The Occult Secrets of Climate Change

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In an an article called “Space Weather: Its Effect on Human Health,” Pittsburgh-area “conspiracy entrepreneur” Ben Davidson proposes that the sun somehow directly affects human behavior — causing spikes in things like “infant mortality, suicide, traffic accidents, [and] crime rates” (presumably similar to the way that the full moon creates werewolves). The article perfectly encapsulates the two sides of Davidson. On one hand, he sees himself as fair-minded, rational, scientific. On the other hand, he churns out content like “Space Weather,” which draws its inspiration from a discredited paper by an early Soviet-era scientist and poet named Alexander Tchijevsky.

These days, Tchijevsky is probably best known for claiming to correlate solar activity to things like cholera epidemics, social unrest, and the revolutions in Russia, Germany, and Austria. As the historian Michael Hagemeister points out, Tchijevsky’s big idea “shows obvious connections with astrology and the occult fascination with prophecy.” In other words, his work was as influenced by then-fashionable occult ideas as it was by the science of the day. And similarly, I’d have to guess that whatever it is that attracts people to occult ideas in the first place has also brought Ben Davidson and many others to inhabit the twilight world of conspiracy theory.

Among other things, the word “occult” means “hidden.” By claiming to report on the true nature of reality —  by exposing the “truth” behind climate change and the upcoming solar cataclysm — Ben Davidson has done pretty well for himself. Hell, some day he might give Alex Jones a run for his money. You can read my profile of the guy on The Kernel.

While you’re at it, check out my article on the Flat Earth Movement. When it was published recently, the thing caused a great deal of excitement among people who deny the spherical nature of our planet, but regular (non-flat earth) people can enjoy the story as well.

Annie Jacobsen and the CommieNazi UFOs


I recently got around to reading the book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen.

Area 51 provides an in-depth look at the famous military base in Nevada, based largely on recently declassified government documents and interviews with members of Roadrunners Internationale, an association for personnel who worked on the development of once secret U-2, YF-12 and A-12 aircraft. When the book is at its best, it is exploring what it takes to develop something like the A-12. Almost a space shuttle, the aircraft was used by the CIA to gather surveillance over the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea in the 1960s. And this isn’t just a history lesson — these programs, as well as the nuclear program (which the book also discusses in detail) are the origins of the current security state.

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Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning

Brian Dunning is the host of Skeptoid, a podcast that looks at the pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and plain ol’ nuttiness that infects popular culture. Each episode of Skeptoid is like an object lesson in critical thinking, and the subjects that the show covers — from Nikola Tesla to the Flat Earthers — are interesting in their own right.

I spoke with Dunning earlier this month. The following are some highlights from our conversation.

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The CIA’s “Family Jewels”


Here’s the historic “Family Jewels” document: a catalog of CIA actions that were either inappropriate or flat-out illegal. Numbering almost 700 pages in length, this document was compiled by the agency in the aftermath of Watergate, and only released in 2007 after a FOIA request by the National Security Archive.

The “Family Jewels” are available at the CIA’s FOIA site.

From A. Nolen:

The ‘CIA Family Jewels’ are a series of reports that DCI James Schlesinger asked the other CIA directors to prepare for him in 1973. The Jewels stank of rear-guard from day one: Schlesinger held his post for about six months, and during that short time one of his priorities was to make sure nothing with “flap potential” could be pinned to him. If Schlesinger was concerned about the agency, he would have discretely asked each director for sensitive information during face-to-face meetings. Instead, he armed a paper bomb…

…which fell into the lap of his replacement, the KGB-connected William Egan Colby. What we know as the ‘Jewels’ are a selection of heavily redacted reports that Colby chose to leak from Schlesinger’s original collection, with some ‘updates’ that Colby requested. Colby’s ‘Family Jewels’ are a dishonest collection of documents designed to smear Colby’s CIA enemies, cover his own scandals and provide some useful information to Colby’s KGB partners. A redacted set of the ‘Jewels’ wasn’t declassified until 2007.

Henry Kissinger and the true meaning of Bilderberg


It’s June, and you know what that means — Bilderberg season!

Every year around this time, a selection of national and corporate leaders (and some of their biggest fans) get together for a no-holds-barred talk about running the world (and, some fear, running us). Among the participants at the 2015 Bilderberg conference in Austria:

  • Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg
  • Eric Schmidt (of Google fame)
  • Henry Kissinger (of “war criminal” fame)
  • Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell
  • BlackRock VC Philipp Hildebrand

…and public officials from a number of countries, including the US, UK, France, and Turkey.

It’s called Bilderberg because its first meeting was at the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands. And for years now, conspiracy theorists have speculated that the 150 (or so) attendees of the meeting are the real, secret rulers of the world.

(While Bilderberg is definitely a key conspiracy meme, there are also level-headed journalists out there that have examined the event, and whose work is worth checking out. This includes Jon Ronson, who has a chapter in his book Them devoted to the Bilderberg Group on his website, and Charlie Skelton, who is currently on the scene in Austria, where he’s updating his BilderBlog daily. And just this morning, Mark Ames at PandoDaily gave us a report on the Silicon Valley contingent that made the trip this year.)

Without belaboring the history of the annual meeting (because, who cares?) the thing is an opportunity for representatives of various countries in North America and Europe to discuss the issues of the day. This year, topics including cybersecurity and the American elections are on the table. Of course, the attendees deserve close scrutiny; but they always deserve close scrutiny, whether they all go on vacation together or not.

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Jade Helm and (more) William M. Arkin

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I suppose it’s only natural that people would freak out when word of the U.S. Army’s imminent Jade Helm training exercises started making the rounds. Hell, if you’re going to assume the worst whenever some part of the government announces — well, anything — I can certainly understand the impulse.

The whole affair began with a slideshow put together by the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) called “Request To Conduct Realistic Military Training (RMT) JADE HELM 15.” [PDF] Although this document would be of little interest to most Americans, it immediately set off red flags among internet conspiracy theorists and those who love them. That’s because the terms “training” and “drill” mean “the opposite of training” and “martial law” in conspiracy-talk. For instance, one popular conspiracy theory posits that the Boston Marathon bombing never happened, that it was a hoax, some sort of drill conducted in order to justify the continued expansion of the nation’s “police state infrastructure.” The same has been said about the Oklahoma City Bombing, the civil unrest in Ferguson, and the 9/11 attacks on New York, the Pentagon, and a field outside of Pittsburgh. This rush towards enslavement, it is claimed, will culminate later this month with the Jade Helm plot to establish martial law in the southwest.

(And it’s not just the government that’s in on it. Apparently, Walmart is somehow involved.)

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Talking war and secrecy with William M. Arkin


For the last 40 years, William M. Arkin has been studying war: first for the Army, when he was a military analyst stationed in West Berlin, then for groups like the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Human Rights Watch. He has also been a columnist for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. In 2010, Arkin made waves coauthoring the series “Top Secret America” with Dana Priest for the Washington Post (later published as a book of the same name). Recently he launched Phase Zero, a Gawker blog covering national security issues. His latest book, Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare, arrives July 28.

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James Tracy and the Boston Marathon bombing deniers

On April 8, Dzhokar Tsarnaev was found guilty of the bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others. His life now hangs in the balance, as jurors decide whether he should face the death penalty or life in prison. To jurors, Dzhokar’s guilt was a foregone conclusion. But for a small crowd of conspiracy theorists, the defense team’s admission of guilt was just the latest in a series of lies told to the public in service of a larger, false narrative.

There’s no modern conspiracy theory that’s more counterintuitive or flat-out mean than the belief that the victims of the Tsarnaev brothers (roughly 260 injured and three killed) were merely actors. According to this theory, the dead and wounded are the real criminals, working in league with a secret government to hoodwink the American people.

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