Back last August, I heard about a great, great opportunity for... well, I don't know what exactly, but it was an invitation to a cruise in which many many conspiracy theories and varieties of pseudoscience would be featured (vaccine "science", geoengineering, AIDS denialism, dowsing...)
On August 14, 2015 , Orac talked about the cruise at Respectful Insolence The Woo Boat; David Gorski amplified on August 16: The Woo Boat, or: How far Andrew Wakefield has fallen, and specifically asked for some skeptical folks if they could possibly join the cruise.
Image Source: https://www.divinetravels.com/ConspiraSea2016Speakers.html Click to embiggen
So Colin McRoberts decided he had to experience this. Who is Colin McRoberts? Now, I've never met Colin in person, but I became aware of him after he published a blog post, The Most Important Playground Conversation: How to Persuade a Friend to Vaccinate. I was really impressed with his approach. Later, I participated in a sort of webinar he gave, on the topic of persuasion in the context of talking with vaccine-hesitant and vaccine-resistant parents.
Here's what he said about himself for his GoFundMe page:
My name is Colin McRoberts. I’m an attorney and a consultant in the field of negotiation and persuasion. Fringe beliefs and their believers fascinate me. And for the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the outside world relates to those beliefs. I’m writing a book, tentatively titled “The Good Fight: Engaging Irrational Ideologies." It looks at how and why people come to believe irrational things like, well, like all the beliefs that will be represented on the ConspiraSea Cruise. I’m also explaining how to engage with someone who believes in things like that, either to understand them better or to try to help them see why their beliefs are irrational. (Since that requires understanding them and their beliefs anyway, understanding is the critical step here.) To better understand people who believe things I can’t believe people believe, I’ve interviewed some very interesting people for the book. I’ve also done a lot of research on the people who wouldn’t or couldn’t grant an interview. That’s been educational, but the Conspira-Sea Cruise is an unprecedented opportunity. When else will so many prominent believers in so many strange beliefs be gathered together for the explicit purpose of explaining themselves?
Colin also blogged about his interest in participating in the cruise at the blog Violent Metaphors which primarily features the writing of anthropologist Jennifer Raff. In September, McRoberts announced a GoFundMe to underwrite his participation, in Deep (Conspira)Sea Fishing: A Fundraising Drive. In January, McRoberts reminded his audience that the cruise was coming up, and solicited questions, in Anchors Aweigh! The Conspiracy Cruise Sails Soon.
The great cruise finally began
- January 26, 2016 A skeptic on the Conspira-Sea Cruise: Day 1- Brief description of what is to come; emphasizing the quality of personal relationships; emphasizing that he will NOT be discussing the personal conversations he had with most people.
- January 27, 2016 Reverse the Constitutional Polarity of the Baryonic Trustee Matrix: Legal Gibberish on the ConspiraSea Cruise (Day 2) -= Colin's take on Winston Shrout's pseudolaw presentation, and the harms it can do; Sean David Morton's legal theories parents can use to avoid vaccine mandates.
- January 28, 2016 Nothing to fear: ConspiraSea cruise day 3 -Reflecting on the pleasantness of inateracting with other ConspiraSea attendees; disappointed in being called "a stalker".
- January 30 Troubled Waters: ConspiraSea Cruise Day 4(ish) In which Colin learns that at least three other reporters will be covering the ConspiraSea; Anna Merlen, Bronwen Dickey and photographer Dina Litovsky; how Horowitz and Kane publicly berated Litovsky.
- January 30, 2016 A skeptic on the ConspiraSea cruise, day 5: I Just Can’t Do Another Nautical Pun In which Horowitz and Kane again verbally attack Bronwen Dickey and Dina Litovsky, while a prominent anti-vaccine advocate defends them. Then, a "long, angry" Wakefield presentation in which McRoberts is put on the spot.
- February 4, 2016 ConspiraSea Cruise Day 5 Part 2: I Took The Bait More on "long, angry" Wakefield presentation in which McRoberts is put on the spot.
- February 7, 2015 ConspiraSea Day Six: You know who exposes real conspiracies? The media. McRoberts on the exclusion of actual journalists from presentations and why that's such a bad idea; poor messaging of Jeffery Smith, anti-GMO activist; more on Horowitz and Kane's threatening behavior
- February 9, 2016 ConspiraSea Day 7: I Failed In which McRoberts tries hard to convince a fellow guest that taking Sean David Morton's financial and legal advice would be a disaster.
- February 15, 2016 An Interview with Andrew Wakefield McRoberts's interview with Wakefield, with commentary by Matt Carey. NOTE: Also posted at LeftBrainRightBrain Autism News Science and Opinion An Interview with Andrew Wakefield
I want to emphasize something that Colin wrote - he repeated this sentiment several times with different phrasing.
I want to reiterate that the ConspiraSea Cruise was an overall very positive experience, due largely to the friendly and open people who attended it. People with fringe beliefs need more opportunities like this to come together and openly discuss their ideas. They’re going to draw some criticism, and that’s fine. Ideas that can’t withstand criticism aren’t very good ideas.
There will be (I hope) more articles forthcoming from Bronwen Dickey (on assignment for Popular Mechanics, accompanied by photographer Dina Litovsky)and Anna Merlan (on assignment for Jezebel). It's available! Update: Dickey's article will appear in the July issue!
Coverage from reporters on the ConspiraSea (this list will be updated as posts appear)
- February 25, 2016 Anna Merlan, Jezebel, Sail (Far) Away: At Sea with America's Largest Floating Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists (edited to add: this excellent long-form article covers some of the presentations that Colin McRoberts did not see, and names names about the confrontations that McRoberts alluded to.)
Other coverage -- skeptical (this list will be updated as posts appear)
- February 9, 2016, April Glaser at Wired, A Skeptic Infiltrates a Cruise for Conspiracy Theorists (Interview with Colin McRoberts)
- February 15, 2016, Kylie Sturgess at Committee for Skeptical Inquiry A Skeptic on the ConspiraSea Cruise—Interview with Colin McRoberts
- February 26, 2016, Orac Knows at Respectful Insolence The Woo Boat, part 2: Andrew Wakefield versus the skeptics
- March 13, 2016 The Prism Podcast with Grant Ritchey DDS, Clay Jones MD and Colin McRoberts Colin McRoberts Interview
Other coverage -- anti-skeptical (this list will be updated as posts appear)
- (undated) Leonard G. Horowitz and Sherri Kane, War on We the People, Big Pharma Propagandists Summary, Definitions and Foreword
- (undated) Leonard G. Horowitz and Sherri Kane, War on We the People, Larry Cook – California SB 277 “Activist” Double Agent
Disclosure: I contributed to the GoFundMe for Colin McRoberts