Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Conspiracy Skeptic

To avoid any integrity-shattering conflict of interest, I'll be reviewing the latest episode of Karl Mamer's The Conspiracy Skeptic. Karl's guest happens to be Nigel St. Whitehall, proprietor of this very blog, and Karl himself often posts here. So, you can see why I've been brought in as a disinterested party. Despite the fact that I was recently interviewed by Karl for this blog, this blog often offers favorable commentary on my podcast, this very episode of The Conspiracy Skeptic features a plug for my podcast's pledge drive, and I'm being paid a large sum of cash by Mr. St. Whitehall for offering a "fair" opinion.

Luckily for you, dear reader, I cannot be bought. Unfortunately for Mr. St. Whitehall, I am encouraging him to try.

This is all to say that you have no reason not to believe me when I contend this latest Conspiracy Skeptic is enjoyable in the extreme. I love a good conspiracy theory, but there are only so many times one can listen to the facts about the JFK assassination, the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, or the murder and android replacement of Sir Paul McCartney. Mr. St. Whitehall chooses instead to turn a skeptical eye toward a more obscure conspiracy: the sinking of the HMS Invincible.

As I didn't break loose from my government-operated vat of artificial amniose until the early '00s, I knew almost nothing about the Falklands War of 1982, during which this conspiracy is set. Indeed, all I knew was that it involved an armed property dispute between Peter Falk and his local homeowners association over whether the actor's property ended at the trunk of a sycamore tree or at a telephone poll three meters due east. Turns out I was wrong about all that.

As Mr. St. Whitehall expertly and entertainingly explicates, the Falklands War erupted between Argentina and Great Britain when the South American country attempted to annex the Falkland Islands from British control. The Argentinians believed the British military to be incapable and unwilling to put up a trans-Atlantic fight, but they underestimated the fighting spirit of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And by "fighting spirit", of course, I mean "bloodthirsty rage". Though the Royal Navy was a little worse for wear after so many decades retreating from non-violent revolutionaries in countries where the British had no right to be, the U.K. sent their rickety flotilla to the Falklands, repelling the Argentinian invaders and securing English ownership of a useless glob of godforsaken landmasses. God save the queen.

Conspiracy mongers claim that one of the British ships, the HMS Invincible, was destroyed by the Argentinians but that the British covered this up to save face. It's an intriguing conspiracy theory, not only because of its hilarious implausibility but because of its stunning triviality. The most fascinating part about a conspiracy-oriented mind is its compulsion to find cover-ups and misdeeds everywhere it turns its attention. As Mr. St. Whitehall and Karl discuss, this particular conspiracy wouldn't have affected reality much even if it were true. Had the British and Americans miraculously created a duplicate of the embarrassingly sunken Invincible in an Alabama shipyard, as one theory posits, Argentina still would have been defeated. The British would still be the victors. The whole thing is weirdly mundane, which is also what makes it so appealing to this listener.

So, for offering both a pleasant look into recent-yet-forgotten history as well as a mostly unknown conspiracy theory, I give this episode some number of stars.

A large number.

Not sure about the scale here.

And that has almost nothing to do with a powerhouse cameo by Lady Whitehall, who brings a refreshing dose of airy truthfulness about halfway through this episode.


  1. You keyed on something I thought Nigel was very insightful about and I missed: true or not, it didn't change the outcome. It's not like the Tuesday morning football/hockey fan that's like "If we only..."

    In some further reading, the US offer to loan the UK an aircraft carrier has some skepticism. While the offer may have been made in earnest, people point out it would take months to get even a skeleton crew up and running on how to sail the thing, work the elevators, where people need to crouch when a jet launches, etc.

    The claim the soviets offered to sink a british aircraft carrier came from the junta leader himself. While it may have been a genuine offer it might also have been the junta leader's face saving "we fought an honorable war" revisionism.

    I touched on the point but when you look at the Falklands War you can see how this influenced a lot that is going on today. The UK feels it needs to back the US in conflicts because the US was behind them. Even Thatcher bent over backwards to help Pinochet a couple years ago because Pinochet gave the British lots of military intelligence.

  2. My take on the whole aircraft carrier offer by the U.S. Is that if it actually happened and if accepted by the Brits would have really caused the U.S. To be a belligerent. The only viable way for the ship to be used is with an American crew and a Royal Navy command. This was done in 1914 with Germans and Turks. (It always goes back to the Great War.). The implications are obvious which does make me question how serious any possible overture was at the time. Boys and their martial dreams in a middle aged man.

  3. Having listened to the show again with the wife, the chat about the war (or conflict for purist) was the better part of the show. The conspiracy itself is just plain silly.

    I wonder if there are any Grenada operation conspiracies . . .

  4. This was my first conspiracy skeptic podcast, and I really enjoyed - the mix of history lesson/skepticism was brilliant, and I'm certainly going to check the back episodes.

    'Nigel' was a good guest and spoke with authority on the topic, he reminded me of Dan Carlin on Hardcore History at times, which is no bad thing. I wonder if he fancies being a gurst on our Just Skeptics podcast at some point.... nudge nudge, wink wink. ;-)

  5. Er, oops, forgot to sign in for my comment. This is Gavin from Just Skeptics/Righteous Indignation.


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