Crank is a pejorative term applied to someone who holds extremely unorthodox views on a subject and is often very vocal about these opinions. A crank will usually maintain their viewpoint despite, or perhaps because of, evidence to the contrary. The crank is usually an amateur in the field they are arguing against, but sometimes individuals with expertise in that field will become a 'crank'.
Cranks emerge in all fields of study and hold a wide variety of inaccurate or unorthodox views, from being able to square the circle with a pencil and a compass, to Biblical literalists in the creationism movement.
Synonyms include kook and crackpot (the latter of which has led to the creation of the term "psychoceramics" as the name for the study of such people). Cranks who believe a lot of nutty things at once are sometimes said to suffer from crank magnetism.
Well known cranks (in alphabetical order by surname) and their ideas include:
- Neal Adams - Expanding earth
- Glenn Beck - If you don't know, you haven't been paying attention.
- Nick Begich, Jr - HAARP
- Todd Bentley - Christian faith healing through kicking and punching.
- Charles Berlitz - The Bermuda Triangle
- Tom Bethell - Numerous forms of science denial.
- Sylvia Browne - Psychic powers, spirit channeling/medium
- Edgar Cayce - Various prophecies, Atlantis, reincarnation
- Alex Chiu - Immortality magnets
- Aleister Crowley - Magic powers, demon and angel summoning, being the Great Beast 666
- Erich von Däniken - Chariots of the Gods
- John A. Davison - Proscribed evolution
- Maxine Dietrich - Founder of Joy of Satan, a neo-Nazi Satanic UFO cult
- Peter Duesberg, Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos - AIDS denialism
- Roger Elvick - Sovereign citizen movement, tax protest
- Anatoly Fomenko - Russian mathematician and pseudohistorian
- Uri Geller - Telekinesis
- Duane Gish - creationist writer and professional debate-mangler
- Madison Grant - Eugenics
- Richard C. Hoagland - "Face" on Mars, aliens, NASA conspiracy theories.
- L. Ron Hubbard - Alternate history, alien races; founder of Scientology
- Alex Jones - New World Order, 9/11 denialism, Federal Reserve hysteria, climate change denialism, (insert conspiracy of the week here), ad nauseam
- Supreme Master Ching Hai - Messianic cult leader
- David Icke - Alternate history, alien races, conspiracy theories
- Andy Kadir-Buxton - slapping people on the head to cure mental illness
- James Keegstra - Canadian antisemitic conspiracy theorist.
- Ray Kurzweil - Transhumanism, specifically in its manifestation as utopian magical thinking, immortality fantasies, and Rapture analogues. BS artist extraordinaire. Keeps making fantastical predictions of the future that fail to pan out.
- Pentti Linkola - Ecofascism. This is one of the few cases in which the term is used literally, as opposed to, say, the Right's hyperbolic whining about the EPA, Kyoto Protocols, etc.
- Sean Manchester - Vampire hunter and self-proclaimed "Catholic Bishop"
- Maratrean, founder of an eponymous religion.
- Eustace Mullins - Anti-New World Order and anti-Semitic writer who, at the (alleged) behest of American fascist poet Ezra Pound, wrote about how the Jews -- specifically the Rothschilds -- created the Federal Reserve in order to destroy the American economy and make us all wage slaves, or something like that.
- Ron Paul - Libertarian presidential candidate with a massive following among basement-dwelling conspiracy cranks.
- Lawrence Pazder, Michelle Smith - Satanic ritual abuse
- Fred Phelps - World famous cult leader and crazed anti-gay ideologue.
- Sayyid Qutb - Islamic literalism
- Gene Ray - Time Cube
- Eric S. Raymond - Gun rights, HIV denialism, global warming denial, libertarianism
- Michael Ruppert - Peak oil, 9/11 conspiracy theories, CIA drug trafficking in south central Los Angeles conspiracy theories
- Viera Scheibner - Anti-vaccinationist
- Andrew Schlafly - Creationism, abortion causes breast cancer, liberalism causes all societal ills, revised chronology, AIDS denialism, and many more. (But he's not really "famous", even in inverted commas)
- Richard Shaver - Subterranean cities and their malevolent inhabitants, the Dero.
- David Shayler - 9/11 truther, anti-Semite, Jewish NWO believer, self-declared Messiah.
- Sherry Shriner - Alien races, New World Order, the power of ORGONE
- Zecharia Sitchin - Reinterpreter of Sumerian mythology and perpetuator of the "Zeta Reticuli" alien conspiracy theory
- Joseph Smith - Alternate history, alien races, magic underwear; founder of Mormonism
- Whitley Strieber - Alien abduction crank
- Frederick Trexler - Petrified Human Brain
- Immanuel Velikovsky - Planetary catastrophism, a revised chronology, and more
- Thomas Woods - Catholic Golden Age (Dark age denial/revisionism)
- Eliezer Yudkowsky - Singularitarianism, cryonics
- Ernst Zündel, David Irving - Holocaust denial
A crank is also a type of mechanical device for converting rotary motion to linear or vice versa, consisting of a handle or arm attached at right angles to a shaft, usually involving many types of gears, pinions, and if you're lucky, cams.