Nothing is too stupid to believe anymore

One of the poisonous side effects of the fact-free atmosphere that has been created by the Republican party is that evidence in support of any theory is no longer considered necessary. As long as prominent people are willing to make strong assertions confidently and their targets have already been suitably demonized, these statements are given a presumption of credibility. The examples are legion. Obama is a Kenyan, Muslim, Marxist plotting to install a dictatorship in the US is perhaps the most egregious example and best known. Others are that Christians are being persecuted in the US, climate change is a hoax, Planned Parenthood sells baby parts for profit, 9/11 was an inside job, Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons and was responsible for 9/11, Obamacare has death panels, airplane contrails are really ‘chemtrails’ in a secret government spraying program, immigrants from Mexico are responsible for a crime spree of murders and rapes, the list goes on and on. It seems like there is no major issue, whether natural or human-caused, that escapes the paranoid fantasies of a significant minority in the US.

The latest involves the large number of fires that are threatening large areas of the western US due to the extreme drought that the region has suffered. The question being debated by most serious people is whether this drought is due to a statistical outlier, caused by an unfortunate run of successive rain-free years that has no deeper cause, or is one of the consequences of climate change.

But that is not what some people believe. An alternative theory that is being promoted is that the drought has been deliberately caused by government scientists.

Last week, a crowd of several hundred turned out in Redding, in northern California, to hear grave warnings from a solar power contractor named Dane Wigington that the weather has been taken over by government geoengineers spraying our skies with toxic chemicals in a doomed attempt to slow down global warming.

In April, an essay published under the name “State of the Nation” argued that the drought was not only artificially created, it was in fact a stepping-stone in the US military-industrial complex’s master plan to take over the planet and achieve “total control of all of Earth’s resources”.

The conspiracists are in no doubt: the government is spraying chemicals and artificially holding back weather patterns off the California coast to keep the rain away. They are doing this with planes – Wigington likes to show audience footage of thick contrails spewing into the sky, evidence he calls “undeniable” – but they may also have operated in the past from a military installation in Alaska, now closed, called the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP.

These people have seized on an idea that I had heard of before, that suggested that it might be able to counter global warming by seeding the upper atmosphere with an aerosol layer that could reflect sunlight and thus cool the Earth by a few degrees, though the idea’s originator warns that a lot more research needs to be done before such a risky strategy is adopted. Couple this suggestion with more well-known efforts to cause rain by seeding clouds (that have had only mixed results) and these people think they have sufficient grounds to believe that the government can actually manipulate the weather.

But what has the government got against California and other western states that it is trying to fry them out of existence? Why would Obama do this, especially since those states are friendly to Democrats? You can always make up reasons, however implausible they are. One favorite one is that government scientists are behind this in order to create alarm over climate change.

But plausible reasons are not even necessary for such people. It is simply taken as a given that the government is evil and ideas that feed that belief are promoted by those industries and interests who would like to see all regulations eliminated. That goal would be achieved by depriving the government of any powers to do anything at all, let alone try and improve environment, and implying that they use such powers nefariously takes them further towards that goal.

Normally, one would dismiss theories such as the one about forest fires being governmentally caused as being held by just a crackpot fringe. But the fact that several hundred people turned out to listen to this suggests that this is another crackpot theory virus that may escape from its limited group of adherents and infect the general public. That likelihood becomes greater if the idea that the chances of large and devastating forest fires are being enhanced by climate change gains ground, because then climate change denialists will need an alternative theory to distract the public and maintain their belief that it is a massive hoax perpetrated by scientists. Their favorite tactic is to create doubt by postulating one alternative hypothesis after another, irrespective of the level of evidence in support of it, and this one will do just fine.


  1. says

    Politicians today are a lot like the KKK leaders of the 1930s. They appealed to the masses of poor whites, those willing to believe that “black people are the problem” and focus their hate and violence on them. US politicians today are doing the same thing, trying to incite the poor into voting for them and labelling “immigrants” as the new enemy, the new target of violence.

    Just like the KKK leading the violent rabble in the 1930s, those leading the blue collar teabaggers today are wealthy whites who are themselves a danger to society. Donald Trump and D. C. Stephenson have more in common than just rhetoric.

  2. raven says

    Nothing is too stupid to believe anymore


    It’s always been that way. 20% of the US population thinks the sun orbits the earth and can’t diagram the solar system. Which says 20% of the US population will believe anything.

    There is no lower limit on how stupid a belief can be. There are still Flat Earthers around. It’s an official position of Boko Haram.

  3. Goomba says

    So, the government built The Weather Dominator?! Why does that not surprise me? They get their religious ideas from The Flintstones, an idealized America from Leave It To Beaver, so why not steal conspiracy theories from GI Joe.

    When can we expect Obama to walk out onto the steps of the White House and swear an alliance to Cobra?

  4. moarscienceplz says

    But the fact that several hundred people turned out to listen to this suggests that this is another crackpot theory virus that may escape from its limited group of adherents and infect the general public.

    Redding is in California’s 1st congressional district, one of the most rightwing ones in the state, and also suffers a lot of unemployment. So it has a rich vein of anxious, undereducated people with too much free time ready to fuel every crackpot rumor that comes along.

  5. StevoR says

    The latest stage in Climate Denialism. It is happening, it is man made but the men making it are teh Ebul Scyentismists! Its all a Conspiracy! (& they’ve even convinced the plants to bloom earlier, animals to migrate earlier and the sea ice to melt more. Because Konspiracy “Scyenunce” = magic.) Hopefully soon to be followed if it isn’t already by the metaphorical “extinction scream” and acceptance?

  6. Nick Gotts says

    I followed links from Mano’s link, and got to this page on Wigington’s website, which explains his basic claim: that geoengineering of the climate (and weather) is already being practiced, and is having disastrous effects. How it is that none of those involved have talked, I’ve no idea. The apparent political orientation is lefty-environmentalist, but Wigington gives grateful thanks to Alex Jones for his support, so this is clearly a conspiracy theory with broad appeal! Of course it’s not impossible that there are or have been secret attempts by the “completely out of control military industrial complex” to alter weather or climate, but they don’t seem to be required to explain events such as California’s drought. I’ll have a browse around his website to see if he actually has any evidence for his claims.

  7. lorn says

    As with most conspiracy theories there is a grain of truth. Mankind is indeed manipulating the weather. Climate change effects local weather and human-caused global warming is a fact. As is the heat-island effect.

    There is at least some plausibility that normal jet engine exhaust and contrails at high altitude contain enough fine particulates and ice crystals to seed clouds and cause them to drop moisture that might normally be carried along. It isn’t too far a leap to postulate that commercial flights over the eastern Pacific might be causing moisture that might otherwise make it to California to fall as rain well short of land.

    There is no need to reference Chemtrails , HAARP, or any other plot, plan, or conspiracy, to credibly assert that humanity has, without any intention or direction, messed with the weather and that the California drought has been made worse by our actions.

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