The final paragraph: how to identify a nutter

So you’ve been linked to some random weirdo’s blog, and you’re assaulted by an assertion, or better still a muted conspiratorial suggestion, that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Well, that is mostly the sort of thing we like to read about.

But how do you know whether you’re reading the considered opinion of an expert (or at least someone who is honest about the limits of their own expertise), or one of the Internet’s many millions of over-confident ideologues?

There’s a simple test for this that I feel may be undervalued. It’s simply this: read the last paragraph first. It’s not fool-proof by any means, but it is a useful tool in one’s scepticism kit.

I’m motivated to point this out, because I’ve just noticed how well this test works on this article, on a site I’ve never been to before. Paul Craig Roberts’s contention is that Turkey is lying about the circumstances of its shooting down of a Russian plane. Okay, you say. The article does start out a bit hot-headed, but wouldn’t you be? And he does seem to offer some evidence, including technical details.

But alas, Roberts is betrayed by The Final Paragraph:

Gullible Americans who give money to NPR are supporting lies and propaganda that have resulted in the deaths and dislocation of millions of peoples and that are leading to WWIII. The Western media whores are complicit in the crimes, because they fail their responsibility to hold government accountable and make it impossible for valid information to reach people. The Western media serves as cheerleaders for death and destruction.

Ah, so National Public Radio is responsible for deaths of millions of people, and for World War 3? Okie dokie. I can now confidently file the article, and its author, under “H” for “Hilarious”, without all the tedium of analysing the rest of it. You see how this works?

So, in summary, the Egyptian pyramids are a hoax to cover up a volcano that the English Defence League wants to use to block off the Suez Canal, so that Al Qaeda can’t sail its 4-thousand-metre long dreadnought to Cyprus and foment an uprising amongst the local dinosaur population. You were all in on it — don’t pretend otherwise.