Foiled Again



Gavin Sheridan, co-founder of accountability project Right To Know, challenges our decision to feature an interview with covid response critic Ivor Cummins and to repost a tweet criticising mask-wearing from author Naomi Wolf.

Right or wrong?

YOU decide


Via Tim Foyle in Off-Guardian (full article at link below), writes:

…So exactly what is it that conspiracy deniers refuse to acknowledge with such fervour, righteousness and condescension?

Why, against all the evidence, do they sneeringly and contemptuously defend the crumbling illusion that ‘the great and good’ are up there somewhere, have everything in hand, have only our best interests at heart, and are scrupulous, wise and sincere?

That the press serves the people and truth rather than the crooks? That injustice after injustice result from mistakes and oversights, and never from that dread word: conspiracy?

What reasonable person would continue to inhabit such a fantasy world?

The point of disagreement here is only on the matter of scale. Someone who is genuinely curious about the plans of powerful sociopaths won’t limit the scope of their curiosity to, for example, one corporation, or one nation. Why would they? Such a person assumes that the same patterns on display locally are likely to be found all the way up the power food chain. But the conspiracy denier insists this is preposterous.


It is painfully obvious that the pyramidical societal and legal structures that humanity has allowed to develop are exactly the kind of dominance hierarchies that undoubtedly favour the sociopath. A humane being operating with a normal and healthy cooperative mindset has little inclination to take part in the combat necessary to climb a corporate or political ladder.

So what do conspiracy deniers imagine the 70 million or more sociopaths in the world do all day, born into a ‘game’, in which all the wealth and power are at the top of the pyramid, while the most effective attributes for ‘winning’ are ruthlessness and amorality? Have they never played Monopoly?

Sociopaths do not choose their worldview consciously, and are simply unable to comprehend why normal people would put themselves at such an incredible disadvantage by limiting themselves with conscientiousness and empathy, which are as beyond the understanding of the sociopath as a world without them are to the humane being.

All the sociopath need do to win in the game is lie publicly whilst conspiring privately. What could be simpler? In 2021, to continue to imagine that the world we inhabit is not largely driven by this dynamic amounts to reckless naiveté bordering on insanity. Where does such an inadvertently destructive impulse originate?

The infant child places an innate trust in those it finds itself with – a trust which is, for the most part, essentially justified. The infant could not survive otherwise.

In a sane and healthy society, this deep instinct would evolve as the psyche developed. As self-awareness, the cognitive and reasoning abilities and scepticism evolved in the individual, this innate trust impulse would continue to be understood as a central need of the psyche. Shared belief systems would exist to consciously evolve and develop this childish impulse in order to place this faith somewhere consciously – in values and beliefs of lasting meaning and worth to the society, the individual, or, ideally, both.

Reverence and respect for tradition, natural forces, ancestors, for reason, truth, beauty, liberty, the innate value of life, or the initiating spirit of all things, might all be considered valid resting places in which to consciously place our trust and faith – as well as those derived from more formalised belief systems.

Regardless of the path taken to evolve and develop a personal faith, it is the bringing of one’s own consciousness and cognition to this innate impulse that is relevant here. I believe this is a profound responsibility – to develop and cultivate a mature faith – which many are, understandably, unaware of.

What occurs when there is a childish need within us which has never evolved beyond its original survival function of trusting those in our environment who are, simply, the most powerful; the most present and active? When we have never truly explored our own psyches, and deeply interrogated what we truly believe and why? When our motivation for trusting anything or anyone goes unchallenged? When philosophy is left to the philosophers?

I suggest the answer is simple, and that the evidence of this phenomenon and the havoc it is wreaking is all around us: the innate impulse to trust the mother never evolves, never encounters and engages with its counterbalance of reason (or mature faith), and remains forever on its ‘default’ infant setting.

While the immature psyche no longer depends on parents for its well-being, the powerful and motivating core tenet I have described remains intact: unchallenged, unconsidered and undeveloped.

And, in a world in which stability and security are distant memories, these survival instincts, rather than being well-honed, considered, relevant, discerning and up to date, remain, quite literally, those of a baby. Trust is placed in the biggest, loudest, most present and undeniable force around, because instinct decrees that survival depends on it.

And, in this great ‘world nursery’, the most omnipresent force is the network of institutions which consistently project an unearned image of power, calm, expertise, concern and stability.

In my view, this is how conspiracy deniers are able to cling to and aggressively defend the utterly illogical fantasy that somehow – above a certain undefined level of the societal hierarchy – corruption, deceit, malevolence and narcissism mysteriously evaporate. That, contrary to the maxim, the more power a person has, the more integrity they will inevitably exhibit.

These poor deluded souls essentially believe that where personal experience and prior knowledge cannot fill in the gaps in their worldview – in short, where there is a barred door – mummy and daddy are behind it, working out how best to ensure that their little precious will be comfortable, happy and safe forever.


On The Psychology Of The Conspiracy Denier (Tim Foyle, Off-Guardian)

Pic: Allstock

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60 thoughts on “Foiled Again

  1. axelf

    surely the prime motivation of a journalist is to challenge the information they have and to get to the truth of the matter?

    sometimes bodger, you do go a bit off kilter but IMHO, its miles better than the press releasing people who never query anything but attempt to style themselves as journalists, of which there’s precious few left in ireland.

    dissenting views, no matter how nutty, are to be cherished otherwise we’d be heading into an echo chamber and when occasion deserves, their nuttiness
    can be exposed.

    thats not to say that gav isnt doing a good job either, but the snootiness of his tweet should be challenged.

    i wonder if hed fire up a couple of tweets having a pop at the likes of gardas williams and reynolds or others in the times, RTE and the indo/

    1. Nigel

      ‘dissenting views, no matter how nutty, are to be cherished’

      No. Not unless it’s a ‘haha look at those nutty views’ form of cherishing and that’s just unpleasant.

      1. Micko


        Why are you here then Nigel? Genuinely?

        Do you agree with Gavin and co above – has BS been poor for years?

        Surely you’re just torturing yourself?

          1. Micko

            Ah ok,

            I thought it was for the cat pics.

            It’s the cat pics isn’t it?

            You can trust me… ;)

          2. Nigel

            It’s the Limericks and You May Like Thises for me.

            Also, has it occurred to you that I actually like debating with people who disagree with me but don’t go completely wild about it? I like having exchanges with people that are about something other than strings of endless insults and ROFLS NOT LOOKING AT ANY BODIES IN PARTICULAR

            (not that I’m averse to the odd insult but C’MON)

      2. Bitnboxy

        I agree somewhat with Gavin Sheridan and certainly in my circle, the view is that Broadsheet has become utterly unmoored from its past raison d’être and it is a source of amusement that I stick with it.

        I find the reply of Broadsheet reaching for the “cancel culture” trope depressing and redolent of a position which has now taken hold that far from presenting alternative views to probe, it is about presenting “alternative facts” as the real truth with a subtle stoking of zeitgeisty conspiracy theories so that the reader or viewer believes they are privy to “certain things the elite don’t want you to know”.

        As for Ivor Cummins, St Sebastian de Brun et al, these are all far from disinterested contrarians or sceptics but idoleologically-driven narcissists keen to expoit the current pandemic to fuel polarisation via their flimflam machine. Far from being victims of a so-called cancel culture, their current line of “business” is actually quite a profitable place to be albeit getting worryingly crowded by the day.

        Quo vadis Broadsheet?

        1. Nigel

          If we want actual, interesting, insightful and balanced covid commentary here we have to wait for Alickdouglas to comment. Everything else is culture war dumbness.

        2. Bitnboxy

          And there was me thinking GiggidyPox was the voice of reason around here. Heehee!

          I fear our deranged double-act was far worse than any sermon from Ivor Cummins and St Sebastian de Brun! Rofl!

          Still, it does amuse me.

        3. Micko

          Pfff… Jesus boxy

          “ redolent”

          “ Quo vadis Broadsheet?”

          Could you get anymore up your own hole?

          I think the real reason you’re here is to try to prove that you’re smarter than everyone else tbh.

          It’s the reason you guys are here. To prove that you are superior and to laugh at “the morons”


          1. Bitnboxy

            Well, I’m certainly not laughing at the “morons”.

            You know what Micko, you know who are laughing at the morons? Ivor Cummins, de Brun and the whole darn lot of these “I’ve got all the answers” truth-tellers.

            They just can’t believe their luck – how frightfully easy it all is..

          2. Micko

            Would ya include Luke “I’m a musician too lads” O’Neill in that group?

            I agree though – Cummins is an opportunistic chappy who saw the chance to make money off the opposing narrative.

            De Brun though – he’s a different story.

            Rightly or wrongly put his entire career on the line to stand up for what he believes in.

            I can respect that.

          3. Bitnboxy

            @Micko We agree to disagree about de Brun but I certainly don’t buy the persecution line he spins.

            @Brother B Hmm, it is all like a Netflix subscription! What a time to be alive. Yikes!

    2. Zaccone


      If you don’t like the argument being made by someone then take apart the argument by making counterpoints, backed up by better evidence. Show the world why they’re wrong.

      Attempting to silence the debate because you don’t like the points being made is extremely unhealthy for an open society, and very worrying. It always makes me think the person doing the shouting simply can’t refute the argument they’re trying to censor.

  2. gallantman

    That article is based on a simplistic false dichotomy that you are either a ‘conspiracy theorist’ or a ‘conspiracy denier’. Whereas most reasonable people don’t believe any or all conspiracy theories while also understanding that governments/corporations/Media outlets are prone to corruption and capable of conspiring if it’s in their own best interests.

    1. K.Cavan

      In what way is it based on that dichotomy? Like any article trying to communicate an idea, it presents alternatives but the central argument is in no way dependent on that contrast, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with it. Talking about black & white examples does not deny, in any way, the existence of other colours. In an attempt to deny the validity of the argument, you present a cartoon, a strawman argument par excellence. Weak.

  3. eoin

    The same authoritative figures that only last week were asking for excess doses of the Oxford jab to be sent here are now saying it’s unsafe. But they’re definitely right about the other vaccines….right? I’ll stick with Ivor. Thanks. And keep it up Broadsheet. Once the smoke clears on all this, Broadsheet will stand clear of the rest of the media as one of the only outlets that engaged in objective discussion around all this. In fact, I expect to see a day when the rest of the media is held to account for their dangerously biased reporting.

    1. E'Matty

      Broadsheet have stood out as one of the only Irish platforms willing to challenge in any shape or form the mindless consensus sitting behind Offical Ireland. I wouldn’t though hold my breath on the msm getting their comeuppence. What usually happens is these goons will attack and vilify anyone who questions their narrative until the levee breaks and the force of evidence against them becomes completely unsustainable, and then they act like they were questioning the Covid narrative all along and point the finger of blame elsewhere. How many journalists lost their jobs over their shameless promotion of the Iraq war? None. Plenty lost their jobs for challenging the rush to war. Actual whistleblowers always suffer. Just look at how they have treated any doctors or medical professionals who have come out and dared to question the Covid narrative. Look at how they vilify and demonise anyone who dares protest against this ludicrous narrative and the restrictions which result from accepting it. We’re the same as we were 50 years ago in this country. We’ve just swapped blind faith in and subservience to one Church for another. A nation of children desperate for parental safety in times of crisis.

      1. Nigel

        Kinda ironic that you’re invoking Iraq when the Republican party that pushed lies to create the pretext for invading are now the party of anti-mask, opening-up-states, fakedemic, anti-vax politics, and far, far weirder stuff under that.

    2. jonsmoke

      They’re are not saying it is unsafe. They are saying that there have been some possible adverse reactions to the vaccine so they have decided to pause the use of it until there is sufficient information to determine if the vaccine did cause the blood clots and if so, is the risk of continuing to use it too high.

    3. GiggidyGoo

      And a lot around here conveniently forget the excellent in-depth reporting the Broadsheet did on the likes of the Sergeant McCabe case (for example), with details that the other ‘media’ forgot to put in their reports – no sign of Sheridan then. The fear that Sheridan and his bought ilk have of someone reporting all viewpoints manifests itself in the kind of twitter attack as above.

  4. Nigel

    ‘Why, against all the evidence, do they sneeringly and contemptuously defend the crumbling illusion that ‘the great and good’ are up there somewhere, have everything in hand, have only our best interests at heart, and are scrupulous, wise and sincere?’

    ‘In my view, this is how conspiracy deniers are able to cling to and aggressively defend the utterly illogical fantasy that somehow – above a certain undefined level of the societal hierarchy – corruption, deceit, malevolence and narcissism mysteriously evaporate.’

    I’ve seen lots of conspiracy theorists argue when challenged that people who don’t buy into their conspiracy must therefore believe corruption/abuse/bad-things-in-general don’t exist. These same people often also compliment themselves on the awesomeness of their ninja-like use of logic.

    Most people do not have difficulty believing that the great and the good often conspire amongst themselves to our detriment. I literally do not know a single person who does not have diffculty believeing this. Where is the wholesale rejection by Irish conspiracy-deniers of the church sex abuse and cover-up scandals? How could these infants possibly accept so many powerful people acted so appallingly? How could inhabitants of the world nursery possibly be mad at the EU for messing up the vaccine negotiations? Their trust is inviolable!

    Why oh why oh why is the author reluctant to name or describe any of the consipracies whose denial marks the denier as an infant? Not a single example of how a rejected conspitracy theory shows the deniers to be clearly infantile in their trust of Big Everything. All the energy he put into this massive straw man, not a scrap to measure the credibilty of specific theories and certainly not a word on disinformation and where it comes from and how it works in this day and age.

    (Oh, and, uh, I think you might have broken fair use there, guys, unless you had permission.)

    1. Tony

      See this is the thing about Broadsheet giving oxygen to all the conspiracy types. All you have to do is look in comments to see the claims ineffectually defended by supporters of said conspiracy ( including Bodger for the laugh) then robustly exposed as narcissism self indulgence and bad science.

      Sense always prevails. You never come away believing in the conspiracy. It’s always exposed in comments. Ironically, Broadsheet actually harms conspiracy theories.

      G’wan the Broadsheet!

      1. Commenter #1

        This is interesting.

        By being very, very bad at defending the various theories it apparently believes in, Broadsheet ends up arguing against them.

        How did I not see this before?

    2. Daisy Chainsaw

      Nigel, just accept that Bill Gates and George Soros want to microchip you and that’s why you’ve not been allowed to go to the pub for a year.

        1. Kdoc

          And Hilary Clinton was involved in a paedo ring operating from a basement of pizza joint. Q has made that quite clear.

          1. bisted

            …ah here…not that old canard again…crooked Hillary did not do that…she might have bombed eight different countries and killed loads of kids in the process…but the pizza stuff is a fallacy…

  5. Col

    I agree with getting diverse views, but I wouldn’t describe Ivor Cummins as “accomplished”.

  6. Brother Barnabas

    “our decision to feature an interview with covid response critic Ivor Cummins”

    with all due respect- and at this point I’d hope its apparent that I do have a lot of respect for BS and JR – that wasnt an “interview”. if it hadn’t been conducted via internet, it would have ended with a foot massage (and maybe more).

  7. Junkface

    Journalism is supposed to hold the establishment to account for their failings, and establishment politics have failed so badly for many years, especially in Ireland, but it’s also across the western world. We have a generation of politicians that are essentially owned by the banking class. Politicians no longer represent or fight for the people. They only fight to get re-elected. A lot of mainstream news has failed the people and sided with establishment power, instead choosing to feed the outrage clicks. Now it has degenerated to the point that any journalist who actually goes hard on establishment politicians (on the left) immediately get tarred with the alt-right tag, even if they are far from that side of politics. Take Glenn Greenwald for example, or MattTaibbi.

    Broadsheet has managed to show many sides of arguments going on without censoring, that is a good thing. Like someone mentioned above. Supporters of quackery and Qanon conspiracies usually end up looking silly when they try to stand by their wild ideas. Ridicule and exposure to daylight is the best way to fight conspiracy theories. Adults don’t need censorship, children do, but a grown up person should be able to debate difficult or controversial topics with other adults. Dialogue is the best way to solve problems. Not tribalism and censorship. That’s the opposite of progress.

    1. Nigel

      Journalism needs to be funded and protected, and the very people who whine most about the failings of MSM seem to celebrate the most as it’s dismantled.

      We don’t live in an age when exposing stuff to daylight kills it. Maybe we never did, but ridicule, looking silly and exposure to daylight hasn’t put much of a crimp on Qanon, and won’t put a crimp on crank covid stuff. Real money goes into pumping out disinformation these days, and there’s an entire class of people who do it for free because they think they’re the Joker. Real power can come from creating your own fictions, and real damage is done when these people get to be in charge, which they do. This isn’t an argument for censorship, it’s an argument to discount people who whine about freedom of speech the most because they’re being called out for pushing lies or slurs. You don’t say, well it’s a fiction a lie or a slur but freedom of speech, yeah? You strip the fictions to the ground.

      Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald have gone feral, as far as I can tell. What reporting have they been doing recently that isn’t complaining that liberals are being mean to them because they spent the entire Trump presidency attcking liberals?

      1. Junkface

        Jayzus Nigel, of course you link free speech to the right wingers. I think you entirely miss the point of having free speech to begin with. It’s a universal principle for a fair society, regardless of which side of politics you sit. Noam Chomsky famously stood up for people who he had opposite values of. How do you think journalists in Turkey or Russia feel about free speech? Its essential in their fight against right wing dictators and autocrats.

        “Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald have gone feral, as far as I can tell” – Nigel
        Is this the new label for alt-right? Because its just as silly. As far as I can see they are tackling the illiberalism of the modern left, the silly tribalism, and the hypocrisy of establishment politicians. They are totally right to do that. It’s in abundance in politics. Again, liberalism as a word, as a movement, used to mean freedom of thought, freedom of choice, progression. Nowadays it means the opposite. Everyone with an objective mind and who understands the principle of free speech can see this.

        1. Nigel

          ‘Jayzus Nigel, of course you link free speech to the right wingers’

          Nooooooo I characterise rightwingers as endlessly resorting to free speech as a defense of the indefensible, a tactic, not an ideology.

          ‘How do you think journalists in Turkey or Russia feel about free speech?’

          Probably unimpressed by western right-wing free speech ‘absolutists’ passionately defending their right to use the n-word. You’re always mistaking my skepticism about cynical right-wing free speech ‘absolutists’ with skepticism about the importance of free speech.

          ‘Is this the new label for alt-right?’

          It’s the new label for always being mad that the people they’re criticising criticise them back. Liberalism means a lot of things, but it’s never meant you can’t argue your corner or criticise people who attack you, whch is consistent with objective minds and free speech.

          1. Micko

            Can anyone here on Broadsheet define what a right winger is? What right wing beliefs / policies are etc?

            It’s thrown around so much and yet I genuinely have no idea what you mean by it.

      2. Clampers Outside

        This lad… rambling about slurs, lies, fictions… Says he who believes in lies and fictions and throws slurs around to beat the band.

        Hah! Dang… you funny :)

      3. axelf

        “journalism” in RTE and, indirectly, in the indo were protected and funded and that hasnt served the people well.

  8. Broadbag

    It diminishes the site to promote the likes of Ivor Cummins (and Kevin Higgins!) but it’s a small percentage of guff compared to the other decent stuff you promote, and alternate views are necessary to avoid group think and ‘official’ narratives, it’s up to the reader to click in or scroll down, a bit like that dark period when Leather Jacket Guy was constantly posted, I watched one and then knew to avoid it henceforth.

    Keep up the (mostly) great work.

  9. ian-Og

    I realised not too long ago that it’s all just symbols on a screen.

    You all could just be my imagination but you keep me interested.

    That is all.

  10. Lord Lucan

    Posting an article about ‘conspiracy deniers’ from a website that is regarded by the columbia journalism review as a conspiracy website.

    Doing moronic work there again Bodger. Great to know that freedom of speech is in such great hands.

    This site has seriously gone to thes hit from the Bloggorah days.

  11. GiggidyGoo

    Is Gavin Sheridan is described as a ‘former investigative journalist’. No prizes for guessing why the word ‘former’ is in there, judging by his twittering above. No doubt he has a presence here as his contribution and language is on a par with some posters here.

  12. Pat

    Oh wait ‘Tim Foyle’ as in ‘tin foil’ – I just got that!

    Who says these conspiracy loons don’t have a sense of humour?

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