Crank HOWTO

Who wants to know how to be an effective crank?

Well, I’ve outlined what I think are the critical components of successful crankiness. Ideally, this will serve as a guide to those of you who want to come up with a stupid idea, and then defend it against all evidence to the contrary.

Here’s how you do it:

Step one: Develop a wacky idea.

It is critical that your wacky idea must be something pretty extraordinary. A good crank shoots for the stars. You don’t defend to the death some simple opinion, like Coke is better than Pepsi. You’ve got to think big! You’ve got to do something like deny HIV causes AIDS, or relativity, or reject an entire field of biology, or deny the earth is older than 6000 years. If you can’t think of anything, try reading the Bible for claims that are now obviously ludicrous – like the possibility of climbing into heaven using a ladder. Insist on its literal truth.

The thing you deny has to be something that’s so obvious to the majority of people that when they hear it, they want to hear an explanation, if only because it’s clearly going to be nuts. This is critical to all successive steps. If you don’t say something outrageous and contrarian, no one will ever see you as the iconoclastic genius that you are.

The presentation of this idea is also important. Remember that really important people with really important ideas don’t have time for grammar or spelling. Also try interesting use of punctuation!!!!, CAPITALization and text color. When you EMPHASIZE things people will inevitably take your more seriously.

Make sure that you develop new physical laws, name them after yourself, and if you must cite anything, either cite your own name or work, or that of another crank. If you’re feeling bold cite some famous scientist, like Einstein, but don’t list a specific passage, just assume that they said or did something that supports your idea. After all you’re both geniuses, you must think alike!

It’s also important during your research of this new idea, never to be worried about preserving the original intent of other authors you quote or cite. If any words they say can be construed to mean something else, that’s ok too. Academic license is part of academic freedom.

Whenever possible try to include figures. Line drawings and diagrams with complicated mathematical symbols are ideal. Remember, most people don’t know calculus, include equations you find in other books to prove the mathematical or physical relationship you have discovered. The type of people who will believe your idea aren’t big into checking others’ work for consistency, so it will be OK. Those that do would never believe you anyway, but by the time they get around to that, you’ll have a cult following.

Step two: Disseminate your idea

This can be done many ways.

The old-school method is to spend your day job writing angry letters to politicians, newspaper editors, and anyone else that you thought might listen to you.

Cranks with independent wealth can self-publish their own book (I have many of these provided courtesy of an astronomer friend whose institute regularly receives such works and places them in their “crank file”). A book lends credibility, especially to other cranks who think that anyone who could actually focus their intellects for long enough to write a book, must be onto something. Ideally, send your book to scientists in the field you are trying to undermine, they’ll know just where to put them. If your idea has a more mainstream appeal, send it to church leaders and various pundits who might give it some play in their pulpits.

These days, technology has provided us what is known as a blog. Your target audience, despite the improvements in technology, are just as likely not to care as before. Less so, because now they don’t even have to experience the inconvenience of opening your crank letter or having to file your crank book. The secret to generating traffic then is exploiting the fact that the internet gives access to all sorts of people who will be irritated by your mere presence. Leave comments in others blogs that describe how you have solved this big problem, where everyone else has failed. Ideally, get a minion to constantly extol your virtues and genius. If one is lacking just sockpuppet yourself from another computer. It’s not even necessary to leave comments at science blogs or (real) skeptic sites. Any site will do, bother cat fanciers, tech geeks, whoever. Traffic will inevitably follow.

Technology has also made it easy to make videos and DVDs, and provided internet radio outlets for crankery. Do you have a new idea for how the twin towers fell? Well put it up on Youtube and embed it in your blog like so:

Podcasts also serve this function nicely – and since none of your critics will waste their time transcribing the nonsense you say in order to debunk it, videos and podcasts tend to be a good way to avoid excess criticism.

Do you have access to a religious mailing list? Send out your informational DVD on your new proof that all science is a lie to those that might receive it as gospel.

If you’re very adventurous, try submitting a paper to a scientific journal. First try big, Science and Nature are ideal. If it’s medicine try the New England Journal or JAMA – they are pretty good examples of the stodgy orthodoxy who will no doubt persecute you. When they reject your paper, remember, you’re just like Galileo, or Einstein. They rejected your ideas because they’re just not ready to accept them. Remember, you’re a skeptic! You’re one of those people keeping science honest by making them consider new ideas (except when they’re very old ideas recycled). Don’t let them brush you off easily, resend your manuscript multiple times. If they reject it claim victory! It means you’re a true original. You’ve come up with something the scientific establishment just can’t deal with because of their small-mindedness and bigotry. Ideally keep sending it to publications, to editors at their home addresses, to their children’s school etc. If they get a restraining order claim victory! You’ve been persecuted! You now are a true heir to Galileo.

If you want your manuscript (it may make you sound smarter to call it your “treatise” or “monograph”) to actually get published, try something like Medical Hypotheses. Journals with an impact factor of less than 1 might actually be desperate enough to publish something cranky, especially if you can jargonize it enough to make yourself sound smart, or create enough fake data to trick the editors. If it has to do with global warming consider a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. The Creation Research Quarterly is perfect for anything disproving some facet of evolution, geology, astronomy, or physics. You don’t have to be a creationist for them to like your crank theory, anything that pokes holes in dastardly consensus science is a victory.

Then try journals that don’t require real experiments, rigorous trial design, peer review or anything that actually indicates actual science has been done. Other cranks in your “field” may have started just such a journal – like the Journal of 9/11 studies. There are about as many places that will publish crank work as there are crank ideas, don’t stop trying! If you get your ideas published in such a journal claim victory! You have mainstream acceptance and a publication record now.

There are also many message boards that might like your idea. If you have a crazy new ideology about evolution try the International Society for Complexity Information and Design. If you have a new idea for what causes AIDS, a great starting point is the Dissident Action Group. Search for forums that might be amenable to your idea and post it there. Make sure to re-post it after every ten replies or so, so people can read it again. Another good starting place is Newiki which has the stunning tagline “If Copernicus or Galileo were alive today, this is where you would find their work.” They clearly love the crankery.

Finally, don’t forget other cranks are an excellent resource! Cranks usually like to hear about other cranks ideas, even if they conflict with their own crank ideas (9/11 conspiracy cranks might be an exception). Remember, intellectual consistency doesn’t matter as long as you are both criticizing the orthodoxy. These other cranks can mention your idea. They will undoubtedly find it “interesting” if they mention it, even if they don’t agree with all aspects of it. See our recent post on Denyse O’Leary and the Creation Museum, a perfect example. Ideally they will link your site, join your webring, mention your ideas, and many other cranks will promptly arrive to acknowledge your genius (sorry, only other cranks will ever do this – ever). Don’t forget this means you will have to help them promote their crank ideas.

Cranks also have a major presence on radio – both internet and terrestrial. Are you anything like this crank? Or or this one? Maybe they’ll have you on their radio show to discuss your new crackpot theory.

Follow these steps and soon your idea will be a topic of discussion everywhere. Don’t forget to routinely make claims that the views of orthodox science are imperiled by the threat of acceptance of your ideas, it will make people more likely to believe your later claims of persecution and visit your site to see if you’ve figured out you haven’t changed anything. Suggest that the valid scientific theory is debunked, or will be within a decade frequently, routinely declare victory over the mainstream theory.

Step three: (Not) Responding to Criticism
All great minds will be criticized by peon scientists who have grown fat and bloated with public grant funds. They’ve been feeding at the public coffers for so long, they wouldn’t know an original idea if it fell out of the ether and struck them on their thick skulls. Here are some simple responses to common criticisms:

Accusation: “You haven’t published in a real peer-reviewed journal”
Response: Either say “Peer review is just an old-boys network for peon scientists to pat each other on the back”, or accuse journal editors of persecuting you. Compare yourself to Galileo.

Accusation: “You don’t have solid proof”
Response: Either restate what you said already, restate it slightly differently, call your accuser a name, or suggest they are part of the conspiracy to hide the truth. Compare yourself to Galileo.

Accusation: “Because of X, Y, and Z, your theory is false and you’re an idiot”
Response: Yell “That’s Ad Hominem – I win the argument” (and that they’ve persecuted you).

Accusation: “Because of X, Y and Z, you are wrong”
Response: If they fail to call you an idiot, there are a few ways to respond to this. Either nitpick an aspect of their argument so that you can ignore the rest while diverting the discussion into a meaningless tangent. Or cut and paste large sections of print or references to papers that may or may not agree with you (the exhaustion strategy). Finally, it’s always a good idea to just ignore them and restate your original argument. Alternatively demand they provide you with *scientific* evidence that their theory is the correct one. If they do, ignore it and restate your original argument.

Accusation: “No credible scientists or scientific agencies believe this theory”
Response: “That’s because they’re part of a conspiracy to hide the truth!” In addition assert motives for the conspiracy like maintaining control over the populace, spreading materialistic atheist dogma, acquiring grant money, etc. Don’t forget to challenge orthodoxy and compare yourself to Galileo! He was persecuted by the orthodoxy too! Remember, whenever a majority of scientists believe anything, that means it’s wrong. Cite Kuhn, compare yourself to Galileo again.

If they show up at your blog and leave comments, remember to delete anything critical at all, dissent must not be tolerated on your home turf. Anything critical might damage the proof of your unassailable intellect, and the absence of critique will make it appear as if your critics are afraid to engage you on your own turf.

You see? It’s easy! All you have to do is ignore anything that contradicts your theory, nitpick others’ arguments, force them to explain themselves, accuse them of lying, accuse them of conspiring against the truth, exhaust them with dumps of links or citations, repeat yourself, and compare yourself to Galileo, because he had problems convincing the orthodoxy too. Also, don’t forget to call yourself a skeptic, or dissident, or iconoclast.

Step four: Get Persecuted!

You haven’t graduated to being a full crank until you’ve been persecuted. Here are some suggestions:

  1. If you are faculty at a university, make sure to write a book about your crank idea. When the other members at the department decide to deny you tenure because of your moronic ideas or call you an idiot claim persecution!

  2. If you work at an office, make sure you spend your time promoting your crank idea. Tell everybody about it. Send mass emails about it. Leave copies of your “monograph” where your boss and others can find it – like the breakroom. If you’re fired for pursuing your crankery on the job claim persecution!
  3. If someone shows up at your website or forum and points out the flaws in your argument claim persecution!
  4. If anyone calls you an idiot, a moron, a pseudoscientist, a crank, or denialist claim persecution!
  5. If people don’t immediately accept your idea upon hearing it claim persecution!
  6. If they won’t teach your idea in public schools as fact claim persecution!
  7. If they won’t teach the controversy over your ideas in public schools claim persecution!
  8. If people criticize journals for publishing your papers claim persecution!
  9. If people circulate petitions against teaching your ideas claim persecution!
  10. If a journalists covers only the scientific side and doesn’t cover yours claim persecution!
  11. If no one visits your site or listens to you claim persecution!
  12. If no one persecutes you claim persecution!

In this modern world there is such a thing as “parity of ideas”. Everything must be balanced against its opposite. If anyone says anything that contradicts you, it is your right to be able to counter what they say for “balance”, even if you don’t have proof or credibility. If they don’t do this you are being persecuted.

You see? It’s easy to be a crank. Just follow these simple guidelines and remember, you’re never wrong. No matter what.
i-83ab5b4a35951df7262eefe13cb933f2-crank.gif

I’d like to thank Chris Noble (not for being a crank or anything but for this idea) and lab lemming’s psuedoscientific method for inspiration for this post.
*Update* I’ve added some additional material based on comments (Thanks Pat, Marc and Mongrel)

Comments

  1. #1 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    May 31, 2007

    If you can’t think of anything, try reading the Bible for claims that are now obviously ludicrous – like the possibility of climbing into heaven using a ladder. Insist on its literal truth.

    1) Scoff if you will, but this is very clearly an accurate description of a functional space elevator.

    2) This post counts as dissemination.
    3) I await your criticism.

    BTW, you switched from spelled out numbers to roman numerals halfway through your post. Clearly you are not someone whose criticism I should take seriously.

  2. #2 Benny
    May 31, 2007

    “Cranks usually like to hear about other cranks ideas, even if they conflict with their own crank ideas”

    Wonderful article. However, I haven’t found it true that cranks like cranks (with the exception of like-minded conspiracy theory cranks, who ironically bond closely as if conspiring about something). It seems to be just the opposite, in fact. For example, I tried hooking up the well-established crank Gene Ray (the Time Cube Guy) with budding crank George Shollenberger (the brain-damaged guy). Gene simply accused George of typical stupid singularity thinking and George assumed Gene was another member of the science/atheist establishment that has failed to grasp his symbolic language. No crank mentoring followed at all.

  3. #3 ji
    May 31, 2007

    LOL! Great Article, I love this part.

    If they fail to call you an idiot, there are a few ways to respond to this. Either nitpick an aspect of their argument so that you can ignore the rest while diverting the discussion into a meaningless tangent.

    Which is exactly what Tegumai did, I would almost think you planned that on purpose.

  4. #4 MarkH
    May 31, 2007

    Fixed.

    And Benny, were they both attacking the same theory? I’ve noticed cranks usually don’t mind other cranks when they’re both undermining the same science. I believe their thinking is that if someone else is creating doubt about the theory, it will make it more likely their crank theory might be believed. More doubt means your idea gains credibility.

  5. #5 Ray M
    May 31, 2007

    Scoff if you will, but this is very clearly an accurate description of a functional space elevator.

    Well almost… except that ‘heaven’ seems to be a moving target, and the cited article clearly shows the space elevator terminating in, well, space. Heaven must have moved on :-)

  6. #6 Fasiken
    May 31, 2007

    I guess you are talking about these guys…
    http://www.geocities.com/theuniphysics/
    http://www.correctpi.com/

  7. #7 Benny
    May 31, 2007

    “were they both attacking the same theory?”

    In a sense, you might say they are. They both fall into the category of grandiose crank with an unfalsifiable (and incoherent) theory of everything that is unfairly rejected by the ignorant/evil establishment. So I thought one possible outcome of a crank encounter was that they might might bond over their perceived status as outsiders and unfairly unrecognized geniuses. Or, as extreme narcissists who view themselves as the greatest thinkers to have yet lived, another possibility would be a crank fight. But instead of either outcome, they quickly dismissed and ignored each other, which I found strange because they will obsessively engage any non-crank in a never ending gibberish battle. So perhaps reaching a quick crank detente may be the only form a natural crank affiliation can take in that particular variety of crank, and you may be right after all.

    Cranks are endlessly fascinating, but not in the ways they would wish.

  8. #8 J-Dog
    May 31, 2007

    Cranks CAN hookup for fun and profit! Best example is UD, where Dembski’s personally failing site, Uncommonly Dense took on “partners” to share the blame with him when ID finally totally tanks. Such ID Heaveyweights such as Dense O’Leary and DaveScot “DCA IS A Cancer Cure” Springer.

    ONE SUGGESTION FOR YOUR LIST: RealCranks (TM), NEVER allow negative comments on their blogs! RealCranks have Censors, I mean Moderators, to keep any RealCrank followers from actually coming in contact with dissenting opinions, or messy facts, and/or research that might confuse their folowers. Unless they are off the RealCrankometer, like a JAD…(John A Davidson)

  9. #9 Martín Pereyra
    May 31, 2007

    Excellent article. I ask your authorization for translating it into Spanish and publish it in my blog. Full credits, link to the original and I’ll tell you when it’s ready, of course.

  10. #10 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 31, 2007

    I know you feel sorry for him with his age and possible brain damage but I can’t think of a better example of crankdom that George Schollenberger. I swear he must have had a preposted copy of the Crank Howto.

  11. #11 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    May 31, 2007


    Well almost… except that ‘heaven’ seems to be a moving target, and the cited article clearly shows the space elevator terminating in, well, space. Heaven must have moved on :-)

    I will count that as persecution, allowing me to fulfill step 4.

  12. #12 L6
    May 31, 2007

    I’m going to do all of the above and suffer, only to come out to my followers and the world years later and say, “Psyche.”

  13. #13 Stu
    June 1, 2007

    Your mention of relativity at the start reminds me of a classic crank on the sci.physics newsgroup a few years ago. Now there were plenty of relativity cranks who typically claimed that faster than light travel was possible – but this one crank leaned the other way and claimed that nothing could travel faster than the speed of sound!

  14. #14 Mongrel
    June 1, 2007

    ONE SUGGESTION FOR YOUR LIST: RealCranks (TM), NEVER allow negative comments on their blogs! RealCranks have Censors, I mean Moderators, to keep any RealCrank followers from actually coming in contact with dissenting opinions, or messy facts, and/or research that might confuse their folowers.

    AS an extension to that they must first have been to a sensible forum or blog and committed ‘suicide by mod’, by systemically breaching every behaviour rule. They are then allowed to complain about the “Oppressive censorship” practised on their critics sites

  15. #15 Bing McGhandi
    June 1, 2007

    Well done. I loved it.

    HJ

  16. #16 Pat Curley
    June 1, 2007

    Great post! I’d add a bit to the “Step 2: Disseminate your idea” by pointing out that video is more convincing than text and gives you a readily marketable DVD. Also, consider going on an internet radio station; there are plenty of crackpot shows and if you do well enough you may even be invited on Alex Jones or Art Bell.

  17. #17 Marc Andre Belanger
    June 1, 2007

    For Step 2, I would add: write articles on http://www.newiki.org, “a place for new knowledge to be written and catalogued that is not allowed by other Wiki’s who do not publish outside of the mainstream.”

  18. #18 MikeB
    June 1, 2007

    A wonderful post.
    The part about cranks banding together can be observed in the genre of ‘fantastic archaeology’, particularly regarding Graham Hancock. Once he and a bloke called Bauval kicked off the whole cycle of nonsense, a group of them started to ‘blurb’ each others books, stating that each was the most important work ever to be written, etc.
    And of course the cranks can even jump the ‘species barrier’ (so to speak) – the wonderful Monckton/1421 linkup for instance.

  19. #19 Anonymous
    June 1, 2007

    Thank you for a telling post. It resonates.

  20. #20 Anonymous
    June 1, 2007

    Sorry, your comments have logged me as anonymous although the system calls me by name (that’s me immediately above). I’m Maxine from Nature.

  21. #21 Flaky
    June 2, 2007

    Thanks for the video. It really made me laugh! I can’t believe people can be that dumb.

  22. #22 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    June 2, 2007

    Go ahead and laugh. They laughed at Galileo too.

  23. #23 Galileo
    June 12, 2007

    How come all the scientists who have published peer reviewed papers on Building 7 say it was a controlled demolition?

    Building 7 wasn’t hit by an airplane.

    I read on some nutjob blog that Building 7 was a hoax created on the internet.

  24. #24 Gabriel
    June 16, 2007

    Hi,

    This HOWTO is excellent MarkH, with your permission I wish to translate it to portuguese and publish it with all the copyrights due in a brazillian forum where I’m an admin.

  25. #25 eric swan
    June 20, 2007

    cranks are people who believe outrageous things, until they are vindicated. then they are’nt cranks. has anyone looked into the proportion of cranks who become non-cranks?

  26. #26 Brian
    June 20, 2007

    I’m guessing that proportion is VERY small. Cranks don’t just believe outrageous things, they believe them in the face of overwhelming objective evidence to the contrary. That reduces their odds a bit, I’d say.

  27. #27 John Holliday
    December 15, 2007

    Great post, thanks!

  28. #28 Peter Mc
    March 12, 2008

    Very little sleep. I cannot imagine cranks getting a healthy eight hours and waking refreshed to a new day. Three hours, no REM, staring at the ceiling cranksleep. Maybe broken by waking to write a green-inker. That’d help.

  29. #29 Heretic
    May 21, 2008

    How ’bout a step where they cite this claiming *you* are the crank? Stating, “but my stance happens to be supported by reality” doesn’t weigh heavily. But then again, they’re cranks…

  30. #30 quantum_flux
    October 18, 2008

    I’ve been taken in by a few cranks in my life. I thought the only cranks were Christians, but I guess cranks are universal and readily predominant in science too. Thank you for this post, I really learned from it.

  31. #31 Gman
    November 6, 2008

    I watched the video attached to this post. Wow, he “recreated” the twin towers with plastic paper organizers. And this is his proof.

  32. #32 james
    January 6, 2009

    You forgot to call everyone who disagreas with you a Nazi

  33. #33 gurkan
    January 17, 2009

    Thanks for the video

  34. #34 hayata dair
    January 19, 2009

    Thank you for a telling post.

  35. #35 Cialis
    March 6, 2009

    I think the post is good which has laid off a different character of human being and humanity to make us feel in this beautiful world there are various kind of people of whom we can’t imagine or think off

  36. #36 word internet blog
    March 6, 2009

    Thanks for the video

  37. #38 konteyner
    July 11, 2009

    Well almost… except that ‘heaven’ seems to be a moving target, and the cited article clearly shows the space elevator terminating in, well, space. Heaven must have moved on :-)

  38. #39 barbrine
    September 14, 2009

    This HOWTO is excellent MarkH, with your permission I wish to translate it to portuguese and publish it with all the copyrights due in a brazillian forum where I’m an admin.
    http://www.progiftstore.com
    http://www.ok-replica.com

  39. #40 Dotor Matriss
    October 28, 2009

    Fantastic post. I translated it in Spanish and posted it on my blog, including a reference to yours:

    http://www.contraperiodismodotormatriss.nireblog.com

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    January 2, 2010

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  41. #43 mandy
    April 14, 2010

    So I thought one possible outcome of a crank encounter was that they might might bond over their perceived status as outsiders and unfairly unrecognized geniuses. Or, as extreme narcissists who view themselves as the greatest thinkers to have yet lived, another possibility would be a crank fight. But instead of either outcome, they quickly dismissed and ignored each other, which I found strange because they will obsessively engage any non-crank in a never ending gibberish battle.REPLICA WATCHES|fake graham watches|replica speedmaster|

  42. #44 red pepper
    June 26, 2010

    I thought one possible outcome of a crank encounter was that they might might bond over their perceived status as outsiders and unfairly unrecognized geniuses.

  43. #45 bcoppola
    February 21, 2012

    Scoff if you will, but it is a little known fact that I.M. Pei and company based their design of the WTC on stackable office trays!!!!11!!

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    April 30, 2012

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