I am not stuttering. I think that there are a group of people who milk the trust and open-mindedness of some, the distrusting and suspicious and the outright paranoid. These conspiracy perpetrators actually conspire to create new conspiracy theories for a number of reasons.
Dave Weigel has written a brilliant article on this for Salon, titled, Don't Blame The Sandy Hook Truthers
. It broaches the idea that there now are all kinds of truthers-- 911, birthers, Sandy Hook...
That got me thinking how there are different motivations for people to promote conspiracy theories.
-They distract people from looking at problematic aspects of cases that are real, but less sexy than the conspiracy theories.
-They make investigation into cases that are totally legitimate seem less credible and more batshit crazy. Legit investigations get thrown in with the crazy stuff.
-Some professional conspiracy theorists and websites make money or get free travel from this-- from books, speaking, website traffic that's converted into ad revenue.
-They use the conspiracy theories to sell some other aspect of their agenda. There is a finge group of 911 Truthers who are flaming anti-semites. Birthers are mostly right wingers and some racists. Dave Weigel's Salon article addresses the latest Sandy Hook Truther garbage. His article starts by saying, " Gun massacre conspiracy theories follow every massacre--fed in part by the NRA," and discusses,
"In one week, a 30-minute YouTube video titled "The Sandy Hook Shooting--Fully Exposed" has been viewed 10,000,000 times. It uses text, narration, and mournful music to annotate found footage and websites, "proving" that the murder of 26 people in Newtown, Conn., may have been propagated then covered up by government operatives with an agenda."
I've had a bunch of people send me the links to this. My experience with conspiracy videos is they use the principles of propaganda-- mix a bit of truth with a big lie. That's my take on the Zeitgeist videos, which have also had huge numbers of views.
Weigel addresses the Sandy Hook Truther video head on, commenting,
"... the Sandy Hook "truther" movement isn't quite like birtherism, or like vintage 9/11 trutherism. Both of those manias grew out of partisanship. As my colleague Jeremy Stahl proved, 9/11 trutherism flourished thanks to "general unhappiness with the war in Iraq and a small but deep strain of Bush hatred." Birtherism mushroomed when conservatives got desperate about ousting Obama.
Gun massacre trutherism isn't tied to election results. It bubbles over after every massacre. Sandy Hook is moving public opinion like no massacre since Virginia Tech--and its truther movement, naturally, is growing faster. Every shooting that involves a mentally ill loner invites speculation that the loner was programmed by the government . After the mass casualties at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, Alex Jones' InfoWars , a conspiracy news hub that got a recent boost from CNN's Piers Morgan , asked readers to consider the shooter's "work as a graduate student in a government-funded neuroscience program that specifically researched altered perception of time and reality." The completely different circumstances of the Virginia Tech attack led to a theory that "black ops" were behind the shooting.
Every post-shooting conspiracy theory follows a script. The viral Sandy Hook video is just an unusually good example. It begins with hasty interviews from the day of the massacre, men-on-the-street spreading rumors that led the news but were debunked and would have been forgotten without the magic of online video. (This happened at Virginia Tech, too--a confused caller told Fox News that more shots were being heard on the campus long after the massacre.) Later, it suggests that Gene Rosen , a senior citizen who comforted kids fleeing the school, is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, faking the whole thing. The evidence? He's awfully compelling, and someone named "Gene Rosen" is a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Other Sandy Hook truthers have "proved" that Emilie Parker, a 6-year old victim at the school, is still alive. She's not. It's her sister who's been photographed since the massacre."
Weigel goes on to discuss how there have been other conspiracy theories, like Fast and Furious, and how these have been used by the gun lobby to froth up paranoia and fears that King Obama and the gubbermint are on the cusp of taking away all rights to guns.
Even the executive orders Obama just made are not even close to taking away people's guns. He's put limits in place. That's it. The NRA, a PR and marketing operation for the $28 Billion a year arms and ammunition manufacturing business takes any attempt to put limitations on sales of any kind and churns out hysterical, adrenalized craziness. According to Elliot Fineman, of the National Gun Victims Action Council, the NRA has also been effective in lobbying to block funding for the Center for Disease Control to actually do research that shows the mortality rates caused by gun use and ownership. Weigel says,
" The gun lobby might be the only credible group, with real clout, with the ability to bring presidential candidates to its conferences, to endorse the idea that the government would engage in a "false flag" operation."
The NRA's LaPierre literally suggests there's an Obama Conspiracy to take away everyone's guns. People like Alex Jones and his conspiracy farm websites infowars and prisonplanet fertilize and cultivate these fears, growing Jones' base of right wingers who live in fantasy worlds where the New World Order is breathing down our necks.
And Weigel says,
" The idea that the government is one short step away from a gun ban is actually integral to the lobby's pitch. ... t the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre warned that the first-term Obama administration's "lip service to gun owners is just part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term."
"We see the president's strategy crystal clear," said LaPierre. "Get re-elected and, with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms' freedom, erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and excise it from the U.S. Constitution."
As Michael Douglas said in the movie, The American President, " We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them."
When it comes to 911, there are real questions and there were major problems with the 911 investigation. We don't need crazies talking about bizarre theories. It's enough to ask for reasonable explanations to explain why Tower 7 collapsed.
It's good to ask a lot of questions and reasonable to be suspicious and open-minded about ways that "the system" is not only broken, but doing damage. There is real concrete evidence. I'm a firm believer that big corporations, billionaires like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and others are doing real, concrete damage to democracy and justice, even to the planet. But, as Maxwell, a commenter on my article, C onspiracy Theory as Distraction for Reality
, says, " We have to be careful not to be so open minded that our brains fall out."
When you see these conspiracy theories coming out, with major news incidents, often tragedies, consider the possibility that there are people and organizations out there waiting to pounce on these real events as opportunities to sell their message-- that Obama and liberals are trying to take away all guns (NRA and other anti gun orgs,) that the evil government is trying to kill people with chemtrails and that HAARP is setting off earthquakes and Tsunamis. I'd say that the chemtrails and HAARP conspiracy theorists are likely to be anti-government Libertarians.
Not every conspiracy theory that some forwarded email informs you about is legit. Many are propaganda and disinformation tools. Perpetrating lies, propaganda and distortion has become a business, as this article, I Was a Paid Internet Shill: How Shadowy Groups Manipulate Internet Opinion and Debate, describes
, in this case, an operation of paid "sock puppet" bloggers who frequent multiple sites, aiming to counter messages that sponsors don't like. Don't be fooled. Don't make a meal of conspiracy messages that are spawned by new news. Consider that they are themselves part of a conspiracy to get you to imbibe conspiracies aimed at twisting the way you see the world-- in ways that benefit ideologies or interest groups.
As I said, there are real problems in the world. Some have suggested that the term conspiracy theory itself was invented to make it easier to attack any theory that opposes the message that the government and the mainstream media deliver. My intent here is not to discourage people from asking questions. We MUST do that and we must be rigorous in assessing the narratives that that MSM offers to us. But we must also be cautious to not allow ourselves to be swept up by malevolent conspiracy theories that are intentionally generated and publicized to promote messages or beliefs that further the interests of advocacy groups or ideologies?
Be sure to check out the article I wrote immediately before this one: Conspiracy Theory As Distraction From Reality
And I've followed up this article with a third article A Proposed Standardized Scientific Approach to Assessing Conspiracy Theories and Questions
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