Because ‘Flat Earth conspiracy theorists’ exist, therefore you have no right to dissent. Vestiges of how Royalty views itself in the age of collapsing dogmatic science and pop-skepticism.
I worry more about garbage skepticism than I do the vagaries of Flat Earth Theory. Fake skepticism presents both a much larger movement behind it, and as well bears the greatest potential footprint in terms of societal and human harm. A hard lesson we learned in 2020 and thereafter.
The world was blessed with yet another ‘deep dive’ expose by a self-proclaimed skeptic journalist in February 2022. More than two years into the worst disaster of public health science and policy failure in history, we are obliged once again to be instructed as to how irrational we all are. However the poor timing of this book is not its only myopic feature. Kelly Weill’s treatise, Off the Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything, is simply the latest in this holier-than-thou cult’s habitual foray in misplaced intent. A quintessential application in Pollyanna’s Laws.
Setting the author’s abject lack of qualification inside science and skepticism aside, one should be concerned about the mental health of a person who would go out of their way to debunk Flat Earth Theory upon a world stage – and then tagline it throughout by means of worn-out political shibboleth. For a person to bear such enmity towards their fellow man, one so deeply seated inside their Gestalt of insecurity, that it would drive them to waste copious amounts of time seeking the meager and bitter fruits of harm, notoriety, and money – one should regard this as is indicative of a psychosis at play.
To broad-brush every idea which one does not like, as both analogous of and linked to, Flat Earth Theory – is a signature trait of a malicious and immature mind – one which falls well below the Dunning Line.
Now first, let me be clear that I am no fan nor ponderer of Flat Earth Theory. The concept bears earmarks of propaganda agency – being suddenly injected into society in late 2014, but not by any form of ‘true believer’. It is a lob & slam ploy. I am a student however, of how propaganda and counter-propaganda function inside a dynamic social and political structure. I am wary of the stooge-posed farce (for instance, debunking ‘birds are not real’ claims), such as is entailed in the Flat Earth debate. I am familiar with how disinformation/misinformation agents will insincerely promote an idea, simply for the objective of disseminating Trojan Disinformation, under the goal of discrediting a targeted opposition group. The art of the lob & slam.1 2
It is never about the topic at hand. Disinformation and Misinformation, no matter how correct may be its tenets, is always about discrediting targeted groups in order to neutralize their power – and nothing more.
Most pop-skeptics are not familiar with the tactics of intelligence nor agency, rendering themselves unwitting participants in a clever game of pseudoscience football. It is exactly this Pollyanna lack of self-awareness and willingness to be utilized as a pawn, about which I am more concerned. The book cited, along with the propaganda push Science article above, do not disappoint accordingly.3
Ethical skepticism is about ceasing one’s participation in such a charade. No, the ethical skeptic does not reflexively leap onto the bandwagon of every crazy idea which is foisted before them. However, I do worry far more more about garbage skepticism than I do the vagaries of Flat Earth Theory. Fake skepticism has a much larger movement behind it, and as well bears the greatest potential for societal and human harm (see Covid-19).
Dead Body Count
- Flat Earth Theory: 0
- Pop, Fake, and Social Skepticism which ignored bad Covid-19 policy alone: 749,172 (as of March 18 2022) and rising faster than Covid can explain, especially among younger persons…4 5
The Psychosis of the Skeptic-Journalist
Accordingly, the features of garbage skeptic-journalism as exemplified in the article and book cited, include:
- The investigator finds almost exclusively club-conforming results – perspective is rarely framed nor offered – surprises and serendipity are rare. This is not how real investigation progresses at all.
- They will straw man opposition held ideas and then ad hoc rescue the straw man by citing, ‘a variety of ideas are held, but…(now I bear a license to lie)’.
- They regard, that since they represent the ‘right and correct’, there is no need for them to provide recitation nor backing for their claims. Only the opposition need do this.
- If you dissent, you are automatically part of the conspiracy theory enemy. “Any disposition that identifies my condemnation of conspiracy theory as being wrong, is itself conspiracy theory.”
- Their treatise will often fire its wad in the first chapters and then meander thereafter, almost as if it were a journal and not a work of investigative argument – which prosecutes and builds a case.
- A lack of humanity pervades their monolithic message – indicating a lack of global and human experience base. What little humanity they do offer is canned, and trumpeted under a virtue flare – almost as if they learned it from watching a Hollywood production.
- All opponents are framed as a ‘circle’ or ‘believers’ – which implies that the author carries no belief nor irrational circle membership. This is almost unilaterally false.
- All opponents are framed as residing in a state of confusion and life turmoil. This of course explains why they would latch on to crazy theories. This is pseudo-theory – explaining everything, anything, and nothing, all at the same time.
- All believers ‘Do their own research’ – an effort which only involves unauthorized sources and methods. Why are they unauthorized? Well, when one looks most often the litmus for such categorization is merely that they dissent, and nothing more. Doubt, you will notice, is a luxury reserved for the fake skeptic alone.
- Social media, or the lack of censorship therein, is often framed as the problem. Oh, for the heady days of one-way-only ‘science communication’, Khrushchev, Malenkov, and Pravda. If only!….
- Conspiracy theory is framed as a kind of gateway drug to even more extreme conspiracy theories or bad political stances. This claim is tendered with no supporting evidence whatsoever. Opponents are habitually framed as drooling idiots.
- The hyperbole of some grand research initiative on their part, is often betrayed by shallow, biased, and extremely canned results – a sincere researcher rarely finds only and exactly what they seek (‘deep dive’ is code for ‘sat in my cubicle and made stuff up’).
- As an overriding goal, they seek revenue, notoriety, and club acclaim for their scant effort and shtick. This contrasts starkly with the supposed lower caste they target, who for the most part are not seeking money at all – rather truth (even if misfounded).
- The skeptic chooses the most ludicrous-yet-visible subject they can muster, one which is subscribed to by a couple thousand people at most – and then falsely portrays this to be a foible on the part of the majority of humanity (for those insecure acolytes inside their club). This is lazy stooge-posing.
- It often quickly becomes clear that the skeptic bears no interest, background, nor depth in the actual subject’s broader discipline itself. ‘I have shown zero life interest in astro or geo physics, but oh yes, I am a qualified reviewer of Flat Earth theory.’ Sure you are…
- The skeptic often fails to cite where their targets learned their pop-skeptic habits in the first place – often the same bastions of skepticism from which the researcher themself sprang.
- The skeptic leads off with the pejorative framing ‘conspiracy theory’ and ‘theorists’ – from this quip one can guarantee that a lie is forthcoming – under the guise of rationality or science. The lie is not about the idea they are addressing per se, but rather the ‘conforming method of philosophy in selecting for ideas’ they are promoting. If they add in the word ‘facts’, then you can be assured that they have never prosecuted a scientific argument in their life.
- They immediately connect one conspiracy theory, with all conspiracy theories, and then with all forms of political opinion or persons they disfavor. Everything bad eventually connects back to the FOG (fat orange guy). Just like with ‘Six degrees from Kevin Bacon’, this is a self-deception of apophenia.
- They falsely regard that everyone who disagrees with them, all
- hold to the same beliefs
- are irrational and anti-science
- hold to the same politics
- entertain superficiality
- are Flat-Earth styled theorists
- They fail to grasp that many times ‘true believers’ are counter-intelligence agents in the first place. They also don’t believe the shtick, but are there for the jollies or because they are paid to do it. They don’t have experience in nor do they comprehend the nature of propaganda, agencies, and populations.
- They habitually frame a compliant-but-unintelligent mind as one bearing ‘social intelligence’. This too, is an ad hoc rescue. Chimpanzees possess even higher social intelligence than that of humans, but that is not a goal to which most of us should aspire. Learning how to fit in and put on an act, is not a virtue.
- They regard their work as analogous to visiting some erstwhile Amazonian tribe of lost humanity, with the skeptic-journalist performing the role as a kind of white savior, come to rescue the heathen from their backward ways – then ironically daring to accuse the tribe of ‘lacking a willingness to engage on the issue’. This is very comical.
- They flag a success at censorship, as a victory of science – failing to grasp the irony in such an event; having never experienced a nation or culture wherein censorship was the rule. They applaud Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter censorship.
- They will often desperately crave mention and pictures of themselves in the media.
- They fantasize the dangers of alienation, conducting dangerous experiments, and finally stereotype connections to 9/11 Truth, Nazi’s, Anti-Semitic, misogynistic, QAnon, and other conspiracy theories as the downsides of their targets’ bad belief. This is extremely bigoted shtick on the part of the skeptic-journalist.
- The ‘bad people’ are almost always eagerly identified as being members of the opposite sex – males in particular. The exploitation of the term ‘the patriarchy’ is particularly pandering and unscrupulous.
- They are celebrated as a crusading hero, a great white savior, by their club. A club with a severe case of anomie. An example can be viewed here.
This elitist form of propaganda and shtick is replete through such works of garbage skeptic-journalism. We in ethical skepticism dissent of such self-serving hypocrisy.
The Ethical Skeptic, “OMG Not Another ‘Skeptic’ Book: The Shtick of Canned Conspiracy Theory Journalism”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 28 Mar 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=64548
- The Ethical Skeptic, “Disinformation vs Misinformation – Neither Has Anything To Do with ‘Intent’”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 10 Mar 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=63633
- The Ethical Skeptic, “How to Detect Propaganda – The Art of the Professional Lie”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 17 Mar 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=64108
- Journal Article, Jennifer Golbeck; Social media and shared reality: “Exacerbated by engagement algorithms, flat Earth theories and other fringe beliefs thrive”; 2022; Science Vol 375, P 624-624; doi:10.1126/science.abn6017; https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.abn6017
You just described Louis Theroux’s entire career. Although he is a very high level participant and practitioner.
The conformist group (“blue church” for instance) which creates straw-man arguments to deflate hypotheses which do not conform to group beliefs, and maintains group cohesion long enough, is ultimately at risk for a Jim Jones, “everybody has to drink the Kool-Aid at the same time” moment (IMHO)
As far as I was aware, Flat Earth theory was an academic exercise. It began with a knowing false proposition, “the earth is flat” and used this to test the laws of physics. To me it was and still is this dinner party academic exercise. “Oh, but the earth appears round because gravity increases towards the edge of the flat disc and so light is bent to make it appear round.” To which someone replies, “so what experiments would you use to falsify this …” and the conversation would go on etc etc … (Try it, it’s fun, and it… Read more »
Great input Gyges, thanks! I ignore it as well. There are zombie theories, the walking dead theories which have been falsified but are Lindy. Then there are also Frankenstein theories – not real, just cobbled together as a straw man – still walking around dead as well.
It is amazing. Flat earth is so easily refuted but nobody will do their homework. This is only one of many conspiracy theories (geo-engineering is the most pernicious). The biggest danger I see is that they shred the legitimacy of many people who are legitimately skeptical about issues like vaccines.
I think that that is the real aim behind promoting these pseudo theories.
What is most shocking to me is how normalized the sincere promotion of large-scale censorship has become among those who see themselves in the tradition of rationality and free thought. They would quote Voltaire or Bertrand Russel or all the other great minds that are canonically counted among the guardians of enlightenment (well, at least the somewhat literate among them would/could quote them, if being literate is still a thing) … because they logically see themselves in the exalted intellectual tradition that fights superstition, obtuseness, prejudice and everything else that is not ethical and reasonable. And what is ethical and… Read more »
I love it TS,
“Any disposition that identifies my ideas about conspiracy theory as being wrong, is itself conspiracy theory.”
i had an exchange with a friend’s wife a few years back regarding my use of the word “retarded” she argued that it is hurtful to those parents of mentally-challenged kids, i argued “but that’s not the definition i am employing for this particular word in this particular context. further, WHO is empowered to decide which words i may employ? and where may i find the constantly-updating list of words i am no longer permitted to utter?” i am of the admittedly rigid opinion that freedom of speech includes lies, hatred, and fantastical conspiracy theory. only calls for violence or… Read more »
Lies will eventually falsify themselves.
The biggest liar, no matter what truth they claim, is the one who will not let this process evolve and must insert themself inside it.
In regard to language – things like, ‘You ride on the short bus’ or ‘retarded’ – yeah, while we have that freedom absolutely, I tend to stay away from such pejoratives – and really focus on the specific stupid things people do…