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No, I’m Not on the Payroll of (Name Your Evil Entity)

by Brian Dunning, Jan 17 2013

IMG_3777Welcome. You are reading this post because you’ve been directed here by either myself or one of my listeners to whom you’ve suggested that I’m on the payroll of {insert the name of your preferred Evil Entity here}.

I am a full-time science writer who has tackled over 300 different pop-culture urban legends on my podcast Skeptoid, and many other subjects on other online/offline publications. Most likely, you read, watched, or heard something of mine, found that it disputed a cherished belief of yours, and you decided that no rational person could actually come to such a conclusion as I did unless he was on the payroll of Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Food, Big Toxins, Men in Black, what have you.

You have arrived at a completely irrational supposition. The Internet is a big place. In 2011, estimated that over 1,000,000 new blog posts are published every day. Many of them contradict each other. Whatever you read from me was just one of those blips. If an Evil Entity decided that a good way to promote their agenda was to put “on the payroll” one random writer, to write on every imaginable subject over the course of a seven-year-period (the length of time I’ve been doing this), simply so they could sneak in a single blip of a post that agrees with their agenda, we could assume that that Evil Entity has a pretty poor marketing department.

I am paid for what I do, but it is not by any one single entity. My income comes completely from voluntary donations from listeners, almost all of it in the form of monthly micropayments. It’s a large body of supporters. They have many different opinions. Every week I upset some of them with my conclusions. I am on the payroll of White Noise, not of Evil Entity. This is very important to the impartiality of my research and reporting. If I demonstrated a bias, my pay would go down, not up. A lack of bias is what my best supporters are hoping to receive.

To make this work, I do my best to see what today’s best science has to say on the matter, and that’s what I report. It’s usually pretty easy to tell what’s good science and what’s not. Good science has successfully persuaded the majority of researchers and publications. Research that’s “not quite ready” has not yet done so. Occasionally this is because it’s cutting edge and overturns much of what we know; far more often it has failed to persuade others because it’s simply wrong. Regardless, I try to report whatever it is that most scientists have agreed is the best state of our knowledge.

“Scientists” are not a bunch of stiff old men in labcoats in black and white photographs with nefarious agendas. Real scientists (including hundreds of my friends and acquaintances) are young people and bright minds in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and they wear colorful clothing. They live in your neighborhood and you’ve seen them at your local park. Most of them probably earn less than you do. They do it because they are excited about learning, making new discoveries, and improving our world. Their jobs exist because their employer needs to learn things. (When employers want the “status quo” they rarely need to hire scientists.)

Some of what they learn goes back to the drawing board when their colleagues are unable to confirm it. Some of what they learn does get confirmed, and eventually widely accepted throughout the world, and goes to improve and strengthen our collective knowledge in that particular science. This is the scientific method. Sometimes, what we learn by the scientific method surprises some people. Often, some people are disappointed, because science usually shows that problems and systems are complicated and solutions are rarely magically easy.

Such explanations are what I seek out. Why are solutions not magically easy? What really does work, as opposed to what we wish would work? I learn these things every week with every episode of my show, and I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned. The more surprising it is, the more interesting it is. Invariably, some are disappointed whenever I report that a magically easy solution they’ve been buying into is not supported by science. Others take this knowledge and use it to their benefit.

My promise to you is that I will never offer you a magically easy solution to a complicated real problem. If someone else has been selling you one, you should check to see where their payroll is coming from, at least as actively as you should check mine.

36 Responses to “No, I’m Not on the Payroll of (Name Your Evil Entity)”

  1. Trimegistus says:

    One could do an interesting study of the whole concept behind “evil” corporations, lobbyists, or government agencies. When did that become a non-insane way of thinking about what are, generally, organizations of law-abiding citizens performing broadly beneficial functions?

    • tmac57 says:

      What you say is broadly true,but some notable exceptions that occur in legitimate businesses can cause widespread distrust.Think of Enron,and AIG, for example. Most of the people who worked there were doing good work,but a handful of people in positions of power caused a lot of misery.And don’t even get me started on what the tobacco companies were up to behind closed doors.But I too get irritated by the way companies and government are demonized by applying the “Big” label to them instead of focusing on specific charges with evidence,which would be more appropriate.

    • LL says:

      When did people start to view corporations as evil? In the U.S., I’d say it was right after the Civil War. In order for abolitionists to gain the Presidency they had to ally themselves with business interests in forming the Republican Party. In order for the Union to win the Civil War, Lincoln enacted policies which favored large manufacturers and the railroads and directly led to corporations having massive power in Washington. Almost as soon as Andrew Johnson took office, corruption became a problem in the Republican Party at all levels — mainly because of its close ties with business interests. Corruption during Reconstruction is legendary. Not that the Democrats weren’t corrupt at this stage too, it’s just that the Republicans had the power and the connections to to take corruption to a whole new level.

      Of course, certain groups were always likely to view the government with suspicion, including the Jeffersonians, but especially Native Americans and blacks. Actually, it’s hard to find a group that hasn’t been oppressed or persecuted by the American government and corporations at some point. I think the real mystery isn’t why some people view government and corporations as evil, but why more people don’t.

  2. Willy says:

    Hah! You just admitted being on the payroll of “White Noise”. A well known front for the evil alliance of the frog people and the reptile beings.

  3. Chris Howard says:

    Unmm, so how can I get on the Evil Entity Payroll?! Is the benefits package good? Is there a “soul swap” involved? Does it matter that I don’t believe in souls? Is there a credit check? My credit is, shall we say, less than stellar. I consider myself moderately good, so does Evil Entity, Inc. provide evil training? If so, is it paid?
    I think I could be really good at the Evil stooge thing.

  4. @blamer says:

    Numbers won’t be persuasive to those imagining a Big conspiracy without evidencing it with a paper trail etc.

    1 million blog posts daily? Then instead of imagining “an Evil Entity decided that a good way to promote their agenda was to put [Brian] `on the payroll`”, one need only imagine a larger number of paid shills.

  5. dragonfly says:

    That’s a funny picture. :)

  6. xiphos says:

    What’s the health care plan like at Evil Entity Inc? I am willing to join up I have experience. I’ve worked for the government and have been a union member. Is there flex time?

  7. Blaise says:

    I had no idea photographs could have “nefarious agendas”… :)

  8. Blaze says:

    It’s kind of flattering, in a skewed way. The Conspiracy Wingnuts obviously don’t consider you a random blogger among a million posts. They consider you a Significant Threat to their house of shaky cards. You stand high enough to be approached by Evil Entity talent scouts.

    • tmac57 says:

      Maybe, but I rather think it is more that they just really don’t have any better argument than “Big ___ Shill!!”.
      It’s the equivalent of “Oh Yeah!!!?”

  9. Bob Moore says:

    Well, Monsanto paid somebody a lot to not have to disclose GMO ingredients. Evil.

  10. Max says:

    Searches for Skeptoid have surpassed searches for WattsUpWithThat, which got funding from the Heartland Institute, so the audience is there.,%20wattsupwiththat

    It’s just that sites like WattsUpWithThat and JunkScience don’t waste their time on the Loch Ness Monster. Maybe talking about monsters is a clever way to attract an audience before hitting them with the DDT propaganda.

  11. RCAF says:

    I always thougt that Brian was being paid by aliens from Jupiter. You never hear him talk about them, so there’s your proof.

    • LovleAnjel says:

      I believe Bryan received about $24 in back pay from various conspiratorial bodies a few years ago. I suppose his next lump payment is due any day.

  12. Martin says:

    I knew it! Brian’s on the payroll of Big Skepticism!

  13. Dionigi says:

    I think you are in the employ of lego.
    get out of that

  14. 010011100110000101110100011010000110000101101110001000000101001101110100011100100110000101110111011000100111001001101001011001000110011101100101 says:

    01000010 01110010 01101001 01100001 01101110 00101100 00100000 01100101 01110110 01100101 01110010 01111001 01100010 01101111 01100100 01111001 00100000 01101011 01101110 01101111 01110111 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01100001 01101110 00100000 01101001 01101110 01110011 01110100 01110010 01110101 01101101 01100101 01101110 01110100 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01010100 01001000 01000101 00100000 01001101 01000001 01001110 00101110

  15. Pooneil says:

    Well, Brian! As a member of White Noise, you are on my payroll and are expected to put out a new and interesting scientific examination every week. Be my corporate shill and do my bidding. Please!

  16. David says:

    Did you see that wad of cash?! The micropayments are adding up…

  17. White Noise says:

    Brian – We need to talk…

  18. rb3 says:

    How do I get to be an employee of any subsidiary of Evil Entity, Inc.? No belief is too cherished, no grandmotherly wisdom too honored, and no cow is too sacred for me to thoroughly demolish. As added value, I will even salt the earth in my wake so that nothing will ever grow again! Evil Entity, I am your man! Call me.