Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Can't tell if dumb bigots... or trolling (actually, I'm pretty sure it's trolling)

A few days ago while lurking around one of several skeptic Facebook groups that I belong too I came across this article from a website called Pink News.

The article was in concern over a flyer that was being posted around Clintonville, Ohio for... well, you can see for yourself:
Yes... you're reading that right. It's a flyer for a Straight White Guy Festival.

Now, I know many of you are probably thinking "this can't be real, right"?

Well it could be real because despite our society's advances in the field of race relations, there are still racist people in this country, but I don't think it's real, and I have several reasons why I believe this is so.

Lets take a look at what is not on this flyer that most would have had.

First, there's no contact information of any kind on these flyers.

Most racist groups would have placed on such a flyer either a mailing address, or a phone number, or an e-mail address. At the very least they would have put a website name on there inorder to help promote their group if they were unwilling to place on the flyer direct contact information.

The second thing that caught my eye is that the flyer doesn't say who is putting on and sponsoring this festival.

Any racist or bigoted group that was putting on and sponsoring such an event would not have left their name off. Most hate groups want people to know that they are sponsoring such an event in hopes of recruiting people into their group.

At the very least they would have put the name of a front group on the flyer in an attempt to hide who is really organizing this so called festival, while at the same time trying to recruit new members.

Now lets take a look at what the flyer does say on it.

First is the title of this "event" Straight White Guy Festival.

The name of this alleged festival looks more like something a dumb college frat boy would have created and doesn't realize that this sort of thing is racist and bigoted as hell, rather than a person that is part of a racist and bigoted group.

Now before anyone says it I'm very well aware that bigots are not known for their intelligence, but atleast they would try to come up with something a little more creative than that.

Second thing I noticed about the flyer was that it contradicted itself.

The flyer says "Come help us celebrate our enjoyment of being straight white and male" but it also says "Everyone welcome".

If this festival is intended for straight white males then how come the flyer is also saying that anyone who is not straight, white, or male can attend?

A racist and bigoted group would never have put "Everyone welcome" on such a flyer. They either would have put nothing on there, or they would have made it very clear that only straight white males would have been allowed to attend (or atleast straight white people).

The final thing about this flyer that leads me to believe that someone is trolling in real life is that while there is a location for this "festival", a date, a time, and that beer will be available, according to WBNS-10TV no permits have been taken for such a festival, and while I'm not sure of the local laws concerning festivals at local parks, most places would make you apply for a permit to hold such an event, and to sell beer at it.

Taking all these things into consideration I can only come to the conclusion that this is some kind of joke.

I'm not sure if the person that created these flyers intended on them being racist or anti-racist, but it's still pretty offensive either way.

Ofcourse it could be real and some racist group is intending to hold a festival without getting or knowing they have to get permits first, as well as not knowing how to make a proper flyer.

If they have their festival they'll find out the hard way that you need to have the proper permits.

Friday, July 18, 2014

5 Things I've noticed about... Truthers

Truther, a term that came from the 9/11 Truth movement, but has become more than just an ironic and demeaning term for 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

A Truther can be someone believes in conspiracy theories other than the 9/11 conspiracy theories.

With this in mind I've taken a look at these people, and while I've noticed alot of traits about them, I've narrowed it down to about five different things.

So here are five things I've noticed about Truthers:

5. It's a broad and encompassing term.

For most people when they hear the word "Truther" they think of someone whom is apart of the 9/11 Truth movement, or just someone whom believes the myth that the US government, or Israel, or the Illuminati committed the 9/11 attacks. While this is true, "Truther" has become a more broad term and could include not just a member of the 9/11 Truth movement, but any conspiracy theory.

What a Truther really is is a type of conspiracy theorist that both claims they want to know the truth about a conspiracy theory, and then claims they already know what the truth is, but in reality it's anything but the truth.

Think of this type of person as someone whom asks you where the nearest large body of water is and you tell them that there is a pond 100 feet behind them, but they don't believe you and then tell you that nearest large body of water is two miles away, despite the fact that the pond is clearly behind them, and all they would have to do is turn around to see it. Even if they do turn around they'll just insist that it's not really a large body of water.

That's another thing about Truthers...

4. They keep "Moving the Goalposts".

For anyone who has had a "conversation" with a Truther type of conspiracy theorist you probably already know what I'm talking about, but for those who don't I'll explain.

Truthers, when confronted with evidence and/or logical arguments that contradicts or disproves their conspiracy theories, will often claim that what is being presented to them is not enough evidence to disprove what they are claiming isn't true, or that the evidence that you are presenting to them isn't true, and in either case they will claim to need more.

When a skeptic gets into an argument with a Truther and they start doing this a person like myself will usually determine that either the Truther is too dumb to realize what they are doing, or too deluded to realize what they are doing, or are in serious denial and are trying to hold on to what they believe or want to believe is real, but somewhere in their minds they know they're wrong.

Besides just "Moving the Goalposts" another tactic that Truthers like to use is...

3. They call everyone that disagrees with them a shill.

Truthers are under the assumption that they are right, and that everyone else who does not agree with is wrong. For those that continue to insist that the Truther is wrong then the Truther just seems to naturally assume the skeptic is either a sheep that has not "woken up" to "the truth" (their truth mind you) or someone who is being paid to say what they are saying.

Accusing someone of being a shill will often leave many skeptics to question whether or not a Truther seriously believes that a person is a shill, or if they're calling someone a shill as a way to avoid having to address the evidence and logic that a skeptic brings up.

Skeptics are not the only people get accused of being a shill. Truthers accuse each other of being shills, usually over a disagreement about who committed a "conspiracy", how they did it, and for what reason.

Most people would think that with two Truthers, despite their disagreement over how it was done, who did it, and for what ever reason a conspiracy took place, that they would show some unity, but they don't. Infact...

2. They're often aggressive with each other.

To a skeptic watching a Truther try to argue with another Truther can be the most hilarious thing to watch. Not only do these arguments show that their is no solidarity among Truthers of a certain conspiracy theory, but they also seem to try to one up each other in bogus and false claims, as well as sheer insanity.

Ofcourse this only happens with two Truthers that are near or equally aggressive. If one Truther is a newbie or just not as near aggressive as the Truther they get into an argument with, the aggressive Truther can be very domineering as well as very intimidating, and could cause some people to leave a Truther movement, or cause others to form their own Truther movement, or try to force that one aggressive Truther out (but this rarely happens).

The probable reasons why some Truthers are so aggressive towards other Truthers is that they are trying to weed out the weak (a sort of Truther hazing as some might see it) or they're trying to "identify" possible "shills", or they could just so seriously believe that their conspiracy theory is correct that they feel they must do what ever it takes to prevent the spreading of false information by others, including fellow Truthers.

Then there are just those that are naturally aggressive towards others and probably have some serious mental health issue.

Regardless of whether they are arguing with a fellow Truther or a skeptic a Truther will always do this one thing...

1. They will always bring up the same stuff that they think is evidence.

Regardless of whether or not a Truther will keep moving the goalpost on someone, or call them a shill, or just get really aggressive with another person, they will always use the same discredited arguments, and use the same debunked evidence that they believe is real evidence.

The arguments a Truther will make concerning any conspiracy theory are as predictable as phases of the Moon, and the reason I say that is like phases of the Moon they constantly repeat themselves over and over again.

Sometimes the arguments that they make are so common and in lock step that we skeptics know what a Truther is going to say before the Truther says it.

I guess that's the way of the Truther. Keep making the same debunked arguments over and over, while at the same time denying any real evidence.

Maybe we shouldn't call them Truthers. Maybe we should call them "Mythers"? Or liars.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 Things I've noticed about... Andrew Wakefield

In 1998 then Doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study in the medical journal The Lancet that claimed that the MMR vaccine causes autism, which was later found to be not true but still lead to a worldwide increase of measles cases, and in the end destroyed Wakefield's career.

There are many things that I've noticed about Andrew Wakefield (none of them good) and I've come up with about five different things.

So here are five things I've noticed about Andrew Wakefield:

5. He committed a terrible fraud.

I'm sure that everybody is aware that his aforementioned "study" was retracted in 2010 by The Lancet after a long investigation by the British Medical Journal and journalist Brian Deer. The investigation showed that not only had he manipulated the data in his study, it also found that he had patented his own measles vaccine a year before publishing his study, and that the study was funded by lawyers who sued vaccine manufactures.

To better understand how Wakefield manipulated the data in his study, please watch this video by Youtube science vlogger C0nc0rdance:
As awful as his fraud was it would not have been as bad as it became if it wasn't for the fact that so many people took his study seriously and decided not to vaccinate their children because of it. This has directly resulted in the world wide increases of measles and mumps infections and infections from other diseases as well because many people were not vaccinating themselves or their children due to fear of any vaccines, a fear that was brought on by Wakefield's study, which has also lead to numerous unnecessary deaths.

As for Wakefield himself his fraudulent study lead to his own career being ruined and his name being struck off the UK medical register, making it illegal for him to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.

4. He turned parents in paranoid liars.

One of the direct results of Andrew Wakefield's study is that many parents have become paranoid of vaccines and have chosen not to vaccinate their children despite being legally obligated to do so in many places before they enter them into school, and the fact that it's just good common sense to do so.

Inorder to keep their children in school while at the same time keep them un-vaccinated parents will often lie to health officials and school officials about either their religious or philosophical beliefs inorder to get a vaccine exemption for their child.

Other things that some parents will do inorder to fool health and school officials is that they will go to a fake doctor (ex. Naturopath, Homeopath) and get them to write up an exemption from getting vaccinate for their children, or write up they vaccinate the child when really they didn't.

These types of actions are dangerous not only to the children whose parents did not vaccinate them, but also to anyone that couldn't get vaccinated for a legitimate medical reason, or those who the vaccine didn't immunize them for some reason.

3. He's become the Lord Voldemort of science and medicine.

Much like Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter book series Andrew Wakefield's name is something you don't use in a discussion about science and medicine, unless he is used as an example for when bad or fraudulent research is taken to seriously by the public.

As for the scientific and medical communities any research done by him before his 1998 autism/MMR vaccine "study" is somewhat taboo, and is usually avoided in research unless necessary. Any research done by him after his 1998 autism/MMR vaccine "study" is to never be used, unless you never want to be taken seriously and risk your career.

Also, you don't compare a doctor or scientist to Andrew Wakefield as doing so would be considered a huge insult, unless their research was sloppy or fraudulent and caused peoples' deaths.

2. He created alot of waste.

While the dramatic increase in vaccine preventable infections has been the most obvious result of Wakefield's fraudulent study, another thing his study has done is wasted alot of money.

The amount of money wasted because of Wakefield's study is probably within the hundreds of millions of dollars, and possibly within the billions. These costs include health care and hospital stays for people (especially children) who got an infection from diseases that are vaccine preventable.

Other costs include lost wages for parents who had to stop working inorder to take care of their sick children, and wasted money (not to mention man hours) to disprove and try to undo the damage caused by Wakefield's "research", money that could have used for more legitimate and better research projects.

Then there are the costs of funerals that can go into the thousands per funeral, and with thousands having died because of his research, the costs really adds up, but is overshadowed by the amount of pain caused by those deaths, which is a cost that is immeasurable.

1. He refuses to accept responsibility for what he's done.

Andrew Wakefield's fraudulent 1998 autism/MMR vaccine "study" has been described as "the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years". So far he has never accepted any responsibility for the damage done by his "study", nor has he faded from the public light.

To this day he continues to claim that his study was accurate, and that he didn't commit fraud, and that there is a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies and public health officials to discredit him, and that they were paying bloggers to so, and also inflate the reports of deaths from measles.

In 2012 Wakefield attempted to sue Brian Deer, the British Medical Journal and it's editor Fiona Godlee for defamation, which was described by many as being frivolous, and was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.

To this day Wakefield continues to work in autism research and claim the title of "doctor", both of which are considered to be highly inappropriate for him to do, and that many have said he should stop doing. He currently lives and does all of this in the United States because legally he can not in the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Using the fear of God to promote a Anti-Vaccine agenda

Yesterday I saw an article making rounds on pro-science and anti-anti-vaccination Facebook pages that was written by a "Christian" blogger who was claiming that God does not support vaccines. (Read the article here)

The author of the article uses several classic anti-vaccination claims to spreed her propaganda, although the one that was mostly talked about in that article is the claim that vaccines contain parts from aborted fetuses, which is false.

She combines this along with passages from the bible and her "interpretation" of those passages in an attempt to make it seem like God does not approve of vaccines.

Before I begin I'm very well aware that many of you reading this are atheists, but for the moment just for fun consider the possibly that God exists, and if you are someone that believes that God exists then please and hear what I have to say.

First, God is, according to Judea-Christian beliefs, an all powerful being that created the Universe and everything about it, including what does and does not work.

If God is all powerful and didn't want people to use vaccines, then couldn't God just will vaccines not to work?

I asked this question in the comments section, and the author responded to me:
First, before anyone points it out I believe she meant to say (although I could be wrong) that research into vaccines have not been proven to be clinically effective. This is ofcourse not true. Vaccines are very effective, and there are multiple published research papers showing how effective vaccines are. Doing a simple Google Scholar search for vaccine effectiveness will bring up thousands of papers concerning vaccine effectiveness.

The second thing the author claims is that no vaccines have a life time immunity. This is completely false.

Certain vaccines (as seen here) only provide immunity for a few years, but for other vaccines they could give a person immunity against a disease for the rest of their life, although for most additional vaccinations are recommend just to be safe, and with certain vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine, getting another vaccination several years after the first one is usually all that it takes for lifetime immunity.

I replied to the author's reply to my comment pointing these things out to her, and also once again asking her the question if God did not want people to use vaccines then why didn't he just make them not work at all:
I asked my question in this way (although I did make a little typo near the end *grumbles*) in hopes of preventing her from skirting around the question.

Not only did she not answer my question, she didn't even publish my reply. This is not surprising since she is well known for not publishing comments she doesn't like and doesn't fit her views. Infact it's very surprising she published my original comment in the first place.

So why exactly did she not answer my question that if vaccines were against God's will then why would they work at all?

Probably because the answer is (atleast for people who believe that all that works in the Universe is a result of God's will) they wouldn't, but they do work, and even she doesn't say vaccines don't work, she just thinks they're not effective.

With this in mind only one logical conclusion can be made: Vaccines are okay with God.

So why does this woman insist that God is not okay vaccines? There are two possible reasons:

First, she truly feels that God is against vaccines, but when she's confronted by someone whom can poke holes in her logic she just ignores the person and anything that person may present that questions her beliefs and would force her to reconsider them.

Second, her beliefs about vaccines are separate from her belief in God, and that she is using the fear of God's wrath, along with cherry picked passages from the bible, her own interpretation of those passages, disinformation, misinformation, and good old fashion fear mongering to promote her own anti-vaccination propaganda.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

5 Things I've noticed about... Sandy Hook Hoax Conspiracy Theorists

Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists.

Many skeptics (including myself) consider these people to be the lowest of the low.

There are actually two different types of these conspiracy theorists: those who think that the massacre at the elementary school was a false flag attack, and those that think that it didn't even happen at all, more commonly called Sandy Hook Hoaxers.

Today I'm going to focus on the lesser human of the two, the Hoaxers.

Now I have noticed a lot of things about these "people", but I've narrowed it down to five different things.

So here are five things I've noticed about Sandy Hook Hoax conspiracy theorists:

5. They're psychopaths.

Many Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theorists display behaviors that to some people would be similar to psychopathy.

Most of the believers in this conspiracy theory show no empathy or sadness towards the adults and children that were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, nor do they show any empathy towards the people that lost loved ones that day.

Some conspiracy theorists have even been in an active campaign of harassment against survivors and people who lost loved ones in that massacre, much of which has been very volatile and vial. Even those that don't engage in any harassment do often give support and encouragement to those that do.

Worst yet many of them, especially the ones that engage in harassment, will try to "justify" their behavior by claiming that the massacre didn't happen, or that they have every right to do what they're doing (which they don't).

Even if they do sincerely believe that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary didn't happen it doesn't justify their behavior, because they should be taking into consideration that that the massacre there did happen and that what they are doing is very hurtful, but they're not doing so.

Many of them also don't seem to understand or care that they're behavior could have some severe consequences for them, such as being arrested and going to jail and even prison. And speaking of being arrested and going to jail and prison...

4. They're criminals.

Many of these Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theorists since the massacre happened have been engaging in a unorganized campaign of internet based harassment against the parents of the children who were murdered, as well as anyone else who was involved with the events of that day.

The harassment in itself is a criminal action, but over the months it has de-evolved into more serious crimes, such as stalking, threats, and even vandalism. There is some speculation that it may be a matter of time before one of these conspiracy theorists finally goes off the deep end and tries to kill one of the parents of the murdered children, or someone whom was involved with the events of that day.

Even those that don't engage in any criminal actions could be considered criminals by-proxy, either by encouraging and giving support to those that do engage in harassment, or to a lesser extent condoning or just not condemning such behavior.

3. They're mentally ill.

I know that most skeptics tend to call certain conspiracy theorists crazy as a means of insulting them (whether we realize that or not), but in the case of Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theorists many of them have shown signs of having real and perhaps severe mental health issues.

Many of these conspiracy theorists show definite signs of delusional disorders, such Fregoli delusion (which is a mental disorder that causes a person to believe that two or more people are the same person) and/or schizophrenia, as well as other kinds of paranoid delusional disorders and bi-polar disorder.

Not only do paranoid delusional disorders explain why many of these conspiracy theorists believe that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary didn't happen and that everyone there is an actor, it might also explain why many of them are so aggressive and volatile towards people either involved with the events of that day, or the parents of the children that were murdered that day, or anyone who stands up to them and tells them that what they believe is not true, and that they need to stop harassing the parents that lost their children that day.

Even for those that do have a mental illness it doesn't excuse them for their behavior, and they need to go and get some help.

2. They shocked even skeptics.

After news about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary broke many skeptics (including myself) guessed that conspiracy theorists were going to make all of these accusations about how the whole thing was a "false flag attack" and that the murderer was either a government agent, or under some kind of mind control.

While predictably conspiracy theorists did make these accusations and thus surprised none of the skeptics that I knew, what surprised us were the claims that the massacre didn't happen at all, and what really shocked us was the behavior of those who believe this.

We've always known that conspiracy theorists can be very aggressive people, but normally their aggressiveness would be focused on the people who told them they were wrong, but in the case with these Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theorists their aggressive was directly focused on the families that lost children in that massacre, as well as others who were some how involved in the event.

That is what really shocked us, that they went after people who were truly in pain, rather than the people who could take their abuse and fight them back.

1. They refuse to accept reality.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012 is not an easy thing to accept. That day a very mentally disturbed young man murdered his mother, then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 26 people, 20 of them young children.

We may never know why he did this, but he did, and it's reality, and it's a reality that the survivors of that massacre, and the parents who lost their children that day and never get to see them grow up have to deal with.

I know that some people don't want to accept this reality, but it is a reality, and the people who believe that it didn't happen need to accept that it did happen. They need to move on and leave the people who lost their loved ones in that massacre alone, and if they can't do that for some reason then they need to seek psychiatric treatment so that they can become able to.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Facebook needs to start enforcing it's own rules!

Yesterday I saw something on Facebook that really p*ssed me off!

Granted I see lots of things on Facebook that p*ss me off (sometimes on an hourly bases) but the things that usually get my teeth grinding are just rude, or offensive, or ignorant, or all of the above. What I saw wasn't neither rude nor offensive, but it sure was ignorant, and it was definitely dangerous.

What ticked me off was an infograph posted on Green Med Info's Facebook page concerning a "study" about "GMO" insulin (which all insulin is) that claimed that certain people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes from injecting insulin. (Link to original post here)
While people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes over time there are usually several factors that can cause this, such as a person's diet, or whether they exercise, or if they take the medication that has been prescribed to them, or genetics. Insulin is not one of the causes. Infact it could prevent a person with type 2 diabetes from developing type 1 diabetes.

What gets me so angry about that post isn't just the sheer ignorance of it, or how outright dangerous it is for the people at Green Med Info to promote something like this (because despite the fact that it promotes quackery and fraud medicine, better known as alternative medicine, people do listen to and take "advice" from that page) this type of "info" could kill a person with type 2 diabetes if they take it to seriously and decide to stop taking insulin. Either that or result in a person developing type 1 diabetes, or slipping into a diabetic coma, or losing a body part. The very worst thing that could happen is that the parent of a child with type 2 diabetes reads that and decides not to give their child insulin and what I listed above happens to that child, and there is little they can do about because they are at the mercy of their parent (unless they tell a teacher or family member about what their parent is doing and that person gets the authorities involved).

Now, back to the original reason why I'm writing this.

I, along with many other people reported this post to Facebook hoping that the social media website would take down the post due to the fact that it could cause some people to do something that was dangerous and hazardous to their health, and warn Green Med Info not to post something like that again.

Facebook has done nothing.

As many of you have probably found out over time this isn't the only time that Facebook has failed to remove a post or a page that promotes stuff that's either dangerous and/or violates it's own rules.

There are lots of pages on Facebook that promote a great amount of medical misinformation that in the hands of an uninformed person could cause that person to do something that results in their death or the death of others. The biggest violators of this would be anti-vaccination pages and HIV denialism pages, two types of groups that promote medical misinformation that has led to multiple deaths. Such pages should not be allowed because the "information" they a spreading is harmful.

Then there are the pages that promote bigotry, which antisemitism seems to be the the one mostly promoted.

While the spreading of medical misinformation may be dangerous and for some people questionable whether or not it violates the rules, promoting bigotry in what ever form it may come in clearly violates the rules.

Now sometimes Facebook will do the right thing and remove a bigoted post or page, but more often than not it just doesn't happen and the person or people running the page continues to spew hate speech.

Facebook needs to better enforce it's own rules and take down posts and pages that violate it's own rules and promotes things that are dangerous.

I'm aware that the main reason why the people at Facebook do not often take down these pages is because of free speech concerns, and while I do understand that reasoning the fact remains is that Facebook has a set of guidelines and rules that everyone is suppose to obey, and when they don't enforce those guidelines and rules they become meaningless.

I know that Facebook is a private company and can remove any content it so chooses to. I just wish it would start doing so.