So, a little over a year ago, I wrote a piece about one particular anti-WiFi activist named Rodney Palmer. It was a bit of a snarky post, written with the piss-and-vinegar that comes from a long, aggravating day at work. The post caught the attention of Mr. Palmer, who promptly threatened to sue me over the post. Long-time readers of this blog will know that this is old, old news. I’m sure Mr. Palmer, while being no fan of mine, has probably moved on by now.
After around 7 months since the last comment, that article (and not the over a dozen other related articles we’ve published here at Skeptic North, most of them since the Palmer piece) got flooded with negative comments. And I mean flooded. I’ve been blogging for several years now, and I know that when a year-old piece suddenly gets flooded with angry, insulting comments, someone probably stumbled upon it, and got upset.
Ho, boy were they upset!
You see, this was not an sudden uptick in anti-Wifi activity, but was an organized group effort, led by one Paul Doyon. Mr. Doyon heads up a group dubbing themselves “EMF Refugees”, and to this group, he sent out a message: “Please Swamp this Word Swindler With Factual Comments”
I took a screen shot of the actual call to arms, because what the ended up posting was largely invective worthy of Jesse Ventura.
Right out of the gates, we can see that this group, for all their bluster, are not interested in a discussion. By their own admission, they came to swamp the blog. This is little different than how spammers operate, excepting that these aren’t robots (well….in a way….).
The “factual information” that they brought to the discussion? Here’s some samples of their discussion:
1) “I suggest that Steve Thoms read up on the subject before he continues making a fool of himself by speaking out his ass”
2) “I used to refer to skeptics as Acceptics but I think there’s more to it than that. Skeptics are clearly not sceptical at all, it appears these groups are hellbent on upholding the status quo through selling the messages of various industries. Steve you say “Show evidence of *my* agenda. You imply that I am somehow funded by corporate backers: Prove it.” I don’t need to, I’ve seen enough of these quackbuster type sites”
3) “The plural of anecdotal evidence is DATA.”
4) “I have also been thinking that I would do the world a favour and not warn you so that your spawn does not further contaminate the gene pool”
5) “I have checked your ‘teacher’ credentials with the Ontario College of Teachers and you aren’t one, so stop claiming to be one. I was going to report you for conduct unbecoming of a teacher. Aren’t you embarrassed about the language you allow on your site?”
6) “The theory is right but the problem is that the current consensus is industry driven.”
7) “This Quackivist [sic] (which is not even a word btw) cannot even spell my name correctly. You are the Quacks my friends.”
And it goes on, and on, and on, like that. They ask a question, I answer it (or point them to the answer), and they insist they didn’t get an answer, and respond with insults about how poor I am at reading, how poor a teacher I must be, and how my closed minded I am. “Factual comments”, I’m sure.
When you look at the screen shot I posted above, you see textbook examples of conspiracy theory thinking:
As I wrote back in early 2010, conspiracy theorists clump the world into three categories:
1) The Dupes: The ignorant masses who believe everything that is spoon-fed to them.
2) The perpetrators: the evil powers (and their lackeys) that push “The Lie” onto the dupes.
3) The noble army of Truth: the privileged few who know the real truth, and see it as their job to convince the poor, ignorant dupes, and to fight the evil perpetrators wherever they are.
In the screenshot of Paul’s call to arms, he and his supporters betray all their conspiracy theorist markings:
“We, who are concerned,Â understandÂ how high theÂ stakes are, asÂ the effects on people andÂ environment may be in placed in peril, due to mankind’s neglect as steward’s of the earth. “
They position both themselves as the privileged few who know the real truth,and the masses as the poor dupes who need to be freed. Or in this telling excerpt by Paul himself (emphasis mine):
“Actually, this is an excellent opportunity for the Speakers of the Truth to get our word out there in their own media arm against the People of the Lie.“
If this isn’t hyperbole, and rhetoric, I don’t know what is. Not only does literally identify his group as the speakers of the truth, and me as part of the great lie, but he even capitalizes these terms, as if they are titles akin to Speaker of the House or King of the Moon. And speaking of titles,
“When I read an irrational rant like what Word Swindler, which disparages any possibolity [sic] that WiFi could cause health problems and viciously attacks the mesengers [sic],”
I expect you all to make hilarious, and awesome logs that I can put on a t-shirt, or my twitter avatar.
So don’t be confused: there is no sudden uptick in anti-wifi “awareness”. It’s just a dedicated activity by a small, but vocal (and mouthy) group who see skeptics like me as lackeys for the telecom industry (if I was a lackey, then perhaps I’d have a better car than a Corolla), and themselves as the self-appointed “Speakers of the Truth”. Textbook conspiracy theorists.