How To Pick Out a Crackpot – Radio Edition
As I have mentioned numerous times in past posts, I am a Coast to Coast AM listener. For those who don’t know, Coast to Coast AM is a late night radio show (in my area, it is broadcast from 1 to 5 am) running seven days a week. The subject matter on the show varies from one night to the next night, from political to open lines. The one thing that is consistent is that the subjects covered by the show tend to fall in the fringe. That’s the nice way of saying that they talk about a lot of weird stuff.
Shows can vary from ghosts to alien visitations to shadow governments to prophesies. In most cases, there is a guest or two talking about these subjects. In most cases, these guests tend to be knowledgeable about the subject. Even if you don’t believe in the specific topic, you cannot fault the guest for not knowing what he is talking about, or at least seeming credible. You may not believe Richard C. Hoagland‘s claims of ancient civilizations on Mars and the Moon, but at least he backs it up with an impressive resume (consultant for CBS during the Apollo program, consultant for NASA, etc.)
But then, every once in a while, there is a guest that comes up with something so out there, it becomes nigh impossible to take them seriously. You listen to what they say and only come up with one conclusion: they are crazy. The real task is to somehow figure out which are the guest with some degree of legitimacy, and which don’t have a leg to stand on. In some cases, it’s extremely easy to do so.
Occam’s Razor, What’s That?
Occam’s Razor, simply put, is the idea that the simplest explanation is usually the closest to the truth. Granted, when dealing with some fringe topics, this tends not to be the case. The simplest explanation for the face on Mars is a trick of light, but does not support many arguments for ancient ruins on the red planet.
But, there are some guests who will completely disregard this concept for their arguments, running off on a path that cannot be taken seriously. Case in point, a recent guest discussing CERN claimed that CERN is not a real word, but a shortened version of another word. This other word is the name of a monstrous creature that is supposed to come out of the portal created by the Large Hadron Collider. But the guest failed to make the connection between CERN and the European Council for Nuclear Research. At least, failed to make the connection beyond the organization, in some SPECTRE/Cobra style master plan, was trying to open up this portal to the nether realm.
For the record, CERN is an acronym for the European Council for Nuclear Research, or at least the French translation of the name.
The Unified Media Theory
Every once in a while, a guest will make reference to an item on television or film as part of their argument. Sometimes it is simply an analysis of the item, such as cryptozoologists discussing the Patterson Bigfoot footage. Sometimes it is being used to affirm their own beliefs, such as when JFK conspiracy theorists cite the Oliver Stone movie as mainstream acceptance of their ideas.
But then, there are those who try to draw together several different media sources to affirm their believe, even if these concepts have no connection, or could never possibly have any connection. This idea goes beyond the idea that the X-Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen predicted 9/11. What they talk about is a master plan to indoctrinate the world to a new paradigm (a word which, I admit, I never really had any need to use before this post). In their eyes, everything is connected, and it is all orchestrated by some sort of shadow organization which somehow has their hand in all media. Thus, you will hear how the movie Contact, the television show How I Met Your Mother, the book Chicken Soup For The Soul and the comic book Archie are all working on making the world more accepting of remaining under the control of the alien overlords which all, for some reason, dress like Kramer in the episode where he wore the coat from Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“I Don’t Have Proof, But This Is True”
I have to give it to the hosts of Coast to Coast AM. All of them are perfectly willing to let their guests have their moment, even if it is really out there. And to be honest, most of them will somehow back up their arguments with something. Linda Moulton Howe backs up her stories with interviews. Richard C. Hoagland uses math and the photographic evidence, drawing his theories from that. Even in some of the more subjective matters (such as EVPs), the guests are perfectly willing to say, “Hey, this is what we thought we heard, take a listen and hear for yourself.”
But, every once in a while, a guest manages to slip through who brings nothing but conjecture to the table. He will spout wild ideas, usually followed at some point with “I don’t have any proof, but this is how it is.” If any proof is provided, it is often third or fourth hand information. In these cases, is becomes tougher to accept their theories, or even to consider them.
For the record, I have heard former Coast to Coast AM host Art Bell bounce a guest for this very reason.
“If You Don’t Believe Me, You Are An Idiot!”
This is more of a personal criticism of some of the guests I have heard in Coast to Coast AM. In these cases, the guest can seem pretty credible. But what begins to happen is that the guest will start to move from presenting their theories to demanding that they are accepted as fact. When confronted by callers about what they said, the guest digs in, further repeating their claims, to the point that the guest will start to verbally abuse the caller for not thinking the same way. Sadly, this type of guest is not limited to Coast to Coast AM, but is prevalent on a number of politically oriented shows.
We’re All Doomed, Unless You Believe The Way I Do
This is almost a subset of the above. In this case, the guests becomes a zealot. It is not simply a matter that you believe the same way they do politically, but you believe the same way they do religiously as well. These guests will often preach about the fall of the Western World as predicted in the Bible. Salvation is not a matter of believing in God or Jesus, but believing the exact same way as the guest. The most famous example of this was Harold Camping, who twice predicted the Rapture, then disappeared in a non-Rapturous manner once both dates passed without anything happening.
What To Do?
What should you do if you hear any of these on the show? The easiest thing to do is to simply stop listening, at least for the night. I have to admit that I have done this a few times with a few guests as well. You can also keep listening, punching your own holes into the arguments of the guest. Sometimes, this is even more fun than actually listening to the person.
Just remember, as bad as the guest could possibly be, the next day is a new show, a new guest, and a whole new subject, and a whole new experience.