
Leifer Polite video interviewing/debunking Practical Debunking 8
Related Articles

Related Articles