Did you know that The children in Sandy Hook were killed on behalf of Obama, because he and his evil conspirators are trying to use the disaster as an excuse to kill the second amendment and take guns away from people?
And really, there were aliens who caused tower number seven of the World Trade Center to collapse.
There are actually people who get upset about these things.
Now, there are some real legitimate questions about 911-- what happened who did what and who did not do what should have been done. There are legit questions about the JFK and RFK assassinations. There are genuine problems with electronic voting machines that some mainstream media cretins have dismissed. And then there are the right wing claims of voter fraud, used to push through voter ID legislation that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands.
Then there are the vaccine deniers. A fraudster in England published a bogus study that indicted one vaccine. Rumsfeld used his power as Secretary of Defense to push through a sale of Tamiflu, and all of a sudden ALL vaccines are dangerous and nobody should take any vaccines. Sorry, but that's potentially deadly dangerous. There are certainly many vaccines that have saved the lives of millions and eradicated diseases like polio.
There are some people who are just flat out full of sh*t and some who are batshit crazy and some who have more malevolent intentions. Some are gullible addicts for the craziest theories. Some are very aware of the reality that the government lies and does do evil things that we only find out about one or two generations later. The TV series HOMELAND, which just took home several Golden Globe awards, shows how the CIA lies, manipulates the truth, screws with people's lives and just plain screws up. It's purported to be Obama's favorite TV show and" it's very believable. So it's no wonder that people are willing to entertain theories that the government and other shadowy organizations are doing all kinds of nefarious things.
Most recently, a handful of people are suggesting that Aaron Swartz did not kill himself. While there is zero evidence that there was any murderous foul play, some people and websites are suggesting that Swartz did not hang himself-- that he was murdered. Some simply say that it's possible, that this kind of thing has been done betore. Others go further. The problem is, there is zero proof, zero evidence that this is the case.
Why do people do this and what are the costs? I think there are several reasons people propose conspiracy theories.
1-Some of them are based on actual facts.
2-There is so much real lying and bad behavior coming from the government, the collection of spy agencies and different police, paramilitary and military operations-- that actually happen that almost anything is possible and believable. So people look for foul play everywhere.
3- Mis-information-- we know that there are operations set up to misinform and to attack people and websites who criticize one side or the other. There are paid bloggers and sock-puppets who are taught how to, then paid to go to websites and sow misinformation and distraction on article and blog threads. The goal is to confuse, misinform and propagandize.
4-Distraction- Take the Aaron Swartz story. There is absolutely a real, emerging case that between the DOJ and MIT there was nasty abuse of prosecution. There's a long history of the DOJ and its Federal attorneys using their power for political and corporate means-- I k now people personally who have been victims of horrible assaults on them by the DOJ. But now, we have a handful of people talking about a conspiracy theory that Aaron Swartz was killed, that he did not commit suicide. It gets dicier, because Swartz parents are now reported to have said that the DOJ murdered Aaron. They are talking metaphorically. It was the headline on the front page of the Huffingtonpost yesterday. But I assure you, the conspiracy junkies will run with this. And instead of the focus being on the outrageous prosecutorial abuse and abuse of power by the DOJ, we will have a zoo full of crazy talk that dilutes and weakens where the real focus should be.
This is not a black and white, easy to address situation. As a publisher of a progressive site, my intention is to be as open as possible to exploring new ideas and possible threats to justice, democracy and freedom. But I must also balance that willingness to be open with the risk of entertaining too many crazy ideas which threaten the credibility of the site. I am blessed to have a collection of volunteer advisors. But they can only give their opinions and those opinions vary.
When it came to the Hurricane Sandy conspiracy theory, that was a no-brainer. I personally witnessed the flooding, the downed trees, the loss of electricity. it was offensive to me to have someone suggest this was bogus.
With the Newtown massacre of children, again, I found the conspiracy theory to be an offensive outrage. This one was clearly being put out by people who paranoidly oppose gun-laws-- NRA supporters on steroids. Anyone who gets on this conspiracy theory bandwagon is going to be opposing gun regulation or supporting those who do-- not exactly where a progressive site wants to be. This is a great example of how people's reasonable mistrust of government is being exploited. And the discussion of this conspiracy is not benign. Consider the report in this Huffingtonpost article:
"Anderson Cooper responded to claims made by a Florida professor who said the devastating shooting in Newtown, Conn., was part of a government and media conspiracy related to gun control.
Professor James Tracey questioned whether Sandy Hook even happened. Because of his conspiracy theory, families in Newtown who suffered losses have been inundated with hate mail and prank phone calls. One family even had to remove its online memorial page when it was attacked with hateful messages.