Conspiracy Round-up – January 2016

Is the Bundy takeover of the Malheur national wildlife reserve a conspiracy theory? I guess it depends on what you are interested in. If we’re worried that we’re not calling these people ‘terrorists’, then there’s a question as to why (one answer to which will be some claim of a concerted – and maybe secretive – effort by the media and government not to call white people terrorists). There’s also the issue that many of the occupiers are conspiracy theorists themselves, and believe in a state-led conspiracy to deprive them of their natural rights (namecheck: Agenda 21), or that slavery never happened. Whatever we want to call then, they are certainly paranoid enough. Also, why are the authorities strangely absent? What could possibly explain that?

Matt Taibbi has an interesting take on why we are taking cowboys who cry seriously, which is a less problematic analysis than it sounds. But the best thing about it, is that people are sending them dildos.

James F. Tracy, who we interviewed on the podcast in the middle of last year, has been fired from Florida Atlantic University, where he was tenured. An awful lot has been written on it. Some defending Tracy, some taking him to task. Some even saying that the university should not hide its real reasons for the termination.

There’s certainly a discussion to be had about the role of academic freedom, and the associated duties. Northwestern’s Arthur Butz, for example, was not fired for his Holocaust denial. (which is not to compare what Tracy has alleged to have done with anti-Semitism; this is merely an example of a university defending what many rightly would take to be highly offensive behaviour because it was not relevant to Butz’s position).

I do want to call out one article on this, however, which is a perfect illustration of how framing a debate can make one side look more or less bad. This piece about the HONR network talks about harassing people who are sceptical about the official theory of what happened at Sandy Hook. Yet if you think asking people to prove their dead children ever existed is a bad thing, the HONR network looks like it might be a conspiracy of well-intentioned people who just want to stop further trauma. Framing, as we know, can really affect how you view a story.

In other academic conspiracist news: the University of Wollongong has accepted a PhD promoting anti-vaccination views. It’s proving to be quite controversial, and looks like it lacks a lot of rigour. Interestingly, the supervisor of the PhD, Brian Martin, has a long history of supporting students with controversial projects.

Also, we increasingly know more about who are sceptical about vaccines, and it’s not the poor and uneducated.

The search for MH370 has now turned up two 19th century shipwrecks, but no MH370.

Terrorist asks Twitter followers what he should bomb.

This article from The Intercept deftly moves from discussion of the various open plots against Jeremy Corbyn to discussion of how some on the Left are hawkish about the Middle East. Corey Robin has some additional notes.

Why do conspiracy theories take hold in Russia? Basically, everyone either loves or hates Putin.

Ashley Madison might be increasing its user base. Someone suggested to me that Ashley Madison was always a conspiracy; it was really just an extortion racket. That’s why they never checked the emails people used to sign up with; it didn’t matter to them, as long as people wanted to pay the fee to get the account associated with their email deactivated.

As predicted, Volkswagen executives knew about the emissions scandal well before it ever came out, somewhat destroying their claim it surprised them at the time (I guess they were surprised their cover-up wasn’t successful).

You might ask if there was a conspiracy to hide what is killing all the bees.

Finally, did you know there was a conspiracy to hide just how big a Nazi and anti-semite Heidegger was? Well, there was/is.


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.