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George Lee Butler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Lee Butler (born June 17, 1939), sometimes known as Lee Butler, was commander in chief, United States Strategic Command, and the last commander of Strategic Air Command. Following his retirement from the military he became active in the nuclear disarmament movement, calling for the outright abolition of nuclear weapons.

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  • ✪ Debunking 9/11 conspiracy theorists part 6 of 7 - The psychology behind a 9/11 truther
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Myles: Hey Guys. Itís me, Myles. This video is going to be a little different from the rest of them. Itís going to be basically talking about the psychology behind a Truther. Why do they believe what they believe, basically? Now I have no psychology background what-so-ever, but I do know somebody who does. Dave: Hi Iím Dave. And Iím a PhD psychology researcher. I have been invited here by Myles to explain some of the theory behind why people believe conspiracy theories. Despite what you may think, people who believe conspiracy theories arenít actually more stupid or insane than the rest of us. For instance, there is no relationship between IQ and believing conspiracy theories nor do they show any especially delusional thinking that you might associate with schizophrenia or psychosis. Never the less, as you actually see from some of the videos, they seem to be trapped in what monological belief system. So, a system where everything is conspiracy theory, no matter what information they get it all ends up being incorporated into this giant belief system where there is a conspiracy against them in the world. And the question is, why is this? As with anything in psychology, there is never one straight answer. thereís a series of perspectives that kind of come together to form a coherent picture. But Iím going to go through some of the more consistent findings from the literature. So firstly, Iím going to focus on what personality trait, So what individual characteristics makes one more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. Firstly I imagine, people who believe in conspiracy theories tend to be more mistrustful of other people and particularly of higher authority. Truther: I donít know, I donít trust these people who are in power. I donít, you know? Dave: Whatís quite interesting is they also tend to have whatís called an authoritarian personality. which means actually they tend to be more willing to believing in and follow strong leaders. They want things to be regimented, things to have an order and also tend blame other people for their problems; and this will come into focus a little bit later. Perhaps the most consistent finding though, across many studies is the effects of loss of control and a sense of powerlessness. So loss of control is how much you think your life is in your own destiny. For example, letís say you were late for work one day. Someone who has a high internal loss of control would maybe think it was their own fault. Maybe pressing the snooze button one too many times, for waiting to have a piece of toast rather than having say, a breakfast bar and they didnít account for the traffic. Whereas someone with an external loss of control would blame other peopleís driving for causing the traffic, would say itís the alarm clocks fault for not waking them up in time. So on and so forth. So they externalise the causes of anything that happens to them. This kind of leaves people with fundamentally is kind of sense of powerlessness if anything serious happens because as far as their concerned they are not in control of their own lives. And of course, 9/11 was an incredibly traumatic, emotional and serious event. You can see how, if you already had this externalised view of the world, that you had no control over it. When a truly terrifying event happens it generates a high level of anxiety. This anxiety then, gets manifested in this kind of believe in conspiracy theories. As one researcher put it: Conspiracy theories are a convenient alternative to an uncertain world. So I mentioned powerlessness specifically. So how do we know this? Well firstly of course, we can count SOMETHING?? rate, so we can take personality measures of powerlessness and feelings of loss of control and relate this to how willing people are to believe in conspiracy theories. But what was interesting was a fascinating little experiment that involved priming. And priming is essentially where you get someone to think about something before they take part in an experiment. in this case the researchers got participants to think about the global economic situation. So nothing to do with conspiracy theories as such. They got them to think about how they have no control over the money market, about investment, about what huge multinationals do. I.e. they are powerless to control their own lives. And lo and behold when people where asked if they believed in conspiracy theories. They were more likely to in the condition that they were asked to feel powerless. When they had to imagine an uncertain and chaotic world. What we can say really here is, although people that simply, you know, everyone has a different loss of control and sense of powerlessness. And this can also come from legitimate circumstances. So if youíre particularly poor, if you have had a bad life. You are legitimately powerless. What it seems to be is that these kind of people which both are as a characteristic of themselves, has this extra loss of control and feel situationally they are powerless are drawn to conspiracy theories as an explanation. As I say, for someone who high anxiety about that theyíre not in control of their life. Believing in an all-powerful shadow government is a convenient alternative to thinking this is a terrifying event that no one could have predicted. So the second thing we are going to look at is a more cognitive approach. What is it about their thinking style that makes them more likely to be a conspiracy theorist? And one thing is how we attribute cause to an event. So humans we tend to ascribe things one of two ways. So situational, so based on the context or disposition, which is based on broad character sweeps. For example, letís say your friend Kevin crashes his car. You might ascribe that situation that he was tired, that the weather conditions were bad, that the brakes in his car failed. You give this kind of complex situational reason to why an event occurred. Alternatively (and) interesting, if it was a stranger that hit Kevin, you are likely to say that person is a terrible driver. What this is called is a fundamental attribution error. And this is our tendency to attribute causes of action to this generalised dispositional trend rather than focusing on the context. And why? Well focusing on a situation the context is basically quiet hard. So we tend not to do it. And how does this work for conspiracy theorists specifically. So take an example from 7/7 rather than 9/11. The main conspiracy theory is based on a report from a women who said that it felt as if the tube train, so the underground train, lifted off the tracks. And they have taken this to say, ìwell thatís evidence of a conspiracy theoryî wasnít a suicide bombing, it was an MI5 planted bomb. And this is dispositional thinking, thereís a conspiracy so what she said relates to that conspiracy. Where as a situational look at that event, will say, well hereís a survivor, a victim, who was caught in this explosion who moments ago almost lost her life in a tiny tube full of smoke and flame. Whatís to say her testament is at all accurate? And thatís a situational explanation but that takes looking at a new ??shine? Where as saying itís a conspiracy theory is basically simple. and when psychologists have looked at this kind of attribution, we find that firstly we always tend towards depositional because itís easier essentially And itís especially true when we are in a hurry or when we have, for instance, high emotion; for instance anxiety and fear. So you can see what I have said about personality if you have individuals that are particularly are fearful or anxious They are suddenly more likely to make sweeping generalisations and see all hosts of different sporadic individual events as part of this one whole disposition. So itís a conspiracy, rather than see each in turn. And we saw a little bit of this when people were discussing how the buildings fell down. Everyone has got their own idea and they all link together so building 7, the two towers and stuff. However, they can see that because saying itís a conspiracy is easier. Whereas looking at it independently, so fire, melting points of steel, the structure of the building, debris that fell. Itís complicated and takes essentially effort. And the problem is. Once we are caught in this dispositional mode of thinking, itís actually quite hard to switch back. The next thing I want to look at is called the confirmation bias. And to say that conspiracy theories use the confirmation bias is a bit like saying that a nuclear weapon makes a bit of a mess when it goes off. And for those that donít know, the confirmation bias is the tendency to attend to information that agrees with us and ignore information that disagrees with us. And clearly we can see this in conspiracy theories and videos and these beliefs. No matter what evidence they are presented with, they very quickly dismiss or ignore, or pretend they have seen evidence of contrary to their opinion. and focus on tiny little details that no one else who is thinking critically would say thatís just coincidence or bad timing. Truther: Correct me if Iím wrong. New York was the 11th colonised state of the union? Myles: I donít know. Sorry my American history is very bad. Truther: It happened 111 days before the end of the year. Hit first by flight 11. The pentagon 77 feet tall. Hit by flight 77. Ok, so the last thing that I am going to go very briefly into is the social identity aspect of conspiratorial beliefs. Because obviously these people arenít alone partly thanks to the Internet. You can connect to thousands, hundreds, possibly, hopefully not, millions of people that believe the same thing as you. But the question is, youíve got these people who are scared, that have these making these cognitive biases that we all do but drove them towards conspiracy theories. But even then youíd think youíd be able to convince some people. And indeed there was a very good documentary on conspiracy theories on the BBC recently. that shows some people can be convinced. So what separates those that can be convinced by basically pure evidence, from those that will refuse to admit they are wrong. or that they got things wrong or that everything might simply be, not as they say. And one explanation for this is related to what is called social identity. And the idea is that we all have identities that we cling to, that our self-esteem depend on So for instance Iím a researcher, a psychologist, a son, a twin, a brother. Mothers, fathers, office workers, your job, the sports you like, the games you play, the club youíre part of. These all form different identities that become part of us. So what you have to realise is that when Myles was in New York challenging these people, he wasnít having an academic debate as such. It wasnít a case of well I have information, you have information. and then weíll see whoís right and we then we will change. Our conclusion will be based on this and I might change my opinion. Youíre essentially attacking someoneís identity. They are a conspiracy theorist, they are a Truther, they believe that thereís a shadow government involved in one of the greatest terrorist attacks in history. Truther: I would much rather believe that there were terrorists behind it. It is very uncomfortable to know that the government, or elements within the government, or the shadow government; whoever was behind it, did this OK. And we know. Dave: And youíre not going to convince them by giving them evidence because youíre basically attacking who they are, just not what they believe. This is one of the kind of missing things in conspiracy research. Once youíre in a community, you are in a community. and whenever you get a group that has this kid of monological belief. It simple gets more and more extreme. So, the inconsistencies in the argument are weeded out; people that donít believe stuff are weeded out; And itís really hard not to go against the group. Itís hard to go ìwell I donít believe this anymore. This isnít true. Iíve been convinced.î Because you are surrounded by people that believe differently. Possibly nearly 100 years of psychology research into the effects of group behaviour has constantly shown how we conform to those around us. what our friends believe, what society believe; and if youíre in this monological belief system, youíre not going to change it. And there is also a kind of point when it comes to self-esteem which I donít want to say this is a main point, because itís kind of unfairly labels a lot of these Truthers who are genuine individuals that believe something happened. But, as well as it belief in conspiracy theories being a convenient alternative to an uncertain world. Itís also a convenient alternative to blind hate. So for instance, one of the conspiracy theories, not sure how popular it is now in the community, was about Jews in the twin towers getting calls from Mossad saying donít come in today. And you donít have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out what pre-existing prejudice this is based on. So we also have to be careful, that whilst many conspiracy theories believe in the shadow government, there are some who are using it to enhance their own prejudices or sense of insecurity. And the reason that conspiracy theory is useful for this are that in the modern world you cannot simply admit that you are anti-Semitic or racist whatever. But if you transfer that and say Iím not being anti-Semitic but hereís the evidence that Mossad was involved in this. You have a legitimate, if you like, way of expressing your prejudice. And again, I donít want to say this too heavily, as it would unfairly biased against conspiracy theorists in general because they donít all believe this. Most of them are genuine people who believe in the truth. But it is an important point to consider whenever you hear people speaking that behind a number of there may be a kind of underlying prejudices or mistrust. This one last point about the social aspect that I think is quite important. And this is related to the idea of being trapped in this belief system. And that is that if you believe in one conspiracy theory, you are more likely to believe in all of them. Truther: And myself possibly. I could have been killed. Killed by these murdering maniacs in power who continue in power and give these puppets like Mitt Romney and O-bomb-bama chance at the Oval Office.1 So long as they do their bidding. They probably say, donít forget JFK, donít forget RFK or MLK. Myles: Sorry you lost me there. What does JFK have to do withÖ? Truther: JFK was a president that had press releases with the press. A standing intelligent guy who wanted to get off the Federal Reserve and he was shot. And obviously, look at the Zapruder Film, the bullet, the criminal bullet, came from the front because his head is knocked backwards. But they made it look like Oswald did it from behind. But there was two bums, shooters on the grassy knoll; and Nixon and Bush were CIA operatives, hit men at that time, in Texas. And they might have been the guys that actually offed him so they get a shot at the Oval Office. White House. Thatís my idea, I dunno. It seems that if you put 2 and 2 together, line up the ducks. You can see where they lead. Truther: Thatís a whole different ball of wax. The way I donít believe Oswald was the lone person. He was a pasty. The ones on that plane, I consider them pasties. Myles: Lee Harvey Oswald? The grassyÖ Truther: Lee Harvey Oswald. The lone gunman, sure. I donít believe that either. Myles: Really? OhÖ Truther: I dunno if youíve read any of the books on it. Myles: Not very much unfortunately. Truther: I mean Iíve seen film of theÖ One thing in particular. The president always travelled with secret service from Washington. His own private detail. Well, that detail was called off that day. He was being protected by Texas secret service. They have film of the secret servicemen on his car getting off, just before the shots were heard. Literally getting off the car. I mean these are things I look at and say questions. I have no answers but they have questions for me that have never been answered. Dave: And often hold contrary views. So for instance, they talked about self-esteem maintenance. And if you see a conspiracy theory community. Often now, people are quite vague about it. Why? Because in the conspiracy theory there are lots of different ideas. So, I think it was Flight 51 (he meant 93), the one that crashed in Pennsylvania. Some people said it was shot down, some people say it never crashed to begin with that the crash was faked. So how can these people be in a community at the same time. Well they simple ignore it. They have a certain level of cognitive dissonance. This is where you can believe two things at the same time. To help them maintain their community and their self-esteem. An example of this was a great piece of research that asked participants who believe in conspiracy theories lots of different alternative views for conspiracy theories. So for instance, Bin Laden is alive and well, and still alive in Pakistan or whatever. Or that he actually died in 2000 and heís a scapegoat. And people that believed he was a scapegoat that he was already dead at the time of 9/11, also believed he was still alive. And this is because they werenít focusing on the specific belief as such, but actually were just in this generalised cognitive bubble of itís a conspiracy and therefore anything made sense as long as it fit within their conspiracy framework. Ok, so thatís a very brief introduction to the psychology, if you like, of conspiracy theorists. Obviously itís not an extensive list and itís far more complicated that Iím making out, but these seem to be main points. So from an individual characteristics point of view: individual who believe in conspiracy theorists tend to have this external loss of control and also tend to feel more powerless. Even though itís an internal feeling they may actually be in position that they are more powerless that other people. From a cognitive approach, kind of critical thinking skills. They are making two fundamental errors. And first is this: attribution error, so they tending to assign dispositional causes that are easy to explain verses situational causes that are harder to explain. And they are also showing quite considerable confirmation bias. So this is where, as I say, you simply ignore all evidence that is contrary to your own personal opinion. And lastly in terms of kind of social. The idea here is that because the conspiracy theory is part of their identity; theyíre a Truther fighting an uncaring and unfeeling government. That any attack on the evidence of conspiracy theory, isnít an attack on their research model itís an attack on them themselves. Itís an attack on their identity. You are attacking them as a person and this is quite powerful at keeping people within that community. And one final point I would like to make. So we can laugh at these people in the videos 17:34.00 letís say they are meant to point out the flaws, shall we say, in their thinking. But are they basic harmless. And the problem is the answer is no. Possibly the main problem is whilst yes if you believe in conspiracy theories your more likely to believe in another one. And it also conforms with the idea that they are trapped in this cognitive bubble where everythingís a conspiracy. Perhaps more importantly, one of the greatest reasons for people that believing in conspiracy theory is simple exposure. Where if youíve been exposed to people talking about conspiracy theories you are more likely to believe one yourself; where itís offered to you about important or terrifying events. And this is actually quite important, because it relates to really important issues of today, such as climate change and global warming, green energy and, you know this itís a hoax by scientists and things such as vaccinations; MMR; AIDS treatments; Just being exposed to other peoples conspiracy theories is more likely to make you doubt the accepted wisdom on all these types of event. So in that case, these people that want the truth, that talk about shadow governments and not being told the truth by politicians. They are not simply harmless cranks or well-meaning individuals. They are, even if they are inadvertently doing it, potentially harming a lot of people. Myles: Right, so thatís the end of that one. Hopefully you guys enjoyed it and I wanted to say thank you to my friend Dave for actually making it. You know, he spent a lot of time recording this and doing research for us. So, thanks mate, I owe you a pint next time I see you. Yep, right. So this is the end but itís not actually the end of this 9/11 series. I know on my last video I said this would be the last video, but sorry guys. There is going to be one more, but itís only going to be a small one and then thatís it. Iím going to go back to doing awesome experiments. So anyway, I will see you guys when I see you next. Bye.


Early life and education

Butler was born in 1939 at Fort Benning, Georgia,[1] and graduated in 1957 from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Air Force Academy in 1961 and a master's degree in international affairs from the University of Paris in 1967. He completed Squadron Officer School in 1964, Air Command and Staff College in 1970, and Armed Forces Staff College in 1974.

Pilot training

He was commissioned in June 1961 and received undergraduate pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, followed by basic instructor school at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. He then flew as an instructor pilot in T-33s and also served as an academic instructor at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama, from March 1963 to December 1964.

Study abroad

Butler was selected for study in France as an Olmsted scholar. He received French language training at the State Department's Foreign Services Institute, Arlington, Virginia, prior to attending the University of Paris. After graduation, he attended F-4 combat crew training school and was assigned in March 1968 to the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing, Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, South Vietnam.


From August 1968 to March 1969 he was aide to the commander of 7th Air Force, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam. Returning to the United States and the U.S. Air Force Academy, he served as an instructor in the political science department, and as an executive officer and air officer commanding in the academy's military training department.

In July 1971 Butler was assigned as special assistant to the director, Office of Emergency Preparedness, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C. He again returned to the academy in January 1972, as an assistant professor in the political science department. After completing combat crew training in October 1972, he was assigned as chief pilot of the 53rd Military Airlift Squadron, 63rd Military Airlift Wing, Norton Air Force Base, California.

Further education

He entered the Armed Forces Staff College in July 1973 and, after graduating in February 1974, was assigned as air operations officer, International Relations Branch, Directorate of Plans, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. Remaining at the Pentagon, he served from October 1974 to September 1975 as executive officer for the special assistant for strategic initiatives, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, Air Force headquarters.

Other Pentagon assignments in the following years included plans and programs officer, Strategy Development and Analysis, Directorate of Plans; executive director, Air Force Budget Issues Team; executive director, Airborne Warning and Control System task force; and chief, Congressional and Joint Matters Division, Directorate of Concepts.

After B-52 combat crew training in May 1977, Butler was assigned to the 416th Bombardment Wing (Heavy), Griffiss Air Force Base, New York, first as assistant deputy commander for operations and, later, as the wing's deputy commander for operations. In June 1979 he returned to Air Force headquarters as chief of a policy analysis group serving the Air Force chief of staff.

Command posts

From March 1981 to June 1983 Butler was assigned as vice commander of the 320th Bombardment Wing (Heavy), Mather Air Force Base, California, and then as wing commander. He subsequently took command of the 96th Bombardment Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1983. In July 1984 he was assigned to Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, as inspector general. Butler returned to Air Force headquarters in August 1986 as deputy director of operations and became director in January 1987.

In May 1987 he became vice director for strategic plans and policy, J-5, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; in July 1989 he then became the director. In January 1991 he became the last commander in chief, Strategic Air Command, and director, Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, with headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. The Strategic Air Command was the nation's major nuclear deterrent force with bombers, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff coordinated U.S. nuclear war plans and developed the Single Integrated Operational Plan. He assumed his final command in June 1992, when Strategic Air Command was disestablished.

Awards and decorations

Butler is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours. He also holds navigator and parachutist ratings. His military awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and Air Force Commendation Medal.

He was promoted to general January 25, 1991, with same date of rank, and retired February 28, 1994.[2]

Following his retirement he became active in the nuclear disarmament movement, and gave a speech in New Zealand, among other events, in so doing. In a series of public statements, beginning with a major speech at the National Press Club in 1996, he called for the outright abolition of nuclear weapons. In 1999, he and his wife founded the Second Chance Foundation, dedicated to promoting responsible global reduction of nuclear dangers. He was awarded the 8th Annual Heinz Award for Public Policy in 2002 for his work.[3]


  1. ^ United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services (1992). Nominations before the Senate Armed Services Committee, second session, 102d Congress: hearings before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, One Hundred Second Congress, second session, on nominations of Adm. David E. Jeremiah ... February 20; March 13, 24; May 14; June 3, 16, 17, 26; July 1; October 5, 1992. 4. U.S. G.P.O. ISBN 9780160399787. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  2. ^ Biographies : GENERAL GEORGE LEE BUTLER Archived February 9, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "The Heinz Awards :: George Lee Butler". Retrieved 2015-06-20.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "[1]".

Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. John T. Chain, Jr.
Commander, Strategic Air Command
Succeeded by
none, command disbanded
Preceded by
None, new command
Commander, United States Strategic Command
Succeeded by
Henry G. Chiles, Jr.
This page was last edited on 9 March 2019, at 20:28
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