Robert Bartholomew has a PhD in Medical Sociology, and is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He’s an expert in Mass Psychogenic Illness and the co-author with Rober Baloh of the book “Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria”
Havana syndrome is a loose set of fairly generic symptoms that are being blamed on some kind of attack. It started with personnel at the US embassy in Havana, but has since spread around the world. Dr Bartholomew thinks it’s an example of Mass Psychogenic Illness – people are being asked to look for odd health events and strange sounds, and so of course they find them. But there really no good evidence of any kind of attack. Bartholomew thinks the intelligence community is largely aware of this, but an unbiased examination is being avoided for political reason.
Dr Bartholomew’s website – https://rebartholomew.com/
What is a University professor doing investigating UFOs? Professor Avi Loeb of Harvard University heads the Galileo Project, which seeks (in part) to identify the nature of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena by establishing a network of telescopes and instruments with the goal of obtaining the first unambiguous clear photos of UFOs.
We talk about the demarcation between science and pseudoscience, the rationale for the project, the challenges it will face, and how it all fits into Professor Loeb’s personal philosophy.
Mia Bloom is Professor of Communication at Georgia State University with a PhD in political science from Columbia University. Sophia Moskalenko is a research fellow at Georgia State University and a researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Together they wrote the book Pastels and Pedophiles – Inside the Mind of QAnon.
We discuss how the book came about, the historic roots of the QAnon conspiracy theory, how QAnon has changed with the “Save the Children” narrative to attract more women, and what tangible steps can be taken to help individuals and to help improve the overall situation.
Jason Colavito is an author and journalist with a focus on “alternative archeology” and, more recently, the UFO cultural phenomenon. In May 2021, he wrote the article: “How Washington Got Hooked on Flying Saucers” in the New Republic, describing how “a collection of well-funded UFO obsessives are using their Capitol Hill connections to launder some outré, and potentially dangerous, ideas.”
Jason’s historical research into the underpinnings of the current UFO/UAP flap is a vital component in understanding what is going on, and how we find ourselves in this situation. Going back to the 1960s and 70s, he traces a path from Jacque Vallée’s extradimensional hypothesis and Hal Puthoff’s paranormal research, through Robert Bigelow’s wide-ranging involvement via Harry Reid, to the current efforts of Luis Elizondo and Chris Mellon.
How Washington Got Hooked on Flying Saucers – https://newrepublic.com/article/162457/government-embrace-ufos-bad-science
Luis Elizondo is a former senior intelligence official, a disclosure advocate, a national security expert, and the former director of the Pentagon’s UFO/UAP Program (AATIP). We talk about his work in those capacities and also discuss the history and analysis of the three US Navy “UAP” videos.
Michael is a “follower” of Q, in what is commonly known as the QAnon conspiracy theory. I first talked to him one year ago, February 2020. We met on Twitter discussing UFOs, but had a long discussion about QAnon. Michael thought for sure that Trump would win the election, and was quite hopeful about the prospects of a massive wave of arrests of the supposed child-abducting elites.
Since he made some predictions, we agreed to meet again, which we did on Feb 22, 2021. We discussed what did an did not happen, and Micahel good-naturedly tried to convince me (at some length) that there was actually something to Q. We also very briefly discuss UFOs.
Alex was raised by conspiracy theorists. This makes him different from most people who end up down the rabbit hole in that assuming nefarious plots were going on was never a surprise to him. Indeed, it was the default.
We talk about growing up in a conspiracy theory family, how his perceptions shifted when he went out into the real world, and how he ended up going even deeper down the rabbit hole before he finally found his way out.
Alex also read my book, Escaping the Rabbit Hole, and his reaction to my 9/11 debunking was rather surprising.
QAnon is a very American conspiracy theory, focussing upon a supposed plan by a mysterious entity named ‘Q’ who was working with Donald Trump to rid the US of a corrupt elite. But despite this American focus, it has adherents around the world. One of those adherents is a friend of this episode’s guest, Georgina.
Georgina and her friend were both fans of documentaries about cults, but despite what you right think of as inoculation against mind control, Georgina’s friend still fell deep down the QAnon rabbit hole.
This episode was recorded on Jan 5th, the day before the storming of the Capitol.
My guest this week thought all was well when she started dating a handsome intelligent man. But then a few things he said, particularly about “the Jews” started to seem like something more than just the jokes she initially took them for. Here she describes how her relationship with a conspiracy theorist got started, and how it turned out. Along the way, we discuss toxic masculinity, incels, and the importance of teaching history and critical thinking.
Sarah’s ex-partner seemed like a normal person, but a few years ago he discovered conspiracy theory videos. Starting with claims that the Moon Landing was fake he quickly progressed to Flat Earth and eventually ended up follow a cult-like group that was predicting the end of the world in 2018 in an event called “EMPCOE”. He began to prep for this, but the predictions never came to pass and new predictions were made. Despite this, he never lost faith in the people making the predictions and became increasingly angry with Sarah for not following his belief. This anger escalated into abuse.
Sarah tells her story in detail, a story that is shared by many conspiracy casualties who have lost their loved ones to cults and conspiracy theories.
Ryan became a conspiracy theorist at age 15. He spent five years solidly down the 9/11 conspiracy rabbit hole, believing that the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed with pre-planted explosives. As he grew older he eventually encountered other conspiracy theories that he recognized as being not well-grounded in evidence. Questioning these theories led him to question his own beliefs about 9/11, and eventually to escape from the rabbit hole.
We talk about the factors that led to his conspiracism, his experiences as a conspiracy theorist, and how he got out.
Brandon Fugal is a prominent business leader based in Utah and is the current owner of the mysterious Skinwalker Ranch, which is the focus of a wide variety of reported strange phenomena, from supernatural visitors to cattle mutilations and UFOs. The ranch is now the subject of a History channel show: The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch. I’ve been doing a little debunking of a few of the claims in the show. We talk about how he discovered the ranch, why he bought it, what he’s been doing with it. We also discuss some of the issues with the show – is it science or showmanship? Maybe a little of both.
Steven Hassan is an expert on cults. A former high ranking member of the Unification Church, aka the “Moonies”, he’s been helping people escape the rabbit hole since his own escape in 1976. Now he’s a mental health professional who’s the author of four books on cults and teaches at Harvard Medical School.
We discuss cults, the intersection between cults and conspiracy theories, and his controversial new book: The Cult of Trump.
Freedom of Mind: https://freedomofmind.com/
Steven on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CultExpert
Steven on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cultexpert/
Combating Cult Mind Control: https://www.amazon.com/Combating-Cult-Mind-Control-Best-selling/dp/0967068827
The Cult of Trump: https://www.amazon.com/Cult-Trump-Leading-Explains-President-ebook/dp/B07MGS7LZS/
Investigating UFOs presents a number of challenges, many of which are not immediately obvious, but swiftly rear up to impede progress. There are straightforward issues, like military secrecy and people being afraid to talk because of ridicule. But there’s also the issue of “UFOs” being things that are so far outside our common experiences that it’s difficult to establish a shared baseline for conversations, leading often contentious and frustrating outcomes. Especially on Twitter.
I talk to investigative Journalist TIm McMillan about these challenges, and in particular how they apply to the recent Navy UFO cases: FLIR, GIMBAL and GOFAST.
Does a Flat Earther react to world events differently to other people? When you think the world is flat, then you think that the mainstream view of the world is very wrong. Does this carry over to other topics?
I interview a Flat Earther who thinks she has good arguments for the Earth not being a spinning ball in space. She has some questions about Coronavirus but feels a little unable to get them answered, for a variety of reasons.
Johnny Orbital is a rare breed – a former genuine believer in the Flat Earth theory who is willing to talk about his experience. When I was writing my book Tales From the Rabbit Hole, I had to look far and wide for such a person. Even now, it’s rare to find people who once were flat-earth believers and now are not.
Johnny talks about how he got convinced of the Flat Earth, how he got out, and now, how (and why) he spends time helping people who are still down that particular rabbit hole.
Jeremy Rys has gone by “Alien Scientist” for over ten years. His primary interest is in independently researching exotic technology like anti-gravity and warp drives. Some people speculate that such technology exists and comes from visiting aliens. While Jeremy does not discount this theory, he thinks it’s more likely that if aliens were visiting us, they would not be leaving evidence.
Jeremy is also a long time member of the 9/11 Truth community and thinks that some explosives were used to destroy the World Trade Center, and the planes were probably flown into the towers by remote control. But he draws the line there and also spends some time in debunking the more extreme 9/11 conspiracy theories, and other things like chemtrails.
DJ Thermal Detonator was heavily involved in the Los Angeles 9/11 Truth scene in the late 2000s. At that time, local activism centered around the We Are Change group. DJ attended meetings, helped out with a variety of things, and saw the shift of the organization into even more extreme theories, like Sandy Hook being faked, and chemtrails. He even helped Michael J. Murphy with his popular chemtrails film What In The World Are They Spraying” in 2010.
But the Shift into these more unusual theories in part led to both the disintegration of the local group, and to a change in DJ himself. Once going as far as totally believing the Chemtrail theory, as well as most of the mid-level 9/11 theories (controlled demolition, no plane hitting the Pentagon,) he eventually realized that most of them were without any foundation.
Now he focusses mostly on the people behind 9/11, working on a book exploring a complex web of connections, money, and related events.
We chat about the early days of 9/11 activism in Los Angeles, how it changed, and what he’s doing now.
In this second part of my chat with UFO experiencer Michael, we talk about his interest in the QAnon theory. He firmly believes we are on the verge of a storm of arrests of people currently running the “deep state”. I try to narrow down what this means and arrive at some testable predictions we can check next year.
Michael posts on Twitter as “UFO Today”. For most of his life, he’s had experiences that seem to him to be some kind of alien visitors. We talk about these, starting with his first experience of lost time when he fell off a slide. I compare them to some experiences I’ve had myself, which I don’t think are due to aliens.
This is the first part of a two-part video, with the next episode focussing on Michael’s experiences with the QAnon topic.
Gary Voorhis was a computer technician on the USS Princeton during the 2004 “Tic-Tac” UFO incident (commonly referred to as the “Nimitz Incident” after the aircraft carrier heading the strike group.) Gary first saw “UFOs” as slow-moving radar targets on the ship’s SPY-1B radar, which he helped maintain. He also saw lights in the direction of those targets. Initially, the radar targets were thought to be radar clutter (false targets) but after a couple of days, planes were sent out to take a look. Gary saw some video from that “interrogation” and remembers a longer and more impressive video than the one that was later leaked to the public. He thinks what he saw was some kind of advanced technology, possibly alien technology.
I think a more likely explanation is some kind of series of radar glitch and unrelated visual observations of some sort – all possibly confused in memory by the passage of time. We discuss our different interpretations and try to figure out how to resolve them.
Gary is also the Vice President of UAP Expeditions, a non-profit organization set up by a group of former servicemen from the Nimitz Incident, along with other interested parties. The mission of UAP Expeditions is to provide a free public service field-testing UAP (UFO) related technologies. We chat briefly about that mission, and how they plan to return to the region of the original 2004 sighting to see if they can observe something again.
Mike is a member of the 9/11 Truth community. He thinks there might have been explosives used on 9/11 to cause the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. He does NOT think that a cruise missile hit the Pentagon, and considers that, like some other common 9/11 beliefs, to be “B.S.”
We talk about how you decide what is B.S. and what is not. We also discuss the current state and possible future of the 9/11 Truth movement. We delve into the weeds of Mike’s beliefs about the physics of the collapses, and I give him my take on those weeds.
Stian is someone who has been quite deeply involved in the 9/11 Truth community and the UFO community. He also just read my book: Escaping the Rabbit Hole, and has a few questions for me about my approach to debunking. We also cover the slippery slope of internet censorship, the sometimes useful role of conspiracy promoters, how to find common ground, and what I think about the Tic-Tac UFO.
0:00:49 – Defining the Term “Debunked”
0:08:27 – French Wikipedia’s Misleading Metabunk References, and “teams”
0:12:30 – I don’t have a monolithic following
0:13:41 – The term “conspiracy theorist” – a bad thing?
0:21:05 – The “explosives theory” of 9/11, can we separate that from the “conspiracy theory”?
0:23:25 – “Plausible” vs. “Probable”
0:25:14 – “False Balance” in chemtrails and 9/11
0:28:25 – Science by debate or by demonstration?
0:34:28 – Who decides what is science, and what can be discussed or debated?
0:36:05 – The “slippery slope” of content shaping, suppression, and censorship.
0:37:43 – Violent extremism as a rationale for YouTube suppressing conspiracy theories.
0:41:02 – Finding common ground with extremists, and the dangers of the marginalization of budding extremists
0:43:05 – Is the censorship of Alex Jones, on balance, a net positive thing?
0:45:03 – The role of second chances, redemption, and forgiveness.
0:46:49 – Evolution of conversational debunking approaches over time
0:48:23 – The evolution and future of 9/11 Truth
0:49:44 – The importance of opposing voices and allowing
0:51:30 – Are “chemtrails” people an important (or at least useful) voice?
0:57:58 – The role of mainstream media in communicating real and constructive news.
1:0028 – The military-industrial complex
1:01:39 – The importance of studying more mainstream topics as a foundation for discussion
1:09:41 – UFOs, the Nimitz “Tic-Tac” incident.
1:16:50 – The Navy UFO videos being “real”
1:18:34 – Greer and the Disclosure Project, Stian’s involvement in the Disclosure “cult”
1:22:02 – TTSA being Militaristic, the Army CRADA agreement and “Active Camouflage”
Anthony Magnabosco is the most well-known practitioner of the craft of “Street Epistemology”, which he defines as: “a dialog where you use questions to explore somebody’s claim to see how they concluded that it’s true.” While commonly associated with atheism (the term comes from the book “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghossian) Street Epistemology can be used to explore any kind of belief. There’s actually quite a bit of crossover with how to talk to conspiracy theorists.
Anthony and I discuss our mutual experiences with talking to people, how our approaches are similar, and how they differ. It’s a fascinating conversation, and while we go for the full hour, we were actually cut short by a minor emergency, and I hope to continue in the future.
Phil is a former conspiracy theorist in Northern Ireland who got into conspiracy theories aged 18, around 14 years ago. Going to university exposed him to a variety of people and to new ways of thinking, which over the course of a year gradually pulled him out of the rabbit hole.
Now Phil has started a YouTube channel as “The Skeptic of the North” to share some of his thoughts on the topic, and specifically on the conversational method of discussing epistemology — how people know what they think they know. We discuss this subject and our mutual experiences talking to conspiracy theorists.
Elizabeth Loftus is an expert on memory. A Distinguished Professor in several fields*, her work focusses on false memories, how they can be accidentally created and how they can be deliberately manipulated. We discuss many aspects of memory and how it sometimes relates to the world of conspiracy theories. We touch on UFOs, Chemtrails, 9/11, Jeffery Epstein, and the moral panics of the 1980s.
*In my introduction, I mangled together the various departments where Professor Loftus is a professor. The correct list is:
Tom has dabbled in a few conspiracy theories over the years, and still thinks there are some significant questions that have never been answered about why the World Trade Center buildings fell down the way they did on 9/11. We talk about how he came to believe what he does, how it has changed over the years, and what evidence it make take for him to feel the question is resolved.
Geoff says that six years ago he was “as normal as everyone else,” but when he was caught up in the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) he took an interest in the events and eventually came to believe it was all staged. This led him to research other topics and now he feels nearly everything we see is staged, and that the world is run by an organization of Freemasons, Jesuits, and the Vatican. He also thinks that the earth is not a globe and that it’s possibly flat.
Brian Dunning is a prolific skeptical podcaster with his award-winning show “Skeptoid” coming up on its 700th episode. He’s also a writer, with his most recent book Conspiracies Declassified: The Skeptoid Guide to the Truth Behind the Theories, explaining the facts behind 50 different conspiracy theories. He’s also a documentary producer, currently working on Science Friction, a documentary about scientists who get misrepresented by the media. We discuss all these topics and more.
Dr Michael Shermer is founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor-in-chief of its magazine Skeptic. He’s written several books on science and skepticism and his latest work is an audio-only 12-part course, for Audible and The Great Courses, called Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories: What We Should and Shouldn’t Believe—and Why. We cover the full spectrum of conspiracies, their history and context, their social and psychological causes and their very real effects. We discuss real and false conspiracies, and how to tell the difference. We then finish up with UFOs, the Intellectual Dark Web, and the Skeptical Movement.
Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories can be found on Audible or via Amazon.
UFO Jesus is a popular advocate of UFO “disclosure”, the belief that the US Government is close to revealing that it knows that some UFOs actually are the result of alien visitors. We talk about this and our different interpretation of the evidence used to support this case. In particular, we focus on the 2004 case of the USS Nimitz, where, over several days, unexplained sightings and radar returns culminated in two fighter planes observing what one pilot, Commander David Fravor, described as a “white Tic-Tac shaped craft” performing impossible maneuvers. A later video was also taken, which I think shows a distant plane, and UFO fans think is this Tic-Tac. There are rumors of a higher-resolution longer video that shows more.
UFO Jesus closes with six prophecies, and I’m a bit skeptical. But he gives a nice short timeframe of six years, so we’ll see.
Jason Bermas is a producer, writer, and YouTuber, best known for conspiracy documentaries such as Loose Change, Fabled Enemies, Shade, and Invisible Empire. Loose Change was a seminal documentary for the 9/11 “Truth” movement, and I’ve often heard people cite it as a big part of why they got interested in the various 9/11 conspiracy theories.
We talk about the topics in his films: 9/11, geopolitics and corruption, chemtrails, But we also talk quite a bit about UFOs, video games, and quantum computing.
I deeply disagree with a lot of Jason’s positions, particularly on 9/11 and his New World Order theories (and chemtrails, of course) but people can always find common ground. We both enjoyed playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, we find quantum physics fascinating, and we both agree there’s lots of harmful corruption in the world. By having a civil discussion founded on that common ground we were able to advance our mutual understanding, and hopefully move everyone a bit closer to reality.
Nick Pope is a journalist and media commentator who writes and talks a lot about the UFO phenomenon. He is perhaps best known for a role he undertook for the British Government from 1991 to 1994 which involved investigating reports of UFO sightings. We talk about his recent trip to view the storming of Area 51, his history of investigating UFO sighting, the current state of UFOlogy research and culture, and interaction with people on the internet
Ian goes by the name TheoryQED on Metabunk and his YouTube Channel, where he posts about UFOs. Unlike me, and definitely unlike my last guest (Seth Shostak), Ian thinks there’s something highly significant to the UFO phenomenon, maybe even alien visitors. Like most Americans, he also suspects the government is not telling us everything it knows.
Some of our disagreements have been about three videos that have been in the news recently: “Go Fast”, “Gimbal,” and “Flir1”. The latter is particularly interesting as there are a large number of eyewitnesses from the Nimitz Carrier strike group who report a variety of odd events and sightings surrounding that videos – like Commander Fravor’s “Tic-Tac” incident.
We also have a nice chat about UFOs in general and the possibility (or probability) of visiting aliens.
Voorhis Quote: “The Big-Eyes are pretty good binoculars. You couldn’t grasp the shape, so you knew it was there, that’s why they were called TicTacs, but you couldn’t grasp the shape or the design of the way that it looked. But in the video, you could see it.”
Seth Shostak is the Senior Astronomer for the SETI Institute and former Director of Center for SETI Research. A popular science communicator, Seth has hosted SETI’s weekly radio show (and now podcast) Big Picture Science since 2002. We discuss the work of SETI, and some of the more interesting developments. We also talk about the UFO “Disclosure” conspiracy theory, which suggests the US government is covering up evidence of extraterrestrial encounters and is (perhaps) on the verge of disclosing this information. We also discuss the related cultural phenomenon, Storm Area 51.
Donald Friedman, P.E., F.ASCE, is a professional engineer with more than 25 years of experience in the investigation, analysis, and restoration of landmark buildings. He has taught engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Columbia University; he has spoken at numerous conferences including the fourth and fifth ASCE Forensics Conference; he is the author of After 9-11: An Engineer’s Work at the World Trade Center, based on his work at the World Trade Center site, starting September 12, 2001.
We talked about his experience at the 9/11 WTC site, and how what he saw relates to the various conspiracies regarding the collapses of the World Trade Center Buildings. We specifically discuss the recent University of Alaska study that Professor Leroy Hulsey carried out for Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. We close out with a discussion of how New York structural engineers view the 9/11 controlled demolition conspiracy theories.
JM Talboo runs the web site http://911debunkers.blogspot.com subtitled “Debunking the Debunkers of the 9/11 Truth Movement”. His focus is on debunking people like me, i.e. people who debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories. But he also debunks 9/11 Truthers when he sees them make mistakes, and recently added another subtitle to his blog: “Refuting the Hollow Arguments of the So-called 9/11 Debunkers & Truthers”
We talk about how he got into 9/11 Truth and blogging, how his beliefs have changed over time, and wander into the weeds of a variety of 9/11 related topics. We also venture further into the conspiracysphere, touching on JFK, Chemtrails, False Flags, and other topics.
Mike Rothschild is a writer who is an expert on a variety of conspiracy theories, in particular QAnon. We discuss the drawn-out decline of the QAnon theory, prosperity scams, and the theories around the death of the Jeffery Epstein. We also discuss Mikes upcoming book, The World’s Worst Conspiracies.
“Paradigm Shift” is the name used by a poster on Metabunk. Paradigm Shift had made many posts about 9/11, and the need, as he sees it, for a new investigation to look into the possibility of explosives being used to bring down the twin towers. Online discussions can be slow-moving and fractious, so I asked him to come on the podcast for a more detailed and direct conversation about what we believe, and why we believe it.
Paradigm Shift is a student in his mid-20s. The drum graphic is what he uses as an Avatar on Metabunk.
Willie was one of the first people that I interviewed for my book Escaping The Rabbit Hole. He’s a former believer in theories from 9/11 being an “inside job”, to chemtrails. His story forms the preface to ETRH, and sets the tone for the whole book. No matter how deep you are down the rabbit hole, or how long you’ve been down there, there’s always the possibility of escape.
We had this follow-up chat 2-years to the day after the first one and discuss his story, lesson learned, and what has changed since then.
Adam Taylor was very active in the 9/11 truth movement for ten years from 2007 to 2017. He’s still very much in favor of a new investigation and thinks there are many unanswered questions about the events of 9/11. But he no longer spends time advocating, and instead is focusing on living a normal life. We talk about how he got into 9/11 “truth” activism, why he eventually retired from the movement, the role of debunkers, and his thoughts on the “truth” movement as a whole
Brad is an electrical engineer and an expert in mathematics. He also likes to consider that an idea might be true before rejecting it, no matter how extreme. This led him very briefly down the rabbit hole of checking to see if the earth was actually round like a ball, or might it possibly be flat. His strong grounding in mathematics very quickly put an end to that – but what about the people who don’t really understand the math? Is there hope for “flat earthers” who don’t really understand geometry?
Rory has an extensive series of videos on YouTube debunking Flat Earth, focusing on simple ways of demonstrating that there’s a curve. But he’s also got a very interesting life story as a traveler, both around the world and in a spiritual sense. This exploration has eventually given him a great perspective on why people believe in things when the evidence is against them, but at times led him to entertain a number of conspiracy theories and other esoteric beliefs. He’s still a little esoteric, but as he’s got older he’s become a bit more grounded. We talk about his journey from “bliss ninny” to “pain-in-the ass debunker”
David Keith is Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. He is also executive chairman of Carbon Engineering. Because he’s a well-known expert in the largely theoretical field of geoengineering (deliberately modifying the Earth’s climate) he has become an often demonized target for conspiracy theorists who think that the climate is actually being secretly modified using “chemtrails.”
We discuss the actual state of Geoengineering research (just starting to do very small scale tests), the plausibility of doing it secretly (almost none), and Professor Keith’s experiences with the chemtrail theorists over the last decade.
Paul is a former promoter of the Planet X conspiracy theory, which is also known as the Nibiru cataclysm. Planet X (or Nibiru) is a supposed rogue planet that some people claim they can observe near the sun. Supposedly the existence of this planet is being covered up by the government because it’s about to cause the end of the world. There’s a wide variety of versions of this theory.
Paul discovered the Planet X theory back in 2013 and became very interested in it. He started posting lots of YouTube videos promoting the theory and warning of the impending apocalypse. He teamed up with two other people, and they created lots of YouTube content as a team. For a long time he simply ignored all attempts by “debunkers” to explain things to him, but eventually he recognized that the weight of the evidence was against him. This realization came about in large part due to the efforts of one debunker who posts on YouTube and Facebook as “Dazza the Cameraman.” Dazza would patiently and politely explain things to Paul.
Paul eventually lost his belief in Planet X and split with his YouTube partners, who immediately branded him a traitor, all of which was very difficult for him. He’s now moving on with his life and leaving conspiracy theories behind, but he contacted me because he wanted his story to be told.
“Paul” is not his real name, his voice is altered, and he does not appear in the YouTube version. While anonymity is difficult to keep on the internet, Paul did not want any more footage of himself out there that could be used directly against him, so he’s appearing here relatively incognito.
Dazza The Cameraman’s sites have lots of great debunking of Planet X, and Flat Earth:
Jim Lee used to be a fairly hardcore conspiracy theorist, deep into things like Chemtrails and doomsday comets. Now he’s less deep down the rabbit hole, but has managed to create one of his own. He’s convinced there’s something going on involving chemicals in the air or modifying contrails. Not exactly chemtrails, but still something nefarious. He spends a lot of time researching what it might be. He’s also concerned about the effects of potential future geoengineering, pollution, and nuclear leaks, and his large website Climate Viewer, is where he educates people on those issues, and other things he finds important.
Unfortunately a lot of people in the chemtrail community think of him as a supporter of the conventional chemtrail conspiracy theory, even though he thinks that’s implausible, and prefers his own version. He still uses the language of “chemtrails”, even though he will qualify it later in the article. I think he’s wrong about a secret geoengineering plot, but even if he was not, I think he’s not helping with pandering to the hardcore chemtrail folk.
Jen Senko is the director of the documentary film The Brainwashing of my Dad, released in 2016. The film tells the story of how her father had a drastic change in personality after slowly getting sucked into a rabbit hole of conservative talk radio. This was very interesting to me, not simply for the whole rabbit-hole aspect, but also because partisan media often traffics in conspiracy theories (like Obama being a Muslim.) Jen does a great job of examining the history of right wing media, going back to Goldwater, Nixon, and Roger Ailes.
While her perspective might seem too left-wing for many people, I encourage you to give it a go. It features several people who tell their own stories – some about their friends and relatives, and some who were sucked in themselves, and eventually escaped.
The last third of the documentary covers the tactics of disinformation used by partisan media, which should be of interest regardless of your politics.
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
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.