|Alma mater||University of Manchester|
|Known for||Debunking chemtrail theories and explaining UFO sightings|
Mick West is a science writer, skeptical investigator, and retired video game programmer. He is the creator of the websites Contrail Science and Metabunk, for which he investigates and debunks pseudoscientific claims such as chemtrails, UFOs, and conspiracy theories, and has appeared in various media as an expert analyst and science communicator. He lives in Sacramento, California.
West co-founded Neversoft Entertainment in July 1994 with Joel Jewett and Chris Ward. The video game development company, known for Spider-Man and the Tony Hawk's (West was heavily involved in the programming of the first 5 games of this series) and Guitar Hero video game franchises, was acquired by Activision in October 1999, its studio merged with Infinity Ward on May 3, 2014 and was made defunct on July 10, 2014.
West became interested in the chemtrail conspiracy theory while studying aviation weather for his pilot’s license. He created the website “Contrail Science” with the aim of explaining contrails and debunking chemtrail theories. He believed initially that he could explain and debunk these theories quite quickly, but they were more resilient than he’d anticipated: he has now spent more than 10 years covering the topic.
The discussion on the “Contrail Science” website eventually expanded to include other conspiracy theories, including that of 9/11. So West decided to create another website, “Metabunk”, to expand the discussion to other alternative beliefs. Metabunk covers such topics as pseudoscience, UFOs and the paranormal. The website also includes a forum, “Skydentify”, where West invites people to send photos and videos of UFOs and supposed ghosts. He analyses these using his background in video game programming and Photoshop, and then he and other forum members attempt to explain what the photos and videos are actually depicting. They also discuss the best way to communicate the results of their debunking investigations. Analysis from West and other experts on Metabunk has been cited in other publications, such as the Daily Express.
West describes the objective of his work as attempting to get people out of the “rabbit hole” of conspiratorial thinking. “Chemtrails is a surprisingly popular theory; it’s right up there with things like the 9/11 conspiracy theories,” he says. “It all stems from a fundamental distrust of science and authority. You are always going to get a percentage of people who are true believers. My goal is to minimize that as much as possible, stop people falling for it, and help them get out as easily as possible.”
In August 2016, West co-authored a paper with climate scientists Ken Caldeira, Christine Shearer, and Steven J. Davis published in the journal Environmental Research Letters titled Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program (SLAP). The objective of the paper was to produce a peer-reviewed expert response to the chemtrail theory. The authors surveyed experts on atmospheric chemistry and deposition to scientifically evaluate the claims of chemtrail conspiracy theorists. Upon publication, it was recognized as the first study by a major science organization on the topic. Its conclusion reported that “76 out of 77 (98.7%) scientists that took part in this study said there was no evidence of a SLAP, and that the data cited as evidence could be explained through other factors, such as typical contrail formation and poor data sampling instructions presented on SLAP websites” Data science company Altmetric, rated the paper in the top 5% of all research, in terms of interest generated and it has been cited many times by scientific publications and news outlets. This included the New York Times, where West said the new study should help sway people who might otherwise be convinced by a chemtrails website. “You’re trying to hold back the tide to a certain degree, and hopefully have less people fall into that way of thinking.”
West has written articles for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry's journal Skeptical Inquirer, such as “Curated Crowdsourcing in UFO Investigations” where he discusses the Skydentify forum and “In Defense of Debunkers” in which he talks of the role of skepticism and of debunking and the importance of communication.
In 2018, West authored Escaping the Rabbit Hole. How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect with the goal of helping people understand and explain conspiracy theories, and then pass those explanations onto others. In a review of the book, British actor Stephen Fry wrote “Mick West demonstrates with exquisite style, wit, and insight how those three rare and valuable species, Fact, Logic and Respect (each now on the very brink of extinction) have in harness the power to shine light into darkness and dispel the miasma of bias, superstition and balefully proud ignorance that is threatening to poison our age.” An extended excerpt from this book was published in Salon. The book was featured in an analysis released by the University of McGill Office for Science and Society in 2018. Celestia Ward points out that "Debunking conspiracy theories is a lot of work. But it's worthwhile if you are helping a loved one out of a mindset that can cause them harm. Mick West has shouldered a tremendous amount of the work himself, summarizing some conspiracy beliefs and demonstrable facts to refute those beliefs...."
West started a podcast in April 2019, "Tales from the Rabbit Hole," in which he interviews "conspiracy culture" guests. 
West is often cited as an expert analyst on chemtrails and UFOs by the media. In 2010, he appeared on CBS evening news and KPCC radio news to comment on a viral video of what appeared to be a "mystery" missile launch.
In September 2016, Radio New Zealand profiled West as a science writer and someone who “is dedicated to the art of debunking wild theories that circulate online and helping other people do the same, with his website, Metabunk.” In the interview he described how his passion for debunking comes from a concern that real problems are being ignored because science is ignored. In particular he talked about the harm conspiracy theorists can cause when they accuse the families of victims of gun massacres as being crisis actors. He also explained that when “dealing with conspiracy theorists the best thing is to be polite. You’ve got to be a kind of gentleman scientist. If people are polite then you will get listened to. Never misrepresent yourself, never lie, never fake evidence, never indulge in hoaxes. You’ve got to be 100% beyond reproach at all times.”
He has also made a number of appearances on podcasts discussing his life and debunking career. These include being interviewed by Richard Saunders on the Skeptic Zone and Benjamin Radford on Squaring the Strange, as well as Something You Should Know. He has made several appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience to discuss various conspiracy theories.
Approach to debunking
West grew up in the small town of Bingley, on the outskirts of Bradford, England. As a child he was fascinated by the paranormal, UFO's and stories of alien abductions, also believing he had psychic abilities. As he grew older, he began to realise that these phenomena weren't real, and instead, that there were rational explanations to explain them. "I used to believe in all this stuff and then I stopped believing in all this stuff, and I guess just figuring out why this stuff was wrong became interesting to me." In early adulthood, he found himself using a pre-internet, modem-based bulletin board called FidoNet to argue with people who were using it to spread conspiracy theories. In 2003, after resigning from Neversoft, his interest in debunking took hold. "I retired, I had lots of spare time, I didn't have vast other interests that I was pursuing, and so I was able to focus on these things. I could focus on Morgellons, and I wrote like a hundred little articles on Morgellons. Because I have this background in video game programming and debugging and investigating things, I was able to do fairly deep technical investigations of things." He attempts to interact with his interviewees and his audience on his various media with empathy to help them see reality. These people, he says, see a different version of reality: "They prefer the one where the government is evil. Now, it doesn't mean the government isn't evil, it doesn't mean that people in power aren't corrupt, it doesn't mean politicians aren't corrupt, but it also doesn't mean that they planted bombs in the World Trade Center. Just because politicians are corrupt, it doesn't necessarily follow the World Trade Center was a controlled demolition."
- Hester, Blake. "How Mick West Went From Making Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to Debunking Conspiracy Theories". usgamer.net. Gamer Network. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
- "Neversoft Entertainment (Company)". Giant Bomb. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- Rogers, Kaleigh (2018-06-26). "Send This Article to All Your Friends Who Believe in Chemtrails". motherboard.vice.com. Vice. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
- Saunders, Richard (1 July 2018). "The Skeptic Zone". skepticzone.tv (Podcast). The Skeptic Zone Podcast. Event occurs at 2.30. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
- Austin, Jon (2018-01-13). "Is this REAL TRUTH about Pentagon UFO video that convinced world aliens may exist?". express.co.uk. Express Newspapers. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- Kooser, Amanda (2018-01-13). "UFO caught on video? Skeptics weigh in on weird footage". cnet.com. CBS interactive. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- Gerbic, Susan. "From Chemtrails to CSICon: An Interview with Mick West". csicorp.org. CSI. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
- "Episode 75 - Escaping the Rabbit Hole with Mick West". squaringthestrange.libsyn.com. Kronos Creative. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
- Sutherland, Scott. "Scientists conclude 'chemtrail conspiracy' has no substance". theweathernetwork.com. The Weather Network. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
- Shearer, Christine; West, Mick; Caldeira, Ken; Davis, Stephen (2016). "Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program". Environmental Research Letters. IOP Publishing. 11 (8): 084011. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084011.
- "Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program". altmetric.com. Altmetric. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
- Fountain, Henry (2016-08-15). "Scientists Just Say No to 'Chemtrails' Conspiracy Theory". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
- West, Mick. "Curated Croudsourcing in UFO Investigations". csicop.org. CSI. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- West, Mick. "In Defense of Debunkers". csicop.org. CSI. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- "Escaping the Rabbit Hole". skyhorsepublishing.com. Skyhorse Publishing. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- West, Mick (2018-09-16). "How to pull a friend out of the conspiracy theory rabbit hole". Salon. Salon Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
- Jarry, Jonathan. "Conspiracy Theories and How to Break Free". YouTube. University of McGill. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
- Ward, Celestia (2019). "A Skeptical Guide through the Conspiracy Rabbit Hole". Skeptical Inquirer. 43 (1): 56–57.
- West, Mick. "Tales from the Rabbit Hole". TFTRH.com. Mick West. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
- Martin, David. ""Missile Mystery" Laid to Rest". cbsnews.com. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- "Mystery solved: 'Mystery missile' just a jet". scpr.org. Southern California Public Radio. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
- "The man who debunks conspiracy theories". radionz.co.nz. Radio New Zealand. 2016-09-21. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
- "212 Where Conspiracy Theories Come From & Which Do Humans Prefer – Strict or Loose Rules?". somethingyoushouldknow.net. Something You Should Know. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
- Rogan, Joe. "JRE #1052 - Mick West". joerogan.net. Joe Rogan. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
- "Overcast". overcast-the-movie.com. Dedal Films. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- "Overcast - an Investigation Into Climate Engineering". worldfilmpresentation.com. World Film Presentation. 2016-02-28. Retrieved 26 July 2018.