The Anchorage Dispatch News opened its story on the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ acquisition of HAARP with the lines,
Conspiracy theorists, be warned.
The HAARP research facility that has been linked to such things as mind control, earthquakes and hurricanes will survive, but soon-to-be owner University of Alaska Fairbanks will expand efforts to dispel rumors about the research there.
The Air Force will transfer the facility near Gakona to the university early next month, said Othana Zuch, an Air Force spokesperson, on Tuesday.
“Linked”? Excuse me? The state’s largest newspaper chose to put the conspiracy nuts’ bizarre claims ahead of the facts.1 There just seems to be something about the subject of HAARP – not HAARP itself, mind you – that excises the portion of the brain that performs critical thinking. For a reasonably good rebuttal of the wacko theories, see this 2008 Popular Science article.
There are at least three books published that claim HAARP variously has the power of triggering floods, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes. Over time, HAARP has been blamed for triggering catastrophes such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, thunderstorms, earthquakes in Iran, Pakistan, Haiti, Turkey, Greece and the Philippines, major power outages, the downing of TWA Flight 800, Gulf War syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Science aside, the research facility has the ability to attract noisy wingnuts and tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists like few science projects in history.
HAARP is the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, located outside of Gakona, Alaska. It’s an array of 180 antenna that broadcasts a modestly high-energy radio signal into the ionosphere to study the upper atmosphere. The project is located in Alaska because Uncle Ted – the late Senator Ted Stevens – was politically powerful enough to insist on it. While HAARP can broadcast signals as strong as 3.5 megawatts, the intensity of the radio signal in the ionosphere is less than three microwatts per square centimeter. That’s tens of thousands of times less than the Sun’s natural electromagnetic radiation reaching the earth. It’s hundreds of times less than even the normal, completely random variations in intensity of the Sun’s natural ultraviolet energy which creates the ionosphere. It requires exquisitely sensitive instruments to measure HAARP’s effects.
And yet there are people, including former Senator Mark Begich’s brother, who claim HAARP gives the government the ability to control your thoughts. Nick Begich – he calls himself Dr. Nick Begich, but he “received his Doctor of Medicine (Medicina Alternitiva), honoris causa, for independent work in health and political science, from The Open International University for Complementary Medicines, Colombo, Sri Lanka, in November 1994.” The Open International University is described elsewhere as the largest diploma mill in the world.1 But WC digresses.
But, seriously for a moment, what is it about HAARP that attracts this kind of very strange attention? There are a lot of weird science projects in the world. Why have the conspiracy theorists singled out HAARP? Austin Baird, in his article in the ADN, claims it is simply bad PR: “The facility doesn’t open its doors in the same way as other federally-funded research facilities around the country, and it doesn’t go to great efforts to explain the importance of its research to the public.” But HAARP, when it was still open, did open its doors.2 Not all that often but, then, Gakona is a long ways from any where.
There seems to be something more than mere bad public relations.
WC calls for scientific psychological research into this pressing question. Just pure research. No secret agendas.
- In fairness to the ADN, it did publish a story in 2011 debunking some of the myths that had grown up around HAARP: http://www.adn.com/article/haarp-conspiracies-guide-most-far-out-theories-behind-government-research-alaska ↩ ↩
- Admittedly, not to Jesse Ventura and his silly television show. ↩