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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why Offering $25,000 To "Debunk" A Conspiracy Theory Is Pure "Bunk"

Recently, I had run across a few posts on social media offering a cash reward to anyone who could "debunk pizzagate." I cringed.  Admittedly, this was not the first time I've run across such an offer.  As with many major news events, there are those who undoubtedly fall into one of three categories:

1.  Those who blindly accept a news story at "face-value," question nothing and believe every aspect of the story as reported by the media as 100% fact.
2. Those believe some of a news story may be true, but not all facts seem to align in a way that would make logical or common sense, and therefore there may be some questions about the narrative left unresolved, sometimes months or years later.
3. Those who believe almost nothing mainstream news publishes and opt for a more nefarious or sinister side of a story, ultimately luring them to dive down the rabbit holes otherwise known as "conspiracy theories."

Having been known for diving down my fair share of rabbit holes myself, I can attest to the morbid curiosity that some stories just naturally lend themselves to.  Social media, for all of its positive traits, has a dark side too, and is hardly an innocent bystander.  By that I mean simply this; if there is a conspiracy theory to be looked at, you need to look no further than your favorite social media platform's "news feed" to pick any number of holes to jump down into head first.  And really, there is no harm in that;  it keeps life interesting, and offers a reader a more active role in looking at an event rather than merely being a spectator.  To demonstrate, here are just some of the more popular ongoing conspiracy theories, some of which have been going on for decades:

1. President John F. Kennedy was killed by the "mafia" / CIA / Mossad (insert any agency here).
2. September 11, 2001 attacks were an "inside job."
3. No astronauts ever landed or walked on the moon.
4. Adam Lanza could not have been the (sole) killer at Sandy Hook.
5. The Pulse Orlando nightclub massacre was a hoax.
6. PizzaGate is a pure "fake news" story fabricated by Russia or Wikileaks.

On the flip side of this coin, are the professional "debunkers."  For every possible conspiracy theory, there is a virtual army of keyboard warriors all too willing to rip your virtual face off for even mentioning that something just doesn't sound right with a particular news event.  There are several forums and websites who dedicate their collective resources, brain power, and sometimes even cash rewards to those who can "debunk" a particular conspiracy theory.  But is that even possible?

Let's just examine the last one I mentioned above, PizzaGate, as an example of this dilemma.  To many, the concept or "conspiracy theory" labeled as "PizzaGate" emerged late in the 2016 Presidential elections after a series of leaked emails between Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta and his colleagues had referenced the term "pizza" not only repeatedly, but in what to many would seem to be in either inappropriate or just outright bizarre context.  Because of the way pizza was used out of context within the emails, as well as other strange coincidences found by internet sleuths examining the Wikileaks documents, Podesta's and Podesta associates' social media profiles, along with one particular pizza joint run by one of Washington, DC's most influential people who had a penitent for kinky musical acts at the pizza place he runs, there appeared to be ample ingredients for one huge "coincidence lasagna."

In fact, the amount of coincidences that exists is so vast, it's actually impossible to discuss here (but here are some links to rabbit holes you can jump down on your own, here, here and here.

Back to the point of this article.  One of my own pet peeves (hey, we all have them) is when I see comments written by well-intended individuals (yes, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt that they are well-intended folks, misinformed, but well-intended) stating that "so-and-so is offering money for anyone who can debunk _______________." (Insert any conspiracy theory you like in the blank spot)

Having witnessed just one too many of said statements being made, I finally decided to comment back, just to assist them to understand why reposting such a statement is a bad practice and an exercise in futility.  Below is my actual comment I left (please let me know your opinion):

"The problem with statements like "there's a $25,000 reward for anyone who can *debunk* pizzagate..." lies within the way that is phrased.

To "debunk" something, means to prove something is false.  Above that, is also the notion that by "debunking" something, one not only has proved it false, but also proved it's a sham as well.

Here's the problem:  No one, other than investigative agencies, will ever be able to "debunk" pizzagate (which is a theory about pedo rings with central ties to Washington DC & global elites).  One can never "debunk" that; in essence the challenge being laid out there is "prove beyond doubt that a conspiracy theory is false."  

How does one exactly prove something is a negative (or a falsehood), even more importantly, why would someone want to do so?  It's very difficult, if not impossible to do, but more importantly, it works against the person trying to prove a conspiracy theory is TRUE.  Proving something as 100% untrue is nearly impossible unless one has access to every witness, every physical location, every potential victim, etc. 

However, should the claim be "prove within a degree of certainty that pizzagate is real.." well, that makes the challenge not only possible, but probable."

TL;DR Version: The entity offering the $25,000 reward already believes pizzagate is false.  One can't "prove" a falsehood as being even more false.

I hope you are able to make the subtle, but important distinction here.  The ones who generally offer cash rewards tend to be those who already believe the conspiracy theory to be FALSE.  Since they are controlling the purse-strings, there is no amount of evidence, either circumstantial or concrete, that will ever be enough to substantiate that a "conspiracy theory" is true.  Proving a conspiracy theory as true, has its own challenges;  after all, once a conspiracy theory is proven to be true, it's actually no longer a conspiracy theory, but rather, it becomes fact.  That is a rather wide chasm to cross successfully.

What is your opinion on those offering cash rewards to "debunk" something they already believe to be "false?"  Is it even possible to do?  Or is this merely a way to find out who is willing to accept the challenge, collect names, data, etc.?  Or is that yet another conspiracy theory all together?

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