Metabunk.org

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Metabunk is a website (specifically, a discussion forum) dedicated to debunking and refuting various conspiracy theories and pseudosciences. Their stated mission statement is:

[We are] dedicated to the art and pastime of honest, polite, scientific investigating and debunking. It is primarily a discussion forum, however the focus is on providing concise useful resources, and attempting to avoid repetitive debate and arguments.[1]

It was started in 2013 by Mick WestWikipedia, science writer, skeptical investigator, and retired video game programmer. Besides running Metabunk, Mick West also runs a podcast “Tales from the rabbit hole”,[2] and his former projects have included another website “Contrail Science” specifically for debunking chemtrail conspiracy theories[3] and a blog called “Cowboy Programming” where he demonstrated his explorations in video game programming.[4]

A Brief History...[edit]

Mick West had been debunking various paranormal woo and Biblical scientific foreknowledge since 2003. In 2007, he came to know of a whole new pseudoscientific conspiracy theory gaining traction online known as chemtrails. For debunking this, Mick started a new blog called ContrailScience.com. Mick West’s big break came with the Mystery Missile, a plane flying from Hawaii to the mainland left a contrail on the horizon that looked a bit like a missile trail. He wrote a few articles debunking this theory and ended up being contacted by the media, who wanted to interview him. At the time he was still anonymous, but then decided that his debunking would be taken more seriously, and be more effective. So he went on TV, leading to a lot of traffic to his website. Troubled by the cumbersome off-topic discussion of other conspiracy theories unrelated to chemtrails and the limitations of the blog format, Mick West created another website called Metabunk to foster more such discussions more freely. From Mick West’s own words...

The name Metabunk is meant to convey the idea of thinking about debunking, and not simply doing it. Thinking about how to debunk better, and thinking about why we debunk, and what it is we are really trying to do.

Topics[edit]

The topics discussed at Metabunk are categorized into several forums,[5] which consist of:

General Discussion[edit]

Conspiracy theories[edit]

EscapingTheRabbitHole.png
  • 5G and Other EMF Health Concerns[14] — Woo surrounding EMF and 5G.
  • 9/11[15] — Conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11.
  • UFO Videos and Reports from the US Navy[16] — Analysis of the three US Navy videos obtained by TTSA.
  • UFOs, Aliens, Monsters, and the Paranormal[17]Fortean phenomena, Alien UFOs, Pyramid power, Crop circles, Ghosts, Cryptozoology. Things that are a little bit more towards the fringe.
  • Contrails and Chemtrails[18] — White lines in the sky that look like contrails, but conspiracy theorists claim are some kind of mind control illicit spraying. Mick West’s favourite pseudoscientific conspiracy theory.
  • Skydentify[19] — Discussion with a community of meteorologists, pilots, scientists and other sky-watchers who will have a bash at identifying anything you may have seen in the sky (a plane, cloud, trail, strange object or other UFO you've seen in the sky).
  • Flat Earth[20] — Investigations of claims that support a flat earth.
  • Quotes debunked[21] — Quotes can be taken out of context, or otherwise misinterpreted. This forum aims to clarify so.

Some of the less popular ones[edit]

  • Wildfires[22] — Forest fires...?
  • Flight MH370[23] — Theories, facts, and speculations surrounding the disappearance of flight MH370.
  • Flight MH17[24] — Discussion about what may and may not had happened to flight MH17.
  • Boston Marathon Bombings[25] — Conspiracies surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombings.
  • Sandy Hook[26] — Sandy Hook shooting conspiracies.
  • HAARP[27] — Debunking theories about HAARP, other similar facilites, and related topics such as any form of electromagnetic weather control, etc.
  • Oroville Dam[28] — Discussion of topics relating to the 2017 Oroville Dam Spillway incident.
  • Election 2020[29] — Investigating and Debunking disinformation regarding the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

.

Methodology[edit]

Mick West has made an extensive but brief post on how to get started on practical debunking, stating the rules that should not be broken during it. Here, they have been broken down and compacted for easier reading.

Audiences[edit]

Audiences to keep in mind while writing a skeptical article:

  • Community of like-minded skeptics
  • Familiar with the subject matter, but haven’t formed any opinions
  • Never heard of the subject matter

Bunk infection levels[edit]

Those who have already fallen into the rabbit hole:

  • Reasonable believers — people who believe a theory based on false or cherry-picked facts. May be open to discussion and new facts, and hence, rescuable.
  • True believers — people who have lost immunity to a particular subject. Anything not supporting their belief is instantly and instinctively assumed incorrect as it contradicts with their position. Frequently they will not see reason, but they can be useful as a source of memetic material to help inoculate others. They will frequently run through the entire set of “evidence” one piece at a time, oblivious to the fact that everything they bring up is easily explained. This may be useful for getting familiar with the common arguments presented.
  • Extremists — people who have gone beyond the realm of rational thinking and reasoning. Often their arguments are not even wrong, and so absurdly extreme, that they are impossible to reason with, even on topics that are completely unrelated to the conspiracy they believe.

Guidelines[edit]

Practical debunking resources[edit]

Tools[edit]

Mick West has developed several tools to help investigating and debunking several different conspiracy theories. Many of these can also be embedded into the forum posts of Metabunk by any user to debunk any claim.

  • Contrail Pattern Simulator(link)
  • Simulating Atmospheric Refraction(link)
  • Calculator for RHi and Contrail Persistence Criteria(link)
  • Virtual model illustrating some aspects of the collapse of the WTC Towers(link)
  • Metabunk Flat Earth Route Simulator(link)
  • Convert Graph Image from Log Scale to Linear Scale(link)
  • Arbitrary Azimuthal Equidistant Projections(link)
  • Earth's Radius Calculator (from the amount a distant object is obscured)(link)
  • Earth's Curve Calculator(link)
  • Gas Universe Simulator(link)
  • Laser Dot Rendering in The Refraction Simulator(link)
  • KML Tool For Visualizing Google Earth Cameras, and More(link)
  • Converting Nikon P900 to IR/Full Spectrum(link)

Tools from people other than Mick West[edit]

These tools were not made by Mick West, but are included in the list of tools for practical debunking by Mick West anyway.

  • Earth curve calculator for obstructions(link)
  • Direction to Sun vs. Sun position above the AE map visualization(link)
  • Calculator for viewing angles(link)
  • Automated Video Tracking of Planes(link)

Reception[edit]

Metabunk has been cited by Express NewspapersWikipedia,[30] CBSWikipedia[31] and Vice.comWikipedia.[32] MBFC has rated Metabunk as a pro-science resource with high factual reporting.[33]

Criticism[edit]

As with all fact checking and debunking resources, Metabunk.org has also been targeted by conspiracy cranks and Mick West being the subject to character assassination[34] several times, accusing Mick West of being paid by the government to spread disinformation.

Unsurprisingly, "It's a shill!" is a common argument.[35][36][37][38][39] Many conspiracy theorists have tried to make stuff up to serve as evidence against its credibility. They argue that the website is so professionally written that it must be impossible for it to be run majorly by only one person, both physically and financially. This was briefly debunked by Mick at the website:[40]

Since Metabunk quite often debunks some of the claims of evidence behind conspiracy theories, I quite often get accused of being in the pay of the government.

One thing that people claim is that the site is suspiciously professional, and it must cost a lot of money. So how much does it cost to run?

There are three costs

  • Domain registration. I use Namecheap.com, for metabunk.org, .net, and .com. This is $36 per year.
  • Server hosting. I use Linode.com, a Linode 2GB instance, at $40 per month. But this is shared with several other sites, so I'd say around $20 per month, or $240 per year
  • Forum Software. Xenforo.com, This was $140 initially, then $40 per year for upgrades. So let's amortise that at $80 per year, assuming I'll be around for another 3-4 years.
  • SSL Certificate. $8 per year. Comodo/Namecheap.

Total 36+240+80+8. $366 per year. About $30 per month, or $1 per day.

This was further supported by screenshots and links for the prices.

Notes[edit]

  1. For example, take episode 42 of the podcast, which shows Mick West interviewing a flat earther to get their view on the current COVID -19 situation."Does a Flat Earther react to world events differently to other people? When you think the world is flat, then you think that the mainstream view of the world is very wrong. Does this carry over to other topics? I interview a Flat Earther who thinks she has good arguments for the Earth not being a spinning ball in space. She has some questions about Coronavirus but feels a little unable to get them answered, for a variety of reasons."
  2. These types of things can be neatly described by:
    • Looks like: (something suspicious)
    • Hence: (How that fits into their world view)
    • But: (What it actually is)
    A good example being the “FEMA Coffins”:
    • Looks like: thousands of over-sized coffins stored in a field
    • Hence: FEMA must be planning to kill thousands of people
    • But: It’s actually just coffin liners
    The cognitive dissonance occurs because for the believer it’s a lot simpler to go with A and B than to incorporate some new information C. They already “know” that there’s this huge population reduction conspiracy going on, so A and B fit that perfectly. C is new information that works against the conspiracy, so must be false.

References[edit]

  1. About Metabunk.
  2. Tales From The Rabbit Hole — Conspiracy Culture Conversations
  3. Contrail Science — The Science and Pseudoscience of Contrails and Chemtrails (discontinued since 2013; its content has now been transferred to Metabunk
  4. Cowboy Programming (discontinued since 2010)
  5. Metabunk forums
  6. General Discussion | Metabunk
  7. Conspiracy Theories | Metabunk
  8. People Debunked | Metabunk
  9. Coronavirus COVID-19 | Metabunk
  10. Health and Quackery | Metabunk
  11. Science and Pseudoscience | Metabunk
  12. Escaping the Rabbit Hole | Metabunk
  13. Tales From the Rabbit Hole Podcast | Metabunk
  14. 5G and Other EMF Health Concerns
  15. 9/11 | Metabunk
  16. UFO VIdeos and Reports from the US Navy | Metabunk
  17. UFOs, Aliens, Monsters, and the Paranormal | Metabunk
  18. Contrails and Chemtrails | Metabunk
  19. Skydentify | Metabunk
  20. Flat Earth | Metabunk
  21. Quotes Debunked | Metabunk
  22. Wildfires | Metabunk
  23. Flight MH370 | Metabunk
  24. Flight MH17 | Metabunk
  25. Boston Marathon Bombings | Metabunk
  26. Sandy Hook | Metabunk
  27. HAARP | Metabunk
  28. Oroville Dam | Metabunk
  29. Election 2020 | Metabunk
  30. Jon Austin. Is this REAL TRUTH about Pentagon UFO video that convinced world aliens may exist?. Express Newspapers, January 13, 2018.
  31. Amanda Kooser. UFO caught on video? Skeptics weigh in on weird footage. CBS, January 13, 2018.
  32. Matthew Gault. The Skeptic’s Guide to the Pentagon’s UFO Videos. Vice, May 6, 2020.
  33. Metabunk — MBFC
  34. Debunked: Two Disinfo Sites Run by 'Just Some Guy - Mick West — Metabunk
  35. Unknown. Metabunk Mick West Exposed. Metabunkshill.blogspot.com, November 17, 2016.
  36. SyFy "journalist" shills for Mick West and Metabunk. Posted by u/[deleted]. Reddit.
  37. Metabunk is a SHILL! — ‘Truth’-Zone
  38. Mick West is a Sh1ll?!. There is no proof given in the article or links to such instances of course, that their tactics to make sure people remain in the rabbit hole are quite clear by blatant anti-intellectualism
  39. Video talking about how Mick West is a disinformation agent
  40. How Much Does Metabunk.org Cost to Run? — Mick West Aug 28, 2013 Metabunk