Say It With Me: Birds Aren’t Real

It kind of makes sense if you think about it hard enough.

A few months ago, I was at the grocery store and I spotted a young man wearing a T-shirt that said, “Birds aren’t real.” I was intrigued, but then, as often happens with me, I got distracted by something shiny. I soon forgot all about it.

Then, on the way to work recently I was listening to The Daily on NPR. (It’s a fascinating podcast. I highly recommend it.) On this day, the topic was “A Movement to Fight Misinformation… with Misinformation.” And it was about the Birds Aren’t Real movement.

After learning more about it, I have to say that I am hooked. If you go to the Birds Aren’t Real Website, you’ll find the following description of the movement:

“The Birds Aren’t Real movement exists to spread awareness that the U.S. Government genocided over 12 Billion birds from 1959-2001, and replaced these birds with surveillance drone replicas, which still watch us every day. Once a preventative cause, our initial goal was to stop the forced extinction of real birds. Unfortunately this was unsuccessful, and the government has since replaced every living bird with robotic replicas. Now our movement’s prerogative is to make everyone aware of this fact.”

If you go to the page that describes the movement’s history, you get a detailed manifesto. It describes a federal conspiracy to root out communists that ran amok, and has been getting even more amok since 1947. It explains that we entered the Vietnam war to have access to the aluminum that we’d need to make these drones. It reveals that Trump wanted to build a wall not to keep immigrants out, but to keep live birds out. He was relentless in this pursuit.

There’s also a lot of cool merchandise, called “Truther Gear” you can get to spread the word. Slogans such as “Pigeons are liars”, “If it flies, it spies”, and “Bird watching goes both ways” are some of the very popular selections.

The movement has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook. Its founder, Peter McIndoe, was surprised how quickly it took off. But not so surprised that he wasn’t willing to quit college and hop on this feathered gravy train. Who could blame him?


Breaking character for once, he spoke to the folks at the Daily, and said that one day he noticed a protest and a counter-protest going on. It was full of chaos and absurdity, and neither side was listening to the other. He decided to add to the absurdity by contributing some of his own. He made a poster that said Birds Aren’t Real, and footage of him earnestly shouting about a “birdemic” at that rally soon hit Youtube.

Followers now call themselves the Bird Brigade, and have started showing up at protests to speak their mind. They showed up at Twitter headquarters to protest their logo. They’ve done rallies on college campuses. (Campi?) They showed up at an anti-abortion rally, waded in amongst all the pictures of aborted fetuses (feti?) and made so much noise and had so much fun that the anti-choicers finally left in sheer frustration.

I love that they are diffusing hate with comedy. I love that they’re smothering misinformation in even more misinformation. This tweet just about says it all:

If you join this group. You’ll learn all sorts of useful information, such as the fact that you really need to avoid seagulls, because they’ve recently been upgraded and can now steal your credit card information by just looking at you. You’ll learn that those chem trails actually consist of poison gas used to get rid of the last of the live birds. And did you know that bird poop is really a liquid tracking device? No wonder it seems to gravitate toward our windshields. Big Bird is watching you.

Those who don’t join the movement are called “Cheeple.” They are told, “You’re either with us or you eat worms.” So be warned. Don’t be on the wrong side of history.

McIndoe theorizes that this movement is so popular with his fellow Gen Z members because, having been born between 1997 and 2012, they have known nothing but political chaos and unrest. They’re feeling isolated, longing for community, and they have an intense desire to have some semblance of control over their lives. These feelings are exactly why most people buy into a conspiracy, and if you insist on doing so, I can think of no better conspiracy to buy into than Birds Aren’t Real. (And incidentally, if you’re into Facebook, join the Bird’s Aren’t Real Facebook Group. It’s hilarious!)

Because, you know, it kind of makes sense if you think about it hard enough. 😊

I hope that the Bird Brigade is descending upon the trucker rallies in Canada. This group of anti-vaxxers and haters have befuddled Canadians. Ninety percent of the eligible Canadian population has been vaccinated, and they don’t understand why anyone would want to be so selfish and foolhardy as to not do so. But these rallies are going strong, because they’re receiving funding from the radical right in the US. The protests soon filled up with confederate and Nazi flags and other symbols of hate. And, of course, Fox News is exaggerating the size of their presence and influence.

In fact, the Canadians are so unamused by this that all the unions in the country recently released this joint statement:

“What we have witnessed on the streets of Canada’s capital over the past thirteen days is something different altogether. This is not a protest, it is an occupation by an angry mob trying to disguise itself as a peaceful protest.

“We have seen an occupation of city streets and parks, disrupting workers, businesses and residents. Frontline workers, from retail to health workers, have been bullied and harassed. We have witnessed noise attacks keeping families up at all hours. We have seen right-wing extremists spreading messages filled with racism and intolerance, flying the Nazi and Confederate flags, alongside other symbols of violence and hate. We have seen organizers not only demand the end of all public health rules, but also call for the overthrow of our democratically elected government.

“The leaders of this occupation include people who espoused Islamophobic, Anti-Semitic and racist hate on social media, organizers of the notorious far-right yellow vest protests, and people spreading extreme conspiracy theories and calls for violence. This is an attack on all of Canada and not just the people of Ottawa.

“Canada’s unions stand together, unequivocally opposed to these vile and hateful messages and condemn the ongoing harassment and violence against the people of Ottawa.”

This statement from the Canadian Trucking Alliance makes it clear that they don’t support this protest either. Calling this a Canadian Trucker Protest is really rather unfair. The vast majority of them are not involved. There is only a tiny lunatic fringe who aren’t carrying on with business as usual.

This obnoxious protest is actually a practice run. They are learning how to create the type of chaos that will disrupt a democracy. They want to see how far they can go without getting arrested as they did on January 6th. And by “they”, I mean the financial backers of this debacle, with their nefarious agenda. The truckers are merely guinea pigs in this experiment.

Here’s hoping that Birds Aren’t Real shows up and holds up a big old feathered mirror to the truckers’ absurd faces so they can take a good look at themselves and withdraw with whatever is left of their dignity. Nobody is buying what those birdbrains are selling. Just ask the Bird Brigade.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Chaos Reigns

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

On January 15th of this year, my cell phone sprang to life. It was a message from my county informing me of a tsunami advisory. I’ve always lived near one coast or another, but this was my first tsunami advisory. It kind of set me back on my heels, to be honest.

The natural disasters I’ve had to deal with the most have been hurricanes, back when I lived in Florida. They move slowly. You get plenty of notice. Once you know a strong one is headed your direction, you’d be a fool not to get out of the way if you are able to do so. Sadly, there are a lot of fools in this world.

Tsunamis are a bit different, though. It’s really hard to determine the height they will reach when they hit land, and the closer you are to their source, the less notice you have. There’s no tsunami season, and anyone near water is potentially at risk. As far as I’m concerned, tsunamis are nature at its most raw and unpredictable.

According to our county’s Emergency Operation Center, this particular tsunami might not hit us at all, or it might be three feet high. That’s a huge margin of error. Naturally, my first thought was for myself and Dear Husband, but we were both well inland, and our house is high on a hill. While a mile-high tsunami might take us out, a three foot one would not. So I did my best to spread the word to friends and coworkers.

My next focus was to find out what the heck had caused this tsunami in the first place. When I saw the aerial photography of the massive volcano eruption near Tonga, I was horrified. Those poor people probably didn’t know what hit them. Their islands would be devastated, both from the water and from the ash. This kingdom is so small and remote that most people, including me, rarely give it a thought. But we’re talking about more than 100,000 people with absolutely nowhere to run. This was going to be bad.

Satellite images from JMA show the volcano eruption in Tonga on Jan 15, 2022.

But in the following days, all hell broke loose a work, the pandemic raged on, I came down with strep throat, and became increasingly muddled in my thinking. I sent a snarky text to a friend who understands my humor, only to discover that I had accidentally sent it to someone who barely knows me, and was sure to misinterpret the message. I was mortified. She was gracious about it, so all I can do is hope it didn’t irreparably damage our brand new friendship, because I really do like her and her husband a lot.

I also watched as my democracy continued to crumble, as evidenced by the erosion of women’s rights and the steady chipping away of everyone’s ability to vote, all while our environment circles the drain. Covid tests have been hard to come by, fools are still not getting vaccinated, putting us all at risk, and I am feeling misunderstood, unsupported, and exhausted.

So, I’m ashamed to say that when I saw this article about the desperate state of Tonga after the eruption, I realized that I had forgotten all about this crisis. And it had only been five days. What the hell is wrong with me? (Well, yeah, strep throat. But, I mean, besides that.)

It’s so unlike me to forget things like this. I genuinely do my best to help others when I can, as so many people have helped me along the way. But this horrific event had popped out of my mind like a soap bubble.

And then I realized what it was. Chaos.

The reason people make up and spread conspiracy theories is so that they can watch everyone else scrambling around in a panic, while they make great strides toward their own agenda. Unfortunately, that chaos can have dire results. It can do even more than divert your attention from what really matters.

For example, convincing people that public health should be politicized and that vaccines are dangerous and/or an assault on your freedom results in the deaths of the most vulnerable amongst us. And while the rest of us try to talk sense into these manipulated people, others can be above it all, trying to destroy our democracy and wring as much money out of the world as possible without any resistance from us.

In this era of unfiltered social media, you can create chaos in a wide variety of ways. You can incite insurrections and block desperately needed legislation. You can convince people that immigrants are the sole source of our problems, that they’re the enemy, that they’re going to steal our jobs and rape our white women. You can refuse to fill critical governmental positions, or fire people once a month to deprive governmental protection agencies of their continuity.

Chaos allows the convincers to scurry around in the background, raping our environment for maximum profit, widening the wealth gap to an unprecedented degree, and creating a supreme court so biased that our laws won’t reflect the will of the majority of the people for many generations to come.

With all this going on, we forget the “minor details”, such as the total devastation of a distant island nation, or the total devastation of our human rights. We can’t work up the energy to maintain the proper level of concern about anything. And that is exactly what the people in power want.

Once you start looking for chaos, you spot it everywhere. (There was never any critical race theory being taught in public schools, folks. Not ever. It’s a distraction.)  “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

We are turning against each other, rather than uniting to put a stop to the corrupt, evil people who are pulling our puppet strings. And it appears that a great deal of us are quite content to suckle on a steady stream of sugary misinformation as the world crumbles around us all. When this era is studied by future historians, it will be considered the beginning of a very dark age; one in which things took a drastic turn for the worse. They will most likely still be trying to dig out from under our rubble.

Surely I’m not the only one who finds that terrifying.

If you would like to help those suffering in Tonga, please check out this article for legitimate sources of support.

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

Debunking Chemtrails

Step away from the lunatic fringe.

Let’s round out the year with some facts, shall we? Chemtrails are a myth. There is no credible evidence to support their existence.

I suspect that if you’ve read past that first paragraph, I’m probably already preaching to the choir. That’s a pity. It’s nearly impossible to disabuse a conspiracy theorist of their erroneous conclusions. The only reason I’m even giving it a try is that I still see this subject come up time and time again on social media, from sources that I think are way too smart for this foolishness, and I’m hoping that if you know someone who seems to be on the fence about the issue, you may be able to use this post to draw that person away from the lunatic fringe.

According to this article in the Smithsonian, based on public policy polling, “…about five percent of Americans believe in chemtrails. That’s more than the four percent who believe lizard people are taking over our politics but much less than the number who believe in bigfoot or that global warming is a hoax.”

Give me strength.

Okay, let’s start with the basics.

You’re not being conned. We call them contrails because that’s short for condensation trails. You’re familiar with condensation. You’ve seen it gathering on the outside of a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day. It’s why you use coasters. You’ve seen it dripping out of your old air conditioning window unit when you were trying to beat the heat. Condensation requires three things to exist: warmth, cold, and moisture.

Jet engines provide the warm water vapor by way of their exhaust or by way of a sudden change in pressure when air flows over the wings. (However, wingtips require an assist in the form of high humidity in the air.) This moisture hits the cold air that the high atmosphere provides and that causes this water vapor to cool and condense. Ta da! Condensation! (This article explains it in more detail, but it’s really just that simple. I promise.)

And here are some FAQs for you:

Why do we seem to be seeing more trails in the sky? Because contrails are produced by planes, and we have increased the number of flights for travel and shipping over time.

Why do they seem so bright? Because sunlight reflects off the ice crystals, just as it does on sparkly snow. You’ve seen sparkly snow.

Why do these trails seem to last longer than they used to? Because a) you’re paying more attention to them, b) there have been changes in jet engine technology and c) (please don’t kill the messenger) global warming may cause the trails to linger longer.

Why do they often make big exes in the sky? Because planes fly in different directions and are at different altitudes. It may look like the cross is located right over your house from your angle, but I guarantee you that one leg of the x is at a much higher altitude than the other, so someone on the other side of the county, seeing it from another angle, is probably thinking that the x is over his or her house, too. (You get an x, you get an x, EVERYBODY GETS AN X!!!!!!!!!!)

Okay, then, why have theorists found traces of barium, aluminum, copper and strontium in ponds, snow, and air? Because we have polluted the freakin’ planet. All of us. Perhaps you’d be better off focusing on our need for green energy.

Why do some of these trails have multiple bands? Because some planes have multiple engines. And all have multiple wing tips. (Yes, condensation can come off of wing tips, too. With help. See above.)

Why can’t I believe that these trails are a government conspiracy to control the weather, the population, or to test biological weapons? Well, you can, if you insist. But…

  • If the government is trying to control the weather, they’re doing a horrible job of it. I’d like to send some of the Pacific Northwest rain down to California where it’s so desperately needed, please.
  • If they’re trying to control the population, again, they’re doing a horrible job of it.
  • Due to ever-changing wind currents, they couldn’t specify the exact population they would be controlling from that altitude. People in the government have families, too, and they don’t want them to be messed with. They may not want you to have grandchildren, but they want some of their own.
  • If there is some type of aerosol birth control out there, especially one that would provide the exact proper dose to everyone with whom it comes in contact, I wish to hell someone had told me about it before I got my tubes tied.
  • Perhaps most glaringly obvious is the fact that it would be idiotic to test biological weapons on your own populous, because the whole point of producing something to use to wipe out your enemies is to wind up with more of your friends when all is said and done. So by that way of thinking, it would have to be a foreign government doing these tests.
  • Every country heavily monitors their own air space, so it would be awfully hard for another country to drop chemical weapons on us, all over the country, on a daily basis, without our being extremely aware of it. We knew the exact location of sputnik, for crying out loud. And in the case of a daily invasion of that magnitude, our government would be pissed. There would be tweets, believe you me.
  • How could our own government produce daily chemtrails all over the country when it can’t even work out an efficient way to provide us with sufficient vaccines to get this pandemic under control? To believe that the government is using chemtrails, you have to have a heck of a lot more confidence in their organizational, logistical, and secret-keeping abilities than I do.

Okay. That’s it. I’m done. I tried. Now it’s up to you to think critically.

Like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll love this book!

Think of Horses

Here’s a quote that’s often used in the medical profession:

“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” – Dr. Theodore Woodward

In other words, don’t assume some exotic medical malady first, when it is much more likely to be something quite common. A child is much more likely to have a bladder infection than maple syrup urine disease.

But I think this quote can and should be applied to a lot more areas of life than just medicine. One of the reasons that I tend to look askance at most conspiracy theories is the simple, basic fact that the vast majority of people cannot keep secrets. And trying to get a large number of people to agree, let alone march in lockstep toward one common, corrupt goal, is next to impossible. If something nefarious is going on, chances are it’s one person at the heart of it, maybe two at most. Not an entire organization.

I know a woman who thinks zebras all the time. For example, she saw a dog hair on the counter at her place of work, and rather than assuming it fell off someone’s clothing, she instantly concluded that someone was sneaking his or her dog to work on her days off. Seriously?

And when you try to do something helpful for this woman, she automatically believes you must be out to get her. It has got to be exhausting, always running with the zebras like that. And because she trusts no one, no one trusts her. That’s kind of sad.

I genuinely believe that the simple explanation is most often the right one. That’s how I choose to live my life. Yup, sometimes I’m wrong, but I’m also a lot less stressed out.

It makes me tired just watching.

Okay, I Can’t Stand It.

A dear friend, whom I love and respect, posted the following on her Facebook page. It broke my heart that someone I care about and admire so much could be so taken in. I’ll start with the quote (Which is from some other source, which has since disappeared from Facebook, and I’ll remain faithful to the spelling errors, screwed up punctuation, and all), and then I’ll respond, point by ignorant point.

This saddens me. I’m a woman and a human first, so obviously I’m against rape, sexual assaults, molestation, etc. However, there is much more to this story that a lot of you wont even understand. I don’t even believe that in this day and time ppl brains even expand as far as this situation really goes. The reality is this man ‪#‎BILLCOSBY was getting ready to take over a huge television network called ‪#‎NBC. Which would have open doors for ppl of color to be on a major television station much more often. He’s was speaking on positive opportunities in the black community, on race issues and things he believed black ppl should do to get ahead. Then and ONLY then did these outlandish accusations from 30… THIRTY YEARS AGO come out about him. One by one. When a black man is “getting too big for his bridges” Hollywood, white America has to stop him. Now he’s been indicted on charges for something allegedly happen 10 years ago. This 78, lets just say 80. This 80 year old man is now in prison on a 1 million dollar bail for extremely old UNPROVEN accusations. When he should be home preparing to die, because let’s just face it, he’s gonna die soon and now instead of dying for being one of the greatest of all time! For being a positive successful huge black public figure, he now has to die with this stigma on him as a serial rapist. Same thing they did to Michael Jackson. The craziest part is that they don’t even have to try hard because black ppl doing the dirty work for them. Working against their own. Believing the hype. Black men, comedians, etc making jokes and accusing Bill. Black Women going against him don’t even know the facts or wether it’s even true. Just running w/accusations. Think about this ‪#‎StephenCollins the father off “Seventh Heaven” was accused of and admitted to CHILD MOLESTATION and no one is talking about it. The show also airs faithfully on television still. That’s what you call ‪#‎whiteprivilege. As long as black men are selling drugs and encouraging black ppl to do drugs and disrespecting our women and things like that they are ok with you. The minute you try to spread positivity into your black community and make major moves BE CAREFUL.

  • There is much more to this story that a lot of you wont even understand. I don’t even believe that in this day and time ppl brains even expand as far as this situation really goes.

If you want to have people take you seriously, you might want to avoid insulting them with your condescension right out of the gate. But then, I guess I’m doing that, aren’t I?

Guess when Mr Cosby was attempting to do that? 1992. So if your conspiracy theory holds water, it sure took a long time to get up and running.

  • He’s was speaking on positive opportunities in the black community, on race issues and things he believed black ppl should do to get ahead.

He said poor blacks all buy their kids $500 shoes. He also said “Those people are not Africans. They don’t know a damned thing about Africa. With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap and all of them are in jail.”

He was also the main spokesperson for Jello for many years. Jello is owned by R. J. Reynolds, a tobacco company that targets its menthol cigarette advertising to the black community. Menthol allows you to draw smoke deeper into your lungs, increasing your chances of cancer.

  • Then and ONLY then did these outlandish accusations from 30… THIRTY YEARS AGO come out about him. One by one.

And? Is there a statute of limitation on morality? If he got away with it for this long, is he somehow absolved of his sins?

  • When a black man is “getting too big for his bridges” Hollywood, white America has to stop him.

Uh… the expression is “Too big for his britches,” you fool. And if that’s the case, why hasn’t anyone “stopped” Sydney Portier, Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington, Danny Glover, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, and on and on and on…

  • Now he’s been indicted on charges for something allegedly happen 10 years ago. This 78, lets just say 80. This 80 year old man is now in prison on a 1 million dollar bail for extremely old UNPROVEN accusations.

Is there an age limit for morality? Do you get to get away with shit because you’re old? And on an initial arrest, the charges are ALWAYS unproven. That’s what trials are for.

  • He now has to die with this stigma on him as a serial rapist. Same thing they did to Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson was another pervert. You wear the chains you forge in life. Sorry to disappoint.

  • The craziest part is that they don’t even have to try hard because black ppl doing the dirty work for them. Working against their own. Believing the hype. Black men, comedians, etc making jokes and accusing Bill. Black Women going against him don’t even know the facts or wether it’s even true. Just running w/accusations.

Um, do YOU know the facts? And are you supposed to unquestioningly support everyone within your race? That must be exhausting.

  • Think about this ‪#‎StephenCollins the father off “Seventh Heaven” was accused of and admitted to CHILD MOLESTATION and no one is talking about it. The show also airs faithfully on television still. That’s what you call ‪#‎whiteprivilege.

No, that’s what you call, “Who the hell is Stephen Collins”? I’ve never heard of the man. I’ve never seen the show. He’s not nearly as famous, so not as many people are talking about him. And a Google search tells me there were 3 women, not more than fifty, and he admitted to it, instead of trying to deny, so while it’s still heinous, it’s less “interesting” to the media.

Did white privilege save Bill Clinton from the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

  • As long as black men are selling drugs and encouraging black ppl to do drugs and disrespecting our women and things like that they are ok with you. The minute you try to spread positivity into your black community and make major moves BE CAREFUL.

Tell that to Oprah, honey.

God, sometimes I just want to scream. Racial bias goes both ways.


The Great Cranberry Conspiracy

So I was eating a lean cuisine while watching the Colbert Report. Pecan Chicken. It was as good as one can rightfully expect from a TV dinner. And then I got this taste in my mouth. The dreaded taste. I gave my meal closer scrutiny, and yep, sure enough. Cranberries. Ugh!

My apologies in advance to cranberry lovers out there, but I strongly believe that there are some places that cranberries have absolutely no right to be. Mixed with gravy is one of those places. Covered in salad dressing is another.

Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the occasional cranberry muffin. I can also tolerate it in cereal if given fair warning. (There’s nothing that irritates me more than a cranberry surprise.) And I don’t object to that gelatinous muck that seems to be a Thanksgiving requirement. It does add color. I just politely refuse to ingest it. Why would I eat something that I would never allow to pass my lips the other 364 days of the year?

Is it just me, or have cranberries been popping up in more and more prepared foods of late? A cheap way to hike up the vitamin content on the package label, perhaps? Yeah, yeah, I could go on about how cranberries are a good source of this, that, and the other thing. Hmph. Google it yourself.

I have this theory, though. I call it the Great Cranberry Conspiracy. I think some rich person stupidly invested in cranberry bogs and is now desperately trying to unload the crop on anyone whom they can strong-arm into taking it. If the Koch brothers, for example, showed up at your corporate door and told you to put cranberries into your pecan chicken or by God, you’ll never work in this industry again, I bet you’d sit up and take notice.

And of course it’s the little people like me who have to suffer the consequences. It’s a cruel and boggy world out there. Eat with caution.


[Image credit:]

Government Conspiracy: The Great Oxymoron

I have a basic philosophical difference with someone I love very much. He thinks that large scale governmental, or even global, conspiracies are possible. I on the other hand, think that’s doolally with a capital doo.

I suppose it boils down to which you think is more powerful: government evil or government stupidity. Having worked for the government, I can assure you that it will be stupidity every single time. Oh, they’d like to conspire, believe you me, and sometimes they’ll get away with things for a little while, but they are not capable of that level of organization and overall thought control in the long term.

Governments, after all, are composed of nothing more than masses of individuals, each with their own opinions and moral code. Many like to gossip. Some like to profit from insider information. Some want the spotlight. The vast majority have their eyes glued to the clock, looking forward to going home to their families. And then you have those pesky malcontents and whistle-blowers to contend with.

And in this era of social media, camera phones, satellite imagery, and traffic cameras, it’s really rather impossible to hide inconvenient things like the construction of concentration camps and the digging of mass graves.

The truth will out.

To pull off a conspiracy, you have to be certain that every individual involved thinks the way you want them to think and acts the way you want them to act. For the rest of their lives. Think about it. We don’t even have confidence that that can occur for even a few seconds.

Next time you’re at a traffic light, consider this: When the light turns green, every single person in line should be able to instantly accelerate and be perfectly fine. Like train cars, if we all move at the same speed at the same time, we would not crash into each other. But no. We don’t all instantly accelerate. The first one goes, there’s a slight pause, then the next one goes, and so on, to the point where there is a substantial delay if you are at the end of the line. Why is this? Well, duh. We can’t be confident that everyone will have the same reaction speed, the same engine power, and that some doofus isn’t in the middle of texting his girlfriend.  (“I love u, too!” “No! I love u more! <3” )

It’s the same with conspiracies. To think that human beings are automatons who will march in perfect lockstep one hundred percent of the time is to set entirely too much stock in the abilities of the human race. More than two people cannot keep a secret.

My friend has an admirably high opinion of humanity’s ability to function like a colony of bees. I, on the other hand, believe that most of us are just trying to get through life in one piece. Which one of us is more cynical? Hard to say.


“I have come to the conclusion that my subjective account of my own motivation is largely mythical on almost all occasions. I don’t know why I do things.”

–  J.B.S. Haldane


(Image credit:

If I Disagree with You, It’s because You’re Wrong.

When my late sister wanted to push my buttons, she would say, “You have very strong opinions.” For decades, this put me in a place where I could not win. I wanted her approval so much that I’d try not to have strong opinions. I’d try not to have any opinions at all. I’d try to figure out exactly where I was wrong, or bad or crazy. I’d try to change who I was, and I’d fail, and therefore feel even worse about myself.

Then one day in my early 40’s it occurred to me that maybe the reason she felt that my opinions were so strong was that they weren’t being changed by her often contradictory ones. I realized that everyone is entitled to an opinion. I express my opinions, yes, but I never insist that the rest of the world agree with me. In fact, I find that in general I’m not particularly persuasive. I finally said to my sister, “Yeah, but as long as I’m not forcing those opinions on you, what difference does it make?” And just like that, after decades of what felt like pure torture to me, that particular button was never pushed again.

Opinions. Everybody’s got ‘em.

Just recently, in my internet wanderings, I was introduced to a concept called confirmation bias. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. For example, in reading about current political issues, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.”

I suppose I always knew that confirmation bias existed, but I never knew it had a name or that so many studies have been done about it. I’m willing to concede that every one of us is guilty of confirmation bias, but here’s where it gets dangerous: people in the throes of confirmation bias can make bad investments, poor choices, or break laws. Have you ever said, “It seemed like a good idea at the time…”

Economies have been destroyed and wars have been waged by people influenced by their own confirmation bias. It is why the concept of bloodletting persisted for 2,000 years, and why there are still people, even today, who think the world is flat, and that man has never walked on the moon. Confirmation bias is the bedrock of every cult and lunatic fringe militia on the face of the earth.

Unfortunately, it’s also a major factor in many forms of mental illness. Depressed? It will be so much easier to believe the negative things said about you, your circumstances, or the world in general, thanks to your old friend confirmation bias. Schizophrenic? It’s not that hard to find people who agree with the voices in your head. Hypochondriac? Someone will gladly confirm your diagnoses for a price, and since they agree with you, they must be more right than those doctors who are telling you that you’re fine. Paranoid? In this information age, when any nut case can have a platform to express his views (including me!), you’re bound to find “evidence” to support your conspiracy theories.

The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your confirmation bias.

  • Take the extra time to actually confirm facts. Two of my favorite websites for this are, and
  • Keep an open mind. Allow yourself to hear opposing opinions and ideas, and if they come with a boatload of documentation, you may want to take them seriously. This is called exploratory thought.
  • Take pride in being able to say, “I was wrong.” It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to do so.
  • Ask yourself if you are rejecting information simply because it doesn’t confirm your belief. Then ask yourself why it’s so important to you to maintain the belief you have.
  • Think critically and logically instead of emotionally and aggressively.
  • Continually ask yourself, “Is this information a fact, or is it an opinion or a rumor?”
  • Try to stay rational and remain calm. If you think there’s some evil international conspiracy at work, and you seem to be the only one privy to it, odds are you have a problem, because a) It’s nearly impossible for more than two people to keep a secret, and b) What are the odds that YOU are the one person on the entire planet to have been given this revelation? I mean, yeah, it could happen, but the odds are heavily stacked against you.
  • Apply the principle of Occam’s Razor. The simplest theory, the one that requires the least amount of assumptions, is often the correct one. For example, unless you live in Africa, if you see hoof prints, think horses, not zebras.
  • Think for yourself. If the evidence before you is that the emperor has no clothes, then he’s naked, regardless of what everyone around you is saying. Be careful about this, though. Make sure you’re drawing your conclusions from facts, not simply from a strong desire to see the emperor naked.

Of course, all of this is my opinion. Feel free to decide for yourself.