Saturday, February 20, 2021

Blocking the Sun in Texas

The latest in conspiracy mongering:
Conspiracy theories of outlandish proportions spread in far-right online spaces, including Telegram channels run by promoters of QAnon. . . .

The claims included the false allegations that the snow in Texas was fake and somehow engineered by President Joe Biden and that Bill Gates "blocking the sun" caused the bizarre weather.

Google search trends throughout the week demonstrate the scope of this misinformation. On Wednesday, "fake snow" was a top related-search-query for "Texas snow." On Thursday, "bill gates sun" was a breakout related-query, meaning that the searches grew by more than 5000%.
There is a smidgen of truth behind the Gates part, since he has given money to groups studying the use of artificial clouds to dim the sun and cool the planet. But as I have noted before, no one is actually doing experiments to make this operational. But it gets weirder:
One Telegram channel falsely purporting to be Thomas McInerney, a conspiracy theorist and retired United States Air Force general, referenced the bogus claim in a Thursday message to 164,460 subscribers. The post, which was forwarded to other channels and viewed more than 150,000 times, falsely claimed that the situation in Texas "was a planned attack." McInerney, a Trump supporter, has previously pushed the claim that COVID-19 was a "biological attack," but Defense News has reported that the account does not belong to the retired general.
So in that corner, the false General McInerney, a simulacrum of a conspiracy theorist, multiple layers of falseness and obscurity. And in this corner, the King of the Obvious:
On a Telegram channel popular among QAnon supporters, the idea that the Texas blackouts were "not a coincidence" also reached hundreds of thousands of viewers.
I mean, they weren't a coincidence; they were planned by ERCOT, which runs the Texas grid. So how is "this is not a coincidence" even a conspiracy theory? "We're just going to mutter something obvious in low tones and everybody will nod darkly."

The best part is of course the way the conspiracies cut against each other; on the one hand, the snow is fake, but on the other it was caused by a deliberate climate attack. It also seems puzzling that an Establishment devoted to spreading fear of global warming should engineer fake snow.

And this:
Another conspiracy theory spreading mostly on Facebook alleged that Biden had somehow manipulated the weather to cause the storm in Texas.
I mean, Bill Gates, maybe, but Joe Biden? Sigh.

Didn't take long for all the crazies to switch to Telegram, a robustly secret communication tool used worldwide; I read recently that 60% of all internet traffic in Iran is over Telegram.

As for the serious allegations about the crisis, I haven't commented because everyone is acting crazy. According to ERCOT, both natural gas plants and windmills failed in the cold, so the crisis wasn't "caused" by green energy, but on the other hand it is absolutely true that, as Tucker Carlson said, wind and solar power make the grid less stable. That is a solvable engineering problem but it is a problem that we mostly haven't solved yet, because we have massively under-invested in our power grid. But I also don't think it makes a lot of sense to blame ERCOT, because the only way they could fix the grid is by raising the price of power and building lots of new power lines, and nobody wants either one of those. It think it is also worth pointing out that Texas has a lot of windmills because they are promoted by an alliance of environmentalists and ranchers who make money hosting them on their land, and ranchers have always had a lot of influence in Texas.

So here we are. 


Shadow said...

If we have retired generals who are conspiracy theorists, then it is likely we have generals on active duty who are conspiracy theorists. Just another day in the neighborhood. The country went to Hell when Mr. Rogers died.

I'm spinning my own conspiracy. Many people are making money off these conspiracies and don't believe them themselves. Still, that leaves a lot who do. The only way so many people can believe these conspiracies -- I mean really, truly believe them -- is if someone has been putting something in our water supply. Anyone checked lately?

G. Verloren said...


Water supplies have pretty robust testing standards, but an actual serious concern is lead.

Yes, we banned lead paints and leaded fuels long ago, but sadly we've been woefully neglecting lead abatement and removal programs for generations now, with the net effect that no one really knows how much lead is still in millions of American homes, and most of what is out there is likely to be concentrated in poor communities, particularly in homes that people rent rather than own, and is also likely to be more dangerous than in prior decades because old paints chip, flake, and peel over time. And that doesn't even consider the problems of old lead piping that still exists in many homes, etc.

And the thing is, people keep ringing the alarm bell on lead poisoning in this country, and the powers that be simply keep kicking the can down the road. We've been doing that so long now, we may well be facing the actual consequences by this point on an unprecedented scale.