First published study on ‘chemtrails’ finds no evidence of a cover-up

Written by Fiona MacDonald (Science Alert)

The first peer-reviewed journal article has been published on the ‘chemtrails’ conspiracy – the idea that organisations or governments are covertly pumping chemicals into the sky via aircraft.

The researchers found no evidence of large-scale chemical spraying programs going on without our knowledge, and concluded that distinctive ‘chemtrail’ patterns in the sky can all be explained by the regular science of water vapour.

Despite the lack of solid evidence for chemtrails, it’s a conspiracy theory that just won’t die, with regular memes circulating on Facebook and Twitter (thank you,Kylie Jenner) suggesting that the clouds trailing planes are something more sinister.

These patterns in the sky are actually known as contrails, or condensation trails, and scientists have shown they’re the result of water vapour condensing and freezing around aerosols in aircraft exhaust.

But for some reason, many people think they’re caused by industries or governments pumping health-affecting or weather-controlling chemicals into the atmosphere – a 2011 international survey showed that nearly 17 percent of respondents believed in secret, large-scale spraying programs.

“We wanted to establish a scientific record on the topic of secret atmospheric spraying programs for the benefit of those in the public who haven’t made up their minds,” said lead researcher Steven Davis from the University of California, Irvine.

“The experts we surveyed resoundingly rejected contrail photographs and test results as evidence of a large-scale atmospheric conspiracy.”

To find out what was going on, the team interviewed 77 scientists who should know what they’re talking about – they were either atmospheric chemists who specialise in condensation trails, or geochemists working on atmospheric deposition of dust and pollution.

Out of the group, 76 of the 77 experts said they hadn’t come across evidence of secret, large-scale spraying programs.

The evidence that the 77th had come across was “high levels of atmospheric barium in a remote area with standard ‘low’ soil barium“.

In other words, she’s seen an imbalance that could be explained by chemicals being sprayed into the atmosphere, but hadn’t come across any signs of nefarious activity.

On top of that, the researchers were shown four images commonly circulated as chemtrails, and 100 percent of them said they were just ordinary contrails – and they provided peer-reviewed citations to back up their claims.

The researchers also suggested that contrails are more common these days simply because air travel is becoming more regular.

“Despite the persistence of erroneous theories about atmospheric chemical spraying programs, until now there were no peer-reviewed academic studies showing that what some people think are ‘chemtrails’ are just ordinary contrails, which are becoming more abundant as air travel expands,” said one of the researchers, Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science.

“Also, it is possible that climate change is causing contrails to persist for longer periods than they used to.”

The team admits that their research probably won’t sway the opinion of anyone who already believes in chemtrails, but they hope that by providing a peer-reviewed study on the subject, people new to the topic will find something objective when doing their research.

“I felt it was important to definitively show what real experts in contrails and aerosols think,” said Caldeira. “We might not convince die-hard believers that their beloved secret spraying program is just a paranoid fantasy, but hopefully their friends will accept the facts.”

The research has been published in Environmental Research Letters.

Beyond The Woo – Why David Wolfe & Co. Are Detrimental To Society

 

Written by David Babuschkin (Unapologists)

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In my last piece I discussed the methods David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe uses to attract followers, and spread his quackery. As I was writing it, I remember feeling overwhelmed with anger and a sense of disbelief thinking about how many people subscribe to his BS and how many people’s life choices are influenced by him – so much so, that I feel I didn’t properly explain why I believe David Wolfe and con-artists like him are so detrimental to society and would now like to take this opportunity to do so.

How his profit-seeking agenda physically inflicts damage

Vaccines

 

Whilst it might be infuriating thinking about how much money he makes, it is even worse to think about the effect this has on his audience. Actively discouraging parents from vaccinating their children not only puts children at risk of preventable diseases (such as Measles, Hepatitis A and B, Polio …. the list goes on and on) but also puts those individuals at risk that rely on herd immunity to stay healthy. This is why I find the following statement on David Wolfe’s website so problematic:

 

“If you choose to avoid vaccinating yourself and your family, that is your choice, and it should always remain your choice. To force others to vaccinate themselves and their families is a violation of our basic human right to protect ourselves and our families from danger.”

Here, Wolfe is clearly participating in a debate he knows nothing about which, given his social media following, can be very damaging to many people. This document discusses the conflict of rights between the child’s right to ‘the highest attainable standard of health’ and the parents right to ‘respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or guardians […] to provide […] appropriate direction and guidance’ – making it clear that UK law does not see things as simply as Wolfe does when he gives people legal advice on his website. Furthermore, he doesn’t seem to understand that many innocent people are affected by one’s decision not to vaccinate, demonstrating his narrow mindedness, and selfishness when promoting his controversial opinions. For those readers who believe that vaccines cause autism here is a link to 107 credible scentific studies that show no link between vaccines, and autism.

Anti-chemotherapy

 

Beyond vaccines, he also promotes ‘alternative’ cancer treatments by claiming things like “Ginger is 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy” and similarly unbelievable stuff. By discouraging the use of treatments that have been shown to be effective again and again he is demonstrating a cockish narrow mindedness, by essentially telling people to eat ginger and turmeric instead of getting treatment for a potentially deadly condition. Furthermore he demonstrates a phenomenal misunderstanding of how medical research works by believing that conclusions drawn from studies in laboratory conditions can easily be extrapolated into the real world. This brilliant little article talks about the fallacy that antioxidants help prevent cancer (something Wolfe clearly buys into) but more importantly also talks about the difficulties of drawing conclusions from medical studies – I would strongly recommend taking the time to read it.

I wonder whether he feels even slightly bad? Or whether he has ever considered this at all? I find it appalling, especially when you see things like this; seen on the YADA Facebook page (another quackery promoting page) on Thursday 3rd August 2016:
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Since he isn’t directly profiting from his stance on cancer treatments by selling cancer fighting ginger (yet?), the agenda seems purely ideological – going in line with what he presumes many of his followers believe. By advocating against vaccines and conventio13310406_10153525916256512_5843750420213278974_nnal cancer treatments he appears trustworthy to people who hold anti vaccination and/or ‘nature has a cure for everything’ beliefs. This trust makes his more advanced quackery such as the ‘David Wolfe Nutrition Certificate’ more marketable, which he then of course profits from.

 

The main point I’m making here is that David Wolfe & Co. have the potential to seriously harm a lot of people as a result of their immense social media presence advocating for people to use ‘medicines’ which have not been scientifically verified to have any effect.

Repercussions

For dietitians:

 

Wolfe markets himself as a nutritionist who is decorated with honours from prestigious universities (claims I have debunked before), which has a direct impact on the field of food science. Anybody can claim to be a nutritionist since it is not a legally defined profession. Genuine food scientists are called dietitians, and in order to become a dietitian you have to undergo a large amount of actual science based training. Unfortunately these terms are often confused and/or used interchangeably. This not only enables unqualified individuals to pose as genuine scientists, but through that tarnishes the reputation of an entire science based field. As a result many people seek advice and help from people calling themselves nutritionists, whose advice usually includes following a diet unsupported by science and buying homeopathic sugar pills as a remedy for pretty much anything.

For genuine eco-activism:

 

David Wolfe helps run (or rather, lends his name to) several eco-friendly projects across the globe- such as The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. For him this makes sense as it is a way to further self promote to an audience more inclined to buy into his marketing techniques – it is a way for him to expand his ‘Avocado’ brand which has become so recognisable on the internet. The problem here is that lending this brand name to any legitimate project will generally draw a lot of scepticism (at best) due to association with his anti-science beliefs.

 

This brings me to a more general issue of why people like David Wolfe are so detrimental to any genuine and evidence based movement. There are many things wrong in the society we live in today – multinational corporations and pharmaceutical companies often hold enough power to influence government policy, or to just write it themselves. This, among other factors, fosters a distrust of government and institutional knowledge – and rightfully so. We have to constantly strive for improvement, which can only be attained by being sceptical of everything and thus by questioning the established norms. But Wolfe & Co are delegitimising any attempts to raise concerns about real issues by plastering their brand all over the internet, resulting in any objections to the norm being associated with quackery and conspiracy theories that have been debunked many times.In this way he is quite literally the boy who cried Wolfe. Through guilt by association, legitimate social and environmental movements which challenge the status quo are dismissed offhand without the political consideration they need to affect society.

I would like to finish by a quote by South Park character Stan Marsh, who is criticising John Edward for pretending to be psychic and giving people false hopes. I find this quote applies quite nicely to David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe and other like him:

“… the big questions in life are tough: Why are we here? Where are we from? Where are we going? But if people believe in asshole douchey liars like you, we’re never gonna find the real answer to those questions. You aren’t just lying, you’re slowing down the progress of all mankind, you douche!”

For people who will inevitably disagree and attack my position because they believe I’m paid off by ‘Big Pharma’ or Monsanto, I would like to include the following credible scientific papers:

This one being on the viability of conspirational beliefs. The investigators use mathematical modeling to show that conspiracy theories often regurgitated – such as vaccines causing autism – are unviable because of the scale, money and effort involved in keeping things secret in today society. It’s incompatible with human psychology.

This one which advises reader on how to spot fraudulent health research.

And finally this article discussing the argument from shill – “the new logical fallacy”. Short, yet powerful, it talks about being accused of being paid in scientific debates – as I, inevitably, will.

US presidential candidate Jill Stein thinks wi-fi is a threat to children’s health

Posted on Science Alert.

The US Green Party just officially nominated Jill Stein as its presidential candidate, and to mark the occasion, the internet dug up a YouTube video from earlier this year that has her casting some serious shade on basic technology when it comes to kids.

In the video below, Stein not only denounces the move towards giving every child access to a computer at school, but also says, “We should not be subjecting kids’ brains” to wi-fi.

Wait, what?

As a Harvard-educated physician, Stein should know better than to freak people out with conspiracy theories that have no basis in science, especially when it comes to their kids.

As we discussed last year when a French woman made history by being the first person ever to be awarded compensation for being “allergic to wi-fi”, despite multiple peer-reviewed studies and reviews investigating claims of wi-fi allergy – known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) – there’s no evidence that the condition actually exists.

While people can actually experience symptoms such as persistent headaches, nausea, mental fog, and dizziness when exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF), researchers have overwhelmingly put this down to something known as thepsychogenic phenomenon, or the ‘nocebo effect’.

Basically, the idea is that if people can convince themselves that something is making them sick, the anxiety that creates can actually make them feel physically ill. Think Chuck on Better Call Saul.

“The majority of studies indicate that EHS individuals cannot detect EMF exposure any more accurately than non-EHS individuals,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) has concluded. “Well controlled and conducted double-blind studies have shown that symptoms were not correlated with EMF exposure.”

Researchers have observed a similar phenomenon in people who convince themselves that wind farms are making them sick.

“It’s a psychological phenomenon,” William Barr, a neuropsychologist from the New York University School of Medicine, told CBS news last year. “[Sufferers] essentially establish a belief that something has the potential to cause a symptom, and then when they come in contact with the cause they develop those symptoms.”

With Trump declaring this week that he wants to “save the coal industry”, the Greens can angle themselves as the option for the environmentally conscious, but you don’t get to cherry-pick when it comes to scientific evidence.

 

Why facts don’t matter to Trump’s supporters

Note: If anyone cannot see that this election is driven by a conflagration of conspiracy theories and psychological buffers from objectivity, I suggest reading this and any other archived texts involving Trump, Ben Carson, or my 2016 Election post from March, 2016.


A Donald Trump supporter, left, plugs his ears while passing protesters waving signs and chanting against the Republican presidential nominee at a Trump rally in Denver. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Written by David Ignatius (Washington Post)

How did Donald Trump win the Republican nomination, despite clear evidence that he had misrepresented or falsified key issues throughout the campaign? Social scientists have some intriguing explanations for why people persist in misjudgments despite strong contrary evidence.

Trump is a vivid and, to his critics, a frightening present-day illustration of this perception problem. But it has been studied carefully by researchers for more than 30 years. Basically, the studies show that attempts to refute false information often backfire and lead people to hold on to their misperceptions even more strongly.

This literature about misperception was lucidly summarized by Christopher Graves, the global chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations, in a February 2015 article in the Harvard Business Review, months before Trump surfaced as a candidate. Graves is now writing a book about his research at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy.

Graves’s article examined the puzzle of why nearly one-third of U.S. parents believe that childhood vaccines cause autism, despite overwhelming medical evidence that there’s no such link. In such cases, he noted, “arguing the facts doesn’t help — in fact, it makes the situation worse.” The reason is that people tend to accept arguments that confirm their views and discount facts that challenge what they believe.

This “confirmation bias” was outlined in a 1979 article by psychologist Charles Lord, cited by Graves. Lord found that his test subjects, when asked questions about capital punishment, responded with answers shaped by their prior beliefs. “Instead of changing their minds, most will dig in their heels and cling even more firmly to their originally held views,” Graves explained in summarizing the study.

Trying to correct misperceptions can actually reinforce them, according to a 2006 paper by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, also cited by Graves. They documented what they called a “backfire effect” by showing the persistence of the belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2005 and 2006, after the United States had publicly admitted that they didn’t exist. “The results show that direct factual contradictions can actually strengthen ideologically grounded factual belief,” they wrote.

Next Graves examined how attempts to debunk myths can reinforce them, simply by repeating the untruth. He cited a 2005 study in the Journal of Consumer Research on “How Warnings about False Claims Become Recommendations.” It seems that people remember the assertion and forget whether it’s a lie. The authors wrote: “The more often older adults were told that a given claim was false, the more likely they were to accept it as true after several days have passed.”

When critics challenge false assertions — say, Trump’s claim that thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001 — their refutations can threaten people, rather than convince them. Graves noted that if people feel attacked, they resist the facts all the more. He cited a study by Nyhan and Reifler that examined why people misperceived three demonstrable facts: that violence in Iraq declined after President George W. Bush’s troop surge; that jobs have increased during President Obama’s tenure; and that global temperatures are rising.

The study showed two interesting things: People are more likely to accept information if it’s presented unemotionally, in graphs; and they’re even more accepting if the factual presentation is accompanied by “affirmation” that asks respondents to recall an experience that made them feel good about themselves.

Bottom line: Vilifying Trump voters — or, alternatively, parents who don’t want to have their children vaccinated — won’t convince them they’re wrong. Probably it will have the opposite effect.

The final point that emerged from Graves’s survey is that people will resist abandoning a false belief unless they have a compelling alternative explanation. That point was made in an article called “The Debunking Handbook,” by Australian researchers John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky. They wrote: “Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct.”

Trump’s campaign pushes buttons that social scientists understand. When the GOP nominee paints a dark picture of a violent, frightening America, he triggers the “fight or flight” response that’s hardwired in our brains. For the body politic, it can produce a kind of panic attack.

Screaming back at Trump for these past 12 months may have been satisfying for his critics, but it hasn’t dented his support much. What seems to be hurting Trump in the polls now are self-destructive comments that trouble even his most passionate supporters. Attempts to aggressively “correct” his remaining fans may only deepen their attachment.

 

 

Dr. Jill Stein Responds to Vaccine Controversy By Saying She’s Just Asking Questions

Written by Bo Gardener (Patheos)

Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President, finally received her big chance yesterday to straighten out the growing concern about her position on vaccines.

SteinVaccinesAutismWith people like me unfairly maligning her, as her supporters have been flooding this site to tell me, she had the opportunity to unequivocally reassure us and the American public that vaccines were safe and that she strongly encouraged their use.

The Washington Post even gave her a softball question, about whether vaccines cause autism, to begin their interview. Here was the doctor’s not-so-reassuring message:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/3a28b6b2-55a1-11e6-b652-315ae5d4d4dd

Asked whether she believes vaccines cause autism, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein said corporate influence on federal agencies has caused “rampant distrust” of agencies that approve medication and food.

She certainly cleared that issue right up, putting many an anxious parent’s mind to rest…

(The correct answer, which doesn’t take 2:37 to answer, was “No.”)

The Post also asked her if she thought vaccines were harmful:

I think there’s no question that vaccines have been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases — smallpox, polio, etc. So vaccines are an invaluable medication… Like any medication, they also should be — what shall we say? — approved by a regulatory board that people can trust. And I think right now, that is the problem.

Once again, the correct answer was “No.”

And it got worse. A lot worse.

As a medical doctor, there was a time where I looked very closely at those issues, and not all those issues were completely resolved… There were concerns among physicians about what the vaccination schedule meant, the toxic substances like mercury which used to be rampant in vaccines. There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.

You know, if there’s one person in the country we should expect to know basic facts about vaccines, you’d think it would be a doctor who has been running for president for the past year talking about these damn vaccines.

If she wanted to educate herself on the matter, she’d know by now, for instance, that the mercury question was resolved repeatedly and conclusively. And no, it was not found to be in “toxic” amounts or “rampant.”

Stein utterly refuses to provide any reassurance to Americans that vaccines are safe.

For every positive point she makes about vaccines, she follows it up, in the same breath, with a series of red flags intended to frighten the public:

We have a real compelling need for vaccinations… It requires an agency that we can trust to sort through all of those concerns. To assure the American public, whether it’s vaccinations, whether it’s administering estrogen to, you know, treat symptoms of menopause, or at one point it was the solution to prevent Alzheimer’s and then it was discovered — oh, my goodness — it may actually contribute to Alzheimer’s — it’s really important that the American public have confidence in our regulatory boards so that all of our medical treatments and medications actually are approved by people who do not have a vested interest in their promotion. In my experience, this is not a radical idea. This is basic common sense.

As the Post‘s David Weigel sternly notes:

Stein’s warning about corporate influence in the vaccine approval process is often voiced by “anti-vaxxers.” In reality, most members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee work at academic or medical institutions, not drug companies. But for Stein, the fact that people saw corporate and lobbying influence running rampant meant that some skepticism was warranted.

What evidence does Stein have for suggesting vaccines are under undue corporate influence?

Monsanto lobbyists help run the day in those agencies and are in charge of approving what food isn’t safe… There is rampant distrust of our institutions of government right now.

Every time she discusses vaccines, she gives the same meaningless basis for stirring anxieties: Monsanto and GMOs. She offers no evidence of undue corporate influence over vaccines. But she knows well the power of the M- and G-words, so she never misses the chance to inject that fear, however irrationally. It’s the same patter every time, which means the obfuscation and manipulation are highly deliberate.

But as the article’s headline says, she’s just asking questions.

T0Mpf9cStein’s supporters are stunned at the trouncing their candidate is receiving from the media for this interview. At the Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Slate, their plaintive cries are everywhere:

  • Why is there an issue here? Why can’t a person (especially a doctor) question something? Why has this country become so terrified of critical thinking?
  • In a democracy we should question… Jill Stein is not questioning vaccines in general, she is questioning the safety that our regulatory agencies should be overseeing but are not. We should all question what we put in our bodies — if you would like to hand over your decision making on this to the CDC fine but I am not.
  • Questioning something does not have to mean you are against it… We would never be where we are in the first place if people hadn’t questioned things.
  • Corporate obedience requires no questions.

Since they’re bringing it up, let’s talk about that well-known phrase: “Just Asking Questions.”

It’s such an established concept in psychology and the field of critical thinking that it has its own RationalWiki entry:

Just asking questions is a way of attempting to make wild accusations acceptable (and hopefully not legally actionable) by framing them as questions rather than statements. It shifts the burden of proof to one’s opponent…

The tactic has become so widespread on the internet, it’s also landed in Urban Dictionary:

JAQing Off: The act of asking leading questions to influence your audience, then hiding behind the defense that they’re “Just Asking Questions.”

In psychologist Jovan Byford’s analysis of conspiracy thinking

the motif of “just asking questions” is rhetorically designed to open up the space for conspiracy theories while allowing those asking the questions to retain the aura of respectability.

In Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, psychologist and science journalist Rob Brotherton explains how it makes the accuser’s task so much easier:

[Using] the “just asking questions” tactic (sometimes shortened to “JAQing off”) [and] rather than postulating a coherent narrative, the theorist merely poses questions that appear to raise problems for the “official story” — always with the implication that somebody isn’t telling the truth — and leaves the task of figuring out the specifics up to the listener. This tactic, according to psychologist Mike Wood, seems to have gained in popularity with the Internet, where conspiracy theories can be debunked as quickly as they are postulated, and vagueness can serve as a useful shield from criticism.

This is all well and good, Dr. Stein, but what we need to know is simple: Are you or are you not an invading space lizard? We must recognize that concern about politicians who morph into reptiles is very real. I mean it’s basic common sense that being invaded by lizards from space is not what Americans want for our country. Hardly a radical idea. Sure, politicians are needed and some have been good, but they require the people’s trust, so worries about lizards need to be heard. The nation needs confidence no one with a three-foot tongue will be licking Oval Office walls. Now, I’m no lizard believer personally, mind you, I’m just asking questions on behalf of others. And anyone who has a problem with that must want to see America destroyed in an alien invasion or is an alien shill.

(Just Asking Questions also seems to be Donald Trump‘s unofficial campaign theme when it comes to talking about his opponents.)

Back on Earth, here’s a sampling of the comments I received from Dr. Stein’s anti-vax supporters this week, demonstrating the extreme paranoia her “just asking questions” is sowing. It’s quite upsetting.

The single most common comment I received (other than my being a paid shill for the DNC) is that another Patheos blogger defended Stein’s vaccine statements, which somehow makes the arguments on this site moot. The link to Dan Arel‘s post was posted dozens and dozens of times in triumph… even though it didn’t reference the two newly emerged videos that concerned me.

Sorry, folks, but you need a new champion. Even Dan criticized Stein after her statements yesterday:

…she is pushing that fear of the industry, just as she does with GMOs (an issue I have been vocally opposed of with her platform)…

I have to hold Stein accountable for pushing this distrust…

Stein is now stroking the anti-vaccination movement fears and playing right into their hands.

Does she think vaccines work? Yes… However, you can’t use bad science as a way to fight for better regulations, or a not-for-profit health incentive.

While I still feel okay saying Stein is not “anti-vaccine” I cannot confidently say she is not anti-science and that she does not overly pander to the anti-science and anti-vaccine crowd.

A leader needs to stand up against the movement that is killing children, not court their vote.

… this has me beat red and writing this while basically punching my keyboard.

I can overlook some bad science positions… But when it comes to vaccines, that is a make or break for me.

As for the less important side dispute over the definition of the label “anti-vax,” it’s a spectrum disorder in my book. I use it to describe the continuum of those who systematically discourage people from vaccinating by sowing vaccine distrust, regardless of whether they acknowledge benefits out of the other sides of their mouths. Remember that virtually no campaigners who sow vaccine distrust accept the label. They often call themselves “pro-safe vaccines,” or “pro-green vaccines.” EvenJenny McCarthy calls herself pro-vaccine.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the person who sounds most like Jill Stein on the issue is Donald Trump, whose November victory could come in part thanks to her candidacy.

‘End times’ pastor warns ISIS could use Pokémon GO to target Christians with ‘cyber-demons’

Written by Travis Gettys (Raw Story)

A right-wing Christian pastor warned on his radio program that the Pokémon GO cell phone game undoubtedly had sinister portents.

Rick Wiles, who frequently warns the apocalypse is near, called police last week after spotting a middle-aged man apparently taking pictures with his phone outside his “TruNews” offices — but officers told him the man was playing the augmented reality game, reported Right Wing Watch.

That freaked Wiles all the way out, and he let his imagination run wild.

“These Pokémon creatures are like virtual, cyber-demons,” Wiles said. “What this man, Friday, was trying to find was the Pokémon demon that had been placed inside the ‘Trunews’ office.”

Wiles worried that terrorists could use information harvested by the app to target Christians.

“What if this technology is transferred to Islamic jihadists, and Islamic jihadists have an app that shows them where Christians are located geographically?” Wiles said.

The game places “PokeStops” an “Pokémon gyms” at churches, in addition to homesand businesses, but that was enough to terrify Wiles.

“The enemy, Satan, is targeting churches with virtual, digital, cyber-demons,” Wiles said. “I believe this thing is a magnet for demonic powers.”

It didn’t have to be terrorists, he warned, saying everyday Americans could be tricked into doing the wicked bidding of these “cyber-demons.”

“At what point does this game go live and the Pokemon masters are telling people to kill people in those buildings?” Wiles said. “People are losing touch with reality.”

He compared Pokémon GO to the Facebook Live broadcast of a traffic stop that led to Philando Castile’s fatal shooting, saying it showed how digital technology could alter reality.

“I thought, either this is staged or she has lost touch with reality,” Wiles said. “Which one is it? Both of them are weird and frightening.”

Wiles’ co-host, Edward Szall, agreed — and he backed up their argument with a fake quote by the creator of Pokémon that supposedly endorsed Satanism.

“They’re spawning demons inside your church,” Wiles said. “They’re targeting your church with demonic activity. This technology will be used by the enemies of the cross to target, locate and execute Christians.”

See Also: Rick Wiles says Pokemon Go will be used to located and murder Christians (RWW)

The Hermeneutic of Conspiracy

caricature_ego_sum_papa
An Historical anti-papal rendering of the Pope of the Catholic Church with inscription reading “I am the Pope.”

In October, 2015, the Catholic Church conducted a synod (or doctrinal council) on the family (more specifically, the Catholic Church’s stance on issues relating to the family). In the wake of conspirative discussion leading up to the synod, Pope Francis warned synod fathers against “the hermeneutic of conspiracy” which he stated as “sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.”

Though this statement was apparently a momentary caution against rumors that the Pope was attempting to subvert the church’s stance of issues related to the family, the statement (and the larger subject) is one that resonates if not in every aspect of modern life, at least in contemporary American political and social life.

 

Hermeneutics in Social Life.

Hermeneutics originally referred to the ways of interpreting religious and philosophical texts, specifically to interpretation of scripture. In the sense that hermeneutics is now a wider used ‘theory of understanding’, it has effected how almost every social science discipline is conducted (though, not always welcome). As a study, Hermeneutics has focused on interpretation of texts; Sociology being an exception as it is used to understand the meaning of social events.

To understand the meaning of an event, so the theory goes, it is important to comprehend both the historical and social context in which that event occurs.

 

Hermeneutic of Conspiracy.

The singular, hermeneutic, refers to a specific mode of understanding and interpretation. When considering the political and social mindset of Americans at large, a hermeneutic of conspiracy reveals itself.

One year after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as if aware that this would appear to some in the future as the genesis of some new American ‘conspiracism’, Richard Hofstadter wrote a lengthy refresher course on the long history of the Paranoid Style in American Politics.

The long history in America of anti-Intellectualism, Nativist Populism, fear and distrust of ethnic, religious, and political outsiders (the various anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-Communist, anti-Masonic, anti-Asian movements) and their associated laws restricting or removing access to Life, Liberty, and Property all come with a built-in conspiracy narrative.

The Hermeneutic of Conspiracy, at least in America, is as follows:

  1. An alien ‘out group’ wishes to infiltrate America and attain dominance.
  2. This alien force is willing to use deceit to achieve these aims.
  3. The alien interlopers have uncanny skill in deceit and trickery.
  4. Some within the proper ‘in group’ have already been deceived, any alliance with the interlopers is proof of treason.
  5. The only valid recourse is the removal or subjugation of the ‘out group’ by any means necessary.

This hermeneutic was applied to Catholics in the anti-Papist Movement in the 1840s and 1850s, to Communists after WWII, to Jewish people before WWII, and to Americans of Japanese descent, most notably, during WWII.

 

The Current Revolt in the Hermeneutic.

The simplistic, linear American conspiracy hermeneutic is currently metastasizing. The end of the Cold War, the growth of Globalization as a social and economic trend, the advent and subsequent advancements of the Internet and Social Media have made it possible (almost inevitable) that a multiplicity of conspiracy theories simultaneously exist, overlap, seemingly contradict yet remain apparently coalesce.

The following is one very recent example.

The perceived threat of religiously inspired persecution of Christians in America is at the center of some of the most vociferous and unhinged conspiracy theories today. In them, non-Denominational and Evangelical Christians claim that the Catholic Pope Francis is attempting a syncretism between Christianity and Islam to create the One Religion of the Book of Revelations; this new religion, called ‘Chrislam‘, will be mandatory forcing Christians to choose between conversion or Death.

If the implication of a union between the Catholic Church and Islam seems far-fetched, consider suggestion by prominent Evangelicals that Muslims and Homosexuals are somehow in league. This particular nonsense, spread by Pat Robertson and others, came to light in the wake of the Orlando Massacre at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016 but had been floated recently in Christian conspiracy theory groups as an explanation for the existence of transgender peoples, gay marriage, and the apparent dissolution of traditional gender roles and heteronormativity in America. In effect, the Right Wing Christian hermeneutic of conspiracy places blame on a coalition between Catholics, Muslims, & the LGBT Community for all issues that they believe are unnatural and undesirable social events.

It is claims such as these that make it hard to not accuse the believers of playing a morbid prank. From a sociological perspective, however, this is just one more reason that a hermeneutic of conspiracy need be further investigated.