Stopped clock

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Common sense is not so common.
Voltaire, A Pocket Philosophical Dictionary

The phrase "stopped clock" (also "broken clock" or "sudden outbreak of common sense"[1]) comes from the proverb "even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day", thus implying that even cranks, denialists, or conspiracy theorists can theoretically be correct once in a while, generally by chance alone, and may indicate that a tiny pocket of healthy rebel braincells have yet to succumb to the dementia that has clearly overtaken their siblings. Recovery, however, is not to be expected, particularly since we're in fact the ones who are crazy.

While some stopped clock moments take the form of a crank simply (to all our suprise) endorsing something normal and mainstream, e.g. anti-littering laws, many other stopped clock moments actually take the form of a crank - for once - lending his or her misdirected effort to the rational side by calling out another crank on their obviously cranky ideas - essentially amounting to the pot calling the kettle black. This irony is often lost on them, however, as they clearly consider themselves sane. In yet other cases, it is simply the case of the crank having consistently blamed their bête noire for everything until something stuck. However, since we're not really into ad hominem (just snark), we gladly give them a point on being correct, no matter how dirty their laundry. Even Hitler gets points from us (see list below).

This analogy is one counterpoint to the fallacy fallacy, which is the mistake of assuming that any conclusion derived from fallacious reasoning must be false. To extend the analogy a bit further, a clock stopped at 3:48 will always conclude that the current time is 3:48. Thanks to its faulty premises, though, this conclusion happens to be correct only for a total of two minutes out of any given day, or roughly 0.14% of the time.


[edit] What kind of clock?

This analogous term refers to an analogue clock, with the standard twelve-hour dial face and its own minutehand (unlike a sundial, onto which a minutehand is projected by the sun in the form of a shadow).[2]

"Flip digital" clocks, where the numbers are affixed to small plastic cards that "flip" into position when driven by an electrical clock mechanism, can also be considered to display the correct time twice a day. Regardless of if this type of clock is set to 24-hour time or 12-hour time, it would still be right once a day - and thus works universally for the purposes of this analogy.

Clocks with LED or LCD displays that are stopped normally go blank (or start to show 88:88), which makes them useless for this particular analogy, just like sundials or hourglasses are. Regardless, certain masters of the universe point out regularly that none of these supposed clocks could hold a candle to the brilliance of the Time Cube, anyways.

[edit] Some examples

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Stopped clock could use some help. Please research the article's assertions. Whatever is credible should be sourced, and what is not should be removed.


  • Adolf Hitler's promotion of anti-smoking research and strong support for animal rights.[3][4]
  • Alex Jones has criticised David Icke's belief that the world is run by blood-drinking shapeshifting alien lizards numerous times, despite being more than willing to believe all sorts of other conspiratorial bunkum. Jones has referred to Icke's theory as "the turd in the punch bowl" - I.e. In his view Icke makes plenty of good points and then ruins it all with the crap about space lizards.
  • Al Qaeda itself sees Daesh as too extreme, albeit only because either they are making Islamism look unattractive or because they don't want to share the Salafism sandbox with anyone else.
  • The Anti-vaccination movement, after over a decade of attributing every bad thing to vaccines, ended up being right about vaccines causing narcolepsy in Scandinavia and the Netherlands[5] (the antigens associated with virus in question, H1N1, appear to cause the narcolepsy),[6] mumps in Suriname (due to improper attenuation),[7] and polio outbreaks in Nigeria (because certain vaccines covered different strains than others).[8]
  • The Amazing Atheist's videos denouncing misogynists such as Todd Akin, Jefferson Bethke, and video denouncing Paul Broun for his views on evolution.[9]





  • East Germany had a relatively advanced healthcare system and trained many doctors.


  • Franco did not enter WWII on the Axis side; albeit he had volunteer regiments fight the Russians; albeit this was more as Franco had just won his own war and had little military capacity to aid Hitler with. Also gets credit for still being dead.
  • Fidel Castro's opposition to apartheid, support for universal health care, and his anti-Americanism has somewhat softened in old age.
  • Fox News has denounced the Daily Caller for its racism, and will apologize on occasion.


  • Gary North mocking the concept of "Cultural Marxism" as being a boogeyman among the political right while even making a good case that it's not actually Marxist.
  • Glenn Beck now agreeing with liberals about Iraq and defending a boy who got bullied for being a brony.
  • George W. Bush supported immigration reform and gave funding to AIDS research in Haiti.
  • What was the issue that finally caused Geert Wilders to break away from the right-wing coalition that was in power in the Netherlands? He and his party refused to support austerity measures being put into place by the (usually) more reasonable moderate right party. Wilders also generally supports LGBT rights.
  • Grigori Rasputin's magical cure for hemophilia? He instructed the emperor and empress to discontinue all medical treatment being received by the Tsarevich. This included aspirin, a drug which definitely does not help hemophilia (it can cause minor stomach bleeding, and in cases of hemophilia, there's no such thing as "minor bleeding"). It's unlikely that Rasputin knew that asprin was worsening the condition, yet his advice probably prolonged Alexei's life.[13] Didn't do him much good in the long run.


  • Hugo Chavez's anti-poverty programs, especially before 2002.


  • Ian Paisley backed the peace process from 2006 onwards.


  • Jonah Goldberg was one of the first to call bullshit on the gross lack of journalistic integrity that went into producing A Rape on Campus[wp].[14] He has also taken a hard stand against Donald Trump supporters within the Republican party.
  • Hard-right blogger John Hawkins exposing several right-wing mail order scams.[15]
  • John Howard forcing through strong gun control in the face of his own wingnut base.
  • Imperial Japan's harboring of Jewish Holocaust refugees during World War II.[16]
  • Jim Jones's outspoken support for racial equality, pacifism, and a comprehensive social safety net.
  • Joseph Stalin's staunch opposition to colonialism and his support for feminism, primarily by letting Russian women serve in the army (though the latter was, admittedly, little more than war pragmatism and he put Eastern Europe under the Red Army's heel).
  • John Stossel debunking both New Age nuttery and "supernatural" claims.
  • JAH III of opposes the Castro dictatorship of Cuba,[17] but only because the Castros are white.
  • In 1952, the Jehovah's Witnesses stopped teaching that vaccines are immoral.[18]


  • King George III for allowing Parliament to ban the slave trade, albeit he had little power and had gone mad by the time it happened.



  • Malcolm X was rather virulently "eye for an eye," providing a perfect foil for MLK's pacifism, so he was quite inflammatory for much of his public life, but after visiting Mecca, he renounced the Nation of Islam for mainstream Sunni Islam, seemed to move more towards civil disobedience, and defended his arguments very well.
  • Malcolm Fraser, himself the Australian godfather of modern conservatism, began to revile the extremities taken by both Labor and especially the Liberals. He also hated the marriage of the Religious Right, opposed the strident anti-immigration policies for every government since John Howard, preferred Australia to detach itself from American militarism, opposed apartheid while as Prime Minister, disavowed the neoliberal economics of Thatcher and Reagan as Prime Minister, and largely ruled as a moderate to the disappointment of his supporters. He even left the Liberal Party after Tony Abbott was elected leader.
  • Mao for some feminist views and unifying China as a cohesive entity for the first time in decades.
  • Michael Medved vocally denouncing both Birtherism and the GOP for the fiscal cliff crisis.
  • Mississippi has a high vaccination rate and for producing many of America's best known singers and musicians.
  • MRAs often support free internet access and oppose censorship, albeit their motives are generally poor.
  • Megyn Kelly has been critical of anti vaxxers, the sexism of her Fox News' colleagues, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney.
  • Mitt Romney, for passing Romneycare and allowing gay marriage as governor. He also was originally pro-choice.
  • Margaret Thatcher voting to decriminalize homosexuality and acknowledging the threat of climate change in 1990; making her the first leader of a major country to do so.
  • Marsha West is most well-known as the Jesus freak RenewAmerica columnist who denounced yoga as "mystical" and "evil." However West has also been quite vocal in her criticism of Christian Dominionism, seeing it as too extreme for even her.[20]


  • Napoleon Bonaparte's emancipation of French Jews and his promotion of the metric system.
  • The Northern Irish Unionists accepted most British reforms passed by Attlee.
  • North Korea legalizing marijuana for recreational use (being one of the few places in the world to do so) and its unlikely alliance with the US against Somali Pirates.
  • Newt Gingrich strongly condemning American conservatives for failing to support Nelson Mandela during apartheid.[21]
  • NRA's opposition to open carry and training people to actually hunt.
  • Lady Nancy Astor was a British politician so far to the right she openly embraced every anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic conspiracy theory under the sun and she was sympathetic to fascism, but she was amazingly ahead of her time on women's rights and homosexuality (if only because her favorite son turned out to be gay).



  • The Porn industry generally backs LGBT rights, and on occasion, individual performers will write about safe sex.
  • PETA supports LGBT rights unlike many other extremist organizations.
  • Putin's policies on economic growth in Russia early in his reign, especially after the collapse of the Russian economy during the 1990's. He has also not appeared to be especially anti-Semitic and has also warned the U.S. on intervening in the Middle East.
  • Pat Robertson has been very critical of Ken Ham and Young Earth Creationism in general,[22] and believes marijuana should be legal; and he thinks religious freedom laws make no sense.
  • Petr Beckmann was a believer in crank ideas about physics and engineering. However, despite this, he held no tolerance for those who tried to square the circle, and wrote a whole book about the foolishness of the idea.


  • Richard Nixon ending the Bretton Woods system, passing the EPA act, passing OSHA, removing lead from gas stations (and decreasing violent crimes as a result), and re-establishing relations with mainland China.
  • The reason Ron Paul initially attracts so many young people is because he wants to decriminalize drugs and has been consistent in criticizing gunboat diplomacy.
  • Republicans have voted very often against war when a Democrat is in office, although this may also be an instance of garbage in garbage out, given that it's ultimately derived from political point-scoring.
  • Ronald Reagan was for LGBT rights, gun control, and abortion as Governor of California (albeit, in gun control, only to deal with the militant wing of the Black Panthers). He also established MediCal as governor, which helped the poor and impoverished with federal aid money and health benefits, formally apologized for the internment camps in World War II, raised taxes eleven times after initially cutting taxes, and improved immigration laws as President. Reagan also signed Martin Luther King Day (or "Hate Whitey Day", according to Ron Paul, who voted against the holiday) into law in 1983, and it was observed three years later.
  • Rafael Trujillo let Jewish refugees into the Dominican Republic during the 1930's and set up a national park system that has kept the environment much more intact than that of its neighbor.
  • Despite not being able to name three government agencies, having a tendency to use Schlafly statistics and earnestly comparing being gay to alcoholism, even Rick Perry believes weed should be decriminalized. He also had a moderate stance on immigration early on and briefly defended HPV vaccines.



  • Tony Abbott introducing a cap on healthcare costs as Health Minister and opposing Howard's anti-worker rights Work Choices bill; both before he became Prime Minister. He also has taken a stand against anti-Vaxxers.
  • The Vatican's general support for Harry Potter and yoga.
  • Tito's neutrality and limited adoption of capitalism in Yugoslavia.
  • Thunderf00t's early videos on creationism are generally well-crafted and accessible takedowns of right-wing woo tactics.
  • The Tokugawa Shogunate for allowing trade with the Dutch and presiding over many of Japan's greatest literary works.


  • Vladimir Lenin's plan to move Russia's calendar in line with the rest of the world and legalizing homosexuality.


[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Slashdot stories tagged with "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense"
  2. Look outside, dummy.
  10. Politics Daily - Pope OKs Condoms in Some Cases, Such as Prostitutes Avoiding HIV
  12. BBC News - Church of England drops gay bishop opposition
  13. Focus: Aspirin - The secret history of a wonder drug, The Independent
  15. No really
  17. Fundies Say the Darndest Things
  18. - Jehovah's Witnesses' past opposition to vaccination
  19. Please note that Ingraham isn't exactly the image of humanity when it comes to homosexuals.
  20. "Dominionists are on the Move, and They Mean Business"
  21. Gingrich vs. the Right on Apartheid: 'What Would You Have Done?', The Atlantic
  22. Pat Robertson begs Ken Ham to shut up, Salon
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