Mick West (@mickwest) is a co-founder and former technical director of Neversoft Entertainment, coder, pilot, Metabunk and Contrail Science founder, and author of Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect.
What We Discuss with Mick West:
- Why people believe — and want to believe — conspiracy theories.
- The types of bias and bad thinking that allow conspiracy theories to take root and thrive.
- Who really benefits from propagating conspiracy theories and what they have to gain.
- Ways in which we can help people discover bad thinking patterns in themselves and others.
- How to help our friends and family escape the conspiracy theory rabbit hole.
- And much more…
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To counterbalance all the confabulation, disinformation, falsehoods, and just plain fibbing remorselessly passed around on the Internet and accepted as fact these days, part of this show’s mission is to MAKE AMERICAN THINK AGAIN (MATA). We want to debunk not only established conspiracy theories, but shine a light on the bad thinking that allows conspiracies — and scams — to develop and flourish in the first place.
On this episode, we enlist the help of Mick West, himself no stranger to locking horns with conspiracy theorists as the creator of debunking websites Contrail Science and Metabunk, and author of Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect. Flat Earthers, 9/11 “truthers,” and chemtrail believers hate this guy in spite of his efforts to patiently set them straight, so he must be doing something right. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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THANKS, MICK WEST!
If you enjoyed this session with Mick West, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect by Mick West
- Contrail Science
- Mick West | Website
- Mick West | Twitter
Transcript for Mick West | How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories (Episode 363)
Mick West: [00:00:00] Essentially, everything is fake. A lot of what we see around us is illusory. That it is being controlled by beings from other worlds or other, not necessarily dimensions, but maybe other planets, but yes, sometimes other dimensions and that some of these are shape-shifting reptiles.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:19] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most brilliant people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. We want you to become a better thinker, especially a better critical thinker. And if you're new to the show, we've got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you're smart and you like to learn and improve, you're going to be right at home here with us.
[00:00:56] Lately, I've been researching certain guests and I've really started to get more exposed to conspiracy theories and bad thinking. This is running rampant, especially on YouTube lately. As part of this show's mission to make America think again, I wanted to debunk not only conspiracy theories but conspiracy thinking and other types of bad thinking in general. To that end, I've enlisted the help of my friend, Mick West. Flat Earth people and chemtrails people and lizard people and 5G haters and corona hoaxers, they hate him. So obviously, he's doing something right. Today, we'll uncover why people believe and want to believe conspiracy theories, as well as the types of bias and bad thinking involved. We'll also explore ways in which we can help people discover bad thinking patterns and even help our friends and family, and maybe even ourselves, escape the conspiracy theory rabbit hole.
[00:01:47] If you want to know how I managed to book all of these great guests, it's always been about my network. Check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. It's always free. It's not enter-your-credit-card free. It's just free-free, the original kind of free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribed to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now, here's Mick West.
[00:02:15] Well, first of all, thanks for doing the show. I appreciate that.
Mick West: [00:02:17] Oh, you're welcome. It's great to be here now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:19] I don't really spend any time arguing against conspiracy theories because it's a waste of time generally, in my opinion. And I know obviously, you disagree with that because your whole thing is debunking conspiracy theories, but I'm not here to crap on your hobby. What I mean by that is for me, arguing against somebody that I don't know and will never meet in real life seems like a waste of time, but also not arguing against these theories gives people who believe them, some kind of fuel. Because people will email me and go, "You know, I haven't heard you talk about this, but I suspect that you believe in Flat Earth," and I'm like, "What on earth would make you think that I am so pro-science." Or, you know, "Something tells me that you are smart enough to not get your new kid," I just had a kid a few months ago, "To get your kid vaccinated." And I'm like, "No, what are you talking about?" You know, because they think Bill Gates is going to inject us all with nano-microchips and tracker movements or something like that. I'm going crazy. So I think it is worth using this platform to argue against this kind of ridiculousness and this false belief. Because it actually does cause harm to people and groups and families. Whereas before I just thought, "So what? This guy smokes too much weed. He believes in dumb things. Let's move on." But now when you look at anti-vaccine you see people lighting 5G towers on fire, I'm like, "Okay, this is no longer just idiots on the Internet."
Mick West: [00:03:40] Yeah, definitely. It does cause harm. And I think the area where it does cause the most harm is where you pointed out the health areas, the anti-vax stuff definitely and things like people being afraid of 5G. You think it wasn't really a big issue. It's kind of like a calm thing where they tried to sell you things to shield your phone from your brain and things like that, which aren't really necessary. So it's a little bit of a waste of money, but it's not really a big health issue. But then when it comes to things like burning down towers, it becomes like an actual significant issue. When people start to make significant life decisions based on that conspiracy theory is where it becomes a problem.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:14] Yeah. I mean, look, I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for people. So if you go up and you'd light a 5G tower on fire -- don't get me wrong. You're an arsonist and you're probably going to go to prison if they catch you. But there's also a piece of me that goes, "Yeah, but this guy didn't believe that before. And he might have been the type of person that was probably not normal and obviously has some level of sort of possible mental illness, but they were also led by the nose to take this kind of action." This person could have done something else bad, or they could have just been a regular person, but instead, they were led by the nose to do something illegal and dangerous that landed them in prison.
Mick West: [00:04:53] I don't think it's necessarily someone who's an evil or a violent person who does these things. Pretty much anybody can fall for these theories. Pretty much anybody can start watching a YouTube video. And because a lot of these YouTube videos are very, very compelling, then they get sucked into it and they start believing one thing and then they start believing another thing. It becomes very understandable that they would believe these things. They're not necessarily stupid people either. You can get quite intelligent people who fall for these things. You see a lot of people, celebrities, for example, who aren't necessarily that intelligent, but they know about the world and they fall for some of the more ridiculous things out there. So it's not just stupid people. It's not mentally ill people. It's just regular people who have just kind of got sucked down a rabbit hole.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:37] Why -- this is a loaded question. I mean, we don't have this kind of time -- but in general, why do people believe these kinds of crazy things in the first place? I know that there's patternicity. Humans look for patterns and things that aren't there because it's like a survival instinct. Can you explain some of that and what else might actually be going on with this?
Mick West: [00:05:55] Well, it plays into human biases that everybody has. The people who believe in conspiracy theories -- when you test them on various psychological scales, they will test a bit higher on average, on certain things. Like there's a metric called the need for uniqueness which measures, like how much people enjoy or seek out feeling unique and feeling different from other people. And when you believe in a conspiracy theory, that kind of satisfies that need in you, you feel special, you feel unique. You feel like, you know, something that other people don't know. But this need for uniqueness, it isn't that much higher amongst conspiracy theories. On average, it's about something like five to 10 percent higher, which isn't like a huge amount. And everyone has a need for uniqueness. You could argue that people who put up podcasts have a need for uniqueness. Like you and I, we get some kind of enjoyment out of putting our opinions out there and being the person who's putting a podcast out there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:57] I get that. Like, I get that at a visceral level where I'm like, oh, if I get news, hopefully, real news, I want to share it and be like -- I want to break it to my friends and be like, "Hey, check this out." I mean, I was predicting coronavirus stuff because I take Chinese lessons every morning and they had it there first. So I had sort of like boots on the ground if you will, in places where they were on lockdown. And I thought, "Oh my gosh, you know, I bet Americans aren't really paying attention to this. And I bet it's going to come here cause you can't contain a disease." I mean, we saw that with SARS and this is much worse. So I was telling everybody and there were actually quite a lot of people that thought, "Hey, Jordan, normally you're a pretty rational guy, but it's a little out there. You think we're going to be on lockdown." And then a month later they were like, "Oh my God, you were right." And I was like -- even I was surprised by that though. I honestly was a little surprised at how bad it got. But I get wanting to have insight info and I think some of this creeps in -- there's like a spectrum of this. Some of it is, "I want to be the guy who breaks the news because it raises my social status in some way to know something."
[00:07:59] But then when you look at conspiracy stuff, it kind of speaks to a lack of control over your life where everything else is going wrong, but you're like, you're the person who understands that JFK was an inside job and that Roswell has aliens.
Mick West: [00:08:12] Yeah, the need for control. Like, the need for controlling cognitive dissonance in your brain is just this natural thing. Things like 9/11. When 9/11 happened, in a lot of people's minds, there was this kind of cognitive dissonance between what they saw -- the collapses of the towers --and the idea that it was orchestrated by what they described as like Arabs in caves. And they think like there's no way that these guys could have beaten the entire US Military and got past everybody and destroyed them in this way. So they tried to think of a way that fits their worldview a bit better. What is a more commensurate explanation for these events that fits what I feel about the world? And if they feel the world is being controlled by some kind of intellectual elite who is pulling the strings everywhere. Then it just makes a lot more sense if they tried to create an explanation that fits that worldview. And so they come up with these outlandish ideas that the towers were bought down by replanted controlled demolitions. And some of them even think that the TV footage was fake because they think everything is fake. But from their perspective, It makes a lot more sense than the alternative. It may seem ridiculous to everybody else, but from their perspective, it makes perfect sense. And what we believe, they were actually hijackers who flew into the planes and there was a fire and then the building collapsed. They believe that's to be outlandish and unbelievable, and they can't understand why we believe what we say we believe. That's why you get these people telling you, "Oh, I think you secretly believe X, Y, or Z. You secretly believe that vaccines are harmful." Because from that perspective, it's the most natural thing in the world because they think that's how the world actually is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:49] I kind of understand that line of thought to where they go. Look, you're telling me that these guys who were like uneducated weirdos, who went to Germany and learned how to fly at some commercial flight school for 600 bucks a month or whatever the hell the tuition was. And then got on the plane with box cutters that any kid can get at the drugstore or any hardware store. Took over these airplanes, nobody fought back on these airplanes. And then they flew the airplane into the building and the building collapsed, and the economy crashed. And then we went to work. It doesn't make sense. It has to be at the very least, this has to be like Russian Special Forces and False Flag attack because otherwise, it means our security is pretty weak that people went along with this weird plan that shouldn't have worked. And then planes that are aluminum could fly into a building, which we think are like these impenetrable forces of concrete and steel that this device that are flying around in the sky all the time can take down this massive monument. That's almost too scary and too simplistic. So I've got to make up some insane crackpot thing. That level of complexity that I made up in my head is at the same level of complexity, I would like to believe is required to do this amount of harm.
Mick West: [00:11:02] Yeah. The list of stuff you just reeled off there is kind of where the debunking comes in. Each of the objections that you raised there, things like the aluminum flying into the building and the building is made of steel is much stronger, things like that. So the difficulty of flying a plane, or why people didn't fight back, or how could they do it with just box cutters? All of these things are in some ways like misleading information that become part of this methodology that people believe about what happened.
[00:11:31] Like the box cutters, for example. Yeah, some of them had box cutters, but some of them actually had folding dives. I've got a knife that I carry around like this. And they had a knife -- I know you can't see it on the podcast -- but I'm holding up a knife with, I think, it's a three-inch blade, which is an extremely dangerous-looking knife, if it's not just a box cutter. And knives like these were used by the hijackers and we have the receipts of them buying them at stores. And I think we even found one of them or something like that in the luggage that they left. So they actually have these knives beyond box cutters. People did fight back in the planes, once they realized what was going on. The frame of reference is completely different. We expect people to fight back because we think they're going to fly the planes into buildings. But back then every single hijack that went on pretty much ended with them taking the plane somewhere and landing safely. And if you were fighting with people in the cockpit, you're probably going to crash the plane. So people didn't do that.
[00:12:25] All of these things have answers and you can't throw out all the answers there. That's not going to work. And you've probably tried talking to someone and something comes up, you explain it, something else comes up, you explain this. And then they carry on. They're completely unconvinced. But over time, if you're careful about the way you discuss these things, these actual facts with people, it does actually make a difference. And you can actually convince people. You can actually change people's minds and getting them to think, but it takes a long time, but it is possible.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:56] I do see you do a lot of backyard -- is it backyard physics? Is that a fair thing to say? Like backyard --
Mick West: [00:13:01] Yeah. Backyard experiment is one of the more fun parts of what I do. Yeah, I do things like -- I actually built, not the scale model, but a model of the World Trade Center floor system to try to explain why it collapsed. It took me a long time to do it, but it was kind of fun to do. So I had to go to Home Depot and I bought some bits of wood and some connectors. And then I would build something and I dropped things on it to see what happened. But yeah, it's fun to do. And I get to do things like make thermites and burn thermites to see what effects it has on various things because thermite is one of the things that people propose as being a cause of the collapse of the World Trade Center, pre-planted thermite in the tower. So I do things like that. Try to recreate UFO videos. It's fun stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:47] Yeah. I mean, you're making, ironically you making thermite and making scale models of the World Trade Center is probably attracting some unwanted attention but -- like FBI has entered the chat.
Mick West: [00:13:59] Yeah. And it's entirely possible but I would imagine that they've checked out my YouTube channel and they've realized I'm just some guy who's a debunker and no ill-intent.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:10] Yeah. Yeah. I think by now you've probably gotten past the checkpoint here. There was a ping pong ball blasting through a racket where they show -- this was the experiment -- did you do this or was this just a video that was on the Internet that you did? Or that you had?
Mick West: [00:14:22] I didn't do it, but it's actually one of the things that I wanted to do. It's a very fun experiment. It's not too hard to do. There's a version of it where you just need a good pump and you basically seal off a tube at both ends with some foil. And then you pump the air out a bit. You have a ping pong ball in one end and then you just pop the tube at one end. And because it's a vacuum in the tube, the air rushes in one end and it pushes the ping pong ball really, really fast. Accelerates it up to something quite fast, like 300, 400 miles per hour. And if you stick something at the other side of it, at the other end of the tube, the ping pong ball will smash through that thing. And people do this experiment with soda cans. If you get a good enough set up, you can do it with a ping pong paddle. And this is a great example that I always like to give to people who say that the plane shouldn't have been able to go through the building because the building is stronger. Well, a ping pong paddle is thick, multiple layers of wood and rubber, way stronger than a flimsy little ping pong ball. And yet, if it's going fast enough, a ping pong ball will go through a ping pong paddle. It's just a lovely little experiment to show to people. And I definitely want to give it a go sometime.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:25] That makes sense. You even hear about clouds of gas that come out of rifles, killing people that are nearby because this shockwave alone is enough and you're not even getting hit by a projectile. So if you get hit by a projectile, whether it's a flimsy little ping pong ball at 600 miles an hour, it's going to blast through whatever surfaces there. So I think that should be apparent to a lot of people who've done any physics or any experiments or who learned physics in high school or college, but I can also see that some people would go, "No way. A plane is mostly air. There's no way it can hit this really strong building." And I think we just don't necessarily realize the combination of things. But 9/11 aside, there's no ping pong conspiracy. So I think a lot of people are probably trying to shoot holes in that whenever you do that.
[00:16:08] Back to why people believe these crazy things in the first place. I'd love to outline some common conspiracy theories because some of these are just ridiculous. Well, they're all kind of ridiculous, but some are more ridiculous than others, like chemtrails and things like that. Can we talk about that? That's one of the more -- you said these are the training wheels for conspiracy theorists, which I think is kind of funny.
Mick West: [00:16:29] Yeah. Chemtrail is sometimes the first big conspiracy theory that people hear of beyond the historical things like JFK. And the chemtrail thing is the idea that when you see planes leaving lines in the sky, that there is some kind of secret government spraying plot. And usually, the idea is that they're trying to change the weather or change the climate that's with these spraying things behind planes. And really what people are seeing are just regular contrails, which are condensation trails. And you would think it would be fairly easy to explain these to people because the science of things like contrails and clouds is fairly well understood. So you think you'd be able to just write up the explanation and then that will be it. And that was actually what I thought when I started my first blog on contrails. Oh, I don't know, it's like, well, over 10 years ago now. I thought I would just do a few little posts, explaining the science of things, and that will be it. There will be no more chemtrail conspiracy theory. But now it's going on, it wasn't as strong as it was before. It's become a bit more marginalized, I think, but people still believe it because it's very hard to communicate science to people. And the science of contrails I could go into in some depth now, but it's simultaneously fairly straightforward, but also if you dig into it, it gets kind of complicated and that complexity allows people to kind of handwave certain explanations into the mix, carry on with these conspiracy theories.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:49] Right. So when you're talking about like, well, the reason some of them dissipate instantly and some stay there is because of humidity in the air, but you can't always see humidity like you can in a cloud. So sometimes the contrail will stay behind a plane and other times it will spread out differently. And then it's like, no, they're spraying aluminum flakes into the air and they're landing in the ground. And then you find these people who take ground samples of dirt and then like, "Look at all the aluminum that's in there." And then you're like, "Cool. Here's dirt from a garden that's inside, you know, a greenhouse that couldn't have gotten hit by a chemtrail on the last 25 years or 50 years or how long the things have been there." And look, there's a ton of aluminum in there. It turns out dirt has aluminum in it.
Mick West: [00:18:26] A lot of aluminum, yeah. Like I was saying earlier, these things all have explanations. Any conspiracy theories that are fairly outlandish like that, generally, if you look, hard enough you will find the right explanations. The problem is how do you get these things across to people. Like the one about why does one plane leaves a trail and the other one doesn't. Something I try to do when conveying the explanation for that is to say, "Why is there a cloud at one place in the sky, but there isn't a cloud at another place in the sky?" And it's because the humidity of where that cloud is is different from where this other cloud is. Sometimes you see clouds in layers. So you'll see that there's a cloud layer of say 10,000 feet. But below that 9,000 feet, there are no clouds. So if there can be clouds, no clouds with a difference of just a few hundred feet in the cloud, out of the cloud, why can't there be contrails with a difference of just a few hundred feet. It's exactly the same thing. You can think of contrails as kind of revealing where the clouds would be. If there were clouds in the sky. If all the humidity was just a little bit higher, clouds are forming the sky either at a certain level or in certain places, so you see either contrails at certain altitudes or you see contrails that are broken. You see them with gaps in that, just showing like where a cloud would have formed. So if you try to break things down into really simple explanations like that, it helps get it across to people. But even that, people are very, very resistant to listening to your explanation. So you have to be careful about other things as well, about other things as well about you actually presenting yourself to people and how do you communicate with them over time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:04] We can link to your contrail debunk in the show notes if people want to look at the proper scientific explanation for why these are. Not government programs to spray chemicals in the air that changed the weather, which is weird because like -- look that could exist --
Mick West: [00:20:18] It does exist.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:19] And people are talking about it, but it's not like a secret thing that's happening.
Mick West: [00:20:23] And now those two things -- what is weather modification and the other thing is geoengineering.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:28] Right.
Mick West: [00:20:28] Now, weather modification is essentially cloud seeding and that's done with small planes. They fly over existing rain clouds, and they spray them with silver iodide to make the rain more or rain in a particular place. This is something that's been done since the 1950s, on a commercial basis since the 1950s. Definitely open, they put adverts in the local paper saying when they're going to do it. You can look up weather modification companies in the yellow pages. It's all perfectly open. There's no secret. There's nothing nefarious going on, but it's done with small planes and it doesn't leave trails. And the other thing is geoengineering. Geoengineering is a proposal that people have made for humans to deliberately alter the climate of the earth. And there are various ways of doing it, but one of the ways it's being proposed is by spraying things out of planes. Now, the actual proposals, but doing that wouldn't look like anything like the contrails that we see in the sky. Because they would have to spray it much higher. You can't just spray at regular altitudes because things would just sink out after a few days. So you have to spray up in the stratosphere and just spray it around 60,000 feet, much higher than planes normally fly. And It's just a proposal. No one's actually doing this. They haven't even done any real experiments. This is a proposed experiment that Harvard is going to do, Dr. David Keith at Harvard, but he's only going to spray like two kilograms of stuff in the air. And it hasn't even got around to doing that yet. And yet people say that the chemtrail stuff has been going on for decades. There's real science behind things like geoengineering, but it's not actually going on. There's real science behind weather modification and it does actually happen, but it looks nothing like what the people are saying as chemtrails.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:03] Why should we care if people believe stuff like this? I mean, it seems almost harmless in some ways, other than being the most annoying person at Thanksgiving, pissing off your family, because you won't shut up about ballast tanks and that kind of thing. But what's the harm? Who cares?
Mick West: [00:22:17] I mean, that thing in itself that you mentioned is in a way, a reason to fight against this type of thing, people become socially isolated when they start believing these things. If you stop believing the government was behind 9/11 or the government is spraying toxins, or the government is trying to microchip you so you can control you, then that's a problem for you as an individual. And I think just helping individuals get past that helping individuals escape the rabbit hole is a worthwhile endeavor. It is worth doing. And I get people thanking me like years later for doing what I did back then to help them get out of that situation. They used to be living in fear. And it doesn't just hurt them, it hurts the people around them. People get divorced because they get sucked into a particular conspiracy theory and they start believing in this conspiracy theory. And I'm sure, maybe there are other factors as well, and it's not the only reason they get divorced, but it can't be the only reason. If someone just gets obsessed with something and they weren't normally obsessed by that thing, their partner sees it as them having some kind of break into the reality, and then they can't talk to them. They can't communicate with this person because they have such radically different worldviews. So on an individual basis, there's harm done.
[00:23:30] And then just on a broader level, there's harm done to the world, I think, if a significant number of people are making decisions based on things that are entirely false, things that are anti-science. Like, if you don't trust what the government says on one area of science, like say chemtrails, then it's very easy for you not to trust them on other things like the safety of vaccines or the safety of cell phones or the safety of GMOs or things like that. Things that are actually affecting people's lives and livelihoods and even wellbeing things like GMOs. There's a big issue with like golden rice. I don't know if you heard of that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:09] No. What's this?
Mick West: [00:24:10] It's a genetically modified type of rice which I think has increased yields, but he also has, I think, beta-carotene in it so it gives this orange color. And this actually prevents blindness in children, in the countries where they have a lack of nutrition.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:26] Oh, I see. So since if rice is their primary staple diet, they're lacking beta-carotene, so they've made sure that this has it in there to prevent this health thing. But, of course, now, also it lets Bill Gates control your brain or something. Right?
Mick West: [00:24:37] Yeah, but there are lots of people who organized against golden rice in these countries and children have gone blind because of it. There have been estimates as to how many people could have been saved from blinders and it runs into, you know, thousands of people. There are real, real implications of these things. You know, that's obviously in another country. But if people are voting based on ridiculous outlandish beliefs, then the best interests of the general population are not going to be well served if that just voting based on nonsense. I'm not saying that the general population is making great decisions all the time, but if they are at least voting about real issues, instead of voting about fake issues, I think we're going to do a lot better in making improvements to society.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:22] It gets worse as well, right? Because you mentioned the golden rice, but there are false medicines where people say, "Hey, look -- " I mean, this is more of a scam than a conspiracy, but people believe in these medications or these home remedies that don't work. People waste money on bunk supplements. As it gets worse, you mentioned voting and making decisions, but people also threatened scientists that come up with the proper science to explain something because there supposedly is a government shill who's trying to -- we hear this all the time from companies and people that make vaccines. It's like, "No, you know, I'm going to go in and do something about this." We heard about Pizzagate where some crazy person went to a pizza store and pulled out a gun and said, there's a -- what was it? Like a child porn dungeon in the basement. And it was just false.
Mick West: [00:26:06] Yeah, yeah, the Pizzagate thing -- that's an extremely outlandish conspiracy theory, but a lot of people believe it. And it's actually one that's very hard to address because it deals with child abuse, pedophilia. So it's a topic that most people just don't even want to talk about because it's such a difficult topic to discuss. And that kind of in a way, allows people to make all these accusations. The Pizzagate thing, the theory is that they taught your children because they want the brains to produce lots of adrenaline, which creates this thing called adrenochrome. And then they drink their blood which contains this adrenochrome because he has all these health benefits for them. It keeps them young.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:47] Oh God.
Mick West: [00:26:48] This is basically what's behind a lot of things like QAnon. It's like the --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] QAnon? The sort of secret government source that's leaking only on Reddit and has never been right about anything.
Mick West: [00:26:58] Yeah. The QAnon theory is basically, they're trying to fight against these secret pedophile rings that are drinking children's blood. And it's being headed up by a bunch of military guys and Donald Trump. And they are secretly going to, at any moment, arrest everybody in Hollywood who was behind these things and all the corrupt politicians, but, of course, nothing ever actually happens. And when you dig into these things, like the pizza thing, that was like a -- one of the people that they decided was the ringleaders have a pizza parlor, which had children's party room in the back. And they thought that this was part of this whole ring of torturing children and they thought there was a basement. But the building doesn't even have a basement. So the guy went there and he opened the closet door and it was just a closet. It wasn't actually a basement. I think he realized probably rapidly just how stupid he had been, but he thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he was rescuing children who were being tortured. And a lot of these people, they feel they're doing good. They feel almost like the messiahs, messiah-type complex, where they feel they are saving everybody. And you have to understand that when you talk to people, these are people who are being bad. They're not being evil, they're not doing it for nefarious purposes. They're doing it because they think they're on the side of good. So he thought he was actually going to rescue these children.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:13] That makes it especially sad for me because as a new father, if I knew in air quotes in my heart of hearts, that somebody had child torture basement, I would probably be on the phone with my gun-owning buddies and being like, "Oh my God, the police don't believe me." Now. I'd like to think that I would just report this to the authorities, but if nobody was doing anything about it in my little universe, I can see how that would be -- like somebody has got to do something. I don't care if I get hurt doing it. There are kids in this basement. So this guy in any other scenario could have been like a really good moral person, but instead got unhinged by a combination of factors, including this BS conspiracy, and now he's in prison.
Mick West: [00:28:54] Yeah. And I think he still was a good moral person because from his perspective, from what he knew of the world, he was acting morally. So he was doing good. He was just wrong. And that's why you need to debunk these things. If people are going to take action based on their morals, you want them to also have it based on accurate information rather than information that does not actually reflect reality. So that's one of the reasons why I debunk. I want people to focus on real issues and not on fake issues.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:27] Just in case people need another example of this going awry. First of all, Sandy Hook -- there are people that harass these parents of these poor dead kids saying that they're in on some government conspiracy. And then Timothy McVeigh, who. Had the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed a bunch of kids in daycare and a bunch of government workers and civilians. He had been wrapped into some kind of BS theory, too. This is in the '90s. So my memory's a little fuzzy here.
Mick West: [00:29:49] Yeah, absolutely he was basically believing there was going to be some kind of New World Order takeover with the United Nations invading America. And he did things like he went out to various basis to see if they were staging UN troops at a certain base. And yeah, he thought that the federal government was going to basically insulate the population and that they needed some kind of message being sent to them. And he decided it was going to attack a federal building, which doesn't really make that much sense but from his perspective, he's at war. He's at war with the federal government and he's at war for what he thinks is the greater good. He's extraordinarily mixed up in his view of reality. And I think about his choice of targets, but, you know, he thinks he is doing good.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:37] Yeah, man, that was back in the days of -- we have this Michigan Militia. I'm from Michigan. So there was this Michigan Militia and I think they were kind of paranoid, although I'm not entirely sure. They could have also just been like gun enthusiasts that liked running around in the woods. I forget now. But he had gone to like one meeting with those people and like every state militia after that kind of laid low for the next, I don't know, 30 years or something because of this.
Mick West: [00:31:00] Well, there's all these things that kind of play into that kind of mythology around the fight against the government. There is the Ruby Ridge incident, where there's a guy who was holed up with his family in a cabin and some federal agents came to take away his guns. I can't remember why exactly. Maybe just to arrest him for something, but he fought back and he shot one of the federal agents. And they shot back and hit one of his family members and some people died. His view is one side -- from one side as being this tragic thing that could have been prevented if he'd just given himself up. And then from the other side as being this vast overreach of federal power, like invading a man's home and killing his family.
[00:31:42] And then the other thing that comes up quite often is the Waco siege where David Koresh, this kind of Messiah figure had this cult sequestered in his Waco farmhouse. And he had all these guns and things in there. And the feds wanted to come in. There have been a few documentaries on dramatizations recently on this on TV. But they basically fought off the feds and held up. And then the feds tried to bulldoze their way into the building. The building caught fire, and I think like 40 or 50 people including children died. And that becomes a symbol for the fight against the government. And it becomes like a cornerstone of a belief system that has the government being this evil Illuminati, New World Order, trying to impose slavery upon people and the good people fighting against that. So if you've got people who are fighting against conspiracies, as they perceive them, they see themselves as being on the side of the good people who are fighting against the evil government.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:40] You mentioned before it distracts from real issues. There's so much real stuff to worry about. So this conspiracy BS, this bull crap just distracts from actual issues that are really happening and not just made up by dipshits on the Internet. And that's like an extra layer of harm here because -- I'm trying to think like I guess if you think the government's already controlling the climate through chemtrails and all this spraying and geoengineering, maybe you don't give a crap about the environment. And you're one person, but if you've got thousands of people doing this and you're thinking, oh, well that means that global warming is that a hoax, which means that anybody who talks about global warming is in on the conspiracy, which means scientists, in general, are all shills. So why should I believe anything they say about medicine, vaccination, education? You just discredit these people based on your erroneous beliefs and you don't recycle, which makes you a terrible human being.
Mick West: [00:33:00] Yeah, you know the idea of framing things as a hoax is a great way of making people not care about it. And you saw it, obviously, with global warming, people say global warming is a home. People are now saying the same thing about coronavirus.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:46] Yeah, oh, yeah.
Mick West: [00:33:47] I think if people are primed to think that things are hoaxes and they're primed to think that the media lies about everything. Then it becomes very easy for them to make extraordinarily bad decisions about their own safety and health by assuming something is a hoax. When the coronavirus thing was starting out, people were, "Oh, I don't believe it. It's just overblown by the media," which is like the kind of the lowest level of conspiracy is that the media is trying to ramp things up to make Donald Trump look bad, but then more people started dying. At the start, it was like one death and then there were like 10 deaths and people, "Oh, it's not that bad. Yeah. We shouldn't let this cruise ship get in because that will double the number of deaths to a hundred." But then thousands of people start dying. People they know start dying. They themselves might catch it and get ill. People within their immediate family start catching it. And they do actually start to realize that perhaps the idea that it was a hoax wasn't really based on anything other than just some kind of assumption about things being hoaxes. But then lots of people still think it is a hoax. There are lots of people, especially the people who believe in these more extreme conspiracy theories, like chemtrails who assume that it's anything that's slightly less extreme than chemtrails. It's probably a hoax too. Anything that you see on TV, it's going to be fake. They can fake things like 9/11, fake things like chemtrails, then it makes it very easy for them to fake things like vaccines being safe or the coronavirus killing people and it's really 5G radiation. So the beliefs that people have in things like chemtrails, or even in things like, you know, the government hiding the existence of UFOs. This belief that the government is faking all these things has this knock-on effect down the line with things like public health, things like vaccines, and now things like the coronavirus.
Peter Oldring: [00:35:39] You are listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Mick West. We'll be right back.
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[00:38:37] And now back to Mick West on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:44] There's this -- he's a moron and a jackass. His name is David Icke. I'm sure you've heard of him. This guy, what is his deal, by the way? He thinks 5G causes coronavirus and that there are lizard people that live in the earth and they control the governments. Like, do people like this believe this kind of crap or what? What's going on with these weirdos?
Mick West: [00:39:04] They do. I mean, David Icke, he's from the UK. He used to be a football player, a soccer player, and then he used to be a sports commentator. And then you had this kind of wake up when he realized that he was actually the son of God.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:20] So otherwise known as a mental breakdown.
Mick West: [00:39:20] Essentially, that would how most people would see it. But again, from his perspective, he thought he was perfectly reasonable. I think now he has a slightly more nuanced view of what happened to him at the time. But yeah, he believes essentially that everything is fake. That a lot of what we see around us is illusory. And that it is being controlled by beings from other worlds or other, not necessarily dimensions, but maybe other planets, but yes, sometimes other dimensions and that some of these are shape-shifting reptiles, but he's a very good speaker. He's quite charismatic. And if you are prone to believe in that type of thing, even if you're just kind of setting out on this path of disbelieving reality, It's easy for him to suck you in. If you go to one of his lectures, he actually sells out stadiums. And you can go there, and that could be like 50,000 people though. They are lapping up what he does. He gives like two or three hours of talking on these topics and he's compelling.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:19] People might think my language is harsh when I say some moron or a jackass. I don't characteristically talk like that, but this guy is doing real harm. Like he is telling people that certain journalists and government figures, he was in a green room with them and their eyes turned to black because they're secretly a reptile and they're evil. And like, we should watch out for these -- these people have kids and families, you know, they're not reptile people. And then like 5G causes cancer and all these anti-vax stuff. This stuff is bad for the people that are hearing it. Now, look, call me crazy. It makes me feel a little better in some weird way, knowing that he does believe it and isn't just an a-hole trying to grift from money. It doesn't make it that much better, but I somehow have a more forgiving stance on it. Knowing that he literally just has got some sort of mental issue that causes him to believe this stuff.
Mick West: [00:41:07] Yeah. I think a lot of people who do promote these types of extreme theories do actually believe it to some extent. Now, if you look at, let's say, Alex Jones. He believes a lot of what he says
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:20] How do you know that though because I look at him and I go, "This is a drunk guy who didn't do wrestling and instead does this and it's as fake as wrestling."
Mick West: [00:41:28] Yeah. I talked to Joe Rogan and Joe Rogan has known Alex Jones for quite a while. And Joe Rogan basically says that he believes what he says to a degree, but Joe thinks that Alex is a little bit crazy, which he probably is. If you listen to what he is saying, he's very consistent in it. He'll go off on tangents on various details. Like chemtrails make the frogs gay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:52] Yeah, so for people who don't know what we're talking about the clip that makes the rounds is when he goes, "They're putting chemicals in the water. They're turning the freaking frogs gay." Because he's always really angry too. That's what makes me think he's performing.
Mick West: [00:42:06] He's actually raising a valid point, believe it or not, because amphibians are very sensitive to changes in the environment. And there have been increased frogs exhibiting strange behavior which you could describe as them being gay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:22] They kind of turn -- can't they reproduce asexually or they can like change --I don't know if you say gender -- but they can like change sex because they can sort of based on like pH and water because of the environment. It's like an adaptive survival mechanism. They're not actually like -- they're not making parades and going to clubs and dancing on tables, so just reproducing in a different way.
Mick West: [00:42:43] So his claim is basically the frogs are like the canary in the coal mine. So the fact that the frogs are getting strange -- is that the something in the water and so he's saying that's coming from chemtrails. Well, it's probably coming from stuff like pesticides and regular pollution. There is actually something there and people who promote strange theories will often like sprinkling these things, which are true or half-true because it makes it much more easy to digest or to believe, or to accept things that are ridiculous if you start out with something that's actually kind of true and then you can twist it. So it's like a little bit less true, but it's still believable. And then you just slammed this other thing on top of it. So we start out with like the frogs growing extra sex organs. And then you say, like, there was something in the water that's making the frogs grow these extra sex organs or whatever happens. And then you say it's chemtrails and then you say chemtrails are making the frogs gay. And it's a memorable thing. Because the people who believed in these theories kind of understand what he's talking about. It's actually for him, it's an effective way of spreading the message, even though it gets other people to make fun of him. And that works in another way, and that the people who believe him will then defend him because they know what he actually meant by it. So they see people attacking him and so they become more on his side because they see these outside attacks. So in a way, by presenting himself as a bit of a clown, it gets people to defend him. It's like a bag of tricks that he uses to promote his brand.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:15] This to me -- there's so much mind-blowing stuff out there. Why make up new crap? That it seems like there are so many things you could share, like, "Hey, black holes and space and all that stuff," but people don't do that. They share this little made up crap that only a tiny handful in their little corner of the Internet latch onto, like a religion. And I am convinced that many conspiracy theorists and you can correct me where you might have a different theory here, but it's like they're lacking a sense of community. It's not the theory itself at all. It's like a hobby or a church where you have to believe something specific and very niche in order to participate. Because otherwise, why not just share science, science is itself so much more interesting than most of this garbage anyways?
Mick West: [00:44:54] Well, I think, there are two things. One is that science is hard and most people don't really understand science. I don't know what your science background is, but a lot of people have trouble, even with very, very simple concepts. Like what is a molecule? What is an atom?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:09] My experience of this, it kind of begins and ends in high school, right?
Mick West: [00:45:14] Yeah. For most people, the science, even though if you're a science fan, It's a lot of fun. It's actually difficult to understand like electromagnetic radiation. A lot of people don't understand that light and microwaves are essentially the same thing. They're just different frequencies. That's a very difficult concept for a lot of people to get around the idea of frequencies and radiation and photons, things like that. It's just this weird set of things that they don't actually understand. They can't get to grips with it. But they can't get to grips with the idea that the government is secretly spraying chemicals in the air. That's a nice, simple thing to understand. There's poison being sprayed out of the backs of planes, really simple and straightforward. You don't have to deal with any of the actual science. Black holes. It sounds interesting, but it's just like some weird science fiction thing that you see in the movies sometimes. If you want to get down to what's actually going on with black holes, you have to start understanding more about cosmology and the makeup of stars and gravity, relativity, and things like that. It's hard work.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:18] Right, it's easier just to yell that the frogs are turning gay because of the airplanes.
Mick West: [00:46:22] Yeah. It's easy to latch onto simple things and they seem a lot more important as well. When you're talking about conspiracy theories about the government poisoning or enslaving everybody. That's way more important, the beauty of the blue whale, or like how volcanoes work, black holes. Those are all fun, pretty things, and interesting science.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:46] But there's no stakes. The stakes are too low. Like that's interesting only. But if I make up BS lie -- and a lot of these guys do that too, they'll make up some BS lie. And the whole theory is founded on that, like, "Hey, Flat Earth, well, you know, it's true because it's illegal to fly across Antarctica." Well, no, it's not illegal to fly across Antarctica. You have to have a four-engine jet as far as I know because if one engine fails, you can't make it to an airport or something like that. There's a reason for it. That's not right. Because you'll run into the ice wall at the edge of the earth or whatever.
Mick West: [00:47:16] Yeah. Yeah. And also there are no sensible routes that go directly over the South pole. There's actually quite a few just to give around Antarctica because of the layout of airports. But there are answers for these things, but often they're complicated. Like the answer you just gave there. A plane has to have a certain specification. It's not just four engines. It could be a two-engine jet. If you have certain amounts of survival equipment on the plane so that if you would make a crash landing, you can survive.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:41] That's so terrifying.
Mick West: [00:47:44] Crash landing in the Antarctic or everybody has to wear parachutes on the plane. That's just regulations because if you go over a certain long distance and you're so far away from any airport it's problematic.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:55] Can you imagine having the choice between, okay, you either have to go on a four-engine jet so that if an engine fails, you can make it home or wear a parachute and have survival equipment. It's like, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. I either have to survive a crash landing and survive in the cold and/or bailout in parachute and then hope to get rescued in Antarctica or just pick a bigger plane. Come on.
Mick West: [00:48:14] I think the bigger plane would be a good idea.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:15] I'm going for the bigger plane.
Mick West: [00:48:19] Two-engines is pretty safe but why take a chance.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:22] The other thing is there are real conspiracies, right? Can we name some reasonable conspiracies that are either true or likely to be true? Because I want to highlight the difference between actual conspiracy -- because there are conspiracies, conspiracies happen all the time. Organized crime is largely made up of conspiracies to commit crimes but I want to highlight the difference between those and like the moon landing is fake.
Mick West: [00:48:44] Yeah, well, there's kind of a difference between conspiracies and conspiracy theories, and people kind of confuse the two sometimes. A conspiracy theory, essentially, that it is just a theory that there is a big conspiracy that explains a certain event, but we haven't actually demonstrated it to be true yet. It's just a theory. Whereas, a conspiracy, you could say something that has actually happened. Something we could demonstrate did actually occur in the past.
[00:49:07] Like, for example, you could say there was a conspiracy to promote the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as a pretext to invade Iraq. And so they decided they conspired together to present this information in a certain way. So it would seem like the weapons of mass destruction when probably we're not. So anything that seems to support it, they boost it. Anything that kind of denies it, they kind of shuffled it away. And that was a conspiracy that people had to conspire to do that. And they had to know what they were doing. Then knew that they were suppressing the truth and they were boosting falsehoods and they have real-world implications. You go to war with a country because of things like that, because I'm a conspiracy.
[00:49:50] A lot of conspiracies are very, very mundane. The most obvious conspiracy is out there that I think is also one of the biggest problems is that lobbyists --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:02] Yeah.
Mick West: [00:50:02] -- give them money --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:03] Agree.
Mick West: [00:50:03] -- to politicians to make laws. So big corporations are donating to politicians so that those politicians will make laws favorable to those corporations or sometimes two individuals. And that essentially is a conspiracy. It's usually just kind of a tacit agreement type thing. It's often not direct. It's kind of like, "Oh, we'll just give money to these people, these people, these people, because they are the ones who are likely to do this," but sometimes it's actually direct bribery. People do actually do things. Politicians will actually take money, quite blatant. They'll take money from a company and then they will promote a law that almost just benefits this one company. Things that are quite terrible, not just financial things.
[00:50:52] The prison system, there's a lot of private prisons out there now. And they profit mostly for those private prisons to have harsh sentencing laws. So the prison system lobbies politicians to either make laws more harsh or to not reduce laws like proposals to kind of reduce the sentences of people who were convicted of possessing marijuana and things like that, which is now not legal. And it seems quite reasonable that we wouldn't want those people in jail, but the prison industry lobbies against it because they said it will be bad for the prison guards.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:25] Right. To not have occupants. It's like a hotel that wants a hundred percent occupancy. The prison wants people in there. And you hear about these kids who are like 22. They get caught with a bag of magic mushrooms on their way to a party. And they go to prison for like three years. Their life is largely ruined for at least a period of time because of that. And then they're a felon when they get out. So they can't vote and a lot of the other opportunities they had job-wise. I mean, you hear about kids who are like engineering students at University of Michigan, getting busted --
Mick West: [00:51:53] Right, life is ruined.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:53] --with like a tab of LSD and they're fucking screwed. It's terrible.
Mick West: [00:51:58] Especially with things like the three-strikes law when that was in full force, which I'm not sure if it is now, but like you were getting 25-year sentences for things like stealing a bag of donuts from a store, just because it's your third offense. So there were these ridiculously harsh punishments, which I think most reasonable people would think work just way beyond what we actually need. And yet, there isn't very much movement within the politicians to do away with these things in part because of this conspiracy essentially of the prison industrial complex, trying to keep people in prison. This is an example of a real issue, which I'd much rather people be focusing on rather than chemtrails. If people can focus on things like this, we might actually make the world a better place if we can get better sentencing reform out there, instead of people like worrying about ridiculous conspiracy theories, like chemtrails.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:49] You've got different types of conspiracy theories that you layout in the book Escaping the Rabbit Hole. Can we go over these there's like event conspiracies and different layers of like the government made it happen or just let it happen? Can we outline this? This is kind of a cool way to parse these things.
Mick West: [00:53:06] Yeah. Well, the event conspiracy theories are theories around a particular event, such as 9/11. So planes flew through into the building, so one thing happened and then people created conspiracy theories around that one thing. There are also systemic conspiracy theories, which conspiracies are much broader in scale. You get essentially the idea that there's a New World Order conspiracy theory, where all these things are being done with some kind of end goal. It's systemic. It's throughout the entire system. All these individual theories then fit into this one thing. So you say this is part of the New World Order. This is part of the Illuminati trying to take over the world. So first of all, they did the Oklahoma City bombing and then they did the world trade center bombing. Now they created this fake coronavirus and now they put it in these 5G towers. So they've got these very broad-based conspiracy theories.
[00:54:04] And then between those, you've got these other theories, which are kind of like these global ongoing conspiracy theories, things like 5G, where it's not an event or such. It's something that exists in the world, but around that, they think there's a conspiracy, like vaccines being bad for you or 5G or fluoride in the water. And within the events, conspiracy theories, there's this interesting distinction of let it happen and make it happen. The make-it-happen conspiracy theories, basically saying the government did these events, that the government is actually responsible for these things. They will say the government actually arranged for the World Trade Center to be attacked. Within that, there's a bunch of divisions as well. There's the made it happen and fake it happen. With 9/11, you could say that if they made it happen, they paid for terrorists to come over and fly into the buildings. Then the fake it happen could be that they had remote control planes fly into the buildings which were pre-planted with explosives. And then you can go even more extreme than some people do and they could say it didn't happen and what you see on TV is all a hoax. It's actually crazy, made with computer graphics, and the World Trade Center was actually demolished the following week with the conventional explosives. Completely ridiculous and pretty much insane theories, but they all exist on the same spectrum.
[00:55:28] And going the other way, you got the make it happen and then you have the let-it-happen conspiracy theories. That's the theory that George Bush knew that there was going to be an attack on the World Trade Center or someone knew and they just let it happen because they thought it would be good for America to have a New Pearl Harbor is what they've described it as. Some kind of attack that unifies the country and allows us to go to war with other countries. Then you have even a week or less it happened, which is just that they heard that something might happen, didn't know what it was exactly, but should we look into it, "Nah, we just don't worry about it. Maybe it'll happen. Maybe it'll be good for the country."
[00:56:04] So you've got this whole range of possibilities to explain anyone conspiracy theory. And you've got all these different ways that they can fit into your worldview. It could be just a single event. It could be part of a broader conspiracy, like a series of things happening, or it could be part of this one big conspiracy that encompasses the entire world and the entirety sometimes of human history.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:25] Geez. There's real conspiracy theory here. I guess it's a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories, but there's something you'd mentioned about Russia liking to foment distrust by encouraging these sorts of conspiracy theories. Can you explain this? Because this actually totally makes sense to me. And I hear this a lot. Whenever I talk about things like this, I get an uptick in like Russian bot attacks or Chinese 50 Cent Army, depending on who I've been talking about at the time. I think a lot of people don't believe this necessarily, but maybe you can explain -- for example, how does Russia stand to benefit by convincing people that Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax?
Mick West: [00:57:02] Well, this is part of what's called the Russian Active Measures. It's a translation of the Russian term that they use themselves for this. And it's basically what they're trying to do is basically to help Russia and the way they think they can do this is by sewing discontent within a country. And also by reducing the standing of a country in the world. And the ultimate goal with this is, is to get NATO dissolved and return to something more like the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union were essentially Russia was the head of a very powerful set of countries and power of NATO will be diminished. So they've got a long-term plan on this. The active measures stuff, you can look up active measures, it's something that's been going on for decades before social media. It's just propaganda, basically, spreading stories about what's going on in a certain country. If you look back in Russian writing about America, they're right about things like the homeless problem in America. And they frame it as America being this terrible country which just doesn't care for people, which has a degree of truth in it to some degree, but they liked to promote these things because they think he brings down America in the eyes of the world.
[00:58:14] But if they can also get lots of people within a country to believe in conspiracy theories, It does a couple of things. It makes the people in that country look stupid to the outside world. Like if you get a significant percentage of people believing in QAnon, for example, then people from the outside world, from Europe, looking in, will think these Americans are just crazy. It also creates division within a country. A lot of the active measure stuff isn't just promoting conspiracy theories is actually trying to get people in conflict over these conspiracy theories. They'll promote things like the dangers of 5G because they want people to go out and start demonstrating against 5G towers and they want to have this conflict, which disrupts the economy of the country. Russia is pushing these stories on rt.com about the dangers of 5G at the same time, as they're rolling out big 5G deployments in Moscow because they know that it's reasonably safe.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:11] Right.
Mick West: [00:59:11] There are no dangers of it. But the more people start worrying about these things, the better it is for Russia, the worse it is for America. So this is slow drip-drip game. Now, the reason you're getting pushback on this, the reason that people are saying that they don't believe it is because of the whole Russiagate thing. And Donald Trump obviously is saying he's being exonerated, Russiagate wasn't real. And that's because of the Mueller report. The Mueller report comes out and he says there wasn't sufficient evidence to prosecute about prolusion between Donald Trump's campaign and the Russians. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're not talking about the collusion between the campaign and the Russians. We're talking about Russians trying to influence the election by these covert propaganda methods, by putting in adverts in Facebook, setting up these AstroTurf groups to arrange for demonstrations, and then arrange for a counter-demonstration at the same time. So you get Black Lives Matter versus whoever against Black Lives Matter. These are things that are just done on a regular basis and have been proven and wherein the Mueller reports. They're all demonstrated in the Mueller report of how it's being done. Nothing to do with the Russiagate aspects of it, the collusion, but the things that are actually happening, the people roll them together. And if you look at the Russian coverage of it, they will roll it together. They will say, "Oh more Russiagate nonsense." Every time you bring up something like this. If you start talking about active measures and you get any kind of traction, they will try to characterize what you are saying as being Russiagate nonsense, which is being debunked by the Mueller report, when actually you're talking about something completely different.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:48] So this is a Soviet playbook that's been used elsewhere and of course, damaging NATO and the EU, like these are well-known, well-stated goals of Russia because it enhances their power by diminishing Western powers. So, anyway, that's a whole show in itself. You'd mentioned something. I was it on your blog or in your book where you said, "Look, instead of being entertained by conspiracy theories," because they are entertaining and that's part of the allure is like, "Oh, this is kind of funny. You know, it's silly." "Be entertained by seeing them debunked instead." And I find myself there and I find myself there because even as a kid when I would hear about conspiracy theories -- and I'm trying to remember what even kind of got me started on this. I remember hearing things and being like, "Eh, it just sounds like dumb people believe this." But then it was fun to go, "Why is this demonstrably not true? So this could be kind of a good shift for people who find themselves swirling around this due to the entertainment factor. Because you do hear this, you do hear people or I do, I hear people say, "Oh, I don't know. I don't really believe it. It's just kind of funny." And I'm like, "Eh, yeah, but you kind of do believe it or you wouldn't be watching it."
[01:01:54] It's like wrestling. You don't watch wrestling and go, "Okay, this is a hundred percent fake." And I acknowledged that it's fake every second. You suspend disbelief when you watch it, just like you do when you watch a movie. If you're the kind of person who watches a movie and goes, "That's fake, that's a blank gun. That's a special effect." You're the worst person to watch movies and you probably hate movies, but if you're swirling around and spending three hours a week in a conspiracy theory channel on Reddit or discord or whatever, you kind of believe it, or you're suspending disbelief, but it's dangerous to do that because it's a hop, skip, and a jump from you not being able to evaluate truth anymore.
Mick West: [01:02:30] A lot of people, they enjoy this conspiracy stuff and they enjoy going online and getting the next drip of information from wherever it is. And this is especially true with the QAnon thing because QAnon is set up so that every day or every couple of days, this mysterious character or release an enigmatic statement. And then everybody has to scramble around trying to figure out what it is. So it's almost like a little, I don't know, it was like a soap opera, or like a little TV show that you get to watch and you get addicted to these things. I watch the show Jeopardy every day, a little quiz show that you can play along with at home. And I really enjoy it because I look forward to it. For them, that takes the same place. They are QAnon addicts. They get this daily dose of something and even if they're not getting these daily doses, they can always go onto YouTube -- or at least they could, it's a lot harder now. They could go into YouTube and get something new.
[01:03:26] A lot of the people I talked to, they talked about -- when I would come and ask them questions and they didn't know the answer, they would just kind of run off and start watching YouTube videos so that they would feel better. And they actually described this as they felt upset by what I had told them. And so they wanted to get the feeling of surety and security that they get from these conspiracy theories. And so they go and they listen to someone and they have this very well-produced video and it makes them feel better. But also the same people. These are generally people who've turned around, they will tell me now they get a similar kind of pleasure from actually watching debunking videos. It's kind of unfortunate that there aren't as many videos as there are conspiracy theory videos, but you can actually get the same types of feelings from the real explanations. And it's actually a lot better because you can actually see that these things are real and the demonstrably true. And you don't have all of these debunkers shouting at you. So once you've actually figured out a particular argument, which is the correct answer, It becomes fun to actually delve more into the science of that if you can, if you're actually capable of doing the science and to listen to the actual explanations. And to then branch out and say, "Well, if this was wrong, like what else might be wrong? I should look into some other things." Then they start discovering this whole new world. And in a way, it becomes like an inverted rabbit hole.
[01:04:51] Getting out of the rabbit hole isn't just like casting away all these false beliefs. It's going to climb up into a world that's composed of all these new real beliefs into the light, the actual real things that are going on. And you can see more clearly what's going on in these other areas because you've got the light of reality helping you there. But if you go down the rabbit hole, your focus is so narrow. You don't get a genuine perspective of what's going on. And it's a revolutionary moment for a lot of people when it actually happens. People do describe it as like the red pill moment that people talk about when they fall down the rabbit hole.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:27] Right.
Mick West: [01:05:28] Where they have this realization that the curtain is drawn from their eyes and they see that the Illuminati is controlling everything.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:34] The earth has been flat all along, right?
Mick West: [01:05:36] Yeah. They have this moment, but then they will also have a negative red pill, the blue pill moment when they actually figure out that that was all bullshit and that reality is something that better explains the world and he's actually more interesting.
Peter Oldring: [01:05:55] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Mick West. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:00] This episode is sponsored in part by Fiverr. I use these guys all the time. This is a website where you can get discrete tasks done. Like, "Hey, I need a graphic for my LinkedIn background, or I need --"
Peter Oldring: [01:06:13] You said discrete. And I was, you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:14] Like an assassination?
Peter Oldring: [01:06:15] Wondering where we are going?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:17] No, not like --
Peter Oldring: [01:06:18] I've got a hint but I'm trying to arrange.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:20] It's packaged with opaque wrapping. But no, not that kind of discreet. Little graphic design elements, or like, "Hey, I need a little jingle for this or some voiceover for that." It's kind of our first stop when we have a weird task, like who's going to go through this text file and eliminate all the duplicate emails like, "Oh, I bet that's on Fiverr," and sure enough, $7 later, the guy's like, "No problem." It's all deduped and aligned and put into a CSV. Here you go.
Peter Oldring: [01:06:43] Amazing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:44] Like two days later. Yeah. Film editing, copywriting, web stuff. Music, everything.
Peter Oldring: [01:06:49] I mean, is there anything that they don't do?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:51] Just the other stuff that we talked about before that was kind of gross. Just that stuff.
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Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:56] Maybe that's on the other side of the coin. I don't know. 24/7 customer service. The pricing is really straightforward. It's like this is seven bucks. This is 20 bucks. I wish all of the other discrete businesses we were talking about had such upfront pricing.
Peter Oldring: [01:07:09] I think it's so much easier to engage people in that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:11] It really, yes, it really would. Maybe that's why they don't allow it. Anyway. Payments released to the freelancer once you approve the work. So if the person just ghosts you or gives you a total piece of crap, you just don't pay. They're pretty good about that kind of thing. Peter, tell them where they can get a discount off their first order.
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Peter Oldring: [01:08:03] Not for me. Double down as much as you need.
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Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:57] This episode is also brought to you by my friend, Jonathan Fields. He runs a show called the Good Life Project. And after this episode, we're going to run a little trailer from the Good Life Project. So if you're interested in picking up a new show, stay tuned after the show for the trailer, from the Good Life Project.
Peter Oldring: [01:09:11] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going. To learn more and to get links to all of the great discounts you just heard, so that you can check out those amazing sponsors for yourself, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don't forget that worksheet for today's episode. The link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Mick West.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:40] People do have these obsessive invested interests though in being right about conspiracies -- one, cause people don't want to admit that they're wrong because they'll look stupid. Like, imagine going to Thanksgiving after a decade of, you know, 9/11 is an inside job and being like, "So, you know, I'm not going to talk about that this time." And then people are like, "Wow, Uncle Jordan has been pretty quiet." And then it's like, you know, what's going on in your life. And then it's like this elephant in the room that you're not mentioning it anymore. Or if you're really going to man up and say, "Well, sorry, I've been so annoying about that. I realized that this is kind of, you know, not the case. And I stopped looking." I mean, it's like coming out and saying you're an alcoholic or something. Like I realize I drank too much. I realize, you know, I shouldn't have taken your car out without your permission. Like you're admitting to wrongdoing in some way. Additionally, people have vested interest, especially the people making videos. Imagine spending 50 hours in a year or a month, making videos about Flat Earth, and then you've got to come out and go, "Hey, so my entire business of selling Flat Earth goggles and Flat Earth ads and Flat Earth t-shirts and go and speaking at the Flat Earth conference, it's a bunch of bullcrap, and I'm just grifting now because I know it's wrong. Let me go ahead and get a different job in a different hobby and a different set of friends." Like the bar is a little high to come out of the woods on that.
Mick West: [01:10:55] Yeah, it can be a hog hurdle to get over. Yeah, I am thinking of the first example you gave thereof Thanksgiving family situation. That can be a bit easier because your family, you know, they're around you and they love you. And if they're still inviting you to Thanksgiving anyways, they haven't given up on you. They're going to be happy that you've come around to the side a reason. You might get people poking a bit of fun at you.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:13] Yeah.
Mick West: [01:11:14] It's going to be good-natured fun and you'll be fine with it because you know, now that you're on the side of good. But then if your entire life begins to revolve around these conspiracy theories and sometimes people -- their entire social circle becomes just other conspiracy theorists who either they meet online or they have regular meetings at a local coffee shop or something with them. And it becomes like the only social interaction they have is other conspiracy theorists. That makes it a lot harder to get out. And you really do need to talk to somebody who can help you who isn't down the rabbit hole. What I talk about in my book a lot is talking to a friend and I think it's unfortunate that there are some people who just -- they don't have friends outside of that community and it makes it very hard for them to get out. And that's why I think having all these online resources is a good idea. Like having, you know, even things like this show where they might listen to it and they might get some good information that they wouldn't get inside that little bubble.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:13] You know, for me on this show, especially if I'm wrong, I usually come out and say like, "Hey, by the way --" I used to have some sponsors for things like CBD and I was like, "Oh, I like this stuff." And then later on, "I was like, wait a minute." I think maybe this doesn't do anything and it's a placebo effect. And I'm seeing a bunch of studies online that says this doesn't do anything. CBD might be a bad example, but anything where I'm wrong, I don't have a vested interest because I can get another sponsor. I don't need the money from the CBD company. I'd rather have people's trust. So I come on here and I put myself on blast all the time and I feel like, all right, my audience, they're going to forgive me if I'm wrong. Especially if I cop to it later on and I don't just try to sweep it under the rug. Like, "Oh yeah, that was weird. I hope nobody remembers that." I get corrected by show fans all the time on little technical issues. And usually the letters like, "Hey, I just want to let you know you were wrong about this, this, this, and this, by the way, love the show. This is great. The episode is great." Other than that, I rarely get people that are like, "You're a shill." That's your department. You get all those emails, I assume.
Mick West: [01:13:14] Yeah. Yeah, I do. But you know, like you, if I'm wrong, I love to be corrected. My whole reason for doing this is based around being right about things, not just for me personally, being right about things. But increasing the amounts of truth in the world, increasing the amounts of facts and science in the world. So any little thing that I get wrong, if it's wrong, people should tell me and I'll fix it on my site, or I'll do a correction or whatever. And once you get into that mindset of accepting that you get things wrong and then correcting them is actually quite a powerful thing. It's quite empowering because it puts you on such a solid basis. Because you're correcting all of your mistakes.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:50] Yeah.
Mick West: [01:13:51] That means that your arguments are always going to be based on things that you, as far as, you know, are a hundred percent true, or at least you have a good understanding of what the truth and the uncertainty lies. So accepting that you're wrong about things is a good thing and you should try to seek out people who will challenge you. So it will improve your arguments and it will improve your understanding of the world.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:14] And people who believe this stuff. I kind of want to highlight this because I feel like, you know, I'm generally pretty harsh on people that believe foolish things, whether it's multi-level marketing or Flat Earth. And I do put those things, not quite in the same bucket, but they're in adjacent buckets for sure. I don't think people are dumb or foolish for this. I think they lack information. So I don't really fault people for falling for this stuff in the first place, but I do fault people for falling for this stuff and then digging in their heels and refusing to believe the overwhelming evidence that they are indeed wrong about this.
Mick West: [01:14:46] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:46] And that's where I take issue with a lot this. Like, if you think the earth is flat, I don't care. But if you look at evidence and you go, "Yeah, well, you know, whatever, this is all fake, and this is dah, dah, dah, and there's a nice wall and it's illegal to fly over this and you're wrong about that." Then you're just being a willful idiot. Like you're deliberately being a dumbass and you're convincing yourself of this.
Mick West: [01:15:05] Yeah. You have to be a special type of person I think to --
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:06] To say that.
Mick West: [01:15:09] -- earth is flat consistently.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:10] Yeah.
Mick West: [01:15:11] Not especially, like especially stupid, but have a special mindset and that you don't trust anything from science and you only trust things that you yourself have figured out. You always, basically, are keeping an open mind and since you always keep an open mind about everything, there's always this little escape hatch. There's always something you can say, "Oh yeah, sure. The sun, you know, it stays the same size in the sky. There could be an explanation for that, which fits the Flat Earth model." So there's always this escape they have because they don't have to listen to anybody else. They only have to listen to themselves and they generally will reject anything that comes from a book. Some of them were like, we'll even say like, "Oh, well you can't tell anything about the shape of the earth from looking at the sky because the earth is below your feet. So if you're looking up, then that means nothing." So you can do these almost ridiculously semantic arguments about it. That's what it becomes essentially with the Flat Earthers. But not really doing science, not really doing real science. They're making arguments based on the meaning of words. Once you get to that, it's not very productive to have a discussion with them because you get just arguing about something that doesn't actually reflect what's actually existing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:28] Have you seen Behind the Curve?
Mick West: [01:16:29] I have.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:30] That documentary on Netflix. So I'm going to put this in the show notes. I've recommended it before on the show. It's funny because spoiler alert, there are parts of it where these Flat Earthers are still mic'd up and the documentarian is still recording. And these guys are like, "Ooh, that results problematic. Hey, we got to do this experiment again and get a different result. Otherwise, we're in some trouble." They literally say like, "We're in trouble here if this result gets out," of their own experiment, showing the earth is curved and then they'll do another thing. And then they're like, "Yep. This is going to prove it a hundred percent." "Oh, we don't want to have this like a hundred-thousand-dollar hyperbaric chamber that also stops certain types of ions from polluting our result." And it's like, they're just doing gymnastics and they still get results that say the earth is curved. And they're like, "Yeah, let's not release these results."
Mick West: [01:17:13] Yeah. A lot of the batches essentially try to advocate for a certain position. And it varies by the individuals, but some of them essentially know that the evidence points towards the earth being round almost overwhelmingly, but either the holding out glimmer of hope or they are trying to mislead. It's hard to tell. I usually try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but a lot of people in the Flat Earth Movement are either just doing it for kicks. Oh, they're doing it because it's that brand now. They're trying to set up some YouTube channel because they think the South they're going to make some money by promoting Flat Earth. Some of them do believe it though. I will start out with the discussion, assuming that they actually believe it. If it becomes apparent that they are lying about it, then I just generally don't talk to them after that. But yeah, you could still expose their lies elsewhere. You don't have to talk to them.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:07] How do we get our friends to start coming out of the rabbit hole? This is part of what your book is about Escaping the Rabbit Hole. If they've already started down this rabbit hole, you said it doesn't matter which theories they might believe. It matters where they draw the line, this demarcation line. Can you take us through this? This is a useful practical for people who are like, "I'm listening to you. And it's interesting, but like, tell me how to stop Uncle Frank from talking about this crap at Christmas."
Mick West: [01:18:30] Well, we talked about a lot of different conspiracy theories here. Some of them are fairly straightforward, like say pharmaceutical companies who are trying to cover up the lack of efficacy of the drugs for profit. That's a very straightforward thing. You could say that they were good things like, you know, the tobacco companies that was a real conspiracy. So not much of a stretch to say that there could be other similar conspiracies. And there's a more extreme conspiracy. It's like 9/11 conspiracies and there's a wide range within that. There are chemtrail conspiracy theories. Those things like False Flags saying Sandy Hook was fake. Then there are even more extreme ones like the Flat Earth and aliens and shape-shifting alien beings running the world. So there's the spectrum of conspiracy theories.
[01:19:12] Now, everyone has some kind of point on this spectrum where they draw the line. For me, it's fairly low down. I think there are conspiracies to do with industry and this conspiracy has to do with government and corruption and things like that. Some people draw the line a little bit further along. They will think that JFK was assassinated by the CIA. Even further along, they will say the vaccines are bad for you and it is being covered up by the government. And then further along the 9/11 was an inside job, things like that. And understanding where people draw the line on this conspiracy spectrum is very important when you want to talk to them because there's no point talking to them about things that they think are ridiculous. They'll draw a line somewhere on a conspiracy spectrum on one side of it. I think everything is sensible, everything on the other side of the line is ridiculous. So talk to them about that. They'll think you're making fun of them. If you talk to them on things that are too far down the sensible side of the line, then you won't get very far because those are such entrenched beliefs. There are such foundational beliefs. They're so far away from the line that there's no way you're going to shift them on those beliefs.
[01:20:18] So what you got to do is focus on the beliefs that actually exist around where they draw the line things where they think at this point, I believe this, but I don't believe this thing, which is a little bit more extreme than that. And a commonplace for say 9/11. Truth is where they draw the line is whether a cruise missile hit the Pentagon. A lot of people who believe that 9/11 was an inside job think that the planes hit the buildings, but the Pentagon was actually attacked by a cruise missile. And that is something that they don't generally believe things that are way more extreme than that. They don't believe that the towers were destroyed by a laser beam from space or something like that. So if you can get them to focus on this one thing, you got a much better chance of changing their opinion about this thing. That's close to where they draw the line than you have in something like the JFK magic bullets area or something like that, something that's a foundational belief for them. So you focus on these things around this line and you get them to shift the line a little bit. That gives you a little bit of momentum. They've shifted the line down. They've seen that these things in this region around the line are in-depth. And I think if this is false, what else might be false?
[01:21:30] And sometimes you don't even need to debunk something around the line. You can simply point out, "Well, you believe this," or you say, "You believe the towers were brought down by controlled demolition, why don't you believe the thing that's just on the other side of the line. Why don't you believe--?" If they don't, "Why don't you believe that the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile with all this supposed evidence? Is the evidence so much better for this thing than it is for this thing? Why do you believe one thing, but not the other." Getting them to examine why they believe what they believe it's a very important part of getting them to accept more reasonable explanations for their beliefs and to seeing to why their beliefs are actually wrong or why their beliefs might be correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:13] You do a good job in the book about explaining how to do this. For example, you can believe some elements of, let's say the moon landing look like propaganda without believing that we just never went to the moon at all. Like maybe yeah. It's overdramatized yeah, it was advertised a lot for national pride reasons. Yes. It's been sort of propaganda to a certain extent. That doesn't mean we didn't go to the moon. It means it was a massive national victory that we then used as propaganda, or -- yeah, let's just leave it at that propaganda, but it doesn't mean that it's false. And then, of course, you have to stay polite and as honest as possible, even when people are like, "You're a shill." You have to kind of maintain your comfort and cool here.
Mick West: [01:22:49] The first thing I tell people is you've got to maintain effective communication. You've got to keep talking to people. It's just a fundamental thing. When you're trying to change somebody's minds, that's made up, if you look at books on how to talk to people who are in cults, things like the Jonestown cult. People who have this charismatic leader who tells them that they're the new Messiah and they believe him and they follow him and they believe everything. The way to get them out of that is basically just to keep talking to them. That's the fundamental advice that anyone will give you as an expert in cults is that if you keep talking to people, you're giving them some grounding in reality. You're giving them a frame of reference, which is outside of this conspiracy world. And if they don't have that, they're not going to get out. If you give them that, it gives you something to build on. It allows you to actually introduce new concepts and to show them things but you've got to maintain this. And the only way you can do that is to treat the person with respect. Doesn't mean, you have to say like, "Maybe you're right." You can say, "I disagree with you. I respect your beliefs, but let's talk about that." And do it politely. You don't have to say, "You're an idiot." Even if you think they're an idiot, don't say that. Tell them that you -- you can understand why people believe things. And usually, they're not idiots. They're just regular people. They've made a mistake. And if you can think of it as like that, they've just made a mistake. They're thinking about things the wrong way. And if you talk to them, you can actually help them see things the right way. Then the last part of that whole thing, the advice, which is the encapsulation of the book, is that you've got to give it time because these things take a lot of time to do. You can't just give them some information and come back the next day and it'll be fixed. Sometimes you've got to give them information over weeks or months, or sometimes even years before they actually get out of the rabbit hole.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:31] I would imagine also, because since it's rare to find somebody who believes in only one conspiracy theory, you have to debunk a lot of these, like, "Okay, yeah, no, no, no line 11." "Okay. Maybe it wasn't an inside job." "But there's still chemtrails." And you're like, "Okay. Here's why that's not necessarily." Or do you pull one thread on the sweater and it all starts to unravel?
Mick West: [01:24:50] Again, though, you try to focus on where they, where the line of demarcation is. Chemtrails are usually a more extreme conspiracy theory than the 9/11. So if you've got a chemtrail believer, it's better to start on the chemtrails than it is to start with the 9/11 stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:07] So you start further along the line, right there with the most extreme.
Mick West: [01:25:09] You start as far along the line, as you can go without -- as far along the spectrum, as you can go without crossing this line, that they draw this demarcation line. So you want to start with the most extreme thing that they believe. You can't start out with sensible things they believe, if they believe something, that's way more ridiculous. There's no point in debunking JFK if they believe that chemtrails are spraying nanorobots to infect our bloodstream.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:36] Yeah. I can see that. You said something in the book also that I thought was, was really clever. You said, "Restate their position better than they can do it themselves." And this is something that I used to do when I was in sales. It would be something where somebody would tell me a problem and I would restate it in such a way that they would go, "Oh wow. You not only understand my problem. You seem to understand it better than me. So therefore you must have a solution that makes more sense than what I've tried to do before."
Mick West: [01:26:09] Yeah. And this is again, it's an old technique for trying to clarify things, essentially. If you tried to belittle someone's argument, it can be seen as nitpicking. You can be seen as like you're arguing around the argument. But if you try to reformulate what they said in the clearest way possible, it allows both of you to look at that stuff playing and see what's actually wrong with it, or what's actually right with it.
[01:26:27] So someone claims that the world trade center was destroyed by explosives, you might want to then start investigating like, "Oh, what would that actually look like? If you think that there's evidence of explosives, what's the evidence." And then they say, "Well, it's these nano-thermite chips that they found in the dust." And then you say, "Well, okay, so these chips were made of this and this and these are ingredients of thermite and so, therefore, this resembles thermite." So bye clarifying what they are actually saying. It's helpful for them and that they will see it more clearly. It's helpful. You don't sound deaf. You will also show them that you are taking them seriously. You're not just mocking them and making fun of them. You're taking their objections, that theory seriously. And so they will actually listen to you because you're taking it seriously. There's a whole bunch of benefits from doing this, and it's a technique that's been shown to work overtime.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:27:18] One example of this in action that I've done recently was somebody told me, and this is online, but it's somebody that knows me reasonably well. And they were saying, "Well, I don't know, maybe 5G towers do cause coronavirus." And I basically walk it back, show some maps of coronavirus, and also show maps of five G, which do not overlap with any degree of any kind of certainty at all. Essentially just innocently asked, "So are you saying that since 5G towers are being installed at the same time as coronavirus was happening that 5G is causing the virus." And then I just found other things that were going on at the same time that were clearly not causing the virus, other new things or things that aren't new at all. Or things that happened at the same time as other things. And they would literally argue against it. Like, "Of course, this isn't what causes it, of course, going to buy a bag of Cheetos. Isn't what caused the car accident outside?" "Well, why they happened at the same time."
Mick West: [01:28:09] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:10] "Well, no, but it's not a national rollout." "Okay. So how come 2G, 3G, and 4G didn't cause anything to do? Or maybe do you think those caused other diseases?" "Well, I don't know. We didn't hear about other diseases." "So do you think, cause both of them are in the news--?" And then you can see in their head, they were like, "You're right. There's not a whole lot going on. Other than people are talking about them in the same freaking sentence."
Mick West: [01:28:31] Yeah. I think you turned to light, take the argument seriously in a way that shows that to be false in a way. The Latin phrase for that is the reduction to the absurd.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:41] Reductio ad absurdum or something like that.
Mick West: [01:28:43] Yeah, that's the English rice. So you say, "What's the logical consequences of this? Let's work through this. Let's step through this. What would this actually mean if this was actually happening?" And you could say, "If 5G causes coronavirus, then there would be more coronavirus in places where there's more 5G. So let's check that out." But if you immediately dismiss that out as that's being ridiculous, then that allows them to carry on believing that, but by taking it seriously, it allows you to actually check it. There is kind of a hidden danger there though. If you start taking things seriously, that kind of gives them an err of being serious.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:18] It's a great way to get a lot of articles about 5G-causing coronavirus in your inbox if you do it wrong.
Mick West: [01:29:26] Yeah. It's interesting. Like the whole 5G thing and the electromagnetic radiation thing. There's this whole world of people who believe all kinds of stuff about electromagnetic radiation, which I really wasn't that fully aware of before.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:37] Oh, yeah.
Mick West: [01:29:37] All these companies selling these things, like different paints, you can paint your room to shield it from 5G and all these meters you can get for checking these things. And it's all essentially based on, nothing more than the placebo effect. People are just, you know -- they feel better because they painted their room with magnetic shielding or whatever electromagnetic shielding. It kind of goes back to something you said earlier, which is about people wanting to have some control in their life. And electromagnetic radiation, shielding yourself from 5G is something that you could do fairly easily. You can switch your phone off, you can turn your Wi-Fi off, you can wear clothing, this got a metal that is designed to protect you. So there are things you can do that make you feel better and make you feel like you're doing something and taking control, which is partly why beliefs like that persist. It's a little thing that's enjoyable to do, but then it leads to this, at least, the people believing that 5G caused coronavirus because it becomes so deeply ingrained as EMF is bad. Now, they think that anything that's an illness is coming from EMF.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:30:39] Another technique you gave in the book again called Escaping the Rabbit Hole. We'll link to it in the show notes, as we always do. You said, "Improve their argument to show that you understand it." So we can almost, it's kind of restate their position better than they can do it themselves. So you sort of restate it, you improve upon it. You show that you understand it even better than they do. And then suddenly, so you kind of steal man their arguments -- straw man is where you pick the weakest little kind of element of it. You skewer that and you say, "Huh! The whole thing's wrong." And that's not as convincing because it's a logical fallacy in a way, or at least bad argumentation. If you steal man it and you create the best version of that argument even better than they could have and then you go, "And that's still wrong." That's a really good technique. Now, unfortunately, we're in the realm of dealing with logic, to people who might just be believing something emotionally and also because they want to, or they're selling a product that does it -- you're coming up against their emotional invested interest, which is always problematic.
Mick West: [01:31:35] Yeah. It's just a good technique though if you can debunk something that seems like a very, very good argument. It's obviously better than debunking something that is less good argument. So by improving their arguments, you're giving yourself like a more powerful thing to debunk. You got to be careful though, with these techniques, there was a lot of people get suspicious if they realize you're using a technique. If they see you doing something like this -- they figured out that perhaps you're using some kind of mind control technique. That you've learned from the CIA, which sounds ridiculous but --
Jordan Harbinger: [01:32:06] Yeah, but we're talking to people who believe in chemtrails. So why wouldn't they believe we were trained by the CIA?
Mick West: [01:32:10] There are propaganda techniques and there are techniques for talking to people that are more persuasive than other techniques. So you have to be genuine when you're talking to people, you have to be honest. If you're doing something like trying to create a better version of their argument, tell them what you're doing. Don't just do it. Tell them, like say, "I'm trying to figure out what's the best version of this argument so that we could see more clearly what's needed to actually validate it or falsify it. So let's work together and try to figure out the best version." So be very open about what you're doing when you're talking to people. If they see you trying to manipulate them, then that's just an instant shut down. They're going to be like, "Oh yeah, you're trying to mess with my mind." So it'd be very open about what you're actually doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:32:53] That's why it's actually -- that's actually a really good point. I think a lot of people might not realize that. And you know, you mentioned before listing the points of agreement you have between them, finding their line of demarcation. Also, we need to be aware of the backfire effect. Can you explain what that is and how we can get around that as well?
Mick West: [01:33:09] Well, the backfire effect is an effect that is observed sometimes when you tell somebody something that contradicts their beliefs. It can actually make their belief stronger. And there's been examples of this in the literature where people have actually done studies where they would tell somebody something that falsified that belief, but then they'd come back the next day and the person will believe it even more. And this is something you see all the time -- that I see all the time. I argue with somebody, I'll explain something to them and then come back a couple of days later, even though it seemed like he was working at the time, they're even worse the next day. And the backfire effect is kind of like, they think it's kind of like a cognitive dissonance thing because you've introduced something that contradicts the worldview.
[01:33:55] Initially, it seems like it's reasonable, but then they think, "Oh, well, if that's true, then all this other stuff must be false. And I know that stuff isn't false. So that must be false." And so they tried to think of how what you've just told them could be false and they figure out some way of it being false. And then that fits into a larger worldview, which is now even more convolutedly wrong but for them, it seems to make more sense. But there's good news with the backfire effect is that subsequent studies that tried to replicate the original study showed that it doesn't always occur. And in fact, they couldn't get it to reoccur in exactly the same way as the original study. And there have been a number of studies that show the people do respond to evidence that contradicts their beliefs. The key really is getting the information across to the person in a way that they won't reject it, which is all about what we talked about earlier, being polite to them, being respectful of their beliefs, and not alienating them. Don't denigrate them. Don't call them stupid. Don't call them idiots. Don't even mention anything about mental illness because that's a terrible thing to have a conversation. And if you maintain that respect and politeness, then you can supply them with information and it is much less likely to backfire.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:35:08] What do you think is the most dangerous BS conspiracy theory right now?
Mick West: [01:35:13] Oh, that's a difficult one. Let's see. It depends on what you talk about as being dangerous. There are a couple of ways of looking at it. One is just what's harmful to people's health. You could say the vaccine conspiracy is very dangerous because if there are a lot of people are not getting vaccinated, then a lot of people are going to get sick. There's going to be all these outbreaks of illness. And if the coronavirus vaccine comes along and lots of people don't believe that vaccines are real and they don't get vaccinated, then a lot of people could die because they are not vaccinated or we don't get the herd immunity. So that's a very dangerous one from a public health point of view and from an individual's health points of view. But then you could also argue that if there are conspiracy theories out there that could conceivably lead to degradations in society, or even long term, some kind of breakdown in society if you get a lot of people, the leading in these theories about some kind of New World Order takeover and you get more and more people joining militias who feel like that the federal government is some kind of evil entity that you need to fight against, you could get these more mass shootings or mass attacks on federal buildings or even something approaching Civil War in a long term. I don't think that's very likely, but if things are left unchecked and if conspiracy theories continue to rise, there is this growing division within the country. And on one side, you get people who tend to join militias. And so that could be a dangerous thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:36:41] Mick West, thank you very much for coming on the show. We'll link to your stuff in the show notes. I find it fascinating and I appreciate your time.
Mick West: [01:36:47] Yeah. Thank you very much. It's been a very interesting discussion.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:36:51] Big thank you to Mick West. His book is called Escaping the Rabbit Hole. He's also got metabunk.com. We'll be linking to him in the show notes, of course, as we always do.
[01:37:01] Now, of course, everyone thinks you're just shills. We're shills. Right? Well, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So if somebody is claiming something wild, you can always just remember, you don't have to disprove them. The burden of proof is on them. They have to prove their claim to you and extraordinary claims, ridiculous ones often require extraordinary evidence. The kind that those people just don't have. I really do applaud Mick's saintly patience with some of the most frustrating people on the Internet or anywhere else for that matter. On Mick's site, you'll find common conspiracy "evidence" and how to debunk it. He does a lot of videos about like, here's how you fake timestamps in a tweet, here's how this would affect radar in this way, here's how light reflections would make this look like this thing that people say it is like ghosts or UFOs or whatever. He compares photos of what people think are crisis actors and shows them from different angles where they're clearly different people.
[01:37:54] When I hear something ridiculous from someone I often want to debunk it, but it's hard because it takes a lot of time. Often, it's very difficult, especially if I'm arguing against delusional people. So I will let them discredit themselves in a group so that they do my work for me. Yes, I'd love to use snoops and find real evidence and checks and things like that on my phone, if I'm in a conversation. But often conspiracy-minded people, they will just talk more and more and more and dig their own, dig their own grave on this one. So I'll ask the person who believes in 9/11 being an inside job, but also believes in Flat Earth. And now they're thinking that the moon landing is fake and Sandy Hook's shooting never happened, all this stuff. If you let these people talk enough -- in other words, if you give them enough rope, often they will hang themselves with it. I don't always get them a hundred percent of the time, but after a while, it becomes obvious that they are not grounded in reality. So there's a little technique for you. Just let them keep talking and keep asking them what else they think is a hoax or what else they don't believe, and you'll find that the group eventually goes, "Ah, got it! That person's crazy."
[01:38:52] We also have to be careful because the algorithm, especially on YouTube can suck us into a very tightly curated rabbit hole, whether it's Google or YouTube, especially, it will suggest videos that keep us watching. So if we look for something like -- what are the evidence that vaccines might be dangerous or coronavirus, then it evolves into 5G and coronavirus conspiracies. Bill Gates is injecting nano-robots into our blood and stuff like that to control our minds. It will suck you in because it'll keep you watching. So we're programming the algorithm through this ridiculousness and so you have to be careful. A lot of people don't know that, you know, you can put anything you want on YouTube and that it's actually incentivizing people that post ridiculous things because it keeps the watch time longer, so those companies can make money. There was a recent scandal with David Ike on London Real, where he came on and made all of these wild, ridiculous claims. It's since been turned into a free speech issue because they banned the video.
[01:39:47] But, you know, I don't know. I don't know if we should be banning videos. I think we, again, can let people like that talk and talk and talk and people go, "Ah, you think lizard people can shapeshift and control the world. You're mentally ill or a grifter or both." You know, we don't have to ban it, which almost gives them some sort of credence. It's impossible for Facebook to police this stuff effectively. It's impossible for YouTube, really to police this stuff, we have to make ourselves better thinkers. If we become smarter and are better thinkers, we don't have to worry about the nanny state trying to make sure that nothing gets to us. You know, this is how you steal yourself, your kids, your family against bull crap. You teach them how to think properly, not just shelter them from the bullcrap. Well, it could be a little bit of both but at the end, you're the final arbiter of what you believe, so you got to be very careful with that.
[01:40:34] If you do buy the books that we talk about or any books, please use our website. It does help support the show. We've got transcripts and worksheets for every episode. The worksheets so you can review what you learned here from Mick West. Transcripts available in the show notes as well.
[01:40:47] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is always free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. The problem with doing this later, you got to dig the well before you get thirsty, build your network before you need it even if it feels like starting from scratch. The drills take six minutes a day. That's the reason I named it that way. Okay, it's not fluff. It's crucial. Ignore it at your own peril. It's all free jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribed to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:41:23] In fact, why not reach out to Mick West? Tell him you enjoyed this episode of the show. Show guests usually love hearing from you. You never know what will shake out of that. And speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and/or follow me on social. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.
[01:41:38] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. This episode is produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, engineered by Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola. I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions and those of our guests are their own. And yeah, I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer. I'm sure as heck, not a doctor or a therapist. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. So if you know somebody who believes in conspiracy stuff, or doesn't know how to disprove this stuff, but knows that it's wrong, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode. So please share the show with those you love. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:42:31] A lot of people have been asking me, which other shows I recommend now that everybody's sitting at home and getting sick of their Netflix. I've got my friend Jonathan Fields here from the Good Life Project. Jonathan, who's exciting that you have on deck.
Jonathan Fields: [01:42:41] You know, we have an episode with David Heinemeier Hansson goes by DHH.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:42:47] For obvious reasons.
Jonathan Fields: [01:42:48] I want to be somebody who just has an acronym for my name.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:42:52] Yeah, JH.
Jonathan Fields: [01:42:53] I know. Amazing!
Jordan Harbinger: [01:42:53] Not that catchy.
Jonathan Fields: [01:42:55] So he comes from Denmark. He comes to the US and becomes a co-founder and CTO at Basecamp, a legendary coder. You know, most people consider him one of the top coders in the world. He developed this thing called Ruby on Rails, which powers Twitter, Shopify, Airbnb over a million major websites. He becomes this iconic accomplished photographer, and then a first-place finisher in the legendary Le Mans auto race. This is a guy who knows how to go from zero to astonishing. And he also has these really incredible insights into how we work and the best way to really get the most out of work and life. And his insights were just really powerful, precise, and eye opening.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:43:35] You can find Good Life Project anywhere you get your podcasts or at goodlifeproject.com. Thanks, Jonathan.
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