florida man warns public about mind control. maybe. but probably not…
Back in the day, we covered the fear of cell phones and wi-fi promoted by people who are very, very confident that whatever electromagnetic waves they put out must cause cancer, or a host of other really, really nasty problems. But it’s not only the alt health crowd that’s terrified of cell phone technology and its emissions, there are numerous conspiracy theories centered around them and how seemingly benign cell signals are used for mind control or subliminal intelligence gathering. One recent theory alleges that cell towers in Tampa have been hijacked by a sinister group of DARPA operatives with a mission to do something very vague and scary to Floridians, according to a whistleblower who might have once worked for them, as these theories so often seem to go.
What the sinister plan is exactly, he doesn’t know, but he cites mind control as an important component, claiming that the cell towers broadcast at a frequency that resonates at the same range as the human mind. Now, this is far from the only such theory floating around the conspiracy internet, but it’s such a textbook example that if we’re going to fact check one, it might as well be our model. And right out of the gate, it’s off to a really, really bad start…
Virtually everything presented to convince us of DARPA’s nefarious plot rests on e-mails from a whistleblower named Paul Batcho, who at some point held the DOE’s equivalent of a top secret clearance and worked at Los Alamos. Nothing bizarre or suspicious in that. More than a million people hold some sort of security clearance nowadays so it really isn’t much of a stretch to see Princeton alums with PhDs in computer science working for the government and having a high level security clearance. In fact, it often happens to comp sci people who come from top notch colleges since they do research funded by government agencies that can often deal with secret information related to weapons, intelligence, and infrastructure.
What was suspicious, however, is seeing bizarre, disjointed ramblings in the quoted e-mails making claims that even a cursory Google search would quickly flag as ridiculous. For example, to give the notion that cell towers are broadcasting telepathic or mind-altering waves a patina of plausibility, the theory says that human thoughts resonate at 450 MHz and that’s the secret reason why there’s an FCC ban on radio stations broadcasting in the 400 MHz to 700 MHz frequency range.
To borrow from a commercial, that’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works. First off, the most active human brain waves peak at 40 Hz, which is 10,000 times slower than their supposed resonance frequency. Secondly, resonating with these brain waves has no effect on humans because they are artifacts of electro-chemical reactions in our brains. To disrupt them requires direct magnetic and electrical stimulation that’s precisely targeted to the area you want to affect. You can’t just broadcast signals willy-nilly and expect there to be a major effect on the population to which you’re broadcasting.
That may ahve worked in The Kingsmen, but in reality the best you’ll do is maybe give someone hypersensitive a very mild headache. Maybe. Finally, it’s true that radio stations aren’t allowed to broadcast in the 400 MHz to 700 MHz range by the FCC. Want to know who are? Astronomers, satellites, and aircraft navigation stations. Wouldn’t airplanes flying overhead and radio astronomy dishes mess with our minds and be called out in the cited e-mails? And why would this frequency band be considered in Europe for public safety organizations? Seriously, who is this alarmingly ignorant whistleblower anyway?
And that brings us to Dr. Paul Batcho. Did you notice that I really tried to avoid attributing any of this conspiracy theory claims directly to him? That’s because after a few minutes of digging, it’s pretty apparent that a man named Paul Batcho exists, that he has a doctorate in comp sci from a respected, prestigious institution, and he does mathematical research. But he’s not a scientist affiliated with DARPA and he didn’t work for the DOE in Los Alamos. Instead, he’s a trader who designs high performance trading software as an SVP at Citi. His only link to this whole thing is that he lives in Tampa, so what I’ve seen leads me to believe that someone is using his identity to advance his or her own conspiracy theory under the guise of a supposed whistleblower who looks like he fits the bill.
After all, he seems like a fairly typical middle aged guy you can picture working in a nondescript office with computers, and he has a background in computer science you can legitimately highlight. But since he’s presenting papers on how to build a better trading algorithm, and his LinkedIn profile strangely omits a clearance that would be a big asset on his resume, or any DOD work — done with a DOE clearance for some reason — which is also a big plus to most employers, his DARPA whistleblower status seems highly, highly doubtful.
So let’s recap. We have a theory which claims that cell towers are trying to control the minds of Floridians, ripping off many comics and books for their main story, uses a buzzword salad that doesn’t get a single thing about the human brain right, and is based on a claim just one minute of searching shows to be completely wrong. On top of that, the supposed source appears to be a person in no way affiliated with this theory, working as a high profile technical expert in whose industry random, misplaced, rambling emails accusing the government of brainwashing people or reading their minds using the same frequency as radio telescopes and airplanes would be a huge image problem, and who should know how to anonymously leak very important classified information considering that many with lesser skill sets have done the same thing.
Notice how a real whistleblower with explosive revelations like Snowden leaked top secret documents. He set up encrypted channels to contact serious reporters, not sent screeds addressed to entities that he held responsible for evil doings to random websites. So if you live or work in or near Tampa, don’t worry. Your cell phone and local towers aren’t out to take over your brain. But do a search for your name once in a while. You never know who may be using it or why…