(Note: this is Muertos, a guest blogger on ConspiracyScience.com, email email@example.com).
The Zeitgeist Movement really
doesn't like ConspiracyScience.com. We have now been afforded official recognition by Zeitgeist Movement leader Peter J. Merola (who calls himself "Peter Joseph"), who, in a post on his forum entitled "ConspiracyScience.com: A Case Study in Intellectual Inhibition," effectively called us mentally ill. This blog is a response to his statement.
The original post is here
and was evidently written while Merola was stuck in Europe during the Iceland volcanic ash cloud incident. This will be a long post, as Merola's initial criticism was, but it's worth examining his attitudes toward this website and the people who post frequently on its forums (such as me).
"Since I have been stuck in the UK, with only so much I can do, I have been occasionally reviewing the content and social activity on a website called ConspiracyScience.com. The issue I want to address here has nothing to do with the supposed "Debunking" of my films on the website, but rather the tactics, mentality and what I can only classify as a biased based mental illness of its author, Edward L Winston, along the near pathological nature of the rather Anti-TZM community it has fostered. I feel there is a great deal to learn from it in regard to the larger social problem of culturally influenced mental illness by way of memes and the circular reinforcement (feedback loops) that results within self-isolated groups."
I like how the "debunking" of Merola's Zeitgeist
films is referred to in quotes, and just in case you didn't get the message he precedes it with the word "supposed," thus indicating that he feels Edward hasn't really refuted anything despite the fact that Merola has not, at least to my knowledge, addressed any of the issues Edward raised in his very comprehensive analysis of the Zeitgeist films
. A defense of Edward's analysis is not the point of this blog, but you can see from the length and detail of Edward's article that there's a great deal of factual material that Merola has gotten very wrong, and to date he has not retracted any of it; nor, at least to my knowledge, will he debate Edward on the factual points of his movies or even address any of these criticisms beyond hinting that nothing has really been debunked.
The real meat of this statement of course is the charge of "culturally influenced mental illness" and "biased based mental illness." I'd assume that Merola would probably say that I suffer from the same "mental illness" as Edward does, since I disagree with Merola's claims in his films and I strongly oppose the unacknowledged goal of the Zeitgeist Movement to push conspiracy theories and conspiracy ideology. According to Merola, we suffer from this illness because we are in a "self-isolated group" of crusty, disagreeable trolls whose minds are closed to anything new. In fact he goes on to use ConspiracyScience.com, its creator and its forum regulars to illustrate just how sick he believes society really is:
"1)The first we will call "Ideological Bigotry"- thus loosely defined as the dismissal/denouncing of a person, based on the mere presentation of conclusions which are outside of the other person's preferred reality. In regard to Edward L Winston and many of the people participating in his community, a very common use of the derogatory term "Conspiracy Theorist" serves as a mantra of 'presupposed rejection' regarding certain forms of information. In other words, anyone who brings up a certain 'type' of information which might be susceptible to this "taboo" category, is often reduced to a "Conspiracy Theorist". What this really is, again, is Ideological Bigotry - a form of "opinion racism" if you will. Suddenly anyone who has questions about an historical act, which is contrary to the prevailing view, and beyond some biased, subjective threshold deemed "rational"- is likely just an nutty "Conspiracy Theorist". This is a powerful tool, which has been used by political propagandists since the dawn of time."
As you can see from these statements, Merola's style of debate and argument is to re-define commonly accepted concepts into terms favorable to his point of view, and then to associate opponents with emotionally-charged negative terms such as "Bigotry" and "taboo." Here he says that we use the term "conspiracy theorist" as a derogatory shorthand for any information we don't like. The association of this concept with an ugly-sounding--but ultimately meaningless--term like "Ideological Bigotry" completes the picture of ConspiracyScience.com regulars as closed-minded troglodytes flinging baseless epithets at anyone who says anything we dislike. This is a picture commonly painted of debunkers by believers in conspiracy theories who blanch at the term "conspiracy theorist" and who are frustrated that we just don't take their theories seriously. Merola is more articulate than most conspiracy theorists but presents no more substance than they do.
Missing here, for example, is the slightest shred of appreciation of why
debunkers like me do what we do. Personally, I hate conspiracy theories because they do violence to logical thought and critical thinking and because they are corrosive to democratic ideals and reasoned political discourse. But what I call a "conspiracy theory" is far less arbitrary than Merola suggests. A "conspiracy theory" is a fantastic and irrational allegation, unsupported by empirical evidence, of wrongdoing by a cabal of powerful and evil forces. The key words in this definition are unsupported by empirical evidence
. The "9/11 was an inside job" theories are unsupported by empirical evidence. (For a specific example of a claim Merola pushes that is unsupported by empirical evidence, take for instance the assertion in Zeitgeist I
that six of the 9/11 hijackers are still alive--a ludicrous claim that crumbles when one conducts even a cursory investigation into the facts
. This is by no means the only example, but again, I don't want to rehash Edward's complete debunking in this blog). I don't reject conspiracy theories because I dislike the message or because it goes against the "official story." I reject them because they didn't happen, and because believing in 9/11 conspiracy theories--or other conspiracy theories like "the moon landings were faked," "the world is secretly run by the Illuminati" or "global warming is a hoax dreamed up by Al Gore"--is inherently irrational.
Conspiracy theorists love to denounce skeptics on the same terms Merola uses, that is, that we reject out of hand anything that does not comport with our predetermined conclusions. Most conspiracy theorists make reference to this concept by referring to non-believers in conspiracy theories as "brainwashed," "asleep" or, my personal favorite, "sheeple," meaning that we're so pacified by an officially-dominated information structure that we are incapable of seeing anything beyond it. (A similar view promoted by less experienced conspiracy theorists is that skeptics refuse to believe anything that's not on CNN or Fox News). The irony of this view is that it's an illustration in practice of exactly what Merola complains of himself! If you don't believe conspiracy theories, you are sheeple. Period. Sounds familiar, yes, Mr. Merola?
"The easiest way to stop people from investigating certain subject matters is to create fear. In a world driven by public image, many people today will not even consider alternative theories to certain events, such as 911 and like, because they simply don't want to be debased as a "Conspiracy Theorist." This is a perfect tactic of social influence. As far as Edward L Winston, I don't feel he even understands what he is doing. It is a conditioned response. I think he is genuine in his disposition. It is, again, a form of mental illness, just like a racist feels when encountering what they might consider an "inferior" race."
Here again is Merola's frame of the words "conspiracy theorist" and "conspiracy theory" as equivalent to racism and bigotry, while completely missing the substance of the debate between conspiracy theories and objective reality. Edward is evidently "conditioned" to reject conspiracy theories in the same way that racists are "conditioned" to reject people of other races. Merola is once more hammering home the message that people who disbelieve conspiracy theories conduct absolutely no substantive evaluation of the theories they are rejecting, which is above all what he wants his followers to take away from his essay. This superficial treatment is intended by Merola to communicate to his followers that anyone who disagrees with him, or disagrees with conspiracy theories, is as mindlessly reflexive in their reactions as hard-core racists are. The message to the Zeitgeisters, therefore, is: "Never mind why
people reject 9/11 conspiracy theories. Their concerns are always
baseless. They're just closed-minded fools."
This view--that skeptics of conspiracy theorists and critics of the Zeitgeist Movement never
conduct any substantive evaluation of what they're criticizing--serves to obliquely reinforce the conspiracy theorists' beliefs. By suggesting that we who disagree with Zeitgeist do so superficially and reflexively establishes the paradigm that if we did
bother to look deeper into the merits of these things, unquestionably we would be won over. This attitude is prevalent on the Zeitgeist forums where I've often seen members state with apparent confidence that no one can really have any substantive disagreement with the Venus Project or the Zeitgeist Movement, that its goals and virtue are self-evident. (Also self-evident is the supposed "greatness" and "brilliance" of Jacque Fresco. Zeitgeisters universally react with hostility whenever anyone questions what Fresco has actually done in the real world or why he is worthy of praise as some sort of visionary). Since the thesis of Merola's essay is unquestionably "those who disagree with me must have a screw loose," this conceit plays directly into the preconceived notions of the movement's superiority that Merola, above all, desires to preserve in the minds of his followers.
The problem with this view is two-fold. Obviously it's false; the creator and regulars of ConspiracyScience.com are, to the contrary, extremely
experienced in evaluating conspiracy theories from the standpoint of rational and critical thinking. Edward's debunking of Zeitgeist
is the most comprehensive you can find on the net. One of our regulars--who ironically was recently banned from the ZM forums--is a walking encyclopedia of 9/11 facts, and the totality and accuracy with which he can deflate 9/11 "controlled demolition" claims (which Merola seems to believe) is impressive. Personally, I'm pretty knowledgeable about the JFK assassination and have studied it for a long time. (I am also a former believer in a JFK assassination conspiracy, and it was precisely my interest in the supposed "facts" behind that view that led me to the realization that there is no evidence for a conspiracy). So to suggest that we immediately reject things out of hand without any critical understanding is simply laughable. Furthermore, I'm convinced Merola knows this; he's just trying to explain to his followers why comprehensive-sounding debunkings of his ridiculous films are not to be trusted.
The second problem with this view plays to a myopia virtually universal among conspiracy theorists: inability to tell credible sources from bad ones. A conspiracy theorist will stumble across a video on YouTube containing some absurd claim they've never heard before and will assume that it must
be true, or that it is at least as capable of being true as something heard from a more credible source. The most powerful conspiracy theories--such as those proferred by Alex Jones and to some extent by Merola himself--will contain within them an explanation why no "mainstream" sources back them up (naturally, because those sources are tainted by "official" bias). If you can't tell the difference between a peer-reviewed journal and something you saw on Prison Planet, naturally you wonder why people tend to believe the peer-reviewed journal and scoff at the Prison Planet video. Conspiracy theorists also tend not to realize that something they saw on YouTube this week, although it may be a new video, is probably not a new theory. Almost all of the spurious claims Merola makes in Zeitgeist I
regarding 9/11 have been around since 2002. The "bankers rule the world" conspiracy has been around for 100 years and the "Christ conspiracy" has been around longer than that. Just because it surfaces in a new form doesn't mean it's new. But to conspiracy theorists, it usually does. So a skeptic who hears the "jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel" argument in 2010 will naturally roll their eyes and say, "Not that shit again
," because he's been debunking that same claim since 2002 or 2003. Consequently, the conspiracy theorist who just heard it for the first time last week will be shocked and say, "You're just dismissing it out of hand? How do you know
it's not true?" This reinforces the view that Merola is taking of the skeptical community, that they never substantively review anything.
I will give Merola one thing: he knows very well the power and importance of words. Take for example one of the bases of "support" he uses in Zeitgeist I
for asserting similarities between Joseph and Jesus, in which the statement is made "Joseph was of 12 brothers and Jesus had 12 disciples." Makes it sound like there's a huge parallel between Joseph and Jesus, doesn't it? The way the sentence should read is, "Joseph had
11 brothers and Jesus had
12 disciples"--which is obviously a meaningless comparison. But because Merola uses "of" instead of "had," he can use the "12" figure in each side of the sentence, and thus make it look significant, as well as fit into the neat "12" meme he likes to use. He's carefully used the words to be able to fudge the whole idea and force an apparent similarity where none exists. This is one small example of how careful he is with words, so it's no accident that in his denunciation of ConspiracyScience.com he frequently uses negatively-charged words like "racist," "inferior," "Bigotry" and the like.
Merola's next statement is interesting:
"So, if a prominent physicist stands up and claims contrary evidence to the current accepted reality of a certain phenomenon in this context, they are no longer a physicist- they are just a "Conspiracy Theorist"."
He doesn't name who he's talking about here, but I'm sure he's referring to Steven E. Jones, former BYU professor who wrote a paper trumpeting that evidence of explosives was found in "spheroids" he examined supposedly from WTC debris. First, Steven E. Jones is not a prominent physicist; he was cashiered from the BYU faculty; and his findings have not been peer-reviewed, which means they aren't supported by other scientists. In fact, Jones's theory is that explosive paint--yes, that's right, explosive paint
--was applied to structural elements of the World Trade Center by persons unknown. You can read all about this "prominent physicist" and his claims here
. But I guess casting aspersions on Jones's "research" is just my "ideological bigotry" acting up again.
What is significant about Merola's invocation of Jones is that it shows that he (Merola) is still a dyed-in-the-wool 9/11 Truther. No one
outside of conspiracy theorist circles treats Jones's work as worthy of serious consideration. Why is it significant that Merola is telegraphing his continued support for 9/11 conspiracy theories? Because it indicates that he has not at all "backed away" from the conspiracy positions taken in Zeitgeist I
, as some posters on his forum seem to think. If Merola is still worshiping at the altar of Steven Jones today, in 2010, it's a strong indication that he believes the conspiracy theories associated with Jones's unsupportable position are still totally valid. This too may be a subtle cue to his supporters: "Don't worry, Zeitgeisters. I still believe in 9/11 Truth as much as you all do!" He can't say that openly so long as he's pining for some sort of mainstream support for the Zeitgeist Movement, because he knows that most people (quite rightly) shut down as soon as someone starts spewing conspiracy theories at them. But because a large amount of Merola's constituency in the Zeitgeist Movement consists of conspiracy theorists--most of whom, by Merola's own admission, were initially attracted to the movement because of the conspiracy aspects of Zeitgeist I
--he has to placate them and make sure that they stay on board.
"If people are mere "Conspiracy Theorists" since they have different conclusions than the prevailing order in regard to some events, then it is only logical that all those who denounce such ideas be labeled "Coincidence Theorists"! Obviously, that is a joke, but I hope the point is clear."
I don't know who coined the term "Coincidence Theorist," but it's been tossed around quite a lot on the ConspiracyScience.com forum, and always by conspiracy theorists. It's a joke because debunkers refer to conspiracy theorists as "CTs" and "Coincidence Theorist" results in the same acronym, but it's also largely a knee-jerk response by conspiracy theorists who usually, to one degree or another, view certain events as falling into a pattern and then cite the supposed pattern as "evidence" that certain events were staged or predetermined. Simple example: some conspiracy theorists believe that the death of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone in October 2002 in a plane crash, just days before the Congressional elections in which authorization for the Iraq war was a major issue, was some sort of sneaky assassination. This despite the absence of a single shred of evidence of foul play, but in conspiracy-land, the statistical unlikelihood of a vociferously anti-war senator dying in a plane crash days before an election in which the war is a major issue itself becomes
evidence of foul play, simply because "it's too wild to be a coincidence." This trope is used by conspiracy theorists, desperate for any epithet to use against debunkers, to paint non-believers in conspiracy theories as gullible dupes who will believe any story, however outrageous or illogical, so long as it's transmitted to them by an "official source." Ironically, it is conspiracy theorists, not debunkers, who exhibit this tendency in practice. As we see very often on ConspiracyScience.com, if a claim comes out of Alex Jones's mouth, there are a large number of people out there who assume it must be true, however outlandish.
"2) Point two worthy of noting, has to do with a very common phenomenon of "Attacking the Messenger", which is really just a variation of the aforementioned issue. Only this time it is more personal and based on finding some type of association which would serve to discredit a particular person directly. For example, I often hear: "Peter Joseph is just a a "college dropout" with "no credentials" - therefore there is no need to even regard his research in a serious way"."
In this passage Merola exhibits another extremely common trait of conspiracy theorists, that of labeling any questioning of his credibility as an "ad hominem attack" ("ad hominem" are conspiracy theorists' favorite Latin words). As a rule, conspiracy theorists are usually incapable, whether willfully or innocently, of distinguishing between a credibility issue and a personal attack. It is
entirely legitimate to question the credibility of a person presenting a particular fact, so long as the credibility question is relevant to what they're talking about. Let me illustrate:
Alex Jones: "We're going to have martial law and one world government by 2011!"
Muertos: "Alex, you predicted martial law in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and on down the line. Why should we believe that this prediction will be any more accurate than any of your others?"
Dylan Avery: "Larry Silverstein blew up WTC7."
Muertos: "Dylan, your new hairstyle is retarded."
See the difference?
Merola continually harps on the criticism he has received for being a "college dropout" or not having any credentials in sociology, economics or any of the fields he opines on. (He whines about this at length in the "Who Is Peter Joseph" video put out in February 2010). On the face of it he seems to be advancing a reasonable argument: isn't a premise valid no matter where it originates? To some extent this is true. I call this the "Hitler's Volkswagen" argument: just because the Volkswagen was originally Hitler's idea doesn't mean all Volkswagens are evil. But taken to extremes this idea would mean that the guy who's hawking a cure for cancer on the Internet should be just as worthy of your consideration for treatment as your oncologist who says you need chemo and radiation therapy. In the real world, credentials do matter; if they didn't, our society would not value experts in any field and we would all be trying to cure cancer with roots, leaves and old-wives-tale remedies. You want the person treating your cancer to know something about
cancer, don't you? Similarly, shouldn't a guy who's pushing a blueprint for the future of mankind have at least some demonstrable understanding of the past
of mankind, as well as social dynamics and economics? In seeking to demonize anyone who criticizes him Merola glosses over this point and categorically rejects the legitimacy of anyone questioning his credibility on anything. It's another easy way to paint his critics as deranged, closed-minded bigots.
"Other symptoms of what appear to be a pathological mental illness in this regard, is by creating a means which avoids having to research anything thoroughly. A statement such as 'Acharya S has been discredited by the academic community, therefore we don't have to followup on her sources.' is another variation."
This is another conspiracist attempt to deflect credibility criticism. It's closely related to the inability of conspiracy theorists to distinguish credible sources from spurious ones. Acharya S. (true name D.M. Murdock) is a pseudo-historian whose works have
been discredited by the academic community. One of her major sources is the mysterious "Madame Blavatsky," a psychic medium and well-known crystal-ball psychic of the late 19th century who was totally discredited even in her own time. Using the "Hitler's Volkswagen" argument in Acharya S.'s favor, Merola pleads for us not to reject her on that basis, while completely ignoring the question of whether Acharya S. and her source Madame Blavatsky deserve
to be taken seriously by the academic community. Indeed, in Merola's view, Acharya S.'s scholarship (much like his own) should be judged on an "innocent until proven guilty" (or, "credible until proven otherwise") standard. Academic research works on precisely the opposite principle, however. In the peer-review process, your assertions are assumed to be a pack of lies until and unless you prove that what you say has factual support. This is why graduate students have to defend their dissertations in front of a panel of their peers.
So, what would Merola have us do about Acharya S.? In his view we are not allowed to make reference to the numerous debunkings, dating from the 19th century, of Madame Blavatsky's parlor tricks involving clairvoyance, levitation, out-of-body projection and the like. No; despite the fact that Blavatsky was exposed as a fraud 120 years ago, we're supposed to accept her as a credible source, and judge Acharya S. to be a credible, reasonable and professional scholar whose theories must be accorded the status of proven fact. If we do not do that, we're projecting "Intellectual Bigotry."
In his impassioned defense of Acharya S., Merola, in his inability (or disinclination) to tell credible sources from bad ones, glosses over the fact that the reason Acharya S. never got out of the starting gate as a respected scholar is because her theories are bullshit. Let's take an opposite example: David McCullough is a respected historian. That doesn't mean he can spew any old garbage he wants and pass it off as legitimate history simply because the name "David McCullough" has academic cachet. I guarantee you that if Acharya S. submitted a paper to a peer-reviewed journal under David McCullough's name espousing the same theories she is known for, that paper would be rejected and somebody would call up poor David McCullough and ask him if he's feeling all right.
Merola, however, does not understand this, possibly because he hasn't been through the academic process and thus has no idea how it works. What he winds up doing, therefore, is fostering a sort of populist anti-intellectualism. In his world experts have no value. (Why, then, are we supposed to be impressed with Jacque Fresco?) Anyone can do brain surgery. Academics are an insular "old boys club," and academic respectability is an arbitrary thing that can be granted or withheld by the whim of an elite mob, sort of the way popularity in high school is bestowed artificially by being voted Prom Queen. Anyone with any serious understanding of academics, history or science would recognize this as the complete rubbish that it is. Why does Merola, therefore, wallow in this gutter? Because he has to convince his followers to categorically reject the views of people who tell them that he has no idea what he's talking about.
After flapping around for several paragraphs about how unfair Edward is to Acharya S., Merola finally reminds himself to get to a new point:
"3)Now, Edward L Winston aside, the final point to be made, which has been brought to my attention too many times at this stage, is the "Red Herring Angle" used by many of the members of his forum, which transfers their biases in regard to the sections on "Conspiracy" in my early film, to The Zeitgeist Movement itself, often saying something like "they are all just a bunch of conspiracy theorists at the TZM". There is no critical examination of any of my lectures, no critical examination of our 90 page Orientation Guide, etc. Nothing. It is dismissal by association in a profoundly biased way... which is yet another form of psychological denial."
This is a criticism that Zeitgeisters often use: with big wet puppy-dog eyes they plead, "Don't judge us on conspiracy theories...we really want to change the world with the Venus Project!" Again, the intent is to paint critics as unfair fanatics. By focusing on the conspiracy aspects of the movement, we are "missing the point," which is how wonderful the world could be if we remade it in Peter Merola and Jacque Fresco's image, and how we should all come together to implement this laudable goal.
This argument is totally disingenuous. In truth, conspiracy theories are the very heart and soul of the Zeitgeist Movement. I've blogged before about the primacy of conspiracy theories to the Zeitgeist Movement
. You cannot separate the goals of a movement from the major motivation that causes people to join it. Merola claims he's all about the Venus Project now, and "the sections on 'conspiracy'" [note the quotes again!] "in my early film" are no longer relevant. Yet he has admitted in his own words that Zeitgeist I
and the conspiracy aspects are "the core generator of interest--still--to this day for the movement."
By asking critics of the ZM to overlook the conspiracy aspects and focus on the Venus Project, Merola is asking us to accept that he has performed a bait-and-switch on his own members, and that they have willingly and enthusiastically accepted this deception. I have a difficult time accepting that he would do that, and judging from the comments on the ZM forums--which are rife with 9/11 Truthers and conspiracy theorists of almost every stripe--it doesn't seem that he has.
Think about it. What Merola wants you to believe is that this essential dialogue occurs between him and his members:
Merola (through Zeitgeist I
): "WOW! Look at these horrible conspiracies! Jesus is a lie! 9/11 was an inside job! Evil bankers rule the world!"
Conspiracy theorist: "AMAZING! You're totally right! You opened my eyes! What do we do about these horrible things?"
Merola: "Join the Zeitgeist Movement and implement a resource-based economy!"
Conspiracy theorist: "OK! I'm in! Wow, we're going to change the world!"
Merola: "Yes, but remember that changing the world has nothing to do with conspiracy theories. We're all about achieving a resource-based economy, and that ooky conspiracy stuff was just to get you to sign up for the movement, which has the same name as the conspiracy movie I showed you, and which I, the producer of that movie, am the leader of."
Conspiracy theorist: "OK! Great! I don't care about conspiracy theories anymore! Let's go build a resource-based economy!"
So we, the critics, are asked to believe that Merola has totally turned the tables on his own members, and that none of them care any more about conspiracies, which is the reason they joined in the first place?
Let's see how much sense this makes by transferring the same dynamic to another issue. Many people are passionate about animal rights. Let's say I make an Internet movie called Wunderkind
which is all about how puppies and kittens are being tortured in animal research facilities. If Merola is right, here's how the dialogue between me and my followers would go:
Me (through the movie Wunderkind
): "WOW! Look at all this animal cruelty! They're torturing puppies! They're clubbing seals! They're grinding up kitty cats!"
Animal rights activist: "AMAZING! You're totally right! You opened my eyes! What do we do about these horrible things?"
Me: "Join the Wunderkind Movement and institute Communism!"
Animal rights activist: "OK! I'm in! Wow, we're going to change the world!"
Me: "Yes, but remember that changing the world has nothing to do with animal cruelty. We're all about achieving Communism, and that ooky animal cruelty stuff was just to get you to sign up for the movement, which has the same name as the animal rights movie I showed you, and which I, the producer of that movie, am the leader of."
Animal rights activist: "OK! Great! I don't care about animal cruelty anymore! Let's go achieve Communism!"
This is what Merola wants you to believe goes on in the Zeitgeist Movement. Doesn't make any sense, does it?
What is truly unfortunate is that the Venus Project, an idea that originally had absolutely nothing to do with conspiracy theories, has now been hijacked by them. Honestly, I really couldn't care less about the Venus Project. I can't speak for Edward, but I certainly have no plans to conduct a "critical examination" of the 90-page "Orientation Guide." Even if it's 100% true, I just don't care about it. Merola pleading with me that he be judged on the content of his lectures or his "Orientation Guide" cannot excuse the fact that he is still pushing totally baseless conspiracy theories. That is unacceptable. If the Dalai Lama came to me preaching an unimpeachable message of peace and love, but also added that he thought 9/11 was an inside job, I would still denounce him as a conspiracy theorist and debunk his theory. That's what we do here at ConspiracyScience.com. We're not out there building bubble cities or programming computers to rule the world. We debunk conspiracy theories. If you want to avoid criticism for pushing conspiracy theories, what you have to do is very simple. Denounce them unequivocally. Disown the Zeitgeist
films and change the name of the movement, and get Merola to call a press conference in which he oozes contrition about how sorry he is that he misled millions of people with his conspiracy movies. Think that's going to happen? Not on your life. Why? Because half (or more) of his movement would desert him instantly, and the conspiracy theorists would accuse him of selling out or (God forbid!) being "brainwashed."
Merola's argument--that we're focusing on the wrong thing--combined with his unwillingness to distance himself from the conspiracy aspects of his movement indicates a disturbing point of view on his part. He seems to think that pushing conspiracy theories is perfectly OK and acceptable if you're doing it as part of a "good cause." This seems to be an "ends justifies the means" approach, which frankly bothers me, and which is evident in a lot of Merola's public statements (and non-statements). Despite his films being repeatedly debunked, he refuses to retract any of the factual errors in them more consequential than a typo. That must be because he either believes his own factually faulty propaganda--which is, frankly, not a hopeful sign in the leader of a social movement--or that he thinks pushing factually spurious information is perfectly acceptable if it's done in the service of a positive goal. Whichever one it is, his trustworthiness as the messenger of a bold new day for humanity is seriously compromised.
Moving toward the end of Merola's statement:
"Once again, please note that this isnt as much about the published content of the site itself and its direct attacks towards me and TZM... My concern here is really the cultural phenomenon of "mind lock" and the large scale mental illness which continues to stifle new information and hence intellectual growth. It is really quiet scary when you think about it, and it goes to show what an uphill battle something like The Zeitgeist Movement has to contend with."
So, there you have it. If you disagree with the Zeitgeist Movement, you are suffering from "large-scale mental illness." If you disagree with Peter Merola, you ought to have your head examined. And precisely what credentials does Merola have to diagnose anyone with mental illness anyway? Oh, yeah. Sorry, I forgot the "Hitler's Volkswagen" argument.
"In the end, the merit of any idea should be based on the evidence available, scientifically analyzed in an objective way... not dismissed/clouded because the idea is contrary to the traditional, prevailing world views and values. If no one ever challenged anything the established orders decreed as the sole truth, people would still believe the world was flat."
This is merely a rehash of conspiracy theorists' "sheeple" argument spiced up with a lot of pseudo-sociological words. This offhanded comment also demonstrates Merola's ignorance of epistemology: even in the Middle Ages not very many people really believed the world was flat. But even assuming they did, it's another argument conspiracy theorists love to make: that anyone who rejects their baseless claims is being as willfully obstinate and closed-minded as the apocryphal Renaissance geographers who sneered at Columbus's idea that the world was round, despite demonstrable scientific and geographic evidence that it is. Merola here again ignores the issue of factual support
. By casting skeptics of conspiracy theories as flat-Earthers he wants you to assume that all
the facts are on their side and it's just "Intellectual Bigotry" that prevents us from considering them. In fact it is conspiracy theories that suffer from a total lack of evidentiary support. But that doesn't seem to matter to Peter Merola.
"The "Intellectual Inhibition" occurring in society is likely the number one barrier we have in presenting our case for RBE. Human beings are not rational, sadly, so I hope everyone understands what we mean when we say that education is the number one priority."
In this closing statement Merola draws a picture of the world that is carefully designed both to frighten his followers and to play into the chief conceit of conspiracy theorists: that they are privy to "secret truths" that no one else can or will see, and that they alone hold the key to the salvation of mankind. See, look how badly the deck is stacked against you brave Zeitgeisters! By connecting ConspiracyScience.com to what Merola characterizes as the larger problem of society, he also conveniently establishes an "us vs. them" mentality. Society is wrong; the Zeitgeist Movement is right. Those who disagree are mentally ill; those who agree are healthy and well-adjusted. Edward Winston is evil; Peter Joseph is good. This bunker mentality never bodes well for social movements, and it won't for this one.
Ultimately, that's what this is about: bunker mentality. ConspiracyScience.com gets a tiny fraction of the page views that Zeitgeist-related websites get every day. Being "sheeple," we debunkers aren't likely to convince many of the conspiracy theorists in the Zeitgeist Movement that what they believe in is without any factual support; many think we're disinformation, COINTELPRO or Illuminati shills, or at the very least a bunch of deranged crazies who dance around bonfires at midnight and gleefully plunge pins into voodoo dolls of Peter Merola and Jacque Fresco. To the extent it is comforting to Zeitgeisters reading this article, we probably won't have much effect on the Zeitgeist Movement as a whole, though we do feel it is important to at least cast a critical eye on what that movement stands for and the factual inaccuracies of the movies that spawned it, so people who may not have heard of the movement will at least bring up a couple of hits on Google that present the facts as opposed to Merola's glossy spin. And, contrary to what people may think, I have no fear that if Edward's site didn't exist or if I wasn't a debunker, the Zeitgeist Movement would take the world by storm and gain some sort of critical mass. It won't. I'm not that important, and neither is Edward. The Zeitgeist Movement will collapse of its own accord without any help from its critics. Merola could have just ignored Edward's site (the way Alex Jones does) and carried on as normal; it's doubtful he would have lost many followers. We criticize Alex Jones all the time. He doesn't pay any attention. One time a caller to his show mentioned this site, and Jones shut him down immediately; it just wasn't worth his time. Why, then, does Merola care?
I think the reason that Merola has focused on ConspiracyScience.com as a threat is because it benefits his movement to have an external enemy on which to focus their criticism and galvanize action. It's easy to have an external enemy, and it fosters internal cohesion because it reinforces what the members of the movement want to believe. Don't question Merola or the Venus Project or a resource-based economy. It's their
fault, those Intellectual Bigots over at ConspiracyScience! They
want us to believe that Jesus existed, that Osama did 9/11 and that the evil bankers are your friends! Now let's go build a resource based economy!
Good luck with that, Peter and Jacque.