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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fact Checking

The Plot Starts to Brew

It was April 1958, and ‘King George’ was in his garden basking in the early spring sunshine, whilst awaiting a message from the Master Jesus. Suddenly, his telepathic ‘phone’ rang, but it wasn’t Jesus calling after all. It was instead a ‘call’ from Mars Sector 6. George scrambled to switch on his tape recorder in order to capture the message, transmitted courtesy of cosmic laryngeal control. The news was alarming:

“Owing to an atomic accident just recently in the USSR, a great amount of radioactivity in the shape of radioactive iodine, strontium 90, radioactive nitrogen and radioactive sodium has been released into the atmosphere of Terra.”

Not long afterwards, it was Venus on the line, and George’s high-pitched, strangulated voice was back in action to commit the cosmic transmission to earthly tape:

“All forms of reception from Interplanetary sources will become a little more difficult during the next few weeks because of the foolish actions of Russia. They have not yet declared to the world as a whole, exactly what happened in one of their atomic research establishments. Neither have they declared how many people were killed there. Neither have they declared that they were really frightened by the tremendous release of radioactive materials…”

The Master Aetherius from Venus went on to explain that the Interplanetary Parliament had already committed enormous funds to help clear up the mess and that, through their Divine Intervention, they will be saving 17 million lives – although this would require that those concerned ‘vacate their physical bodies’. Putting that in the terminology of Terra, they would all die after all.

All of this was dutifully reported in the June 1958 edition of Cosmic Voice, the monthly journal of  The Aetherius Society, Dr George King’s own brainchild. Unfortunately, although being every bit as reliable as The Guardian, the journal lacked the more illustrious rag’s market penetration and so the story went largely unread.

The Plot Thickens

On November 4th, 1976, that other bastion of truth, the New Scientist magazine, published an article called ‘Two Decades of Dissidence’. In it the author, Zhores A. Medvedev, a soviet scientist exiled in London, explained that back in 1957 or 1958 there had been a massive atomic accident in the remote Ural mountains, killing hundreds of people and causing mass evacuation of the contaminated area. Naturally, the Soviet authorities had covered it up. Even more puzzling though, nothing had been said by the Western intelligence agencies, despite the fact that the fallout would have been picked up by their instrumentation within hours. Medvedev would have his readers believe that a huge radioactive explosion had happened in Russia and nobody other than the poor peasants directly affected had even noticed.

Unsurprisingly, Medvedev’s belated confirmation of the Aetherian bulletin was broadly dismissed as conspiracist nonsense. However, further support for the story was soon to emerge in the form of newspaper articles in the British press that linked back to a letter that had appeared in the Jerusalem Post. The letter had been written by another Soviet dissident, Professor Leo Tumerman, former head of the Biophysics Laboratory at the Moscow Institute of Molecular Biology. Whilst disputing the details of Medvedev’s claims, Tumerman maintained that it had been ‘common knowledge’ within certain quarters of the USSR that such a catastrophe had taken place and that it had been as a result of industrial scale negligence at a radioactive waste plant at Chelyabinsk-40. Although he had not been there at the time of the explosion, he had since visited the scene in his professional capacity and was able to report that those arriving by car were greeted by a road sign reading:

“DO NOT STOP FOR THE NEXT 30 KILOMETERS! DRIVE THROUGH AT MAXIMUM SPEED”

Officially, Chelyabinsk-40 did not exist. And so everyone referred to the area of mass radioactive destruction as ‘the Kyshtym disaster’, named after the nearest village that you’ll find on google map.

The Plot is Spilled on the Floor

It took until the dawn of Gorbachev’s perestroika for the official files to be released and for the real story of the Kyshtym  disaster to emerge. There had indeed been a huge explosion in the Ural mountains causing widespread radioactive fallout. The culprit was a badly maintained underground tank holding radioactive waste from a plutonium refinement factory. The explosion had happened sometime before 11.00pm on Sunday, September 29th, 1957, throwing the tank’s 160 tonne concrete lid high into the sky, followed by a 1 kilometre high column of highly radioactive smoke and debris. It was at the time the world’s worst environmental disaster, and still now it ranks only behind Chernobyl and Fukushima. And yet, despite the supposed benevolence of the world’s governments, it required a lunatic conversing with imaginary Venusians to bring it to our attention, followed naturally enough by the overthrow of an autocratic regime to confirm it.

There has to be a moral to this tale. I wonder what it is.

The Moral to this Tale

The first interesting fact to reflect upon is that the CIA, despite being fully aware at the time that the explosion had taken place, chose not to say a thing to the American public. There are a number of possible reasons for this. Perhaps they did not wish to reveal to the Soviets the extent or capabilities of their intelligence gathering. Perhaps they were just institutionally secretive. But most likely it was because they did not want to reveal to the American public what can go wrong with nuclear technology, just at a time when the country’s Atomic Energy Commission was so desperate for the public’s support of its nascent atomic energy programme. Either way, both the Soviet and American authorities had proven a less reliable source of information than Mars Sector 6, and this can’t be a good thing.

Secondly, it is sobering to reflect upon the extent to which a conspiracy theorist can get it right even when he is so patently out of his breadbin. This has serious implications for the question recently asked by Geoff Chambers on this website: What would a conspiracy theory have to look like to be explanatory?” If being right about something can’t be used as a yardstick (I don’t think anyone could seriously consider giving the Aetherius Society true credit for the scoop) then where does that leave us? And when the lunatics turn out to be the only people we can trust, what hope remains?

Epilogue

The promised funding from the Interplanetary Parliament never did materialise. It turned out that the Lords of Karma had decided to withhold the monies so that they could better tackle something called ‘global warming’. Apparently Boris had consulted with the Aetherius Society and its cosmic contacts before forming his latest Build Back Better budget.

George King never did get that call from the Master Jesus on Venus. Jesus never got on with Master Aetherius and he would never forgive George for going public with the Mars Sector 6 briefing. What goes on in Interplanetary Parliament stays in Interplanetary Parliament.

40 thoughts on “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fact Checking

  1. My God, the Aetherius Society is still around! I got on their junk mailing list back in the 70’s. They were worse than the cable TV companies are now.

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  2. By any criterion of truth based on evidence, this story simply puts the Aetherius Society up one notch in the credibility ratings and everyone else one notch down. You could argue it’s like getting one vote in the Eurovision Song Contest.

    I never thought of “being right about something” as being a possible yardstick/criterion for judging a conspiracy theory, because I assume it’s always going to be impossible to know the truth in an affair like this. What I’d like to do is simply identify possible conspiracy theories and see how good they might be at explaining the otherwise inexplicable aspects of the Covid story.

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  3. Geoff: “What I’d like to do is simply identify possible conspiracy theories and see how good they might be at explaining the otherwise inexplicable aspects of the Covid story.”

    What aspects do you think are otherwise inexplicable? While no one knows enough to definitively rule much out, and fact has been stranger than fiction before, I can’t see any aspects as yet which have any particular need of conspiratorial explanations, albeit there’s still a significant possibility of stuff like an accidental (so IOW non-conspiratorial) lab release at ground-zero. I’m fairly confident about cultural explanations within the climate domain, because not only are many cultural criteria satisfied, the thing can actually be measured. I don’t even know how to start doing that for a fear driven phenomenon; but there’s sufficient overlap that I can see that someone could likely both explain and it and measure it with today’s knowledge. Added to which, repeatedly throughout history populations (including their authorities) have behaved in similar fashion to prior waves of disease. We’ve fortunately moved on from responses such as burning all the Jews because they ‘must’ be spreading it. But that doesn’t make the modern net responses any more rational. Perhaps you could start with a list of what you believe is highly unlikely to be explainable by anything other than a (global, it would have to be) conspiracy. An issue is that once this list exists, the set of conspiratorial possibilities that could satisfy the list is extremely large; what will you use as the criteria for winnowing it down? What favours one conspiracy over another?

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  4. I think the ‘conspiracy theorists’ have entered the mainstream now and, apart from being ridiculed by state actors, they are becoming increasingly well respected and taken notice of. Covid has helped tremendously because, things which 8 months ago were ridiculed as ‘conspiracy theories’ are now no longer theory and, if not yet proven fact, then certainly very likely possibilities. Vaccine ID passports being a case in point. The world scoffed at those warning of such infringements upon personal mobility and liberty 8 months ago; now they are being openly talked about by governments. The New World Order was a whacko fringe conspiracy theory up until the end of 2019, a standing joke almost amongst the incredulous. In 2020, we learned that it was real; the Great Reset went mainstream, Blofeld manifested in the real world as Klaus Schwab and governments all over the world suddenly started intoning the mantra ‘Build Back Better’ in virtual synchrony. Technocracy and fourth industrial revolution are becoming commonly used terms. The so called depopulation agenda is still a conspiracy theory. Will it be so by the end of next year? Who knows.

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  5. Jaime, vaccine passports, a whole range of other assaults on freedom, and stuff like the wacky WEF visions, are all neither conspiracy theories or indeed conspiracies. They’ve all been furthered out in the open not exercised in secret, and not for the purpose of nefarious control (which in this case would have to be global), both of which are necessary to be a conspiracy. However warped some may consider the visions and attempted actions, they are essentially enabled by populations, in a situation with many *relative* moral factors competing. That emotive drives still dominate the competition, is a function of mass social behaviour. Polls *still* (well, a week or so since I last saw) show more in the UK want stricter action not less, and even a majority for compulsory vaccines! In which case governments can only be accused of thwarting the people for not doing enough (!) rather than the other way around.

    Scwhab is not in any way, shape or form Blofeld, unless you have emails from him dating back before Covid, to 97 PMs and 133 foreign ministers, laying out his plan for world dominance via covid and could they immediately demonstrate their loyalty by complying with their part, or face swift removal. None of this makes the visions acceptable to those who value our current freedoms, or indeed the assaults on freedom any less real. But their ultimate causation can and very likely has completely non-conspiratorial factors. These factors are *far harder* to fight than a conspiracy, because they’re deeply rooted within the whole population, not just a in few control freaks and wacky visionaries. Likewise to the climate case, citing a hoax or mere dishonesty or other characteristics based only upon a relatively small number of key individuals or groups, leads to a massive underestimation of the nature of the problem. Which does not mean opportunist individuals and groups (including cultural groups, a la ‘build back greener’) won’t take presented opportunities, or shouldn’t be resisted. But to resist properly one should know the nature of one’s opponent, and any Blowfeld is utterly puny compared to the real forces on the hoof here.

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  6. Geoff, did you change the font here recently? It’s much smaller and different font than it used to be (and I haven’t changed any settings plus other webpages are still as they used to be).

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  7. What’s wrong with a vaccine passport? Why would it be an infringement of my freedom? I take an anticoagulant and am encouraged to carry with me a little yellow folding card in my wallet that announces this fact. It resembles an I.D. card (but isn’t). It’s for my benefit in the case that I become injured and people treating me are warned to administer an antidote for the anticoagulant. Otherwise I could bleed to death.

    A vaccine passport should merely announce that the bearer has had a covid 19 vaccine. It should confer benefits – access to covid 19 free environments for example.

    Actually, I doubt if the scheme will work for long. Anti-vacciners will begin forging the passports.

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  8. What’s wrong with a vaccine passport? It’s a good question. In my mind it is just another thing in a creeping line of requirements. The question for me is, who gets to be able to demand that I show it?
    Already Mr Alan Joyce who runs Qantas has said nobody can fly with his airline without being vaccinated. I don’t fly, so I won’t have to show it to him. But will I have to flash it to enter the supermarket?
    It’s one thing for a government, elected with vaccine passports as part of its policy, to bring in such a thing, and quite a different thing for random businesses to suddenly be demanding this as a prerequisite to doing business with them.
    On vaccines, generally I have been a supporter. I’m not so sure about these mRNA vaccines though. Putting dead or fairly innocuous strains of some organism (which I’m likely to encounter dangerous strains of anyway) into the body to stimulate immune response seems qualitatively different to using mRNA to hijack your DNA and make it create a replica of the COVID spike protein.
    Fifty years ago, we thought that RNA aided protein synthesis and mRNA did nothing at all. Twenty years ago we discovered that mRNA could switch genes on and off. Not too sure about pumping an artificially created mRNA dose into myself.
    Maybe someone who knows more about this can reassure me.

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  9. ANDY WEST
    The font seems to have changed itself when Ian changed the banner headline. WordPress moves in mysterious ways. For example, if I try and copy and paste the time and date of your comment everything goes gothic.

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  10. Forget Operation Moonshot. Instead, the government should be putting its backing behind the Aetherius Society’s Operation Space Power II. The results are already impressive:

    “A further combined total of 150,000 prayer hours is being sent through our Spiritual Energy Radiators in London and Barnsley from October 11th to November 4th for aid, relief and healing in combating this coronavirus.”

    I think that is just as likely an explanation for the Liverpool figures dropping as that provided by Matt Hancock. At least the prayers happened BEFORE the drop in figures.

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  11. “What’s wrong with a vaccine passport?”

    It’s fundamentally different to other medical announcement cards, in that the global pandemic context (so including rampant social fear) would essentially convert it to a compulsory necessity to have the vaccine or not receive most goods and services and norms of society, such as going in a pub, say. Compulsion in turn is an explicit violation of Human Rights, which are there for a great reason. Why you might feel fine with the current government and the UK’s advanced medical regime and safety, putting something into you without your consent or due to intense social pressure, would you feel so in any country in the world and with any level of medical competence? And then think that governments and medical competence can both change over the years, and too be in thrall to mass emotive drives such as culture (climate change case) or fear (covid case). If the vast effort going into climate science and the “can’t be wrong” consensus were instead a medical issue, would you trust what the scientists were injecting into you to avoid catastrophe? I speak as someone who thinks that vaccines have probably saved more lives than anything in the world except clean water, and also who has generally been very appreciative of the opportunity to take them personally. But compulsion, via diktat or indeed via blackmail regarding social participation, is a different thing entirely.

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  12. I am led to believe that medical passports are provided for some other medical conditions, such as yellow fever. Are these infringements of the passport holder’s liberty? All that needs to change is that covid 19 be registered as a reportable disease.

    As to infringing my liberty, living in society comes with an enormous number of requirements – I have to pay taxes, even for things I do not need (schools) or agree with (renewable energy and other green flummery). If I lived in Australia I believe I still would have to vote. Carrying a vaccination certificate is small beer. Yes it could be misused, but that’s why we have a parliament and an opposition. And when this doesn’t work (as in the recent vote about tiering) there is the media.

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  13. When I visited Malaysia in the early 1990s, I was told that I would have to show a certificate of vaccination for yellow fever at passport control. That is one thing. I visited Malaysia twice and showed the certificate once! The current proposals for a Vaccination Passport are quite another thing. People are already talking of using it to control access to flights and shops. And in any event, attempting to create herd immunity via vaccine for diseases with such low lethality is a very expensive fool’s errand.

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  14. Andy,

    >“fact has been stranger than fiction before”

    If I were to appear on a televised debate and say the following, what do you think would be the response?

    “There is a test for this virus and it only gives a false positive about 3 times in a thousand. That means that, if you were to be approached on the street and given this test, a positive result is more than likely to be wrong.”

    Can you imagine OFCOM questioning the broadcaster’s judgment in allowing me to say such a thing? I can.

    The NHS doesn’t appear to believe it, so why would OFCOM?

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  15. Alan: “I am led to believe that medical passports are provided for some other medical conditions, such as yellow fever. Are these infringements of the passport holder’s liberty?”

    It’s not a black and white issue. But what would put the corona case far over the line, in the eyes of many (including both legal and human rights experts plus those like me who are generally very pro-vaccine), is the huge wave of fear that has disabled all normal checks and balance, plus for a disease, which albeit still dangerous now, will in a couple of years have morphed to not much more than a cold. Will the rules relax correspondingly? Yellow fever is far more severe, and isn’t going to morph to benign in those countries where it flourishes (without intervention). If a wave of filo-virus (generic family of Marburg, Ebola et al) with a 95% kill rate was raging throughout the world, I would definitely support mandatory vaccination for that specific disease. So would everyone else if they wanted to live. Whether a passport is small or big beer is in the eye of the beholder, but with airlines and other services already saying it would be a requirement for service, abuse is just around the corner (it is not really abuse if lasting for 6 months say). And if you think governments and opposition cannot be held in thrall by emergent emotive drives, such as provided by culture or raw fear, then you missed the main output of the climate domain!

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  16. John, I don’t disagree with anything you said at 12:19. But I’m afraid I don’t see what point you’re making either. My text you cite came from an answer to Geoff on conspiracy, and was in this context. That Ofcom would (no doubt, has) acted this way, is not evidence of conspiracy. They’d *genuinely believe* it *must* be misinformation. This is due to the pervasiveness of emotive conviction that can pass through societies, and which in individuals quite literally bypasses reason, and in orgs subverts all their procedures. I think you’re are pre-assuming that people and orgs must be following some algorithm of logic and deduction; nothing could be further from the truth! And far from being stranger than fiction in this case, such behaviours are unfortunately common.

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  17. Andy,

    We are at cross-purposes here. I am not disputing what you have said. I am simply being opportunistic by co-opting your quote so I can use it for my own purposes, i.e. to point out that the ‘stranger than fiction’ principle can also serve to misdirect people even when they have no intent to conspire. In many instances, the bypassing of reason is due to ‘the pervasiveness of emotive conviction’, but when it comes to base rate neglect, the bypassing of reason appears to be simply a function of how the human brain is wired. It just seems so counter-intuitive. This is a problem because we so often act on intuition.

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  18. Andy,

    Instead of ‘no intent to conspire’ please read ‘no emotive conviction’.

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  19. Andy. You seem to be arguing that vaccine passports should be opposed because a “huge wave of fear has disabled all normal checks and balance, plus for a disease, which albeit still dangerous now, will in a couple of years have morphed to not much more than a cold”. But this does not negate the value of carrying such a passport -that you carry proof that you are most unlikely to be infectious, that you don’t pose a potential threat to the vulnerable. I would, for example, encourage care homes to absolutely insist upon visitors demonstrate that they have been vaccinated. I would also expect visitors to insist that other visitors show their passports, so preventing those other visitors from contaminating loved ones.

    In a similar vein, why shouldn’t air lines (for example) insist upon all their passengers being vaccinated? It should be everyone’s responsibility to demonstrate they are not a danger to others. And if they are not prepared to do this, they have no intrinsic right to put others at risk. If I were still flying, I would insist on travelling with a company that does everything in its power to prevent potential carriers of the virus from travelling with me.

    If the virus degrades over time, then the need for passports will naturally decline and their use diminish. If they don’t, then is the time to object, not now when they will be useful.

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  20. Obviously it is very important to keep healthy people away from planes to avert the massive risk that they might be covid spreaders /sarc.

    From Tom Cochrane’s blog, The Grumpy Economist :

    “But are airline flights dangerous? As I read the super-spreading literature, I have not seen a single case of an airline flight charged with spreading the virus. That’s remarkable. From January to March, people were flying all over the world. People were flying from Wuhan to all over the world. But while we have seen super spreading events in restaurants, bars, cruise ships, aircraft carriers, nursing homes, jails, beach parties, Mardi Gras, choir practice, and more, I have not seen one from an airline flight. Even though people are cooped up for hours in close quarters.”

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  21. Why don’t we have vaccine passports for ‘flu?

    “Pastor-Barriuso et al. concluded that their result supports existing measures, “e.g. social distancing, face masks, and educational campaigns.”

    I disagree. The infection fatality rate seems to be about the same as for influenza, but we have never introduced these drastic measures before, when we had influenza pandemics. And we cannot live with them for years to come. The World Bank has just estimated that the corona pandemic has caused an increase of about 100 million people living in extreme poverty (9). This is not because of COVID-19. It is because of the draconian measures we have introduced. We need a better strategy.”

    https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4509/rr

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  22. Geoff, have you heard anything about this?

    https://consentfactory.org/2020/09/02/new-normal-gleichschaltung-or-the-storming-of-the-reichstag-building-on-29-august-2020/

    To further de-legitimise the “Anti New Normal” protest in Berlin at the end of August – they had already smeared the protestors as neo-Nazis etc – the German authorities seem to have staged a re-enactment by real neo-Nazis of the 1933 protests! It’s the new normal 😁

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  23. John, got it. Albeit I’d argue that something which ‘seems so counter-intuitive’ even within normal circumstances, is likely to be amplified in circumstances where irrationality is anyhow sweeping through both the population and its institutions.

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  24. Alan, “You seem to be arguing…”

    Yes, I am. It’s where society draws the line. No-one thinks we should do this for a common cold. Likely everyone on the planet would support the measure for a raging global filo-virus. We’ve never done it for flu despite that the stronger waves, albeit afflicting a different demographic (and arguably a worse demographic in terms of more younger lives lost) are in a similar ball-park regarding illness and death. This alone tells us that the normal rational balance between different *relative* risks is likely impacted by fear this time around. And indeed it is the *net* value that counts for any such measures; as Jaime points out they have huge damage of their own. And all this before noting that it very much *does* negate the value, if what amounts to institutional abuse takes over in the form of emotively driven groupthink through fear or cultural influence (so not *intentional* abuse, but no better for that). Which from the climate case and the endless trillions already committed plus proposed, and the very major damage being done to societies and the environment alike in the name of saving the planet, we know can all too easily occur. Nor is it likely that mandatory vaccination (or effectively mandatory via blackmail) would actually be required; populations will probably go for it in sufficient majority to provide the necessary protection anyhow (which as Nick Lewis has pointed out at Climate Etc, due to heterogeneous social and biological characteristics, is much lower than the 78/80% figures that were bandied about last April or whenever). And this is a socially ideal solution. While some short-term selective measures (6/10 months) are not so momentous and will likely happen anyhow while fear still circulates, in the interests of maximising *net* benefit to society, governments and corporations should stay their hand regarding anything more general or longer-term.

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  25. ..it is sobering to reflect upon the extent to which a conspiracy theorist can get it right even when he is so patently out of his breadbin.[…] (I don’t think anyone could seriously consider giving the Aetherius Society true credit for the scoop)

    Why shouldn’t the Aetherius Society get the credit? Maybe a member of the society lived nearby and told Fulham HQ (via the usual channels.)

    People (not necessarily conspiracy theorists) seem sometimes to get things right when they’ve no right to. The Sirius Mystery https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sirius_Mystery rests on claims that the Dogon tribe in West Africa knew that Sirius was a double star long before they should have. Theories considered by author Robert Temple include a wandering Babylonian with superhuman eyesight imparting his knowledge 2000 years ago, or a visit to West Africa by folks from Sirius. There are thickets in which Occam’s razor lets you down. More recently, spoilsport sceptics have suggested a visit from French astronomers observing an eclipse in 1895 might have been the source, though since the double nature of Sirius was only a speculation at the time, it seems unlikely. From Wiki:

    “Oberg also points out that the Dogon were not an isolated tribe, and thus it was not even necessary for outsiders to inform the Dogon about Sirius B. They could very well have acquired such knowledge abroad, passing it on to their tribe later.”

    Like: (circa 1920, before Dogon myths were recorded)

    – “So what did you learn while you were in Paris, Junior?”
    – “Well, Pater, you won’t believe this, but Monsieur Bleriot has crossed the English Channel in an aeronef, M. Proust is writing the most amazing novel, and astronomers are speculating that wobbles in the position of Sirius might be due to its dual nature!”
    – “You don’t say! We must incorporate this knowledge in our ancient texts right away. We’re illiterate? Well just tuck it away in your collective memory and bring it up the next time you meet an anthropologist.”

    I go for extraterrestrials every time.

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  26. Geoff,

    I liked your last comment, not only for the wit on display, but also because it respected the theme of my article. The fact is that incompetence and success are not orthogonal variables and this explains why the world is so mysterious. For example, it explains why I had to retire early to escape the daily reminders of under-achievement.

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  27. Once again, on the subject of fact being stranger than fiction:

    It is gratifying to know that, even within the strictures of my Tier 3 Gulag, the government is still keen that I get outdoors to take some exercise. The most popular venue for the locals happens to be a famous hill with a car park at the bottom. Unsurprisingly, that car park has been full of late. There is a problem, however, because whilst the car park and the route to the hilltop lie within Tier 3, the very summit lies within Tier 2. As we all know, windswept hilltops are perhaps the worst possible environment for the spread of Covid-19, and so the local council are at pains to warn those who choose to climb the hill NOT to complete the final few feet of the ascent. The Tier 2 police are already using ANPR and police patrols to stop anyone entering their area by road. It seems only a matter of time before PC Plod will be stationed at the summit, armed with a 6ft pole to push the fetid hordes back down into Tier 3 where they belong.

    I kid you not.

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  28. “It seems only a matter of time before PC Plod will be stationed at the summit, armed with a 6ft pole to push the fetid hordes back down into Tier 3 where they belong.”

    Even if you do one of those performative gestures, such as putting on a mask, or vigorously sanitising your hands!

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  29. Will the deployment of the mighty plod depend upon the wind direction? If the wind blows virons back into the Tier 3 ghettos, plod on the hilltop will be superfluous. They might be better employed harrowing the great unwashed that drive polluting hydrocarbon-burning vehicles.

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  30. Talking of climbing hills in the era of Covid, I was rather perplexed to encounter, near the summit of Skiddaw last month, a lady labouring upwards while wearing a face mask. What was the point of that? It protected nobody, herself or others, while she was in the great outdoors, and it must have made the ascent extremely unpleasant.

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  31. MiaB,

    >”Even if you do one of those performative gestures…”

    I’m afraid not. The authorities are deadly serious about this. When a local councillor was queried about it, he didn’t say “Yes, technically the summit is in tier 2, but let’s not be stupid about this”. He actually advised that it wasn’t a problem because there are plenty of other local areas that could be used for recreation and exercise.

    Just to confirm that this is not a spoof, this is how the BBC has now reported it:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-55170746

    Alan,

    Don’t worry, the same police force is doing plenty of harrowing of motorists:

    https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/its-like-big-brother-reaction-19397746

    Even if they exhumed Jimmy Saville to be the next leader of the opposition, I think I would vote for him to get rid of the current lot. That said, I suspect the real problem runs deeper than that.

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  32. Are there no grounds for appeal under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, or have these been abrogated by the government? Looking at the BBC report, it appears that law is now being created by the police. It is not against the law but we will fine you anyway. Isn’t it good that this is decidedly not a Fascist regime, otherwise who knows where things would end up?

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  33. MiaB,

    >”Isn’t it good that this is decidedly not a Fascist regime”

    Sorry, I refuse to be drawn on that one 🙂

    I’m afraid that policemen misinterpreting the law and/or their role in society has been a recurring theme since the beginning of this whole affair. The bit that really got me was ‘neither necessary or acceptable”. I’ll be the judge of what is necessary, thank you very much. And if I want to know what is acceptable I’ll consult a priest!

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  34. Let’s agree to disagree on the nomenclature but surely a stiffly worded complaint to the Chief Constable and/or Police Commissioner is in order. The official was acting ultra vires

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  35. As far as I can see, travelling from a Tier 3 into a Tier 2 areas is not advised by the government but it is not against the law, so there is no legal basis for Plod to be restricting freedom of movement and/or issuing fines to those who ‘cross the border’. They can argue that it is not strictly necessary; you can argue that it makes no practical difference in terms of risk of transmission of a virus to cross an imaginary Tier ‘border’ in the English hills, miles away from anywhere. The jobsworths have found a new purpose in life; so much better than catching burglars and other criminals – enforcing Tier borders.

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  36. Jaime, it’s good to be able to agree again.

    Your reading of the situation is exactly the same as mine. Anyone fined for travelling from a tier 3 area to a tier 2 area for exercise is, so far as I am aware, and from all that I have read, against the government’s advice, but not against the law. If, as I believe to be the case, that is correct, then the police are completely over-stepping the mark, and anyone fined for doing this should refuse to pay and insist on going to Court.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Mark, Jaime,

    The full quote from the North Yorkshire police reads:

    “It is neither necessary or acceptable to leave a Tier 3 area and enter a lower tier area for a day trip or to visit a pub or restaurant for a meal. Please also be reminded that your tier restrictions travel with you and police can take enforcement action against you, if you should breach those restrictions.”

    The statement was made in defence of the NYPD’s use of police patrols to stop and question motorists attempting to ‘flee’ tier 3. However, the BBC article took the first part of that quote and attributed it to the Roseberry Topping controversy.

    I believe the police do have the right to stop and question anyone that they suspect may be on the way to commit a crime, and tier 3 citizens would be doing so if they were to visit a pub or restaurant for a meal. However, turning someone back on the basis of a suspicion, or worse still, fining them on the basis of ANPR, would be an egregious injustice. As for things being ‘unacceptable’, all I will say is that all of my nearest pubs and restaurants (of an acceptable quality) are in tier 2, and the covid-19 prevalence in the towns concerned is no less than in my own town. So I would be in breach of regulations to eat there, but I would be doing nothing morally wrong. Furthermore, in conquering the mighty Roseberry Topping, no legal, scientific or moral code will have been broken – but try telling that to the fat-headed dim-wits that are ruling our lives nowadays.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. The mighty Roseberry Topping has never sounded more inviting.

    In Cornwall a pub landlord was quite open about folks making the trip from Devon for some nosh and a pint on BBC Radio 5 Live a few days back. The presenters were totally with him, that was the slightly surprising thing. I presume the powers that be have put him in a dark place and thrown away the key. There again, it’s Cornwall.

    Jobsworth is so much more colourful and English a term than fascist, derived from the Italian for the bunch of charcoal twigs the Carbonari used in their secret conspiratorial groups before they became a pasta sauce. Or something like that. It’s a while since I read my James Billington.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Richard,

    It may seem frightfully English that we should all be getting so hot and bothered over where we can eat our scotch eggs. However, there is, of course, a principle of fundamental importance here, i.e. our right to move freely within the country without being treated by the police as if we are criminals. I must say, there are probably some ethnic minorities who must be rolling their eyes and saying ‘welcome to our world’. Maybe a greater empathy may emerge from all of this.

    Liked by 1 person

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