Saturday, 30 October 2010

Crackpot conspiracy theories

I've been having a discussion with a friend on Facebook about a status post he, and other friends of mine, have recently posted.

In a nutshell, the post criticises the UK government for sending £60 million in aid to Pakistan, to help in dealing with the flooding there. It contrasts this with the fact that British soldiers are dying in Afghanistan, apparently from having incorrect equipment.

I checked out some facts and lo and behold, the UK defence budget for 2009 was £36 billion, compared to which £60 million is a drop in the ocean. The tone of the post is disturbingly xenophobic, and I took my friend to task for posting casually racist nonsense to his profile, when I know perfectly well he's not like that at all.

Further on in the conversation, he clarified his views, expounding a number of what I consider to be crackpot ideas, such as "religion destroys spirituality, doctors destroy health, universities destroy knowledge", all apparently in the name of open-mindedness. He even directed me to a video called "The Obama Deception", made by a guy called Alex Jones, which put forward the theory that Obama is a puppet of the New World Order, a secret cabal of super rich banking types who want to take over the world by stealth.

It's one thing to be skeptical, but it's quite another to be so open to alternative views that you get swamped by bullshit. By all means keep an open mind, and listen to a variety of news sources, but there's a point in all areas of debate where you have to say, "this is crap".

I hope my friend will, in time, modify his views a little and become a little more skeptical, in the rational, reason-based sense. At the very least, I anticipate some interesting arguments.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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