Last time, I was talking about propaganda and censorship in politics. As most people know, things have been getting rather Orwellian recently. Free speech is under attack. People have lost their jobs because “all lives matter” is somehow racist. Left-wing activists are pushing for censorship on the pretence that all opposing views are hate crimes. On top of that certain so-called journalists are peddling fake news and doublespeak “fact checks” in a patent blatant fashion. I’d say Bari Weiss’s resignation letter is a sign of the times. That’s the New York Times. She said “if a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinised”. She also said “online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets”. The situation is not good, and it’s been getting worse. As for what’s been going on, I think it’s like Rich Lowry said in the National Review: “America’s newsrooms are becoming like college campuses”.
In academia, propaganda and censorship is a way of life
We all know about the no-platforming censorship in places like Oxford and Cambridge. But not everybody knows that this policy started a long time ago. Here in the UK, the National Union of Students adopted it in 1973. Note though that it isn’t just the students doing this sort of thing. In academia, propaganda and censorship is a way of life. They fight like ferrets in a sack. Intolerance is rife, groupthink is the norm. Do you remember Climategate? I’m a real green¹, but that left a bad taste in the mouth. Scientists at East Anglia fiddled the statistics, deleted data to dodge FOI requests, bullied dissenters, and tried to prevent publication of contradictory papers. They even tried to erase the medieval warming period:
Battle of the graphs image from the Arizona Daily Independent
James Delingpole said “the incompetence, corruption, malfeasance, bullying, and mendacity by these taxpayer-funded scientists was just so widespread and blatant”. It was blatant, but they’ve been getting away with it because for some, the Goebbels big lie works. Sections of the media kept pumping out the propaganda, and now the Wikipedia article contains gems like this: “Fact-checkers confirmed that climate change deniers misrepresented the contents of the emails”. Compare and contrast with the Conservapedia article. Do your own research and think for yourself.
Academics live in a dog-eat-dog world
When you do, you come to appreciate that such behaviour isn’t just limited to climate science. It’s there in physics too. Luboš Motl is shining example of that. He’s a somewhat unpleasant individual who promotes string theory and other speculations such as AdS/CFT correspondence. He has a blog called The Reference Frame where he censors contrary comments, then badmouths their authors whilst blackballing them so they can’t reply². Propaganda and censorship run through Motl like the lettering through a stick of Blackpool rock. Why is he like this? Was he over-indulged as a child? Did he attend some bastion of privilege in his formative years? I don’t know. But I think part of the problem is the way academics live in a dog-eat-dog world. If you’re a physics graduate, it’s tough to get a job in physics. Only about 15% manage it, then life as a postdoc is insecure and competitive. It can be an unhappy experience, especially since only about 8% of PhDs will ever become professors. With so much competition I imagine some postdocs are tempted to do everything they can to further their own interests. Then perhaps self-promotion can morph into propaganda, and the pressures of publish or perish can lead to academic dishonesty. Meanwhile there’s surely a desire to curry favour with the “experts in the field” who can use peer review to prevent any challenge to their status quo:
Peer review by Nick Kim, see Science and Ink
So it’s look after number one along with run with the herd. It’s tooth and nail and don’t make waves. On top of that there’s sometimes an intellectual arrogance that comes from thinking you’re the brightest and the best. Of course, Motl isn’t in academia any more, but he didn’t turn bad after he got kicked out of Harvard. He turned bad long before that.
Peer review is a protection racket
Of course, not all physicists are like Motl. Some are great people. However these are often the people who aren’t in academia, or the people who tell me they can’t get their rock-solid fundamental physics paper published in Nature. Even though it’s always got room for a paper with quantum in the title. These are the people who say things like please don’t reveal my name because I’m a walking talking example of don’t rock the boat or you’ll never make full professor. I get a definite sense from them that peer review is a protection racket. It protects professors and institutions with a vested interest in current theory. Hence it stands four-square in the way of scientific progress. Peer review is portrayed as an essential quality control, but I think it enforces an orthodoxy that shields “the mainstream” from any challenge. Not only that, but I think scientific publishing permits this racket because it is in itself a racket. Joe Public pays for scientific research via taxes and funding grants, then has to pay again to read the results of that research:
Image by Jorge Cham from PhD Comies found on The Academic Publishing Protection Racket by Philip Tagg
Scientific publishers make fat profits from their cosy relationships with the experts in the field, who are often the paymaster heads of departments and directors of institutes. Who in turn have cosy relationships with the wider media. Meanwhile science editors do not bite the hand that feed them, so here we are.
The arXiv has its “moderators”
Some might say that peer review isn’t important any more, because physicists can publish their work on the arXiv. However the arXiv has its “moderators”. Only they’re not really moderators. They’re gatekeepers. See Brian Josephson’s 2004 article on covert censorship by the physics preprint archive. Scratch the surface and you soon find things like does anyone have experience with arXiv policy? by Jean Dutailly dating from 2014. I think Herb Spencer hit the nail on the head with his comment saying “this is still a conservative Old Boys Club to promote & protect the insiders; just like the ‘refereed’ journals used to boost their careers”. Also see the suppression of Dr Rowlands’ quantum physics paper on the archive freedom website. There’s other case histories, including some which are utterly Kafkaesque: I can’t upload my paper. You now need an endorser. OK, Hans Bethe endorses me. Sorry, not good enough. OK I’ve found another guy to endorse me. Aha, we’ve revoked his endorsement capability. That doesn’t sound too good does it? It isn’t. That’s why Philip Gibbs set up viXra. He says the arXiv was originally open to submissions from all scientific researchers, but gradually a policy of moderation was employed, then an endorsement system. He goes on to say that in 2004 “many of us who had successfully submitted e-prints before then found that we were no longer able to. Even those with doctorates in physics and long histories of publication in scientific journals can no longer contribute to the arXiv unless they can find an endorser in a suitable research institution”. So in essence the guild of institutional physicists who receive public funding managed to shut out the physicists who don’t. They turned it into a closed shop. Not good at all.
Moderators are thought police
What’s worse is that we have “moderators” on just about every physics website you care to name. Only again they aren’t actually moderators. They don’t break up arguments and deal with bad behaviour. Au contraire, it’s like Bari Weiss said: “online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets”. Those moderators are thought police. If you tell people that Einstein said the speed of light is spatially variable, or if you tell them that the ascending light beam speeds up, you’re heading for trouble. That’s because you’re saying Stephen Hawking is wrong, because he talked about “such a strong gravitational field that even the ‘outgoing’ light rays from it are dragged back”. They aren’t dragged back. In a strong gravitational field there’s a steeper gradient in the “coordinate” speed of light, so the ascending light beam speeds up even more. The moot point is that if Hawking is wrong, most of black hole physics is wrong, along with Misner Thorne and Wheeler. This tends to get rejected on hubristic grounds rather than via evidence and reason.
Free speech is not permitted on physicsforums
That was demonstrated in the recent comment by “Alphanumeric”. His real name is George Weatherill. He has a maths BA and MA from Cambridge, and a physics PhD from Southampton. His father is Nigel Weatherill, the former vice-chancellor at Liverpool John Moore who left suddenly. George’s comment was unpleasant. He said “every single respectable forum you ever joined either kicked you off or had your claims shredded by actual physicists”. The first part is mostly true, the second part isn’t true at all. I was banned left right and centre because nobody could shred what I was saying. You can first see me talking as user “Farsight” on physicsforums.com in 2006. I was actually banned there for duplicate accounts because I re-registered whilst suspended. My bad, I was just starting out. But even then you could see the rumblings. See for example why can we not see the future where I was talking to JesseM about time. Then “moderator” Zapperz came along and closed the thread. He said “this thread has gone on far too long, and has verged on many speculative ideas”. Free speech is not permitted on physicsforums³. Years later I posted there under my own name. That was fun, but it didn’t last long. Like I said, free speech is not permitted on physicsforums³. It is the ultimate safe space, a hotbed of censorship, under the pretence that they’re protecting young minds. The truth is they’re trying to catch ‘em young, and Greg Bernhardt is fine with that. (Edit 2nd August 2020: I’ve just seen this fine example of censorship of physicsforums, accompanied by the usual ad-hominem nonsense. Tsk. I’ll see if I can ask a friend to have a word.)
Against the mainstream
It’s similar at scienceforums.net, where “moderator” Tom Swanson chucked my threads in the trashcan and banned me. Even though my posts were good. Or should I say because my posts were good. That was especially true of the BAUT forum, now called Cosmoquest. My threads there were excellent. See for example Einstein’s Gravity in the Against the Mainstream section in 2009. I won the debate hands down, so they banned me on some trumped-up charge. I didn’t know BAUT later became Cosmoquest, and registered a year or two ago as the physics detective. After a while I realised the place was familiar, and told the guys. The next day I was banned for the reason sockpuppet. Once these people decide you’re dangerous, it’s a life sentence. Another forum I frequented was sciforums.com. There were some good guys on there, but gradually it went downhill, with ever more “moderation” and abuse. However I’m not visibly banned there. They just stopped me posting in the physics and math section. The warnings I received from rpenner were just ridiculous. He didn’t want any talk of spin:
In my experience the “moderation” and abuse tends to get particularly bad if prove your point. Take a look at my posts on thephysicsforum.com. See for example The Varying Speed of Light dating from 2014. It gives some great references, including a whole rack of Einstein quotes, but “moderator” Markus Hanke kicked it into a trashcan called personal theories and alternative hypothesis. Then he banned me, whilst doing nothing about the abuse. It was similar at thescienceforum. Banned. And at the naked scientists of Cambridge. Banned. You can view my posts by entering Farsight or JohnDuffield here. They’re good posts. That’s why I got banned. It’s the same at the international skeptics forum, formerly known as JREF. Banned. Banned. Banned. The censorship is endemic, and it’s been going on for years. The unpleasantness has been going on for years too. All too often the moderators condone it, then penalise you for answering back. Sometimes they even join in. What a pity I can’t show you the physorg forum, where things were really nasty. But it turned into a huge embarrassment, and now it’s long defunct. What else? I was shadowbanned at Reddit because of the “evidence” of a hit-piece page on RationalWiki. I managed to show the RationalWiki guys that I was one of the good guys, so they deleted it. However they didn’t delete the associated talk page which some still try to use as a hit piece. The dishonesty is despicable. It is a disgrace.
Self-appointed experts peddle bad science, pseudoscience, and lies-to-children
I think one of the worst examples is physics stack exchange. It’s a question-and-answer website where self-appointed experts peddle bad science, pseudoscience, and lies-to-children. All too often certain answers are amazingly incredibly wrong, and yet when you wake up next morning, they’ve got fifty upvotes. I’m confident that a certain high-rep poster with a PhD from Cambridge, who now monitors servers for a living, has a awful lot of online friends.
Sock puppet images from various sources, see Google images
Meanwhile woe betide anybody who has the temerity to give a correct answer backed up by impeccable references. Moderators like dmckee would use the chatroom to slyly call for downvotes. Then before anybody has had the time to read your answer, you find that it‘s got thirteen downvotes. Then unluckily for you, you get an email talking about “a large number of inaccurate, poorly-received answers”. The last line says “we have temporarily suspended your account; you may return after 365 days”. Meanwhile your explanatory comments disappear but the abuse doesn’t. Because as ever, those guys aren’t moderators. They’re custodians of ignorance. They’re the sneering secret police, administering punishment beatings and making people disappear. That’s because their primary role is to guard things like MTW and the Standard Model against all threat. Including E=mc². If you say “the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content”, you are persona non-grata. Because they’ve been telling everybody that the mass of a body is a measure of its interaction with the Higgs field.
A spectrum of propaganda and censorship along with intellectual arrogance
Sadly some physics bloggers share similar traits. Some are arrogant, some peddle bad science, and some have surprisingly little physics knowledge. In addition some see their blog as their very own safe space for self-promotion, a place where deleting physics comments is just fine and dandy. I think more and more people appreciate this. Whilst Lost in Maths author Sabine Hossenfelder is no Luboš Motl, I think a lot of people now appreciate that her blog is the Sabine Hossenfelder show. If your comment refers to “Einstein and the evidence” but somehow shows her in a bad light, that comment will never see the light of day. It’s similar on some other blogs. Not all blogs are like that of course, only some. I’ll perhaps write about that sometime. For now I’d say there’s a spectrum of propaganda and censorship along with intellectual arrogance⁴. Perhaps it’s related to academic seniority. It’s as if some of these people think all their readers are their pupils. Did you ever try correcting a schoolmaster? They have a bad habit of going white round the gills and hyperventilating, then they get really angry. I think it’s even worse when the guy has a PhD, and worse still when he’s a professor. The sentiment seems to be that he’s the expert, and you’re just some munchkin who knows nothing. And who notices nothing.
He portrays himself as some white-knight champion of the people, but he’s nothing of the sort
Talking of which, take a look at Peter Woit’s blog, and have a read of his post on censored comments from The Reference Frame. The irony is breathtaking. Woit complains about Motl censoring comments, when Woit is one of the biggest comment censors there is. He portrays himself as some white-knight champion of physics, but he’s nothing of the sort. He criticises string theory, but he’s also a sneaky apologist for the Standard Model. Try posting something critical of the Standard Model on Woit’s blog, and your comment will disappear. Meanwhile Woit will keep on pumping out the propaganda for HEP. Don’t believe me? Note that Woit’s latest article What is spin? finished with a puff-piece for CERN. Now check out this comment I posted on that article:
Those are great references to Hans Ohanian’s paper What is Spin?, Born and Infeld, and the Feynman lectures. But that comment wasn’t awaiting moderation. It was awaiting deletion. Woit deleted it⁵, because Woit is the Benedict Arnold of fundamental physics. He is the cuckoo in the nest. He won’t permit such a comment because once you know that the electron is a dynamical wave construct, you soon work out that the electron and the positron move akin to counter-rotating vortices. Then you appreciate that there are no messenger particles. Which tells you that Carlo Rubbia cannot have discovered the W boson or the Z boson. It also tells you that charge is just a name for a sinusoidal electromagnetic field-variation wrapped and trapped in a chiral spin ½ loop so it looks like an all-round standing field. That tells you that color charge has no foundation, and nor does the quark model. Which tells you that Fermilab couldn’t have discovered the top quark. You also appreciate that the electron’s mass is just resistance to change-in-motion for a wave in a closed path. Which tells you that CERN couldn’t have discovered the Higgs boson.
A guild that’s been living a life of ease on the public purse
After all that, the whole ivory tower of lies-to-children comes tumbling down. Then you come to appreciate that the fundamental physics community is like a guild that’s been living a life of ease on the public purse. They haven’t delivered any scientific progress in over fifty years, ever since Feynman and Gell-Mann sat smirking in the front row in 1968. Instead they’ve stood in the way of scientific progress, using your money. I don’t think the situation can persist. That’s because we have the internet, because people aren’t stupid, and because there’s such a thing as the wisdom of crowds. Every year more and more people know about the physics I’ve been telling you about. Physics with a pedigree going back to Newton and Maxwell and Einstein and Schrödinger. Every year more and more people know that this physics has been censored by those who tell you the electron is a point particle and spin is magic. It’s been suppressed by a magisterium of mysticism which has dug itself into a hole with “discoveries” that are nothing of the kind. An elitist fraternity which has painted itself into a corner with the big-science scientific fraud used to prop up the Standard Model. A physics mafia that does not believe in free speech in science and cannot admit that it‘s wrong. And so it comes to pass that you come to appreciate what Alexander Unzicker has been saying:
Cover image from Amazon.co.uk, see The Higgs Fake
People say we should defund the BBC, because they use our money to pay for their propaganda and censorship and fatcat salaries. But the BBC are just the tip of the iceberg. This sort of thing has been going on in physics for fifty years. We think we’ve been funding fundamental physics, but actually we’ve been funding the propaganda and censorship that has stifled it. That’s why Unzicker is saying we should defund fundamental physics, because it’s corrupt. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s right. I certainly think we have to do something major, because physics is withering on the vine. As for what, that’s one for another day. Meanwhile, I know that other people share this sentiment, and the number is increasing all the time. So I don’t think the current situation will continue. I think there’s a scientific revolution coming. Make sure you’re on the right side of it.
- I must write about this some time. Don’t think that I think, that the works of man cannot affect the climate. Think this instead: I hate the word “denier” because it’s the modern equivalent of “heretic”. I also hate it when the guy who tells me I shouldn’t have a natural gas boiler flies 200,000 miles a year in a private jet. Did anybody notice how clear the skies were when the planes stopped flying?
- This is so well known it’s now a badge of honour to be worn with pride.
- It’s like the first rule of fight club.
- Let me know where this blog is on that spectrum. Long wave radio? Ultraviolet? Hard Gamma?
- I posted it again a couple of days later to make sure there was no mistake. Woit deleted it again. Perhaps it will appear in a couple of weeks when the world has moved on. Always save your comment when posting to a blog.