Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I've done one of those video mashup things

I've done one of those video mash up things featuring all the questions that Anthony Watts asked of John Cook and Michael Mann during the blessed Watts's grand tour of England.

Hope you like it.

Tee, hee.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

What Chance Have We Got?

There is no word for gullible in the English language.

Well, not a strong enough one anyway.  This is a post that has been fermenting in my brain for some time, ever since I accidentally landed on a TV show called America Unearthed which purported to show some link between a site in the USA and the ancient Maya.  We all know the Maya from the pointless and overhyped 2012 rubbish.  The show was equally rubbish.  If you want to know more, head here.  Jason Colavito does a better job than me of exposing the idiocy and lack of, well, anything resembling the truth.

America Unearthed is a pseudoarchaeology show presented as if the quest was the truth.  I didn't need more than a few minutes of my life to see its methods.  There were tantalising glimpses of evidence but no chance to see them properly.  There were hypotheticals that were accepted without any proper justification and there was straight assertion.  It was all wrapped in a negligee of doubt so transparent that its wearer should have been ashamed of themselves.

And there's more.  The same channel broadcasts a series called Ancient Aliens which is a bit like claiming Stargate SG-1 is a documentary series.  Same methods, same rules, same unreliable conclusions as America Unearthed.  I can only assume there is an audience for this sort of thing because there are multiple seasons of the programmes.  That's a lot of time and money spent on insulting people's intelligence.

It's frightening that a channel claiming itself to be a documentary channel can put out so much that is patently untrue.  But the H2 channel is not alone.  Other broadcasters put out equally misleading and untrue programmes masquerading as documentaries.  The good old BBC is not immune.  They hosted Henry Lincoln's shows that led to the infamous and discredited book The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.  It happens.  Later the BBC made some amends by broadcasting a documentary that totally trashed the book. 

But documentaries have power because they slide past our eyes without the need for us to think too hard.  Some documentaries are very careful about what they present and how they present it, but in the end they are part of the entertainment industry and if they don't entertain while they are informing, then the viewing public might be tempted to see what is on another channel.  But it can be done.  Both the original Cosmos and the upgraded version this year managed both.  The World At War is both.  Spend your cash on the boxsets and educate yourselves.

Sadly, however, the Internet is where a good many will get there viewing outside of the established TV channels.  And there is a massive amount of junk out there.  If you are not the proud possessor of a word that means the opposite of gullible, you will buy into whatever you are watching.  And you can find lots more sites, videos and the like that will back up the first one.  Go on, try.  I Googled 911 evidence and found precious little actual evidence.  Apparently, Putin was about to release Moscow's archives on the attack.  I read that maybe half a dozen times.  I didn't find any that actually reported the release.  Let's call it a scam, shall we, because that is what it is.  Put out a rumour, real or invented, then bounce it around the echo chamber and it looks as if it might be a genuine thing. 

One of my bugbears is the denial of the Moon landings.  I was six when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.  I have no doubt it was real and genuine.  But I get told it wasn't by people whose actual knowledge of the events has been gleaned from, wait for it, a documentary.  Wow.  A documentary.  They can never remember which one but it was a documentary.  Perhaps I could counter that with the hundreds of documentaries that take the consensus view.  That is, the real one.

A denier is someone who believes the opposite of the truth even when they are given the truth.  Over the years I have noticed something about deniers.  They cannot agree on what the truth actually is.  There are multiple conspiracy explanations of 9/11 but there is only one that is correct.  Yes, it was a conspiracy - by a small bunch of people with the intention of flying aircraft into large iconic buildings in the north east of the USA to cause destruction and death and humiliate America.  It wasn't a conspiracy emanating from the US government.  I've been told it was because the government wanted to knock down the buildings.  Well, they weren't government buildings so it would be strange that the government would feel it could do so.  Secondly, it was a rather weird method - to fly plane loads of people into them not knowing that the buildings would collapse.  And to fly a plane into the Pentagon for the same reason?  That wouldn't work as a demolition method.  Just stupid and a moment's thought would tell you it wasn't true.

However, documentaries allow us to know without thinking.  Deniers also seem to think that the world is a binary place - black or white, right or wrong, left or right.  But that isn't the case.  It is a smeared, smudged, noisy place where the signal is often buried in the grime of reality.  Remember the days when you had to tune your radio and you could catch the noise between stations, especially on FM.  Remember listening to stations broadcasting from far away, how the signal would dip in and out.  Those days are gone, pretty much.  We don't experience the world in quite the same way, so it can feel natural that everything is neatly parcelled for out entertainment and we don't have to think for ourselves.

Strangely, as we grow it seems we become more sceptical.  Properly sceptical in most cases.  We see promises broken, we see the rise and fall of fashions and we see the press hype something only for that hype to falter.  So we learn that not all is as it seems.  We also learn that humans are fallible, that no one (not even Steven Fry) knows everything and we learn that some things are possible and that some things are likely. 

We also learn that people lie.

As an Englishman, I've kept a quarter of an eye on the Scottish referendum with no big interest in the outcome other than to wonder what might happen in the aftermath of a Yes vote.  It came in No so that doesn't matter.  What has been fun is the bickering that happens amongst politicians when something is being promised.  You learn that politicians will promise lots but reality often gets in the way.  Politics would prefer the binary world.  Reality just won't allow it.  Are politicians lying when they promise something?  Sometimes but it is easy to say they all are.  I suspect not all of them are lying.

But documentaries do lie.  The Great Global Warming Swindle did.  I watched it, thought the main premise was rubbish and moved on.  But there are many who seem to hold it as a sacred text almost.  For those, a better education awaits.  They won't get it from WUWT or Judith Curry.

Because the real information is out there.  To my Moon landing denial friends there is an absolute stack - videos (including unedited videos), photographs (the entire lot), rocks, hardware, witness testimony....  It goes on.

I had a chat with a 9/11 truther (LOL) the other week.  When I asked about the videos of planes crashing into the twin towers, I was told it was photoshopped (LOL).  I asked if the actual eye witnesses who saw planes strike the towers from the streets were lying.  My friend told me that was photoshopping too. 

Like I said, there is no word in the English language for gullible.  At least not one for being that gullible.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Courtier's Response

I have removed a site from my blog roll.  I did it because I have become fed up with the petulant attitude, the Victor Meldrew anger management issues and the lack of skepticism being shown on a number of matters by someone who claimed, a little while back, to be a true skeptic.  After bad taste and downright lack of serious thought, I've erased the site from my blog roll.

The host of that site won't be bothered by my defection.  What I care about is hypocrisy.  If someone says something you disagree with, acting like a teenager and throwing your teddy out of the pram doesn't look pretty.  So, Paul.  Sorry, you've thrown one teddy too many.  Stop acting like Willard Watts or throwing your weight around like Chrissy Boy Monckton.  Be skeptical.  Drop the  ideological concretion.  Consider that what others say might have some value.