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.

 

 

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.

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:

  • Psychological Science;
  • Criminology, Law and Society
  • Cognitive Science
  • Law

Links to topics discussed

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.

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

 

 

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.

  • SETI Institute: https://www.seti.org/
  • Big Picture Science: http://radio.seti.org/

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.

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.

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.

 

Links:

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.

The Brainwashing of my Dad is available on most major streaming services and on DVD.  http://www.thebrainwashingofmydad.com/

 

Mike Rothschild is a journalist, researcher, debunker of conspiracy theories and fringe beliefs, and an expert on the QAnon theory.

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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/