Tuesday, November 29, 2022

#2594: John Brandt

John Brandt is a New London-based preacher, fundamentalist and young-earth creationist. And Brandt has the evidence for the age of the Earth on his side: “I have written evidence, and he [someone who subscribes to scientific consensus] has theoretical evidence, all of which is only assumption. It all depends on what you are willing to believe. Consider that only documented evidence counts.” And that means Brandt wins, for “The only written document with such information is the Bible. We Bible-believers have written proof of what we believe and teach. The Bible has no less than Jesus’ witness, In six days God created the heavens and the earth.’” It might be instructive, but probably isn’t, to know Brandt’s definition of ‘evidence’. At least, according to Brandt, science has none of it, and “without empirical evidence, science must ‘create’ time, with no beginning, just an accident. And in the process, imagine a beginning, like, ‘Wow! That was a big bang!’”. We suspect Brandt hasn’t actually read the relevant scientific publications on the topic, but why would he? “All the information we need is in the Bible, but not the details.” One is left to wonder why science still sticks to the Big Bang hypothesis – surely there must be demons involved.


Diagnosis: Minor – we don’t know anything else about Brandt than his rantings on the age of the Earth – but apparently relatively representative for how a large number of Americans view science and religion.


Hat-tip: Sensuous Curmudgeon

Sunday, November 27, 2022

#2593: John E. Brandenburg

a.k.a. Victor Norgarde (author alias)


John E. Brandenburg is a (legit) plasma physicist who went bonkers sometime in or before 2012, when he started ranting about aliens and ancient astronomy nonsense, including what he deemed to be evidence of a thermonuclear war on Mars in the distant past. His books (e.g. Life and Death on Mars: The New Mars Synthesis) quickly became popular in various New Age and woo groups. Brandenburg’s primary evidence for his claims is certain ratios between Xenon isotopes in Mars’s atmosphere, which he claims can only be due to nuclear weapons. That is not the case. His claim is dumb. Brandenburg’s findings have yet to pass peer review (pseudojournals like J. Cosmology don’t count). The ideas have provided him with ample space on various pseudoscience and conspiracy theory fora such as Coast to Coast AM, however.


Now, Brandenburg initially presented some rather mainstream – well-backed scientific – ideas about natural nuclear reactors on Mars (like there are on Earth). His take changed at some point around 2012, however – not only was Mars was the target of “an ancient planetary nuclear massacre” but the attacks “were targeted on sites of previously reported artifacts”. ‘Wait, what artefacts?’ you may ask. Oh, yes – it’s the fabulously silly Face on Mars claim – yes, that one: the go-to example of silly pareidolia for critical thinking teachers everywhere: yes, due to the human brain’s natural tendency to interpret things as faces, an eroded hill did, in fact, look somewhat face-like in low-resolution images – the illusion goes away at clearer images of higher resolution, but Brandenburg and his ilk don’t want to look at those. This is Richard Hoagland territory, and it pretty much entails widespread conspiracies about UFOS and government coverups. So Brandenburg endorses those, too. His defense of the Face of Mars hypothesis is absolutely wildly hilariously inept.


In later revolutions in Brandenburg’s descent down the rabbit hole, his ‘evidence’ suggests that there is a hostile alien civilization out there with plans to kill us all. He has apparently discovered a number of other alien artifact in NASA photos, too, including what he takes to bean ancient drone abandoned” on Mars’s surface.


Although the Mars nuclear war idea is Brandenburg’s most famous, he has written about other stuff, too. His 2014 book Cosmic Jesus: The Metaphysics of How the God of Israel Became the God of the Cosmos, for instance, discusses among other things “the relationship between GEM theory (Gravity-Electricity-Magnetism) and Gematria” (oh yes, it does) and how the Bible, through a “sophisticated mathematical allegory”, shows Jesus as the repairer of the effects of the collapse of the fifth dimension to subatomic size.”


Diagnosis: We suspect that since many people initially leaned toward the hypothesis, Brandenburg just decided “what the heck, I’ll just run with it” for fame and fun, though given his subsequent efforts it is hard to avoid concluding that he has, indeed, gone completely off the rails. Probably harmless, though.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki; Pharyngula

Thursday, November 24, 2022

#2592: Mario Bramnick

Mario Bramnick is an incoherently deranged wingnut, hardcore dominionist, self-declared ‘prophet’ and president of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC). Partially through that position, Bramnick seems to have become a rather important person in the dominionist movement’s attempts to bring their Taliban-style fundamentalism abroad (that said, he is vigorously opposed to globalism – or, as he puts it, ‘every globalist spirit’, since globalism is a manifestation of the Antichrist.) Indeed, Bramnick seems to have got some serious clout.


Together with Jim Garlow and Eric Metaxas, Bramnick is also affiliated with the World Prayer Network, an outgrowth of a prayer movement initiated in 2020 to frequently gather and pray for God to intervene and overturn the 2020 US election results – in December 2020, for instance, Bramnick thanked God in advance for giving Trump victory, declaring that “Father, President Trump won in the natural, and Father, we decree that he will be seated as the president for another four years, Father. We bring that down on the Earth realm. We decree it” (the reference of ‘we’ is somewhat unclear; it seems that Bramnick sometimes loses track of the distinction between himself and God). Later the same month, he prophesied that the electors would come to their senses on December 14 when they voted to certify the results:  We decree and declare that the hammer of God would come to expose what Satan’s dominion is trying to take over,” said Bramnick:Satan’s hammer is no match for the Maccabee of God, for the hammer of God. And I decree by December 14, we will be victorious exposing the fraud and that President Trump will be declared our president for another four more years.” Fortunately for Bramnick, his followers tend to bracket their Biblical literalism when it comes to dealing with false prophets. It is worth pointing out, however, that according to Bramnick, Trump is anointed by God – “our Cyrus for this hour” – both for spiritual and political purposes, and he is deeply grateful to God for giving “us a man after your heart” and for equipping Trump “supernatural wisdom” for the protection of the American people (especially, apparently, when it comes to immigration policy).


Currently, their biweekly prayer calls, featuring guests like Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, are focused on asking God to thwart President Biden’s plans; Bramnick himself has called on God to shake the Senate” to prevent Democrats from enacting their agenda – said agenda might superficially look like it concerns infrastructure or economy or healthcare, but they don’t fool Bramnick: it is all a series of attempts at “scheming and plotting against the Lord and his anointed one.” The media, too, according to Bramnick: the media is run by demons that seek to “incite anger, fear, despair” – unlike himself, apparently –“under the prince of the power of the air, Leviathan, twisting spirits.”


Together with Harry Jackson, Bramnick also arranged a 2018 election-themed prayer event “Rise Up 2018” at which they blessed and deputized various Trump officials on behalf of Christ so that they could help Trump’s fight against the forces of darkness in the spiritual battle against demonic liberal forces that the US is currently embroiled in. Apparently Bramnick and Jackson had the authority to deputize on behalf of God: “God has given us authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the devil.” Jackson, meanwhile, called the event ‘bipartisan’, which is sort of illustrative. 


Diagnosis: Completely deluded and completely insane – yet Bramnick wields a scary amount of power and influence, also, apparently, outside the US. You should, unfortunately, be afraid.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

#2591: Tom Brady

Tom Brady is a spineless hack who has milked his celebrity status for all it is worth to hawk useless junk, pseudoscience and fraudulent products under his TB12 brand. The brand started as a fad diet and merch shop, focusing on snacks that could be savvily marketed as being in line with whatever diet fad would be in vogue at any given time, including utter bullshit like alkaline water.


Brady’s book The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance was a bestseller – apparently lots of people must have been under the strange impression that Brady’s anonymous ghostwriter would have something knowledgeable and worthwhile to say about the issues. The book – or really: infomercial (there are products to sell with every piece of advice) – promotes the pseudoscientific fad generally known as alkaline diets, in particular Brady’s own bonkers nonsense “80/20 diet”, which supposedly means 80% alkaline and 20% acidic – though ‘alkaline’ and ‘acidic’ should not be associated with the chemical interpretation of those words but rather some tarot-based nonsense categorization mostly made up as you go along: his book is all about “alkalizing” foods (which is apparently meant to decrease inflammation in your body – whatever that means – and prevent fractions, which is profoundly idiotic and easily debunked). The label doesn’t mean that the foods are alkaline, or that they make your body – or anything in it – more alkaline (that would of course be really bad). Brady’s health regimen also incorporates harmless stuff like transcendental meditation and harmless pseudoscience like neuroplasticity training. (And for those who wonder: the reason Brady has managed to stay fit for so long is not because of his dietary advice, but because he can afford a personal chef.) Apparently the TB12™ Nutrition Manual, which retailed for $200, quickly sold out.


I'm very cautious about tomatoes. They cause inflammation,” says Brady, who also avoids peppers, mushrooms, or eggplants “because they're not anti-inflammatory”. None of those labels have anything to do with what those words mean, of course; Brady just applies them according to some kind of pseudoreligious scheme based on free association. He also recommends drinking a lot of water, crediting it with protecting him from sunburns. It does not (though one would think it subverted his alkalizing project … never mind). Water, though, isn’t enough; Brady’s water is supplemented with electrolytes, which is utter bullshit but does make it expensive and hence exclusive, which is surely good. Again, he is just making it up as he goes along, just like he does with his claim that “the regimen I follow is a mix of Eastern and Western philosophies” … yeah, it sounds marketing savvy; it sounds informed and broad-minded – as long as you don’t ask him for details about what, precisely, the ‘philosophical’ basis for any of his health claims could possibly be. Brady did not provide such details.


In the book, Brady claims his durability is a result of “muscle pliability, a pseudoscientific idea cooked up by his “body coachand business partner Alex Guerrero. Guerrero is himself an interesting character, by the way, having a decent rap sheet with the Federal Trade Commission, in particular for his attempt in 2005 to falsely pass himself off as a doctor able to cure cancer, Aids, MS and Parkinson’s disease with dietary supplements, but also for marketing the sports drink Neurosafe, which he claimed could prevent concussions. Brady endorses Neurosafe.


Many of the products pushed as part of the TB12 protocols are of course intended to boost your immune system, and it is not all harmless nonsense: at least Brady managed to attract some negative attention with the marketing of the nonsense product Protect (an “immunity blend” which promises to “activate your immune system and counter stress-induced immune suppression”) strongly implied that it would help protect against COVID-19. And yes: it did come with a Quack Miranda Warning to ward off the possibilitiy of the dishonesty getting him in legal troubles.


There is a brief but decent takedown of Brady’s bullshit here.


Diagnosis: The sports interested guy’s counterpart to Gwyneth Paltrow, we suppose. And he’s had staggering – Paltrow-comparable – success with his utter bollocks and bullshit. And it is, like Goop’s, not all harmless.


Hat-tip: Bryan Armen Graham @The Guardian

Thursday, November 17, 2022

#2590: David Bradshaw

Apart from recent upheavels related to abortion, the traditional Religious Right has arguably been pushed a bit toward the backseat, at least when it comes to media attention, among wingnut actors compared to Qanon-related cryptofascists, hippie nazies, white nationalists and conspiracy theorists (there’s substantial overlap, though). But they’re certainly still a major source of rot and continues to pose an immediate threat to civilization and liberty, especially in light of the reemergence of Christian nationalism in politics.


David Bradshaw, for instance, leads a Virginia-based ministry called Prayer Furnace and is an associate of Lou Engle and Engle’s dominionist movement The Call. Bradshaw is a promoter of “stadium Christianity”, large-scale (stadium) movements to mobilize a massive End Times “harvest” of souls. With Engle, Bradshaw was for instance the organizer the movement Awaken the Dawn, including a 2020 a political (Taliban wingnut) prayer rally in DC whose official goals were to draw some million people to town to bring America “back to God” and wage spiritual warfare against Supreme Court justices who have upheld women’s right to abortion. Some of the project’s affiliated prophets predicted miracles. The event was supposed to involve fifty prayer tents on the National Mall and various stages, all set up for a “Holy Spirit Woodstock”; one may ask what sense of Woodstock they were hoping for.


After concerns were raised about the event in relation to the COVID pandemic, Bradshaw remained firm about the tents; the tent events, according to Bradshaw, werea silver bullet for the move of God in America.” Indeed, the coronavirus itself was part of a “satanic agenda” and ademonic assignment specifically employed to take out Bradshaw’s events and similar dominionist prayer rallies. (Engle, meanwhile, called for a global three-day fast to stop the “demonic force” behind the coronavirus from interfering with his plans for 2020; 2020 was apparently of particular importance – it “has been marked by the Holy Spirit as a year of Stadium Christianity and explosive advance of the Kingdom” – partially because of Bob Jones’s prediction that the year that the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl, as they did in 2020, would be a sign of a coming revival.)


Bradshaw is also author of Awaken the Dawn: An Adventure in Hosting Jesus' Presence and Discovering Your Part in the Story, where he lays out the tenets and ambitions of his movement. “What if the presence of God became so real in people’s hearts that it revived the church and ushered in the next Jesus Movement?” it asks. We genuinely wonder who would feel a need to read on to find the answer to that question.


Diagnosis: Though he talks about renewal, we cannot quite pinpoint the novel features of Bradshaw’s approach to things. It’s the same lunatic nonsense as always. But it is popular enough to pose a genuine threat, so we feel the need to cover his tripe, yet again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

#2589: Matt Bracken

InfoWars is familiar enough to most as a source of misinformation and deranged conspiracy theories. But the conspiracy theories aren’t just random nonsense: InfoWars associates are actively using the misinformation and conspiracy theories to promote their own ideological purposes. Infowars associate and former Navy SEAL Matt Bracken, for instance, promotes white nationalism, and when he provides tactical advice to white national groups for attending rallies, he also carefully lays the groundwork for “false-flag conspiracy theories that InfoWars can promote in the event of violence. In late January 2017, for instance, Bracken claimed (in an interview with the Red Ice website) that the FBI arrested neo-Nazis ahead of a pro-gun rally in Virginia in order to fabricate a timeline of events that the agency (which Bracken likened to East Germany’s Stasi) would later use to smear people opposed to gun control laws; indeed, he repeatedly asserted that the government actively desire and may even provoke violent incidents at such rallies.


In general, according to Bracken, the U.S. government is deliberately exaggerating the threat level posed by white nationalism in the US in order to advance a globalist conspiracy to open the borders and ultimately implement a one-world government. “This is at the highest level a battle between globalists and nationalists,” said Bracken, and on InfoWars he has instructed viewers on how to accessorize assault weapons for battle proficiency: “there’s going to be a fight”. And immigration is crucial to the globalists’ agenda: “The globalists want to keep the borders open and keep flooding America and the West with unassimilable Third-Worlders” because an effective means to reach their goal is to “bring in more low-IQ people because low-IQ people always fall for the trick of socialism” – that's evidently not a particularly foolproof strategy, since a number of dumb people evidently don't fall for it.


Among examples of government-led false flag operations, according to Bracken, are the 2017 Quebec mosque shootings. Bracken’s reasoning on InfoWars in that case is somewhat hard to follow, but Wonkette summed it up, charitably, as: “George Soros paying off young Quebeçois men to convert to Islam while pretending to be Donald Trump supporters in order to do a false flag attack on a mosque, for the explicit purpose of getting people to not like Donald Trump supporters.”


Bracken has himself authored an online manifesto,Tet, Take Two — Islam’s 2016 European Offensive,” in the style of Anders Breivik and the 2019 New Zealand terrorist (with whom Bracken has expressed sympathy). Bracken’s manifesto, published in 2015 and discussed here, predicted that World War III would break out in 2016 due to an imagined alliance between Muslims and international socialists for the common cause of destroying Western nationalism. The manifesto went on – exactly like the New Zealand one – to blame, at least in part, “emancipated European and American women” for not “producing a new generation” of nationalists.


Bracken has also weighed in on e.g. the J6 Committee’s “demonization of patriots”, the alleged rampant election fraud during the 2020 election (incontrovertible proof will apparently forever be imminently forthcoming) and the “medical tyranny of COVID vaccine mandates. We really cannot be bothered to look more closely.


Diagnosis: Vile and dangerous.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

#2588: Caleb Brabham

Caleb Brabham is a (minor) youtube personality, author and frequent contributor to local Texas newspapers. According to his bio, he also “graduated magna cum laude from Oral Roberts University in 2007”. Well, then. In any case, Brabham is a creationist, and he is the kind of creationist who attacks other creationists for not being sufficiently pure – such as those willing to countenance a day–age interpretation of Genesis. Not so, says Brabham, “The Bible is a document of logic and reasoning (Isa 1:18), not a treatise on what someone ‘thinks’ it aught [sic] to say”. And Brabham knows what it says; he needs no stinking interpretation. He also provides some thoughtful points to back up his position; you can read about them here (moderately recommended) – an example:


Before Genesis 1:1, what is known as this world, was non-existent. […] There was no ‘time.’ There was no day or night, as this is what He called the comprising of the 1st day (Genesis 1:2). Without the acknowledgment of time, where did man come up with the idea of 24 hour days, and a 7 day week? Research reveals that every civilization known has made use of the 7 day week consisting of 24 hours for each day.” Research does not remotely come up with that. He really isn’t even trying, is he?


Diagnosis: Ok, so this one is borderline too minor even for us, but he put himself out there with his rants, so there he goes.


Hat-tip: Sensuous Curmudgeon