Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why am I not surprised?

Enter the conspiracy theorists.

In the wake of the shootings last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there is a cottage industry growing up around a few conspiracy theorists who are claiming that there was no shooting there at all. No one died, they say, and all those grieving parents? Just what the theorists are calling "crisis actors", brought in by the government to serve their nefarious purposes.

One of the theorists is a professor at Florida Atlantic University. This gentleman, whom I choose not to name because I don't think he deserves it (you can Google "Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory" and find him, and the others; also, Salon seems to be doing a good job of reporting on this phenomenon online), claims he is only doing what a good academic should do, delving "more deeply into controversial public events," according to some reports. Another is a news reader at Cincinnati's Fox affiliate. He has taken to posting videos on YouTube advancing his views on the shootings, and has widened his theory, as have some others, to include the Aurora, Colorado, theater shootings and the Sikh Temple shootings in Wisconsin. Among his contentions: the Aurora shooter and the Sandy Hook shooter are connected through their fathers, both of whom he claims are scheduled to testify in a banking scandal.

The various theories take different tacks. Some contend that the shootings, at least in Sandy Hook, did not happen at all. Others allow that they might have happened, but that they were not the result of a lone shooter. Instead, they claim,, the shootings involved multiple gunmen and are the result of a government conspiracy. The bottom line of these theories, whether admitting that people were killed or not, is that the events were orchestrated in order to whip up sentiment for increased regulation of firearms.

The theories, from what I've read, get even wilder, but there are always wild conspiracy theories, stupid but of no real harm. It isn't even the first time that it has been proposed that what the public has been told happened never happened at all. We've all probably heard the theories that, on 9/11, no plane hit the Pentagon and no plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. There are even those who insist that John F. Kennedy didn't die on November 22, 1963 in Dallas.

I've written here before that I am fascinated by conspiracy theories and that they can be entertaining. I still believe that. But this current round of theorizing is not amusing, is not entertaining, and is in fact dangerous. It is being used for political ends, to try to convince the public that the government is out to get their guns. And although these theories are absurd on their face (how do you fake the deaths of twenty schoolchildren and six teachers, or of six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, or of twelve people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado? Really?) there are people who are going to believe it is true.

Now, I'm not saying that the people advancing these theories should be silenced. I'm as big a believer in the speech and press rights conferred in the First Amendment as Second Amendment absolutists are believers in that Amendment. And while it makes a certain amount of sense to ignore their delusions, or their calculated attempts to influence public opinion, I think that in the long run, it is necessary for the mainstream media to stand up and say, this is what these people are saying and, damn it, they're trying to put something over on you, and here's why.

Maybe I'm the one who is delusional, looking for a voice of sanity in all this. But sanity is what is needed right now.


Ashley said...

Wow that's a horrible thing to spread around when those poor families are suffering the ulitmate loss! There is a time and place for conspiracy theories, certainly not while people are in pain!

littlemissattitude said...

Agreed, Ashley.

I felt kind of bad even writing about it. I only finally decided to do so because I think it's a thing that people should know is out there, so that if someone does mention it they can point out that the whole idea is stupid and hurtful and delusional.