Sunday, March 29, 2020

#2323: David Tate, Clint Mitchell et al.

Old news, perhaps, but still worth mentioning, insofar as creationists are still tirelessly pushing for getting creationism – or at least anti-evolution talking points – on the science syllabus in public schools. And it is, perhaps not much of a surprise that Louisiana is particularly susceptible to religiously motivated pseudoscience. In 2010, for instance, the Livingston Parish School Board decided to explore the possibility of incorporating the teaching of creationism in the public school system’s science classes, with the director of curriculum for the district, Jan Benton, (falsely) telling the board that, under the Louisiana Science Education Act, schools are allowed to present “critical thinking and creationism in science classes, to the enthusiastic response of the school board (none of whom, of course, really associate “critical thinking” with critical thinking): Member David Tate asked: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?” (i.e. someone else, a preacher or creation society member, should come in to give the lecture to ensure that there is no meddling or objections from critical teachers). Clint Mitchell, meanwhile, added that “I agree … you don’t have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom,” and even the president of the board, Keith Martin, agreed: “Maybe it’s time that we look at this,” and proposed the formation of a committee to study the possibility – apparently dimly aware of potential legal issues, he added that “The American Civil Liberties Union and even some of our principals would not be pleased with us, but we shouldn’t worry about the ACLU. It’s more important that we do the correct thing for the children we educate.”

After receiving some attention the board did back down a little, but still asked School Board staff “to look at the issue for possible future action.” David Tate said that “we don’t want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation,” thereby of course undermining any chance of winning said litigation by revealing to everyone that the whole point of their efforts was to get religion into public schools.

Diagnosis: No, attempts to maintain that the point is to teach students critical evaluation, and that it is all about science, don’t tend to last long. We are, after all, dealing with creationists here, and you don’t have to excite them much before their attempts to mimick reason start unravelling. Now, this particular Louisiana initiative is presumably dead, but similar attempts will be made again and again. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

#2322: Webster Tarpley

Webster Griffin Tarpley is an author, critic of U.S. foreign and domestic policy, founder of the Tax Wall Street Party, and deranged conspiracy theorist. Tarpley was for a long time affiliated with the LaRouche movement, and even attempted to run on LaRouche’s U.S. Labor Party platform in the NY Democratic senate primary in 1986. His 1992 book with Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, was also published by LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review magazine, and already illustrated Tarpley’s problematic relationship with truth, facts and accuracy. Currently he hosts the online talk show World Crisis Radio, and is a member of the “world anti-imperialist conference” Axis for Peace, Scholars for 9/11 Truth, as well as a “research” Netzwerk of German 9/11 authors. He also hosts the podcast, co-hosted with the chairperson of the Tax Wall Street Party, Daniela Walls.

Yes, Tarpley believes that the September 11 attacks were engineered by a rogue network in the military-industrial complex and intelligence agencies as a false-flag operation, and has denounced the official story as an “outrageous myth” and “absurd fairy tale.” Instead of fundamentalist islamists, Tarpley claims that the organisations involved in 9/11 included Britain's MI6 as well as “government officials loyal to the invisible government,” the cabal that really controls everything and is invisible, so you won’t find evidence that it exists, which for conspiracy theorists like Tarpley is evidence that they really are a secret government and, moreover, extremely resourceful. As for the British connection, Tarpley is one of a rather surprising number of conspiracy theorists who have managed to convince themselves that Great Britain really are pulling the strings here and have been doing so for a long time (we’ve encountered the type before, e.g. here), and he has managed to receive some attention for instance for his “Versailles Thesis”, which lays the blame for the great wars of the 20th century on intrigues by Britain to retain dominance. For good measure, Tarpley also believes the Pearl Harbor attack was a government conspiracy. Tarpley’s views on 9/11 are summed up in his book 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA – Myth of the 21st Century (with a foreword by the noted and equally utterly deranged French conspiracy theorist Thierry Meyssan), which has been published in a number of languages.

Tarpley has, in fact, had several opportunities to take his conspiracy theories abroad. In 2011 Tarpley travelled to Syria to tell Syria’s Addounia TV that the Syrian Civil War was a NATO-CIA ploy to destabilize the country using mercenaries and death squads – in particular CIA-contracted Al-Qaeda groups, or “Ciaqaeda” – against the population and the Syrian government. Indeed, the idea that there is even a civil war going on “is absolute baloney, this is a Goebbels big lie campaign, there is no civil war here, there is no insurrection, there is no mass political movement against Assad,” just NATO working behind the scenes to try to topple a regime loved by the people. Tarpley’s evidence consists mostly of his own assertions (“I would like to argue that” followed by an assertion with neither argument nor evidence). And in 2012, he was interviewd by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation regarding the 2011 Norway attacks, saying that he believed “that the evidence points to a private network, or even a NATO network, within the police that contributed the long time delay until they stormed the Island.” That claim is, of course, not really consistent with the details, but Tarpley’s ideas are not about details but about large narratives. Tarpley’s conspiracy theory breakthrough, meanwhile, was the book Who Killed Aldo Moro, commissioned by Italian Parliamentary member Giuseppe Zamberletti, and which alleged, entirely unsurprisingly, that the US and NATO, not the Red Brigades, were behind Moro’s murder.

Part of the point of invisible shadow governments is that they remain invisible, and Tarpley’s primary evidence that the US (and everywhere else) is ruled by an invisible shadow government is of course, as mentioned above, that he cannot find any evidence for them. Accordingly, Tarpley has been rather dismissive of actual revelations of government secrets, such as Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency. According to Tarpley, Snowden is probably a triple agent ultimately working under the control of the CIA with the aim of weakening President Barack Obama and pushing him into intervening in Syria – that is why he would publicize minor public manipulation operations: in order to conceal greater covert misdeeds such as promoting war in the Middle East. Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange are other examples of covert CIA operatives. 

Tarpley has actually written two books outlying his conspiracy theories about the Obama administration, Obama & The Postmodern Coup: Making of a Manchurian Candidate (2008) and Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography(2008). His discussions of Obama, in particular how Obama is “clearly being controlled” – “The Elite are using Obama to pacify the public so they can usher in the North American Union by stealth, launch a new Cold War and continue the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan” – were heavily featured in Alex Jones’s “documentary” The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off (there are fine discussions of that movie, including Tarpley’s contributions, here, here, here and here); Jones is in general a big fan of Tarpley’s work. In 2012, Tarpley added a book about Romney: Just Too Weird: Bishop Romney and the Mormon Takeover of America: Polygamy, Theocracy, and Subversion to his portfolio. 

The general methodological principle of Tarpley’s work in his books, articles and videos is to take any claim made or article written by his target (the alleged member of the shadow government who is planning a New World Order or genocide or whatever) and interpret any description of an ongoing situation and any attempt to predict future developments, as advocating for the situation described or prediction made – so if you predict that humans may use bodily implants for various purposes in the future, for instance, then Tarpley will reinterpret you as actively trying to force people to get bodily implants. Add to that technique a generous amount of cherry-picking and strawmanning, and you quickly become, in Tarpley’s view, an advocate for a “global police force” to enforce totalitarian measures of population control, including forced abortions, mass sterilization programs conducted via the food and water supply, and forced bodily implants to prevent you from having children – such as John Holdren, who according to Tarpley, in a conspiracy theory popularized by Glenn Beck, ended up as a “Malthusian fanatic in the tradition of the arcane anti-human ideology that originated amongst British aristocracy in the 19th century.”

In 2017 Tarpley received renewed attention when he agreed to settle a libel suit brought by Melania Trump for publishing a “false and defamatory” report In August 2016 alleging that the First Lady had been a “high-end escort” prior to meeting Donald Trump. The settlement apparently involved a rather large sum of money, as well as a public apology.

Diagnosis: Tarpley has for decades been one of the leading kooks in the US, and still wields an impressive amount of influence among US conspiracy theorists – Alex Jones, for instance, seems to have picked up a trick or three from Tarpley. And his books and articles still seem to find a receptive and disconcertingly large audience. He is, accordingly, not just some harmless ball of colors and rage but someone whose paranoia might be causing actual harm.

Friday, March 20, 2020

#2321: Russell Targ

One of the grand old men of American pseudoscience, Russell Targ is a physicist, parapsychologist and author best known for his work on remote viewing – indeed, he and Harold Puthoff coined the term “remote viewing” for the practice of trying to obtain visual information of distant or unseen target using parapsychological means. Yes, it is – of course – bollocks, and Targ’s “research” on the phenomenon is most striking for its lack of rigor: many of his experiments would also have been easy to make more rigorous without additional effort or use of resources, and reasonable people should really wonder why he chose not to do so. According to Martin Gardner, Targ and Puthoff “imagined they could do research in parapsychology but instead dealt with ‘psychics’ who were cleverer than they were,” though wishful thinking and motivated reasoning are certainly important parts of the explanation for their “results” as well.

Targ’s and Puthoff’s project took off in 1972 while they were “testing” alleged remote viewer Ingo Swann at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), which led to the initiation of the $50,000 CIA-sponsored Stargate Project. Though the SRI team managed to publish some papers, real scientific reviews of the SRI (and later) experiments on remote viewing have of course found no credible evidence for remote viewing but have found plenty of striking shortcomings in the SRI experiments (Targ and Puthoff were initially unwilling to provide later researchers with unpublished transcripts upon request, but after obtaining them from a judge these more serious researchers found “a wealth of cues” to how Targ and Puthoff had achieved their non-reproducible results). Targ and Puthoff for instance believed that famous fraud Uri Geller had genuine psychic abilities, so when they tested him they made sure that Geller had substantial control over the procedures and few limits on his behavior to enable him to make use of his trademark sleight of hand. The CIA has later expressed some embarrassment over their involvement in such nonsense. 

In 1982, Targ, Keith Harary and Anthony White formed the company Delphi Associates to sell psychic consulting services to individuals and businesses. In their book Mind Race, Targ and Harary claimed that all nine “silver futures predictions” made at Delphi (prices on the silver market) in 1982 were correct, though – as usual with psychic claims – they had some trouble documenting their successes. More recently, Targ has accused “skeptics” of defaming his Wikipedia entry by correctly describing his psychic studies with Uri Geller or studies on remote viewing and resisting his attempts to use sock puppets to alter the text and delete any critical commentary.

In addition to Mind Race, Targ’s books include Limitless Mind: A Guide to Remote Viewing and Transformation of Consciousness (2004); The Reality of ESP: A Physicist’s Proof of Psychic Abilities; Mind Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities (1977, with Puthoff), Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing (1998, with Jane Katra – yes, of course Targ would go there, too), and The Heart of the Mind: How to Experience God Without Belief (1999, with Katra).

His daughter Elisabeth Targ has followed in her father’s footsteps with regard to sloppy research and a general distaste for evidence and rigor, though she focuses on the field of distant healing rather than distant information seeking.

Diagnosis: Many will find it hard to believe that the flaws in Targ’s pseudoscientific research were not deliberate, and wonder to what extent he really is a true believer. But that, we suspect, would be to underestimate the powers of motivated reasoning. As fine an example of flamboyant pseudoscience as you’ll be likely to find.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

#2320: Mark Tapson

Mark Tapson is the editor of the “news” website TruthRevolt (remember Badger’s Law), whose mission is “to expose the leftist news media and to hold them accountable for their hypocrisy and bias.” He is also affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Tapson is also a hardcore conspiracy theorist, and his research methodology is rather typical of conspiracy theorists. For instance, when Tapson infiltrated the Muslim Student Association’s annual West Coast conference in 2013, he did manage to find what he took to be evidence of a secret Muslim Brotherhood plot to “radicalize” college students: that is, he admitted that he didn’t find anything “radical” or “damning” at the conference, which “was largely very innocuous,” but for Tapson that is all the proof he needs – that the MSA’s conference was so “innocuous” is just part of Muslim Brotherhood strategy to win “the hearts and minds of the young,” and the very act of community-building “radicalizes them and it steers them toward further radicalization down the line.” Or in short: if you find evidence for the hypothesis you have already decided is true: good; if not, you just found evidence that the conspiracy to hide the truth of your hypothesis goes even deeper than you already believed, thus confirming it but in addition making it more urgent.

In addition to the perceived threat of Islamism, Tapson is concerned about communism: anything to the left of Paul Ryan is communist, and can then safely be dismissed by reminding people of the horrors of Stalin’s Soviet Russia and Mao, and thus warrant drawing conclusions like the “Democrat Party is the face of Moloch, the Canaanite god whom Milton called the ‘horrid King besmear’d with blood / Of human sacrifice.’ It is a cult of criminality and death.” And how do these commie crazies ever obtain any power in democratic societies? Voter fraud, of course. Tapson is, of course, also a climate change denialist because in a post-truth world scientific evidence is just whatever suits your ideological commitments anyways.

Diagnosis: A fairly typical wingnut strawman-basher and run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorist, Tapson may be far from the craziest wingnut political commentator out there. That observation, however, says more about the standards among wingnut commentators than it does about Tapson.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

#2319: William Tapley

William Tapley, known on youtube as thirdeaglebooks, is a retired furniture engineer, conspiracy theorist and self-declared prophet (“co-prophet of the end times”) who has received some attention for being extraordinarily unhinged and incoherent even by self-declared-prophets-on-youtube standards. A typical example (no link provided) is his 2014 claim, based on a commercial for the iPad, that there will be a false flag event at the Super Bowl, in a rant partially concerned with an image of a sunrise that he claims to be of a woman giving birth to the Antichrist. (Elsewhere, Tapley has argued that Danny DeVito is, in fact, the Antichrist – it seems to be an open question whether it is one or more antichrists.) In general, most of his videos seem to be devoted to pointing out symbolism the rest of us might, for obvious reasons, have missed related to the end times in otherwise mundane-looking things, such as information about the nefarious plans of the Illuminati in a Miracle Whip commercial.

If you wondered about the “thirdeaglebooks” alias or the “co-prophet” designation, Tapley is ready to explain: God has told him he, Tapley, is the Eagle of the Apocalypse, and his own research revealed two previous “eagles”, which meant that he was no. 3; the previous two were the 15th-century Saints Vincent Ferrer and Bernardino of Siena, who sounded the alarm about the church’s first great enemy Martin Luther, precursor of the false prophet. As for the “Co-Prophet” title, Tapley believes his partner to be none other than Daniel of Old Testament. 

Though unwilling to put an exact date on Armageddon, Tapley at least provided an estimate back in 2014: between October 13 and November 29, 2017. We don’t know about any updates, but an indication of what such updates would have involved can perhaps be gleaned from his 2014 response to the fact he had “predicted several events that had to occur 7 years earlier between October 13 and November 29, 2010, including: the fall of Israel, the fall of the Catholic Church, World War 3, and the return of Enoch and Elijah.” His response: These things did happen; you just might not have noticed. 

Among his most notable successes are a 2012 analysis of the infamous Gangnam Style video, which Tapley concluded was a message directly from God about the nature of the Anti-Christ – telling us in particular that the Anti-Christ had a gay relationship with the False Prophet. Let us just say that if this was God’s message, and that was his means of delivering it, we should be seriously concerned about a lot of things. In fact, by applying the same methodology (i.e. free association) Tapley has established that God is sending all kinds of warnings to the world, contained in “music videos, television commercials, even sporting events.”

Before coming up with the Gangnam Style analysis, however, Tapley gained some attention for writing and recording the ditty “Mitt Romney, A Hero In My Mind,” that he hoped would become the Romney campaign theme. (The ditty is, to be honest, probably better described as “anti-Obama” than “pro-Romney”.)

In 2013 Tapley argued that Margaret Thatcher’s death was a warning to Obama. Among the pieces of evidence for that claim is a verse in Daniel that refers to a lion but Tapley claims is really talking about a lioness and is therefore Thatcher – and if you wonder why the Bible talked about a lion and not a lioness, Tapley has the answer: it is because “she comes up out of the sea.” The purported explanation is rather telling at least in some ways. He also produced a response to Obama’s speech to Planned Parenthood in which he mostly lied about abortion rights but also claimed that the speech was proof that Obama is possessed by demons. Other things argued by Tapley include the claim that Prince’s death is a fulfillment of prophecy; Tapley compared him to Jesus, who you should remember (if you doubted his claim), was the Prince of Peace.

Last, but not least, Tapley is probably one of the most colorful proponents of the Denver airport conspiracy, which is already one of the more fascinating conspiracy theories out there. Tapley’s version is predictably concerned mostly with hidden and at the same time prominently displayed Satanism, but his take raised to some notability after being featured by Stephen Colbert. In 2011 Tapley also received the honor of becoming the first “three-peat” designee of Anderson Cooper 360’s “RidicuList”; Tapley, on his side, claims that he doesn’t think Cooper actually considers him a joke: “Well, he laughs at me, but I think it’s more of a nervous laughter,” said Tapley.

Diagnosis: Yes, he is belligerently insane. But he is also a happy, content eccentric who enjoys his retirement in an interestingly colorful way. Probably completely harmless.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

#2318: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar, professor at several universities, statistician, and risk analyst, whose (serious) work has primarily focused on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty, some of which was described in his bestselling book The Black Swan. It is fascinating to observe how it is possible to be all these while also being a deranged conspiracy theorist exhibiting all the critical thinking skills of a commenter on an InfoWars article. Part of the explanation is of course that although Taleb is smart, he is nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is – indeed, it would be impossible for anyone to be as smart as Taleb thinks he is – and his natural reaction to disagreement is to think that those who disagree with him are either vastly inferior in intelligence to himself or (and) paid shills. (Most of the people he disagrees with are apparently also “prostitute[s]”.) On the other hand, Taleb seems to have acquired something of a cult following of people who treat him as a guru. Jon Vos has an excellent summary of how Taleb’s social media activity and the guru dynamics work here. Taleb’s most characteristic social media behavior, by the way, is to block experts who object to his nonsense, delete their comment, and then misrepresent what they said.

It is worth pointing out that even when it comes to the respectable parts of Taleb’s work, questions might be raised about how much can really be counted as his own, original contributions – this exchange is illuminating in so many ways.

Taleb on GMO
Taleb's contributions to debates
over GMOs have become a meme,
which does reflect how these
debates usually go. Hat-tip: ?
Taleb is in particular notable for his anti-GMO conspiracy theories. Taleb knows very little about genetics or genetic modification, but seems utterly incapable of entertaining the thought that there might be things about genetics and genetic modification that he doesn’t know, and has accordingly great confidence in his own idiotic convictions. Indeed, he seems to be under the delusion that he is somehow doing science when voicing his confusions. As such, however, he also quickly ends up thinking that those who disagree with him are doing so for ulterior motives, and Taleb has claimed that paid shills have been invading his Facebook page as part of a concerted effort to intimidate GMO skeptics with scripted arguments invented by Monsanto. He has accordingly dismissed Kevin Folta, who is in fact a genuine expert on these issues and accordingly disagrees with Taleb’s embarrassing rantings, as a “lowly individual” and a “disgusting fellow” (that exchange is pretty telling). To quote Taleb himself on his critics: “A part man-part animal is vastly more horrifying than a full wild animal. Extremely eerie are monsters who look like humans with small differences. The uncanny resides in the resemblance, not the difference. So I finally figured out why I am gripped with so much revulsion at BS vendors dressed in the garb of high priest of scientists, intellectuals, or logicians, (say Pinker or Shermer or Harris or some scientist under Monsanto’s control), to the point of total maddening anger, and why I do not experience any disgust when I see a fortune teller, a market commentator, or some new age meditation guru such as Deepak Chopra.” When you notice that those who actually know anything about an issue disagree with you on that issue, this is not a reasonable response.

Indeed, Taleb has even published a guide on how to engage with those who disagree with him on GMO-related issues (good discussion of the guide here): “The error is to try to win a public argument against a propagandist. GMO shills will come up with canned responses largely provided by Monsanto, to drown the debate. Just expose shills, do not engage them. You will never convince a propagandist with a financial interest. Remember nobody won the war against the mafia by ‘convincing’ them that what they did was against moralityTypical arguments and programmed scripted responses: ‘we do science’, ‘we have evidence’, ‘you do not have evidence’, ‘naturalistic fallacy’, ‘you take risks to cross the street’, ‘a tomato is the same’, ‘we have been doing so since agriculture’, ‘you are against progress’, ‘we save lives with golden rice or silver apples’, ‘genetic fallacy’, ‘shill gambit’, ‘Monsanto funds did not influence my research’, etc. Do not, I say, do not engage them. We have debunked these arguments as fallacies and catalogued them in our PP paper. - Check the history of how tobacco companies spread disinformation. And note that people who take bribes have historically spun the same stories that ‘there is no connection’. Remember that the GMO shills are going against centuries of the refinement of rules identifying and governing conflicts of interest.” Or, as one commenter put it: “So, essentially the strategy is to rely on name-calling and avoid giving evidence for your argument at all costs. Just ‘expose’ people as ‘shills,’ but ‘do not engage.’ Because if you do, the ‘shills’ will defeat you with some kind of underhanded, dishonest trick such as pointing out that ‘you have no evidence.’ If your argument can be defeated by pointing out that you refuse to substantiate it as evidence, you’re simply wrong, and no amount of ad hominem will make up the difference.” A comment to which Taleb responded “Exactly. The method is to treat people like you as if they were nonthinking animals. What can you do about it?” Then he promoted a screenshot of the exchange with the comment: “Example of how to respond to a GMO Shill trying to harass you: Play with him. Make him feel deeply, insulted. Get him angry. Have fun.” 

Taleb himself has coauthored a paper on the precautionary principle and its supposed lethal application to genetically modified foods, in which the authors made several errors. including misunderstanding basic biology, and asserted for instance, without evidence, that genetically modified crops are more dangerous than conventional crops, and failed to consider the benefits of GM crops in preventing vitamin A deficiency, blindness and death – rather, they falsely compared GMOs to letting poor people play Russian roulette to get out of poverty. Despite detailed refutations by critics (a short one outlining some basic errors here) Taleb continued to assert that no “intelligent comment” had been made on the paper (remember that disagreeing with Taleb makes you automatically stupid), saying for instance of the refutation just linked to that it was “not very intelligent”, “full of flaws” and “even downright stupid”. He did not respond to any of the criticisms or point out any of the alleged flaws, of course.

Taleb has a general knack for cherrypicking and selectively use anecdotes to make sweeping and unsupported claims, and has made a number of false and misleading claims about medicine: “If you want to accelerate someone’s death, give him a personal doctor. […] This may be the only possible way to murder someone while staying squarely within the law,” claims Taleb, on his way to trying to argue the medical establishment is really uneducated when it comes to risk management, based on selective use of evidence and strawmanning. He relies for instance on the familiar but thoroughly misleading claim that “medical error still currently kills between three times (as accepted by doctors) and ten times as many people as car accidents in the United States” (failing for instance to note that the statistics primarily include cases where a severely sick or injured patient could have been saved (often: for a little bit longer), which is very different from hospitals, as opposed to cars, massively killing perfectly healthy people). Taleb, however, concludes “Did you ever wonder why heads of state and very rich people with access to all this medical care die just as easily as regular persons? Well, it looks like this is because of overmedication and excessive medical care.” It’s almost as if he didn’t understand how evidence and statistics work.

In 2015, Taleb defended homeopathy as harmless placebos that could be useful in diverting hypochondriacs from taking too many real pharmaceutical products – using homeopathy “can be rational”, said Taleb. Cory Doctorow criticized the (very silly) claim, pointing out that Taleb simply ignores the impressive amount of peer-reviewed, published evidence about the real harms of homeopathy – both people with real medical problems who substitute placebos for effective therapies, and those who waste their own or public money on inefficacious remedies for difficult-to-diagnose or imaginary ailments (and often still also overmedicate with real medicines) – such as a 2015 paper that showed that homeopathic treatments “led to more productivity loss, higher outpatient care costs and larger overall cost.” Taleb responded by calling Doctorow “very stupid” and “dishonest”.

Diagnosis: You sometimes suspect, rather strongly, that he’s mostly just thriving on the buzz and enjoying being “edgy” and deliberately juvenile. But his GMO nonsense is pure denialist conspiracy theory, and even selecting the juvenile strategy in this area strongly suggests that he doesn’t really understand how critical thinking works (though I suppose we need to keep the possibility open that he is motivated just by gleeful intellectual destructiveness, like Steve Fuller). But no matter how you interpret him, he’s made sure that – despite the Black Swan book – his contribution to civilization will be a negative one. 

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Sunday, March 8, 2020

#2317: Refael Szmerla

Rabbi Refael Szmerla (Rafael/Rephoel Schmerla) is a a Dayan in Lakewood, New Jersey, unhingedly deranged fundamentalist and advocate for various types of quackery, including, perhaps most obviously, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. And given his position, his views on quackery and vaccines have to some extent been met with recognition in certain circles in which it is considered uncouth to criticize an authority figure like him, a situation that reflects what is, of course, a familiar recipe for disaster.

His views on medicine – Szmerla doesn’t have the faintest trace of expertise or qualifications in science or medicine, of course – are laid out in his book Ki Ani Hashem Rof'echa, in Hebrew, which goes through auras, chi, reiki, energy healing, distance healing, meridians, acupuncture, applied kinesiology, emotional freedom techniques, dowsing, homeopathy, radionics, crystal healing, geopathic stress, feng shui, iridology, reflexology, and other forms of quackery. And Szmerla endorses them all (except feng shui) by finding sources in the Gemara or Rishonim that, with a liberal dose of motivated reasoning and shoehorning, might be interpreted as discussing them. And (imaginary) support from religious texts is, of course, all he needs: the practices mentioned can therefore neither be religiously misguided nor ineffective. (He also backs up his conclusions with some quotation from various quacks and conspiracy theorists.) Meanwhile, those who argue against such practices, claims Szmerla, have been influenced by “Greek philosophy” and will end up as heretics – of course, scientific evidence for whether or not the practices in fact work is very far from Szmerla’s radar – and accepting the quackery is, as he sees it, an essential part of Jewish identity – indeed, using radionics instead of real medicine helps cement our faith in the Sages, who were ostensibly scientifically far beyond modern medicine. 

And like many books of quackery, Szmerla’s ends with a direct attack on modern medicine: sickness is important since it turns man toward God in prayer, whereas modern medicine’s “arrogant doctors” turn people away from God with a philosophy that “stands in complete contradiction to Torah values” – as opposed to alternative medicine, which is largely based on mystical energies and spirituality. At least he recognizes that the practices he recommends are not science-based – indeed, he explicitly states that requiring double-blind testing and rejecting anecdotal evidence due to the placebo effect stands in direct contradiction to Chazal, who ostensibly only required that a treatment appear to work on three occasions to declare it effective [no idea] – so he can, in fact, not be accused of pseudoscience. But for Szmerla contradicting science is a good thing. (Of course, it also means that the defense he provides might not be quite what more mainstream promoters of quackery really would have wished for.)

The antirationalist position (young-earth creationism, dinosaur-denialism, global warming denialism etc.) Szmerla espouses is relatively common in charedi communities, which is surely part of the reason for the low vaccination rates in some of them – even someone considered among these groups to be “moderate”, Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, has endorsed antivaccine conspiracy theories, stated that “the best doctors go to Hell” because of their arrogance, and written that we have to silence those who insist upon empirical evidence whereas altmed quacks are divinely-placed forces that should be recruited to heal people. And Szmerla himself is of course firmly antivaccine. He is part of The Vaccine Coalition, a Coalition of Non-Vaccinating Parents in Lakewood, New Jersey, founded by Szmerla, Malkiel Kotler and Shmuel Meir Katz, and supported e.g. by Elya Ber Wachtfogel of South Fallsberg, who is apparently something of a powerful figure in local charedi communities. We haven’t even bothered to check what kind of information these unhinged kooks promote to people in their communities. Given his comments on doctors and medicine in general (the “sickness brings you closer to God through prayer” part), it seems not too far-fetched to suspect that Szmerla wants children in his community to suffer from vaccine-preventable and potentially deadly diseases.

Diagnosis: So, ok. You may be inclined to just point and laugh at this silly fundie character. The problem, though, is that Szmerla, as mentioned, wields some authority in certain communities, and his recommendations have real, bad consequences for real people. Dangerous.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

#2316: Michael Symonette

A.k.a. Maurice Woodside
A.k.a. Mikael Israel
A.k.a. Michael the Black Man

Michael Symonette is a Florida-based political … “figure”. Symonette is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, and best known for appearing at Trump’s rallies both before and after the 2016 election holding a “Blacks for Trump” sign. But Symonette has had a long and colorful career in various other cults and conspiracy groups (often with a different name) as well.

For instance, in the 1980s Symonette was a prominent member of the Yahweh Ben Yahweh cult, which was known for promoting the idea that blacks are the true Israelites (thus part of the Black Hebrew Israelites movement) and that Hulon Mitchell was a messiah sent to free black people from “white devils”, but even better known for committing multiple murders and mutilations, primarily of former members and victims of an initiation rite that involved killing a white person and giving one of their ears to Mitchell. The group is still active, insisting that there was no evidence of the crimes and referring to Mitchell’s arrest as “the crucifixion” and part of “a 25-year FBI practice of disrupting and discrediting black organizations” – indeed, Symonette himself has (apparently) written the article “Maurice/Michael explains Yahweh Ben Yahweh is Innocent and was Persecuted by Arab, East Indian, Ishmaelites. & U.S. Prosecutor Richard Shruggs was an Ishmaelite Arab Jew. who Prosecuted Yahweh Ben Yahweh” to prove it.

Symonette apparently played “a big role in the rise and fall of the Yahweh Ben Yahweh cult”, and was himself at one point charged with (though acquitted of) one count of murder and one count of attempted murder.

Until then known as Michael Woodside, Symonette subsequently started a radio station, BOSS 104.1 FM to express his obsessive hatred for Democrats (or, as he called them, “Demon-crats” and “slave masters”), who are ostensibly aligned with the KKK (he also labeled the (black) El Portal mayor Daisy Black a “devil” and called for her to be “set on fire”), before reinventing himself as “Michael the Black Man”. He briefly received some attention in 2008 when he accused Oprah Winfrey of being the devil and Barack Obama of being endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan at one of Obama’s speeches in Coral Gables. His group also displayed a banner proclaiming, somewhat inexplicably, that “Jessie [sic] Jackson hates Obama for federal child support act” – Symonette’s group has otherwise expressed little love Jackson, calling him for instance a “house negro.” Obama, however, is “The Beast” because he is an apocalyptic figure warned of in the Bible: for one thing, Obama is, according to Symonette, a proponent of infanticide and extreme partial-birth abortion but worse: Obama has defended child support, which Symonette considers “legal slavery” (Symonette himself unsurprisingly has a backstory of owing quite a bit in child support). Indeed, at one point Symonette was convinced that Obama could bring about virtual extinction of the free black male as soon as 2012. Oprah, though, is even worse: a “devil” and “hell-bound Jezebel” – “if Obama is elected,” said Symonette in 2008, “there will be an international, insane war, and nobody will survive. And Oprah knows that! She wants everybody to die with her black ass!” He also apparently believes that “one-third of the black women is the devil.”

Renewed attention was given Symonette when he spoke to the audience at a Rick Santorum campaign rally, saying that Democrats were “the worst thing that ever happen [sic] to the black man.”

He currently runs multiple conspiracy theory-promoting websites, including, which he frequently promotes on his shirt at Trump rallies. If you try to access the page, you’ll be redirected to, a website that might even make Alex Jones look calm and reasonable. Among Symonette’s claims on the site are:

-       That the Cherokee Indians were “the real KKK slave masters”, not “White Gentiles who are Black Peoples Republican Emancipators!”
-       That black and white people were in the Americas before the Native Americans and must unite against the Cherokee Indians. (A display of the Confederate battle flag is captioned “Cherokee Democrat Flag”.)
-       That former President Barack Obama is a “shape shifting mason who acts Black but is Cherokee.”
-       That Bill Clinton and John McCain are descended from the Cherokees, and that John Hawkins, born in 1595 to British parents and pioneer of the British slave trade, was Cherokee. (And as of 2020 “nine guys in the Republican Senate are actually Mormons” and “Mormons are mostly Cherokee” – the KKK is also is made up entirely of Cherokees.)
-       That Hillary Clinton is secretly plotting with ISIS to kill all black and white women in America.
-       That not only is Hillary Clinton linked to the Islamic State; she is also, somehow, linked to the crime gang MS-13, as well as – of course – to the KKK. Moreover, note that “Hillary’s last name is Rodham”, which means that “their family members are Rothchilds”. It doesn’t.

Symonette’s website also sports a long list of the standard, near-incomprehensible all-caps conspiracy jumble types of headlines like 

-       “PROTESTERS are PHONEY Black people & are really East Indians & Cherokees acting Black” 
-       “See Hillary & Puttin say that there will be nuclear war if Hillary becomes president: HILLARY WILL START WORLD WAR 3 JUDGEMENT DAY” TO KILL WOMEN OF AMERICA”. 
-       “WHITE MAN & BLACK MAN WAKE UP!! (ISHMAEL) (arabs & East Indians) are killing us (Americans BLACK & WHITE) all over the world on TV”

Apparently one factor linking things here is that all races in the world can be traced back to Noah’s sons, and whereas white people, along with Latinos, Asians, and Black people in America – but not Africa – have descended from Noah’s good sons, the descendants of Ham are evil, and include Canaanites and Cherokees. Suffice to say that the suggested linking factor, in addition to being derangedly insane, leaves some details unaccounted for.

Diagnosis: Completely deranged and probably dangerous. And he is apparently not alone either but seems to have a group of acolyte zombies following his directions. Scary stuff.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

#2315: Kevin Swanson

Hat-tip: Rightwingwatch
Kevin Swanson is arguably the most demented fundie in the US that is still, also arguably, part of something resembling the mainstream of the Religious Right. Hence, Swanson functions as something like a limiting test for other Taliban-style fundamentalist views and is, in short, the kind of guy who would make ISIS look tame if he got to put his ideas for America, such as the death penalty for gays and readers of Harry Potter, into action. On his radio show, “Generations with Vision”, he otherwise exhibits all the traits commonly associated with the religious right: science denialism, post-truth mongering with references to a mythical “good old days”, bigotry and a very tenuous grasp of American history and domestic and foreign politics, combined with deranged conspiracy theories (often involving demons) and finding scapegoats for current events, especially natural events, he believes are ultimately the effects of divine wrath (so: not the obvious scapegoat, if one were needed). Swanson is otherwise pastor of Reformation Church in Elizabeth, Colorado, and a writer for The World View in 5 Minutes, an online fundie newscast.

As for his position oamongn the religious right, Swanson hosted the Freedom 2015: National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines (Swanson is of course no fan of religious liberty though he is an ardent fan of what he calls “religious liberty”: giving him the necessary means to have the views of those who disagree with him on religious issues suppressed or banned), which was attended e.g. by then-presidential candidates Ted Cruz, who afterwards tried to distance himself from the event, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal. At the conference, Swanson spoke about a Biblical mandate of the death penalty for homosexuality, pointing out that both the Old and New Testament discuss “the sin of homosexuality” and that Romans 1 affirms that homosexuality merits capital punishment. 

Swanson is, in other words, an explicit theocrat, and advocates a return to the theocracy of the pilgrims, though he relies on a radically revisionist idea about what that would involve.

Swanson on weather phenomena, climate
During the 2013 Colorado wildfires, Swanson and his usual sidekick, Dave Buehner, wondered why God was punishing Colorado with wildfires, which mostly affected more conservative areas of the state. Avoiding both the obviously correct and the obvious but incorrect explanations, they went with the gays. In fact, they didn’t merely blame gay people but also women in “masculine” clothing (hats and pants, apparently – “It’s just such an oppressive, horrible, horrible world and so many of our young girls in our Christian churches are running down to Wal-Mart and buying the same clothes”), abortion and a photo in the Denver Post of State House Majority Leader Mark Ferrandino kissing his partner. “Judgement begins in the House of God,” said Swanson and Buehner, as if that somehow made anything resembling sense in the context. Swanson went on to compare Ferrandino and his partner to Ahab and Nero, and concluded that the “Colorado government is the worst in the world” and “probably even worse than the North Korean government.”

During the 2013 Colorado flooding, however, Swanson claimed that it was all the fault not only of gays, but also pro-choice advocates and the legalization of pot: “So here we have the very worst year in Colorado’s year in terms of let’s kill as many babies as possible, let’s make sure we encourage as much decadent homosexual activity as possible, let’s break God’s law with impudence at every single level, at every single level let’s make sure that we offend whoever wrote the Bible, so we have the worst year possible politically in the state of Colorado and it happens to be the worst year ever in terms of flood and fire damage in Colorado’s history. That is a weird coincidence; interesting to say the least.” It really isn’t.

In 2017, Swanson urged SCOTUS to “reverse Roe v. Wade and Obergefellbefore Hurricane Irma made landfall: “the wrath of God against this nation is intense,” and the winds are “going to blow in the direction that God ordains them to go,” said Swanson. Hurricane Harvey, on the other hand, was God’s judgment on Houston for having a “very aggressively pro-homosexual mayor.” Apparently God will punish Australia, too. Indeed, Swanson finds it hard to believe that God hasn’t judged and destroyed the US yet – yes, he struggles to take a hint. (Though in fairness, he did predict, in 2016, that God was going to make Trump president in order to destroy America, which is a bit uncanny.)

Swanson on literature, art and film 
Swanson is no fan of popular culture (or any culture) – he has even written a book on the topic, The Tattooed Jesus: What Would the Real Jesus Do with Pop Culture? – but has nevertheless tried his hand at movie and TV criticism. For instance, he accused Star Trek: Into Darkness of promoting bestiality by showing “the good guy in the film as mating with the wrong color species,” suggesting that it was due to the alleged fact that “evolution has no basic problem with bestiality or cross-species mating.” In a similar vein, Swanson argued that God might destroy the US over the film The Shape of Water for bestiality, and also claimed it represents “the end of civilization as we know it” (Swanson has not known civilization for a while, if ever), citing Leviticus 18:23-29. He also blasted Beauty and the Beast for supposedly promoting “inter-species breeding”, saying that the movie was an “insidious” effort to “homosexualize the next generation of eight and ten-year-old kids,” ensure that they are “indoctrinated into the homosexual lifestyle” and fomenting a cultural revolution “a bit more insidious” than “the cultural revolution that Mao Tse-tung brought to China.” As Swanson sees it, Hollywood has been promoting inter-species breeding for decades. It is very unclear what he thinks will come of it. Meanwhile the show Shezow, which featured a boy dressing up as a female superhero to fight evil, was anti-Christian propaganda. Maybe he should just stop going to the movies.

Swanson has also argued that God will destroy the US for the British novels about Harry Potter (parents who let their kids read Harry Potter should drown, says Swanson), adding, for good measure, that country music, the computer-animated film How to Train Your Dragon and the Disney cartoon Frozen are Satanic, too. With regard to HtTYD, Swanson was shocked to learn that the character Gobber the Belch is gay, warning listeners that Gobber – like Dumbledore – effectively encourages pedophilia, because homosexuality and pedophilia are the same. With regard to Frozen, Swanson has argued (or whatever you call it) that the movie is a Disney conspiracy to turn children gay and that Satan is using the movie “to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian,” emphasizing that it would be the “worst nightmare” of parents to have their child “turn into a sodomite.” Moreover, Frozen (among other movies) “are the means that children are led into witchcraft” and part of Hollywood’s attempt to turn children away from God. And Swanson dutifully emphasized that he is most certainly “not a tinfoil hat conspiratorialist,” so there. Swanson’s cohost Steve Vaughn added that Frozen character Anna considers herself to be God – not unlike Swanson and Vaughn themselves, in fact. “If God does not exist and we are ourselves God, then we make up the rules and we can let ourselves go, we can let ourselves by, we save ourselves,” said Vaughn in something that only superficially bears any resemblance to reasoning. 

Elsewhere, Swanson has criticized Taylor Swift for her support of LGBTQ rights, predicting that “God will cut her down” (the suggestion of stereotypical kindergarten bickering style is downright disconcerting). “‘You Need to Calm Down’ is the name of the song, and she’s apparently telling God to calm down about all of his ethical concerns. I don’t think it’s going to be effective, but that’s what she’s doing,” said Swanson, adding that the Equality Act, which Swift supports, is “intended to persecute Christians if they don’t want to celebrate homosexual, heathen rites and rituals.” We don’t think the title of Swift’s song was aimed at God; Swanson has a tendency to overlook the obvious in his search for a deranged pattern that simply isn’t there while screaming “found it”. Meanwhile, Katy Perry’s promotion of lesbianism will drive her fans (and herself) to suicide, the 2014 Grammy Awards were a “satanic pagan orgy and Highlights magazine is just as bad as ISIS for acknowledging that gay parents exist.

The Hunger games movies, meanwhile, are designed to prepare Americans for a new Holocaust against Christians and homeschoolers that will happen in the next few decades. Nor is Swanson a fan of “Avengers: Infinity War,” a film designed to lead viewers into polytheism. And the “feminist” movie The Last Jedi is what “movies produced by a dying civilization looks like,” said Swanson, citing its fundamental “violation of the biblical ordinance that the husband is head of the wife.” Swanson has even suggested that the Twilight Saga might turn kids into vampires, and unsurprisingly warned parents “not to give our children books that are written by homosexuals.”

Swanson is no fan of classic works of literature either. Having claimed that Mark Twain was (literally) possessed by demons (see below), his book Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West also denounces William Shakespeare for planting “seedbeds for homosexual themes and homosexual behavior” in his plays. He also rages against Nathaniel Hawthorne for his “psychotic” critique of the Puritans when he dared suggest that the Puritans weren’t particularly puritan, and refers to Shakespeare and Hawthorne, together with the rest of their “shadowy cabal”, Charles Darwin, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rosseau (“utterly ruinous”) Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Dewey, for instance, as the “Nephilim”. Meanwhile, an online ad for Swanson’s book, which was promoted by the WND, portrays Swanson in prison for quoting Leviticus – yes, it’s your idiotic myth that speaking out against the “homosexual lifestyle” will get you in jail, just because that’s what you’d like to do to anyone who disagrees with you

Demonic possession
Swanson thinks that Mark Twain was possessed by demons. Not only was Letters from the Earth one of the most acidic, horrific, evil books I think ever, ever written by any human being in the history of mankind” and obvious evidence for demon possession; also Huckleberry Finn is an “attack on the Christian church” by exposing Christian hypocrisy on issues like slavery; Twain “mocks Christianity throughout and Huckleberry Finn is an atheist himself” and “his book is extremely, powerfully, cynically against the Christian faith”, and that is because Twain was possessed by demons.

Twain was not the only one: also Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aristotle and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, were possessed. Charles Darwin was apparently not, but instead suffered from multiple forms of insanity and produced ideas that became the foundation for any ill, including Nazism, Swanson can think of (he has, however, later added Darwin to the list of people possessed by demons). Steven Spielberg and Lady Gaga, however, are definitely “possessed by Satan” or “under the sway of the devil.” Beyonce, too, is demon possessed because she created a persona named Sasha Fierce and people who do that are either demon-possessed or mentally ill and therefore demon-possessed (Fierce is probably, according to Swanson, the demon that brought the pop star into Satanism). Elsewhere Swanson has claimed that Karl Marx “was a Satanist” who has won adherents among “most of the world” and “most of the universities,” concluding, in a piece of reasoning so circular it ought to be dizzying even for people of Swanson’s caliber, that it is “interesting how the most evil people in the world who bring about the Marxist, Communist, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agendas typically revert back to the worship of Satan.” 

Demons were also behind for the push for the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay members in order to accelerate the nation’s demise – allowing gay members is just like letting serial killers teach preschool, as Swanson sees it, and he wondered when the Boy Scouts would introduce a badge for incest or even a “cannibal merit badge.”

Some demonic stuff is definitely going on at Halloween as well, with Halloween really being a way to ignore God by celebrating “the departed souls and spirits of those who had vanquished in the Flood.” Just like the real goal of the Burning Man festival is to bring back human sacrifice because Burning Man is all about “radical inclusion”, which is just another name for “radical polytheism [and] radical human sacrifice. This is what they’re headed for. They want to bring human sacrifice back.” That the demented mass of rot that is the mind of Kevin Swanson still manages to produce grammatical sentences is something of a miracle.

Swanson on American history
According to Swanson, fueled by the ideas Neo-Confederate ideologue Walter Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln introduced Marxism and Communism to America – not only as political ideologies, but as actual governmental policies that are still in force today. Yes, you read it right: The US is already a communist nation. And Lincoln used “The War Against the South” to impose socialism everywhere.

According to Swanson the abolition of slavery was only a move “from decentralized forms of fiefdom slavery to a big federal state that enslaves hundreds of millions of people unlike any time in all of human history. Thanks a lot, Karl Marx; thanks a lot, Abe Lincoln; thanks a lot, whoever you were that centralized power in Washington, D.C., and enslaved an entire nation since 1865.” Speaking of slavery, Swanson later turned to various passages in the Old Testament in which God commands soldiers to kill all the men but treat women, particularly virgins, as plunder, saying that this was not slavery but actually a good thing for women. The Canaanites, for instance: they “were extraordinarily wicked, we know that, and God wanted to wipe out all remnants of them off the earth. Part of the reason is they […] were big on abortion and homosexuality. […] That’s the way he treated the Canaanites and that’s probably what’s going to happen to America as well.” Ok, but what about women being treated as spoils of war? Well, Swanson thinks that such a fate was better than having them go on government welfare, at least! With defenders like Swanson, the Bible doesn’t need detractors, and it’s fascinating to ponder what kind of mind would come up with the kinds of ideas expressed in those statements.

As mentioned above, Swanson advocates a return to the theocratic governments of the pilgrims. His understanding of what that involves is, however, somewhat revisionist – according to Swanson, relying on his most trusted source, the pilgrims had a society “with a divorce rate of .01%, fornication rate of 1%, and a homosexuality rate of .0005%, if we’re going to have a stable society, we’re going to have to get back to biblical law.” 

Swanson’s trouble with facts and accuracy is of course not limited to history. According to Swanson, there is “almost a perfect correlation between degree of faithfulness to God’s Word and the piece of the pie they get out of the gross world product,” which is why secular Protestant nations that allow gay marriage are doing well and Italy, where “the faith has faded” is struggling. It would seem that a lot hinges on “almost” here. Here is another commentary on some current affairs.

Swanson is, of course, also a creationist, and though most of his attempted arguments of creationism consist of standard creationist PRATTs, such as Hoyle’s fallacy, he does have some novel ones, such as the claim that “punctuated equilibrium is where a prince kisses a frog” and that “Richard Dawkins isn’t a scientist,” topping it with a bit of wishful thinking: “Honest scientists are abandoning the theory left and right, because there is no evidence. They have no data.” No, Swanson has, ironically, no data to back up that assertion.

Gays and similar undesirables
Swanson has elsewhere claimed that gays love each other the way “cannibals love their victims (gay people are, in fact, exactly like both axe murderers and cannibals, so promoting [i.e. recognizing] homosexuality is just like encouraging axe murder.). God also hates men who do “the metrosexual thing with the skinny pants and the little fairy shoes” because “God ... hates it when men are not manly in their approach” and “does not want men to be androgynous and feminine like in their approach;” after all, He gave them facial hair for a reason. On the other hand, God sent AIDS as a punishment on gay people because he just loves them so very much.

Now, Swanson thinks it’s OK to attend a same-sex wedding, but only if you carry a sign calling for the couple to be put to death, like a good Christian. After all, gay marriages will inevitably also lead to laptop marriages and pet rock marriages; allowing gays to marry, in short, “drags feces” over the institution of marriage.

He blamed the Orlando shooting on gays as well, of course, citing Luke 13, where Jesus responds to a mass killing with unless you repent you will likewise perish”, adding that “humble homosexuals that fall on their faces and plead for God’s mercy as the publican did in the parable will go to heaven” and “proud gays will go to hell.” In fact, Swanson is very upset that he is not allowed to kill gay people himself anymore.

According to Swanson homosexuality has always “been important to humanism, and whenever you get a humanist, classical approach to education, you’re probably going to get the gymnasium. The gymnasiums were all built around the idea of pederasty and pedophilia. Now, I don’t want to get into a lot of the details on this, because it’s very very very gross, but they trained young boys in homosexuality. This is part and parcel of the homosexual vision, still is, by the way, to this day. This is the goal, this is where they’re headed, if you read the homosexual literature, which I encourage you not to do, but this is the direction that they’re headed. This is the goal of humanism. The goal of humanism is to make it to Sandusky. The problem is Sandusky was prosecuted and that’s an indication that we’ve got 2,000 years of Christianity, and these guys are not going to get away with it.” Yes, Swanson making things up as he goes along provides a fascinating glimpse into an utterly deranged mind.

The purpose of recognizing gay marriage is of course partially political: Democrats are deviously working to strip back” government control (an unusual accusation from this kind of source) over marijuana and homosexuality “in order to maximize the immorality of the people” and “increase the size of government;” the “Democratic vision in a nutshell,” is “to make sure everybody is committing homosexual acts and they’re high on drugs, and then they vote for Democrats to increase the size of government and provide pretend security for the people high on drugs.” To underscore his vision, Swanson predicted, in 2013, that if Colorado were to pass a bill allowing civil unions for same-sex couples, then as soon as 2022 the government will snatch kids from homeschooling families and deliver them to members of NAMBLA. You can probably all see how homosexuality “destroys nations and why it must be punished. (His predictions for 2013 also included “the Muslims and the liberal Presbyterians getting together to form Chrislam,” which might not be as big of a deal as it sounds since “chances are, at the end of the day they’re all Muslims anyway.”)

Taking a page out of Scott Lively’s writings, Swanson accused gay “fascists” of attacking the Oregon bakery in 2013, telling his audience, completely falsely of course, “that the Nazi Party had their birth at a homosexual bar in Berlin … This is what homosexuals do best and they will engage in their Pink Mafia effort to control and shut down businesses that do not cooperate with their agenda.Christians are in fact being persecuted “all over the place” these days – indeed, people in the quiverfull movement, in particular, are the most persecuted people in the history of the country – because they are not allowed to execute or even discriminate gays anymore. An obvious example: people are criticizing his own anti-gay comments, thereby persecuting him and trying to shut down Christian media. Meanwhile, schools that teach things contrary to his interpretation of the Bible should be burned to the ground and public schools are whorehouses” that are teaching kids to be transgender communists.

In 2012, Swanson defended Uganda’s draconian anti-homosexuality bills, lauding the country’s policies as a model for everyone to follow. In particular, the US should criminalize homosexuality for the sake of freedom; in particular, we should work to “impose God’s laws upon our systems, especially our political systems,” and “God’s laws require that we prosecute homosexuals who are caught in the act of homosexuality or the act of sodomy on the basis of two or three witnesses.” Criminalizing homosexuality would enable Christians to “press back the line upon those who are impressing their rights upon Christians who really need that religious freedom.” “Freedom” means whatever you want it to mean, of course. Swanson suggests waiting to introduce the death penalty (stoning, specifically) for gays until they’ve had time to repent, however. But he did add adulterers, divorcees and anyone watching porn to the list of people who should eventually be put to death.

Women and feminism
No fan of women feminism, Swanson claimed in 2016 that “feminism’s greatest victory” in the feminist movement’s war against America – a Hillary Clinton presidency – will supplant men: “If they can achieve the ultimate zenith of power, this will become the final chapter, in a sense, of the present war that feminists have waged over this nation,” said Swanson, having as usual no clue to what’s going on but plenty of rage to fuel his ignorance. (Swanson was not alone in these kinds of sentiments.) In particular, Clinton will turn a majority(!) of kids gay, and efforts backed by Clinton to improve women’s economic status will “destroy the nuclear family and society at large by convincing a woman to “divorce her husband and walk away with her own cow.” Swanson added, for good measure, that Obamacare will inevitably lead to the introduction of North Korean-style death camps to the United States. He had already in 2013 said that Obama’s re-election “solidified our doom and would encourage the election of “a bunch of softy-wofty, weeny socialists for the years to come” – and women were to blame for electing him since women tend to have “more communist” views.

Thus far, feminism has succeeded in getting women to stop loving their children; survey results on the rise of  “breadwinner moms” is evidence that “women care less about their children” than men do, and it’s all because of the “feminist zeitgeist” beating women with the message that “you do not love your children, you kill your children.”

Here is Swanson and Dave Buehner parsing the feminist movement: some feminists are “cute” (but dangerous), like Sarah Palin, some are “ugly” and will only find careers in academia and in government agencies, but all are “selfish, narcissistic, family-destroying whores” that together with “the homosexuals” are “destroying society.”

As you’d expect, Swanson has little aptitude for science (here is his interview with Ken Ham) and just as little understanding or ability to distinguish science from his own febrile imagination. According to Swanson “certain doctors and certain scientists” have researched the wombs of women on the pill and found thatthere are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb … Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.” Even his guest, fundamentalist Kevin Peeples of the anti-contraception documentary Birth Control: How Did We Get Here?, wasn’t quite ready to run with the suggestion. Swanson also said that a new strain of gonorrhea is divine punishment for sexual immorality: “God is in control and he can send a superbug to wipe out a lot of people who are engaged in this kind of sexuality and if that be the case then I guess we don’t need a political magistrate to do that work for us,” Swanson said. If you add that the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks were “a message from God, Swanson’s God doesn’t sound particularly sympathetic. 

In 2015 he issued a dire warning to his followers to refrain from eating the evil lesbian communist Girl Scout cookies, since doing so may turn your daughter into, well, a lesbian communist; accordingly, the leaders of the Girl Scouts are worthy of death. Another lesbian-recruiting cesspool is the U.S. women’s national soccer team, and Swanson was shocked when even Republican presidential candidates congratulated them on their 2015 FIFA WWC win, an occasion that, Swanson reminded us, was also “celebrated, of course, by one of the lesbian players doing her lesbian thing with her lesbian whatever.”

There is a good Kevin Swanson resource here.

Diagnosis: If you read some Kevin Swanson you’ll quickly realize what’s going on: the guy is scared witless. He genuinely, truly, thinks that God might destroy the world at any moment for any mundane reason, and is sad, confused, frightened into incoherence, and – most obviously – deeply angry about it all.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki