Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Attack of the fnords

Today I learned a new term that is apparently gaining popularity amongst the conspiracy-theory crowd, and that term is "fnord."

Originally coined for the Illuminatus! Trilogy by authors Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, a fnord is a typographic or symbolic representation of disinformation, intended to misdirect or hypnotize.  Wikipedia says about its use in Shea and Wilson's writings,
In these novels, the interjection "fnord" is given hypnotic power over the unenlightened. Under the Illuminati program, children in grade school are taught to be unable to consciously see the word "fnord". For the rest of their lives, every appearance of the word subconsciously generates a feeling of uneasiness and confusion, and prevents rational consideration of the subject. This results in a perpetual low-grade state of fear in the populace. The government acts on the premise that a fearful populace keeps them in power...  To see the fnords means to be unaffected by the supposed hypnotic power of the word.
So of course, it was only a matter of time before the conspiracy theorists latched onto this idea, despite Shea and Wilson's trilogy clearly being shelved in the "fiction" section of Barnes & Noble.  And once they decide that the government is planting fnords around, the next question is obviously... where?

Answer?  The logo for "Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers."

According to a guy who goes by the handle of "Solomon Sevens," this logo is just so fnordful that it's a wonder we don't lapse into some kind of catatonic state when we look at it.  If you listen to his YouTube presentation on the subject, which he delivers in a nasal monotone so dull that I expected him to end his sentences with, "Anyone?  Anyone?  Buehler?", you come away convinced either that (1) the entire superstructure of civilization is trying to destroy your mind, or else (2) the conspiracy theorists really need to institute some kind of quality control.

Because what is it that Mr. Sevens thinks are the super-evil symbolic fnords present in this logo?  He tells us that there are three of them:  (1) The circle around the little girl's head; (2) the curlicues underneath the word "Wendy's;" and (3) the fact that the logo is printed in all primary colors.

And I'm thinking, "that's it?"  That's the best you can do?  You're not even going to use numerology to show that the name "Wendy's" somehow generates the Number of the Beast?  You're not going to tell us that you can rearrange "Old-Fashioned Hamburgers" to spell "Balderdash! Humoring Foes?"  You're not going to comment on the oddly hypnotic black eyes which the little red-haired girl uses to bore into your soul and convince you that you really want to eat a truly terrible hamburger right now?

All you can come up with are a circle and a curlicue and some red and yellow printer's ink?  Those are your ultra-evil fnords?

Oh, Mr. Sevens tells us, it's because circles represent the Eye of Satan!  And the curlicues are just like the designs on the dollar bill that are next to the All-Seeing Eye in the Pyramid!  It's the Illuminati!  Trying to control us all!  Even coming at us when we stop for lunch!

It's kind of an anticlimax, isn't it?  Here I was expecting to find out that logos were going to be full of all kinds of subliminal messages, and I find out that I'm supposed to be afraid of clip-art.

So, anyway, that's what a fnord is.  I'm a little disappointed, frankly.  I thought they'd at least have some gravitas, given how weird the name is, but no luck.  So I'll just go get my breakfast, which I will eat off a circular plate using a fork with a curlicue design.  If I go missing, just look for me in the local insane asylum.  I'll be housed in the wing where they keep all the "sheeple."


  1. Have you given a fnord lately?

    (sorry, couldn't help myself.)

  2. Hey, This is Solomon Sevens. Here's another dose for you to choke on. Enjoy.