Helter Skelter in Ferguson, Missouri

helterskelterIt’s been a shitty couple of weeks for race relations in America. A grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown. People got mad. Things burned down. Those are the facts, no matter which side of the debate you fall on. Now, what probably isn’t a fact is the assertion that the Ferguson riots are actually “false flag” operations by the government, as this video insists.

The video claims to show smoking gun evidence that police or some paramilitary group is starting fires in Ferguson. Before presenting this evidence, the narrator talks you through what you’re about to see – paramilitary guys are surrounding a car in Ferguson. One of them throws something inside the car. There’s a flash of light, and the car goes up in flames. Pretty cut-and-dry, right? Then it cuts to the video:

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Yes, those are pretty clearly cops or military, and they are standing around a car. The footage is shot from a distance, so the resolution is what some on the internet would call “potato quality,” but you can make this out clearly enough. Then this happens:

ferg2…and the camera immediately cuts away from the scene. This few seconds of footage is all we have in terms of “smoking gun evidence” that cops are burning things down in Ferguson.

Now, I don’t know about you, but those look like flashlights to me. If you disagree, then I’m not sure what kind of white-hot flaming object you think they’re all casually carrying around. If you saw the above picture without context, you’d probably see what I see – some people shining flashlights into a car. But if a guy just told you that what you’re about to see is someone setting fire to a car – supposedly with a flame thrower or something – then you might think that instead. Especially if that’s what you want to believe it is. It’s the power of suggestion at work.

The camera pans away quickly at this point, so the idea that the car then went up in flames is something you have to take the narrator’s word for. And that’s a problem, because he wasn’t there either – he’s extrapolating from footage someone else took, and suggesting someone the original camera-holder did not claim.

So, the Ferguson riots apparently aren’t happening at all, they’re a false flag operation by the government to make us think people are setting fires. But then, there are the people who claim the original shooting never happened anyway. That Michael Brown was an actor, and that the entire thing was staged. It’s the same thing the conspiracy community believes about the Boston Bombing, Sandy Hook, Elliot Rodger, the Aurora shooting, Virginia Tech, and indeed every high profile event in human history.

But does that make any sense? Why would the government launch a false flag to deliberately rile up the black community, and then launch another false flag to deliberately rile the white community against them?

According to Alex Jones, among others, the answer is of course “race war.” The government wants to engineer a war between whites and blacks so that in the ensuing chaos they can take over. (Even though they’re already in charge because they’re the government, but I mean, like, super take over, like with weather machines and moon lasers and shit).

In this theory, the supposed conspirators and indeed the conspiracy theorists who push it have an unlikely ally:

mansonYou may think of the Manson Family as death cultists rather than conspiracy theorists – in reality, they were both. The idea that a race war is inevitable in our near future, and that people in power know about it and are pushing to engineer it, was their conspiracy of choice. Now, Manson was and is completely nuts (he knew the race war, which he called “Helter Skelter,” was coming because the Beatles told him in code through their song of the same name. Incidentally, that song is about playing on a slippery slide). But the Helter Skelter idea, if not referred to by that title, is a very real fear among white, mostly conservative Americans. When right-wing pundits report of escalating mob violence in black communities spreading into white communities, such as in Ferguson, they are often explicitly or implicitly warning of the coming race war.

The idea that a race war is possible or likely in America, let’s face it, comes from some pretty racist assumptions. Just as anti-semites fear Jews because of stereotypes they apply to Jews (eg. Sneaky, money-hungry, infiltrators, corruptors), the fear of a race war emerges due to assumptions that blacks are inherently more violent, stronger, and less rational or diplomatic. The “black thug” stereotype.

Uncle Charlie’s cult ran genuine false flag operations. The murder of Sharon Tate was intended to be framed as a racial attack in order to spark the uprising. Manson believed that the blacks would win the race war through brute strength, but they would be unable to run a country because they lack the ability to form societies, so they would turn to Manson and his family (who would have been hiding in bunkers) as their new leaders out of desperation. In its own strange way, Manson’s plan was a world domination plot.

On the other hand, those who fear and condemn black uprisings are presumably trying to prevent a race war – they are opposed to the government’s Helter Skelter plot – so it may seem unfair to group them in with what Manson believed. But it doesn’t really matter whether you’re for Helter Skelter or against it – if you think it’s a thing at all, either to be desired or feared, then you’re coming from the exact same place of ignorance and conspiracy theory that Manson was.

You don’t have to believe conspiracy theories about cops lighting things on fire and inciting violence in order to believe that there is racism and corruption in the police force. It’s not an either-or issue. Personally I think it’s safer to assume that the cops really want this to go away as quickly as possible. Inciting more violence is kind of against their best interests.

GamerGate: The Game!

A fantasy card game about ethics in games journalism for 2-3 players.

You’ve followed the hit hashtag, and now GAMERGATE has a game of its own! When you crack open this deck at your next party, it’ll cause a scandal! You can call it GamerGate GameGate!

Which hero of GamerGate will reign supreme? Meet the characters!


BASED MOM

Christina Hoff Sommers

Class: Fallacy Wizard

The gentle, maternal face of GamerGate uses her mysterious, hypnotic powers to present anti-feminist ideas as feminism. A feminist who is exclusively concerned with men’s rights issues. Kinda like a socialist who believes in small government and minimal social security.

basedmom_card

Attacks:

FALSE EQUIVALENCE: Confuse your opponent with a bombardment of fallacious arguments and ad hominims, then declare yourself the victor before they respond. “There is no misogyny problem in gaming because these reports show games don’t cause violence!” Opponent misses one turn.

FIRST WAVE: Invent a new form of feminism and declare yourself the only real feminist and everyone else in your field is wrong. Recover 20 HP.

DEFLECT CRITICISM: Ignore criticism of your position. Simply find a higher platform and repeat the same argument more loudly. You are immune to damage for one turn.


BASED LAWYER

Mike Cernovich

Class: Character Assassin

Bodybuilder, entrepreneur, lawyer, genius. Cernovich knows that what cannot be won in court can be won with fists. He has the ability to harness the powers of the mighty gorilla, mastering the gorilla’s unique ability to get girls and win lawsuits. He will punch the ethics back into games journalism with manly fury.

basedlawyer_card

Attacks:

LITIGATE: Bombard your opponent with frivolous lawsuits. Attack is ineffective against Eron Gjoni. Opponent misses 2 turns.

STALK: Hire a private detective to harass your opponent. Opponent loses 10 HP per turn for three turns.

GORILLA MINDSET: Mike cured his mental illness with the power of juice. Take your health to the next level. Recover 20 HP.


BASED REPORTER

Milo Yiannopoulos

Class: Hack Knight

The exceedingly based mouthpiece of GamerGate in the mainstream media. Milo is honest, unbiased and objective, and only seeks to report the truth. If it looks like he has an extreme right-wing bias, it’s only because radical conservatism is objectively correct. As GamerGate’s “man on the inside,” he knows how to sniff out corruption in journalism, of which none exists at the fair and balanced news site Breitbart.

basedreporter_card

Attacks:

BACKPEDAL: Renounce your formerly held opinion that gamers are pathetic losers responsible for all the violence in the world. Become suddenly passionate about fixing the problems in games journalism for reasons that have nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with your new love of gaming. Recover 20 HP.

SMEAR: Talk smack about your interviewee on other news shows in the name of fair and balanced journalism. Opponent loses 30 HP.

GAY DEFENSE: You are a gay man, which makes you immune to accusations of misogyny or transphobia. You are immune to damage for one turn.


DOUBLE-O SATAN

Davis Aurini

Class: Ego Demon

Suave and sophisticated, dark and mysterious. Davis Aurini is Anton LaVey in a Bond villain suit, and with a flick of his zippo lighter and an ice cube in his scotch, he has some things to tell you about women and black people. It may be about ethics in games journalism, but it’s also all about him. But are we laughing with him, or are we laughing at him?

doubleosatan_card

Attacks:

DARK ENLIGHTENMENT: Demolish democracy and establish a new feudal monarchy with yourself as philosopher king. Women are no longer having gangbangs every weekend and are now all having sex with you instead. Recover 30 HP.

FALSE PRETENSE: Coin a phrase you think sounds literary and intellectual like “the most decadent sluts since the fall of the Roman Empire,” but which is actually so trite and hackish that your opponent takes damage out of embarrassment for you. Opponent loses 20 HP.

SOCK PUPPET: Unleash your demonic pet Jordan Owen to assault your opponent when you get too drunk to think properly. Opponent loses 10 HP and you gain an extra turn.


THE CONSPIRACIST

Internet Aristocrat

Class: Basement Goblin

Armed only with Google and a microphone, the Aristocrat stumbled upon the vagina conspiracy that secretly rules the gaming world – every woman with a notable position or platform in gaming used sexual favors to enter the industry and puppeteer the men into destroying the games industry from the inside. He continues to dutifully investigate elements of this conspiracy to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. But who is really behind it all? Could it be DARPA?

conspiracist_card

Attacks:

JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS: Make assumptions about collusion between indie game developers and journalists, then make assumptions based on those assumptions. When the initial assumptions are proven false, do not return to the drawing board, you’re on too much of a roll here. Get 2 free turns.

ECHO CHAMBER: Ramble ineffectually about the state of everything in podcasts with like-minded individuals. Their reinforcement gives strength to your position. Recover 20 HP.

YELL: When faced with opposition, get louder and angrier. The more passionate you are about your opinions, the truer they are. You are immune to damage for one turn.


THE DARK HORSE

Roosh V

Class: Sexual Renegade

Roosh is a controversial figure in GamerGate. His open and proud hatred of both women and gamers makes many wonder if he is an ally or an enemy. Though his personal axe to grind against feminists makes him toxic to the image that actually this is about ethics in games journalism, his dirty tactics may prove useful if kept on the down-low. The only question is, how do they keep the monster from biting his masters?

darkhorse_card

Attacks:

RED PILL: While infiltrating the hive of beta males that is GamerGate, subtly indoctrinate them into the manosphere. While the movement as a whole may lose credibility, you alone become stronger. Recover 30 HP.

MAN GOING HIS OWN WAY: When GamerGaters implore you to stop openly connecting yourself to the movement, agree to their terms but then keep doing it anyway. What are these neckbearded betas going to do about it? Get 2 free turns.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Your pet Matt Forney knows how to beat women and get away with it. Unleash the beast and just straight slap the feminism out of your opponent with an open backhand. Opponent loses 40 HP.


PATIENT ZERO

Eron Gjoni

Class: Emotional vampire

In a case that will be studied by psychology theorists for decades, Eron Gjoni responded to fairly run-of-the-mill relationship problems by inciting an entire subculture to publically destroy his ex-girlfriend in a domestic spat disguised as a wide-scale consumer revolt. Just kidding – actually, this is about ethics in games journalism.

patientzero_card

Attacks:

OBSESS: If your personality cult starts to divide its focus, use your influence to steer it back to attacking your opponent until they are literally run out of the country, and then keep attacking. Your opponent loses 10 HP per turn for 3 turns. Also, you recover 10 HP because after all you are the victim here.

CONTEMPT: Ignore court orders attempting to put a stop to your harassment, because after all you are the victim here. Get 2 free turns. This also cancels the LITIGATE attack.

DOUBLE STANDARD: Use GamerGate to crowdfund for your legal fees, while questioning the ethics of your opponent doing the same. You recover 20 HP.


THE TROLL

Suck My Dick

Class: Bottom Feeder

“He’s an asshole… but he’s our asshole.”

troll_card

Attacks:

DOXX: Publically reveal the personal information of your opponent to leave them open to attacks by others. The next attack on your opponent deals double damage.

DEATH THREAT: Inform your opponent that you are going to murder them and rape their entire family. Continue until they are run out of their home and afraid to appear in public. Opponent misses 2 turns.

TORRENT OF ABUSE: Spam sexist and racial slurs on 8chan until the troll army is whipped into a frenzy of hatred. Get 2 free turns.

The True History of Space Nazis

naziufo

The first teaser for the sequel to Iron Sky came out this week and the internet by and large failed to give a shit.

That’s understandable. Critical consensus about the original Iron Sky, the science fiction comedy about the discovery of Nazi colonists living on the moon, was that it was a fantastic concept marred by the fact that it was a terrible, terrible movie. For those who missed it, the trailer is great. Skip the movie.

But enough about the failings of Hollywood. Let’s talk about space Nazis.

The novel concept behind the film’s premise isn’t actually that original. The idea that the Nazis had escaped to space and that UFOs were Third Reich war machines was a real part of ufology in its early days after the war. The Nazis really did apparently toy with the idea of saucer-shaped aircraft, and although there’s no evidence that they had a space program, Nazi scientists were interested in the concept of space travel (before they got distracted by the whole genocide thing.)

Some of the first UFO sightings to have been classified as “UFOs” were made by Allied fighter pilots during the war. Back then they were called “foo fighters,” unidentified and bizarre flying objects that went on to become a popular 90s rock band after they got bored of buzzing jet fighters. The actual reality of foo fighters is that they were probably mostly the same phenomenon that we attribute to UFOs today – reflections, lens flares, the light of Venus shining off some swamp gas, etc. But before they were attributed to aliens, witnesses thought that they might be some kind of hitherto unknown secret flight technology being tested by the Germans.

naziufo2

Belief in Nazi UFOs persisted after the war, although it soon got mingled up with the growing pseudoscience of ufology and alien visitation. It’s a relatively obscure fact that Nazism in its early days was driven in part by the occult leanings of some German white supremacists. Cults existed in pre-war Germany that share some of the same roots as the modern New Age movement. The Thule society, whose members included some who would later become notable members of the Nazi party, believed that the white race owed its origins to refugees from Atlantis, and that they were naturally the superior race. Some believed that a far superior race of white Atlantians escaped underground, where they meddled in extremely advanced technology, which they provided to the Nazis to help them conquer the world.

cover_hollow

Some believe that the Nazis escaped after the war in their UFOs and set up secret bases in Antarctica and, yes, the moon. Prominent neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel believed that the Nazis were alive and well inside the hollow catacombs of the Earth, forever plotting, and that UFOs were really Nazi flying machines. Bulgarian “researcher” Vladimir Terziski believes that the Nazis landed on the moon as early as 1942 and have been in contact with aliens and/or subterranean supermen ever since. And as if there aren’t enough Nazis in our solar system already, they might also be on Mars.

The writers of Iron Sky were certainly aware of this mythology. Regarding the sequel, The Coming Race, the director has revealed that it draws from Hollow Earth theories about underground Nazis, and that it might involve “Adolf Hitler riding a dinosaur in the centre of the Earth.” As much as that sounds like more camp-for-the-hell-of-it geek bait like Nazi zombies or snakes on a plane, it’s fascinating to think how much of this people have actually believed.

The Strange Case of the Counterfeit Snow

snowflake

This year I had the rare privilege of seeing a whole new conspiracy emerge from the primordial depths. About a month back, the United States was frozen in an unprecedented cold snap via a weather phenomenon rather awesomely called the “polar vortex.” Amidst the blizzards and the chilling frost, suspicious conspiracists decided, as with all things, that this was no accident. Sure enough, somebody got the bright idea to scoop up a snowball and hold a blowtorch to it to see what happened. Shock – it didn’t melt. It just faded away into nothing. Once again, the government was caught red handed. This was not real snow.

I say this is a new theory, but all theories in conspiracy culture share an interconnectedness. Weather related theories tend to connect to the master theory that the United States government is in possession of a weather machine. Of course, weather machines are one of the most ham-handed of stock comic book supervillain plots, but the reigning theory in conspiracy culture is that the weather controlling device is located at a facility called HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) in Alaska. This bizarre looking device is a high powered radio frequency transmitter composed of a wide field of antennas planted out in the wilderness. Its unclassified purpose is to analyze the ionosphere by beaming radio waves at it. Conspiracy theorists think it looks scary and weird, so they assume beyond a shadow of a doubt that its true purpose is to create and direct storms, hurricanes and blizzards, and even earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.

Lex Luthor is the head of research.

Lex Luthor is the head of research.

Of course, this isn’t within the range of HAARP’s abilities, or even within the ability of known physics, but if it were, isn’t that exactly what I would say?

Conspiracists invoke HAARP every time a natural disaster occurs anywhere on Earth, from the Japanese tsunami to Hurricane Katrina, so of course the polar vortex is just another one of its projects. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Government weather control is inseparably linked to the master conspiracy that conspiracists refer to as “geoengineering,” or the creation of artificial weather phenomena for the purpose of either changing the composition of the atmosphere (as in John Carpenter’s They Live) or simply to poison humanity and depopulate the globe. This is the same class of beliefs that includes “chemtrails,” the idea that aircraft contrails are not clouds, but some kind of chemical spray. According to believers, everything is fake. The clouds are fake, the rain is fake, and now, inevitably, the snow is fake.

As with all these kinds of theories, it’s derived from someone noticing something a little unexpected that they don’t understand. Rather than assume that natural phenomena is more complex than their limited understanding realized, they compare their new observation with their expected outcome, and reject what their own eyes tell them in favor of their established belief. The discrepancy can only be explained by conspiracy. In this case, when you hold a flame to a snowball, you expect it to melt into water. It doesn’t. Therefore, conspiracy. This ain’t snow.

Dozens of conspiracists flocked to YouTube to show their amazing discovery to the world, demonstrating with lighters and blowtorches how this fake snow doesn’t melt, and in some cases it even burns and blackens and gives off an offensive, plastic-like odor.

Weeeird, right? Of course, the science of melting snow is more complicated than the simple knowledge that ice melts into water. Snow does indeed melt into water, as the conspiracists will no doubt discover when the weather warms up and the snow becomes slush. But setting fire to it won’t necessarily create a spectacular result, for either of two reasons:

First of all, snow is very low density. It’s fluffy, like cotton candy. And just like cotton candy, when you take a large mouthful and bite down, you find that you’re actually chewing about a quarter of a gram of sugar. When you hold a lighter flame to a ball of snow, it might look like it’s disappearing rather than melting, but only because there’s such a small amount of actual water in it that you can’t see it. The low density snow “wicks up” the water so that it turns into slush long before it turns into a puddle. If any of these snow melters actually went through with melting the whole thing, they would indeed find normal water in the end. Of course, they wouldn’t think it was normal water so much as some kind of chem water.

But nobody melts a whole snowball. They’re too excited. They pull out the blowtorch, and that’s when the snow starts to blacken and stink like burnt plastic! Chemsnow!

Something more interesting happens when you apply very hot temperatures to ice – it’s called sublimation, and it’s what happens when a solid turns directly into a gas without going through a liquid phase. It doesn’t have time to turn into a liquid because you’re scorching the shit out of it. And as for the blackening and the offensive odor? Turns out that’s butane. You know, the gas that you’re using to create a flame. Anything blackens when you blast it with a blowtorch. Try it at home and you’ll discover all sorts of chemspoons, chembottles and chemteacups. How deep does this conspiracy go?

Of course, it is the nature of conspiracy theorists that they will decide that scientists invented the concepts of sublimation and snow density ages ago in order to help cover it up when they finally decided to drown the world in chemsnow. This explanation won’t change any minds, but I leave it here to document another episode in the evolution of conspiracism.