Sep 212016

Russians have poisoned Hillary Clinton. Elvis Presley is alive and well. The Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared in the Indian Ocean is the same one shot down over the Ukraine.

These are just a few of the many, many conspiracy theories that flourish in the echo chamber of the internet.

Mick West is a science writer and is dedicated to the art of debunking wild theories that circulate online and helping other people do the same, with his website, Metabunk.

  4 Responses to “Debunking Conspiracy Theories – Radio New Zealand”

  1. “I feel another complaint to the Broadcasting Authority coming on…..”

    Dear Jesse

    I was dismayed at the lack of scientific rigour given by your guest Mick West this afternoon, when talking about 9/11 and “conspiracy theories”. While Mr West was asked what he thought about architects and engineers for 911 truth, none of his own mis-leading statements on the structural failure of a 47 storey building were challenged by any other building or technical expert. He also stated that there were no high rise building experts involved with ae911truth when the founder Richard Gage, AIA is himself a high-rise architect with many leading structural engineers supporting the campaign for an independent investigation into the three building collapses on 9/11. Further, Ae911truth espouses no conspiracy theories with their mission being to research, compile, and disseminate scientific information about the destruction of all world trade centre skyscrapers on that day.

    At the Justice in Focus conference at Cooper Union University in New York last weekend, Professor Mark Crispin Miller said The ‘conspiracy theory’ meme isn’t working anymore. These official stories are unraveling.” With the recent scientific article in the prestigious journal Europhysics stating that “the evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that all three World Trade Center buildings were destroyed by controlled demolition” , “it is morally imperative that 9/11 be the subject of a truly scientific and impartial investigation by responsible authorities”. Mr West is either seriously misinformed or wilfully ignorant of the evidence. I only wish that those in the media who are aware of these facts, such as Radio New Zealand, would give these experts and their evidence the serious attention they deserve.

    Kind regards

  2. (Email message to RNZ and afternoon propaganda host, Jesse Mulligan)

    RNZ has lost all credibility when it comes to topics that are not part of the canon of mainstream media’s faith in official government versions of events. I refer specifically to the political assassinations of the 1960s and the events of September 11, 2001. In 2009 and 2010, Kim Hill interviewed two prominent proponents of non-government approved views on the 9/11 attacks, Richard Gage, AIA, founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and prominent scholar and author David Ray Griffin. Ms Hill may have openly disagreed with these gentlemen, as one would expect from an employee of a government funded institution, but at least she did talk to them and allowed them to air their findings, which are based in scholarship and scientific evidence.

    More recently, RNZ has taken the coward’s way out. The entertainment hosts conduct interviews with bloggers who have no background in the fields in which they claim expertise, and chuckle along while these bloggers express their opinions as facts, often mixing in several outright lies. The formula is always the same:

    1. The expert debunker has no qualifications in the field in which they claim expertise. In November 2013, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination, arachnologist Simon Pollard told lies to an enabling Kathryn Ryan about the assassination and its coverup, and generally stammered and bloviated on the psychological maladies of anyone who disagreed with him.

    2. The expert and host always conflate all so-called conspiracy theories and theorists, inevitably linking far out theories about moon landings, lizard people and mass shootings with science based research on political assassinations and terror attacks.

    3. The host and guest always imply that entertaining any non-government approved ideas is dangerous. For example, on September 21, afternoon host Jesse Mulligan and retired video game developer “with a lot of time on his hands”, Mick West, discussed the danger of investigating the public assassination of a US president nearly 53 years ago. The blogger claimed that questioning the official version of this event will inevitably lead to believing all other conspiracy theories, no matter how bizarre. “They get deeper and deeper into a pit, where they can’t actually believe that they’re not being lied to.” West went on to describe the dangerous downward spiral, as though doubting government positions is similar to heroin addiction.

    4. Beyond that, people who doubt their governments’ official mythologies are psychologically impaired, engaging in dangerous practices such as “pattern recognition”, which is how I personally learned to read. Mulligan even mocks people “who have done a lot of reading” and have the effrontery to send him email messages about their views.

    5. Non-approved ideas are never disproved, they are always “debunked” using the debunker’s tool of choice, Google. I’m not kidding; he actually said this.

    6. The guest blogger sometimes tells outright lies about the organisations he is “debunking”. Mick West lied about the constituency of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, claiming that there were few if any actual architects and building engineers in that organisation. Host Mulligan let this lie go unchallenged.

    7. There are inevitable appeals to emotion. Mick West cited the Sandy Hook massacre, saying that the conspiracy theories were disgusting.

    8. The guest blogger’s explanations crumble under their own weight, despite softball questioning from the host. Mick West explained the symmetrical free-fall speed collapse of WTC 7 by claiming that it “collapsed from the inside first” before it fell. “The interior of the building is actually collapsed already,” etc. If that were true, then the only possible explanation for the collapse is controlled demolition, not office fires. Amazingly, host Mulligan didn’t ask, “well then, how did it get completely hollowed out in a few [hours] by a few office fires, and has this ever happened before or since?” Instead, he asked about the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, prompting West to “debunk” them by lying about the organisation.

    This isn’t journalism. This isn’t even entertainment or infotainment. It is propaganda, pure and simple, and very cowardly and lame propaganda at that.

    Phillip Rose

    UPDATE – 23/09/2016
    I received this message this afternoon from RNZ’s Head of Communications, John Barr:

    Dear Phillip

    Thank you for your very detailed comments. We appreciate feedback from our regular listeners and I can assure you that the relevant people here at RNZ have been copied in to your email.

    Thanks again for taking the time to email us.


    John Barr

    Head of Communications

    • Here’s the email message I just sent to RNZ.

      Dear John,

      I offer some more feedback in the interest of urging the RNZ hosts to expand their horizons and consider the possibility that independent thinkers should be invited to counter the questionable claims of “conspiracy theory debunkers” like blogger Mick West. By doing so, your hosts would make their programmes more interesting, and may even regain some of your listeners who, like me, have mostly abandoned RNZ in favour of independent media outlets who provide more thought provoking, interesting and accurate information.

      Feedback, Part 2 on “Debunking Conspiracy Theories” on RNZ with host, Jesse Mulligan and guest Mick West on September 22, 2016

      This is a continuation of my feedback sent to RNZ on 22/09/16

      The term “conspiracy theory” is never defined in these interviews. The implication is that a conspiracy theory is bad, even dangerous. But criminal prosecutors form conspiracy theories on a daily basis, thereby making themselves “conspiracy theorists”. But they’re the good guys, right? So, what exactly is meant by the debunkers when they use this loaded term?

      A conspiracy is a plan involving two or more people to carry out an action. The implication in this context is that the plan is hatched in secret, and the planned action is malevolent in nature. Not a surprise birthday party, in other words. A conspiracy theory is therefore a theory that offers an explanation for a malevolent action that involves two or more people.

      There has been much discussion of the obscure origins of the term, but no one questions that the CIA’s use of the term “conspiracy theorists” in a memo sent to compliant mainstream journalists in 1967 was the actual cause of the subsequent widespread use of the epithet. In the memo, the CIA was rounding up journalistic support to oppose the flood of citizen journalists and investigators who were questioning the validity of the Warren Report’s Lone Nut/Magic Bullet theory.

      Therefore, the first thing to understand about the term “conspiracy theorist” is that it was an epithet propagated by a powerful and influential intelligence agency, designed to denigrate people who question official versions of events. The second thing to understand is that the term has lost all meaning and relevance in the 21st century. The Lone Nut assassin movement the past century has given way to terrorist acts involving multiple participants in this century. When the official version of an event involves more than one person in its planning and execution, it is by definition a conspiracy theory. The US government’s version of the 9/11 events is a conspiracy theory, as are the official explanations for the 7/7 bombings and the bombings in Bali and Madrid.

      Today, when journalists use the term “conspiracy theorist”, it immediately identifies them either as people who don’t know what a conspiracy theory is, or are simply lazy, or both. From this point I will use the term “independent thinkers” to replace “conspiracy theorists”.

      A term often tossed about in interviews aimed at denigrating independent thinkers, but not used in the interview with Mick West, is “confirmation bias”, the tendency to select information that conforms to one’s pre-existing opinions while neglecting information that may tend to refute those opinions. Independent thinkers are often accused of this type of selectivity. I was amused by the very tortuous use of both confirmation bias and of far fetched conspiracy theorizing by West in his discussion of “birtherism”, the idea that Barack Obama was born outside of the USA, and is therefore constitutionally unqualified to be US President.

      West says he has “a bit of a conspiracy theory of my own” when he says that the Obama administration could have released a bona fide copy of Obama’s birth certificate, but chose not to. He speculates that the act of scanning the supposed original document created new typeface characters that replaced the original characters causing three separate layers to be created in the document, and therefore made it not only look like a faked document, but to actually to be a faked or computer generated document in the forensic sense. The Democrats could have released a simple jpeg scan, but chose not to, according to West. The Democrat conspirators deliberately did this in order to make their opposition look foolish.

      Let’s say for a moment that we’re not talking about Barack Obama, but Joe Bloggs, who is trying to prove his citizenship for some reason. After several years of requests by authorities for a notarized copy of his birth certificate, he produces instead an electronic document with nine layers (not three) that is obviously assembled from various electronic bits and pieces, and is not a scan of an actual document. The authority requesting a valid notarized document would naturally reject the electronic document as a poor forgery. Based on his failure to produce a legal and legitimate document, one would logically conclude that poor Joe either has no birth certificate, or that his actual birth certificate is from, say, some other jurisdiction, and would not satisfy the requesting authority. One would not normally assume that Joe is attempting to make the requesting authority look foolish when they question the authenticity of his clumsily forged document.

      Getting back to the example of the President of the United States, West assumes, without any basis in fact, that the real birth certificate actually exists, but posits the conspiracy theory that “the Democrats” chose to release a poor forgery instead in order to make their opponents look foolish. Is that not a conspiracy theory based on implausible assumptions and wishful thinking? Confirmation bias, in other words?

      This glaring gaffe aside, West is actually a very sophisticated debunker. He uses carefully crafted lies, coded language and skillful misdirection to lead unwary listeners away from legitimate alternate theories, and directly towards those whom most independent thinkers regard as crackpots and propagandists. It would take many more pages to demonstrate this, so I won’t try your patience with that. It is shameful, in my opinion, for RNZ to actively promote this type of skillful propaganda. Far better to leave these topics alone than to be an active agent of deception.

      The main point I would like to make about this interview is the role of the host, Jesse Mulligan, in enthusiastically promoting the bogus views of his guest. If one were to call this journalism, it would have to be labelled advocacy journalism. He asked for advice on how to “break down” conspiracy theories, and wanted to know what the “weapons in your arsenal” were. After letting West get away with a multitude of false and misleading statements, he said, “You’ve gotta be beyond reproach yourself or not lie… otherwise you make yourself vulnerable.” Following West’s claim to be in the tradition of 19th century “gentlemen scientists”, West, speaking about himself in the third person, said, “you have to be 100% beyond reproach,” thereby placing himself beyond the realm of mere fallible human scientists and upwards into the level of infallible omniscience. At the end of the interview, Mulligan encouraged this God Who Walks Among Men to “keep up the good work.”

      As an independent thinker, I found that the interview contained neither journalism nor “good work.” I encourage Mr Mulligan and RNZ to do better in the future by interviewing people who actually know what they’re talking about, and who speak on their topics with honesty and integrity.


      -Phillip Rose

  3. Having taught senior high school science for 40 years and as the author of over a dozen textbooks, I am accustomed to evaluating issues on the basis of the evidence. I was therefore deeply unimpressed by Mick West’s interview by Jesse Mulligan on Radio New Zealand on Wednesday September 21.
    While the tone of Mr West’s remarks was polite, the substance was condescending, if not offensive, to those who have the temerity to ask for evidence before accepting what officialdom has to say. I share Mr West’s view that some people seem to have a need to believe in whacky, alternative explanations for events that loom large in public consciousness (I know of several such individuals), but to imply that powerful people do not conspire to perpetuate and extend their power flies in the face of recorded history and is as silly as the belief that Elvis is alive and well.
    Until 1997, anyone who had suggested that in 1962 the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff had conspired to murder U.S. citizens in Miami and blame it on Fidel Castro as justification for an invasion of Cuba, would have been labeled a ‘conspiracy theorist’. But such a plot did exist. ‘Operation Northwoods’, as it was called, was declassified in 1997 (You can read it on Wikipedia and dozens of other internet sources. Similarly, the Gulf of Tonkin ‘incident’ was used as justification for the Vietnam War but has since been admitted by the authorities that it did not occur. Then there was the plot to delay release of the U.S. embassy hostages by Iran until the day after the 1979 Presidential U.S. election, now a matter of public record. And the Libor banking scandal, in which banks conspired – to quote Wikipedia – to falsely inflate or deflate their rates so as to profit from trades, or to give the impression that they were more creditworthy than they were. And perhaps the greatest conspiracy of all – in which J.P. Morgan and certain other bankers and Senators conspired at a secret meeting on Jekyll Island in 1910 to create the ‘Federal Reserve’ in 1913. In reality there was nothing Federal about it. It was actually a private banking cartel that created and lent money at interest, in so doing taking the reins of real power in the United States. I could go on to give dozens of other examples of conspiracies by people in power to achieve ends that couldn’t be achieved under public scrutiny, but which are now on public record.
    Until 2004 I uncritically accepted the official explanation for the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. When my son told me there was strong evidence that the World Trade Center had been brought down by explosives, I dismissed his assertions as ‘ridiculous’. He introduced me to The New Pearl Harbor by Professor David Ray Griffin (the first of ten books by Prof Griffin on the subject). By the time I was less than a quarter of the way through I realized there were too many anomalies in the official explanation for it to be true. So began a long period of examination of the evidence for and against the official explanation for 911. As a science teacher, I look back on my initial credulousness with embarrassment.
    I cannot know whether Mr West actually believes that 911 was planned by a man on dialysis in an Afghan cave, and committed by 19 Muslims armed with box cutters, overcoming the most strongly defended structure in the world – the Pentagon — but I can comment on his approach to the issue in the interview, and Jesse Mulligan’s uncritical acceptance of many of Mr West’s unsubstantiated statements.
    First, he employed the standard technique of lumping 911 skeptics in the same basket as the self-evidently ludicrous views of those who believe the Earth is flat and that we are ruled by reptiles. Mr West used the standard thought-stopping put-down ‘conspiracy theory’ label (introduced into the public lexicon by the CIA after the Kennedy assassination) to imply that those who are skeptical of the government account of 911 must wear tinfoil hats.
    Second, he goes to some pains to present himself as someone who demands evidence, but fails live up to it himself. He says that WTC7 ‘collapsed internally, leaving a hollow shell with nothing to hold it up’. I have never heard of such a statement by NIST (the National Institute for Standards and Technology, a government agency). What is his evidence for this? Evidently he expects us to uncritically accept what he says, without question.
    Physics teacher David Chandler has done a computer analysis of the collapse of WTC7 and proved that for 2.25 seconds, the building was in free-fall. Free-fall occurs when there is no resistance, and since collapse was symmetrical, all supporting steel girders must have been destroyed simultaneously. It is difficult to find an alternative explanation other than explosives. But this, the only explanation that was consistent with the observed collapse and loud explosions clearly audible in television broadcasts and available on YouTube, was the one hypothesis that NIST refused to consider.
    Evidence for explosive demolition is not limited to WTC7, but is glaringly obvious even on the photographs of the collapse of WTC1 on Mr West’s website. Girders can clearly be seen ejected horizontally, and even more clearly on other videos (e.g. ). Mr West is not a physicist, but unless he thinks gravity can act horizontally he must admit that lateral ejection is diametrically incompatible with the official explanation of a gravity-driven collapse of the towers after weakening by fire following collision by aircraft. If Mr West knows of another explanation, he kept it to himself in the interview.
    To deal with all the evidence casting suspicion on the official 911 story would (literally) require a book, but I’ll just mention some other reasons to suspect that the Bush Administration was desperately trying to hide the truth about 911 – all of them in the public domain and beyond dispute:
    All but a tiny fraction of the steel girders, which would have provided valuable forensic evidence, were removed from the site and exported to Asia without anyone being allowed to examine them. Removal of evidence from a crime scene is a Federal offence, yet after the greatest crime in American history, the government went to great lengths to prevent access to evidence.
    Why did it take the government 411 days to agree to set up the 911 Commission of Inquiry, and only then after strong pressure from the bereaved families? And why did the government give the Commission a fraction of the money allotted to the inquiry into Clinton-Lewinsky affair, and the Challenger disaster? And why did President Bush insist on giving evidence accompanied by Vice President Cheney, and why did neither of them have to give evidence under oath?
    Though the 911 Commission was described as ‘independent’, it was anything but that. Though nominally led by Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice-chairman Lee Hamilton, all the really important decisions were taken by the Executive Director Philip Zelikow who had such close links with the Bush Administration that he was essentially a White House insider. In his book The Commission, former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon revealed that contrary to the rules, Zelikow was in daily contact with Carl Rove in the White House during the inquiry. Most disturbing, Shenon revealed that by the time the Commission had barely begun to take evidence, Zelikow had written all of the chapter headings, subheadings, and sub-sub-headings of the Report and its conclusions.
    If Mr West had done what he professed to do – examine the evidence for himself – he would be familiar with all the above and much more that space precludes me from mentioning, but he gave no indication in the interview that he had dug below the surface.
    People can’t really be blamed for doubting the official story, given that it was supported by such literally incredible ‘evidence’ as the intact ‘hijacker’s’ passport that had miraculously survived the fireball and recovered from the wreckage and reported on television news?
    If journalists are supposed to act as Fourth Estate, charged with asking the hard questions, one is entitled to ask why has National Radio fallen so far short of this ideal?
    I can think of only two possible explanations. The first, depressing enough, is that National Radio chooses to put entertainment before journalism. The second, altogether more depressing one is that National Radio, like the BBC, is simply part of a disinformation machine. Before you accuse me of wearing a tinfoil hat, I would draw your attention to the now well-documented ‘Operation Mockingbird’, now amply documented in the public domain, as for example in the following Wikipedia entry:
    “Operation Mockingbird was a secret campaign by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to influence media. Begun in the 1950s, it was initially organized by Cord Meyer and Allen W. Dulles, and was later led by Frank Wisner after Dulles became the head of the CIA. The organization recruited leading American journalists into a propaganda network to help present the CIA’s views. It funded some student and cultural organizations and magazines as fronts. As it developed, it also worked to influence foreign media and political campaigns, in addition to activities by other operating units of the CIA.”
    Seen in this light, the best-selling book by Dr. Udo Ulfkotte has special significance. Dr Ulfkotte was the assistant editor for the German main daily newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In his best-selling book Gekaufte Journalisten (“Bought Journalists”), Ulfkotte confesses that for 17 years he was ‘for hire’ by the CIA, to write articles favourable to the NATO and unfavourable to Russia. He says that ‘bought journalists’ are not confined to Germany but permeate upper echelons of journalism in the U.K, France, Australia and New Zealand. The English translation of his book, Journalists for Hire, is due to be published in February 2017. Dr Ulfkotte’s evidence can be seen in the following YouTube videos
    Until Dr Ulfkotte’s confession, the reported statement by William Colby, Director of the CIA from 1973 to 1976, that “The CIA owns everyone of significance in the major media” could be dismissed as unsubstantiated, as Mr West does on his own website, since as Mr West says, it lacks any primary source. It now seems that Colby’s statement was probably true, if unwise, since his body was found lying face down on a marshy riverbank on the Potomac in 1996.