Please note, this post is the first of two on this subject.
As a resident of Connecticut I hear about the Newtown massacre constantly. There’s not a day that goes by that the local media don’t mention something that harkens back to it. At the moment there’s a lot of media chatter about what Gov. Malloy and the General Assembly will do about guns and mental health in the wake of that horrific event. Similar talk is taking place at a national level, too.
I’m not sure the powers-that-be in Hartford or Washington will come up with anything that will help … if they manage to come up with anything at all … but all of this is a natural consequence of a massacre like the one in Newtown. It’s essentially not possible for politicians to ignore it — even if they might wish to (and I’m sure none of them do).
Another natural consequence, sadly, are conspiracy theories. Lots of cranks, kooks, lunatics and assorted wingnuts have popped up and spewed any number of crazed scenarios. The Atlantic Wire blog reports on several of these (WebCite cached article):
As with every tragedy that takes place in America these days, it didn’t take long for “truthers,” racists, and other fringe people to concoct conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre — myths that would be laughable if they weren’t so offensive.
The most prominent concoction getting attention right now is the claim made by Press TV [cached], the official state media outlet of Iran, that the massacre was actually the work of an Israeli death squad [cached] sent to America to punish President Obama for his lack of loyalty. Even worse, the implication is that the president would rather “take the punishment” and cover up this supposed deadly raid than defy his Jewish supporters or embarrass the state Israel.
That’s pretty extreme, and is precisely sort of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel propaganda one expects the infants who govern Iran to throw around. But that’s hardly the only such example:
But that country’s anti-Semitic leaders are not the only ones spreading unfounded stories about “what really happened” in Newtown. TalkingPointsMemo looks at the rumor that improbably connects the shooting to the LIBOR interest rate scandal [cached]. That started with the (true) report [cached] that the shooter’s father works in finance, but morphed into the (false) rumor that he was scheduled to deliver some no doubt shocking testimony about the LIBOR debacle before the Senate banking committee. (There are no Senate hearings scheduled and the father was not being called to testify about anything.) You might remember that this exact same rumor [cached] was spread about the father of the shooter after the Aurora theater murders this summer — another incident that has gotten plenty of play [cached] among the conspiracy minded.
The Atlantic goes on to report on — and link to — a lot of the wingnut scenarios. The story also points out that there were some flukes, especially in the early reporting, particularly involving the possibility of more than one shooter.
The Right has more or less complained that the Obama administration and the Left are “using” the Newtown massacre as a pretense to impose severe gun controls. Some of them have gone as far as to assert the Newtown massacre was cooked up by the White House specifically as part of this effort. The furious, raging paranoiac Alex Jones rather famously screeched about this on Piers Morgan’s CNN show (cached), but he’s not the only one saying or implying it.
In fairness, it’s true that some of the things reported early on haven’t been explained, particularly the man in camouflage pants who was tracked down and taken into custody near school grounds (cached), but whom police have refused even to admit exists, much less that they accosted him. There have also been a lot of strange assertions by officials, such as that they have “very good evidence” as to the shooter’s motive (cached), yet they continuously insist they have no idea about his motive (cached). These two claims defy logic: Either they have evidence as to motive, or they don’t have a clue. It can’t be both. And the whole genetics-investigation thing is, to put it bluntly, just too fucked up for words (cached).
Nevertheless, lousy reporting, evasive or even dishonest statements by police, and freakish investigation tracks are not compelling evidence of a wicked conspiracy either to stage a massacre that never happened (cached) or to actually slaughter 26 pupils and school faculty in an effort to contrive new legislation or impose “mind control” on the country (cached). Note, these scenarios come in many variations, including with the old reductio ad Hitlerum added in for good measure (cached).
Despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence to support any of these fucked-up scenarios, they still get conjured up, and they still get a lot of play (especially on the Internet) because — to be perfectly honest — lots of people quite simply like them. They have a certain emotional appeal. It’s irrational, of course, but human beings are largely irrational creatures; they prefer the nice, neat, and certain — albeit delusional — package of a weird conspiracy, to the messy uncertainty and uncomfortability of harsh reality. Until humanity grows up and gets over this idiotic impulse, conspiracy theories will continue to be propounded every time something remarkable happens. More’s the pity.
That said … insane, wingnutty, crankish conspiracy theories are hardly the only examples of irrationality in the wake of the Newtown massacre; I cover some others in my next post on this subject.
Photo credit: Motifake.
Hat tip: Mediaite.Tags: adam lanza, alex jones, gun control, mind control, newtown, newtown CT, newtown massacre, paranoid conspiracies, paranoid conspiracy, paranoid conspiracy theories, paranoid conspiracy theory, pct, pcts, sandy hook elementary school, sandy hook elementary school shooting