On October 1, Chris Bovey - a 41-year-old from Devon, England - thought he'd troll the chemtrails camp. During a flight from Buenos Aires to the UK, his plane had to make an emergency landing in São Paulo and dumped excess fuel to lighten the load. Since he had a window seat, Chris decided to film all the liquid being sprayed out of the wing next to him.
Touching down, he uploaded the video with a caption that suggested it could be evidence of chemtrails, hoping to mess with a couple of friends who he knew might fall for it. The video now has 1.1 million views, nearly 20,000 shares, and dozens of comments telling viewers to "wake the F up," or accusing naysayers of being "stupid paid shills."
He then claimed (falsely) that he'd been detained at Heathrow upon arrival, been interrogated by the authorities, and had his phone confiscated. That riled everyone up even more, with "conspiraloon" (Chris's term) website NeonNettle.com picking up the story and reporting it as evidence of chemtrails.
Mick West - editor of anti-conspiracy theory website Metabunk, which published an article explaining why Chris's video was a hoax - explained the history of the chemtrails theory to me. "It started back in the late 1990s," he said. "People just noticed contrails - the condensation trails behind planes - for the first time, and got this idea that a normal contrail shouldn't persist for very long. So if anything lasted for more than a few minutes, it must be something being sprayed."
Comment: Let's zoom in on that little detail:
"People just noticed contrails for the first time..."Jet air travel was 50 years old at that point... but all of a sudden folks in the 90s started noticing they leave contrails?? You can't just gloss over that development with "just noticed"!
Clearly there was something worthwhile to notice. Jet contrails did indeed begin to linger longer in the sky from the mid-to-late 90s... and the idea that what folks were seeing was 'chemicals' being sprayed from the jet aircraft was planted in folks' minds; the perfect deflection - dare we say 'chemtrail-screen' - from the fact that what they were seeing was the same contrails with new behavioral characteristics because the composition of the sky itself was changing.
While chemtrails advocates might accuse sheeple of believing everything their governments tell them, they themselves tend to believe a lot of the stuff their internet tells them. West thinks its the proliferation of unverified "evidence" online that's led to this particular conspiracy theory remaining so popular.
Comment: No, it's the same old COINTEPRO, as active as ever, seeding terrabytes and terrabytes of disinformation so as to "deceive the very elect".
"People share things that look interesting without really looking into them, and they take the word of whoever's posting it that it's a real thing," he said. "I knew from the start that it was some kind of hoax, but people want to have their worldview confirmed, so when they see something that seems to fit their worldview they jump on it."
In Chris's case, that involved being invited onto a radio show hosted by Richie Allen, a friend of David Icke - the man who claims we're being ruled by a group of lizard overlords disguised as world leaders. On air, Chris admitted that the whole thing was a hoax and got into an argument with the host about the validity of the chemtrails theory.
Since then, Chris has been subject to a stream of "vulgar abuse" from pissed-off conspiracy theorists - which, admittedly, is completely his own fault. I gave him a call to find out how he was doing.
VICE: So I hear you've been receiving some pretty bad abuse since you duped these conspiracy theorists?
Chris Bovey: Yeah, I got some really foul messages. I got accused of being a government paid shill - so where's my paycheck? The worst bit of abuse is on my Facebook page. I left it up there because it's so insulting that it made the guy look like an idiot.
Someone else said I was going to hell for breaking the First Commandment. I'm not religious; I don't know what the First Commandment is. Maybe it's, "Thou shalt not post fake chemtrail hoaxes." [Note: it is actually, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."] Other people were saying I'd been leaned on to change my story, saying that it was really a chemtrail-molecule dump.
VICE: Why do you think people were so quick to believe your video was evidence of chemtrails?
Chris Bovey: I think people want to believe it, and I think people are so distrusting of the government. It says a lot about our government that people are actually prepared to believe that they would do this. It's a lack of basic scientific understanding. It doesn't take much research - if you go onto contrailscience.com, you can quite easily see it explains why they're formed.
VICE: Have people stopped claiming that the video is evidence of chemtrails now that you've come out and explained it?
Chris Bovey: Not at all. There are still people sharing it as we speak, saying "chemtrails" in all sorts of languages - some I don't even recognize.
I've got a good 500 people who sent me friend requests, and I accepted them, but today I deleted them all because they kept on inviting me to "like" various strange pages. I knew these kinds of people existed - that's why I posted it. But I absolutely didn't realize how strongly these people believed this. With a few of them, I've tried to reason with them by sending evidence to explain why they are wrong, and they generally just called me a shill and blocked me.
VICE: How long have you been interested in chemtrails?
Chris Bovey: I remember seeing them as a little child when I was at primary school on the River Dart, where I grew up in South Devon. On the playground I used to look up in the air and notice that some planes had longer trails and wonder why. Of course, at that point I didn't realize it was an Illuminati plot.
VICE: Why did you admit the video was a hoax and not keep it going?
Chris Bovey: At the time, I was getting a little bit uncomfortable with it, partly because I didn't want my sane friends thinking I was an idiot. So it was an ideal opportunity to come clean and also a great opportunity to prank them.
VICE: Do you think there's any evidence to support the chemtrail theory at all?
Chris Bovey: No, it's just completely debunked. There's zero evidence - zilch.