Trystan Swale, the well-known Fortean Skeptic, paranormal researcher and radio show host has written an article about me; this is the second time he has done so. He published his previous article Blogging Costs Jobs in January 2012; it is no longer available, but you can read my response here: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/trystan-swales-article-blogging-costs.html. This latest article was one he published on his current blog Leaves that Wither and is entitled HPANWO- on being Curt with Conspiracy Theorists, here's a link to it: http://thehighgatevampire.co.uk/leavesthatwither/tag/hpanwo/. He put it up on the 13th of September last year; that's a long time ago; I'm somewhat surprised I never saw it at the time. I only picked it up when I was casually ego-surfing last night. As always, it's not my place to tell Trystan what to think; his opinion of me is inconsequential. However some of his statements call for a reply. It's hard to know where to start so I'll be traditional and begin at the beginning. I'll give Trystan's article a true Skeptic-style dissection review. His words will be in the normal style of text and in quotes, mine will be in emboldened text:
"I am not a fan of Professor Brian Cox..."
At least he opens with a statement we both agree on.
"...Not that I have anything against him..."
As regular HPANWO readers will know, I do have something against Prof. Brian Cox and I don't deny that. I explain why I have something against him in this article, which Trystan also cites: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/prof-brian-cox-watch-this-space.html. It must be said that Trystan also has antagonists in his life too, and he can be very zealous in his focus on them at times, like Don Philips, see: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/programme-76-podcast-don-philips.html.
"...he seems to have jolted my friend Ben Emlyn-Jones’s hands to the keyboard..."
It's strange to hear Trystan describe me as his "friend" when he blocked me on social media. This happened a few months ago spontaneously and very abruptly. I was deeply dismayed and baffled when he did it. We were getting along absolutely fine; he'd even been a guest on the HPANWO Show, see: http://hpanwo-radio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/programme-79-podcast-trystan-swale.html, and I'd been on his show too, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/ben-emlyn-jones-on-fortean-radio.html. Then suddenly he's vanished from my Skype and Facebook feed; just like that.
I don't have a personal problem with Skeptics at all, when they're well behaved; Trystan was always polite and respectful to me, as was I to him.
"...Ben’s issue with Cox is that ‘he is notoriously rude and aggressive to non-skeptics’, branding them ‘nobbers’, ‘nutters’ and ‘twats’..."
Got it in one, Trystan. Is that so unreasonable?
"...All the whilst, Cox is busy presenting the ‘extraordinarily one-sided’ Science Britannica television show..."
Trystan's sarcasm is not lost on me. Actually I rather enjoyed parts 2 and 3 of Science Britannica; they were professional, factual and very informative. The only problem I had was with part 1 which was one-sided and full of propaganda; I explain why in the above link to my main Cox article.
"...Ben sees him as a ‘useful idiot … sincere in his foolishness’, an unwitting employee of the cackling keepers of forbidden knowledge. Ben asks: Why do the keepers of the secrets think this is necessary? Simply because more and more people are waking up to the reality of what is kept from us, and therefore more intense forces of reaction are being needed to keep the lid on that reality..."
Again, this is exactly what I think, and I love the metaphor "the cackling keepers of forbidden knowledge"; may I use it myself, Trystan?
"...Now, to rewind, I cannot speak on behalf of Cox, but I am someone who has been accused of giving short thrift to people who have ideas that are most accurately described as conspiracy theories..."
To be honest, Trystan is one of the more genial and tolerant members of the Skeptic community... even if he does inexplicably and suddenly block people on social media for no apparent reason... If he were anything less I'd want nothing to do with him. I know only too well how malicious and toxic the more extreme elements of the Skeptisphere can be. I've been the target of a hate-campaign by "Team Droike" and the Skeptic cyber-bullies have even turned against their own side, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/skeptics-troll-their-own.html.
(Photo caption) "Professor Brian Cox: not Ben's type."
No he's not. My "I'm-completely-straight-but-if-I-were-gay" crush at the moment is the delectable Dr Steven Greer. I have a close female friend who does consider the good professor her type and I always wonder what she sees in him.
"...In my case it was because, as a skeptic, people would frequently ask for my opinion on this or that, with the whole intention of convincing me I was wrong..."
If you listen to the two radio shows I did with Trystan, I don't think that comes across in my case.
"...In itself that doesn’t present a problem, but the arguments against my doubt were frequently based upon hearsay, cherry picked, fictional or non-existent ‘evidence’..."
Again, this does not include me.
"...Failing that some flaw in my qualifications, past, schooling or postcode would be used to explain why I just couldn’t see the truth..."
I'm well aware of the ad hominem fallacy and its sub-fallacies like "poisoning the well". I make an effort to avoid committing them.
"...And the same old nonsense would be brought up again and again and again: WTC7 was brought down in a controlled explosion..."
Is this meant to be something I said? After all, the article is about me. Or is Trystan just talking about conspiracy theorists in general? I do not claim that the Building Seven was brought down by explosives. No, no; a far more sophisticated directed energy weapon was used, as Dr Judy Wood has discovered, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/dr-judy-wood-in-brighton.html.
"...why did MOSSAD tell the Jewish workers to stay at home on 9/11?..."
This is the most worrying part of Trystan's article. As far as I can see he is not attributing this statement as a quote by me; if he were then he'd receive his very own "being curt" notice to cease-and-desist from my solicitor in the next post, if he were lucky. As it stands, I feel uncomfortable with those words even being present in an article with my name on it. I'd like to be able to tell you that nobody in the 9/11 Truth movement really believes that the Jews at the WTC were all warned to stay off work that day. Unfortunately that's not true. There are a tiny minority who do maintain that nonsense, and I always challenge them when I hear it. In actual fact over three hundred Jews died in the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, including five Israelis. I know hardly anybody in the 9/11 Truth movement who doesn't understand that 9/11 was nothing to do with Jews. Jews are a simply cultural and religious group who are completely innocent of any
wrongdoings. In fact it's the Jews who have often suffered very badly as a
result of the globalist agenda in many different ways down the centuries.
Nevertheless when a Skeptic comments on 9/11 conspiracy theories they will
always, and I mean always, bring up
the people who think the Jews were all phoned up on 9/11. In fact in Richard
Dawkins' TV series Enemies of Reason
the only reference he makes to 9/11 truthers at all involves that little epithet.
Why? Because it's a useful strawman. It would be the equivalent of me saying
about Skeptics: "And the same old
nonsense would be brought up again and again and again: Rebecca Watson deserves
to be threatened with rape and mutilation. All psychic mediums should be locked
up in concentration camps! That's what these damn Skeptics are like, aren't
they?" I'm not saying Trystan is libeling me directly or doing anything else illegal, but I'm very disappointed in him for playing that cheap
"...I would guess there is an element of this in Cox’s position. Why argue the same points again and again when, ultimately, it isn’t going to achieve anything except wasting time?..."
This statement is based on the assumption that the said wasting of time has nothing to do with the fact that he has no argument to counter the points made.
"...Throwing up that wall of unapproachable contempt is a very good method of keeping time wasters at an arm’s length..."
This is a completely circular argument. Why the unapproachable contempt? Because Cox' detractors are time wasters. How do you know they are time wasters? Well, why else would he putting up a wall of unapproachable contempt?
"...All the whilst you get a reputation for being controversial and people increase your profile by blogging about you!..."
Hmm yes. I wish there were a way round that.
"...I also think that Ben should perhaps consider how the conspiracy theorist brethren could help themselves. They are often their own worst obstacles to being taken seriously by the part of the world that developed a greater understanding of critical thinking..."
I'm well aware that the conspiratorial community is far from perfect. Many say things I don't agree with. Some say support crazy ideas that have no basis in reason. Some get angry with me for not agreeing with them. Some call me a government agent because I mention that the moon is probably a natural celestial object and not an artificial alien space station. Not to mention the horrific reaction from the 9/11 truth community to the defection of Charlie Veitch, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_UYZITc_90. But there's the implication in what Trystan says that to be a conspiracy theorist is to be separated from critical thinking because you believe in conspiracy theories, and that being a conspiracy Skeptic automatically means you are a critical thinker simply because you express disbelief conspiracy theories. There are many people who use science and reason, including many highly qualified and experienced scientists, who would not be described as Skeptics; in fact they’re usually labelled “believers”. Then again there are people who know nothing about science and never use its methods who say things like: “Nah, I don’t believe in all that crap! There ain’t no such things as ghosts or UFO’s. It’s all in yer head innit?” Yet this person would be described as a Skeptic. So it’s impossible to avoid the fact that it is opinions and conclusions about certain subjects that separate people called “Skeptics” from those called “believers” or “non-Skeptics” and nothing else; not methods, not science, not education, not qualification. Trystan has failed to understand that.
"...Conspiracy theories are often part of a bigger, unproven narrative. For example, many believe the wide narrative that select individuals are actively attempting to establish a global government. The reality of this allegation is dubious, but those who believe it are adept at finding the signs: the establishment of the European Union, OPEC, the Commonwealth etc. That quasi-ostentive approach of fitting misatrributed events into a greater legend may convince those who accept low quality evidence, but few others, never mind someone whose scientific work is based upon the collection and analysis of data.
Conspiracy theorists also tend to demonstrate the nail bomb approach to disseminating new ideas. Lots of pieces of shrapnel blasted out in the idea that at least some of it will stick. It’s actually quite an effective method in some ways. It covers the bases and suggests there is no smoke without fire. Hey, all these ideas and so many people talking about them. Must be something to them, right? Well, possibly. But don’t get too excited. The presence of smoke doesn’t automatically mean flames will be leaping, as most on-engine motor oil spills demonstrate.
Of course, this is not to say genuine conspiracies don’t occur. The nature of government and governance necessitates the keeping of secrets. (In the interests of defence, it pays to have a technological upper hand.) Yes, you could easily argue the existence of a ruling class. But at the same, so many groundless conspiracy theories are thrown around that it is easy to become buried in a deluge of paranoid gossip, innuendo, misinformation and outright lies. You need a tin foil hat, plugs and opaque goggles to stop your brain being fried by the radiation waves of crap from the internet..."
I think this is just another misrepresentation and generalization of we, the conspiracy theorists. It may be a valid criticism for some people... whose names I won't mention... but not for all by far.
"...I can’t blame anyone, Brian Cox included, for becoming so fatigued under the weight of nonsense that they will no longer engage with its proponents. It isn’t polite to dismiss conspiracy theorists as ‘nobbers‘, but in many cases Cox has a point. They’ve brought it about upon themselves..."
Trystan concludes the article with the same fallacy he's used before. The fundamental assumption is that conspiracy theories are nonsense, ergo anybody who grows fatigued under their weight is doing so because they're nonsense. Could another possibility be that the fatigue comes from Cox being presented with arguments which are unwelcome due to his emotional and ideological motives, yet he has no rational answer to refute them? In this circumstance there are only three directions of progress: 1. Admit he can't refute them. 2. Ignore them. 3. Dismiss them as nonsense a priori. The Coxxer has chosen the third option. If he wishes to do that then it's his choice. However, in the same way I would never dare to second-guess him when it comes to particle physics, I'd expect the same intellectual honesty in return when it comes to matters he might have neglected to study when I haven't. If he's not willing to have that intellectual honesty then Trystan should not expect me to let him get away with it.