Crackpots, Serial Killers and Flat Earthers
November 6, 2019 by

Things are a bit different now. Any crackpot with a 6th grader’s knowledge of computers can design and launch a website, shoot, edit and post a You Tube video that is wrong in every sense of the word, and search the world for people who share their same fetishes, dopey ideas, or sick fantasies.

Halloween Scary Phantoms and Phantom Scares
October 31, 2019 by

Today is Halloween, and amid the make-believe witches, ghouls, and goblins, there are supposedly real-life villains who hope to harm children every October 31. News reports and scary stories on social media leave many parents concerned about protecting children from Halloween threats. But are they real or myth? Here are five scary myths and legends …

The Trump ‘Distraction’ Quasi-Conspiracy
August 22, 2019 by

One common claim about Donald Trump is that he often says and does things not only for effect, but with the specific goal of distracting the public and news media from something else he wants to keep hidden. The claims have circulated for years, especially on social media; for example one Facebook post recently stated …

Epstein Death Conspiracies: Plausibility and Fuzzy Facts
August 14, 2019 by

This past weekend, financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. Within minutes of the news breaking, conspiracy theories circulated widely on social media, accusing a laundry list of people as playing some role in his death. One of them, President Trump himself, who has …

Columbine School Shooting Myths: 20 Years Later
April 22, 2019 by

A few days ago marked the twentieth anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, in which two senior students in Colorado killed twelve students and one teacher before ultimately killing themselves. The crime received extensive news coverage and inspired many copycats and a Michael Moore film, Bowling for Columbine. Early reportage of high-profile events (and …

Magical Thinking and Conspiracy in Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’
April 17, 2019 by

The new horror film Us begins in 1986 as a little girl named Adelaide visits a Santa Cruz boardwalk theme park at night with her parents. She wanders off toward the beach (carrying a curiously un-nibbled candied apple) and eventually finds a spooky house of mirrors. Nobody’s around—a teenager presumably supposed to charge admission is …

Co-Opting Black History Month with Conspiracy
February 8, 2019 by

Several friends of mine recently posted a meme on social media that read, “Did you know the real LONE RANGER was a BLACK MAN name BASS REEVES and yes he did live among the INDIANS, The Lone Ranger ‘could not be cast in that era as a black man, so he was made into a …

Mystery of Borderline Bar
Mystery of the Borderline Bar Silent Shooting
December 20, 2018 by

On November 7, 2018, a shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, by former Marine Ian David Long left nearly a dozen people dead, including the shooter.  One victim, Sgt. Ron Helus, it was revealed recently, was killed not by Long but instead “friendly fire” from another police officer’s gun in …

Happy Belated Anniversary, History Channel!
August 9, 2018 by

It’s always a little embarrassing to miss an important birthday or anniversary, and I confess that I’ve been especially busy over the past month and overlooked an important date. That date was about a month ago, when The History Channel suffered one of the highest-profile blows to its credibility in, well, the history of the …

Carol Tavris on the Pain of Dissonance
October 28, 2016 by

If storytelling can be a force for evil, social psychologist Carol Tavris explains that it’s not just stories we tell others, but the ones we tell ourselves. Almost as uncomfortable as hunger itself is dissonance, that feeling when ideas contradict things we believe, or need, to be true. All of us are susceptible to bias, yes, …