Fractal wrongness

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You're wrong there, and there, oh, and there too, there, now let's step back a little, yep, still wrong.
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You are not just wrong. You are wrong at every conceivable level of resolution. Zooming in on any part of your worldview finds beliefs exactly as wrong as your entire worldview.
— Tatarize[1]
Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
— The principal in Billy Madison,[2] an insanely idiotic movie, may God have mercy on its soul[3]

Fractal wrongness is the state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally-wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

The condition of crank magnetism is a gateway into the wonderful world of fractal wrongness, as well as a relatively early warning sign of the risk of impending fractal wrongness.

The term "fractal wrongness" may also be used to refer to someone who is consistently wrong on nearly everything they predict or claim. Repeatedly failing predictions is one of the best ways of revealing fractal wrongness, because while an idiotic worldview may work in someone's head, it can be seen failing when actually put to the test. Hilariously, people who are consistently wrong tend to be quite confident in their position while championing it.

Fractally-wrong people are often immune to the stopped clock rule because they are not exactly stopped clocks. More like clocks losing a random number of seconds a day, in the wrong time zone of the wrong planet, in the wrong solar system in the wrong galaxy. And possibly in the wrong universe under the wrong laws of physics too.

Origin of the expression[edit]

The expression "fractal wrongness" apparently dates from around October 2001, when the then computer-science student Keunwoo Lee used it in a lexicon of computing.[4]

Benoît MandelbrotWikipedia coined the word "fractal" in 1975 to describe mathematical objects that look similar at all magnifications, and are thus characterised as having fractional (or fractal) dimensions. Mandelbrot subsequently found that such fractal objects are frequently found in nature.[5] The phrase "fractal wrongness" is thus a metaphor deriving from a colloquial meaning of "fractal".

It is as impossible to convince a fractally-wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot setWikipedia in finite time.

While arguing with these people can be amusing at times, if one ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally-wrong person on the Internet — in mailing lists, newsgroups, or forums — one's best bet is to say one's piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving oneself time.


The hierarchical nature of fractals, and hence fractal wrongness, means that once crank magnetism begins to show organization, it also begins to show evidence of fractal wrongness. This is particularly apparent with unified conspiracy theories (a.k.a. superconspiracies), which show hierarchies.[6] Michael Barkun has cited David Icke (his lizard people), Valdamar Valerian (his Matrix series of books, particularly the diagramization in Matrix III, Volume One: The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological and Electromagnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness), and Milton William Cooper (his book Behold a Pale Horse) as examples of people who have created superconspiracies.[6]

A further example is QAnon, which originated in 2017, after publication of Barkun's book, A Culture of Conspiracy. QAnon shows wrongness and/or bullshit at a variety of levels:

  • Its origins in the bowels of the far-right/neo-Nazi bulletin boards 4chan and 8chan
  • The frequently-incoherent ramblings and predictions in the form of "Q drops" of one or more mostly-anonymous oracles known as "Q" (which have frequently been shown to be wrong)
  • One of the more popular QAnon maps looks like a pile of spaghetti linking the various subconspiracies. This map and other QAnon maps have been claimed to have some order.[7] The sub-conspiracies show some rather ridiculous conspiratorial bedfellows (e.g., Jews, Nazis, and Catholics), and even subsumes at least one other superconspiracy (Pizzagate).

List of fractally-wrong worldviews[edit]

Everything You Know Is Wrong
—An album from the Firesign Theatre that spoofs pseudoscience and the occult

The following list includes some worldviews that are fractally wrong (and a brief example of why). Note that this is not meant to be exhaustive, and probably never will be, as any fallacious argument can be expanded into a fractally-wrong worldview:

"But it fits!"[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Shoehorning

Stephen Law has written about a form of shoehorning that people afflicted by fractal wrongness often use as a debate strategy, which he calls "But it fits!" (a.k.a., "Of course 'they' would do that!"), in which a lack of evidence for a crank idea, or even evidence that directly contradicts it, can easily be turned on its head to support the same crank theory.[8]

People who are believers in over-arching conspiracy theories often display traits of being fractally wrong, as every time that a point is refuted, it can be turned into further evidence that "they" ongoingly suppress the truth. In these cases, a complete lack of evidence for something is easily explained away as part of the conspiracy, and the lack of evidence for that is also nicely hidden. The same can be said of some believers in young-earth creationism, who view evidence contrary to their position as evidence of God testing their faith. There is no evidence that could be produced to convince such people that they may be wrong, and every level is nicely buffered against reality by more points in the fractal. The only conceivable way to fix their worldview would be to rewrite their brains entirely.

Law showed the problem with this kind of thinking when he told the story of a man who believes that dogs are alien spies from Venus. Any arguments his friends make as to why that can not be is turned around to work with the theory. For instance, when the man insists that there are transmitters in their brains, his friends reply that transmitters have never been seen in canine brains. The man replies that the transmitters are "made of organic material indistinguishable from brain stuff", so they are well hidden. Basically, cranks can use "But it fits!" to justify virtually anything.

Turducken of bullshit[edit]

The phrase "turducken of bullshit" was coined by Mike Rothschild, the author of several books about conspiracy theories, to represent something with three levels of bullshit. The term is based on the American culinary abomination known as a turduckenWikipedia of a duck stuffed into a chicken that is stuffed into a turkey, and then cooked and served. Rothschild applied it to the case of a "QAnon guru quoting Gateway Pundit quoting Rush Limbaugh".[9] Rebecca Watson later applied the term to scammy dietary supplements sold by the company Balance of Nature. The company sells pills called "Fruits", pills called "Veggies", and pills called "Fiber & Spice".[10] So if one believes their bullshit, then one doesn't have to suffer the burden of eating actual food, merely the burden of paying a quack[11] inflated prices. The company is owned by Scientologists who require that the mainly Mormon and Fundamentalist Mormon employees take Scientology courses as part of their employment.[12]

Dealing with the fractally wrong[edit]

Debating a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of poor logic, and outright lies, which requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one — kind of like a recursive Gish Gallop, where each point both surrounds and is surrounded by an equally wrong argument. It is worth noting that being fractally wrong can be handy for the losing side in a public debate, since you are likely to leave your opponent looking baffled and unable to deal with each level of wrongness.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

How to talk to conspiracy theorists (likely applicable to the fractally wrong)[edit]


  1. Motivation Poster: Fractal Wrongness. (February 24, 2008) Blogspot: Ssnot!
  2. Billy Madison (1995): James Downey: Principal IMDb.
  3. Sons of Wayne's World by Richard Schickel (Mar. 06, 1995) Time.
  4. lexicon of computing by Keunwoo Lee (Oct 21 15:50:00 PDT 2001) University of Washington (archived from November 28, 2001).
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Fractal.
  6. 6.0 6.1 A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America by Michael Barkun (2013) University of California Press, 2nd edition. ISBN 0520276825.
  7. A Conspiracy of Data: QAnon, Social Media, and Information Visualization by Matthew N. Hannah (2021) Social Media + Society 7(3):205630512110360. doi:10.1177/20563051211036064. E.g., see Figures 5 and 6.
  8. Law's Blog
  9. A QAnon guru quoting Gateway Pundit quoting Rush Limbaugh. A turducken of bullshit. by Mike Rothschild (2:41 PM - 1 Oct 2019) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2019).
  10. Balance of Nature
  11. Our Story Balance of Nature.
  12. The Completely Bonkers Story Behind This Scammy Supplement by Rebecca Watson (Aug 31, 2023) Skepchick.


  1. It also started as a practical joke before Hubbard realized he could grift people with it.