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10/01/2003 Archived Entry: "How gullible are you?"
Posted by CKL @ 12:20 AM PST

Back in late 2000 and early 2001, some guy (or bunch of guys) calling himself "John Titor" wove an intricate fiction on the Internet about being a time traveler from the year 2036, sent back by the military to find an old IBM 5100 computer from 1975. As Dr. Evil might say: Riiight. Okay, I'm sure someone who swallowed this malarkey is going to jump on me for stripping this well-constructed pack of lies down to a TV logline, but really, fifteen seconds of critical thinking and it's all over. And I find it pretty damn appalling that so many people seem ready-- even eager-- to believe this junk.

What do I think? It was a hoax, plain and simple. The guy (or guys) who came up with it were survival nuts who also happened to be computer geeks, and wanted to have a bit of fun. They posted to Art Bell's web site, for crying out loud! You can rationalize it all you want, find meaning in all the coincidences, but you don't even have to read between the lines to see it.

Let's start with the most obvious fallacy. The johntitor.com web site claims:

John said he would not make predictions or tell us what happens in the future, he did make enough comments that leave a trail of what might be called predictions.
However, according to the same site, "John Titor" said in a posting on November 4, 2000:
A world war in 2015 killed nearly three billion people.

This isn't even about the substance of the hoax itself. This is about the other guy, the one who registered the johntitor.com domain name, spent days scouring the Net for relevant information, and then more days putting it all on a web site. How the hell can you say the second sentence above "might be called [a] prediction?" There's no ambiguity there! If you can't wrap your head around basic facts, how can your judgment in any other matter be sound? What scares me the most is that I'm pretty sure it's not a hoax-within-a-hoax. The second guy actually and truly believes the first joker. Shudder.

But let's get back to why I think "John Titor" was a survivalist. Here's another of his gems which could, I suppose, possibly be called a prediction (all emphasis below is mine):

There is a civil war in the United States that starts in 2005. That conflict flares up and down for 10 years. In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against the major cities in the United States (which is the "other side" of the civil war from my perspective), China and Europe. The United States counter attacks. The US cities are destroyed along with the AFE (American Federal Empire)...thus we (in the country) won. The European Union and China were also destroyed. Russia is now our largest trading partner and the Capitol of the US was moved to Omaha Nebraska.
Oh, yeah. It gets better:
(In response to the question: "Is there anything we can do to prepare for the war you are describing?")
I tried to consolidate your questions into a basic list. I hope this helps.
1. Do not eat or use products from any animal that is fed and eats parts of its own dead.
2. Do not kiss or have intimate relations with anyone you do not know.
3. Learn basic sanitation and water purification.
4. Be comfortable around firearms. Learn to shoot and clean a gun.

5. Get a good first aid kit and learn to use it.
6. Find 5 people within 100 miles that you trust with your life and stay in contact with them.
7. Get a copy of the US Constitution and read it.
8. Eat less.
9. Get a bicycle and two sets of spare tires. Ride it 10 miles a week.
10. Consider what you would bring with you if you had to leave your home in 10 min. and never return.
Wait, there's more!
Russia's enemy in the United States is not you, the average person. Russia's enemy is the United States government.
And here's the cherry on top:
The civil war in the United States will start in 2004. I would describe it as having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse. The conflict will consume everyone in the US by 2012 and end in 2015 with a very short WWIII.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner! I suppose I should be grateful that "John Titor" is only perpetrating an Internet hoax and not holed up in a cabin in Montana making mail bombs. Then again, since he stopped posting in March, 2001, I don't really know that he's not doing the latter right now. Hmm.

I'd like to close this topic with some actual wisdom from snopes.com:

Even if a prophecy contains something that makes no sense whatsoever, believers will find a way to make it fit.

People believe what they want to believe. I don't just believe that, I know it. And it makes me sad.

But wait! It's my birthday. I should be happy. And I am happy. Especially after watching Gilmore Girls tonight. Copper! Boom!

Replies: 5 comments

But what if it's true? I know I'll be following this guys advice if some of his predictions come true, such as the civil war starting steadily, but surely. There's no way you can't see it coming with the forthcoming elections and the conflicts related to it.

Posted by What if @ 11/02/2004 04:39 AM PST

I agree, and I'm also surprised how many people are buying the story like they might buy pyramid schemes and time-shares for death valley. It is entertaining though, both the story and peoples reactions to it.

Posted by Razimus @ 12/22/2004 03:44 AM PST

Frankly, I just don't get what all of the fuss is about, particularly from the "anti-Titor" folks. I hear people getting downright angry that anyone would be open to the possibility of Titor's story.

If Titor was a fraud, then he was a genius. So many aspects of his tale are absolutely brilliant that, if nothing else, we ought to be celebrating the creativity of his mind. However, his story has some very good "outs" that make it relatively plausible, for example, the *multiple timelines* aspect. If you follow it, logic tells you that things about his story could be changed by actions he took. Most interesting to me was his comment about Y2K, asking bemusedly if people didn't wonder why things were ok and unaffected. I was a real student of Y2K and it's very clear to me that very few people today understand just how close we came to a truly horrible disaster there. Something exceedingly odd happened .... it would take far too long to explain it but the notion that "there was never any real problem there" just doesn't wash and Titor presents, if nothing else, a very interesting creative premise.

If he was a fake, what harm would he have done? If his story was true, then what he told us about *his* timeline wouldn't likely manifest itself exactly (after all, he could've made radical changes to out timeline). I don't think it can hurt to be aware of his story and watch how things unfold. After all, it's not like he's making a bundle off of this or that anyone is buying into a pyramid scheme.... it's just more info to store away for possible use someday.

Posted by Islandfeller @ 12/27/2004 02:00 PM PST

Genius prediction hoaxer? That is to say, global nuclear holocaust and yet you can survive it by distilling water? Or you come out of it by hudding around university libraries and WHAMMO next thing you know, you gots you some TIME MACHINES! Woo hoo. Ain't the future grand.

I don't mind that the hoaxter wastes no time to revile this "worldline" and "generation" for the trite high crimes and misdemeanors of not caring for the poooooooooooooooor and all that blah blah (zzzzzz), but here we are in 2005 and whoops, no civil war.

And if it's for LATER in 2005 (although he says it "starts" in 2004), he says the bad guys are in the cities and the good guys are out in the country. The cities are actually the opposition to the current "oppressive" government (Blue States), while it's people in the country that are the Red States, and the administration's strongest supporters.

He was a science guy who was angry at all the problems in the world, and didn't know dammit all enough about politics to understand enough to make a remotely credible hoax-prediction.

Back to the drawing board, tin-hatters.

Posted by Cigarette Smoking Man @ 01/08/2005 12:14 AM PST

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