In recent years, mathematician Pepijn van Erp has risen to prominence within the skeptical movement in the Netherlands. He started blogging about flawed application of statistics in both scientific and pseudoscientific articles, and got involved with Stichting Skepsis as a board member in 2012.
Nowadays he regularly writes articles on various dubious claims in an investigative journalistic style on skeptical blog KloptDatWel.nl (mostly in Dutch) and his own website (mostly in English). Van Erp is occasionally invited to give his expert opinion on radio shows about conspiracy theories, fake news and other topics that skeptics are concerned about. To him, skepticism is ‘interesting and funny’, but also a ‘civic duty’ to protect people from harm.
Viralgranskaren (‘The Viral Monitor’) is a standing column of the Swedish branch of the international freesheet newspaper Metro(that is also originally from Sweden). They specialise in finding out whether viral videos and stories are actually true, and encourage people to fact-check before sharing something on social media.
On 18 November 2016, they created both a Swedish and an English version of a video explaining why fact-checking news reports is important.
The example they give is of a story that went viral in late October 2016. It was based on a real news article from Sveriges Television (SVT). However, xenophobic conspiracy right-wing websites, blogs, shock-logs etc., especially outside Sweden (e.g. Infowars), seized upon the article – that didn’t even mention Islam, Muslims or refugees – to claim that decorative Christmas lights were ‘banned to avoid offending Muslim migrants’. (more…)
A conversation between German pupils (translated by Leon Korteweg).
Apparently, René has a school assignment to write about freemasonry, but he is a bit lazy, so he asks his Facebook friends.
René: “Can anyone say something about the Freemasons? What they are what they do etc” Christine: “How about checking Wikipedia?” René: “Thanks Mrs Clever but [the teacher] said we couldn’t copy from Wikipedia.” Jan: “Then read it through and summarise it.” René: “Nah too much text, I already got bored at the first sentence.” Jan: “Ok then I won’t be like that for once. Freemasons are former East Germans that we’ve got the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall to thank for. Namely, they tore down the Wall with hammer and sickle. Hence the name Freemasons [Freimaurer, lit. ‘Free-Wallers’]. Today, they are a kind of secret society. In the winter, they live in the mountains and dig for Christmas bread, in the summer they bend bananas straight to conform to EU standards.” René: “Wtf? Would you be angry if I would just copypaste this from you?” Jan: “Oh no, not at all. Don’t worry.”
The Süddeutsche Zeitung (South German Times) got hold of this conversation, where Jan successfully jokingly fooled René, who ignored Christine’s and Jan’s rather good idea to read Wikipedia for basic –and generally reliable– information. The Zeitung comments: ‘We couldn’t have explained it better’, referring to Jan’s fictional summary of freemasonry.
Roland Düringer – a comedian who has entered politics and spreads all kinds of conspiracy theories;
Krebszentrum Brüggen-Bracht – the alternative cancer clinic of Heilpraktiker Klaus Ross, where at least three patients died recently after receiving fatal injections that have stirred up controversy.
The website www.zentrum-der-gesundheit.de receives the Golden Board Lifetime Achievement Award (Goldenes Brett fürs Lebenswerk).
The annually awarded Golden Board honours “the most bizarre, most outrageous, brashest pseudoscientific nonsense contribution of the year in German-speaking countries.” This year’s winner will be presented on 11 October in Vienna, Austria.
Dutch journalist Maarten Reijnders wrote a book about the currently most popular and (in)famous conspiracy theories and their proponents in the Netherlands. The book, titled Complotdenkers – Hoe gevaarlijk is het geloof in samenzweringstheorieën? (‘Conspiracists – How dangerous is belief in conspiracy theories?’) was deliberately published on 11 September 2016, because the 9/11 Truth movement is one of the most prominent of these phenomena in Western society at the moment. Skeptic Pepijn van Erp wrote a review; here is an excerpt:
Reijnders defines ‘conspiracists’ as people who believe in lots of different conspiracy theories at the same time, or draw rather far-reaching conclusions from such a conspiracy belief system. He calls a collective of such conspiracists a conspiracy church. That is a broad church, with many schisms. With liberals and literalists. With soft, kind and harmless believers, but also with some extremist fundamentalists. (…)
It can lead to contempt for innocent people and minorities, and we can still see enough suffering caused by that today. And we also know the example of the disastrous HIV/AIDS policy in South Africa under Mbeki, based on completely pseudoscientific ideas, that has led to an early death for an estimated 330,000 people.