Posts Tagged “conspiracy theories”

'Insanity: At least it's better to be someone who cannot think clearly than one who clearly cannot think.' / Motifake.ComNo sooner did I blog about the continued irrational phenomenon of “Sandy Hook truthers,” than I see another story about these paranoid freaks and wingnuts. The Seattle Times reports Amazon has had to change its online review process because of “truthers'” attacks on a survivor’s book (WebCite cached article):

Amazon.com is revising its product review system six weeks after The Seattle Times reported on activists posting reviews [cached] to push their political and social agendas.

“We are taking a close look at our policies regarding activism reviews and are considering changes,” Amazon spokesman Tom Cook said in a statement.

The Times article reported on coordinated attacks by Amazon reviewers on Scarlett Lewis, the mother of a 6-year-old boy murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut three years ago Monday. Lewis wrote “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness” to describe her journey after the massacre.

Dozens of reviewers — conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were an Obama administration hoax to push for gun-control legislation — savaged Lewis on the Amazon book Web page as a liar and opportunist.

The article goes on to describe many of the “reviews” (which aren’t actually reviews, just sanctimonious caterwauling by enraged “truthers” who feel as though they’re entitled to visit their outrage and fury on the world), as well as the “truthers'” ongoing conspiracy to disparage Sandy Hook survivors at every step. (The irony of people who believe in a conspiracy theory concocting and participating in one of their own, is truly precious!) The Times also goes over other, similar campaigns involving other products Amazon sells.

The real problem here, of course, is immaturity. The Sandy Hook truthers, as well as other types of conspiratorial thinkers (e.g. the anti-Monsanto crowd), simply haven’t grown up enough to deal with their own insane impulses and feelings. So, like two-year-olds, they lash out however they wish, any time they wish, and rationalize it based upon the presumed “righteousness” of their “cause.” In this case, the “truthers” are visiting their insanity and rage on a company … for no good reason.

Photo credit: Motifake.Com.

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'I'm never alone, they're always here, watching, waiting, listening, scheming ... I can't escape them, they're suffocating me, with their dark lies. I need to get out. Everyone's against me, there's no one I can trust, I'm my own worst enemy.' / PARANOIA - demotivational poster, via MotifakeIt’s been a while since I blogged about the Sandy Hook truther phenomenon. For the most part this trope has died down here in Connecticut, but elsewhere it seems to live on — in spite of how insane it is. Perhaps the strangest aspect of this movement is that, while many of the scenarios are contradictory — some propose that the shooting happened and people died but it wasn’t done by a lone murderous criminal, while others presume it to have been a staged event in which no one died — Sandy Hook truthers tend to stick together anyway (as though they have no idea their arguments differ substantially).

The only point in common that they have, is that they think it was ordered by President Barack Obama so he could justify confiscating everyone’s guns and/or nullifying the Second Amendment. (That he hasn’t even come close to attempting to do either of these, is irrelevant to them.) This unity of spirit, if not in detail, coupled with the insanity inherent in most conspiratorial thinking*, makes it a potentially dangerous movement.

Over the past month, some of that danger has reared its ugly head. A month ago, as the Connecticut Post reports, one truther tried to interfere in a race held in memory of slain teacher Vicki Soto (WebCite cached article):

A self-proclaimed “truther” was arrested after police said he tried to disrupt the Vicki Soto 5K race.

Matthew Mills, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was charged Saturday with interfering with police and second-degree breach of peace. He was released after posting $2,500 bond.…

Hundreds were attending the third-annual race to raise money for educational scholarships in Soto’s name. Police said Mills approached Vicki’s Soto’s younger sister, Jillian. They said Mills shoved a photograph in the younger Soto’s face and began angrily charging that not only did the Sandy Hook tragedy not take place, but that Vicki Soto never existed.

Police said the photo was of the Soto family, including Vicki Soto, sitting on a seawall in Stratford.

In case you didn’t know it, Sandy Hook truthers are obsessed with photos they think show the slain victims alive and well after the massacre. They don’t know what they’re talking about when they wave them around … and quite obviously, appearances can be deceiving … but those realities never put a dent in their sanctimonious outrage.

And just a couple days ago, truthers ramped up their war against the Soto family as News Corp Australia reports, by threatening Carlee Soto and publishing her address (cached):

The Sandy Hook “truthers” took their theories a step further this week when they tracked Ms Soto down, threatened her family and posted her address online. As she grieves her sister’s loss three years on, she’s faced with fear all over again.

On a memorial page dedicated to Vicki Soto, her family described how they were “scared to go home” after users on photo sharing site Instagram shared their home address.…

The family shared a number of messages sent to them. In one message, user @divinely_awakened_ wrote to Carlee’s husband Brent: “They’re coming after you. They know who you and your wife are. They know where you live.”

In another message, user @anon_perkeletic shared the family’s details with a message accusing Ms Soto of being an actor.

The truthers have long accused Carlee Soto of being a “crisis actor”; Snopes even has an article debunking that notion. Isn’t it time for people to just fucking grow the hell up already and stop letting themselves go out of control over insane ideas that aren’t even comprehensible, much less reconcilable with known fact?

* Yes, I know the old saw that some conspiracy theories are true. And yes, I’m aware that some are. But that doesn’t make any given conspiracy theory true. It just doesn’t, and I’m not stupid enough to fall for that contention.

Photo credit: Motifake.

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Mother Jones / Chart: Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory EverConspiracy theories are common in the US. Lots of Americans really love them. The more ideologically-inclined they are, the more likely they are to cling to them. It stands to reason that the Far Right has built up something of an industry of various and sundry Barack Obama-related conspiracy theories. Among the most commonly-heard of these is the “Birther” movement, which claims Obama was born in Kenya, is not a US citizen, has offered a fake birth certificate falsely indicating he was born in Honolulu, HI, and therefore is not a legitimate president. I’ve blogged on the fiercely-irrational — and childish — Birthers many times and have noted their wild suppositions have no basis in fact. There’s also the widespread belief that Obama is not a Christian, but is secretly Muslim, and wants to hand over the US to the Muslim Brotherhood so they can force shari’a law on the country.

Both the Birthers and “Muslimers” are, sadly, politically influential; GOP officials routinely give winks-&-nods in the direction of Birtherism (even if they also claim they think Obama is American). And Oklahoma voters approved a needless amendment to their state constitution to keep shari’a law from being implemented there.

Yet another conspiracy theory which has a lot of traction these days involves a United Nations proposal called Agenda 21. Mother Jones reports the GOP caucus of the Georgia state senate gathered to hear about how Obama’s infernal plan to force this proposal on the country (WebCite cached article):

President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as “Delphi” to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That’s according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month.

On October 11, at a closed-door meeting of the Republican caucus convened by the body’s majority leader, Chip Rogers, a tea party activist told Republican lawmakers that Obama was mounting this most diabolical conspiracy. The event—captured on tape by a member of the Athens-based watchdog Better Georgia (who was removed from the room after 52 minutes)—had been billed as an information session on Agenda 21, a nonbinding UN agreement that commits member nations to promote sustainable development. In the eyes of conservative activists, Agenda 21 is a nefarious plot that includes forcibly relocating non-urban-dwellers and prescribing mandatory contraception as a means of curbing population growth. The invitation to the Georgia state Senate event noted the presentation would explain: “How pleasant sounding names are fostering a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.'”

Here’s video of part of this paranoid presentation, courtesy of Vimeo:

This conspiracy includes a wide range of elements sure to make the Right perk up its ears: The United Nations, Barack Obama, mind control, socialism, environmentalism, and more. Obligatory links between the Obama administration and the regimes of Mao and Stalin were offered up, too. Georgia’s Republican state senators could hardly help but drool over the Rightist paranoid fantasy they were hearing.

What these folk don’t comprehend, are a few salient facts: First, Agenda 21 is non-binding. It’s basically a whole lot of hopes, dreams & wishful thinking, and nothing more. Second, Agenda 21 isn’t new; it’s been floating around for 20 years, with no sign yet of being forcefully implemented on anyone.

But third — and perhaps most importantly — even if the UN wanted to make Agenda 21 binding on its members, there’s no way it can do so. It’s perhaps the single most useless and ineffective organization on the planet, incapable of doing anything of significance. Consider the UN’s history: Its attempted interventions in places like the Levant and Korea have accomplished absolutely nothing, even after several decades. Let’s be honest here: Agenda 21 is dead; it always will be dead; and it was dead long before any of the insipid yammering dolts who infest UN headquarters in New York ever dreamed it up. And that’s because nothing the UN tries to do ever goes anywhere.

Another factual problem with the scenario cooked up here: The RAND Corporation “Delphi technique” is not a method of “mind control.” It’s actually something else entirely … i.e. a way to estimate future demand for something. And since RAND itself doesn’t make a secret of it (cached), I don’t see how it could be used as the fuel for a clandestine plot to take over the population and turn them into Obama’s automatons.

This article thoughtfully includes a link to a chart of myriad other Obama conspiracy theories that have been trafficked over the last few years. Read it, check out the links in it, and be amazed at the vast range of incredible delusions the Right has been spinning.

Photo credit: Mother Jones.

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September 11 Photo MontageToday is the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that killed thousands in New York City, the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, PA. The mass media are running story after story about the commemorations and remembrances and lots of other aspects of this milestone. For me, this event provides an object lesson in human nature and demonstrates conclusively where we go wrong.

First, all the 9/11 conspiratorialism demonstrates that any event that involves enough details is ripe to be plucked by sanctimoniously-outraged paranoiacs of every possible stripe. Rick Green of the Hartford Courant ran a column the other day about one particular crank named Wayne Coste who stands on Hartford’s streets, railing and wailing like a street-preacher about how “9/11 was an inside job” (WebCite cached article). He uses the fact that he was an engineer as a kind of credential that — supposedly — “proves” his insane jabbering must be correct. But it doesn’t. That he has an engineering credential (in electrical engineering, not in mechanical or civil engineering or in architecture) does not automatically grant his conclusions any veracity. Lots of engineers and scientists have looked at the same evidence he has, but arrived at very different conclusions from it.

Perhaps the seminal explanation of how the World Trade Center came down — researched and written by engineers and scientists with the same kinds of credentials as Coste — was done by the venerable magazine Popular Mechanics. It’s well worth reading for anyone with any interest in this matter. Another source of information is the “9/11 conspiracies” entry at the Skeptic’s Dictionary; it lays out many of the screwy scenarios that have been proposed and picks them off one by one. Yet, in spite of these and many other such “takedowns” of all the lunatic scenarios, the wacky 9/11 conspiratorialism (aka the “Truther” movement) is alive and well and populated by all sorts of animated wingnuts like Coste.

What’s really happening with “truthers” is that their laughable “theories” grant them what they perceive as a moral license to indulge their juvenile impulses and paranoiac brain patterns. Telling them they’re wrong only enrages them more than they already are, causes the person telling them so to be viewed as a willing and integral part of the “wicked conspiracy,” and they just dig their heels in harder and cling even tighter to their insane fantasies. As R.T. Carroll of the Skeptic’s Dictionary puts it in the subtitle of his article on the matter, the “truther” movement is, indeed, very much a “war on critical thinking.”

A second lesson shown by Americans’ reaction to 9/11/2001 is their insular, even selfish reasoning. Too many people in the US view this country as the sole target of Islamofascist terror. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Among the other large-scale terror attacks that have taken place elsewhere in the world since then:

Note, this is only a partial list. There were many more Islamofascist terror attacks in the last ten years. The point is that none of these took place in the US, and Americans were not the targets. Other people in other countries were. The Islamofascist terrorists aren’t killing people in places all over the planet just because they hate the US and our “freedom” — or whatever. They’re doing it simply because they’re murderously religiofascist; quite frankly they don’t give a crap about anything else.

The third chief lesson of the September 11, 2001 attacks, more obviously, is that militant religiofascism can become deadly, and it must be stopped. In every one of its forms. Everywhere it occurs. All the time, every time, without letup, and without granting it any excuses. It’s one thing to have metaphysical beliefs. It’s another to believe that everyone else on the planet must adopt them. And it’s another beyond that to believe one is entitled to kill in order to make that happen. This is rather obvious; we certainly didn’t need 9/11/2001 to tell us so … but apparently there are lots of folks who genuinely were unaware of this fact — and sadly, they remain so, in spite of 9/11/2001.

A proper response to such events is for believers to concede that other people are not theirs to order around or kill because of their beliefs, and just leave them alone. What’s not acceptable is to respond to murderous Islamofascism by becoming militantly Christofascist in return and then launch a Neocrusade to eliminate Islam. This Neocrusade is merely the same sort of religiofascist impulse, just manifest within a different religion and in a different country. Of course, to the Neocrusaders, 9/11/2001 itself is the reason they think they’re entitled to destroy Islam … but this belief, while widespread, is just “two wrongs make a right” thinking and is both fallacious and immoral.

In sum, let’s all stop using events like 9/11/2001 to justify insular thinking, American exceptionalism, and “getting back at Islam” because we feel entitled to. It’s time for us all to grow up, stop “reacting” emotionally every time something bad happens, and start living like the mature adults we all ought to be. And by all means, let’s stop giving in to the idea that militant Christianism is an appropriate response to militant Islamism. It’s not. They’re really just the same thing, only packaged in different wrappers.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Battle of Ascalon 1099The great Neocrusade against Islam in the US has been simmering for months; now that Religious Rightists have control of the House of Representatives, the heat is being turned up. Tellingly, we’ve reached the point where the Neocrusaders have started turning on their own. The religiofascists at World Net Daily have picked up on allegations by furious Rightist Frank Gaffney that “radical Islamists” are infiltrating the American conservative movement, and in particular, the Conservative Political Action Conference (locally cached version):

With the Conservative Political Action Conference under fire for allowing participation by a homosexual activist group called GOProud and for a financial scandal in which some $400,000 was misappropriated under the watch of current leadership, Frank Gaffney, a leader of the conservative movement for the last 30 years, charges that CPAC has come under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is working to bring America under Saudi-style Shariah law.

Gaffney, deputy assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, is founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and co-author of the new book “Shariah: The Threat to America.” He told WND that Islamism has infiltrated the American Conservative Union, the host of CPAC, in the person of Washington attorney and political activist Suhail Khan and a group called Muslims for America.

Like most WND articles, this one is laced with links to purchase the books it mentions. Because this is advertising and not useful reference material, I’ve chosen not to preserve them here.

Of course, it’s not just Frank Gaffney being paranoid. The equally enraged religiofacist Debbie Schlussel is also leveling accusations against Rightist darling Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey (WebCite cached article):

Are you a fan of Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a darling of the Tea Party activists? Are you planning to support him for the Republican nomination for President in 2012, for which he’s rumored to be planning a run? The conventional wisdom is that Christie’s biggest drawback is his obesity. But he’s got a much weightier problem: his big, fat love affair with HAMAS Muslims in New Jersey. …

To that end, Christie is nominating an extremist Muslim (redundant phrase), Sohail Mohammed, lawyer to assorted Islamic terrorists, to a Passaic County Superior Judgeship. Yup, Chris Christie rewarded those Muslim mobs who cheered on U.S. soil for the mass murder of 3,000 Americans with a judgeship.

Of course, Schlussel provides no evidence that Mohammad is a member of Hamas. But that’s only to be expected: Little things like “facts” and “documentation” don’t carry any weight in Schlussel’s sanctimonious universe.

Normally I’d be gratified to see the Right turning on itself in these ways … but actually I find it frightening. It’s the paranoid conspiracy theorists among the Right who are becoming most vocal, and it’s never good for any ideology when the PCTs among it become this vocal. Moreover, it’s the angriest and most religious wing of the Right which is carrying the standard of the Neocrusade; historically, anger and religiosity usually prevail, in these contests over future of the Right. So be afraid … be very afraid.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Americans are not only among the most religious people in the occidental world, they’re also among the most paranoid and conspiracy-minded. Perhaps the two tendencies are psychologically linked … I tend to think so, especially since perhaps the most common paranoid-conspiracy theory currently in circulation — i.e. the claim that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen — is mostly being propagated by Christian fundamentalists. That Obama is, indeed, a citizen — as explained by numerous sources, ranging from fact-verifying groups like FactCheck, to major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times, to Web sites such as Snopes — has had absolutely no measurable effect on this belief among fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. Facts do not matter to them, not when there’s a paranoid conspiracy they can cling to instead.

The 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing has also pushed into the open yet another conspiracy theory, which likewise appears never to die. CNN reports on this persistent controversy:

It captivated millions of people around the world for eight days in the summer of 1969. It brought glory to the embattled U.S. space program and inspired beliefs that anything was possible.

It’s arguably the greatest technological feat of the 20th century.

And to some, it was all a lie.

Forty years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, a small cult of conspiracy theorists maintains the historic event — and the five subsequent Apollo moon landings — were staged. These people believe NASA fabricated the landings to trump their Soviet rivals and fulfill President Kennedy’s goal of ferrying humans safely to and from the moon by the end of the 1960s. …

Conspiracy theories about the Apollo missions began not long after the last astronaut returned from the moon in 1972. Bill Kaysing, a technical writer for Rocketdyne, which built rocket engines for NASA’s Apollo program, published a 1974 book, “We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.” …

Decades later, Kaysing’s beliefs formed the foundation for “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?” a sensational 2001 Fox TV documentary that spotted eerie “inconsistencies” in NASA’s Apollo images and TV footage.

Is there a connection between the same Fox News channel, which is currently fueling the “Obama-is-not-a-citizen” mantra, and the Fox Entertainment division that aired this documentary? I doubt it. They’re part of the same media empire, yes, but are separately run. Fox Entertainment has given us many things that the religionazis at Fox News would never have approved of, e.g. Married With Children.

But I digress.

That the moon landings were hoaxed is, of course, nonsense. At least one of the reasons is one that CNN cites:

Critics of moon-landing hoax theorists, and there are many, say it would be impossible for tens of thousands of NASA employees and Apollo contractors to keep such a whopping secret for almost four decades.

Not to mention an even more obvious objection: Had NASA “hoaxed” the Apollo 11 moon landing, why would they have gone to the expense of faking several more? If the point was to make people think astronauts had landed on the moon, that would have been accomplished by just the first “hoax.” What need would there be to orchestrate any more?

What’s more, there’ve also been several attempts to show that the moon hoaxer’s claims are untrue … most recently this was done by the TV show Mythbusters, just under a year ago, in one of their more famous episodes. Also, astronomer Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has an extensive, point-by-point rebuttal of the Fox network so-called “documentary,” along with a list of other moon-hoax-related resources for your perusal. [Just added: The Skeptic’s Dictionary has a new entry on the moon-landing hoax, too.]

But as it turns out, none of this really helps alleviate the controversy. The people who subscribe to it are impervious to insignificant little things like “facts” and “verification.” Those don’t matter … the only thing that does matter, is one’s emotional attachment to the conspiracy theory. Of course, that’s what conspiracy theories and religious fundamentalism have in common — that underlying appeal to emotion and sentimentality. Ultimately that’s all they have going for them … but given how susceptible human beings are to emotion and sentiment, that’s more than enough. People usually choose wishful thinking over verifiable fact.

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