5 New (And Strangely Plausible) Conspiracy Theories
There's no shortage of downright absurd conspiracy theories out there. Every day seems to add a new page to the story of how lizard people have infiltrated the government and replaced everyone except, for some reason, the president. However, this doesn't mean that ALL conspiracy theories are lunacy. In fact, there are some that seem suspiciously logical until you bring out the magnifying glass. For example ...
Was Facebook's "Ten-Year Challenge" A Facial Recognition Trap?
Like any of the great meme tsunamis, the ten-year challenge either dominated your social media feeds for weeks or you missed it entirely. If you're in the latter category, know that it was just a thing where people posted pictures of themselves in 2009 and 2019 side by side and then got sad about it, because that's what we do online now.
A rumor soon spread that social media giants like Facebook could utilize the photos to help train facial recognition programs. Naturally, this snowballed into the claim that Facebook itself was behind the challenge so that it could collect all those neatly arranged photos for its own devious reasons, to update its outdated face databases or whatever.
After all, why do the work of sorting billions of photos when they can just call it a fun game and convince us sheep to do it ourselves? "Hey everyone, let's play the 'Share private information you try to keep from advertisers' game! The prize, as always, is nothing!"
So Is It Bullshit?
Look, almost any bad thing you assume about Facebook is probably true. They'll invade your privacy, give out your information, and warp your political views faster than you can slap your greasy finger on a "Like" button. But nostalgic comparison memes are pretty damn common, and the origins of this most recent one are about as straightforward as these things go.
One of the earliest versions started gaining traction in the furry community, of all places. Three days later, an Oklahoma City weatherman posted a couple of chiseled headshots on Facebook, under the frankly more honest name of the "how hard did aging hit you?" challenge.
But even if Facebook didn't start the challenge, are they still gathering data from all the photos? Shit, probably. I'm not trying to absolve them here; I'm just saying that they don't have to be all that devious in a sphere wherein people are desperate to just hand over their info without even being asked.
Was "The World's Oldest Person" A Fraud?
The all-time record for giving blue balls to the Grim Reaper goes to French woman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the overripe age of 122. In her lifetime, she saw the invention of the light bulb, met Vincent van Gogh, and lived through both world wars. However, the last Batman she experienced was George Clooney, so you could argue she got out at the wrong time.
Some people are calling bullshit. According to a report by a Russian mathematician, Calment was not the nigh-immortal she claimed to be. In some straight up Days Of Our Lives shit, the theory goes that the woman who claimed the record was in fact Calment's daughter, Yvonne, who had assumed her mother's identity. Why? To avoid paying inheritance taxes, of course.
Statistically speaking, Calment's lifespan does seem next to impossible. Also, Yvonne's alleged deception would have happened decades ago, in a small French town, before the internet or DNA testing was widely used for identification. So this certainly has all the makings of some malarkey ...
So Is It Bullshit?
It might seem like a wrinkly ol' fib if you ignore the vast majority of evidence and every single peer-reviewed study on Calment. Supercentarians (people 110+) are pretty damn rare, so much so that when researchers get the chance to study one, they go hard. Calment was questioned at length about the minutia of her life, which was then corroborated with a whole slew of official documents.
There's also the sheer logistics of it. For such a deception to have worked, Calment's whole 50,000-person town of Arles would have had to go along with it. Also, the accusations cite a Facebook poll in which a Russian doctor asked his followers to rate how old Calment looked in a photo. In terms of scientific rigor, it's like calculating the distance to Mars by asking people on your morning subway ride for their best guess.
These theories of Calment as an impostor have been around since at least 2000. The only reason it's caused such a hullabaloo now is that there are websites such as ResearchGate, which allow just about anyone to upload a "scientific" report without having to go through pesky hurdles like actually being scientific. The accusation has also been widely dismissed, and even accused of being an elaborate part of a Russian misinformation scheme, which is honestly the least surprising aspect of it.
Did Donald Trump Destroy Jeff Bezos' Marriage?
In January, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced via Twitter that he and his wife were divorcing, as one does. The same day, respected publisher of rabid sensationalism The National Enquirer released an expose on the Bezos affair that was about as subtle as a flying dildo.
It's no secret that Donald Trump and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker are old chums. The magazine has paid out hush money and refused to run certain stories to avoid portraying Trump in a bad light. It's also no secret that Bezos and Trump have been locked in a high-profile rich dude battle, which is one of those "Alien vs. Predator" affairs where you are forced to root for a monster.
Knowing all this, it makes sense that The Enquirer might do Trump a solid by taking a prominent rival down a peg (in that link, Joe Scarborough refers to it as a "directed hit job").
So Is It Bullshit?
Sure, it doesn't look good when the president starts gloating about someone else's marriage falling apart, but does that mean there was a coordinated plan? Well, as with most real-life conspiracies, things don't have to be all that carefully planned. Sometimes shit just works out.
In this case, Bezos' girlfriend is a woman named Lauren Sanchez, and her brother Michael is a huge Trump supporter. He could have gotten access to the phone/texts, and investigators think he could have in fact leaked them to The Enquirer, knowing they'd run with it.
If so, it ends up being a perfect example of how powerful people can get their way without getting their hands dirty. There's almost always someone else willing to do it for them.
Is Lindsey Graham Being Blackmailed To Support Trump?
Republican senator Lindsey Graham once stridently opposed Donald Trump. In 2015, Graham called Trump a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot." Since then, he has made a noticeable about-face. He was a furious ally of Trump's during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Brett Kavanaugh, he backed Trump's desire to end birthright citizenship, and he has fully supported Trump's Caligula-esque plan to declare a national emergency in order to build a border wall. So what gives?
In January, Democratic representative Ilhan Omar joked that Graham had been "compromised" and forced to kowtow to the president. This was widely interpreted as an attack based on the long-running rumor that Graham is secretly gay. The ensuing outrage bubble prompted conservative personalities to clutch their pearls and suddenly give a shit about homophobia.
So Is It Bullshit?
Oh boy, I am not going to speculate about what Lindsey Graham likes to do when he's naked. In fact, Omar later clarified that she didn't intend to call his sexuality into question, but was instead commenting on how it was weird that he'd been drafted into Team Donald.
But honestly, it shouldn't be weird to anyone who's been watching politics for a while. Politicians, above all else, want to get reelected. So they see where the wind is blowing and go along with it. The reality is that Trump's policies are still stupidly popular with his base, and no Republican can survive that base turning on them. As for Graham, sticking with Trump has been working, and he'll presumably continue to do that until, well, it doesn't anymore.
So give the man some credit. He can have sinister political goals all by himself.
Is The Amazon Echo Secretly Connected To The CIA?
Ah, Alexa. Amazon's plucky digital servant can be many things in your home -- the one who orders your groceries, an arbiter of trivial debates, the DJ, and maybe the only one who really listens to you.
Privacy advocates have long been wary about Echo, with its seven microphones that are always on. Amazon says that Alexa will only start recording once a "wake up" phrase is said, but there have been some recent shenanigans that make that claim seem pretty dubious. And then came this video:
In the video, a woman slyly questions an Echo Dot by asking, "Alexa, are you connected to the CIA?" In lieu of a response, the Echo spins its lights a little but says nothing. The woman asks the question a couple more times and gets the same response. Alexa has clearly clammed up during an interrogation, doing everything short of swallowing a digital cyanide pill to avoid spilling its secrets.
So Is It Bullshit?
Don't worry, your Echo is definitely listening to everything you say, that's for sure. And of course, Amazon has indeed directly worked for the CIA in the past. Oh, and apparently the CIA was caught looking into how to hack smart TVs and other devices. Those scamps!
But let me ask my own paranoid question: If Alexa was secretly connected to the CIA, why wouldn't they just make it lie about it? It's ridiculous when you see professional buffoon Alex Jones hilariously yelling at the pre-programmed device like it's going to crack under pressure. Also, Amazon famously used the First Amendment as an excuse to avoid giving up Echo recordings in a fucking murder trial, so why would they peddle their stuff to the CIA?
People get so focused on how evil the government can be that they forget how easily private companies can fuck with their lives too. After all, Alexa records private conversations and sends them to strangers. Can't that be creepy enough? That's the real problem with conspiracy theories. They often replace real dangers with bullshit. Before you know it, any actual privacy concerns with digital assistants are getting waved off as wacky Alex Jones paranoia.
You have to think that at the end of the day, actual powerful people love having the conspiracy theorists around to muddy the waters. It's like a free smokescreen for whatever real malfeasance they want to get up to.
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