The Internet — There is no question that conspiracy theories have found a comfy home on the Internet. After decades of living in marginal publications and casual hearsay among friends, many of these “theories” have found a welcome home largely in closed and private Facebook groups. Within this setting, many far-out and borderline insane discussions take place around the systematic geoengineering (chemtrails) of the skies by elite forces in the upper echelons of society, typically but not limited to the Illuminati, the Gates Foundation and various clandestine government ministries.
Other groups harbor appreciably loud echo chambers about the Flat Earth conspiracy; how elites and shills, especially from NASA, are attempting to convince “sheeple” (a portmanteau of sheep and people) that the globe is round, when it is indeed flat. I’m going to say that again because I’m sure people reading this will think I’m joking: there are a sizable number of people who believe the world is flat, and aggressively pursue and proselytize that.
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are groups dedicated to the hollow earth, that is, believers who think the earth is not round, nor flat but hollow. There are teams of people who, without any sense of irony, believe that the Earth is run by a reptilian alien force and fly over us in spaceships cloaked as clouds, who by the way, are working with other elite forces in chemtrail operations. (It’s a particular delight when conspiracy theorists join forces. It’s even better when they fight among themselves for conspiratorial dominance.)
So if you’re thinking this is a bunch of Internet non-sense, it certainly is. But these believers are louder and more prevalent than ever in online communities like Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums. They’re disrupting normal discourse with odd comments, strange proclamations and Internet “memes” that allow a speaker to say something absurd, non-sequitur or even frankly cruel and vulgar without ever having to take responsibility for it.
And it was starting to get out of hand. That is, until an unofficial collection of scientists, educators and plain-old smart people starting working on something unofficially called the anti-derp movement. A derp is a form of speech or a person (when it’s personified) that engages in stupid speech or foolish actions. Like, insisting that the Earth is flat and using the Bible as evidence for that.
So these anti-derp neo-rationalists have a straight-forward goal: to attempt to reduce the volume of hare-brained, unproven, irrational discourse on the Internet. If that can’t be accomplished with reason, math and science, then they get rough with what they regard as appropriate ridicule, what we would call in another age “shame.”
“Everyone has a right to say what they want,” said ‘Dave’ from Echoplex Media, a popular online organization that focuses on liberal skepticism with a focus on local music and culture. “I think that the best way to handle the ridiculous is with ridicule. Sorry, radicue.[sic. a popular misspelling of ridicule directed at the derp community].”
If that can’t be accomplished by shame, these neo-rationalist anti-derpers use brute force by taking over their Facebook Groups, gaining admin access and shaming them out. These are mini social media coup d’etat.
“We have mostly been support for the guys who are doing the actual work of stealing derp-pages and derp-groups,” continued Dave from Echoplexmedia. “We have done live Internet radio streams of these events. We also will interview literally anyone in hopes that the derpsters make fools of themselves for everyone to see. Hopefully we can get some people on or close to the fence to see what a bunch of codshit this all is.”
Setting the Derp Trap
After these rational warriors assume control of a Facebook Group, typically battles break out in the comment streams as “derpsters” are unaware that their handlers are unraveling their platform and echo chamber. Recently, one such group, the Flat Earth Mental Asylum (or, yes, FEMA) was overtaken by neo-rationalist forces and continues to ‘bait’ flat earth believers into posting.
Many of the anti-derpers’ escapades are chronicled in the secret Facebook group [redacted at the request of the operators], whose mission is “dedicated to discussing, examining, and satirizing the war on science and reason imposed on society by the so-called ‘truther movement.'” And without missing a sardonic or beat, they continue, “or… perhaps we are a collective of government shills financed by reptiles and the Illuminati to spread misinformation amongst the unawakened sheeple.”
Members of this secret movement host many other “colonized” Facebook groups with the hopes of first exposing derp forces to the light of day, and eventually shaming them away with science and math. They also network with other anti-derp activists forming an informal, yet potent neo-rational force. But not all groups have been conquered. Some like the popular Chemtrails Are Killing Us or CAKU as it’s known by anti-derpers, have been run from the outset by anti-derp people. However they use the name of their group to lure chemtrail believers to join only to be ridiculed for their inability to provide evidence to their often outlandish and absurd claims.
The Profile of a Shill and the Way Forward
Of course one might imagine that this movement isn’t without its detractors. Generally the criticism of the anti-derp community is that they’re too harsh on what we presume are people with decreased executive function. And of course, seizing a Facebook group, no matter how righteous one’s cause might be, seems to be a borderline violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service. However there have been converts to reason and science. On more than one occasion, these communities have converted believers into their neo-rational movement, many who have joined their ranks.
And who are these people? These neo-rationalists who are combating what they see as stupidity? Often they are accused by the dummies out there of working for the National Security Agency, the military, NASA, the CIA, or whatever. You get the gist of it. But as we said in the outset of this article, they are really just normal, rational professionals who are tired of uneducated, dense, strident dummkopfs dominating discussions and confusing what would otherwise be moderate, rational people on social media.
“I will either tell them that it’s the functional equivalent of when a Scientologist calls someone a ‘suppressive person’ for questioning the dogma,” continued Dave of Echoplex when questioned how he answers to charges of being a shill, or a person derpers believe are working for the CIA, the NSA or whatever. “Or I will point out that ‘either you agree with me or you are a shill’ is a false dichotomy.”
So next time your social media discussion the beautiful Spring Day is interrupted by someone claiming that our skies are being geoengineered by chemtrails or that the Sun is only a few thousands miles away due to our flat earth, don’t be surprised to find a friendly neighbor anti-derper swooping in to clean up the mess. After all, they’re doing the good work by taking out the stupid.
Gish Gallop would like to thank Dave of Echoplex Media for his contributions to this article.