Is there any defence against the tidal wave of online disinformation?

Whether you’re left, right or just somewhere vaguely in between, wherever you’re coming from you may well have a sense that things are somehow not quite right, that the country is headed in the wrong direction, that our various problems and crises seem to be multiplying. You may well have concluded that this is because our institutions have been taken over by an out-of-touch elite who run the government, the judiciary, the media and goodness knows what else, and that the only way to discover the real truth is to do your own research, which involves scrolling through the internet because you no longer trust the ‘mainstream media’. Pizzagate, in

Mad men plotting: The Unfolding, by A.M. Homes, reviewed

Fifteen years ago, A.M. Homes published The Mistress’s Daughter, an explosive, painful account of how she met her birth mother, Ellen, who had placed her for adoption as a baby when, as a very young woman, she became pregnant in the course of an affair with an older, married man. Perhaps the most memorable scene depicts her mother, who had instigated the contact between them when Homes was in her early thirties, appearing without warning at a reading Homes was giving in a bookshop. The writer’s panic and discomfort at this unexpected ambush, and her sense of what it might foreshadow, were palpable (and she was not wrong. Ellen’s desperate,

A bored business administrator in Leicester puts the intelligence services to shame

In the summer of 2012, a man was walking near Jabal Shashabo, a Syrian rebel enclave, when he spotted a group of turquoise canisters with what appeared to be tail fins attached. He picked up one of the objects and filmed it. Later he uploaded his video to YouTube. What were those strange turquoise cans? The answer was provided not by a UN investigator, war correspondent or military expert, but by a bored business administrator at his desk in Leicester. He had never been to Syria, spoke no Arabic and by his own admission knew nothing about weaponry. But Eliot Higgins had become fascinated by the war in Syria, and

How cults crumble

There’s something creepy about the way we call Donald Trump fans a cult, then watch them hungrily, hoping they’ll do something colourful, though not actually threatening — like self-immolate, perhaps. Lockdown is boring and we’ve watched everything on Netflix. So, MSNBC and chill. But not all MAGA fans are cultish, and not all political cults are on the right. 2020 acted like a cult accelerator, and now there are half-brainwashed people everywhere, on every part of the political spectrum, in your family, among your friends. How can you tell? It’s all in the eyes. It’s famously hard to define a cult. However obviously nutty a group may seem — aliens,

The truth about Adrenochrome

QAnon, the conspiracy theorist’s conspiracy theory, teaches that President Donald Trump is in secret warfare with a worldwide network of paedophiles. As an explanatory model it reminds me of the voices that Gilbert Pinfold hears in Evelyn Waugh’s novel bravely describing his own delusions brought on by too much chloral and crème de menthe. In the QAnon dark world, kidnapped children are, I think, made use of to produce a psychotropic drug and elixir of immortality called adrenochrome. They are no doubt tortured and killed in the process. QAnon did not invent adrenochrome. Aldous Huxley mentions it in The Doors of Perception (1954), which largely explores his experience of mescaline.