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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The future according to Adam Sandler

It's not often that you get to witness the birth of a conspiracy theory.

Most of the time, I suspect, they start out with someone speculating about something, finding circumstantial evidence that seems to support the conjecture, and then telling a few friends.  Who tell a few friends, who tell a few friends, and there you are.  Hard to pinpoint, and (therefore) hard to squelch.

But today I'm going to tell you about a conspiracy theory whose provenance we can identify with near exactitude.  And since it involves not only conspiracy theorists, but The Onion, Princess Diana, neo-Nazis, and Adam Sandler, you know it's gonna be a good story.

The whole thing started with a story run in August by Clickhole, a satirical website that is an offshoot of The Onion.  Entitled, "Five Tragedies Weirdly Predicted by Adam Sandler," the article tells about five instances when Sandler gave hints (or outright statements) in his movies or comedy acts about upcoming world events, to wit:
  • The Waco Siege.  Sandler, supposedly, would intersperse his standup act with repeating "for several minutes" the phrase, "Something's coming to Waco.  Something dark."
  • Princess Diana's death.  In the movie Happy Gilmore, Sandler looks directly into the camera and says, "The Queen's eldest, our beautiful flower, will wilt under a Parisian bridge."
  • The 2010 BP Gulf oil spill.  In an interview in 2005 on Conan O'Brien, Sandler was wearing a t-shirt that said, "BP OIL SPILL IN FIVE YEARS."
  • The Haitian earthquake.  Sandler predicted that one on Funny People, but underestimated the death toll at 220,000.  (Guess even a "modern-day Nostradamus" can't get every detail right.)
  • The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  All the way back in 1993, Sandler was in a skit on Saturday Night Live in which he sang, "A missing plane-ah / It’s from Malaysia / Make me insane-ah / This will all make sense in due time."
So there you are, then.  Pretty amazing, yes?

Well, no, and for the very good reason that Sandler didn't say (or do) any of the things that the Clickhole article said.  In other words, the whole thing was made up from top to bottom.  Not surprising; it's satire, remember?

[image courtesy of photographer Franz Richter and the Wikimedia Commons]

But that didn't stop people from falling for it.  Lots of people.  Not only did they miss the "satire" piece, they also never bothered to fact check, even to the extent of watching the damn movies and television shows where all of these shenanigans allegedly happened.  It started popping up all over the online media, making appearances on blogs, Twitter, and conspiracy theory websites like Godlike Productions and Literally Unbelievable.  Then, the neo-Nazis got a hold of it, and it ended up on their site Stormfront, where the link was posted with the following wonderful message: "If any of this is true, it just shows how Jews do make shit happen and probably communicate via movies."

You'd think that communicating via communicating would be easier, wouldn't you?  I mean, why go to all of the trouble of making a movie, including all of the lengthy and costly post-production stuff, marketing, and so on, when you could just pick up a phone and tell your Evil Illuminati Henchmen your future predictions?  After all, in the movies, anyone could be watching.  Even a neo-Nazi could be watching.  And then the secret's out, you know?

I mean, I have some first-hand experience in this regard.  My wife is Jewish, and when she wants to tell me something, she doesn't make a movie about it and wait for me to go to the theater and watch it, she just tells me.  She's kind of direct that way.

But the whole thing blew up so fast that it ended up having its own page on Snopes, wherein we are told in no uncertain terms that Adam Sandler can not actually foretell the future.

I'm not expecting people to believe this, though.  Any time Snopes posts anything, they get accused of being shills or of participating in a coverup.  Which means that I probably will be accused of the same thing, especially now that I've revealed that my wife is Jewish.

As I've observed so many times, with conspiracy theorists, you can't win.  And that goes double for the neo-Nazis.


  1. Adam Sandler can't tell the future? Could have fooled me. Yet thankfully didn't. I did see the post circulating, gave it a skeptical "huh" and that was it. No, I didn't fact check or run to the neighbour and announce the next messiah, but it goes to show that many will people have no qualms with sensationalizing what might get them a high "share/like" count. Or maybe it was a personal experiment and the author of it is sitting back shaking their head at the stupidity. I'd like to think that's the case.

  2. I suppose any famous figure gets a few lucky coincidences once in a while. I don't even like Adam Sandler much.

  3. Not to disagree with your general point, but I hadn't noticed that Literally Unbelievable was a conspiracy website. Perhaps you meant another site? The one I'm thinking of contains screencaps of people posting silly things on Facebook as a result of mistaking Onion stories for real news articles, viz.