The invention of the printing press didn’t bring about the expected scientific revolution. The first best seller was a DIY guide to tracking down and burning witches. They burnt in their swathes. With the development of web publishing and open source tools like WordPress that promised to democratise publishing, and free social networks we have more information than ever. So, why are we experiencing a de-evolution of humanity? Is it the fault of Goebbels, The Disinformation Dozen, false guru’s ‘just asking questions’, or the fact that we don’t have proper tools to handle this disinformation and misinformation?
The Malleus Maleficarum which is translated as ‘Hammer of witches’ was able to spread throughout Europe rapidly in the late 15th century due to the innovation of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. The invention of printing instigated the fervor of witch hunting, and, in the words of Russell, “the swift propagation of the witch hysteria by the press was the first evidence that Gutenberg had not liberated man from original sin.”
The invention of the printing press
The invention of the printing press did not bring about the expected scientific revolution and renaissance we expected. ‘Hammer of witches’, was the no.1 best seller of the Gutenberg press era. A DIY guide to the tracking, torture and execution of witches.
Now surely this would give cause for us hippies to worry? Especially as we are once again in a golden age of information. I do feel we have to be concerned. I think we have too much information, and not enough truth.
Since 2004, I have been a big fan of WordPress. WordPress started in 2003 when Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg created a fork of b2/cafelog. The need for an elegant, well-architected personal publishing system was clear even then. Today, WordPress powers over 42% of all sites across the web.
The mission of WordPress is to Democratize Publishing. The freedom to build. The freedom to change. The freedom to share. I went to the second ever WordCamp in Cardiff in 2009. I was a member of the WordPress Accessibility Team and was on a panel on Accessibility at WordCamp London in 2016.
I started WordPress Bournemouth Meetup group in 2015. We now have 564 members. So I am a big fan of WordPress. And this blog is built on the software. So with the advent of blogging with powerful tools like WordPress and the growth of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, you’d think we would all be better informed, wouldn’t you?
The de-evolution of humanity
But we are seeing the opposite of knowledge. In September 2021, Idaho’s largest hospital CEO Chris Roth said we are experiencing the “de-evolution of humanity”, about Covid denial. His hospital has run out of beds and are treating people on stretchers. 58 of its 71 ICU patients had COVID-19.
In fact it has been called a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated. Even though 6 billion doses of the vaccines have been administered across the world, there are still people who are in Covid denial, are vaccine hesitant or full-on anti-vaxx.
The Pope said Vaccination is an Act of Love, HH The Dalai Lama said ‘take this injection, this is very, very good.’ The world’s most powerful people with the best doctors and medical advice, have all had the vaccine. From Trump to Biden, from The Queen to Elton John, from Bill Gates to Rupert Murdoch, from Putin to Obama, they are all vaccinated. Every single one of the ‘Global Elite’ are vaccinated.
But others choose to get their medical advice from some fruit loop on TikTok or YouTube.
Say hello to the Disinformation Dozen
The problem is there is so much disinformation. That is information, deliberately twisted to deceive. For whatever reason. Misinformation is information spread because people thought it were true, but they were mistaken. The Anti-Vax Conspiracy gives you a good understanding of where this anti-vaccine nonsense has arisen.
Much of the Covid-19 anti-vaccine disinformation comes from 12 sources, known as the Disinformation Dozen. (PDF)
The world’s most murderous tyrant, is not Adolf Hitler. Hitler is in a lowly 3rd place, murdering 12 million people. In 2nd place, we have Leopold II of Belgium who murdered 15 million people. But Mao Zedong aka Chairman Mao, is the tyrant’s tyrant. He killed 8x more people than Hitler.
The Chinese leader was so horrible, researchers say he may have killed 100 million people. Yet because of censorship, he is still celebrated as a hero in China today. That is the power of propaganda. That is the power of lies.
Hitler knew the power of propaganda
Dr. Joseph Goebbels, beside being an intriguing character, was the Propaganda Minister for Hitler’s Third Reich. He was a master of propaganda.
Goebbels & Hitler’s Basic Principles of Propaganda
These principles are abstracted from Jowett & O’Donnell.
- Avoid abstract ideas – appeal to the emotions.
- Constantly repeat just a few ideas. Use stereotyped phrases.
- Give only one side of the argument.
- Continuously criticize your opponents.
- Pick out one special “enemy” for special vilification.
The Power of the lie
You don’t need the truth for power. Power is based on making a lot of people believe the same story. The truth normally gets in the way. A hallmark of conspiracy theories are they are simple. The truth is often painful and complicated. Our brains didn’t evolve to understand difficult things. Makes you feel smart. I understand what is happening in the world.
Stories control society
Stories are the basis of society. Things like religion, money, nations, corporations – these are all stories according to historian Yuval Noah Harari. These fictions control and dictate our lives.
Information is not truth. Conspiracy theories are information.
The Nazi/QAnon Conspiracy Theory
Doesn’t this sound like QAnon to you? Yes, it is the same story
Why do we believe lies?
After the podcast, Yuval sent them a brilliant follow-up note about the relationship between lies and conspiracy theories.
When speaking about conspiracy theories, it is vital to distinguish lies from fictions. When you lie, your intention is to deceive. But fictions are often spread in good faith. Suppose you see a Youtube video explaining that Bill Gates created the coronavirus in a secret laboratory in order to take over the world, and you then forward this video to all your friends and relatives. The people who created the video in the first place might have deceived you intentionally. But you send the video to your friends and relatives because you sincerely believe it. You are not trying to deceive anyone.
It is vital to make this distinction, because otherwise we cannot understand the popularity of conspiracy theories, nor can we combat them effectively. If you tell people who believe in some conspiracy theory that they are lying, it will only anger them and for a good reason. They may not know much about viruses, but they do know what’s going on in their own minds, and they know for a fact that they are not lying — they have no malicious intent of deceiving anyone.
Quite often, even the leaders who create the conspiracy theory really believe in it. A case in point is Nazism. When we think “conspiracy theories” we usually think small — things like “who murdered JFK?” or “who was behind 9/11?”. But Nazism too was basically a conspiracy theory about a cabal of Jewish financiers that rule the world behind the scenes and orchestrated Germany’s defeat in the First World War. This particular conspiracy theory has earned the more respectful name of “ideology”, because it has managed to take over an entire country and launch the worst war in history. But it was still a conspiracy theory.
In the case of Nazism, all the evidence indicates that even Hitler and most of the Nazi leadership sincerely believed in the conspiracy theory. They were of course happy to lie about many other things, but they honestly believed in the core tenets of Nazism. It is important to acknowledge this, because dealing with fanatics who sincerely believe in a ludicrous story requires very different methods than dealing with cynics who deliberately deceive their followers.Yuval Noah Harari
Never underestimate human stupidity
Nicki Minaj made the headlines when she Tweeted to her 22.6 million followers, a Covid untruth. Never mind the bollocks, here’s Nicki Minaj are my thoughts on this. But then you have Milton Keynes undertakers telling lies. Are they just delusional? But even sensational untruths like what Minaj said, can be very damaging.
There is no such thing as “Plandemic” or “Convid”
I have proof that there is no such a thing as “Plandemic” or “Convid”. If this was really some kind of state-lead con:
Where is the ‘report people that are exposing our evil plan’ button?
Where is the government or worldwide report fake news URL?
There is no such mechanism.
You and I might have differing views on Covid. Which is fine. But what I don’t find acceptable is people sharing stuff which is so far out there, that it is obvious it is a lie or just delusional.
A friend of a friend shared a link to a video on Facebook. It is a 38 minute long video made by John O’Looney, a Milton Keynes, UK funeral director. In it, he says:
- *false* The NHS are murdering patients. *false*
- *false* They are sterilising children. *false*
- *false* They are building massive Nazi style death camps to exterminate the unvaccinated. *false*
He says much much more including *false* he knew all about Covid in November 2019, when they were putting pop-up wards in hospitals. *false* I could go on.
It has been viewed 15k times on this one platform, but it is widely shared on other platforms too, so it could have been potentially viewed by 100s of thousands of people.
I reported this to a local paper to this guy and to 2 disinformation journalists from the BBC. I have had no reply. Which is surprising when O’Looney was featured on the BBC website in April 2020
Before you share anything of this sort of nature, and especially which accuses people, who are right now trying to save unvaccinated and vaccinated lives – shame on you.
These lies are harming people. You might be pro-vaxx or anti-vaxx, doesn’t matter, we all want the truth. So please stamp out disinformation and claims made by all sides of this argument, whenever you see it.
Follow the money
Follow the money is the buzz phrase of our crazy times. But just how much money has Jesus wannabe Russell Brand made by criticising the FDA, Dr Fauci, Bill Gates, ‘Big Pharma’ etc during the pandemic?
I bet his subscriber count has gone right up. He is not a professional, trained journalist. His attacks are completely one sided. They are sowing seeds of distrust in the vaccine hesitant. That is not cool. Not very fucking Buddhist. Not very fucking spiritual. Not very fucking Christian.
I have seen Brand stay silent when Vandana Shiva ridicules Gates’ How to Avoid a Climate Disaster book when the book suggests that the methane from cows is something that needs addressing to help with climate change. This is common knowledge, any vegan will know this. Gates didn’t invent this theory. Shiva is calling Gates ridiculous. But she is just wrong:
“Cattle are the No. 1 agricultural source of greenhouse gases worldwide. Each year, a single cow will belch about 220 pounds of methane. Methane from cattle is shorter lived than carbon dioxide but 28 times more potent in warming the atmosphere, said Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist in the Department of Animal Science.”UCDavis
Russell Brand aids her rubbish Gates book. Which I think is a very good book, and one which addresses many issues about climate change, which I hadn’t considered. I recommend it. I also recommend Numbers don’t lie, which is Gates’ favourite book.
Russell is ‘just asking questions’, and ‘I’m not saying there is a conspiracy but, isn’t it interesting that…’
Gates has been a popular subject for Brand during the pandemic. Why hasn’t he focused on Bezos? Gates has paid more tax than anyone on the planet. His charity is estimated to have saved 122 million kids lives. What has Brand done? How many lives has he saved?
How many people is Brand putting at risk now by sewing seeds of doubt with his followers, during a medical emergency?
Russell can be very entertaining. And likeable. But I don’t think it is enough to say, “of course I am not a medical expert”.
To not even say that Nicki Minaj was lying when he did a show on her recently was just wrong imo. He suggests it was an attack on ‘freedom of speech’. She fucking lied in my non-medical expert opinion. Brand is not stupid, he knows that too.
I have never once heard him say get vaccinated. The Dalai Lama and the Pope both say, it is an act of love to get vaccinated. Why doesn’t plastic Jesus say that? Is it because he is making too much money keeping shtum?
Is Russell Brand the reincarnation of Joseph Goebbels?
When you look at what he’s producing, you could say that Brand is sticking to Goebbels playbook:
Stick to comedy Russell, please. I see a lot of resemblance with fellow ’spiritual comedian’ J.P. Sears, again, I used to love his comedy work, but he seems to have slipped into the dark side. He know supports prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Do we need a Minister for Disinformation?
We have to learn ways of sifting these dangerous lies from the truth. Which highlights dangers of repression, as China has shown, we need to be very careful of state-sponsored censorship.
But as we face the biggest fight of our life, the climate change crisis. We need to find ways of stopping those climate change deniers slow or even reverse our work to save the world. The Amazon is burning. We don’t need any more ‘gurus’ like Brand or Hitler. We need gurus for a post-pandemic world.
We don’t need anyone to stoke the fires with misinformation and disinformation. We need to be able to stop the lies quickly in their tracks. We need better tools to fight the lies.