Mar 202017
 

While there are many factors in Trump’s rise, one of the most bizarre is his use of conspiracies. Whether the topic is voter fraud, Obama wiretapping Trump Towers, or anti-vaccination arguments, no modern politician has so successfully and routinely employed conspiracy theories as Donald Trump.

Political conspiracies, both real (Watergate) and dubious (G.W. Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks) are nothing new. In the 16th and 17th centuries, for example, during outbreaks of the bubonic plague, dozens of people in what is now Switzerland and Italy were arrested and accused of intentionally spreading the disease as part of a plot to steal from sickened, wealthy landowners.

But Trump’s endorsement of conspiracies is unprecedented in American politics. Trump enjoys flirting with fringe and extremist elements including conspiracy theorists. Trump has also appeared on the radio show of noted conspiracy advocate Alex Jones, who has repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration has faked or staged domestic shootings (including the Sandy Hook school massacre) as a pretext for confiscating American’s guns.

You can read the rest HERE.

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Nov 302016
 

My buddy Ian Harris has a new blog about chemtrails:

I was driving on the freeway in Los Angeles, and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker on it that said “Chemtrails Kill.” Now, I love to laugh at the chemtrail people anyway, but this one had me almost pulling over to catch a breath, because the vehicle was not actually a car but a giant, Suburban-type SUV. The irony of this one is just way too thick to ignore. You are driving around in an eighteen-passenger, four-gallon-to-the-mile, urban assault vehicle on a road with a million other cars, worried about condensation happening at thirty-five thousand feet! Watch out: water vapor at one part per zillion is falling all around us! And let’s not pretend that “Chemtrails” are anything but that—water vapor accurately known as contrails. Contrails have existed since the invention of the jet engine. We know definitively what causes them. There is less secret involved here than why your windshield has that “mysterious” water on it every morning. We know more about the formation of contrails than we do about where that one sock goes when we do the laundry. The science behind contrails is more understood than the science behind what makes those One Direction kids so damn adorable.

 

You can read the rest HERE. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Nov 252016
 

In case you missed my recent appearance on the “Big Picture Science” show talking about aliens and UFOs, it’s HERE!

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Sep 302016
 

I’m quoted in a recent piece on The Daily Beast, talking about government (sorry, gubmint) mind control conspiracies. You can read it HERE! 

 

“They’re looking for shielding materials, garments, fabrics, metals, paints, and meters for measuring, but oftentimes they can’t really articulate what they’re trying to shield from or trying to measure,” said DeToffol.

That’s because none of what these people are trying to protect against actually exists, says Benjamin Radford, a fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a New York think tank that promotes science-based reasoning. Further, this sort of “thought broadcasting”—which is known among conspiracy theorists as “Remote Neural Monitoring,” or “RNM”—is a classicmanifestation of paranoid schizophrenia, says Dr. Michael Sacks, an attending psychiatrist at NewYork Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 102016
 

 

News stories last week have challenged the conventional wisdom dispensed by dentists for decades: that flossing your teeth regularly helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease. But that’s not quite accurate. My article explaining why is HERE! 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 082016
 

My recent article for Seeker (formerly Discovery News) is about the politics of vaccinations…

 

In medicine the benefits of childhood vaccination are widely accepted. The evidence is clear and overwhelming: vaccines do not cause autism (or any other condition), and the benefits of preventing severe diseases far outweigh the small risks of side effects. This is non-controversial, and vaccination is a staple of preventive medicine worldwide.

You can read the rest HERE

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 052016
 

I’m quoted in The Santa Fe New Mexican talking about the lure and lore of hidden treasure, you can read it HERE.  

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Mar 252016
 

A new study finds that over half of the measles cases in the U.S. since 2000 were among unvaccinated people–and most of those were offered the vaccine but refused it. My new article on the topic is HERE. 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Mar 182016
 

Recently a class at a middle school in Connecticut asked me for an interview about the Bermuda Triangle. I agreed to a short (15 minute) Skype session where I’d answer questions for the class, and it had a twist ending. You can read about it HERE. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Mar 152016
 

Last month a sensational “news story” about supposedly mysterious, alien “music” heard on the dark side of the moon on the Apollo 10 mission has gone viral. HERE is the real explanation that cuts through the myths and mystery mongering…

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Mar 102016
 

Donald Trump is unique in the history of American politics in his repeated and successful endorsement of wild conspiracy theories. My new article explains why and how it works for him… you can read it HERE. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Feb 282016
 

For those who didn’t see it, I’m quoted in a new PBS piece on conspiracy theories: “Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer science magazine, said many conspiratorial beliefs have a ‘grain of truth’ to them, such as when the high-profile revelations from Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the government lied to the public. ‘There’s this illicit transference of belief where people assume just because the government is capable of doing bad things and being careless,’ Radford said. It provides a ‘sheen of plausibility’ that leads people to assume officials take things another step too far.”

You can read it HERE! 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Feb 152016
 

A while ago I recorded a few short (90-second) segments for an NPR station on the chemtrail conspiracy. Four of them are now on YouTube; you can see them HERE. 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jan 272016
 

Late last year I recorded about a dozen short (1-2 minute) segments for a NPR station on various skeptical subjects. Here are five of the audio segments now available on YouTube, on the subject of the chupacabra. You can find them HERE.

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jan 252016
 

Late last year I recorded about a dozen short (1-2 minute) segments for a NPR station on various skeptical subjects. Here are four of the audio segments now available on YouTube, on the subject of Chemtrail Conspiracies. You can find them HERE.

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jan 182016
 

A recent study published in the “American Journal of Public Health” examined the demographics of California school students who had requested and received exemptions from mandatory vaccinations for nonmedical reasons. My recent article for Discovery News examines why many anti-vaccination parents are better educated than those who endorse vaccines. You can read it HERE.

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Nov 082015
 

Last month a bizarre photo circulated apparently depicting a flying city in the clouds. Explanations ranged from mirage to hoax to conspiracy operations; my take on it for Discovery News is HERE.

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Oct 202015
 

I and three other experts including Susan Gerbic are extensively quoted in a new story about internet hoaxes: “In today’s fast-paced news culture, misinformation and disinformation are spread with a click, often before authenticity and credibility are verified. Sometimes it’s harmless and funny, like The Onion fooling Fox News. But in other cases, this type of behavior is not only irresponsible but also incredibly dangerous. To understand this culture of deception, Hopes&Fears gathered four experts on hoaxes, falsehoods, rumors and pseudoscience…” You can read it HERE. 

Oct 122015
 

From the Radford Files archives:

 

A recent poll by Harris interactive found that 14 percent of Americans suspect that President Barack Obama may be the Antichrist. Nearly a quarter of Republicans, and 16 percent of Democrats, responded this way. Forty percent said they think Obama is a Socialist, and just under one-third believe he is Muslim.

 

If the statistics are valid, the number of people who believe that Obama is the Antichrist is alarming. For many people—especially religious fundamentalists— “the Antichrist” is not a metaphor. It’s not meant as a joke or hyperbole. They really, literally mean they believe that the President of the United States may either be evil incarnate (Satan), or the entity who fulfills Biblical prophecy as the adversary of Jesus Christ.

 

Yet a close reading of the Bible reveals an interesting discrepancy: According to Scripture, the Antichrist will try to deceive the public by claiming to work on God’s behalf. He will be a so-called wolf in sheep’s clothing, a duplicitious man of God pretending to do God’s work while instead furthering his own diabolical agenda.

 

President Obama has never implicitly nor explicitly claimed to God’s work. Though he has invoked God and religion on occasion, his presidency has been fairly secular. (Those people who believe that Obama is both a Muslim and the Antichrist have some mighty confused and contradictory theology.)

 

George W. Bush, on the other hand, repeatedly invoked God during his presidency. He was quoted in The Faith of George W. Bush as saying “I’ve heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for President.” Bush also said, “The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled. This confrontation is willed by God who wants this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a new age begins,” and that “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.”

 

Of course George W. Bush is no more the Antichrist than Barack Obama is. Yet if what the Bible says about the Antichrist is true, Bush is a far more likely candidate than Obama. For the majority of Americans who are pretty sure that President Obama is neither a Muslim nor the Antichrist, it’s easy to mock such outlandish beliefs. But beliefs have consequences; in early April, nine self-proclaimed paramilitary “Christian warriors” were arrested in Michigan. They had been preparing for a battle with the government—and, ultimately, perhaps the Antichrist.

 

 

This piece originally appeared in the Briefs Briefs column in the June 2010 Skeptical Briefs newsletter.

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Oct 042015
 

 

With the news last month about the discovery of a “super-Stonehenge” circling one of the world’s most famous monuments, attention has once again focused on the Wiltshire marvel. There are thousands of ancient stone circles across Europe, of which Stonehenge is by far the best known and most impressive. While there are many genuine historical mysteries about Stonehenge — such as who built it and for what purpose — there are just as many fabricated ones trading in myth and conspiracy. You can read my Discovery News piece HERE.

 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Sep 252015
 

I spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Over the years I’ve written about dozens and dozens of conspiracy theories, including the Obama birthers, the Sandy Hook shootings (for which I still receive hate e-mails), Osama bin Laden death conspiracies, claims that vaccines are attempts to poison children, 9/11 truthers, the EPA spill in the Animas river, and countless others. I’m fascinated by the psychology of conspiracy thinking, why some conspiracies gain traction while other fade away, and more. One curious and often-overlooked element of conspiracy thinking is that conspiracy theorists are for the most part completely uninterested in actual, provable conspiracies, such as the GM coverups. You can read more at my CFI blog. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

 

Sep 162015
 

I was recently a guest on the 16Miles2Hell show, talking about conspiracy theories, the history of conspiracy dissemination, and the psychology of conspiracies…

Put on your tinfoil hat and check it out! 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Sep 142015
 

For those who didn’t see it last week, here’s my article on Stonehenge myths and how restoration efforts sparked conspiracy theories is now out, you can see it HERE.  

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 072015
 

Police in Florida suggest that a triple murder in Pensacola late last month is connected to witches, Wiccans, and/or Satanists. My new article on why that’s almost certainly false, with a discussion of previous crimes police wrongly attributed to Satanists or witches, is HERE. 

Jul 202015
 

Amid a spate of six church fires in the South, people are concerned that the high racial tensions have played a role. While many people suspect that the fires were racially motivated–especially in light of the recent shooting spree at an African-American church in Charleston–officials have said that so far that have no evidence or reason to believe that they were racially motivated, and at least one fire that set a Florida church on fire was electrical.

Almost exactly twenty years ago there was a similar outbreak of fires involving nearly twice as many churches. In May 1996 a rash of twelve church fires was reported nationwide, five of which served mostly black congregations. The arsons were seen by many as being racially motivated, fueled in part by stories like the one that appeared in the September 2, 1996, issue of Newsweek: Below the headline, “We Live in Daily Fear” is the slug, “Greenville, Texas, thought it had outgrown its racist past. That was 41 fires ago.” The article went on to describe two recent church arsons in the town of Greenville. Curiously, the article notes that, in the case of both Greenville churches highlighted therein, “[P]olice recently charged a retarded 18-year-old black man with both church blazes.” So even though many in the public–and the Newsweek reporter–assumed that race was a factor, it apparently was not.

The following month President Clinton highlighted the problem in an address to the nation and announced that a national task force would be organized to investigate and combat the crimes. A year later the task force concluded that many of the 429 fires they examined were not racist but copycat crimes. They found no evidence of a racist conspiracy or even a clear pattern to the crimes.

Many were committed by individuals acting alone, and, of those arrested, 42 percent were juveniles. Though some of the fires were traced to racist motives, other arsons were committed for profit, vandalism, or revenge. Of the 199 people arrested in incidents dating back to 1995, 160 were white, 34 were black, and 5 were Latino.

The Insurance Information Institute, a trade group that collects data regarding insurance companies, examined the rash of fires in 1996 and concluded that: (1) most of the fires were set by serial arsonists; (2) the number of fires in white churches also increased in 1995; (3) in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Virginia, fires destroyed more white churches than black ones; and (4) in nine of fifteen black church fires, black suspects were named.

Eric Daniel Harris, former pastor of a rural Baptist church, confessed that he set his own Kentucky church on fire. Harris, who had implied that he thought the fire was either a hate crime or an act of vandalism, said he burned his church to unite his flock. In Wichita Falls, Texas, a minister and three others were accused of burning down their own church to collect $270,000 in insurance in November of 1996.

President Obama has so far not commented on the church fires specifically nor about the possible racial motives behind them, and in fact that may be for the best. The reason: copycats.

President Clinton’s announcement about the church fires actually led to more, not fewer, church arsons: Following the president’s speech, the number of incidents nearly quadrupled. Forty-seven churches were targets of fires or bombs, nineteen of which were black churches. This increase was mainly attributed to copycat crimes: Treasury Secretary James E. Johnson reported that some of those arrested said “they saw it on the news, and this became the thing to do.” Thus the news media, and all the discussions on social media about the fires, may inadvertently help perpetuate the problem.

Whether these church fires are related to each other, or related to race, remains to be seen. A motive, if any, can’t be determined until a suspect is arrested. Until then America will just have to live with the uncertainty but can take comfort that at least one previous rash of church fires wasn’t a racist conspiracy.

 

Jun 302015
 

My new article on KFC urban legends, and how a piece of chicken can look like a fried rat, is up at Discovery News, you can read it HERE.  It’s an interesting blend of psychology, folklore, and culture…

Mar 182015
 

Late-night talk shows are better known for topical comedy and celebrities plugging their new movie or CD than they are for science education. However, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” recently gave the pro-science, pro-vaccination effort a boost.. you can read about it HERE. 

 

Jan 252015
 

A viral story about how a high school allegedly used Photoshop to change their students’ yearbook photos to make them thinner started on Reddit earlier this month and has appeared on Gawker, Jezebel, Gizmodo, PerezHilton, and elsewhere.

As it turns out, the story isn’t quite as outrageous as claimed, you can read it HERE. 

Oct 052014
 

My recent guest appearance on The Edge of the Unknown Radio Show is now up, wherein I discuss skepticism, investigations, and some mysteries covered in my new book. Check it out HERE!

Sep 262014
 

Hundreds of Colombian girls and their families are blaming HPV vaccines for mysterious symptoms. An interesting blend of anti-vaccination conspiracy and mass hysteria, you can read my article on it HERE. 

Sep 072014
 

Had a good time at Dragon*Con on the Skeptics Track last week, seeing lots of interesting people (and costumes!), seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I gave presentations on crystal skulls, organ theft urban legends, and scientific paranormal investigation, as well as appearing on a few panels including on conspiracy theories. Always nice to share my research and spread critical thinking and skepticism. Thanks to all those who came out and supported us!