The one about "truthers" in The Amalgamated Aggromulator

  • Aug. 19, 2015, 11:22 a.m.
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I’ve shown it before, but here is the first of the two business cards I have.

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“And around me, as I fiddled in Gimpshop, I felt the winds of prophecy . . .”
I am finding it much less amusing at the moment.

Anyway, if anyone knows anyone who could use a copyeditor, I’m unengaged.

(A nice hunk of nonfiction would be good. I should target nonfiction more, if I can figure out how. You needn’t establish a living universe line by line with nonfiction. There are so many fewer marks, and levels of marks, that must be hit; there is so much less that needs to “work” in the writing. So much less occasion for a copyeditor to diplomatically grapple with a writer’s ego. Just make sure what’s there is clear. The sample edits would go fast and yield lower estimates, that more writers would take me up on; I’d make the pieces shine, hand them back almost immediately so I could take on new jobs, and go to the @#%$ movies. Still life: The weary novel editor dreams of paradise.)

Crickets all night. There weren’t crickets in our yard in past years. I missed them. The last couple of years, though, there has been one lonely voice through the summer. Now we have two or three, I can’t tell which.

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When Angie responded to my flight of flugendorfiana about how Australia should rise up and pioneer polesitters, she said she loved the idea but told me about the science cuts and said, “We’re moving backwards into fear and xenophobia and rubbishy close minded nonsense at a rate of knots.”

One of the things I said in response (in between mostly gibbering about CSIRO - which I haven’t stopped, it’s amazing, it’s like self-vandalism through drift) was that an American could hardly point fingers about stuff like that.
I said that she should Google “Jade Helm 15.”

Jade Helm 15 is a set of war games/training exercises going on this summer in the U.S., scattered through a number of western states, with most of the activity near small towns in desert areas. They’re exercises involving unconventional warfare, with “occupying” and “resistance” forces. In past years, such exercises have gone off without a hitch and with little fanfare . . .

But this time, apparently largely due to Jade Helm’s fantasy map of the U.S. with Texas and Utah designated as red “hostile” areas, there has been a massive swell of right-wing paranoia and genuine fear of Jade Helm 15. The Texas governor, playing to it, actually assigned the Texas national guard to keep an eye on the Special Forces units.
I’ll give in and let Wikipedia summarize the roiling sea:

According to the Hartford Courant‍ '​s Jim Shea, the conspiracy theories about Jade Helm 15 include: a "psychological operation aimed at getting people used to seeing military forces on the streets" so they do not realize when an invasion actually takes place; an international operation aimed to seize people's guns; recently closed Walmarts used by the military to "stockpile supplies for Chinese troops who will be arriving to disarm Americans"; and a military plan to "round up political dissidents" and "remove key political figures" who may be against the imposition of martial law. Other theories by right-wing bloggers and activists have described Jade Helm 15 as a "secret plot" to impose martial law, confiscate firearms, invade Texas, and institute "total population control."

You can probably detect the influence of the view that personal firearms are necessary, not just as a defense against lawless marauders, but as a deterrent against a government that will be able to explode into an all-powerful octopoid totalitarian tyranny if those guns are ever taken away; you could take that as “endemic level 1” of the paranoid framing.
Beyond that, though, it’s interesting. Conservative politicians, while (for the most part) not outright endorsing the conspiracy theories, have been at pains to curry favor with the relevant voters by saying that these concerns are understandable because the government cannot be trusted. . . . A 239-year tradition of dealing with these things by having elections (a central point of pride for America, as I recall, historically) is apparently no reassurance at all. The Civil War is much more immediate.

There have been very strange public relations town halls, I’ve seen clips of them, with conspiracy-consumed locals taunting very, very patient military liaisons with a laughing confidence that is odd in people who say they think they are about to be rounded up by the army and put in concentration camps. I was entranced with something one fellow was quoted as saying after one such meeting:

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany. You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” a local resident, Bob Wells, told the Austin newspaper after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’ ”

Do you, sir?

Do you hope you are a ‘conspiracy theorist’?

How does one tell, in the first person? (Not a simple question, actually. Because you will of course point to thinking that you’ve done to check, whether “to check” should be in quotes or not . . .)

(And . . . I don’t know, I’m peering too hard maybe . . . isn’t this a oddly cavalier reference to the possibility, if he’s using it to mean a wrong or deluded conspiracy theorist? He doesn’t seem concerned by that side. Is there something like, “Paranoia in defense of liberty is no vice”? Or, if he’s wrong, is he “God’s wrong”?)

(I had forgotten it until just now, but I remember an article I found once that was a wonderful example of how conspiracy theories are great at fixating on tiny, perhaps genuinely bizarre details - that are taken as hints that reveal the landscape of Truth - but often aren’t terribly good at generalizing out a coherent picture beyond those revealing tent pegs.
I found the article in a copy of a right-wing-nut newspaper, now defunct, that I found in a McDonald’s, and later I mischievously included the paper in a crate of science fiction that I mailed to someone, saying that it probably qualified.
As I remember, the article did key off a couple of details that, if true, would be odd . . . but then proceeded to extrapolate a theory of a Mossad plot that had really been behind the Oklahoma City bombing - and another theory of how that plot had then been botched . . . both interlocking theories being impossible for me to follow as described. I could not tell what had been botched, or how it had happened.) :-)

“Truther” is a word I think is definitely going to stick. It’s just too perfect. I think it originated with the 9/11 attacks and the alternate convictions about those. It captures something that “conspiracy theorist” doesn’t - the manner and posture of the proponents. It echoes the “speaking truth to power” thing.

In my entry about the cluster of space-related obsessions in the last two or three months, I forgot to mention my exchange with the Pluto truther.

Well, she (well, the handle was “Nolita” - I don’t know, but I’m guessing “she”) was in the comment thread under an article about Pluto truthers. Pluto truthers being, of course, the people who think that there was no New Horizons flyby.

Really she was a rocket truther.
(And probably still is. I doubt that I talked her around. It was all amicable, but she finally stopped responding.)

Her core idea is that all spacecraft, manned and unmanned, have always been faked - and all ICBMs and all long-range rockets have also always been faked, and also all artificial satellites and so on - because rockets cannot work outside of the atmosphere, because in space there is no air for a rocket to push against.

I noticed that lots of commenters were mocking her, or decrying the state of an educational system that made people like her possible, or - at best - arguing with her about the plausibility of gigantic successful worldwide secret conspiracies . . . but I only saw one person actually trying to straighten her out about her misunderstandings otherwise.
That is a problem - and that part is not the fault of the nuts.
So I jumped in to back up the one person I saw who was trying to help this rocket truther, and it went on from there. He or she had made an excellent start (a more inspired one than I’d have come up with) by asking her to imagine a person sitting in a rolling desk chair and holding a bowling ball, who then throws the bowling ball across the room. I just expanded on that.

(Should I paste in some of what I wrote? Not here, it would derail things. I think I may do so in a different entry later, though. It was great fun making clear, courteous explanatory paragraphs and making sure my comprehension cohered as much as I thought it did.)

She was grateful that someone was actually trying to answer her questions - though, as I said, I’m not sure she bought our answers. She had interesting misconceptions. It was not that she hadn’t given thought to rockets; she had given thought to them; it just hadn’t worked out, with her misconceptions seeming more right than the lie-seeming truth. (And beyond a certain point you’re not going to the obvious liars and dupes for clarification.)
She thought that the rocket exhaust could impart no impetus to the rocket unless and until it hit the air and bounced back to strike the rocket. (This might have been the same idea as something she said about rockets not being able to pass through vacuum because in vacuum there was no friction.) At another point she said that it made sense to her that the hot gases from the rocket stayed below the rocket and buoyed it upward, as with a hot-air balloon, and this wouldn’t work without surrounding colder air.
There was also a side topic about alleged satellites. At any rate, all understandable, all mechanical, all fixable.

But the reasoning about motives . . . my.
She thought that the reason why governments needed to keep lying, in more and more detail, about satellites and space flight and moon landings and Pluto flybys was so that governments could shore up their utter lies about being able to send long-range military missiles to devastate far corners of the world.
All of which has always been fake.

What a filter kept up over the years!
I wish I had some idea of how old she is. I wish I could have asked her about more things. I don’t know if she understood that V-2s broached the space boundary and weren’t just “buzz-bombs” like the V-1 . . . well, the V-2s barely broached it anyway. But the entire ICBM face-off as lies, with both the U.S. and the Soviet Union necessarily lying and bolstering each other’s lies . . .

(Doing the Cuban missile crisis as vaudeville? Or something? And, to “resolve” it, the U.S. removing nonexistent missiles from Turkey? Or more like falsifying the removal in understandably secret papers that, when revealed, reinforce the show?)

And satellites! All of that roped into the lie! It isn’t just whether Russia was lying about a little beeping ball named Sputnik anymore.
Hurricane tracking using weather satellites, saving billions of dollars in shipping - all those pictures of hurricanes from above! All lovingly faked, painted, Photoshopped? GPS - how does GPS work without the satellites? All those communications satellites that telecom companies (international ones!) have pretended to buy and get launched, all paid for out of sight by the mendacious military moneymen . . .

(We were able to explain pretty well that people have actually photographed satellites in the sky, and that you could see and photograph the ISS pretty well with a good telescope, and that you can actually watch little dots passing razor-straight across the sky at night in areas far away from city lights. God knows what she thought of it. Or even of us.)

And what twisted, utterly brilliant intellect would have thought up the space shuttle Columbia allegedly breaking up over Texas, and all hands lost, as Plausibility Gambit Z-2408?

It wouldn’t be a perfect match - nuclear war could have been waged using bombers alone - but in the back of my mind, at the level where it isn’t even close to being a temptation, I thought about introducing her to another group of truthers I discovered early this year, who completely astonished and fascinated me.

According to this other crowd, nuclear weapons are fake.

Have never worked.

Can never work.

They have amazing websites, full of masterfully detailed assemblages of alleged inconsistencies and revealed impossibilities.
They are powerfully armed against the inconvenient thoughts of newcomers, for example, that Japan would have had to have colluded with America about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Supposedly some elements in Japan collaborated in the deception to make surrender more palatable.

(Some aspects of this view lend themselves to dark comedy, when you think about them. Like: Why did the U.S. really put the Rosenbergs in the electric chair? I think the answer would have to be that the Rosenbergs and others told the Soviets that atomic bombs were fake - and the Soviets told America that they would keep America’s secret - if America pretended the Soviet Union had the bomb too. Uncle Sam splutters helplessly . . . ”Rosenbergs!!!”)

Investigating these people, I found two things that particularly caught my attention.

The first I found on a page that lays out some methods of detecting and screening out “trolls” in the discussions. The point that stopped me - and had me cavorting around the house chortling for almost a day - was this one:

[5] Failure to understand concepts.
An essential part of this site is a revisionist attitude to science
and related topics. Since the films of ‘nuclear tests’ are faked,
as was the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombing, some persons must
have lied about the physics and/or the backup story. Therefore
the whole morass is suspect. Ranb repeatedly parrots material,
without being able to grasp that it’s suspect.

This is perfection!
Indeed, the main discussions on the sites about how atomic bombs cannot work largely center on discussions of chemical explosives. But this rule discredits anyone who brings up nuclear physics or tries to explain it. And this discrediting is done on the basis of some atomic test films having looked fake to someone - the gold standard of empirical reliability. :-) The bubble is utterly sealed.

The other thing that struck me was much less entertaining. I cannot say that all of this line of thinking is based on what follows, of course, or that it is so based for all of its adherents.
But, as I pored through the most voluminous website, I found repeated suggestions by contributors of one reason why the atomic bomb should be doubted . . .

. . . the reason being that many of the people who were central to the development of the bomb, and many of the people who worked out the relevant atomic theories in the preceding decades, were Jews.

And indeed I at one point found myself linked to an essay of about a grillion words discussing how the Jews have genetically been the eternal liars of history.

Antisemitism, of course, is one of the most venerable conspiracy theories of all.

Last updated August 19, 2015

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