A Beginner's Guide To Spotting Cranky Websites
The fear that the world will end (or that the end will begin) on December 21st, 2012 isn't the first baseless scare in the age of the Internet, and it won't be the last. That said, there are countless websites run by all kinds of people, from paranoid kooks who genuinely believe they're doing the world a favor, to hucksters aiming to capitalize on peoples' fear.
Having been keeping an eye on these types over the years, I've come to notice that they tend to have certain traits in common (aside from failing to actually predict anything except the incredibly obvious). So to help other people avoid falling prey to mindless fear and panic, here's a list of signs that you may be dealing with a crank site.
- The site claims that some major Earth-changing event is just around the corner.
- The site has ads for gold, silver, or survival supplies, or devices to "put your energy in balance" or "clear negative energy."
- The site offers you the "truth" or the "facts" about some impending disaster, sinister conspiracy, or impending world change... if you order the book and/or video it's advertising.
- It's implied or outright stated that conservative white middle-class-or-better Christians (AKA the most privileged group in America) will soon be persecuted.
- The site is full of buzzwords, buzzphrases, and boogeymen: eg, "indoctrination," "coverup," "the gay agenda," "the global warming conspiracy," "the Illuminati," "the New World Order," "the global elite," "Nibiru," "planet X," "depopulation," "ascension," "Nostradamus," "polar shift," "disclosure," "prophecy," "consciousness shift," "quantum," etc.
- The site cites ancient (or just old) beliefs and predictions (which may or may not be genuine ancient/old beliefs and predictions) as evidence.
- The site claims that a bunch of different ancient cultures all predicted the exact same event. (This is always based on gross misinterpretations, massive cherry-picking, or even outright fabrications of ancient belief systems.)
- Native Americans are invoked, period - eg, the site brings up an "old Hopi prophecy" or is run by a curiously pale/European-looking person claiming to be a real Native American insert-title-here.
- The site treats other groups as if they're a single, monolithic entity operating on a hivemind - for example, if a radical feminist somewhere says something to the effect of "men should never hold power at all," they act as if all feminists everywhere must hold the same belief and go trumpeting about how they've "uncovered the secret feminist agenda."
- The site describes scenarios that sound like they're straight out of a Hollywood disaster, dystopia, or science fiction flick. If it sounds like something Roland Emmerich might make into a summer blockbuster, it's probably fake.
- The site implies or outright states that the reason scientists don't agree with the views presented is because their worldview simply does not permit them to even consider the possibility of such ideas.
- The site implies or outright states that the reason you haven't heard of what it's claiming before is because acadamia and/or the government is trying to keep it all covered up or just ignores it because it doesn't jive with "their accepted worldview" or somesuch.
- The site claims there's a supermassive coverup, period. For example, in 2011 people were claiming that comet Elenin was actually a brown dwarf that was going to destroy us that autumn and that its name was actually an acronym for "Extinction Level Event Nibiru Is Near," but that They were just covering it up for some reason.
- For Internet videos: the video has background music that puts you into a nervous, tense, or anxious mood, eg, music similar to the background music in The X-Files or any Hollywood action/suspense scene. A spooky BGM is fine for pure entertainment, but not for anything trying to be academic or informative.
If you have the time, these are some excellent resources on spotting cranks and kooks for yourself: