Just a little bit ago UMW education professor George Meadows asked me to come into his class on Monday (this coming Monday, October 18th) and talk about weirdness and the web. I think that is a topic I can handle, and it fits the nature of his course quite well. In fact the full course title is: “Critical Thinking and the Internet: Writing about Weird Things” (now there is a brilliant course title). George is no stranger to danger, or having fun for that matter, and he asked me if I might be able to concentrate on conspiracy theories and the web during my guest visit. Such a request immediately made me think of the “precious bodily fluids” scenes from Dr. Strangelove, but then I started thinking about online conspiracy theories and started to sputter. I mean there’s the opportunistic “Google is making us Stupid” conspiracy theory, but I was thinking more along the lines of DARPA’s Total Awareness Initiative being run by the Information Awareness Office (read that Wikipedia article if you aren’t afraid of social networking just yet 🙂 ). And then there is the Russian Business Network—“You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy [on the internet]”—reputed to be responsible for a lion’s share of web-based crime, here is what the Wikipedia article has to say about RBN:
The Russian Business Network (commonly abbreviated as RBN) is a multi-faceted cybercrime organization, specializing in and in some cases monopolizing personal identity theft for resale. It is the originator of MPack and an alleged operator of the Storm botnet.
The RBN, which is notorious for its hosting of illegal and dubious businesses, originated as an Internet service provider for child pornography, phishing, spam, and malware distribution physically based in St. Petersburg, Russia. By 2007, it developed partner and affiliate marketing techniques in many countries to provide a method for organized crime to target victims internationally.
But the thing about both these examples is I think about them more as realities than in any perjorative sense that we currently characterize the term conspiracy theory. So, while I may still use them, I’ll be doing some research this weekend and was hoping some of you maniacs out there may have fun with this and point me to a few good examples. I particularly was hoping to get examples of internet-based conspiracy theories, preferably with links to websites and videos that promote or endorse the theory (flashing mailboxes and animated under construction GIFs are OK).
All that said, I’m also open to conspiracy theory sites like the Journal of 9-11 Studies—which has basically been trying to establish that 9/11 was an inside job for years—which is not specifically about internet-based conspiracy theories per se, but the sites and videos on this topic make it compelling nonetheless. For example, there’s the “WTC 7: The Smoking Gun of 9/11” video that argues that WTC building 7 was blown up after the fact:
So, what do you have? What weirdness can you dredge up for the bava? Because the bava is back, and the bava needs you!