Interview with alternative media investigative journalist James Corbett examines how we know what we think we know.
Alex Tsakiris: I find myself in this debate with folks who are on my side of these issues about paradigm change — is it coming? Is it imminent? But both in your world of politics, and my world of science, we’re living in a bubble and underestimating how hard it is to bring people over.
Let’s say you wanted to make the case that the government is lying about the death of Osama Bin Laden. Maybe you can give people a thumbnail sketch of what that evidence is—not that you know specifically what happened because that’s a trap, but just make a case that the government is lying.
James Corbett: Well, that is a particularly interesting example. It’s black and white that there were various aspects of the Osama Bin Laden raid that were demonstrable lies coming out in the hours after that raid.
So for example, it occurred on the 1st of May, 2011 and immediately there was a narrative created that was bolstered in no small part by the image of Obama and Clinton and others in the White House taking a look at presumably the live video footage of the raid itself. But that was contradicted just three days later on the 4th of May by the fact that there was a blackout during the time of the raid. So there was no visual footage. The initial indication was that Osama had fought back, that there was some sort of running gunfight, but as it turns out there really was no gunfight at all. There was the initial indication that he was using his wife as a human shield, etc., but eventually they had to admit that didn’t happen. There was the entire saga of the helicopter crash, etc. So there are all sorts of things related to that story that we know that the initial reports that were coming out were, in fact, demonstrably untrue.
But it was interesting for me to watch how people—even people whose opinions I respect and who I think are genuinely quite cautious about the way that they approach these types of situations and disinformation—just immediately took it on faith. “Okay, this is it. This is a raid. They got Osama.” The way that I try to be with most events is, “Okay, that’s interesting. Let’s see the data. If politicians can come out and say X, Y, Z and we’ll just take it as an article of faith, then I think that’s a sign of a very, very unhealthy democracy, isn’t it?
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome alternative media investigative journalist James Corbett to Skeptiko. James is the host of The Corbett Report and a popular guest on a variety of alternative news outlets. James, welcome to Skeptiko. Thanks for joining me.
James Corbett: Thank you for having me here today. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, we’ll see. I think we’re going to have fun. As I explained in the email the connection between your work and the personal paradigm shift that you went through has a lot of connections, I think, with some of the work that we’ve done here. But I guess we’ll have to leave that up to the listeners.
A couple of times I’ve tried to make these connections with folks who are doing stuff in what is commonly called the conspiracy theory area or the Truth movement. Some folks get it and some folks don’t but I see those connections so often that I just have to return to them again and again and see if I can bridge that gap and figure out if there really is that connection. So I’m looking forward to talking about that with you.
James Corbett: Well, me too. I certainly understand the work you’re doing in trying to resist the dominant paradigm in a different field and I think there is definitely a lot of resonance between this work because obviously we’re both up against an ingrained institutional bias. I think there’s a lot of points to be made about what that bias is and how best to overcome it.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. And I think that’s one of the connections we’ll make. Maybe a couple of others, too, but we’ll get to those in a minute. I think what we should probably do to start things out is introduce you to our audience and there’s no better person to do that than you yourself. So James, tell us a little bit about your background, about The Corbett Report, and the other investigative journalistic activities that you’re involved with right now.
James Corbett: Well, I’m a Canadian. I was born in Calgary, Canada and I lived in Alberta in Canada for most of my life. I went to university in my hometown of Calgary. Eventually I went for my master’s degree at Trinity College, Dublin in Ireland and I spent a year there. That was an incredible experience. After that point I was looking for something else to do and one of my friends in Ireland suggested teaching English in Asia. I thought that sounded like a good idea so I started looking it up online and I ended up coming to Japan.
So I’ve been in Japan now for about eight years and it was about five years ago now, that I started encountering the information that eventually spurred me to create The Corbett Report. I started encountering all sorts of information related to 911 that I’d never encountered before through any other outlet. I started encountering that on YouTube.
Then I started looking up documents and things for myself and when I had convinced myself that there was something to some of this information, I decided that the incredible discrepancy between what I was seeing represented on TV and through mainstream media outlets and what I was finding online was just so great that I think I felt compelled to add something to that. I decided to start my own website, which is something I never in my life considered I would ever do.
From that point on I’ve been producing The Corbett Report. It’s a podcast and radio show. I do interviews and articles and videos. I’ve been doing that for five years now and it’s a steadily growing enterprise, one might say.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. I think I remember hearing in one of your podcasts where you were introducing yourself and your background that you were like a lot of us, myself included, completely unaware of any kind of conspiracy idea behind 911. You were just kind of bouncing along many years after 911 just thinking like the rest of us that, “Yeah, that’s just the way it happened, the way we were told.” Right?
James Corbett: In fact, not only that but I was quite resistant to the idea that there was any kind of conspiracy behind it. It was one of those things that I think maybe struck a nerve with me that when people raised the possibility that there was something to the story that we weren’t being told, I almost wanted to not hear it because it was just so disgraceful and disrespectful to the people who died that day and all of that.
I had, I think, the usual types of emotional turmoil and stress and resistance to that idea that a lot of people have. So I certainly understand when people first start hearing about this and they don’t want to hear it. I certainly understand that and that was the place that I was coming from. As you indicate, it was five years after the event before I really started taking a look at the information that showed there was something else to the narrative. So certainly I was resistant for quite a while before I finally started to take a look at the information for myself.
Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, it’s funny because it was even longer for me and I remember I was just doing my Skeptiko thing, investigating alternative science and ESP and near-death experience and that kind of stuff. That led me to—really it was pushing up against skeptics and finding out that they were so consistently, uniformly wrong, deceptive and over-the-top aggressive in their illogical, not uncritical thinking that that really drove me to say, “Gee, if they’re wrong about this, what else might they be wrong about?” I think I started with the JFK thing, the JFK assassination.
But back to your point. I can remember specifically after investigating JFK for quite some while and really immersing myself in a lot of books and a lot of documentaries and all that information, I remember talking to my wife and saying, “You know, I think I have my handles around this JFK thing. Clearly it was not as the Warren Commission said and clearly it was a pretty deep, deep conspiracy inside the government.” I remember saying, “But that 911 thing, I can’t buy that. I just can’t believe that went that far.”
One of the things I want to have you tell a little bit about is your personal experience with that paradigm shift. I love the way you describe your paradigm of being this Left/Right political thing and that there’s this Left and this Right and I’m on the Left and that’s the paradigm. And then that kind of gradually faded away. Can you tell us about that process?
James Corbett: Well, that’s exactly right. I have always been a politically interested person, not particularly political and not really involved in politics, per se. But always interested in politics and I like to consider myself as an informed individual who kept up with the latest information about the political situation in Canada or Ireland or wherever I was living at the time. So in that regard I would be following information through mostly mainstream media outlets and of course into the Internet age starting to take a look at some Internet sources.
So it was in 2006 here in Japan, it was just a pretty mundane event for me, actually. I was moving into a new apartment. The apartment came with an Internet connection and it was the first time I had Internet in my apartment for a few years. In the time that I did not have that Internet connection, suddenly there were these new things popping up like Google video and YouTube and places where basically anything that you wanted to take a look at or wanted to browse, you could just type it in and it would be there. It was kind of an amazing thing for me at the time.
So I was immediately through my Left/Right political filter, I was on the Left side of that political spectrum so I was looking at the types of sources online that you would expect a good Liberal to do, I suppose. I was watching The Daily Show and things like that. And through that process, actually, I started to encounter in just the “Related Video” section of YouTube that I started to encounter these 911 videos. I would click on them just out of interest. A lot of them would be ridiculous but some of them made points that actually made me decide to pursue it.
You’re exactly right; it was through that and then following that even further into the central banking system and how that’s run and things like that that I started to really break through that paradigm. It’s only I think after having done that, after having gone through that process, that I realized that the Left/Right spectrum really is a paradigm and that there are other ways of looking at the political universe.
I don’t think I realized just how limiting that was or how convenient it is, really, that basically the population can be divided almost in half or roughly in half and set against each other when the average person that I encounter and meet and talk to on a daily basis has much more in common with me regardless of whether they be on the Left or the Right end of the political spectrum than some multibillionaire.
I mean, that’s plainly evident and yet we can be more prone to attack the people that we encounter on a daily basis because they don’t belong to our side of the political spectrum, as if that’s the entire political universe. So when I finally started to break through that and started to gain some perspective on what that political spectrum is and how it functions to keep our society divided is when I started to really, I mean, step back and see the system as it exists as a whole.
The interesting thing to me is that it’s one of those things that I guess I can become accustomed to the idea that there is another paradigm. There is another way of looking at politics. It doesn’t have to be about that Left/Right spectrum. So when I see the mainstream discourse always and invariably reduced back to that Left/Right paradigm, it absolutely blows me away that people still see the world in that way. I don’t see the world in that way anymore so I look at that discourse and I think, “Well, there must be a lot of people who believe in it but I just don’t see it that way.”
Alex Tsakiris: See, there is a clear parallel that we’re going to have to try and make this connection here because I started out Skeptiko and I was interested in investigating I guess paranormal is the stuff that it fits into but really human consciousness issues.
I got into it thinking, “Okay, there’s there honest debate. There are these folks who are skeptical of it and there are these folks who are believers of it and there’s some scientific data. If we just follow the data we’ll get to some kind of resolution on it.”
And what I’ve found is the data really stacks up just on one side of the debate. And the debate that was there was really anything but honest. There were these researchers that were pretty much just following the rules and being honest but they were being swamped by this other group that seemed to have a variety of agendas in the skeptical camp that were really playing a different game.
It was almost like a political game I was seeing and I thought we were removed from because we’re in science.
So I got a real kick out of listening to one of your shows as you were describing the early episodes of The Corbett Report when you were, I guess we’d have to say, naively exposing people to this data with the idea that “Wow, once they understand the facts, everything will change. Once we get this information to the mainstream media, of course they’ll want to get this out.”
It’s like the retort that you hear so often from the skeptics, “Well, why wouldn’t someone just win the Pulitzer Prize or write a bestseller to cover all this stuff?” Of course we know that the system is designed specifically to prevent that, but maybe you can relate your experience with that. I think there is that enthusiasm that I think you had and I know I had that, “Gee, if we just follow this data, if we just get this data out there, everything will change.”
Now I’m kind of in a different place but maybe we can talk about that in a minute. Maybe you can talk about that early phase for you and what that was like.
James Corbett: Well, ultimately I think I still have to believe. I still have to have faith that people are able to discern the truth from the fiction and that they will, once presented with the data, actually eventually make the right choice. But certainly I think the idea of placing our trust in the system, the establishment media, and places like that to be the dissemination of this information would be hopelessly naïve. I certainly don’t put my trust in that.
That’s why I think the Internet has absolutely changed the course of our politics forever. There’s no way that that genie can be put back in the bottle now that people can really circumvent the entire institutional system that’s been put in place to really limit people’s access to this information. In the scientific paradigm there are obviously the scientific journals and things like that but most people access that literature through the science media, which obviously has its own ingrained biases.
In my case, it’s a very similar situation. In politics people usually access the political world through newspapers, TV, or whatever, but now that there is this Internet paradigm and people are finding more elaborate ways of circumventing all of that institutional bias, they can directly communicate the facts to the people. So I know that it’s still an uphill battle but I do have faith that the average person, when presented with the data, will see that.
So I see the role of people like myself in this to be the person presenting that data and everyone will come to that data with all of their baggage and preconceptions and all of that type of stuff. Eventually, one hopes that enough data will convince people to get over those biases.
But I understand that there are people who just have a harder time busting through that paradigm. Again, I’m not exactly sure what makes someone able to or less able to question their own assumptions and preconceptions, but there is some sort of calculus at work there in psychology that makes people more or less susceptible to really challenging their ideals.
Alex Tsakiris: I think that’s an interesting point and I find myself engaged in this debate, if you will, with folks who are on my side of these issues that I care about. That’s that is there this paradigm change? Is it coming? Is it imminent? Then they’ll point to various books and articles and really in our case, what we’ve focused on a lot lately is the survival of consciousness, and in that certainly there’s a lot of very mainstream, respectable people that have come forward and come on that side of the camp really overwhelmingly.
But I still think there’s this problem in both cases, in your world and in my world, of living in the bubble a little bit and not realizing how hard it is to bring people over. And maybe underestimating a little bit the systems of power and the systems of control and their influence. I really have to wonder if those are lessened by the Internet or whether as we see there’s this effort to put the genie back in the bottle through whatever means necessary and not let things move in that direction.
Let’s take for a minute your world and talk about it for a minute. Let’s say you wanted to make the case that the government is lying about the death of Osama Bin Laden. All the evidence is just overwhelming on your side. I think you could make that case. Maybe you can give people a thumbnail sketch of what that evidence is—not that you know specifically what happened. I think that’s always a trap that we fall into. But just the simple fact that the government is lying and not telling us everything.
The evidence seems overwhelming and yet I have to tell you in just encountering people day-to-day, when I float that out there I don’t get a very welcoming reception—unless it’s someone who I know is pre-heated for that kind of paradigm. I mean, Osama Bin Laden’s death was really, really one of the more poorly done of these charades that’s been pulled off. And if that doesn’t penetrate, is there really a lot of hope that we can bust through that disinformation that gets peddled out there?
James Corbett: Well, that is a particularly interesting example, isn’t it? That is something that is so in-your-face, it’s a black and white that there were various aspects of the Osama Bin Laden raid missed that were demonstrable lies that were coming out in the hours after that raid.
So for example, it occurred on the 1st of May, 2011 and immediately there was a narrative created that was bolstered in no small part by the image of Obama and Clinton and others in the White House taking a look at presumably the live video footage of the raid itself.
But that was contradicted, for example, just three days later on the 4th of May by the fact that there was a blackout during the time of the raid. So there was no visual footage. That iconic image of them sitting in the White House Situation Room looking at the video feed is, in fact, not them looking at a video feed at all. Who knows what it’s actually a picture of? That came out a few days later.
The initial indication was that Osama had fought back, that there was some sort of running gunfight, but as it turns out there really was no gunfight at all. There was the initial indication that he was using his wife as a human shield, etc., but eventually they had to admit that didn’t happen. There was the entire saga of the helicopter crash, etc. So there are all sorts of things related to that story that we know that the initial reports that were coming out were, in fact, demonstrably untrue.
But it was interesting for me to watch how people—even people whose opinions I respect and who I think are genuinely quite cautious about the way that they approach these types of situations and disinformation—just immediately took it on faith. “Okay, this is it. This is a raid. They got Osama.” The way that I try to be with most events is, “Okay, that’s interesting. Let’s see the data. Let’s see what happened. Let’s see the evidence.”
When the evidence started to not emerge and it turned out, for example, they dumped his body at sea immediately and they’ll never release the photographs, to anyone who’s watching that with a skeptical eye I think they understand, “Well, we have to reserve judgment until there’s something more than that.” If politicians can come out and say X, Y, Z and we’ll just take it as an article of faith, then I think that’s a sign of a very, very unhealthy democracy, isn’t it?
Alex Tsakiris: In this case, James, we even had more data than that. This is one of those cases where the world-wide media through the World Wide Web really kicked in. I remember watching interviews with Feet on the Street, right there with the neighbors in Pakistan who said, “Hey, I own the house next to it so I immediately ran down there to see what was happening.” Another guy was on his rooftop, saw the helicopters. Other people knew the person who was in the house.
So I saw, and I’m sure you did, too, these interviews with people who live there and directly contradicted the story that we’re being peddled. That didn’t seem to penetrate. And it certainly wasn’t at all covered by the mainstream media in any way. So again, back to this question. What does that say about this idea that the little soldiers, the long-tail alternative media on the Internet is going to change things? We sure didn’t change things on that and that was a real whopper.
James Corbett: But then how do you know about that information? Because you saw it on the Internet?
Alex Tsakiris: Right. I saw it on the Internet.
James Corbett: Well, that’s exactly the point. The point is that we’re not going to see this reflected in the mainstream media. The point is that we’re going to encounter this information on a more personal level. The problem with that is there’s no real rubric, there’s no way for us to measure or calculate that effect because it’s happening on a personal level with people personally accessing this information.
If it was the type of thing that was being portrayed in the mainstream media we could say, “Oh, it’s on the front page of The New York Times.” X-million number of people have read this and it’s part of the cultural records, so to speak. This is something that is so diversified and so individual and that there’s really no good measure for getting a handle on how many people are accessing this information, how many people saw this, how many people know that piece of information.
It works in the way that people tend to become compartmentalized in their own minds insofar as we don’t have that cultural background that people even 20 or 30 years ago would have. If something was on a mainstream network you could be safe to assume that half of the people you talked to would probably know about it. It would be water cooler talk.
We’re reaching an age where media has become so diversified through the diversification possible by the Internet that we don’t have that cultural context that you can be assured that everyone will know X, Y, or Z. Or it’s becoming that realm of the shared culture that’s dwindling. But again, I see that as actually a progress. I think that is something that’s actually helping to free minds from that cultural paradigm.
Also, I think that indicates that there is much more of an awakening–if you want to use that word—happening than will ever be portrayed in the mainstream media, obviously. But it’s things like that. You encountered that information of those interviews through the Internet. I’m talking to you from my home in Japan and wherever you are broadcasting to wherever the people who are listening to this are through the Internet.
I mean, I really do think this is a fundamental paradigm shift in the way that society communicates, the way we receive information, and the type of information that we receive. I go back to it time and again. I really think this is the Gutenberg printing press revolution of our age.
The Gutenberg Press, it took a century or so but it eventually led to the reformation and some massive, massive changes in European society and eventually, of course, over the globe. I think we are just beginning to see what the Internet is beginning to do so human consciousness. I really do expect that it will have as monumental an effect as the printing press did.
Alex Tsakiris: So you’re optimistic, that’s great.
James Corbett: Yeah. I would have to say I am optimistic. I think there will inevitably be a reaction. Just because there’s a new form, a new media, a new way of disseminating information, doesn’t mean it can’t be co-opted. I think the printing press was great because it opened up literacy to the masses.
Suddenly people could have direct access to these texts, including of course the Gutenberg Bible and all of this that they never would have had direct access to. They had to encounter it through their clergy and basically they didn’t even understand what was happening because the Masses were in Latin and all of that. So the Vulgate Bible changed people’s consciousness, etc. So it was a wonderful, profound thing but of course immediately what does that lead to? It just leads to the development of new forms of propaganda and new ways of trying to control that new medium and control what people see.
So I have no doubt there will be reaction against what’s happening right now on the Internet. It will not be a straightforward trajectory. It will be a simple narrative of people inevitably just breaking down all the dams that have been put in place for centuries.
I think there will still be a lot of fight-back but at the end of the day, I am hopeful that people are reasonable; they are rational. When they encounter overwhelming amounts of data, no matter how much baggage they’re bringing with it, eventually that absolute waterfall of information will wash over them and will change the way that they see the world. I think I do have to be optimistic on that point. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be doing this at all.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, good. I’m going to try and jump in and grab some of that optimism, too. I’m not totally pessimistic of it. I just think the agents of non-change, the agents of maintaining the status quo are much stronger, much more pervasive than we at first think they are. Because that’s the other part of this onion when you get into it is not only to see the reality of the non-truth but also the systems behind what maybe really is the truth, as close as you can get to that.
I’m talking in maybe an abstract way but one of the things I want to talk about is the skeptical community. I just listened to an episode you did recently about skeptics, and particularly about Michael Shermer, and I found it interesting. He’s been on the show. We’ve had many, many skeptics on the show. I thought maybe you could recap what you’ve found and what are some of the observations about this skeptical movement that you’d make.
James Corbett: I did, in fact, catch your interview with Shermer. I think it’s particularly telling that I think—correct me if I’m wrong on this—I assume the reason that he appeared on the broadcast was because he believed that it was going to be something skeptical in the sense that they use that term.
Alex Tsakiris: Right, you’re talking about that early podcast. That was podcast #2 and I don’t think it was so much that he thought it was a skeptical podcast as it was that he was following up with Professor Rupert Sheldrake from Cambridge and he had some familiarity with some of this theories.
James Corbett: I see.
Alex Tsakiris: That was so long ago though, James, so long ago for me that I have to cringe when I think about the interview with Michael Shermer.
James Corbett: Yeah, well, I would love to hear a more recent one. I think you’d probably have a lot to say to him and I’d love to hear that, but I doubt that he would agree to that at this point. I reserve a special place in my heart for Michael Shermer because of his particularly egregious affronts to logic and reasoning, which are absolutely displayed everywhere in his writing when it comes to the “conspiracy world.”
Specifically, there are such ridiculous examples of poor reasoning that absolutely push all my buttons. For example, in the Huffington Post back in December 2010 he published an article, “My Day in Dealey Plaza: Why JFK was Killed by a Lone Assassin” in which he presumes to be able to put to an end basically 50 years of research and debate and the millions upon millions upon millions of words that have been written about the JFK assassination by this six or seven paragraph article.
Basically the sum total of his argument is that he went to Dealey Plaza; he stood in the spot where Kennedy was shot and looked up at the Book Depository building and saw that it wasn’t as far away as he had thought. Therefore, it is not necessary to invent additional assassins to explain the assassination. Therefore, LHO acted alone in killing JFK, Q.E.D. And he actually ends with the quod erat demonstrandum, as if he had proven a point of some sort.
That particular article was just so galling to me that he would presume to be able to solve all of this 50 years of debate about what happened in Dealey Plaza by simply going to the place and assuming, “Oh, okay, it’s not far from the window, therefore it was LHO acting alone.”
There are so many different parts to take away from that, which I do in my podcast episode that you mentioned there about the skeptics. That one was something that got me thinking along these lines. Certainly I’ve encountered Shermer but many, many other self-proclaimed skeptics who use similar tactics and logical fallacies which in most cases logical fallacies employed by people against conspiracy theories don’t really get on my nerves or agitate me because most people don’t even understand what it is they’re doing.
But clearly someone like Shermer, who has written extensively about logical fallacies and how they’re employed and given examples, etc., knows what he is doing when he employs a logical fallacy in trying to back-up his arguments. So it’s the dishonesty of it that really particularly galls me.
Alex Tsakiris: I’m sorry—just let me interject here because this is what I wanted to get to with the skeptics. I wonder if it goes beyond mere dishonesty. I’ll throw in an example from my world that I think is interesting and maybe we’ll be able to make a connection for people who don’t know.
One of the instances of this dishonesty we can point to in the near-death experience research is Michael Shermer in his column in Scientific American where he felt obligated to report on a piece of research published in The Lancet by a guy named Dr. Pim van Lommel, who is a well-respected 20-year cardiologist who published really a kind of monumental research on near-death experience. Shermer, in his article, completely not just distorted the article by van Lommel but got it exactly the opposite.
So van Lommel’s conclusion is that “There’s no conventional medical explanation for this conscious experience during a time when there’s no brain activity.” Shermer wrote the opposite of that. It so incensed van Lommel that he felt a need to publicly reply and say, “Look, you got it wrong.” And of course that led to “What?” on the part of Shermer. Nothing. No retraction. No restatement. No correction. Just march on and not change the position.
So is the dishonesty really at the level of this willful ignorance or ingrained belief system? Or when you really stack it up and you start looking at the positions, the strange positions really, that the skeptical community takes in defending the status quo across the board on every—it really doesn’t matter what political party is in office or in control. It’s just defending the status quo and defending a certain set of values that seem to be central to running this whole system that we have.
It makes me wonder if there isn’t something else going on behind that whole movement. And I don’t mean that there’s a group in some smoky room that makes all these decisions. But just in the way that we see these things work, there’s a nudge here, an opening a door here, a wink and a nod there, to really push an agenda. I have to wonder and I have to really believe that some of that is going on within the skeptical community.
What are your thoughts?
James Corbett: Certainly my sense is that there are members of the skeptical community who are absolutely working towards an agenda and I wouldn’t want to indicate otherwise, but it strikes me as a similar thing to what we deal with, for example, with the 911 Truth movement where the evidence of a cover-up could be either a cover-up of malfeasance or a cover-up of misfeasance. It could be someone covering up something they did wrong or it could be someone covering up something they did.
And that’s not really decidable just from the fact that there is a cover-up of a certain piece of information. You can demonstrate the cover-up but you can’t demonstrate the underlying reason for that. In the exact same way, or at least in an analogous way, I think when you look at someone like a Shermer or whoever who absolutely invariably defends the status quo, even to the lengths of uttering absurdities and absolutely refusing to look at information, etc., either that is because they are just so set in their ways in terms of defending the status quo that they don’t want anything to challenge it or they are actually working to an agenda to actually bolster that status quo.
And I think that’s not really decidable from the fact that the person is employing those things. Again, I don’t want to speculate on that. I have no doubt that there are certain people who are doing that but I’m not here to speculate on who is employed by who or for what purpose. That, to me, is not particularly the point of this.
To me, the point is not to argue with someone like Shermer, per se, but to show the people who might be interested in listening to what Shermer says that hey, he’s employing logical fallacies here. He is lying to you. He is not looking at this information, etc., etc. Or anyone, take your pick, not just Shermer just as an example.
I have faith that the people who are looking at that as the audience will understand that I’m not really interested in arguing with these people individually because either they are so set in their ways that they’ll never change their minds or they are working towards some specific agenda.
Either way I don’t really have any delusion that I’m going to really change the mind of one of these self-proclaimed skeptics. I’m really looking more at their audience and trying to show them that hey, you’re being taken for a fool. Why are you listening to what this person is saying?
Alex Tsakiris: I am, too, but I guess I’m also hitting this second wall, if you will, that comes up when people object to this data. I know because I was there myself and also I have enough friends who’ve run into this wall. That’s the “How can that be?” question. So you get hit with the data, whatever the data is. Osama Bin Laden, why would they bury him at sea? Why do we have these reports?
All these contradictions, all these changes in the story and the falsified photographs and all this stuff piles up. You hit them with that and I can see it in my world when you hit them with somehow in some way we don’t understand, consciousness does survive death.
In both cases what I see is wheels spinning. The wheels are spinning not about the data but about almost at a subconscious level, what would this mean to me if my worldview had to shift? How could that be that I could not know that? I’m a successful person. I’m a good person. I have a nice family. I drive a nice car, I have a good job. I read. How could I not know that?
So I do feel obligated to push a little bit into understanding those systems of power, control, deception, misinformation, and exposing those a little bit even if I never will know completely. I have to nibble around at those edges because I think that’s the objection that really a lot of people run into and that’s that okay, I can’t really absorb the data until I can understand that the underlying paradigm that I have about how the world works isn’t really accurate. Do you see where I’m going with that?
James Corbett: Oh, absolutely. As a philosophy minor back in my university days, I go back to my Philosophy of Science 101 with Thomas Kuhn and the idea of the paradigms, the idea that was revolutionary for his time when he was formulating this hypothesis. The idea that the arc of science and scientific progress and discovery is not one of just the straightforward building-upon of information.
There are, in fact, rupture points in science where the discrepancy between the data that’s coming in and the old paradigm, the old way of thinking about the universe, was just so great that something had to give. Eventually everyone switches over to the new paradigm.
Of course we can take a look at all the historical examples of that switching over from Newtonian mechanics to Einsteinian Relativistic mechanics, etc. But I think the point to that is that there certainly is a point to which people can delude themselves that there is still a way to cram that data back into the box that they’re currently in.
It comes down to a certain level to the personal psychology. I don’t want to psychologize this because I think that’s a tactic that is increasingly employed by skeptics to assault people. Certainly in my community and I imagine in yours, as well. These are people who are searching for some sort of answer and thus they must connect everything into a conspiracy, etc.
So they tend to psychologize it but I think there is an element to which personal psychology determines the amount I suppose of cognitive dissonance that people are able to put up with—the discrepancy between the information they’re getting and the way that they can handle that in their Left/Right political paradigm or whatever paradigm they might be in. So I think we have to take a look at what that is.
I’m not sure there is a one-size-fits-all solution for ever putting this data across in a way for everyone. I think everyone has their own way of encountering this information and working with new information and eventually busting into the new paradigm. But I think there must be a breaking point at which the vast majority of people, I imagine, are in some ways, in some key forms, unconscious actors in at least one realm or another.
For example, I work in the political realm. I think there are a lot of people who get their political understanding from osmosis, just from being in the culture and interacting with people on a daily basis, who don’t necessarily have well-defined political ideologies or beliefs or understandings but that kind of seeps into them through what they encounter and what they read and who they talk to.
I think there must be a point at which a certain percentage of the population is talking about and understanding politics in a different way that that paradigm will shift and the people who are just unconscious actors and just learning by osmosis, as it were, will switch over into that new paradigm.
I do believe in that type of shift but again, when that cultural shift will come—if we may not already be on the cusp of that type of a cultural shift—I’m not to say. I really can’t say.
Alex Tsakiris: More of that optimism. Great. We need more of that. I really am an optimist so I love to hear that. Tell us this. For someone who maybe has their interest piqued a little bit about this, what’s a starting point? What’s a way in to your world? Obviously, The Corbett Report is out there. I’ll just say I’ve always told people to start with JFK because it’s far enough back that it seems to be a little bit removed and the data I really find overwhelming.
But that really hasn’t worked. They’re just not interested. What do you tell people who maybe this hits a chord with them and they’re interested in exploring this crazy world that you’re talking about. What’s a good entry point?
James Corbett: I think you’ve hit on the key term there. They’re not interested or what are they interested in. I think that really is what it’s about. People can only ever approach a new paradigm from what they find interesting in that new paradigm. So if people are interested in JFK and what happened there or they think they’d like to know more, that would obviously be an entry point for them. Perhaps it’s 911.
In my own personal story, for example, 911 was one of those events that there were a lot of things that I was willing to think about before I encountered anything about 911, for example, JFK and things like that. I thought, “That’s interesting.” I didn’t know a lot about it but it didn’t seem very suspicious to me. I just didn’t bother to really go into it too much.
It was 911 that got me interested in taking a look at this information for myself. Interestingly enough, from my own perspective, once I started to really break through that door, that barrier that was holding me back from taking a look at the information and I started to encounter this and I started to put pieces together and realize that there were so many problems with the official account of 911 that something had to be amiss, the thing that I think actually really busted down my old paradigm and got me into what I’m doing right now was something substantially unrelated, which is the concept of central banking.
For my mind, being the type of person, the thinker that I am, I could see that there were all sorts of discrepancies in the 911 story but I thought, “How could it possibly function? How could something like this happen?” And when I started to encounter the information about central banks and how the Federal Reserve creates the money and puts money into the American economy and who controls the Federal Reserve and things like that, that was really what started to get me thinking along these lines in a serious way.
So again, I’m saying this is going to be different for each individual who’s encountering it but I think you have to follow your interests. You have to be not afraid to look into the data for yourself and to really challenge what you’re seeing and reading. I never, ever, ever expect people to just take what I’m saying for granted. I always hope that they’ll be looking into this for themselves.
That only comes from my personal experience but I know that I can hear people saying things like this and giving me points of data all day long, but until I’m actually invested in that process of taking a look for that information and trying to sort it out for myself, I don’t think I could ever really accept anything. I could never take it onboard. I think that’s ultimately the next step.
Once people are interested in the information, once they start reaching out for it and looking into it for themselves, that’s when the real paradigm shift can happen. Which is why in my podcasts and everything I do I always try to put the source links to the documents that I’m talking about so that interested people, the people who have never heard of something before and want to explore it further can go and take a look at the actual source document. They can decide for themselves whether or not to take that information onboard.
Once again, yes, you keep coming back to it. I guess I am optimistic fundamentally because I know in my own case it did work. I actually started to bust down those barriers that had been keeping me back. So I know it can happen. I wish there was a one-size-fits-all solution for people out there who are interested. All I can say is follow your interests in the things that you find fascinating about this and be prepared to challenge what you thought you knew.
Alex Tsakiris: Wonderful, James. I don’t think you could have given a better advertisement for The Corbett Report. I hope people will check it out and you’ll get exposed to this very open, fair-minded approach that you take which I think is very refreshing.
So if that little bit that you gave us there didn’t pique anyone’s interest, I’d dare to say your interest cannot be piqued. I hope people do check out your site and the various places that it can take you because you have many different outlets for the work that you do. The Corbett Report on YouTube, your radio show, there are many, many outlets for it.
It’s been wonderful having you on Skeptiko. Any thoughts before we let you go?
James Corbett: Just on that note I’d like to once again stress to everyone that part of what I’ve been talking about today is the Internet and how that’s helping us to break through the paradigm. But that only works if people get involved in it, so one thing that I always stress to my audience is that I’m no one special. I’m just a regular guy here in Japan who encountered some amazing information and wanted to share it with others.
So what I do is nothing special in and of itself and it’s something that anyone out there can do. So if you have a particular topic that you are interested in and you have something to contribute, I say get into it with all your heart and soul and energy because that is truly what will affect the change that we want to see, whether it’s busting down the walls of scientific establishment academia or politics or whatever it is. If you don’t get invested in this and actually put your energy into it, I think the world will be a sadder place for not having that in it.
I always encourage people to get involved in this themselves and start rolling up their sleeves and doing what work they can and what work they have to, really, to try and spread the truth and information to other people.
Alex Tsakiris: Well said, James. That’s wonderful. Thanks again and we’d love to follow up with you and see where your journey takes you and reconnect sometime. We’ll have to make that happen.
James Corbett: Thank you, Alex, it’s been a pleasure.