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Enough with the crazy talk, Eamonn Holmes Crackpot thinking thrives in anxious times. But not on the This Morning sofa, for pity's sake

The truth is out there: Eamonn Holmes and his wife and co-presenter, Ruth Langsford. (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images For Red Bull Air Race)

The truth is out there: Eamonn Holmes and his wife and co-presenter, Ruth Langsford. (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images For Red Bull Air Race)


April 16, 2020   5 mins

Dear Eamonn,

We’ve never met, but we do have a connection. We’ve both lived in the same house on Heathbank Road in Stockport. The Sweets moved out in 1983; you moved in about three years later when you started working at BBC Manchester. Coincidence? Well, yes. Even David Icke would have trouble drawing a sinister line between those two dots. But it’s a coincidence that means whenever I clock you on the telly, I think of my mum and dad.

I thought of them this week, when I saw you on ITV, sharing the contents of your inquiring mind. I found myself remembering a taxi ride I took with my mum in September 2017. We were going to visit my dad after his cancer operation, and the driver wanted to tell us why he’d voted for Brexit. The EU, he said, was a secret plot to re-establish Nazi rule across the continent, and it had to be stopped. As you might appreciate, this wasn’t what either me or my mum wanted to hear at this moment. After we came back from the hospital I rang the cab firm to ask them never to send that driver to us again — rather, I suppose, as hundreds of people rang your employer this week to complain about you.

Let’s remind ourselves of what happened, shall we? On the Easter Monday edition of This Morning, your reporter Alice Beer was debunking one of the more exotic problems of the current crisis — the spate of attacks on 5G phone masts, carried out, it would seem, by people who believe them to be exacerbating or even facilitating the spread of Covid-19. You agreed emphatically with Alice, so I think we can assert that you don’t really believe that a virus can be transferred from bats to humans via radio waves. But the caveat you issued did leave some room for doubt. “What I don’t accept,” you said, doing that stern look I think you may have copied from Huw Edwards, “is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don’t know it’s not true 
 it’s very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative.”

I detect several problems here. The first is the idea that there is any measurable distance between you and the mainstream media. Eamonn, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are the mainstream media. You are to television what the individually-wrapped Weetabix is to a hotel breakfast bar — always present, whether requested or not, and rarely the subject of a strong opinion.

The second problem resides in that little cluster of negatives with which you adumbrate your position on the limits of knowledge. There are, I suppose, an infinite number of things that we don’t know are not true. We don’t know, for instance, that you are not a homunculus operated by a highly-trained owl, though we would be suspicious of anybody who suggested this was a question that merited investigation. It’s harder, however, to push a proposition about corona and the phone signal into this category — or, indeed, any proposition about the health dangers of 5G — because, unlike the possibility that you are a bird-driven human simulacrum, science has already chewed this over very thoroughly, and found no evidence that any such dangers exist.

So I wonder why you said this? Perhaps you read a May 2019 piece in the Daily Mail, quoting the research of the Californian academic who described 5G as a “massive public health experiment”. (But, not, I’d guess, the subsequent article in Scientific American that concluded that his work “pivots on fringe views and fatally flawed conjecture, attempting to circumvent scientific consensus with scaremongering.”) Maybe you’ve been monitoring the Twitter feed of Piers Corbyn, the meteorologist brother of the former Labour leader, through which he shares his view that Bill Gates and George Soros have faked the corona pandemic as part of their bid to surveil the world’s population with 5G and cull it with vaccines.

Or maybe you’ve been streaming the 5G-themed fireside chats hosted by the American writer Naomi Wolf, in which she declares that “there’s almost no objective reporting in mainstream media about the real dangers of 5G,” and warns that “your DNA changes to a precancerous condition when you’re around these cell towers”. Her own reporting in this field includes publishing a link to an approving account of a man named Mark Steele, who is convinced that Gateshead council is poisoning its electorate with 5G transmitters hidden inside the streetlamps. (No such transmitters exist.) Dr Wolf also believes that 5G may be responsible for the headaches and tinnitus suffered by her neighbours in New York. “Everybody who lives in my apartment [block],” she says, “is very much more uncomfortable.” I suppose that’s one explanation.

Conspiracist thinking thrives in anxious times. Corona has made it bloom like mould on toast. The Times caught two British academics from Russell Group universities sharing speculations that the virus is a biological weapon. A journalist for Metro announced that he’d submitted an FOI request to St Thomas’s NHS Trust, suspicious that Boris Johnson had somehow faked his stay in the intensive care unit. (“The PR timing,” tweeted Marcus J Ball, “is just too perfect.”) London Live, the cable television station associated with George Osborne’s London Evening Standard, made the bizarre editorial decision to air an 105-minute interview with David Icke, in which the former Coventry City goalkeeper was permitted to serve a Covid-scented platter of half-digested matter from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

I’ll throw you a bone, here, Eamonn. Intelligent people are not free from these predilections. The Nobel prize-winning chemist Kary Mullis doubts the link between HIV and Aids and strongly suspects that he was once abducted by extraterrestrial racoons. So your willingness to leave a space for conspiracy theories on This Morning does not necessarily mean that you are an idiot. And such an instinct may not always be misguided. Conspiracist thinking can sometimes be virtuous. Ask Bob Woodward, who investigated Watergate, or Chris Mullin, who led the campaign to prove the innocence of the Birmingham Six.

Those who engage in it, however, need to protect themselves against its corrupting effects. The philosopher Quassim Cassam is, I think, our wisest writer on this matter. I’d heartily recommend his work to you. He points out that conspiracy theories can reduce our confidence in knowledge that there is no good reason to doubt. That Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969, for instance, is a bare historical fact. But if you swim in the discourse that claims otherwise, you may find yourself describing the history of the Apollo missions as, let’s say, a “state narrative”.

Likewise, there is no reasonable evidence that the 5G phone signal carries a health risk. But there is a discourse that asserts the opposite — based on unsound extrapolations from weak studies, which have been amplified into certitudes by unreliable commentators. Now, like the Moon landings, George Soros, Zionism, Pizzagate and Atlantis, 5G has entered the repertoire of things that conspiracy theorists like to talk about — and will go on talking about until, I suspect, the arrival of 6G.

On Tuesday, as ITV totted up the complaints, you issued a statement suggesting that your remarks had been misunderstood. You reiterated your rejection of any link between Covid-19 and 5G, but then, astonishingly, repeated your original error. “Many people,” you said, “are rightly concerned and are looking for answers.” Well, there are people think that the Rothschilds were responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, and we would know what to think of a broadcaster who thought such a view worth airing.

Cassam’s book, Vices of the Mind (2019), notes that psychologists have tended to see conspiracist thinking as a problem of mindset. He prefers to regard it as an epistemic vice. A form of intellectual masturbation. And perhaps, if we think of it in this way, it might help to reduce its dangerous allure. So those inclined to regard you as the Noam Chomsky of ITV Daytime, critiquing the MSM between the Danone adverts, might be better simply to think of you as a man who gave into a weakness and discharged something unwelcome in front of his work colleagues.

Nobody would judge you for doing this at home and in private. Visit all the websites you please. Feel free to watch terms such as #soros and #EU and #fourthreich tumble from the hashtag tombola of Piers Corbyn’s twitter feed. And if you want to chat with other people online who are into this kind of stuff, then fine, it’s a free country. But for shame, Eamonn, for shame, not on the This Morning sofa. Not with your wife sitting next to you, and my mum and dad watching at home.

All the best, Matthew


Matthew Sweet is a broadcaster and writer. His books include Inventing the Victorians and Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Fought the CIA, the Brainwashers and Themselves.

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Paul K
Paul K
4 years ago

Ah yes, ‘conspiracy thinking’ and ‘crazy talk.’ Bad things, I’m sure we can all agree. But the question, surely, is how to distinguish genuine ‘crazy talk’ fromhard but legitimate questions which authories do not want asked. And, concurrently, how to tell whether journalists are doing their job of asking those questions, or whether they are shilling for the government’s official line on any issue?

To take one example: asking whether the virus originated in a Chinese lab has, curiously, been dismissed by official sources since the start of the outbreak as ‘crazy talk.’ And indeed by this writer. But is it crazy to ask this question, given what we know about the proximity of the Wuhan virus lab to the ‘wet market’ which the Chinese government tells us is the source of the virus, and the known shoddy safety standards at that lab? Should we blithely trust the assurances of a totalitarian state, and dismiss those who challenge it as a nutters? The Washington Post, not generally known for its conspiracist ravings, doesn’t seem to think so:

https://www.washingtonpost….

Genuine conspiratorial nonsense – faked moon landings, Bilderbeg lizards and the like – needs to be separated from hard questions which go against the official grain. Otherwise journalists, like this writer, end up being useful idiots for power. I’m still old enough to remember the fake Iraq War dossier that all the mainstream journalists lapped up, whilst laughing at the ‘crazy talk’ which suggested it might be cooked up. Be careful that your smug dismissals do not make you a stooge.

Peter Kriens
Peter Kriens
4 years ago

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they leverage the suspecion of authority. Sadly, then journalists and experts try to battle them with more authority, confirming the theory.

Most of the conspiracy theories start with a grain of scientific truth. In the 5g case the relation between the 60GHz frequency & oxygen energy absorbtion is real. You have to understand a lot about mobile phones, e.g. the eternal quest to reduce energy consumption to extend battery life, frequency hopping, as well as signal range that even if operators were silly enough to use this exact frequency, the amount of energy involved makes it extremely unlikely to be harmful. Visible light is made of exactly the same stuff as 5G radiation but contains way more energy. However, this is a complex story that would require more text than people want to read. So what remains is that 5G heats up oxygen molecules and that can’t be good?

The general reaction of journalists is to talk to a few scientists, read a few popular articles, and then tell that the people should accept their authority on these complex issues. Which then confirms the conspiracy theorists suspicions that the main stream media is in on this. Does the author of this article really understands what electro magnetic radiation is, what a phase array antenna is? His authority is delegated, confirming the story.

To attack these conspiracy theorists I think we need to take them more seriously, especially the people that believe them. They have valid concerns and belong to groups that have drawn the short stick in history.

However, somehow we need to show how incredibly unlikely their theories are. Their money & political motives don’t make human sense. The also frequently require a capacity for silence that is beyond human ability.

However, you can only make this clear if people trust you. And the talking class has done a lot of things in the last 50 years to erode that trust.

And we need to teach our kids more science and less woke nonsense.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts
4 years ago

The blanket refusal to accept that conspiracies exist is an anti-conspiracy theory conspiracy theory in itself.

Sasha T.
Sasha T.
4 years ago

Of greater concern than individuals thinking unorthodox thoughts is surely the Groupthink mentality that this virus lockdown has exposed. The widespread gullibility re the fake message from PHE last week is just one example of the hysteria that has infected the populace. I would suggest that thinking more and believing less is generally a good way forward. Oh, and not asserting your power over people with whom you disagree. Argument is better.

Julia McMaster
Julia McMaster
4 years ago

I do not agree with your view. Comparing people warning about the dangers of 5G with conspiracy theorsts might make them look ridiculous, but is certainly not a scientific approach. It has been well known for many years (but generally suppressed) that children living close to cell phone towers have high rates of leukaemia. Listen to Frank Clegg, former president of Microsoft Canada (https://www.youtube.com/wat…, as well as many scientists who are warning of genetic damages, neurological disorders and changes to the reproductive system. I would suggest that you look into this for fairness’ sake.

Amy San
Amy San
4 years ago
Reply to  Julia McMaster

Thank you. He talks about facts as if they were conjecture. He’s not mentioning facts because he cannot dispute them. “Hey everyone pay no mind to the man behind the curtain. Nothing to see there.”. …”Who told you there was a man? That’s just crazy talk.”

Stewart Ware
Stewart Ware
4 years ago

Mr Holmes would have avoided all this opprobrium if he had merely quoted Christopher Hitchens: “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
4 years ago

There are a lot of silly conspiracy theories the media mock. There are silly conspiracy theories the media buy into – Trump as a Russian agent is one that comes to mind. There are in-plain-sight conspiracies the media ignore; eg the Biden family alleged corrupt dealing with Ukraine somehow turned into an impeachment of Trump for raising it with the Ukrainean PM(!). There are things that harm health that governments deny – BSE comes to mind. Obviously 5G masts spreading Covid-9 is silly, but some people conspire and it’s silly to dismiss all conspiracy theories without consideration – that’s what the CIA want you to do! 😀

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

Wasn’t BSE the other way round? The governmental agencies thought it was a disaster unrolling and in reality not much happened?

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
4 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Initially the government – Gummer – was feeding burgers to their kids to show no threat!

Val Cox
Val Cox
4 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Like y2k… nothing ” happened” because a lot of work was done by a lot of people to make sure it did not.

Sean L
Sean L
4 years ago

The multiculturalist/globalist politics of officialdom, ie all government agencies/media/banking/academia/law firms/big tech, global commerce generally, mass marketed as Diversity/’anti-racism’, are identical. Which is no more than to recognise a coalition of interests against nationhood and the loyalties of ordinary Europeans, what David Goodhart has characterised as somewheres v anywheres. It doesn’t follow that all these entities are actively conspiring but that doesn’t alter the fact that global plutocrats and governments are advancing the same anti-national, feminist, homosexualist anti-family political agenda. Perhaps a demoralised populace with no shared loyalties, no ties greater than to their soaps / football is as congenial to the mandarin classes as the purveyors of bread and circuses. It’s not so much of a leap to discern the same vested interests behind the virus alarmism as a pretext for imposition of communism/corporatism in the form of CCP style social credit. There’s no shortage of virologist/ epidemiologists questioning the official orthodoxy. Needless to add such sceptical voices are given no more airtime than their ‘climate’ counterparts. Whether one describes it as ‘conspiracy’ is otiose in respect to the facts.

Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe
4 years ago

It’s a bit disappointing to find articles so unquestioningly supportive of the official narrative as this at Unherd, not what I look for at this site at all.

While I agree with the author that a virus cannot be transmitted by Electromagnetic Radiation in any frequency range, there are two quite important points which suggest Eammon Holmes was right to say there is no evidence that radiation from 5G masts is harmless.

Without getting technical (who’s got time to read a technical explanation,) 5G is a much higher intensity of radiation than previous cellular or radio / TV frequencies and as everybody knows radiation is harmful (anyone no heard of Chenobyl? Or Hiroshima? Different circumstances but electromagnetic radiation harmed living tissue all the same. It isn’t the strength of radio activity alone, it’s the strength * the duration, so a low dose for a long period can be more damaging than a short sharp blast. Look up Banana Equivalent Does if you don’t believe me.
OK, eating even a hundred bananas a day is not going to give you coronavirus, but bombardment with radiation is known to harm the immune system, which would make people more vulnerable to virus infection.
Secondly, in the 1980s and 90s there were long running arguments about whether cellphones caused brain damage. The phone companies, which were making millions from sales and subscriptions denied it, governments, which were making billlions from selling operators’ licences backed them.
Years later it was admitted that yes, walking around with your mobile phone clamped to your ear all day could cause permanent harm. No problem, we could easily be safe by taking a few simple precautions, limit usage, use a hands free set contained in an insulating case, that kind of thing.
We are going down the same road now with 5G and many doctors and researchers are questioning the wisdom of this. So Alice Beer was merely parroting corporate prop[aganda and in my habitually sceptical opinion Eammon was right to question her. He could have phrased his response better, but even I am not sceptocal enough to think This Morning is entirely scripted and who among us has never phrased a spontaneous response poorly.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago

Whatever…anyone who watches any of the ‘fraudcasters’ (thank you to Mayhar Tousi for that one) deserves to have their intelligence insulted.

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
4 years ago

Love how the hyper-rational instantly dismiss whatever enters their narrowed eyes and throttled ears if the new information falls outside their knowledge and experiences. Yet, these same people are the ones who are never around when a conspiracy theory turns out to be true. For instance, here’s a new conspiracy theory that looks more true every day …. the SARS COVID-19 virus likely escaped from a bio-lab in Wuhan China. The evidence continues building to verify this crazy conspiracy theory. Two months ago, people like the author would have mocked and ridiculed the suggestion that COVID-19 originated or escaped from a bio-lab. Always remember, Christianity at 1 billion plus followers, started as a cult of crazy nut-jobs ranting on and on about a crucified Jewish pauper.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
4 years ago
Reply to  perrywidhalm

Yes, there is increasing mainstream acceptance that the virus somehow escaped from the Wuhan Lab. And at the very least it was always a plausible explanation. Yet Tom Cotton, the Rep senator. was ridiculed across the US media for saying this at least two months ago. And the website ZeroHedge had their Twitter account suspended when they suggested this explanation at the same time. Most of the time, the MSM and the big tech companies are as wicked as they are wrong.

pauline.k
pauline.k
4 years ago

Surely there is room for debate, whether you agree with him or not. I thought this site was all about freedom of speech and thought.

andy young
andy young
4 years ago

Conspiracy theories are essentially egomaniacal in nature. They’re all out to get ME.

David Waring
David Waring
4 years ago

An excellent example of presenters profiting from the National dumbing down of the UK media.

ricksanchez769
ricksanchez769
4 years ago

“After we came back from the hospital I rang the cab firm to ask them never to send that driver to us again ” “….really? really? You shat on the cabbie to his superiors…ponderous

son.lyme.mail
son.lyme.mail
4 years ago

Beautifully written excision of the tumour of Illuminati thinking. Kudos to you Matthew, and thanks.

David Waring
David Waring
4 years ago

Meanwhile the media remains strangely quiet about where Internet signals are routed and through which nations servers.
The French for example harvest data on defence projects.

mike otter
mike otter
4 years ago

Many of the comments have noted the problem of dual strands of “conspiracy” thinking hinted at in Matthew’s comments about Woodward/Bernstein and similar. What Qassim rightly saw as an epistemic problem i think applies to the wacko end of the spectrum ie the Corbyn Bros with their blood libel and fourth reiche nonsense. This is the realm of the untestable, contrast this with the effects of 30-300ghz microwave radiation (probably not a problem) and the fact that <20 UK residents with SARS-Cov2 symptoms but no underlying health issues have died so far (def a problem considering the economic cost of these deaths). Both these phenomena could be researched, analysed and tested. Its the world of Post Normal Science that gives invesitagation of CFR stats the same intellectual value as pretending the protocols of the elders of Zion is a true Jewish conspiracy. This modern day Lysenkoism has only just started to make itself felt. Much more harm will be done before the world feels the cold slap of sobriety like that following the end of WW2

Julia McMaster
Julia McMaster
4 years ago

Anybody who wants a doctor’s view, have a look at Dr Buttar’s interview, who confirms the concern of Eamon Holmes: https://www.youtube.com/wat…. These are the facts.