Joe is someone I’ve known online for nearly ten years, back when he was a believer in the chemtrails conspiracy theory. Over a few years, I managed to talk him out of that one. He’s dabbled in a few other conspiracy theories since then, like JFK, 9/11, and Birtherism (Obama being supposedly born in Kenya), but didn’t really think they had much to them.

Joe is politically right wing, a Tea Party Republican who expressed some support for the Oregon militia standoff of 2016, and is very critical of what he sees as left-wing media bias regarding social issues like race and immigration. The conspiracy he currently thinks is real is that leftists and globalists like George Soros, combined with a “Deep State”, are attempting to use those social issues to manipulate society towards open borders and a one world government.   This is not a fringe view, and variations of this belief are actually shared by a significant number of people.

Joe joking referred to himself as a “deplorable”, a term used by Hillary Clinton to refer to Trump supporters, and then adopted by those supporters as a badge of their perceived oppression by the liberal establishment. To a liberal like myself, Joe’s positions do seem rather disappointing and I disagree with most of his political and social beliefs. But, just like with the more extreme or eccentric conspiracy theorists, I think it’s important to keep the channels of communication open.

 

 

I met Sasha at the Flat Earth conference a couple of weeks ago. During the debate, she asked an interesting question about the moment that made us commit to the Earth being flat (or, in my case, a globe). Afterwards, she approached me and asked a few more questions, and we ended up talking for quite a while. I found her fascinating, as she was a very nice, normal-seeming, intelligent person. She’s certainly not stupid, and does not seem to be crazy, and yet she thinks there’s a good chance that the Earth actually is Flat. I tried explaining a few things to her, particularly the fact that distant mountains seem to be hidden behind the horizon just like the Globe model predicts. She didn’t think this was good evidence though, as there seemed to her to exist other possible explanations, like “perspective” hiding the bottom of the mountain. So was frustrated and intrigued.  I invited here on my Podcast, and we have a fascinating conversation, where I again fail to get my explanation across, and she quite eloquently speaks about the need for both questioning of assumptions, and communication between diverse groups.

 

In this episode, I report back from my trip to the “Exit the Matrix” Flat Earth Expo in Las Vegas, where I gave a presentation, had a debate, and talked to a lot of Flat Earth believers.

It was an experience that was unusual, revealing, and entertaining.   The flat Earth folk were, on the whole, very nice and fun to talk to. I came away with the sense that their lack of understanding was very genuine, that they were in many case not trolling. I also found that communication was possible. Of course, they are very resistant, and individuals vary, but people were not automatically rejecting what I said. I didn’t convert anyone that I know of, but I think I at least made them think about a few things. I will follow up with the people I met, and hope to have some on future podcasts.

At 3:30 I mention that “IPS” uses the name “Tim Ozman” the same (phonetically) as the person I interviewed last week (“Tim Osman”). This is not the same person, just the same name (ironic use of the name of a CIA agent who supposedly pretended to be Osama bin Laden).

  • Exit the Matrix Expo Information: http://archive.is/3ETwh
  • “Mad” Mike Hughes – https://madmikehughes.com/
  • Russell Dibird, Flat Earth Media Group http://www.femg.com/
  • Shelley Lewis – Flat Earth Radio – http://ferlive.com/
  • Chris Pontius (F.E. Models) – https://flatearthmodels.com
  • Nathan Thompson – https://www.facebook.com/groups/OfficialFlatEarthAndGlobeDiscussion/?
  • Mike, Exploring Again – http://exploringagain.com
  • IPS. – http://archive.is/hf5C5
  • Brother Earnest – http://www.nasalies.org/

I first became aware of “Tim Osman” from his work debunking the Flat Earth theory. He’s done some amazing work there with highly visual demonstrations of the curve of the Earth using drone footage. But when I asked if I could use some of that footage he declined, and later berated me on his channel. It turned out he did not like my debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories, because he is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist (although he disputes the term.)

I asked him for an interview, and he agreed, with no video, and with him live-streaming it to his channel. It starts out a bit adversarial and the first half is largely him grilling me about my beliefs. But we eventually agree on a little common ground, which is always a great first step in genuine communication.

 

Dan used to be convinced that some kind of drastic collapse of society was just around the corner. He was prepared for this, stockpiling food and supplies, and watching all the lastest prepper/survivalist videos on YouTube, as well as making his own videos about what was going to happen. When Obama came to power he received and initially believed dire warnings that some kind of society “reset” was imminent. But then nothing happened, and he gradually realized that probably nothing was happening, and all the worrying about it was a waste of time and having a bad effect on his life. So he stopped, deleted all his videos, and stopped consuming conspiracy theories. He’s a lot happier now.

In this second part of my extended conversation with Stian Arnesen (first part here) we delve deeper into 9/11. Firstly we discuss the Alaska report on World Trade Center Building 7. This is a report by Prof. Leroy Hulsey ,paid for by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a group that promotes the conspiracy theory that the World Trade Center was destroyed with pre-planted explosives. The report is intended to prove that fire alone could not be responsible for the collapse. Stian has been corresponding with various members of AE911Truth for a while, and has something of an inside perspective on what to expect.

Following on from this we discuss why it’s so hard to get serious scientists to look into the science behind conspiracy theory claims. I relate my experience with doing a study of scientist’s beliefs about Chemtrails.

In the second half of this episode Stian brings up a number of questions he still has about how the World Trade center collapsed the way it did. I try to explain.

Stian Arensen has been involved in the 9/11 Truth community for a number of years, and in the last year or so has been questioning some of the underpinnings of that community. Stian has also been very interested in topics such as crop circles and UFOs.

We discuss how Stian’s thinking has evolved over time, and examine the parallels between the various communities – in particular we look at the effects of questioning the group consensus, and how it can lead to exclusion from a group unwilling to move forward.

Stian also questions me about my debunking, and some things I’ve said in the past, and I try to explain.

In this first episode of Tales from the Rabbit Hole, I give a brief introduction and then talk to my first guest, Jon, an ex-conspiracy theorist

Tales from the Rabbit Hole is an interview-style podcast focusing on people whose lives have been affected by the conspiracy theory rabbit hole. Guests include both former and current believers in a variety of conspiracy theories, as well as debunkers, skeptics, and the investigators of those theories.

I’m Mick West, a debunker. I wrote the book Escaping the Rabbit Hole – How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories using Facts, Logic, and Respect. This book came from my experiences running Metabunk – a debunking Forum. Over the years I realized simply presenting corrections to people is not enough. We need effective communication, and we can’t do that if we don’t listen and talk with each other. I’m hoping this podcast will help bridge that gap.

EX CONSPIRACY THEORIST

My first guest is Jon, an ex conspiracy theorist who runs the Facebook Group “The Ex Conspiracy Theorist.” Jon talks about how he became a conspiracy theorist, and how it relates to his religious past as a Mormon. He discusses the things that initially convinced him, like Glenn Beck theories about Obama’s “Czars”, the “New World Order,” and how he came to realize those things were not what Alex Jones said they were.

Jon is now very active online on Facebook and his blog. Since we’ve recorded this he’s also started a Twitter account.

It’s a short first episode, and I hope to have Jon on again for a more extended conversation about his debunking work.

Notes and Links

American Presidency Project’s Search for “New World Order”
https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/advanced-search?field-keywords=%22new+world+order%22&field-keywords2=&field-keywords3=&from%5Bdate%5D=&to%5Bdate%5D=&person2=&items_per_page=100

Ex Conspiracy Theorist’s Sites:

https://www.facebook.com/exconspiracytheorist/
https://exconspiracy.blogspot.com/
https://www.patreon.com/exconspiracytheorist
https://twitter.com/ExConspiracyGuy

Mick West & Metabunk

https://www.metabunk.org
http://contrailscience.com/
https://twitter.com/mickwest
https://www.youtube.com/mickwest
https://www.facebook.com/Metabunk/
https://www.amazon.com/Escaping-Rabbit-Hole-Conspiracy-Theories/dp/1510735801/