26 Feb 2015

Anti-Conspiracy Theorist Article Unwittingly Trolls Itself

Big Brother, Conspiracy 48 Comments

The headline of a recent RawStory article declares:

Facebook conspiracy theorists fooled by even the most obvious anti-science trolling: study

…and features this charming image:

Tinfoil Woman


Some strong words and a picture, no? Let’s see what this ballyhooed study found. According to the article:

A team of Italian and American researchers tested the social media biases feeding belief in conspiracy theories such as chemtrails, shape-shifting reptilian overlords, and the Illuminati, reported Motherboard.

The researchers found that adherents to conspiracy theories are highly receptive to claims that support their views and rarely engage with social media pages that question their beliefs.

The researchers examined social media patterns for 1.2 million Facebook users and found that nearly 92 percent of those who engage with Italian conspiracy theory pages interact almost exclusively with conspiracy theory pages.

The study also found that conspiracy theory posts are much more likely to be shared and liked by Facebook users.

The researchers then tested the strength of these users’ biases by posting “troll information” – or sarcastic comments parodying anti-science views – on Facebook.

“These posts are clearly unsubstantiated claims, like the undisclosed news that infinite energy has been finally discovered, or that a new lamp made of actinides (e.g. plutonium and uranium) might solve problems of energy gathering with less impact on the environment, or that the chemical analysis revealed that chemtrails contains sildenafil citratum (the active ingredient of Viagra),” the researchers said.

They found that 78 percent of those who “liked” these 4,709 troll posts interacted primarily with conspiracy theory pages, as were 81 percent of those who commented on them.

Let me be the first to say, “Duh.”

You could replace “conspiracy theory” with any other strongly held view and I’m sure you would get a similar showing. For example, it would probably work with “evangelical Christianity” but also “veganism,” “Marxism,” and “zero population growth.”

Would these researchers then be shocked to discover that people who liked pro-environmentalist comments–even if so over-the-top that the person “couldn’t possibly” be serious–also primarily interacted with environmental pages on Facebook?

I almost think that this article is itself a test, to catch all the people who hate conspiracy theorists and get them to share this article without thinking through how dumb it is.

Remember kids: To theorize that 19 guys conspired in secret for years, planning an incredible operation to kill thousands of people and bring down the World Trade Center, is not a conspiracy theory. But any other explanation is, and is thus self-evidently absurd. What kind of nutjob doesn’t believe the standard government story for major historical events that shape domestic and foreign policies?

P.S. No, I’m not suggesting that Dick Cheney personally laid explosives on 9/10/01. But the fact that I have to even put in this disclaimer shows what a great job the establishment has done, in making the term “conspiracy theory” so radioactive. You almost get the sense that They did it On Purpose.

48 Responses to “Anti-Conspiracy Theorist Article Unwittingly Trolls Itself”

  1. skylien says:

    Who would have thought that people who believe x also engage mostly with people and visit sites that promote x as well. Shocking!

    What they actually have found out is that most people are “dumb” in the sense that they just follow a preferred story and actually are too lazy to think for themselves and check facts. No matter if they are rebels and always go for the non-establishment opinion or if they are “good citizens” believing everything the government and establishment tells them. Possibly there are even a fair amount of people who depending on the issue usually side either with government/establishment or with non-government/non-establishment opinion. Important is that they don’t check, don’t think it through and are definitely not consistent in any meaningful way.

    That is the sad assessment of the people around me. They are actually not dumb in the literal sense of the meaning. You can challenge them and get them to think. However mostly they are not interested in doing this constantly, they have other interests than this, they basically just don’t care.

    So the only thing that distinguishes me from them is that I actually like to think it through and check it as far as I can and discuss it with other people.

    • skylien says:

      “…they basically just don’t care” is too hard. It is rather they just don’t care enough.

  2. Tel says:

    Would these researchers then be shocked to discover that people who liked pro-environmentalist comments–even if so over-the-top that the person “couldn’t possibly” be serious–also primarily interacted with environmental pages on Facebook?

    Been done already… http://www.dhmo.org/msdsdhmo.html

    I mean, there’s been petitions signed against dhmo, it used to be a popular student gag for a while, might have to wait a while before catching the next crop of dumbed down common core numpties.

    By the way, search on the safety hazards of vacuum bubbles to get to grips with the true dimensions of government stupidity. There really was a safety investigation because after the use of a vacuum chamber, there might be remaining invisible bubbles of vacuum left around the place, which someone might walk into by mistake and asphyxiate. This is not Facebook users, bored with a few drinks in them clicking semi-randomly… this is salaried professionals.

    • Harold says:

      All I found on vacuum bubbles was about the LHC, which doesn’t seem to fit your description. You haven’t been taken in by a conspiracy theory have you? I did only do a Google search on the terms you suggested, so I may have missed it.

      • Tel says:

        Yeah, I did know a story about a Health & Safety check of a large vacuum chamber, but on google it seems the LHC stories have swamped everything else. Now I can’t find it myself. Also, it seems that people use the name “vacuum bubbles” to refer to cavitation in fluids (not vacuum at all) which shows you the problem of key word searching. Then again, maybe the story I once found has now been deleted… the Internet is not forever, only bits of it are.

        Mind you, the LHC issue with vacuum bubbles is just as ridiculous, but people apparently need something to wring their hands and worry over.

  3. Daniel Kuehn says:

    This is ridiculous.

    Everyone knows that when you’re inside, at your computer you don’t need to keep wearing your tin hat.

    • skylien says:

      But I have to say this tinfoil hat is a joke. Real tinfoil hats that actually do protect you from being spied by the NSA, or being mind controlled from aliens look like this:


      • Harold says:

        I am not sure the one on that cat is working properly – it looks like it may be under alien control.

      • khodge says:

        Geez, you should know that if you don’t want to be spied upon you don’t put antennae on your tin hat.

    • skylien says:

      Daniel, this is only true if the computer is located in your mothers basement.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Keynesianism is a hoax and its opponents are treated as conspiracy theorists by its proponents. That’s why it has been so successful. Watch what happens when you ask a proponent to a) locate that ephemeral moment of pure market failure that requires Keynesian cures and b) to identify the methodology they used to meticulously extract out the contemporaneous central bank shenanigans from their test data so they could identify the pure market failure.

    • khodge says:

      Thank goodness the picture on the link was captioned: Woman wearing tinfoil hat looking at computer (Shutterstock). I had absolutely no idea what it was supposed to be.

  4. Dave says:

    Wow, good post with a shockingly bad last two paragraphs. I can’t believe I’ve been avidly reading a truther for all these years.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Dave, are you trolling me, or are you serious? If the latter, let me point out some of the (scant) things one could infer about my position regarding what happened on 9/11:

      (A) To theorize that it was caused by a group of people conspiring, is a conspiracy theory.

      (B) It is generally wise to think the government’s official story regarding some major event is bogus, whenever that event is used to further the government’s preexisting desires. Therefore people who doubt the official 9/11 story shouldn’t automatically be dismissed as nutjobs, just because they doubt the official 9/11 story.

      (C) Dick Cheney did not personally blow up the Twin Towers.

      Which of the above causes you such angst?

      • Josiah says:


        I am kind of curious, what do you believe happened on 9/11?

        • Z says:

          Two airplanes flew into two towers which subsequently crashed to the ground.

          • E. Harding says:

            One of the anti-union guys with a short monograph on the Mises website is a no-planer.

    • Major.Freedom says:


      Wow, for your posts, I can’t believe I have not been reading who was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist all this time.

    • guest says:

      9/11 Conspiracy Theory Debunking Video Collection

      Gotta read the descriptions on some of these for the updates/corrections.

    • Tel says:

      A conspiracy is (by definition) a group of people working in secret to commit a crime. Thus the WTC incident on 911 was (again by definition) a conspiracy:

      * It was a crime.

      * It was NOT done by one single person.

      * The group planned their actions and didn’t go around telling the police what they were intending to do.

  5. Harold says:

    As is often the case, a media report of a paper does not really reflect the findings. It looks quite complicated, and I have not fully got it from my brief review. The study, among other things, compares polarised uses of “mainstream science” with polarised users of “conspiracy science”. Polarized users are “users which their like activity (positive feedback) is almost (95%) exclusively on the pages of one category.” So they are not just saying that conspiracists stick to one type of content, but that conspiracists who engage almost exclusively with one type of content behave differently from a particular set of non-conspiracists who also engage almost exclusively with one type of content. One example was the response to troll posts, where “We find that polarized users of conspiracy pages are more active in liking and commenting on intentionally false claims.” About 80% to 20% in both cases. Polarized conspiracy users commented about 10 times less as a proportion of their total posts on the “other” type of post. However, one may imagine that polarised vegan users would comment more on vegan troll posts than would polarised science users.

    I think the authors missed a trick really – it is difficult to tell from the “concusion” section exactly what it is they concluded. They say “These results are coherent with the findings of [52–54] indicating the existence of a relationship between beliefs in conspiracy theories and the need for cognitive closure.” That lacks punch to my mind.

    The specific findings reported – that 92% of conspiracists were exclusive – comes from the finding that 92% of total users were polarised users. For the scientific pages the corresponding number was 77% (at least I think so, it says “i.e., resulting t be the 76,79% of users interacted on scientific pages.”

    It may also be interesting to see how those interacting with vegan, Marxist and Christian pages compare, but until that is done it is speculation whether the number is closer to the science or conspiracists figure.

  6. Josiah says:

    But the fact that I have to even put in this disclaimer shows what a great job the establishment has done, in making the term “conspiracy theory” so radioactive. You almost get the sense that They did it On Purpose.

    I see what you did there.

  7. konst says:


    Didn’t know where to post this but here is an interesting short video about evolution from a Christian perspective

  8. MichaelT says:

    Furthering on Bob’s point, there are some so-called “conspiracies” about 9/11 that are almost certainly true, including the fact that the US has been hiding the names of the people who funded the attack to protect Saudi Allies (see http://28pages.org/ for more info on this), and there was most likely some cases of national security blundering on 9/11/2001, or in the run up to the attack, that were so embarrassing that they got swept under the rug.

    On the latter point, I do find it funny that some libertarians believe the government is so incompetent that it can’t do anything right, yet somehow use the governments blundering response on that day as evidence of an inside job.

    • Major.Freedom says:


      Speaking for myself, for the “can’t do right” expression…

      I believe the government can’t do anything right that furthers the well being of the great bulk of society.

      What I believe they do extremely “well” is lie, cheat, deceive, steal from, kill, and otherwise hurt people in order to aggrandize themselves. That is what the open to the public Game of Thrones is about.

  9. Scott H. says:

    Is the concept of evidence, and the quality of the evidence, important in this debate?

  10. Phoenix says:

    Bob, no conspiracy theorist or “conspiracy theorist” had ever claimed that Dick Cheyney “personally” detonated the bomb. That’s a red herring; they (you?) typically claim that Dick Cheyney ordered somebody else to lay the explosives. If you want to distant yourself from the view that the American government conspired with 19 Islamic terrorists to kill 3 000 Americans, please do so. If you don’t wanna distance yourself from that view then say so openly as well. But, please do not use the diplomatic language to provide some measure of “plausible deniability” against the accusations of “trutherism” while actually winking to the truthers (by “distancing” yourself from them in a way which is more an endorsement than a repudiation).

    • E. Harding says:

      Yeah. Bob is really being Krugmanish here [Krugman has an extreme taste for plausible deniability].

      • khodge says:

        Well he is worried about aliens (or the lack thereof) attacking earth so that we can set the economy right.

  11. Taboo says:

    From a general standpoint I find it astounding that even though the govt. has been caught red handed (seemingly day in & day out) and exposed with countless scandals and flat out lies that make watergate look like child’s play and yet people still have knee jerk cognitive dissonance at any implications of less than noble intent. From Iran-Contra affair to the Bay of Pigs and Cuban missile crisis. From “weapons of mass destruction” to “you gotta pass the law to see what’s in it” & “if you like your Dr. you can keep your Dr.” followed with the Gruber incidents (we are talking about freedom of association and choice regarding your health). From “I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman” to Benghazi being marginalized and Hilldogs atrocious behavior/etiquette at the hearings. From massive bailouts (showing true fascist i.e. “crony capitalist” nature while scapegoating capitalism [anybody who can claims any semblance of free markets is plain silly] to trillion dollar deficits annually (hovering around 200 trillion by some estimates with intragovernmental debt) and massive stagflation that nobody acknowledges exists to back door trade blocks that subvert sovereignty… From NAFTA to TPP. None of what I just mentioned scratches the surface of endless, brazen, flagrant abuse and yet a hint of such a claim sends pundits and serfs alike into a tizzy putting a tin foil hat on anybody who implies ill intent or intentional negligence. THAT’S THE POWER OF POPAGANDA!

    • E. Harding says:

      The real scandal of Benghazi was not the death of some four Americans, but America’s failure to prevent the collapse of the Libyan state that almost miraculously built itself up in the first part of 2012, one of its symptoms being the takeover of Benghazi by Islamist forces in Summer of last year. I just don’t see why people are upset about this miniscule “scandal”.

      By what definition of “stagflation” does any exist today?

    • E. Harding says:

      Also, NAFTA has brought untold benefits to Mexico (they remain untold because Mexico’s GDP per capita hasn’t strongly increased since 1980). The quality and quantity of Mexico’s exports has undoubtedly strongly improved since 1994, possibly making Mexico less prone to so-called “neocolonial dependence” (or maybe simply making it more prone to it in a different and more post-1980 way).

  12. Taboo says:

    Honestly those who fail to see the entire western world is at the tail end of a cultural revolution and that a ruling class group of corporatist s/politicians i.e. Fascists is playing you all like a fiddle truly ought to be ashamed of themselves. Particularly academic economists, historians and the like who cant seem to tell heads from tails. How can such people be so short sighted and have such a distorted historical paradigm? All jokes aside it couldn’t be more clear. Stop being an entertainment sponge, an ideologue, or altruistic and open your eyes! Stop chasing your tail. It’s right in front of your face. Your getting exactly what the Dr. ordered!

  13. Taboo says:

    E. Harding

    I don’t suppose you subscribe to headline inflation and unemployment numbers? Take a look at FRED charts and the various measures of unemployment from the CBO along with some historical analysis. Give some consideration to workforce participation rate, tax return data, small business data etc. It is not hard to see that many tens of millions of citizens who want full time work are either unemployed or severely undremployed. Couple that with with nominal rigidity (although not part of the stagflation definition) and the fact that inflation numbers are clearly understated and you have… today’s stagflation that propaganda and semantics would have most believe does not exist. Executed on the intellectually sloth masses for political advantage. No question about it.

    • E. Harding says:

      I don’t deny we’re in an age of stagnation (BTW: it’s much worse in Western Europe) and that the unemployment rate masks the true severity of the problems in the labor market (note: Scott Sumner does). I believe the CPI very much overstates inflation in the long-run (the PCE index/GDP deflator is probably more accurate there), but is more reflective of people’s general purchasing experiences in its short-term movements. BTW, the CPI used to include mortgage interest rates back in the 1970s, which overstated inflation then much more than any BLS adjustment post-1979 may understate it now. Nominal wage rigidity was infinitely more severe during the Great Depression. Also, the Phillips Curve (the best and original one; with nominal wage inflation instead of price inflation) moved severely outward during the 1970s, suggesting there was much greater nominal wage rigidity then, as well (though long-term unemployment was much less of a problem). I feel there was some kind of economic recovery after October 2013, though hardly any significant one before that.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t you ask Jason Guber about misleading the stupid masses for political advantage. He knows all about it. That is the pervasive attitude that ruling class bureaucrats harbor.

  15. Taboo says:


    You are for sure correct on your statement about Europe. You hit the nail on the head. The entire western world is in dire straits. We are living during a tremendous epoch whereby a massive shift in power is occurring. We have tremendous distortions all over the economy. A full blown cultural revolution is well underway and we are only at the dawn of the information age. You may interpret what seems to be an apparent recovery but truly we are on the cusp of a much bigger collapse. As I write this WWIII is well under way to serve as a typical scapegoat among other things. If the the cycles of war and history are any indicator you are living in times like no other. However in the context of this post I am asking people to consider precedent, results, motive and human nature/predictability in light of the current sad condition of the world, what seems more plausible? That the most brilliant people with all the resources and technology of the world can’t even begin to put the axe to the root of the worlds ills? Or that history is cyclical, human nature is well documented and we are getting exactly what the Dr. ordered? I think it takes a much bigger stretch to assert that the leaders of the world, the ruling class unelected bureaucrats are benevolent, caring, bleeding heart public servants trying their best than it is to simply acknowledge that we are dealing with a less that noble agenda and things are in no way as curious as the massive amounts of propaganda in the narrow corral of allowable debate would imply. If you step out of that narrow corral of debate… you get the tin foil hat! The irony lies in the fact that things are clearly not as they are presented and the official narrative is the conspiracy theory itself. Regardless of weather you agree with that I appreciate your dialogue.

  16. E. Harding says:

    Bob, will you at least explicitly reject the claims of the no-planers?

    • Dan says:

      E. Harding, will you explicitly deny that you live in your parents basement?

  17. Taboo says:

    Do people actually claim no planes hit the WTC?

    • Josiah says:

      Do people actually claim no planes hit the WTC?


  18. Taboo says:

    Also, I need to exploit all the 911 talk on this thread. I am not going to state my position on it. In fact, let me point out it doesn’t so much matter exactly what the conspiracy is as much as it does that their is one. That is the reason conspiracies exist. Because the official narrative is highly dubious/suspect and people are trying to draw own conclusions. With 911 keep in mind just these two things. The official narrative is obvious B.S. and there are plenty of reputable people including a large number of engineers and other professional that have stuck their necks out to speak out with nothing to gain. In fact mores like with everything to loose. That’s the whole point of this tread as far as I am concerned. There is nothing inherently silly (although not what propagandistic efforts want to instill) about a conspiracy. The word is used meaningfully all the time including in law courts. The term “conspiracy theory” is exploited to put a tin foil hat on anybody… you guessed it. Wandering for the narrow corral of debate in this world of utter nonsense. The crazy/silly conspiracy theories are used to discredit the concept of any possibility that a conspiracy is plausible. In fact, if a conspiracy is not plausible, it is not a conspiracy. At that point it just becomes goofy silliness.

  19. Taboo says:

    sorry about all the terrible typos in that last post. I am working on other things and rushing.

  20. Taboo says:

    Although I must add it would seem most people are very confused on what is plausible. Particularly in light of history and political science/world politics stage. That is what we call cognitive dissonance. Aren’t we the smartest, wealthiest, most free and righteous civilization ever amassed? That could never happen here. We are way to advanced and civilized for those kinds of shenanigans. Is that really the society you see every time you leave your house? I don’t think so.

    None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  21. John Dougan says:

    I tend to be a bit more charitable and just say that Poe’s Law rules the Internet.


  22. guest says:

    Obama confidant’s spine-chilling proposal
    Cass Sunstein wants the government to “cognitively infiltrate” anti-government groups
    Jan 15, 2010

    Some select citations:

    – “(updated below – Update II – Update III – Update IV)”

    – “Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama’s closest confidants.”

    – “In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists.”

    – “Sunstein’s 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story‘s Daniel Tencer.”

    – “There’s no evidence that the Obama administration has actually implemented a program exactly of the type advocated by Sunstein, though in light of this paper and the fact that Sunstein’s position would include exactly such policies, that question certainly ought to be asked.”

    – “Consider the recent revelation that the Obama administration has been making very large, undisclosed payments to MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber to provide consultation on the President’s health care plan.”

    – “In other words, this arrangement was quite similar to the Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher scandals which Democrats, in virtual lockstep, condemned. Paul Krugman, for instance, in 2005 angrily lambasted right-wing pundits and policy analysts who received secret, undisclosed payments, and said they lack “intellectual integrity”; he specifically cited the Armstrong Williams case. Yet the very same Paul Krugman last week attacked Marcy Wheeler for helping to uncover the Gruber payments by accusing her of being “just like the right-wingers with their endless supply of fake scandals.””

    – “Most Democrats agreed this was a deceitful and dangerous act when Bush did it, but with Obama and some of his supporters, undisclosed arrangements of this sort seem to be different. Why? Because, as Sunstein puts it: we have “a well-motivated government” doing this so that “social welfare is improved.” Thus, just like state secrets, indefinite detention, military commissions and covert, unauthorized wars, what was once deemed so pernicious during the Bush years — coordinated government/media propaganda — is instantaneously transformed into something Good.”

    – “UPDATE IV: Paul Krugman has replied to the part of this post which pertains to him and Jonathan Gruber; my response to that is here.”

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