As a software engineer, I've been hanging around computer networks since the early 1970s -- started with PLATO, moved to BITNet, Compuserve, AOL,
Usenet and finally to the World Wide Web (which most people confuse with "the Internet", but is just a subset of it, though I'll use the two terms
interchangeably.) Though a lot of that access was related to work, one always finds time to have fun, and one of my favourite pastimes is finding
kooks and reading what they have to say.
Now, one might say that ATS has a lot of kooks, but that's not really the case. A true kook is an over-the-top, round-the-bend, over-the-rainbow
degree of craziness that often causes me to step back and, with respect, utter my best Neo from the Matrix "Whoa…" Over the decades, I've seen
some of the best of the best kooks, and if you would like to dive into the world of some of these amazing speculators, I've prepared this
"Illustrated Field Guide to Internet Kooks" to help you along.
The Golden Age of the Internet Kook
Sadly, while there are still plenty of kooks out there, we are past what I would define as the Golden Age -- about 1994 to 2000. This coincides with
the rapid growth of Internet use and ends with the demise of many free hosting services during the bursting of the Dot-Com bubble. Kooks had long
been around, I could remember them on PLATO back in the early 1970s, but the explosion of them on Usenet and the WWW in the 1990s was an amazing
During this period, kooks were largely divided into two types -- interactive and dissociated. The former would happily (if insanely) answer questions
and chat with interested people, while the latter would post their views and generally ignore any inquiries. Typically, interactive kooks stuck to
Usenet, while dissociated ones focused on the web.
A classic Usenet kook - Serdar Argic, who had some sort of script (in 1994, somewhat advanced) to find any post in any group that referred to Turkey
(even the bird) and post random rants about how the Armenians had committed genocide against the Turks, which was the opposite of what actually had
happened. This, of course, led to mass complaints, as he spammed group after group, and he represented one of the first censorship debates on Usenet,
as to whether to kill his posts or not. Classic kookery, I even have the t-shirt that Joel Furr sold during the uproar.
One of the best of the best: A rant in reply to someone posting
a turkey chili recipe to alt.fraternity.sorority
Oh, and just because I laughed when I ran across it: Kibo's .signature
, another Usenet classic (though a
parody of various idiots and kooks.)
The history of Usenet kooks is thoughtfully (and randomly) documented in
. Though the reign of various Usenet crackpots continues, the
remainder of this guide will deal with web based kooks.
When in the wild, kooks are readily identified by their visual characteristics, some of which follow. Not all kooks will exhibit all characteristics,
but, though some eagles are not bald, all eagles have wings (apart from golf scores.)
Suggestions of invalidity
While "don't believe what I tell you, do your own research!" is a great personal philosophy, it's a bit of a warning sign if it is a) repeated
more than five times, b) written in bold, 300 point font, or c) spoken as regards something impossible to research, like claims of life in other
galaxies, researchers who solely publish their conclusions in obscure languages, like Klingon, or the observed results of cold fusion tests. Bonus
points if someone feels the need to write a whole damn essay on the subject
rants about doing your own research, while saying that they will provide the research
This is, in fact, so indicative of a kook, that a handy directory of them can be generated
through a quick search
Crazy Fonts and Colours
Boy, if there's one thing that you can count on with a kook, it's a fascination with seemingly random colours, applied to text and backgrounds. I'm
sure that there is a purpose somewhere, but Lord only knows what the translation might be. To me, it just makes it really annoying to read, but I'm
sure that it's "insightful" in some manner.
- an old ATS friend, who tells me I'm an unenlightened
Links 'O Plenty
Another good clue is a million links to articles/rants/information buried within the web site. Generally, this indicates that the person has spent
most of their life on this project, rarely a good thing.
Gigantic Wall of Text
For some reason, kooks are seemingly allergic to the RETURN key -- the amount of white space in a post, page or message is inversely proportional to
the amount of insanity contained within. If there is logic here, it would be that the harder something is to read, the more one has to concentrate to
read it. Me, I'm partial to the theory that too much white space swallows your soul.
Page Without End
A somewhat more entertaining counterpart to the Gigantic Wall of Text, the Page Without End is also laden with text, but it's punctuated with
graphics (relevant or not,) YouTube videos, and font/colour shifts, going on, it seems, forever. Some of these would take hours to get through, as the
kooks behind it apparently feel that if you're forced to go to another page, your senses will return to you during the load time.
Misrepresentation of Identity
One sure sign is someone who presents themselves as someone that they are surely not. Would Jesus announce his return to the Earth by posting on some
obscure website? Or would he be more likely to eviscerate a pompous ass like Richard Dawkins on live television?