Matt Frederick & Ben Bowlin (@ConspiracyStuff) are the conspiratorial masterminds behind the Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know podcast and co-authors of a book that, to avoid any confusion, goes by the same name.
What We Discuss with Matt Frederick & Ben Bowlin:
- Why people believe conspiracy theories.
- Popular conspiracy theories and why they persist.
- Conspiracy theories that turned out to be real.
- Telling the difference between true believers and opportunistic grifters.
- How we can avoid going down rabbit holes that foment conspiracy theories.
- And much more…
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If you’ve been paying attention, a lot of people believe in some pretty wild things these days. And admittedly, in some very rare instances, those wild things turn out to be true. But most of the time, what gets wrapped up under the patchwork quilt of “conspiracy theories” can be easily debunked and dismantled with the application of critical thinking and an examination of the evidence (or lack thereof).
On this episode, we’re joined by Matt Frederick and Ben Bowlin, the conspiratorial masterminds behind the Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know podcast and co-authors of a book that goes by the same name. Here, we discuss the current popular conspiracy theories making the rounds, conspiracy theories that have been around forever and still manage to persist after being disproven time and time again, conspiracy theories that have actually turned out to be true, who profits from belief in conspiracy theories, why people who should know better get sucked into believing conspiracy theories that are completely bonkers, and what we can do to avoid counting ourselves among them. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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If you want to hear more about how to debunk and dismantle conspiracy theories, make sure to listen to episode 363: Mick West | How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories here!
Thanks, Matt Frederick & Ben Bowlin!
If you enjoyed this session with Matt Frederick & Ben Bowlin, let them know by clicking on the link below and sending them 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:
- Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know: Bowlin, Ben, Frederick, Matt, Brown, Noel: 9781250268563: Amazon.com: Books
- Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast
- Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast | Twitter
- Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast | YouTube
- Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast | Facebook
- Ben Bowlin | Twitter
- 17 Facts About Conspiracy Theories | Mental Floss
- Is Santa the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory? | Person on a Chair
- The Elf on the Shelf | Wikipedia
- 7 Reasons to Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa (And Still Keep the Magic in Christmas) | Happily Family
- Cherry Tree Myth | George Washington’s Mount Vernon
- What Were George Washington’s Teeth Made Of? (It’s Not Wood) | Live Science
- Secrets of the Founding Fathers Part I | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast
- Secrets of the Founding Fathers Part II | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast
- What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory? | The New York Times
- Steven Hassan | The #iGotOut Guide to Quitting QAnon | Jordan Harbinger
- Major General Smedley Butler | Americans Who Tell the Truth
- Gangsters of Capitalism with Jonathan Katz | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast
- Thought-Terminating Cliché | Wikipedia
- 32 Royal Conspiracy Theories That Are Absolutely Bonkers | Harper’s Bazaar
- Scientific Method | Britannica
- Confirmation Bias | The Decision Lab
- What is Pizzagate? 10 Facts About the Conspiracy Theory | Esquire
- 10 Doomsday Scenarios That Never Happened | Lethbridge News Now
- Chemtrails | Skeptical Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
- 30 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True | Thought Catalog
- Operation LAC (Large Area Coverage) | Wikipedia
- MKUltra | Wikipedia
- Gulf of Tonkin Incident | Wikipedia
- False-Flag Operations | Hoover Institution
- Seven Resources Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories | Council on Foreign Relations
- Project for the New American Century (PNAC) | Wikipedia
- Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise | Scientific American
- What Does It Mean If the Street Lights Turn off When I Walk By? | Quora
- The Tongue Can’t Taste Itself, with Dan Harmon | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast
- Many QAnon Adherents Believe in a Century-Old Antisemitic Hoax | Morning Consult
- What is a Zine? | The Bindery
- Asymmetric Warfare | Wikipedia
- Renee DiResta | Dismantling the Disinformation Machine | Jordan Harbinger
- Who Are the Chinese Trolls of the ‘50 Cent Army’? | VoA News
- Laowhy86 | China Uprising | Out of the Loop | Jordan Harbinger
- Laowhy86 | How the Chinese Social Credit Score System Works Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Laowhy86 | How the Chinese Social Credit Score System Works Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- 4 Reasons Why You Should Never Say ‘Do Your Research’ to Win the Argument | The Conversation
- Smith–Mundt Act | Wikipedia
- Apple Pie Propaganda? The Smith–Mundt Act before and after the Repeal of the Domestic Dissemination Ban | Northwestern University Law Review
- Nina Schick | Deepfakes and the Coming Infocalypse | Jordan Harbinger
- Banned Foods | Skeptical Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
- Ohio Train Derailment: Separating Fact From Fiction | The New York Times
- Secret World War II Chemical Experiments Tested Troops By Race | NPR
- What is the Tuskegee Study? | Planned Parenthood
- How Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Developed So Fast? | Houston Methodist on Health
- All Smedleys Considered | Let’s Start a Coup! Podcast
- Rumors Swirl about Balloons, UFOs as Officials Stay Mum | AP News
- CLASSIC: Flat Earth Update | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast
- The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model: Why It Might Work and Options to Counter It | RAND
- ‘A Lot of People Are Saying…’: How Trump Spreads Conspiracies and Innuendoes | The Washington Post
- Conspiracy Theorists Believe Wild Ideas Because They Want to Feel Special | Quartz
- Inside QAnon Queen Romana Didulo’s Cult | Vice
- A Mom Is Losing Her Family Home Thanks to the QAnon Queen of Canada | Vice
- Water Fluoridation Controversy | Wikipedia
- How Alex Jones Mainstreamed Conspiracy Theories | NPR
- Legislator Criticism of a Candidate’s Conspiracy Beliefs Reduces Support for the Conspiracy but Not the Candidate: Evidence from Marjorie Taylor Greene and Qanon | HKS Misinformation Review
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain | Amazon
- The Prosperity Gospel, Explained: Why Joel Osteen Believes That Prayer Can Make You Rich | Vox
- Full Interview: Preacher Kenneth Copeland Defends Lavish Lifestyle | Inside Edition
- The LIL’ KC Shuffle | The Remix Bros
- 9 Expensive Things Owned by Celebrity Millionaire Creflo Dollar | Geeks
- The Scandals That Led to the Downfall of Televangelist Jim Bakker | Investigation Discovery
- Who’s Hiding the Broccoli? A Conversation with Jordan Harbinger | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know Podcast
814: Matt Frederick & Ben Bowlin | Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:04] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:07] Ben Bowlin: There's something that happens with conspiratorial thoughts there. You get the added, not just the status bump of belonging to a community and being approved of by those you would consider your peers, but you also get the feeling of being one who is influential in that group. One who is moving that group in some certain direction by the power of your mind, right? This happened a lot with QAnon, right? And especially when COVID had a lot of people inside, we saw people who were kind of building their own social pyramids and they were at the top.
[00:00:42] Jordan Harbinger: 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 fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional arms dealer, investigative journalist, cold case homicide investigator, or astronaut. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:12] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show, I suggest our episode starter packs as a place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topics that'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on this show — topics like persuasion and influence, disinformation and cyber warfare, conspiracies, crime cults, and more, just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started. Don't forget, you can search for anything we've ever done here on the show or any promo code for any sponsor by using our AI chatbot at jordanharbinger.com/ai.
[00:01:45] Today, on the show, why people believe conspiracy theories? You know, I'm fascinated with this stuff. I don't really or didn't really understand what the attraction was to a lot of this kookery. We'll also explore some popular conspiracy theories, how they originated and why they still persist. We'll discuss some conspiracy theories that are actually true because go figure, a bunch of them turn out to be true, and conspiracy thinking. How we can do better or help those around us do better? And who better to explore this topic with? Matthew and Ben from the Stuff They Don't Want You to Know podcast. All right, here we go.
[00:02:20] I'm actually pretty excited for today's conversation because you guys are a lot of fun and also conspiracy theories and why people believe them are actually, this is one of my favorite things to explore just because it seems so ridiculous. But there are kind of concrete, scientific reasons why our brains do stuff that is kooky. First, though, I found it interesting you guys kick off the book by noting that the United States was founded by a conspiracy that, of course, turned out to be true. And I'm wondering if you think that this history plays any role in Americans' willingness to believe in frankly, ridiculous conspiracies as well because it's like this is in our DNA as Americans.
[00:02:58] Ben Bowlin: Yeah, I mean, I would say a hundred percent, Jordan. That's a huge part of it. There's another part, the opening foray of the book, we had to cut this, but we talk about the number one conspiracy that many children learn in the United States. It's the first conspiracy theory that you ever get introduced to it's the idea of Santa Claus.
[00:03:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:18] Ben Bowlin: Obey these social morays so that this large man can break into your house and leave you stuff, and every adult is in on it. It's a huge violation of taboo and normalcy to be that adult who tells a kid, you know, exposes the whole thing to the kid. So everybody plays along, not because there's some overarching sinister plan or cabal, but because you don't want to ruin Christmas for children.
[00:03:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:44] Ben Bowlin: And so I think when you see the origin story of the United States and all the things that are taught about it, all the things that later come out as ugly truths, it makes sense that people would have an inherent distrust of authority and official narratives, especially in this country.
[00:04:04] Jordan Harbinger: The idea that kids in believing in Santa as a conspiracy is kind of funny. We tried Elf on the Shelf this year and my son's like—
[00:04:12] Matt Frederick: Oh no.
[00:04:12] Jordan Harbinger: Do you know about this? You know, about Elf on the Shelf? I didn't know about this. I guess it's a white people thing. And I just somehow that went way over, that skipped my house.
[00:04:20] Matt Frederick: It's the difference between omniscient surveillance like with Santa Claus.
[00:04:24] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:04:24] Matt Frederick: He just somehow knows what you're doing—
[00:04:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:27] Matt Frederick: —even when you're sleeping and all that.
[00:04:28] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:04:28] Matt Frederick: To a physical representation of a surveillance device that's in your house, that knows all the sh*t you're doing.
[00:04:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So it's like TikTok, but it's a figurine that sits on your mantle. We tried it and my son, who's three was like, "So he's alive and he talks to Santa Claus, but he's sitting on the shelf." I'm like, "Oh yeah, at night he flies back to the North Pole," and then the next day he's in a different position or whatever and he comes out and he goes, "Why isn't he moving?" And I'm like, "Oh, well, he's magic." And he goes, "Okay, but why isn't he moving?" And I thought that's a valid question. I'm going to try to avoid that because there's no good answer. And then I go, "Well, he's sleeping." And he goes, "But his eyes are open." And I'm like, I can't, I don't have the mental capacity to argue with you about this because you are right on all counts. So I eventually told my three-year-old son, this is just a game that we're playing. He's just a plastic doll and it's fun. So we can pretend that it's real, but we know that he's really not real. And he's like, "Oh," and it was still fun. It was fine.
[00:05:27] Matt Frederick: Of course.
[00:05:28] Jordan Harbinger: Maybe he lost a little bit of the magic, but he didn't really care and his baby sister, who is not who at the time, wasn't even one year old or was about one year old, he's like, "This is real. He flies to the North—" so he was in on it and it was just as fun for him to tell his little sister who doesn't even understand what's going on.
[00:05:41] Matt Frederick: Well because stories are fun to tell, right?
[00:05:43] Jordan Harbinger: Maybe I'm the adult who screws up Christmas for everybody because when the kid's like, "How is this possible? He goes to every house. And how come some kids get bad toys even though they're good kids?" And I'm like, "Santa's fake. And it's all us buying your stuff. And some parents have more money than others. That's the truth."
[00:05:56] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:05:56] Jordan Harbinger: "Don't tell your friends." Because you know, why did the kid next door, who lives with his grandparents, who are retired, not get a bunch of crap and he did? That kid, he is not a bad boy. His parents have, they live on social security, right? And we don't. It's almost a harmful narrative to tell kids that Santa brings good children more stuff than others because when one kid gets a thousand dollars, whatever thing for Christmas and the other kid gets a handmade craft from grandma, it's like, "Well, what did I do?"
[00:06:21] Matt Frederick: We're basing it on moral stuff that the kid did, right?
[00:06:23] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:24] Matt Frederick: Like morality checks and balances basically And choices that they make.
[00:06:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:06:29] Matt Frederick: So then, you're tying whether they're good or not to whether their parents are wealthy or not.
[00:06:34] Ben Bowlin: And also tying the idea of success to the accumulation of material goods. It's like, "Listen, kid, I'm just going to break down with you. That neighbor may seem cool, but he's into some really dark sh*t and that's the reason why his action figures were off-brand."
[00:06:49] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. He got Mega Bloks instead of Legos because when you're not there, he lights other people's houses on fire.
[00:06:56] Matt Frederick: The kid is a monster.
[00:06:57] Jordan Harbinger: I'm sorry.
[00:06:59] Matt Frederick: Can we get back just the original question, Jordan?
[00:07:01] Jordan Harbinger: That's probably a good idea.
[00:07:02] Matt Frederick: The American conspiracy, right?
[00:07:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:04] Matt Frederick: Or the conspiracy that became America, I think it has a lot to do with young minds. because if you think about it, at least in my experience, and I think for a lot of American kids, you experience the founding fathers for the first time. You learn about them for the first time really young, and it is almost, I don't know, some kind of fable—
[00:07:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:23] Matt Frederick: —that you get taught a version of the story that is a fable. If you think about the cherry tree and all, I mean all those things that you learned that—
[00:07:30] Jordan Harbinger: I could not tell a lie.
[00:07:31] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:07:31] Jordan Harbinger: It's like, well, you probably told some lies and probably owned some slaves too, but let's not, there's a lot of things you've done wrong.
[00:07:38] Ben Bowlin: Some of your fake teeth were from enslaved people.
[00:07:40] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:07:40] Ben Bowlin: You know what I mean?
[00:07:41] Jordan Harbinger: Wait, is that true?
[00:07:42] Matt Frederick: That is true.
[00:07:42] Jordan Harbinger: I thought he had wooden dentures. Oh god, that's gross. They pulled other people's teeth out and they gave them to, oh God, do I want to get, do I want to know?
[00:07:49] Matt Frederick: Jordan, okay, so look, don't think about it too much. But if you encounter at that early age in that version, it's what Ben was saying, we become disillusioned as we grow older and we start to fill in those full stories. And I think that happens to us over and over again, especially if you grow up in a very religious family, no matter what religion that is, it's a simpler version. It's a fable version for you for a long time until you start to learn more and more details. And as that complexity increases, the reality starts to change a lot.
[00:08:23] Jordan Harbinger: That's so interesting because, of course, the idea of the founding — any sort of thing that gets mythologized, fabulize is always going to look black and white. And of course, nothing ever is. Is the dentures thing true? I remember learning like, "Oh, we had wooden dentures," I'm like, that's a weird detail. And it turns out that it's just way more horrifying than that. Is that true?
[00:08:40] Ben Bowlin: It is true that George Washington was at least in one purchase of teeth from enslaved human beings.
[00:08:49] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my God.
[00:08:49] Ben Bowlin: Also, it was way more common to have false teeth that were made from like hippopotamus bones and—
[00:08:57] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, well, that's less—
[00:08:59] Matt Frederick: it's less weird. It's less bad.
[00:09:00] Jordan Harbinger: Way less horrifying.
[00:09:01] Ben Bowlin: Horrifying. Yes. But those, these stories, these examples are true. And of course, if one looks back at, if we're trying to understand how someone could slowly fall off a cognitive chasm, into something crazy like Pizzagates, right? Or something—
[00:09:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:21] Ben Bowlin: —easily disprovable like the claims of Q of QAnon fame. I think you're very correct in that we have to start with an understanding of the things that led us from history to the present date. And the sad fact of the matter is that whether you're talking about Smedley Butler or whether you're talking about some of the things the founding fathers did, what you're going to find is that some things that would've been dismissed as conspiracy theories, even before that word existed, were absolutely true. They were real conspiracies. And it takes a dollop of critical thinking to avoid saying, look, if one thing was proven to be true, then shouldn't everything else be proven true? Like, that's—
[00:10:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:10:02] Ben Bowlin: I mean, conspiracy theory as a concept, it's been weaponized into a thought-terminating cliche. That's why you'll see a lot of places, like if you want to dismiss something, right now, conspiracy theory is a pejorative term. It's used to make it sound like the idea that Queen Elizabeth is a half-human, half-alien creature with all these weird hobbies to make that sound as though it is on the same level as saying, you know, certain banks ran money for drug cartels. It's tremendously reductive and dismissive because one of those things is absolutely true. That's kind of a line that we try to explore here, and we went back and forth in the book, in any project that we do where we say, what is our intellectual responsibility to our audience, you know? And that's—
[00:10:51] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:51] Ben Bowlin: That's something that maybe sounds a little highfaluting, but, but it's a question you have to ask yourself. And honestly, it's a question some textbook writers of the past should have asked themselves.
[00:11:02] Jordan Harbinger: I'd like to talk about why a conspiracy theory isn't the same as a theory that is based in science. I think that's the difference that one, a lot of people online certainly don't seem to understand, and two, the word theory is so broad that you can say, oh, that's just a conspiracy theory. But if you say theory of relativity, no one's like theory of relativity, I mean, let's be— that's just a theory.
[00:11:22] Ben Bowlin: Well, well, okay.
[00:11:23] Matt Frederick: Let's talk about some of the similarities because there are some. A conspiracy theory is often formed by creating a hypothesis. You are putting together a couple of different puzzle pieces that you, as the person creating the theory, have identified as being connected In some way, you are making those connections. That's really what that theory is. And when you're creating a hypothesis for, you know, some kind of scientific research, you are coming up with the potential answer, right? This is potentially the answer to the bigger question of why does gravity function the way that it does? Something simple, simple like that, right? So simple, gravity, it's not, but like you create that thing, and then with the scientific method, you test it, and that's the whole point. And you test it until it fails, right? And when it fails, you change one of the variables and you test it again. And you keep testing. With a theory, a conspiracy theory, there is really no concrete way to test it because you're often trying to, in some way, prove a negative, which is either impossible or you just, you aren't ever going to get the information that you would need to confirm that theory. It's almost impossible, I would say.
[00:12:35] Jordan Harbinger: Can you give an example of that? Because the Pizzagate guy, who you mentioned earlier—
[00:12:39] Matt Frederick: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:39] Jordan Harbinger: For those who don't know, that was where they thought this pizzeria in Washington DC had a secret basement and there were children trapped in there. And I think it was Hillary Clinton/Democrats were drinking the kids' blood to stay young, which is a ridiculously dumb thing to believe. And it turned out this place didn't have a basement at all. And the way this guy tested the hypothesis was he ran in there with a rifle to try to rescue the kids. You know, he wanted to be a hero and he was, thought he was doing this noble thing and he tested the hypothesis and now he's in prison.
[00:13:10] Ben Bowlin: So maybe we start with one of the more, and I don't want to oversimplify, but one of the ways to think of it when you're asking about the difference between a scientific theory and a conspiracy theory, we're kind of talking about inductive v. deductive, like Matt was saying, scientific theory, you are testing existing things, right? And with this person, if we trace out, if we kind of game out what happened cognitively to them, they started including a bunch of other stuff based on their previously existing beliefs. They're confirmation bias, right?
[00:13:45] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:45] Ben Bowlin: So one person already doesn't like Hillary Clinton. And you know, unfortunately, there are any number of valid reasons to dislike any number of politicians.
[00:13:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:56] Ben Bowlin: So building on that, this guy's already primed to find negative information. I'm not using a scientific way like, you know, critical information about the person. Find it more believable, right? So if you already don't like someone, then when you hear something bad about them, your brain just kind of wants to toss that on the pile—
[00:14:17] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:14:17] Ben Bowlin: —of reasons you were right. And then this gets rewarded in sort of the dopamine cycle, the addiction cycle of social media, right? I said this, 50-something people liked it, so I must be onto something, right?
[00:14:32] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:14:32] Ben Bowlin: And then this sort of snowballs, right? It escalates into a series of if-thens that are increasingly less examined. Because now what happens is something that you thought could make sense because you don't like a person, an entity, an institution, or whatever, along the way is you accept more and more out their claims, the stuff that you started with just starts to slide into the realm of fact in your perspective.
[00:14:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:59] Ben Bowlin: The other thing is, Jordan, most people, given a safe space to digest information and given the opportunity to learn, most people are incredibly intelligent when they have that opportunity, that space to process and that space to process is just increasingly elusive in these days, you know?
[00:15:18] Matt Frederick: Ben, I agree with everything you're saying there. I just want to give some more context to that. The Pizzagate example, right, you've got one guy who reads about this theory online. You can read a ton about it because there was so much speculation on the Internet at the time surrounding the email situation, the Podesta situation, all those things.
[00:15:36] Jordan Harbinger: There were leaked emails from WikiLeaks that showed them talking about bringing pizzas and people were like, "That means child pornography," and that they're getting the pizzas from, I think it was called Comet Pizza or something like that.
[00:15:47] Matt Frederick: The Comet Ping Pong, the connection was made from John Podesta to the owner of that Comet Ping Pong and pizza place. There was some connection there. I remember reading about that and then it kind of went down the rabbit hole from there. Like stuff was glommed onto the theory, right? "Well, maybe this is where they keep the kids. Well, maybe there's this hidden subway tunnel system that takes them over to the other parts of Washington. Well, maybe there's all this," and that's all part of the conspiracy storytelling that goes on as one of these things is forming. And it really just continues on the reason why that guy was testing the theory. And it's true that's what he was doing. "Well, I'm going to go there and do that." The reason why it doesn't stop the theory from proliferating or growing is because you can add new parts to the story. "Well, maybe, they boarded up the part where it used to have access to the tunnel that was down there. Well, you know, they knew the heat was on so they shut down the operation there and moved it somewhere else." You can just add stuff to it if you're on a message board if you're talking about something like that.
[00:16:46] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:16:46] Ben Bowlin: It's collaborative, stealth storytelling and the absence of proof can function as proof all its own if portrayed in the right spin. I mean, there are some weird Orwellian aspects to this, but I think to the point about mixing and matching. Conspiracy theories in the modern day proliferating in modern communication channels, it's kind of like going to Chipotle. You're getting a burrito, but you can add your own lettuce. You could get, you know, I don't know if they do guac on request. It's not important for this comparison, but I am curious.
[00:17:18] Jordan Harbinger: You don't know if Chipotle does guac on request? Who?
[00:17:20] Matt Frederick: Bro?
[00:17:21] Jordan Harbinger: You just what? How did you not know that?
[00:17:23] Ben Bowlin: I've never gone into the breach there. I'm always in such a hurry.
[00:17:25] Jordan Harbinger: Good Lord. A guy doesn't know Chipotle has guac for two dollars?
[00:17:30] Ben Bowlin: I know. I've destroyed all my credibility.
[00:17:32] Jordan Harbinger: Get the f*ck out of here .
[00:17:34] Matt Frederick: So to be fair, Ben is always ordering the quesadilla.
[00:17:37] Ben Bowlin: Yeah, which is off menu.
[00:17:38] Jordan Harbinger: That is ridiculous.
[00:17:39] Ben Bowlin: Yeah, it is indeed.
[00:17:41] Jordan Harbinger: I thought we were friends. Anyway, continue.
[00:17:43] Ben Bowlin: But the point is, yeah, the point is what we're really looking at another way to conceive of this is what I would call, this is like high-speed collaborative folklore is what's happening.
[00:17:53] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's interesting.
[00:17:54] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. It's crowdsourced, right? And it has all the juicy bits of scary stories to tell in the dark, you know? And it has all of the confirmation, the scratch behind the ears of feeling one belongs or has an identity within a community or tribal system. So it's reinforced in several powerful ways. And this happened way before conspiracy theory became a modernized term. This happens with doomsday cults as well. Whenever the leader gets the date wrong, the leader or someone else can always come in and say, "Ooh, also, this is why."
[00:18:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:32] Ben Bowlin: Everybody stay in the cult but this is why.
[00:18:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Everyone stay in the cult. The reason the spaceship didn't pick us up was because we had metal in our underwire, in our bras, and in our pants, and they said, no metal. And we took off all the metal, but we forgot that there's metal in the underwire in the bra. That was a real example, by the way. Was that in your book or was that in a different book? That particular Comet Death cult.
[00:18:55] Ben Bowlin: Are you talking about Heaven's Gate? They would be the most famous one. I don't know if it was that.
[00:18:58] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know if that's Heaven's Gate. I think that's the one or I'm starting to even get them confused, that one of the leaders was Do. Do you remember this?
[00:19:05] Ben Bowlin: Oh, yeah. Okay. Yes. Yeah, I do remember this. And also, how strange is it that now we're saying, yeah, which doomsday cult was—?
[00:19:13] Jordan Harbinger: Which death cult with the comment was that? Because there were multiple death cults with multiple comets that had spaceships involved. Yeah, exactly. That's where we're at.
[00:19:21] Ben Bowlin: I mean, it takes us to interesting, challenging places, you know, especially when you have to go back and take a hard look like you interrogate history, right? And sometimes quite recent history. And you have to say, "Well, this thing that was dismissed," right, "or called a crackpot narrative. It turned out to be true." And again, to your point about the lack of nuance, often this stuff is not a hundred percent true. And on the flip side, a lot of times, at least in history, it's not a hundred percent false either. There's often — Matt, you and I always like to talk about this and Noel as well, there's often some germ, some grain, some origin point that was true and that informed the growth of the folklore or the embellishment around it, you know?
[00:20:09] Jordan Harbinger: So a lot of conspiracy theories do have a basis in fact, but then people continue to connect dots that just aren't there. Yeah, I think you kind of mentioned this before, people follow, they make connections in their brain. And I'm trying to think of an example, but chemtrails is probably a good example. We did an episode of Skeptical Sunday about this episode 660, and people would say those are chemtrails, not just airline condensation, and the reason is this, this, this, and this. And since they're looking for a conclusion, they'll say like, "Look, people who are over this area, they get sick more." And it's like, "Well, did you look at any other area to compare?" "No. We just looked at the area where we wanted to find sick people and look, we found all these sick people." And it's like, "Okay, but then you went to this other area where there's no people at all. And you found less sick people. Why would that be? Well, one's a city and one is a rural area that has no people in it, and one's near an airport that has a million planes." So of course, you say, "Look, there's more sick people where there's more plane." "Okay, but you didn't control for any of the other variables, so it's not really useful." And that's a generous interpretation of people connecting dots that aren't there. A lot of people just make up the freaking dots in the first place, like Pizzagate.
[00:21:14] Matt Frederick: Yeah. But if you look at our book and we talk about some of the experimentation and spraying in the air, aerosol sprays that the US government has tested out both on the populace of the United States when we've been engaged in hot war in places like Vietnam, like just doing tons of testing, spraying stuff in the air, just like the way chemtrails are described by someone who would believe that conspiracy theory. And that's, I think, the germ of truth at the center of that.
[00:21:42] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:21:43] Matt Frederick: A lot of it is stuff that we didn't know for years, Ben, was it the St. Louis Spring in a couple of low-income areas?
[00:21:50] Ben Bowlin: Operation Large Area Coverage, I believe that was one of the names.
[00:21:54] Jordan Harbinger: What's that?
[00:21:55] Ben Bowlin: This is one of a series of tests that the US government conducted specifically over economically disadvantaged populations, and their idea was that this would be kind of a war game. This is practice, this is experimentation. What we're trying to learn here is how foreign powers, biological weapons attacks could spread over the continent. And they checked a bunch of safeguards, or at least to their standard of safe, and they said, "Look, we don't think this is actually going to hurt people, so it'll help us learn how this stuff spreads." Of course, it went everywhere because they didn't really factor in like the wind patterns.
[00:22:39] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah. I couldn't understand not knowing that wind exists when you're a scientist.
[00:22:43] Ben Bowlin: Right. Right, exactly.
[00:22:44] Jordan Harbinger: For the military.
[00:22:45] Matt Frederick: Well, it was a test, right? They were trying to see what would happen and they wanted to understand how wind would affect it, how temperature would affect it.
[00:22:53] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. And if it's so safe, then, this is one of the questions we have, if it's so safe, then, then why are they only testing in—
[00:23:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:23:00] Ben Bowlin: —poor areas where people are—
[00:23:02] Jordan Harbinger: Sprayed over Beverly Hills, California—
[00:23:03] Ben Bowlin: Right.
[00:23:03] Jordan Harbinger: — if it's so safe.
[00:23:04] Ben Bowlin: Put it over Beverly Hills, you know. And why are they also not telling the public?
[00:23:09] Matt Frederick: Yeah. Super secret.
[00:23:11] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. So that kind of stuff you could see how maybe somebody grows up in St. Louis and maybe they hear these stories, right? And maybe like many people, they correctly or incorrectly attribute later health issues to something like this. Then, of course, that becomes part of this, this hidden lore, right? And they keep their eye out for maybe congressional investigations that do or do not arrive. And then at some point, they hear about chemtrails and they go, that's not too far off actually—
[00:23:44] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:44] Ben Bowlin: —from what I know to be true. I think that's a really solid example of how these things spread, because on some level, the very bare bones of the concept, there is a factual basis, but the problem is that makes it really easy for someone else to come along, whether they're acting sincerely, whether they're just trolling, or whether they're even just trying to like spread propaganda for some other conspiracy. It makes it very easy for them to say, look at example A, now reassess, example B. And even if example B is absolute hogwash, it can be very difficult to apply critical thinking to it in that case.
[00:24:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So the argument that some conspiracy theories turn out to be true, no matter how ridiculous MKUltra, right, with the CIA using like psychedelics for mind control or whatever it was, and chemtrails where people were actually sprayed with something in a poor area. And then the government, of course, lying about that. So a lot of these theories, although it's ridiculous, there's a reason for believing them that's not just completely insane.
[00:24:45] Matt Frederick: Oh yeah. But that doesn't mean you can't go a little too far down your own rabbit hole. because ultimately, you have to choose your own adventure in this thing, right? And when you're thinking about the information we encounter on a regular basis, you have to acknowledge, I think we all have to acknowledge it has changed fundamentally in the course of 10 years, maybe. Maybe 15 years, let's give it. The stuff that we encounter every day that so many people will just kind of take in and use either as a talking point with somebody that they're hanging out with or as something they even take in as maybe a true fact that they just know that they can spout off when they're, you know, I do this, I'm assuming we all do this to some extent. It's often unattributed information. It's often like this bite-sized, cherry-picked piece of information from a much larger story. It's often aimed at a specific bubble that you're probably in, and it's often conveyed to you by somebody who is not a subject matter expert, right?
[00:25:44] Ben Bowlin: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's called podcasting.
[00:25:46] Matt Frederick: Or TikTok.
[00:25:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:48] Matt Frederick: But that's just the world we live in now.
[00:25:49] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:25:50] Matt Frederick: That's how we get our information to a large part. Not all of us, and not all information, but it's the information we swim in. It's creepy to me.
[00:26:02] Jordan Harbinger: You are listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Matthew and Ben, from the Stuff They Don't Want You to Know podcast. We'll be right back.
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[00:29:31] Now, back to the show.
[00:29:34] Another classic example of something that sounds fake but turns out to be true is like these false flag attacks, right? Gulf of Tonkin, where the United States was like, "Let's larp that Vietnam attacked us, and then go invade." And it's like, "Oh, that turned out to be true." But then that evolves somehow into, "9/11 was an inside job. Look at this detonation." And it's like, "Well, You're crazy. Oh wait, Gulf of Tonkin, okay, so this has happened before with the United States pretends we get attacked by somebody. But this is different," right? And it's like, okay, but where's the nuance?
[00:30:04] Matt Frederick: If you look at something like the project for the New American century, a think tank that in the year 2000 puts out a statement within their members into other people that we need a new Pearl Harbor. We need a new Pearl Harbor. That is what they said verbatim. It was because they needed more money to build more weapons, to make sure weapons manufacturing, like the Northrop Grumman's of the world and the Lockheed Martin's of the world are still going to be functional and their stocks are going to be okay.
[00:30:31] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:30:31] Ben Bowlin: I would put in something important here that, because I appreciate the point about nuance. It is crucial. And we are talking about something to be devilishly difficult, but we also have to realize that people are great explainers, right?
[00:30:45] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:30:46] Ben Bowlin: The brain categorizes. That's kind of the extreme end of that trait that has evolved to get people to where they are today. The extreme end of that creates patterns where none may exist.
[00:30:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Patternicity, I think is what this is called, right?
[00:31:00] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[00:31:00] Jordan Harbinger: Where we connect dots, even if they're not there. The age-old example of this is Russell and Bush is a predator—
[00:31:07] Ben Bowlin: Mm-hmm.
[00:31:08] Jordan Harbinger: —even when it's a bird or something. And so, we are evolved to connect the dots and go, "There's a Russell in the bushes. Everybody run and get your weapons ready, or both."
[00:31:18] Ben Bowlin: Mm-hmm.
[00:31:18] Jordan Harbinger: And so we've evolved that as a survival instinct, but we still do it where we say confirmation bias pattern that happened to many people that I know is, and I'm sure you've seen this or heard about this, you know when you drive under a streetlight and it turns off? Has that happened to you?
[00:31:33] Ben Bowlin: Oh, yeah, I know what you mean. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:31:35] Jordan Harbinger: And so a lot of my friends growing up had noticed this and they'd be like, "I have a power over lights that I don't know how to control." And it's like, no, you've observed solenoids or whatever, overheating and street lamps, and they turn off when you're near them. But you didn't notice the other 30,000 lights that did absolutely nothing—
[00:31:53] Ben Bowlin: Exactly.
[00:31:53] Jordan Harbinger: —when you drove underneath them because of patternicity and because of confirmation bias. So you have nothing but the ability to observe that sometimes lights turn off, and you see that, which is literally everything with eyes in the whole universe.
[00:32:06] Ben Bowlin: Which is still great. That's a great power. It's just not—
[00:32:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:32:09] Ben Bowlin: —the one you think you have, but—
[00:32:10] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:32:12] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. This is something that I think because human brains are hardwired to practice and engage in this phenomenon, in this activity, then what we have to understand is there's realistically not a way to stop it. The best we can hope for is to channel it appropriately. And you know, there's a great point that our buddy, I think it was Dan Harmon, Matt—
[00:32:35] Matt Frederick: Mmm.
[00:32:35] Ben Bowlin: —who made this a while ago, he said, "I love conspiracies because you know the alternative is that there's no one in charge."
[00:32:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:32:44] Ben Bowlin: "And the world is just a bunch of people sort of, kind of faking it until they make it"
[00:32:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:32:50] Ben Bowlin: I mean, I think that's something that's quite alluring.
[00:32:53] Jordan Harbinger: That's a deeper point.
[00:32:54] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[00:32:54] Jordan Harbinger: I've noticed this and I was going to bring this up that a lot of people that believe in this stuff, the more ridiculous theories I should say, I can't help but notice that a lot of them, their lives are spinning out of control. Like maybe they lost their job recently or they've got issues, health issues, and instead of going, "Holy crap, there's nobody that can control things. We're just one text message looking at my phone while crossing the street away from death at any given moment, the economy, anything could happen. I might lose my home, my kids, something might happen to them. It's better to be like, there's a cabal of people that are really steering everything and they're evil and they're the enemy. Let's focus on that," rather than, "Anything could happen to me at any time and there's nothing I could do about it."
[00:33:35] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. Rather than it's my fault.
[00:33:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Or that it's your own fault.
[00:33:38] Matt Frederick: Right.
[00:33:39] Jordan Harbinger: But it's better to believe that somebody is steering the ship rather than fate happens and stuff happens to perfectly good people for any reason and there's nothing you can do about it. That's actually more scary than there's an evil cabal out to get you, I think.
[00:33:53] Ben Bowlin: True.
[00:33:53] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:33:54] Ben Bowlin: You could join the cabal.
[00:33:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You have a shot at making your way to the cabal right at some point. Or avoiding it, right? Oh, I'm avoiding—
[00:34:01] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[00:34:01] Jordan Harbinger: —it by like keeping a low profile. You're not going to fight nature. But conspiracy belief systems themselves have been around forever. Was it old Russia where they said, "Jews eat babies," and then it's like...today we have QAnon saying, "Democrats eat babies and they, it keeps them young"? It is just a shellacking on this multi-century-old conspiracy theory. So not only are they undermining democracy, they're not even being original about it. Classic Internet, somehow. Are conspiracy theories becoming more prevalent, or does it just seem that way because of the Internet?
[00:34:33] Matt Frederick: That's a really good question, Jordan. We used to talk a lot about zines. You know, the things you'd find like in the basement of your bookstore or of a library or something like that.
[00:34:43] Jordan Harbinger: A photocopied underground music, punk band.
[00:34:46] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:34:46] Jordan Harbinger: Brochure. Yeah.
[00:34:47] Matt Frederick: An underground publishing scene. That was really the way that I'm aware, conspiracies proliferated for a while until you got message boards, like the early message boards where it could happen on there. And that's just where you can find a group of people who kind of, at least in some way agree with what you're talking about and your ideas, right? And then, it becomes the very tribal, small thing early on with the zines, grows a little bit with the message boards. And now when you've got full-blown social media, everybody is just, there are a lot of people who are willing to at least explore the ideas further. And that's where you get the palimpsest thing where you get the gloaming on thing—
[00:35:30] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:35:30] Matt Frederick: —where folklore really takes off is when you have enough people contributing enough stuff and ideas onto that core.
[00:35:38] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. Like, okay, so the earlier point, are humans given the opportunity, are humans quite intelligent? Yeah. Are humans quite original? Nah. Like there's a reason why UFO abduction stories are beat for beat the same as fairy tales about changelings. Van Winkle is an alien abduction story. They just madlib the terms in. So it is sadly not surprising to see some of those old tropes come back and be weaponized again as they were against the Jewish communities for, as you said, hundreds of years. And now what I would say is also different here is that these ideas can be weaponized to your point, Matt, about the ubiquitous nature of communication. They can be weaponized by bad-faith actors quite effectively. Like, there's proof that the so-called troll armies in Russia and the government of China doesn't employ them, right? They're just patriotic dudes.
[00:36:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:36:39] Ben Bowlin: They had some pretty successful campaigns spreading misinformation, disinformation, and if you asked some of the people there who were paid to spread these ideas in the US in particular, they probably didn't really care. They were at least agnostic about whether or not, you know, insert person here was eating babies. They just knew it was their job to spread it around. And it's like we talk sometimes about meta-conspiracies and maybe that's the difference today. Maybe that's one of the big differences. You got to this beautiful point, Jordan, where so many conspiracies that we find to be proven are some faction of a government or powerful entity like a corporation messing up and then trying to cover it up.
[00:37:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:37:19] Ben Bowlin: Conspiring to cover up their original mistake. So these are not grand genius Illuminati types. They're, "oh sh*t, I don't want to get in trouble" types. So when you see that, that's a meta-conspiracy. Another meta-conspiracy example would be disinformation campaigns that are meant to spread and divide populations to one degree or another. So those things, unfortunately, do have some sand to them. It's hilarious to me and quite sad because I fell for this in my younger days as well, to be able to go onto readily available sources of unverified information and say, "Well, I don't know. I was pretty busy today and I put a solid two hours into some YouTube videos and I read the Wikipedia sources. So guys, I think, I don't have a biology degree, but I I formed some pretty solid opinions on chemtrails."
[00:38:16] Jordan Harbinger: You touched on something that was quite interesting. Conspiracy theories fed by nation-states like Russia and China. Their whole concept of asymmetric warfare, because they can't now, especially we see with Russia, could never beat any Western country on the battlefield, really or any large power, I should say, on the battlefield. China also certainly can't. You've got Russia with their Internet research agency plugging all this nonsense. We did an episode about that with re Renee DiResta, especially regarding vaccines and other health issues. You mentioned the example from China. We call them wumao, which is like 50 Cent Army is the translation.
[00:38:50] Ben Bowlin: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:50] Jordan Harbinger: They actually use the same tactics on their own population to explain why their COVID policies failed among other things. You know, you can't have a normal discussion on the Chinese Internet or WeChat because they'll either delete your account, your message, or they will just sort of mob you with people that are like, "You're bad for thinking this. The real reason is this," and it's just people who are paid to post these things. Also did an episode about that with Laowhy86 on paid Chinese and Russian propaganda on YouTube. But it's especially dangerous because people think they've come to conclusions, like you said, based on their own research. But really what they're doing is talking to people that have, in many cases, talking with people who say, "I was there. I saw it with my own eyes." And it's like, no, you didn't. You're part of a group of 200 people that are posting this everywhere along with a doctored photo or 10 to make it look like this is a real thing with a real set of people that swear they saw it. But this is, it's a psychological operation. Speaking of conspiracy theories, the real conspiracy theory is the friends we made along the way, right, because you've got 200—
[00:39:51] Ben Bowlin: Yeah
[00:39:51] Jordan Harbinger: —people who are pretending that this thing happened. A friend of mine got offered to post, he got offered money to post a video that said COVID-19 came from the American white-tailed deer and it was a Chinese agency that sent this to him and a lot of other YouTubers. And in fact, I got the same offer to do it on my channel. "Hey, we'll give you, you know, whatever, couple of thousand bucks if you post this video about how COVID-19 actually came from the United States." And the reason is because China didn't want to say, yeah, we know this came from us and we have black standards at our bio labs, or we eat bats, or whatever it is. They wanted to whitewash this, and so they offered to pay YouTubers to post this video. It's crazy. And that's the real conspiracy is that, that's really happening that kind of thing, right?
[00:40:35] Matt Frederick: What do you do with that kind of thing when you, Ben and I and Noel, we talked pretty recently about this, I think it's called the Smith-Mundt modernization act. which states that the United States can deploy propaganda against its own public now.
[00:40:52] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:40:52] Matt Frederick: And it's totally fine. It was repealing an older law that was in place that just said the United States can propagandize with Voice of America and other services exterior to the United States much in the same way, the CIA is only really allowed to operate outside of the US territories. In this case, it's saying the US can propagandize its own people. When you're trying to imagine and identify like what kinds of propaganda are headed my way? Like that potential message that you may, that if you were a different person, Jordan, maybe you needed that a thousand dollars.
[00:41:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:24] Matt Frederick: Maybe you would take it and make that video.
[00:41:26] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah.
[00:41:27] Matt Frederick: You know? And how many other versions of that are out there occurring right now with other messages that are either coming from like a state power, like China or maybe even coming internally from the United States government because there's some kind of message—
[00:41:41] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:42] Matt Frederick: —that they need to get out, that somebody somewhere in some office believes would be helpful either for a campaign or for a fight against whatever unnamed, unknown thing like terrorism or drugs.
[00:41:53] Ben Bowlin: The conspiracy is coming from inside the house.
[00:41:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, exactly. Speaking of propaganda, have you guys seen the new Top Gun?
[00:42:02] Ben Bowlin: Right.
[00:42:02] Jordan Harbinger: Man, it's going to get so much worse when we have widespread deepfake audio and video because you're going to be able to show a video of Obama drinking blood with Macaulay Culkin. And you're going to think, "I saw it with my own eyes in a video. What are you talking about?" Nina Schick and I did an episode about that. I can't remember the episode number, but she was talking about deepfake audios on the way, deepfake videos on the way. She had a deepfake made of her and it was just basically her face over a porn actress, which is like the most obvious use of deepfake stuff. And that's only going to get worst.
[00:42:31] I've noticed a lot of the people who seem to believe in the more ridiculous theories, they seem to be undereducated, right? Lots of all-caps, run-on sentences with no punctuation about chemtrails or whatever it is in my inbox. But what other factors are involved? Because it's not just education level, is it? I do see otherwise sane people also starting to indulge in this sort of thing. It's no longer just the Pakistani taxi driver in New York telling me no Jews died on 9/11 which really happened to me.
[00:42:56] Ben Bowlin: Right.
[00:42:57] Jordan Harbinger: And I was like, "Dude, why do you believe that?" And he's like, "Oh, infowars.net—"
[00:43:02] Ben Bowlin: Oh, no.
[00:43:02] Jordan Harbinger: He was talking about Alex Jones's stuff. And I was like—
[00:43:04] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:43:04] Jordan Harbinger: "—whoever's telling you this has an agenda, they want you to believe. It's not true. Like I know people who are Jewish who died on 9/11," and he's like, "Really?" That guy was a moron, right? But there are other people that are otherwise normal and they're like, "Yeah, the government might be putting things in the food or the water. I mean, we just don't know."
[00:43:21] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. There, there are a couple, I mean, I want to be careful with some of this because we don't want to paint with a broad brush, right? And we don't want to make the mistake that some conspiracy theorists make where they get a little too absolutist with stuff. So yes, there does seem to be a trend toward, it's the same way that higher education tends to make people a little bit more to the left at times in a general way than you could correlate a bit of educational aptitude or educational achievement. But to your point, which is beautifully made, there are also plenty of people who are doing very well in life, you know very well. And then they've got the one thing. They've got that one thing you talked and now it's usually not going to be like flat earth, right?
[00:44:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:44:06] Ben Bowlin: When you get to the doctorates and so on, but they may have one thing and they may have very strident opinions on that. I'm trying to recall some of the studies I read, but there was one thing that said, people who are more likely to believe in what would be described as conspiracy theories also are more likely to believe in a higher sort of spiritual or supernatural power.
[00:44:28] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:44:28] Ben Bowlin: So like a matter of faith. Now, the degree of that correlation again is tricky because if you're not careful and nuanced about that, that gets to be a lot like saying, "If you believe in God, you are a conspiracy theorist."
[00:44:42] Jordan Harbinger: That's going to go over well.
[00:44:43] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. That's third rail for a lot of people, you know?
[00:44:46] Jordan Harbinger: Uh, yeah. Yeah.
[00:44:47] Matt Frederick: Well, can I just say, Jordan, the things that people believe are, I mean, think about something that would just hit the news as we're recording today. It's actually been talked about for months and months and months, for years in other countries, for decades. Something called potassium bromate. which is a food additive.
[00:45:02] Ben Bowlin: Oh yeah.
[00:45:02] Jordan Harbinger: That's funny. I saw that just the other day. That they're putting something in bread that is illegal in Europe. We did an episode on banned foods on this show too, Skeptical Sunday, and all these dyes we use, it's like, "Well, we don't use that in Europe. It's bad."
[00:45:14] Matt Frederick: Yeah. It's our government institution. Right? The FDA that goes through and test these food additives and makes sure they're good to go for us humans at certain levels. And that's our stance. Like the government's stance is you can put pretty much anything in there as long as you test it and make sure it's okay at the level you put it in there.
[00:45:35] Ben Bowlin: Now let's be reasonable.
[00:45:36] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:45:37] Ben Bowlin: You can only have so many rat turds in the cereal.
[00:45:40] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. What's that called? The LD50 where like this amount of this can kill you. And for some things it's really small, like ricin and for other things. You're like, "Shouldn't that number be higher?" It's like, "This is how many Twizzlers you need to eat before you die."
[00:45:53] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:45:54] Jordan Harbinger: On the spot.
[00:45:54] Matt Frederick: Yeah. Well, I mean, but that stuff's all real.
[00:45:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:45:56] Matt Frederick: And you know, it doesn't matter what your educational background is. We all eat a lot of the same foods. A lot of them are pre-packaged, you know, a lot of them are just out there and existing. Like if you ever hit back a Mountain Dew, you've had quite a bit of brominated vegetable oil in your body, which is a flame retardant, which is a known food additive that a lot of other countries say no to.
[00:46:16] Ben Bowlin: Right.
[00:46:17] Matt Frederick: That's just some of the food additives. You think about the environmental factors that, you know, industry produces. A big spill, like just what happened in Ohio. You think about like these really scary things like forever chemicals and these chains of carbon that are just going into us.
[00:46:35] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:46:35] Matt Frederick: This is all reality, but this is all actually happening. It's real. It's actually going to be causing cancer and is causing cancer right now. It's terrifying.
[00:46:44] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:46:44] Matt Frederick: So I feel like even if you're super intelligent and some of this other stuff comes your way and just enters your bubble, right? You, I think, are probably more likely to believe something like that because the world feels an awful lot like chaos more and more and more, at least in my experience.
[00:47:02] Jordan Harbinger: I think it's just because we know more, right? I think back in the day when you didn't know anything about anything—
[00:47:07] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:47:07] Jordan Harbinger: —because you worked on a farm and you knew a lot about your own farm and you had a third-grade education, you weren't like, "Hey, does this have brominated vegetable oil?"
[00:47:16] Ben Bowlin: Mm-hmm.
[00:47:17] Matt Frederick: Why is this so cloudy?
[00:47:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:19] Matt Frederick: Alright. That's weird.
[00:47:20] Jordan Harbinger: Uh, maybe I shouldn't burn things in my house to heat it up and inhale all the smoke.
[00:47:24] Ben Bowlin: It was more like the milk is bad on my farm. I don't like my neighbor. Got to be a witch.
[00:47:30] Jordan Harbinger: The end. Yeah. You know, we should burn her alive just to check.
[00:47:33] Ben Bowlin: Just to be safe, you know? Just to be rational.
[00:47:35] Matt Frederick: Just dunk her in water if she floats, you know.
[00:47:38] Jordan Harbinger: I did notice that the little girl across the street walked across these three fields, and now two years later, those three fields are dead. So—
[00:47:44] Ben Bowlin: Uh-oh.
[00:47:44] Jordan Harbinger: —we should probably drown her with stones.
[00:47:47] Ben Bowlin: Again for the greater good, just to be safe.
[00:47:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:50] Ben Bowlin: This is something that I always love pointing out and I love where we're going to this space. It's not that there are more skeletons in the closet, right? It's just that now people have flashlights.
[00:48:01] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:48:02] Ben Bowlin: There's a light in the closet and that can be very terrifying.
[00:48:05] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I love that one.
[00:48:05] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. It's the world in which we've all lived. You know, everybody listening to this show. And this is regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, this is simply reality as it exists. But I have a question that wanted, I wanted to ask. Uh, gosh, okay, it's been on my mind since we started this conversation. Is it easier now to cover something up than it was in the past.
[00:48:31] Jordan Harbinger: I doubt it.
[00:48:32] Ben Bowlin: Doubt it? You think it's more difficult?
[00:48:34] Jordan Harbinger: I think back in the day, you probably could just say, "Hey, don't tell anyone." And the government would go, "Yeah, especially women," right? And then all the guys would light up a cigar and have a drink in the office like Mad Men. And then it's like, "Oh yeah, okay, whatever. Who cares if a bunch of more people die?" Now, you've got Freedom of Information Act and you've got these huge offices and bureaucracies where somebody's like, "Wait a minute. That certainly sounds illegal. I don't think you could do the Tuskegee experiments again and be like, "Let's give this minority group a bunch of syphilis," or another deadly disease, like maybe, "Hey, let's try a eugenics program. Don't say anything about this." Nah, I don't think so. We've seen this movie before. And marginalized communities especially are on high alert for this. And not to go down too far down this road, but we know that African Americans have lower vaccination rates. And it's not because they're undereducated or they don't know anybody. It's because in the past the government has given them diseases deliberately. And so yet Nicki Minaj tweets it out and people are like, "Well, I'm not touching that sh*t," right? And it's not because of Nicki Minaj, it's because of the Tuskegee experiments or the St. Louis thing and the government saying, "Oh, it's for the greater good if we just poison all these poor people. They probably won't get poisoned but if they do, thank God, it's just a bunch of black people living in the housing in St. Louis." Like that's what they're really thinking.
[00:49:47] Matt Frederick: Well, yeah. It's also because there was this really scary existential thing that was happening, right? This pandemic that was occurring, and then the government working way faster than they ever have in conjunction with private corporations, developed all these vaccines—
[00:50:01] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:50:01] Matt Frederick: —real quick, and somehow convinced the majority of the population to be like, "Yeah, I want that. Give me that." "No, I don't care that you're making it. Just give it to me. Give it to me. Now, I need two."
[00:50:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:50:10] Matt Frederick: And it was because we were so scared. And it's that heightened level of fear that's often abused and used by people who stand in those upper echelons of power. I mean, really, really think like for my money, that's when big changes occur, when there's a ton of existential fear in some part of the world. And I've only experienced it really in the United States, but then a huge shift in policy is able to occur because of that fear.
[00:50:37] Ben Bowlin: Okay. So maybe a better way to phrase the question than is, is it easier to conspire without consequence? Like I'm thinking, okay, so there's this thing called, let's start a coup, this show about Smedley Butler in the business plot. And in the 1930s, this guy came to Congress and was like, "Hey, I can prove it. There's a bunch of rich people who are trying to overthrow the government." And that this was kind of squash, or it's my belief that it was kind of squash and people learned about it only later in retrospect. And then you have other stuff where now, you know, in an increasingly divided United States, there's a camp of people who were saying, Hey, someone tried to overthrow the government quite recently. There's another group of people who are saying, "No, you've got the narrative wrong. This was a protest." And protesting is an inherent right. So like, I guess my question is, maybe better phrase not as cover-ups, but in a world where every competing narrative can be treated with the same level of credibility, even if that credibility is not earned, is it not easier to get away without consequence in some of these things?
[00:51:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:51:43] Ben Bowlin: Like what's going to happen in Norfolk Southern in Ohio? Because right now I think the answer is pretty much nothing.
[00:51:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:51:49] Matt Frederick: Well, all you'd have to do to put that out of a lot of people's minds is shoot down, oh, I don't know, four or five UFOs and like make a big deal out of it publicly.
[00:52:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:00] Matt Frederick: Right?
[00:52:00] Jordan Harbinger: There you go.
[00:52:00] Matt Frederick: And now people are like, "The US is shooting down UFOs now. Like what happened in Ohio?"
[00:52:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:52:06] Ben Bowlin: I love that during COVID. When the United States government came out was like, "Oh, crazy week everybody. Am I right? Uh, by the way, aliens maybe, alright."
[00:52:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, yeah, I remember that. But anyway, pandemic though, and people are like, this is them warming us up to accept that aliens are real. They don't want to dump it all on us at once. There's conspiracy theories about how they're delivering the conspiracy theory. I'd love to talk about how we can tell a conspiracy theory from factual evidence because many people seem to have a lot of trouble with this. And fake factual evidence online makes this a hundred times harder. Are there rules of thumb where it's like, "Okay, I heard this thing, how do I know if it's really a new thing or if it's just a bunch of BS from crazy Uncle Frank?"
[00:52:47] Ben Bowlin: Matt, you and I may have to double dragon this because there are a couple of things. The first one is pretty boring, which is you have to figure out Uncle Frank's source.
[00:52:56] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:52:56] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. And Uncle Frank's source is, you know, it may be legitimate, right? Like what is the credibility of that bonus points if you find another source that disagrees and compare the two and attempt to sort of triangulate the truth? But I think that one of the biggest things is the source. If the primary source appears to have a horse in the race, then you know they clearly have an agenda. That doesn't mean that they're not telling the truth but that means there's a reason for their statement other than transparency, perhaps. That's one way to look at it. But I would say also if they're linked with other things that are kind of proven conspiracies to take food examples, right? If you say, "Hey, the US has a big problem with dangerous additives to food," that's true but then if it's "comma, as proven by the blood rights of insert politician here," then that's kind of a flag. I would say that's a red flag. I don't know. Matt, what about you? I think sources and seeing if it's related to other disprovable things, those are two big tools.
[00:54:05] Matt Frederick: I feel like it's changed and my calculus has even altered a bit. But for me, when we started the show, 2009, 2010, we were making videos, it used to be — how many different outlets are reporting on this? Are those outlets all within the US? Are there some international outlets that also are talking about this? And what are the reputations of those outlets? You kind of do a little math there and figure out, okay, where are they getting their original source from? Is it an AP article that went out? Is it an official press release that some company put out? Where's that initial piece of information coming from? And comparing the, well, what is it we used to do, Ben? It was comparing the phrasings from those different outlets, especially if you've—
[00:54:49] Ben Bowlin: Right.
[00:54:49] Matt Frederick: —got far left and far right outlets. You compare the phrasings and how it's being talked about and how it's being portrayed. What angle are they looking at it from? And then try and find yourself somewhere in the middle of those things. If it's just a sound bite or a headline or a TikTok video, good luck because you either have to disregard it completely or hunt it down to prove that it's real, and that's just the way it is right now. You can't just accept it. Even if you've got, I guess you just trust your sources. You trust your Jordan Harbingers, your Stuff They Don't Want You to Knows. You have to make that choice by evaluating their past or the work that you've seen in the past. It just stinks.
[00:55:31] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Matthew and Ben, from the Stuff They Don't Want You to Know podcast. We'll be right back.
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[00:59:19] Now for the rest of my conversation with Matthew and Ben from the Stuff They Don't Want You to Know podcast.
[00:59:25] It does stink. I wonder if there's sort of self-defense for not falling down the rabbit hole because I think, you know, we talk about the YouTube algorithm where somebody is searching for science videos on SpaceX rockets. And then the next one is, how do they launch SpaceX rockets if the earth is flat? Is the Earth really flat? And then, it's like flat earth. The earth is flat, everything is a lie. And you're like, "Whoa. I went to lunch, left YouTube playing, and I come back and three videos later, 10 videos later, I'm watching some neckbeard tell me that gravity's not real."
[00:59:53] Ben Bowlin: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
[00:59:54] Matt Frederick: Yeah.
[00:59:55] Ben Bowlin: So this is something that becomes increasingly challenging and a big part of it is that the primary sources for news are, are doing the things that primary sources of information have always done. They want to keep you looking at them. You know what I mean? Very much they love attention, right? Who doesn't? The issue is now the calculus is not, are we telling the most true thing? It's, are we telling the thing that will keep the people, you know, their mental butts in the seats? We have to be aware of that. It's a tall milkshake, man, because I've been in the exact situation you're describing where I thought, oh, I'll just leave autoplay on. It started out with a pretty good TED Talk about Corvids or something. I went to get the mail. I came back and now there's this guy who's telling you that he's part bird and will prove it in his next video, smash that subscribe button.
[01:00:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:00:50] Ben Bowlin: Like that kind of stuff, I think is, it is incentivized, right? It is incentivized over nuance. There's the emphasis on short video, right? Instead of, let's say the 23 or two-hour conversation or lecture by somebody who might, you know, she or he, or they might be very stodgy in their presentation, but they're literally the person who knows what they're talking about. It requires a heavier investment of time, at least the way people see it. And it doesn't automatically give you that dopamine rush.
[01:01:22] Another thing you could do if you're trying to kind of separate the wheat from the chaff, right, of a wild conspiracy claim or something that has a little bit more heft to it, is to kind of self-evaluate. If it seems designed to incite an emotion. What emotion is it and why? And we see this all the time in political reporting. Somebody says, "Oh, I think blah, blah, blah is not a good plan." And the headline is like, "So-and-so excoriates or slams," or you know, like—
[01:01:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:01:52] Ben Bowlin: —just whatever angriest word you can have, right? And that's because that headline is meant to make somebody react. So I think headlines are a big key of that. I'm trying to think of little simple things you can do because I know it stinks to give all of us the homework of saying, if you hear something in a two, you know, one-minute video, go find two-hour lecture on it.
[01:02:13] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. What is that called? That concept where the original sort of phrase is that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on. There's a name for the fallacy, right? It's called like the fire hose or something, where like if you say a piece of disinformation or misinformation, it might take me 20 minutes to debunk it, but it took you a minute to utter this ridiculous falsehood and you can utter falsehoods infinitely more and faster than I can debunk those falsehoods. And so that's the path of least resistance in why people fall down these rabbit holes.
[01:02:46] Ben Bowlin: Uh, good conspiracies like jazz, right? You know, you can make a painstaking symphony of the truth, but then somebody could just come around and have a nice little run—
[01:02:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:02:55] Ben Bowlin: —at some other stuff.
[01:02:56] Matt Frederick: This has been weaponized against an Ameri, the American voting public before we've seen it. We know that bots have been utilized on social media to do exactly what you're talking about, Jordan.
[01:03:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:03:06] Matt Frederick: Muddy the water, just muddy the waters enough to wear their questions. And the takeaway from a voter is, "I don't know how I feel about that. Hillary Clinton, I don't know, uh, see, I heard a lot of things," you know? Like, that's all it takes to alter in some small way in election.
[01:03:25] Jordan Harbinger: What does believing conspiracies do for the believer? You touched on this earlier. There is a status bump, there's a tribalism bump. Can you get into this a little bit? Because I think a lot of people go, why bother believing in this? I get it if you feel marginalized or whatever, but what else is going on here? There are reasons people glom onto this stuff. Like at the top of the show. I think we talked about lack of control in your life being a reason that these are attractive, but there's also a reason that they're addicting.
[01:03:52] Matt Frederick: Yeah. Oh, Ben, I'm going to set you up for this. For me and my understanding of it, I believe that it's having information that makes you feel like you know more than other people who are around you. And that at all times you can be, Ben, how did you put it? The light bringer to those people, like very Luciferian—
[01:04:13] Ben Bowlin: Promethean.
[01:04:14] Matt Frederick: —In a way. Yeah, that's it, Promethean. I've seen that in action where someone who truly believes has a lot of information that they believe is true about very specific conspiracy theories and just wants to tell everybody else about that specific thing as in, "I've got this special stuff that you need to know too, but I'm the one who knows it. I'm going to tell it to you."
[01:04:35] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. People like to teach. I think Matt and Noel and I all agree that there's something that happens with conspiratorial thought there. You get the added, not just the status bump of belonging to a community and being approved of by those you would consider your peers, but you also get the feeling of being one who is influential in that group. One who is moving that group in some certain direction by the power of your mind, right? This happened a lot with QAnon, right? And especially when COVID had a lot of people inside, we saw people who were kind of building their own social pyramids and they were at the top. The sunk cost comes along, right? Where you say, "Oh, I'm at the top of this thing now, so it must be true, right? Even if it sounds a little crazy." It was a great example our buddy Noel brought of, we're all reading about this, I think we really spoke, in Canada, there was and is a lady who was called the QAnon queen or the Queen of QAnon.
[01:05:37] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yes.
[01:05:37] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[01:05:37] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard of this person.
[01:05:38] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[01:05:39] Jordan Harbinger: Isn't she currently like on the run with arrest warrants out or something for, I don't know, giving medical advice? I mean, weird crap like that.
[01:05:46] Ben Bowlin: You know, not every path runs smooth. Yeah, this person was being venerated by their followers, and so if you have that veneration, you have a shot at that, or you get closer to that inner circle there, then everything about that experience is telling you that you were on the right path, right? This is a very appealing thing. And then also the point we don't talk about all the time is that just the way that people in power would weaponize anti-Semitism or any kind of conspiratorial stuff toward an oppressed group, they weaponize that for profit, for resources, for land, for further power. And in this world, in this era, rather, we see the same thing happening. You know, Alex Jones wants to tell you stuff before and after he tries to sell you on a thing. So part of the reason he's telling you the thing is not like unrelated ads, right? He's telling you that there is an economic collapse imminent because he wants you to buy gold bars, and he gets a cut of that. So I think weaponizing profit has occurred as well. And so for some people, it's very easy to be just cynically pursuing a profit.
[01:07:03] Matt Frederick: But there's a flip side to that too, and we've already, to kind of touched on it sometimes believing in conspiracies is about protecting yourself and your family from dangers and looming harm out there, whether it's from a government or corporations, an environment, whatever these things are. If you believe in the fluoridation of water conspiracy, usually the people who believe in that is because they're worried about feeding their child tap water.
[01:07:27] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:07:28] Matt Frederick: Or they're worried about ingesting tap water because there have, in the past, been a lot of contaminants. There have been major lawsuits against chemical companies because of stuff that leeches into the groundwater and then people drink, they get super sick. Like there's something about self-preservation and protection and defense when people believe in conspiracy theories because nobody likes being made a fool and nobody likes, you know, being in potential harm when they could be protecting themselves, potentially.
[01:07:55] Jordan Harbinger: The element of status, that makes sense. The element of self-esteem, the grifter element also, and pardon me if you touched on this, but the tribalism and community element where I think a lot of the flat earth guys kind of fall into this, where you can tell that yes, they're making some money from their books. Yes, they're selling some flat earth t-shirts, but really the status is part of it. Yeah. They're getting the, you know, their neck beard, stroked, but also a lot of them are probably kooky in other areas, and maybe they don't have a girlfriend or a boyfriend and maybe they don't have family that talks to them anymore and they don't have kids. They're not married. So a lot of this, this is kind of all they have is this thing, and they go to all the conventions because that's where their homies are and we can't really overlook that. You know, if we are in...cliches about the social media in Internet age, making us less social with one another, maybe this just happens to be the thing. Like if that guy got into radio-controlled airplanes, maybe he wouldn't give a sh*t about flat earth anymore because he would have fun doing something else and just not care. Find a more suitable community that gives him a little bit more excitement.
[01:08:58] Ben Bowlin: I think that's a great point. Up until the guy who's the big wheel or whomever is the big deal in this radio-controlled hobbyist community says, "Also, chemtrails, you guys."
[01:09:11] Jordan Harbinger: I like radio control planes because they don't drop chemtrails, which I made another video about that. You can look at it. Here's my channel, but anyway, here's my review. Right.
[01:09:19] Ben Bowlin: I love that point though, because like you see that people want to hang out with folks with whom they have things in common.
[01:09:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:09:26] Ben Bowlin: But then also you see that people want to have things in common with folks that they like. And that's where I think because the two, and this is just me spitballing, I think the two are very true, for just my opinion, and maybe I'm maladjusted. You know what I mean? Your mileage may vary.
[01:09:43] Jordan Harbinger: No. Well, that's a given, but I don't think that's why you think that or how you've come to that conclusion.
[01:09:48] Ben Bowlin: Right.
[01:09:49] Jordan Harbinger: I think that one might be accurate. Those two things can both be correct at the same time.
[01:09:53] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[01:09:53] Jordan Harbinger: There are different types of people here do as well, like true believers versus grifters, right? Alex Jones, maybe he's a true believer, but he's also a grifter, right? He's selling you the man hormones and the gold bars and the colloidal silver to cure COVID in one shot. Marjorie Taylor Green, probably a true believer, just believes a lot of stupid crap, always kind of believed a lot of stupid crap according to people that know her and then later goes, "Ooh, I was misinformed in the Jewish space lasers, my bad." And that just goes on to the next dumb thing.
[01:10:22] Ben Bowlin: Right.
[01:10:23] Jordan Harbinger: In many ways, who do we see? Who else do we see? Like we see some real pure grifters who clearly don't believe, I can't name any, unfortunately, I don't know if you can, who just literally don't care at all if, whether the thing they're saying is true. They're only trying to sell you the t-shirt or the cure.
[01:10:39] Ben Bowlin: Matt, I'm going to set you up for this because I always like to think that there are a lot of people who maybe started grifting, right, or started as true believers, and along the way, their path diverged. And some people seem to have started just maybe with cynical aspirations of some sort, but they were so continually reinforced that they decided based on the approval they were getting their ideas must be true. It reminds me of, since we quoted Mark Twain earlier, with a lie getting halfway around the world, let's go with a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, when the Yankee goes back in time and sees Arthur and Guinevere, Merlin and the whole thing, he realizes, he's like, "Oh, Merlin is a freaking con artist." But Merlin now believes he has magic powers because everybody's just been agreeing that he does. So I think sometimes people fall into that true believer aspect. As far as folks who are out and out Grifters, you know, you will have an Alex Jones-like character who does say, we're not misquoting him, who does say, "That I consider myself a performer," when he finds himself in a court of law who will say this is a performance, right? I don't know, Matt, like I'm trying to think of just solid grifters without dunking too hard on cult leaders who I don't believe buy their own stories.
[01:12:05] Matt Frederick: Well, I'll dunk for you. I don't know how hard it's going to be, but look, man, televangelists.
[01:12:10] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah, that's a good one.
[01:12:11] Ben Bowlin: Prosperity theology.
[01:12:13] Matt Frederick: Yeah. We've seen so much of that.
[01:12:15] Jordan Harbinger: Is it Kenneth Copeland who's like, "I can't fly commercial because there's demons on the plane"?
[01:12:21] Ben Bowlin: There's also Creflo Dollar.
[01:12:23] Matt Frederick: Oh Lord.
[01:12:24] Jordan Harbinger: Who, what? That's Creflo Dollar.
[01:12:26] Matt Frederick: That's an Atlanta thing, I believe.
[01:12:28] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[01:12:28] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds like a rapper.
[01:12:30] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[01:12:30] Matt Frederick: He's got some good planes. He's got some really cool planes. I like how we're both like, yeah, yeah. But like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
[01:12:37] Ben Bowlin: Sure.
[01:12:37] Matt Frederick: I mean, there's all kinds of people like that, that are pushing, it's not necessarily conspiracy theories or anything like that, but there's, they're salespeople, right? And in the end, that just creeps me out a whole lot because the people in the audience, people who are watching, who are really believing, who are following along and like wanting to give their money because they think it's the good, the right thing to do, it's going to help them and benefit them. They're just being taken advantage of. And it does feel like there's quite a bit of that with the conspiracy theory world. I think that's why we so badly want people to use the kind of critical thinking approach to these things. Like really, I mean, you got to acknowledge some things, right? Maybe I don't know everything, maybe some of the stuff I think I know is wrong but it doesn't mean I have to believe everything that's posted on this message board. You know?
[01:13:27] Jordan Harbinger: What causes some theories to catch on versus other theories that die on the vine? Why is the Democrats drinking blood of children for adrenochrome? Why does that catch on but other stuff, you'd never hear about it unless you're on 4Chan?
[01:13:41] Matt Frederick: This is where I think conspiracy theories and Western philosophy about psychotherapy really collides because it's about what is real. Like what is real for sure, versus what feels real, right? So how do I feel about something and how is something, and I think the conspiracy theories that we get into really are about what feels right to me personally, right?
[01:14:09] Ben Bowlin: What does this story say about this story I tell myself about my identity, right? Everybody's the main character. So how does this information relate to my vision of me?
[01:14:20] Matt Frederick: Yeah, and if you've got a group of people who have been demonized enough by any other side or whatever, if you're talking about the political right, and using their media outlets versus the political left and their media outlets and they're fighting each other, basically, it's only kind of a stage play for everyone really involved. It's all the same government. Everybody's shaken hands once they get into Congress. But on the outside, from the observer's perspective, the audience, it seems like they're bitter enemies and they will be. And if you are on one side, then you got to hate the other. And if you hate that other side enough and they're the enemy, well, then they probably do the worst thing you can think of. And if someone tells you that they do the worst thing that you can imagine, like eating a baby, drinking blood, doing all of that kind of horrible stuff, you're way more likely to believe it. If you are more likely to believe it as an individual, I guarantee you that kind of thing is going to catch on. And then, once it runs wild, what do you do to put that fire out? How could you put that fire out? Because it's already true for them now.
[01:15:23] Ben Bowlin: Yeah. The story needs a villain. There needs to be a villain. That villain needs to be different from you and your in group. Most people aren't billionaires, right? That's a very easy group to pick. It's a powerful group, very small population, you know? And given the billionaire could actually do some pretty significant things on the planet and some have done. So you have the villain who is not you. This informs the story of yourself. It also gives you a call to action. That's another huge thing about a good conspiracy theory. Like Matt was saying, you know, I've learned of this danger. It's present, it's clear. I also walk away with ideas of what I should be doing, and sometimes that's stuff that's innocuous and harmless. Sometimes it's saying, Hey, I'll change part of my diet.
[01:16:11] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:16:11] Ben Bowlin: Right? That's not hurting anybody. That's totally fine. That may in fact be, well, I don't want to go that far because sometimes they're like, add this crazy stuff to your food. But, you know, that's relatively innocuous. But then that's also this, that call to action is the same thing that has people in pizza parlors with firearms threatening a guy who probably already doesn't like his job.
[01:16:31] Jordan Harbinger: There's so much more we could talk about UFOs and TikTok and secret societies, and you mentioned thought-terminating cliches and coups and takeovers. I mean, there's so much in the book as well, but I know we're sort of out of time. Guys, thank you so much. I usually don't do this but tell people where to find you because if they're into conspiracies, they're going to want to know where to find the straight dope on all that.
[01:16:53] Ben Bowlin: Oh, shucks. Well, you can find Matt, Noel, and myself at our show Stuff They Don't Want You to Know, some variation of conspiracy stuff or conspiracy stuff show on TikTok.
[01:17:06] Jordan Harbinger: Oh.
[01:17:06] Ben Bowlin: All right, TikTok.
[01:17:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:17:07] Ben Bowlin: After all we talked on it. Instagram and so on, we've got a YouTube page. Of course. Yeah. Matt?
[01:17:14] Matt Frederick: I just want to say thanks for having us on, Jordan. We had a really great conversation with you on our show.
[01:17:19] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:17:19] Matt Frederick: Gosh, that was a while back, I think. September of last year.
[01:17:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:17:22] Ben Bowlin: Yeah.
[01:17:23] Matt Frederick: Just appreciate you having us on.
[01:17:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:17:24] Matt Frederick: And it's really great talking to you again.
[01:17:26] Jordan Harbinger: Likewise.
[01:17:27] Ben Bowlin: Check out Jordan's episode on our show. It's absolute, absolute privilege, man.
[01:17:31] Matt Frederick: It's titled, Who's Hiding The Broccoli?
[01:17:33] Ben Bowlin: Yes.
[01:17:34] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah, that's right, that's right. Hiding that broccoli. Guys, thank you very much.
[01:17:38] You're about to hear a preview of The Jordan Harbinger Show about why people believe and want to believe conspiracy theories.
[01:17:46] Mike West: 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. It's just regular people who have just kind of got sucked in rabbit hole. It may seem ridiculous to everybody else, but from their perspective, it makes perfect sense. They're doing it because they think they're on the side of good.
[01:18:16] So that's one of the reasons why I debunk. I want people to focus on real issues and not on the fake issues. When people start to make significant life decisions based on their conspiracy theories is where it becomes a problem. Getting out of the rabbit hole isn't just like casting away all these false beliefs. It's kind of climbing 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.
[01:18:48] 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. My whole reason for doing this is based around increasing the amount of truth in the world, increasing the amount of facts and science in the world. But if things are left unchecked and if conspiracy theorists continue to rise, there is this growing division within the country. And so that could be a dangerous thing.
[01:19:17] Jordan Harbinger: To learn how to help our friends and family escape the conspiracy theory rabbit hole, check out episode 363 with Mick West on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:19:26] I could talk to these guys all day. I really feel like we really click well, and we have similar thinking. They touched on thought-terminating cliches. We talk about this in our cult episodes. You can find all of our cult episodes in the starter pack by the way, jordanharbinger.com/start, if you're not there yet. These thought-terminating cliches are a part of all bad thinking, especially cult-like thinking and conspiracy thinking and cult thinking really have a lot of overlap. It's essentially when you don't want to let logic creep in and you don't necessarily know you're doing this. So you might say something like, "Ah, well, I see you watch a lot of CNN or I see you will only listen to lamestream media, or whatever sort of thought-terminating and cliche you would see with any given conspiracy. There are a zillion of them, a lot of them are calling people sheep or saying, ah, you're one of the sheeple, that kind of thing. There's a zillion of these for every cult. There's a zillion of these for conspiracies. Sometimes unique to the conspiracy, sometimes not.
[01:20:23] We didn't even get a chance to touch on UFOs. Historically, there were lots of UFOs, all kinds, not aliens, spycraft, and of course, government wanted them to stay unidentified because Soviets might learn about the experimental aircraft. So why not follow the same logic today? UFOs could be supersonic drones. We keep them unidentified because we don't want China to know we are testing these or we don't want our population to know that China's testing these over our country, spy balloon. But I'm going to get emails about this because people really, really want the alien thing to be true. They want the shadowy cabal, they want the reptile people. I don't know why people are so obsessed with this. I think that's another psychology show entirely on its own.
[01:21:05] I forget who said this, but it's pretty apt. I'm paraphrasing here. I think it's a scientist or a science writer, and he said something along the lines of, "I always figured an alien race would use technology hundreds of thousands of years more advanced than ours to travel across the galaxy or farther at a speed, multiple times faster than light, only to be caught on an iPhone 4 while exploring—" and I can't help but agree with him. I think Neil deGrasse Tyson said, I'm not sure if it was on this show or somewhere else. He said, "It's literally never aliens," and I kind of think that he's right, but that doesn't explain why we are so obsessed with this. I really do think we have an urge for cosmic connection and again, another show, possibly a philosophy or psychology show that is just out of the scope here.
[01:21:45] Last but not least, we didn't get time to go over secret societies. These are so interesting, especially for conspiracy theorists, and they always have been. The deep state is kind of the new secret society for the modern age, the elites them, right? Before it was the Freemasons, who by the way, are usually just old dudes shopping next to you at Walmart. In fact, whenever I see those Masons plates, I always noticed the guy in the car is 75 years old and I'm like, these are the Freemasons. This is not the Illuminati. Everybody calmed. Skull and Bones over at Yale was one of these. And remember, it was a bunch of kids. Yes, they had some notable members. The rest of them, where are those guys? Not all of them are notable. The ones you know about are hence the definition of notable. We had one at the University of Michigan called Michigamua. And honestly, it was people who led like volunteer societies, some sports teams. I mean, these are hardly secret cabals controlling the entire world. Or maybe I'm one of them and I'm just trying to throw you off the scent.
[01:22:42] Big thank you to Matthew and Ben. Their show is called Stuff They Don't Want You to Know. Go check that out if you're into the conspiracy stuff. Links to all things Matt and Ben slash Stuff They Don't Want You to Know will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. But if you don't want to search the show notes, use our AI chatbot to find anything we've ever talked about on the show, jordanharbinger.com/ai. Transcripts in the show notes, videos on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, discount codes, ways to support the show, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. I said it once, but I'll say it again. Please consider supporting those who support the show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:23:19] And I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use every single day. That's our Six-Minute Networking course, and the course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Many of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company and hey, dig that well before you get thirsty, build those relationships before you need them.
[01:23:42] Speaking of relationships, this show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jace Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who knows that conspiracies aren't real but can't quite explain why, share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:24:17] Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:24:22] This episode is also sponsored in part by Conversations with Coleman podcast. We have some of the most curious listeners around, and if you're into hearing about polarizing issues like race, politics, culture, you're going to want to check out Conversations with Coleman podcast, hosted by writer Coleman Hughes. Conversations with Coleman is home to honest interviews with sharp guests like Ezra Klein, Noam Chomsky, David Hogg, Andrew Yang, hear from activist and writer Maryam Namazie on understanding the recent protests in Iran — that sounds familiar with what we have done here — and Professor will MacAskill on what humanity will look like in a thousand years in population ethics and of course, David Hogg on gun control. You'll come away feeling educated and the show goes where mainstream media doesn't when it comes to a lot of important issues.
[01:25:02] Jen Harbinger: If you love diving deep into today's most difficult issues, Conversations with Coleman, has you covered. We really enjoy the show and think you will as well. Check out Conversations with Coleman on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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