The far Right, corporatist, religious and political lunatic fringe, has an extensive history of fabricating and manufacturing hoaxes to demonise perceived enemies, or competitors.
Mere reality is insufficient to satiate their lust for unbridled power, sociopathic hatreds and extreme paranoia, so that fantasies and fabrications are routinely manufactured to nourish their pornography of paranoia.
The grubby, listed hate preacher, Robert Spencer, adored by neo-Nazis, fascists and Catholic/Christian/Jewish extremists, is an intermediate cog in the larger, manufactured Islamophobia Industry machinery, which has been staple cash cow for far Right religious and politicised extremists, hate mongers and fascists preying and profiteering from real and fabricated cultural tensions.
Whilst innumerable examples could be cited, here’s a recent faux ‘news’ ruse, promulgated by the superstitious, Rightist Catholic fanatical loon, Robert Spencer who deludes that despite his lies, disinformation and deception, he is doing ‘the work of god.’
Here’s one I missed from a month ago. From the Daily Caller:
A group of 51 refugees were brutally assaulted outside a night club in Murmansk, Russia, after they groped and molested women at a night club Saturday.
The refugees had previously been ordered to leave Norway for “bad behavior” and tried their luck in Russia. What they didn’t realize when they went out clubbing in Murmansk is that Russians have less tolerance when it comes to sexual assault on local women than other European countries.
…The refugees tried to flee but were quickly captured by the Russians. They then took them out to the street and gave them a beating they will remember. Police arrived to break up the fight but locals report that they threw a few punches at the refugees before arresting 33 of them. Eighteen refugees were in such bad condition they had to be take to the hospital.
As shown above, the story is illustrated with a photograph of a gang of burly men, one of whom has a club, beating up another man, who cowers on the ground.
The source given in the link above is an Italian report from Imola Oggi (without the photo), which in turn cites Fort Russ. The Fort Russ article is in English (“translated by Tom Winter”), and states that it “was prepared from material on social network sites.”
However, it followed an earlier report on the same site (“translated by Ollie Richardson”) which has a somewhat different version of the story:
Several refugees from Arab countries were beaten in the middle of the night of Saturday in the city of Polyarnye Zori (Murmansk oblast), reported a FlashNord source in the law enforcement bodies of the region.
The incident occurred in the nightclub Gandvik.
“According to preliminary data, five refugees were beaten in the entertainment establishment. According to witnesses, they behaved insolently and had been pestering local girls,” — said the Agency’s interlocutor.
“Five”. As opposed to “51”. And no reference to any arrests. But there’s more: the original article from FlashNord can be seen here. It was followed up on the same day with a second article, confirming that there may have been a fight outside the nightclub, but that details could not be confirmed from CCTV and it was all over by the time the police arrived.
So, it looks like there was an incident of some kind – but it is far from clear that it was anything more significant than the kind of fight that tends to occur sometimes near venues where young men have been drinking and are perhaps “on the pull”. Were refugees involved? Was the incident provoked by anti-social behaviour towards female clubbers? Nothing in the report confirms any such details (and I can’t find further evidence elsewhere) – and the story of a mass incident involving dozens of arrests appears to have been a fiction.
The photograph used by the Daily Caller doesn’t make much sense: it shows just one man being attacked, and – somewhat crucially – it was taken in middle of the day. The site either didn’t bother – or forgot – to remove the photo’s metadata caption, which identifies it as actually showing Russian Cossacks assaulting a Ukrainian in Sevastopol in 2014. It was published in its correct context in the media at the time (see below).
Did the Daily Caller intend to deceive? Robert Spencer, always eager to spread stories about how Muslims are depraved, appears to have taken it at face value as evidence, as did other right-leaning sites.
Perhaps it was intended merely to be illustrative – but given that the Daily Caller clearly approves of the outcome in their version of the story, such a photo serves to titillate, and perhaps to exhort.
Have we really reached the point where a photo of a bunch thugs beating someone up is to be celebrated because someone has said that it shows a refugee, and has further assured us that the victim did something anti-social and deserves his fate?
It is very effective to mobilize mass support against a scapegoated enemy by claiming that the enemy is part of a vast insidious conspiracy against the common good. The conspiracist worldview sees secret plots by tiny cabals of evildoers as the major motor powering important historical events; makes irrational leaps of logic in analyzing factual evidence in order to “prove” connections, blames social conflicts on demonized scapegoats, and constructs a closed metaphysical worldview that is highly resistant to criticism.~1
When conspiracist scapegoating occurs, the results can devastate a society, disrupting rational political discourse and creating targets who are harassed and even murdered. Dismissing the conspiracism often found in right-wing populism as irrational extremism, lunatic hysteria, or marginalized radicalism does little to challenge these movements, fails to deal with concrete conflicts and underlying institutional issues, invites government repression, and sacrifices the early targets of the scapegoaters on the altar of denial. An effective response requires a more complex analysis.
The Dynamics of Conspiracism
The dynamic of conspiracist scapegoating is remarkably predictable. Persons who claim special knowledge of a plot warn their fellow citizens about a treacherous subversive conspiracy to attack the common good. What’s more, the conspiracists announce, the plans are nearing completion, so that swift and decisive action is needed to foil the sinister plot. In different historical periods, the names of the scapegoated villains change, but the essentials of this conspiracist worldview remain the same.~2
George Johnson explained that “conspiratorial fantasies are not simply an expression of inchoate fear. There is a shape, an architecture, to the paranoia.” Johnson came up with five rules common to the conspiracist worldview in the United States:~3
“The conspirators are internationalist in their sympathies.
“[N]othing is ever discarded. Right-wing mail order bookstores still sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…[and] Proofs of a Conspiracy [from the late 1700’s].
“Seeming enemies are actually secret friends. Through the lens of the conspiracy theorists, capitalists and Communists work hand in hand.
“The takeover by the international godless government will be ignited by the collapse of the economic system.
“It’s all spelled out in the Bible. For those with a fundamentalist bent, the New World Order or One World Government is none other than the international kingdom of the Antichrist, described in the Book of Revelation.
Conspiracism can occur as a characteristic of mass movements, between sectors in an intra-elite power struggle, or as a justification for state agencies to engage in repressive actions. Conspiracist scapegoating is woven deeply into US culture and the process appears not just on the political right but in center and left constituencies as well.~4 There is an entrenched network of conspiracy-mongering information outlets spreading dubious stories about public and private figures and institutions. They use media such as printed matter, the internet, fax trees, radio programs, videotapes and audiotapes.~5
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One of America’s most prominent Islam bashers has a long history of making things up.
While promoting her new book, Heretic, on a March 23 episode of “The Daily Show,” Somali-born author and anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali made a staggering claim: “If you look at 70 percent of the violence in the world today, Muslims are responsible,” she told host Jon Stewart.
Stewart did not demand any evidence and Hirsi Ali provided no citation. However, she made a strikingly similar statement in a March 20 essay previewing her new book for the Wall Street Journal: “According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies,” Hirsi Ali wrote in WSJ’s Saturday Essay, “at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims.”
I contacted the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a leading British foreign policy think tank, to inquire about the source of Hirsi Ali’s statistic. According to IISS spokesperson Kat Slowe, IISS did not state such a figure in its research.
“I have spoken to a number of our experts and they cannot identify where this statistic may have come from,” Slowe told me.
“Their best guess is that the journalist in question [Hirsi Ali] may have access/a subscription to the [IISS] Armed Conflict Database and may have calculated this statistic independently. There are some concerns that it could be misleading as, without Syria (near 200,000 total deaths, and almost half of last year’s global conflict deaths) the figure would look massively different (and of course, this conflict did not have its root in religion),” Slowe added.
Hirsi Ali’s AHA Foundation did not respond to my request for a citation on the statistic, nor did the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute that employs Hirsi Ali as a resident scholar. My email query to Hirsi Ali’s personal account at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she serves as a fellow, also went unanswered.
Around 24 hours after my initial query, Hirsi Ali publicly backed off her claim that Muslims are “responsible” for most of the violence in the world. “Depressing that 70% of fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims,” she declared on her personal Twitter account.
Hirsi Ali linked to a survey of casualties in global conflicts by IISS’ Hanna Ucko Neill and Jens Wardenaer which made no reference to Muslims or religiously inspired violence. Apparently Hirsi Ali calculated the statistic on her own by using an IISS report that documented conflicts in territories from eastern Ukraine to sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East to Mexico, where drug gangs fueled widespread killing. The IISS’ Slowe noted that the year’s surge in conflict-related deaths occurred thanks to the fighting in Syria, explaining that Hirsi Ali’s claim was “misleading” because “this conflict did not have its root in religion.”
Instead of responding to my question about her statistic, Hirsi Ali’s AHA Foundation forwarded my email query to the Washington Free Beacon, a right-wing publication with its own history of Islamophobic tall tales and hoaxes. In a currently un-bylined article about the query, the Free Beacon accused me of anti-Semitism.
History of fraud
Hirsi Ali’s highly suspect statistic is only the latest deception by one of the world’s most prominent opponents of Islam. While other anti-Muslim activists like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have marginalized themselves on the fringes of the far-right, Hirsi Ali remains a darling of the American mainstream media. In Heretic, a polemic recycling many of her past arguments against Islam, she calls for the emergence of a Muslim Martin Luther — the authoritarian 16th-century zealot who called for burning down the synagogues of Jews, whom he compared to a gangrenous disease. With the book’s release, Hirsi Ali has been welcomed with open arms by the BBC, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and a relatively accommodating Jon Stewart. ABC News has even run an excerpt from Heretic, while the New York Times Book Review hosted her for an interview filled with hardball questions about her favorite children’s books.
Hirsi Ali’s power to persuade lies in her dramatic personal story and the public persona she has constructed. She has marketed herself as a expert native informant who has emerged out of the dark heart of radical Islam and into the light of Western civilization. Her tale is an uplifting, comforting one that tells many Westerners what they want to hear about themselves and their perceived enemies. With anti-Muslim attitudes at their peak across Europe and the US, her sweeping critique of Islam as an endemically violent faith has enormous cachet. The only problem is that like her writings on Islam, much of what she has told the public about herself is questionable.
In May 2006, the Dutch television program Zembla thoroughly debunked the dramatic story Hirsi Ali had told to advance her career, concluding that Hirsi Ali had sold the Dutch public “a story full of obscurities.”
Born Ayaan Hirsi Magam, she migrated to the Netherlands in 1992, changed her name to Hirsi Ali, and lied to Dutch authorities about her past. Contrary to the story she told the government, she arrived in the Netherlands not from war-torn Somalia, but from Kenya, where she lived in a secure environment and under the protection of the United Nations, which funded her education at a well-regarded Muslim girls’ school. Though she told immigration authorities and the Dutch public she had fled from civil war in Somalia, she left that country before its war broke out. Indeed, she did not live through a war there or anywhere else. Thanks to her fabrications, Hirsi Ali received political asylum in just five weeks.
Hirsi Ali told astonished audiences on Dutch talk shows that her supposedly devout family had forced her to marry a draconian Muslim man, that she had not been present at her own wedding, and that her family had threatened to kill her for offending their religious honor. However, Zembla told a drastically different story. Hirsi Ali’s brother, aunt and former husband each testified that she had indeed been present at her wedding. It turned out that Hirsi Ali’s mother had sent her brother to a Christian school, not exactly an indication of Islamic fanaticism.
“Yeah, I made up the whole thing,” Hirsi Ali admitted on camera to a Zembla reporter who confronted her with her lies. “I said my name was Ayaan Hirsi Ali instead of Ayaan Hirsi Magan. I also said I was born in 1967 while I was actually born in 1969.”
Hirsi Ali’s claim of honor killing threats also appears to be empty; she remained in touch with her father and aunt after she left her husband. In fact, her husband even came to visit her in the Dutch refugee center where she lived after leaving him. Even though he had paid her way to Europe on the grounds that she would join him in Canada, Hirsi Ali’s husband consented to the divorce she sought. (Watch the full Zembla program on Hirsi Ali.)
Fabrications that toppled a government
In 2003, just a decade after gaining political asylum in the Netherlands, Hirsi Ali was elected to the Dutch parliament on the ticket of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. VVD leadership knew that the story Hirsi Ali told on her immigration forms was a gigantic lie — she had told them as much — but covered up the fraud and even advanced it to propel her career.
“She’s witnessed five civil wars in her youth, and has fled with her family many times. She’s made of iron and steel,” the VVD’s Neelie-Smit Kroes said of Hirsi Ali at the time, reciting claims her party knew were false.
A year after joining the Dutch parliament, where she said she attempted to ban Islamic schools in the Netherlands, Hirsi Ali teamed up with Dutch director Theo van Gogh to produce a documentary called Submission. The film portrayed violence against women in Muslim communities as a logical result of Islamic belief, relying on actresses to portray abused women and featuring semi-nude, niqab clad women with Quranic verses scrawled across their torsos. Van Gogh, a filmmaker and columnist who had taken to calling Muslims “goat fuckers,” was gunned down and stabbed to death soon after the film’s release by a Dutch Islamist radical. Before fleeing the scene, the killer pinned a note to van Gogh’s body threatening Hirsi Ali with death. Hirsi Ali’s persistence in the face of the episode helped earn her hero status across the West, particularly in post-9/11 America, where Time magazine named her one of its 100 Most Influential People in 2005.
Zembla’s revelations of Hirsi Ali’s lies in May 2006 interrupted her ascent and threw the Dutch government into chaos. No one was more damaged than her friend and close party ally, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. Nicknamed “Iron Rita” for her ruthless anti-migrant crackdowns and her demagogic appeals to xenophobia, Verdonk was shamed by the revelations of Hirsi Ali’s deceptions. When she announced her intention to strip Hirsi Ali of her citizenship, however, she was skewered in parliament and forced to relent.
Days after Zembla aired its exposé, Hirsi Ali announced her plans to leave parliament and take up a position with the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington-based think thank that housed many of the neoconservatives who helped orchestrate the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In the immediate aftermath of the furor she caused, Verdonk introduced the so-called “Law on Integration,” one of Europe’s harshest anti-immigrant bills. Only one member of the Dutch House of Representatives opposed it. However, the governing coalition soon collapsed because of the scandal Hirsi Ali’s deceptions inspired. With a new coalition seated in February 2007, and without Verdonk and Hirsi Ali in power, the government was able to adopt a more tolerant approach to immigrants.
Winning a Harvard fellowship, defending Breivik
Upon her relocation to the US, Hirsi Ali was embraced by a coalition of liberal interventionists, neoconservatives and “New Atheists” like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Bill Maher. With extended appearances on the Christian Broadcasting Network of Pat Robertson, who blamed homosexuality for the 9/11 attacks, self-proclaimed feminist Hirsi Ali won droves of fans among the Christian right. Despite her views on Islam, which she called a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death,” or perhaps because of them, she received a fellowship from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
As she rose in prominence among America’s intellectual elite, Hirsi Ali’s history of lying tumbled conveniently down the Orwellian memory hole. In promotional material for her best-selling 2007 memoir, Infidel, Hirsi Ali’s publishers at Simon & Schuster have pushed the discredited claim that “Hirsi Ali survived civil war.” More recently, conservative pundit Peggy Noonan glossed over the reasons behind Hirsi Ali’s flight from the Netherlands, writing, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali got death threats and eventually fled to America.” Few, if any, American outlets have noted that Hirsi Ali left the Netherlands as her public credibility collapsed and her anti-immigrant party fell into crisis.
With support from across the American ideological spectrum, Hirsi Ali sharpened her rhetoric against Muslims. In a candid 2007 exchange with Reason Magazine, she declared that the religion of Islam had to be “defeated.” “Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful,” Hirsi Ali stated. “It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now….There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.”
Junketed to Berlin in 2012 to receive the Axel Springer Honorary Award from the right-wing German publisher, Hirsi Ali appeared to blame liberal defenders of multiculturalism for the killing spree committed by the Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, claiming they left Breivik with “no other choice but to use violence. (Breivik cited Hirsi Ali’s work in his 1,500 page manifesto explaining his plans to commit a series of terrorist attacks across Norway.)
“[T]hat one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.” (Her words were met with an extended standing ovation.)
When Brandeis University canceled plans to award Hirsi Ali an honorary degree in April 2014, it appeared that her increasingly vitriolic tirades against Islam and its adherents had caught up with her. But then came the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, a seemingly clarifying moment that Hirsi Ali and fellow anti-Islam activists seized on as confirmation of their darkest prophecies. Two months later, she released Heretic.
Having rebranded herself a brave “reformer” following in the footsteps of the Selma marchers, Hirsi Ali has found her way back into the mainstream limelight. While American media demonstrates an endless appetite for her polemics about Islam, holding her to account remains taboo.
Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.
And yet, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl points out, millions of Americans hold these beliefs. In a Zogby poll taken six years ago, only 64 percent of U.S. adults agreed that the attacks “caught US intelligence and military forces off guard.” More than 30 percent chose a different conclusion: that “certain elements in the US government knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military, and economic motives,” or that these government elements “actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attacks.”
How can this be? How can so many people, in the name of skepticism, promote so many absurdities?
The answer is that people who suspect conspiracies aren’t really skeptics. Like the rest of us, they’re selective doubters. They favor a worldview, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites.
Conspiracy chatter was once dismissed as mental illness. But the prevalence of such belief, documented in surveys, has forced scholars to take it more seriously. Conspiracy theory psychology is becoming an empirical field with a broader mission: to understand why so many people embrace this way of interpreting history. As you’d expect, distrust turns out to be an important factor. But it’s not the kind of distrust that cultivates critical thinking.
In 1999 a research team headed by Marina Abalakina-Paap, a psychologist at New Mexico State University, published a study of U.S. college students. The students were asked whether they agreed with statements such as “Underground movements threaten the stability of American society” and “People who see conspiracies behind everything are simply imagining things.” The strongest predictor of general belief in conspiracies, the authors found, was “lack of trust.”
But the survey instrument that was used in the experiment to measure “trust” was more social than intellectual. It asked the students, in various ways, whether they believed that most human beings treat others generously, fairly, and sincerely. It measured faith in people, not in propositions. “People low in trust of others are likely to believe that others are colluding against them,” the authors proposed. This sort of distrust, in other words, favors a certain kind of belief. It makes you more susceptible, not less, to claims of conspiracy.
The common thread between distrust and cynicism, as defined in these experiments, is a perception of bad character. More broadly, it’s a tendency to focus on intention and agency, rather than randomness or causal complexity. In extreme form, it can become paranoia. In mild form, it’s a common weakness known as the fundamental attribution error—ascribing others’ behavior to personality traits and objectives, forgetting the importance of situational factors and chance. Suspicion, imagination, and fantasy are closely related.
The more you see the world this way—full of malice and planning instead of circumstance and coincidence—the more likely you are to accept conspiracy theories of all kinds. Once you buy into the first theory, with its premises of coordination, efficacy, and secrecy, the next seems that much more plausible.
Many studies and surveys have documented this pattern. Several months ago, Public Policy Polling asked 1,200 registered U.S. voters about various popular theories. Fifty-one percent said a larger conspiracy was behind President Kennedy’s assassination; only 25 percent said Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Compared with respondents who said Oswald acted alone, those who believed in a larger conspiracy were more likely to embrace other conspiracy theories tested in the poll. They were twice as likely to say that a UFO had crashed in Roswell, N.M., in 1947 (32 to 16 percent) and that the CIA had deliberately spread crack cocaine in U.S. cities (22 to 9 percent). Conversely, compared with respondents who didn’t believe in the Roswell incident, those who did were far more likely to say that a conspiracy had killed JFK (74 to 41 percent), that the CIA had distributed crack (27 to 10 percent), that the government “knowingly allowed” the 9/11 attacks (23 to 7 percent), and that the government adds fluoride to our water for sinister reasons (23 to 2 percent).
The appeal of these theories—the simplification of complex events to human agency and evil—overrides not just their cumulative implausibility (which, perversely, becomes cumulative plausibility as you buy into the premise) but also, in many cases, their incompatibility. Consider the 2003 survey in which Gallup asked 471 Americans about JFK’s death. Thirty-seven percent said the Mafia was involved, 34 percent said the CIA was involved, 18 percent blamed Vice President Johnson, 15 percent blamed the Soviets, and 15 percent blamed the Cubans. If you’re doing the math, you’ve figured out by now that many respondents named more than one culprit. In fact, 21 percent blamed two conspiring groups or individuals, and 12 percent blamed three. The CIA, the Mafia, the Cubans—somehow, they were all in on the plot.
Two years ago, psychologists at the University of Kent led by Michael Wood (who blogs at a delightful website on conspiracy psychology), escalated the challenge. They offered U.K. college students five conspiracy theories about Princess Diana: four in which she was deliberately killed, and one in which she faked her death. In a second experiment, they brought up two more theories: that Osama Bin Laden was still alive (contrary to reports of his death in a U.S. raid earlier that year) and that, alternatively, he was already dead before the raid. Sure enough, “The more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered.” And “the more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive.”
Another research group, led by Swami, fabricated conspiracy theories about Red Bull, the energy drink, and showed them to 281 Austrian and German adults. One statement said that a 23-year-old man had died of cerebral hemorrhage caused by the product. Another said the drink’s inventor “pays 10 million Euros each year to keep food controllers quiet.” A third claimed, “The extract ‘testiculus taurus’ found in Red Bull has unknown side effects.” Participants were asked to quantify their level of agreement with each theory, ranging from 1 (completely false) to 9 (completely true). The average score across all the theories was 3.5 among men and 3.9 among women. According to the authors, “the strongest predictor of belief in the entirely fictitious conspiracy theory was belief in other real-world conspiracy theories.”
Conspiracy believers are the ultimate motivated skeptics. Their curse is that they apply this selective scrutiny not to the left or right, but to the mainstream. They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility.
A deeper look into why people believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories. Reuters
Why do people believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories? It’s a simple question to ask, but not necessarily an easy one to answer. Some people might scoff at those who believe in the outlandish theories, but experts said there are several underlying causes why conspiracy theorists are compelled to go against official reports from the government and mainstream media. For one, people don’t want to trust the government. The rise of the Internet has also made it easier than ever to spread alternative suspicions about what “really” happened. What’s more, once someone is convinced a conspiracy is truth, it’s very difficult to change their mind.
There are dozens of conspiracy theories surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Some speculate inside traders knew about the attack beforehand. There are people who are convinced that bombs, not airliners, destroyed the Twin Towers. One of the more popular theories states that the U.S. government, not al Qaeda, was behind the attacks.
When people were asked in the 1950s if they could trust the government to do what is right, 75 percent of people said they did, said Robert Alan Goldberg, a history professor at the University of Utah and the author of “Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America.” But there has been a dramatic change since then because of events like the Vietnam War, the Watergate wiretapping scandal and President Bill Clinton’s intern romance. Now, only a small minority of Americans trust the government to do what is right, Goldberg said.
Part of the reason people turn to conspiracy theories has to do with their lack of trust in the government, conspiracy theory expert Tim Melley, an English professor at Miami University in Ohio, said. People are aware of secretive government programs like the CIA and National Security Agency, but most of that knowledge comes from film and fantasy. “It’s often illegal to report on these kinds of activities,” Melley said. “The public is in this strange fantasy world where they know about clandestine activity, but we don’t know about it in the way we know about other things. It’s creates a suspicion about the government.”
There’s been a blur between what is fact and fiction because of Americans’ fascination with media, Goldberg said. “The greatest historians, if you will, are filmmakers,” he said. “When the film blends with the history, the film becomes history.”
The Internet has also helped conspiracy theories win over new followers. “It’s easier to spread untruths,” said Scott Bigelow, a public communication specialist at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
It doesn’t help that people often turn to the Internet for information that backs up their personal views, Goldberg said. “You go on to the internet to seek conformation,” he said. “Your views are amplified and validated.”
A conspiracy theory can help restore order after a seemingly senseless act occurs, said Kathleen Olmsted, a history professor at the University of California Davis. “The theories serve the psychological purpose of helping people to believe that there is order in the universe and that someone is in charge,” she said.
In the end, it’s just too hard to stop believing, Goldberg said.
“They look for confirming information or they interpret information in a confirming way,” he said. “They lose the ability to find the facts that might trip it up and either disguise them, ignore them or argue those facts are planted. Once you believe in a conspiracy theory, the condition is hard to break.”
Associated Press/Assassination Records Review Board, Dave Powers
President Kennedy’s limousine in Dallas, in footage taken by presidential aide Dave Powers and photographed from a television screen.
That afternoon in 1963, I was in the cellar of a Catholic seminary, a crenellated Gothic building in Washington, D.C. I was seated in the ad-hoc barber’s chair, while an untrained yet officially designated classmate was hacking at my hair, a normal part of the monkish life. Suddenly, one of our fellow seminarians stormed through the doorway to yell the news from Dallas. With a half-finished haircut, I rushed with the others to the common room for its television. A hundred of us were crowded there by the time the usually stolid Walter Cronkite choked up. One by one, we drifted to the chapel.
Across ensuing days, when we weren’t downtown standing on the curbside of Pennsylvania Avenue or in the Capitol grounds, mute witnesses to one funeral march or another, we were planted in front of the television, or on our knees before the tabernacle. Prayer had never come more naturally. I have no memory of that haircut being finished.
I was 20. The day President Kennedy was murdered marked the beginning of my adulthood. It was the first time I realized that hopes can be dashed suddenly and catastrophically — and, soon enough, that even the most vital of questions may go unanswered forever.
That weekend made the nation whole in its grief. Television sealed the bond. Elegantly enacted military obsequies formed one bracket of experience — the riderless horse with boot reversed in its stirrup, muffled drums, a bugle, the bagpipe; the timeless rubrics of Catholic liturgy formed the other — ubiquitous priests, black vestments, the veiled heads of women, power brokers on their knees. Why, if not for this, had suffering defined the essence of Christian faith? In the stately St. Matthew’s Cathedral, such historic figures as Charles de Gaulle, Haile Selassie, and Eamon de Valera filled out the front pews, but my parents were in there, too. Gruff old Cardinal Cushing touched the casket. He spoke for a merciful God by saying simply, “Dear Jack.”
But, the whole time, there was a loathsome distraction: the bulletins about the misfit crackpot gunman. Texas seemed guilty at first, and so did the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society, the wild-eyed Cuban exiles, the US hate machine. It wouldn’t be long, we thought, before we knew who had really done this, and why. We could not imagine in those early days that our collective anguish, instead of passing, would calcify around questions to which every answer opened into yet more questions. About what happened that day in Dallas, all we know for sure even now — 50 years later — is that we don’t know it all. And in the years that followed, that lack of knowledge helped push America’s entire public dialogue in poisonous directions.
The assassination’s thicket of unresolved ambiguities became a hospitable niche for a profound American insecurity. Who killed the president? The disproportion between the punk Lee Harvey Oswald and the hero Kennedy surely meant that the assassin could not have acted alone. A gut instinct told everyone that Oswald was a mere instrument wielded by a hidden hand, but whose?
In the search for answers, facts lurking below the surface suddenly took on dark significance: Former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald had previously defected to Moscow; the Kennedy administration had locked its sights on Havana again; mobsters had been the Kennedy brothers’ archenemies. When a local man named Jack Ruby — a strip-club owner? really? — found it possible to enter Dallas police headquarters that Sunday and shoot the heavily guarded Oswald at close range, the story took its decisive turn into the realm of the truly deranged.
The connivance of Reds was an obvious theory: Why shouldn’t the demonic Kremlin have begun its openly stated project of burying America by burying the nation’s now universally beloved president? Newly sworn-in President Lyndon Johnson foresaw the problem of an unleashed impulse to lay blame. Johnson, sensing the danger of the question left unanswered, quickly moved to check a coming torrent of paranoid scapegoating. He appointed the Warren Commission, which, ultimately prompting more questions than it answered, would prove to be the disease that called itself the cure.
Soon, everyone knew these plot points: The Texas School Book Depository. Oswald not a drifter, but a calculator. JFK’s autopsy interrupted. Secret Service lapses. Oswald a Communist. No, a right-wing nut. Eyewitness accounts in conflict. The grassy knoll. Contested bullet trajectories. The unlikelihood of three accurate shots in little more than five seconds, especially by a man known for poor marksmanship. Then there was Oswald’s mystery wife — a Red, for sure.
If the first pieces of the story to emerge seemed jagged, they would fit together eventually, wouldn’t they? Less than a year after the assassination, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the commission findings: Oswald was an unhinged lone gunman, and so was Ruby. Because Oswald was dead, the commission said, it was not “possible to arrive at the complete story” of the murder. The nation would have to live with questions. The president had been killed for nothing larger than an accidental act of insanity. A second such act, the killing of Oswald, cut short society’s capacity to reckon with the full truth of it. When even Robert Kennedy publicly accepted this explanation, who were the rest of us to wonder?
Subsequent news events, though, kept fueling deeper suspicions about the commission’s work. Official lies about Vietnam widened a credibility gap. Demonstrations became rebellions. When Malcolm X was murdered in 1965, it could seem remote to white America, but the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 was a blow to the nation — and assassination all at once felt familiar. When Robert Kennedy was gunned down two months later, it was no longer possible to rank such perdition as mad accidents of history. We knew it, we knew it: The murder of JFK had started something. Lone gunmen all — yet these killers had to have some deeper significance than purposeless madness, right? Otherwise we would all be mad.
Yet the quest for answers proved even madder. The uncorked New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison launched a sensational JFK assassination investigation in the late 1960s, culminating in the 1969 trial of a businessman named Clay Shaw. By then John Kennedy’s nemesis Richard Nixon was in the White House — from which some Kennedy admirers deduced that a malevolent current was running below the surface of national consciousness, especially when Nixon expanded the war in Vietnam that Americans had been told was ending. In New Orleans, Shaw was quickly acquitted by a unanimous jury, but in that dismally tumultuous year Garrison’s charge that Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy had unexpected resonance.
Conspiracy books began rolling off the presses — ultimately hundreds of them. After the Pandora’s box of Watergate was thrown open, with revelations of true government criminality, Congress itself returned to the question of President Kennedy’s assassination, with investigations in both the House and Senate. The Warren Commission report was revisited, and now serious inconsistencies, lapses, and even deceptions were exposed. What the American people had been told about Oswald had fallen far short of the full truth.
But rather than restoring public confidence, these revelations further damaged it. Open congressional testimony produced no hard evidence to contradict the Warren commission’s essential conclusion that both Oswald and Ruby had acted alone. But while the Senate and House committees had made many secrets public, others remained sealed, fueling still more conspiracy theories. Those who rejected conspiracy theories out of hand had come to seem naive.
Through the 1980s, Ronald Reagan, for whom destruction of faith in government was a political purpose, cultivated cynicism on the right by demonizing social services, and on the left by pursuing secret wars in Central America. Thus the whole government-hating country was primed for the arrival of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK.” With Kevin Costner as Garrison, it turned the New Orleans DA from a crackpot self-aggrandizer into a lonely seeker of truth.
In the movie’s centerpiece scene, a long walking sequence shot at the reflecting pool in Washington, a mysterious Pentagon insider, played by Donald Sutherland, explains to Garrison, and by extension the nation, that Kennedy was killed in a carefully orchestrated act of “black ops” involving the US Army, the CIA, the Secret Service, the FBI, and top-level Washington officials — all acting to protect the Cold War national security elite and its military-industrial partners and, especially, to make sure that their much desired war in Vietnam could proceed. An all-too-dovish Kennedy had to be removed, Stone’s film makes clear, because he was a threat to the “establishment.” Dozens, if not hundreds, of conspirators were actively involved in this crime. And they all kept the secret.
It was nonsense. Critics said so. Still, many took the movie as history. Never mind that Stone’s hypothesis, offered up as fact, amounts to a ghastly slander of numerous identifiable people — one of whom, as it happens, was my father. He was the Pentagon’s intelligence chief, a character bound to be at the center of such a plot. Not given to weeping, to put it mildly, Dad had wept that November weekend. He felt the loss of Kennedy more acutely than anyone I knew. By 1991, luckily, Dad was not aware.
Stone’s film resonated, though, because it salved what had by then become an intolerably painful national wound — not the memory of JFK’s death, but our failure to fully explain it. That we’d been invited to regard the assassination merely as a cruel turn of fate was the work of malevolent forces. The government did this to us, Stone’s film explained.
His narrative was a roaring rejection of the contingency of life, of how great consequences can follow from the petty deeds of wholly insignificant individuals acting with weightless motive more or less alone. “JFK” would prove to be the master template for all assassination conspiracy theories, right down to those 50th anniversary books being published this month. Such elaborate fantasies would be nation-destroying if they were true. Yet, ironically, they offer us a rescue of the moral order — an insistence that massive social and political heartbreak must be the result of intentional design.
In their own way, these conspiracy theories prepared the soil in which took root the broad distrust in government that curses the nation to this day. More than that, conspiracy-mindedness undercuts the civic maturity that is necessary for a commonwealth to function responsibly. Every tug in the direction of conspiracy — “they” did this! — is a signal of the test we have been failing. The compulsion to keep asking the question “why?”, replying to every answer with another “why?”, until the final conjuring of a satisfactory explanation is forced, is a mark of childhood. More recent conspiracy theories, from the supposed murder of Vince Foster to “9/11 was an inside job” to insinuations about missing birth certificates, are also rooted in a callow refusal to get real.
Fifty years later, it is hard to convey how most Americans felt— and how I felt — about John F. Kennedy. In his first summer as president, a crisis over Berlin had ignited the lethal nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. Kennedy told us to prepare for war, and we did. In fear, we felt bound to him.
The climax came, of course, not over Berlin but Cuba. During that October in 1962, an unflinching Kennedy dispelled the danger for which he had primed us. When he and Nikita Khrushchev, equally chastened, agreed to a partial nuclear test ban the following summer, we glimpsed the opening — arms-control negotiations — through which a peaceful end of the Cold War would eventually come.
Less than three months later, when the shots rang out at Dallas, it seemed the post-Cuba reprieve from terror had been revoked. In the death of one man, as we felt it, a far more catastrophic fate had shown itself, an armageddon after all. That the fabric of the nation so quickly unraveled seemed somehow unsurprising. And why shouldn’t we have sought ways to put off maturity — by filling in the gaps in the record with grandiose theories whose vast scope reflected the depths of our sorrow?
At some point, though, a grown person has to say, “I do not know, and never will.” That is the reply to life’s most important questions. For me, it was also the terrible lesson of Kennedy’s death.
If you asked me, I would say that we witnessed a recrudescence of a nihilistic tendency that has never been far from the surface in American politics—a conservatism that is as far from the dictionary definition of conservatism as Obama is from being a socialist. Last fall, on the eve of the election, I wrote in Salon that “America is becoming more multicultural, more gay-friendly and more feminist every day. But as every hunter knows, a wounded or cornered quarry is the most dangerous. Even as the white, patriarchal, Christian hegemony declines, its backlash politics become more vicious.” Was it vicious enough to strap a figurative suicide vest to its chest and threaten the U.S. with default? If you had asked me at the time, I would have said no. Little did I know.
Some of the Republican jihadists who pressed for default feel so personally violated by the presence of a black family in the White House that they would just as soon burn it down as reclaim it. And some live in such a bubble of denial—an alternate cognitive universe in which the poor lord it over the rich and white Christians are a persecuted minority, in which a president who was twice elected by an overwhelming popular majority is a pretender, and a law that Congress attempted to overturn more than 40 times was “never debated”—that they have convinced themselves that a default would have actually been a good thing, that it would have restored the U.S. economy to a sound foundation.
It is a triumph not so much of a conspiracy as of conspiracist thinking. As John Judis wrote in The New Republiclast week, even “lobbyists I talked to cited….Richard Hofstadter’s essay on ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ to explain the rise of the populist right. It’s the kind of reference you’d expect to read in a New Republicarticle, but not necessarily in a conversation with a business lobbyist.”
Lest I be accused of falling for a left wing conspiracy theory myself, I want to say a few words about “conspiracy theory” before I continue. “Conspiracy theory” is a loaded and frankly a bad term, one that unfairly besmirches any and all theorizing about conspiracies.
Bracketing all thinking about conspiracies with tall tales and outright delusions about secret societies whose leaders toast each other with blood drunk out of human skulls is unfair and misleading. Some anti-government conspiracy theories—that the Tonkin Gulf Incident didn’t happen as reported, for example, or that the CIA was involved with international dope dealers, are so far from being ridiculous that they turn out to be true. The NSA does have access to your emails. For that matter, a certain amount of toasting with skulls (if not actual blood) has been reliably reported to go on in some quarters.
Still, there are theories and then there are theories. Scientists know the difference between unfalsifiable ones like intelligent design and genuinely scientific ones like evolution. Theories about political conspiracies are harder to put to the test; absence of evidence, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, is not evidence of absence. In fact it’s the whole point.
I do think most people know the difference between a “conspiracy theory” in its pejorative sense—say, that the Fed takes its orders from a secret society of Jewish elders, who cause depressions and wars to further their plan of ruling the world—and its literal sense, such as a serious inquiry into Oswald’s relationship to the CIA.
Still, truth can be stranger than fiction and we need to respect that.
If I were to tell you that a cabal of Congressional Republicans had been quietly working with a roster of little-known political organizations since the last election, many of them funded by a pair of shadowy billionaire brothers, to bring the country to the brink of financial ruin, I’d understand it if you thought I was talking about a conspiracy theory. But really I’d be describing the sausage making that goes on in politics today and the blurry lines between lobbying and influence peddling—and even more than that, about the behavior of people who are so blinded by rage, so driven by their own fever dreams about Obama’s plot to turn the U.S. into a Third-World, multi-racial, socialist, Muslim, atheist paradise, that they would pay any cost to ruin his presidency.
But if there is still any question about what a badconspiracy theory is, I’d like to submit as Exhibit A one proposed by an anonymous author at the Canadian website Press Core, which was promoted a couple of weeks ago by World Net Daily columnist and Fox News contributor Erik Rush (sometimes known as “the other Rush”) on his radio show. Part of what makes it a classically “bad” conspiracy theory, besides its tendentiousness, is its meanness. It’s like a push poll; its sole purpose is to propagate a meme that demonizes and delegitimizes the president. I think it also provides insight into the mindset that characterizes far-right thinking these days.
The Navy Yard shootings in D.C., this theory goes, was a false flag incident perpetrated by the Obama administration to stop the Navy from arresting the president for treason. The victims of the shooting, who were all NCIS commanders, the story continues, had discovered that Obama was planning an even more horrific false flag—he was going to explode a nuclear device in Washington, D.C., to justify going to war with Syria. Some of this “sounds like a conspiracy theory,” the other Rush admitted, but “a lot of stuff that seemed to some of us like conspiracy theories years ago turned out to be true over the last few months.”
One way to judge a theory is to look at its source. Is it a generally respected news gatherer or a propaganda mill? Scanning the headlines at Press Core, I couldn’t help noticing another article, this one with the byline Paul W. Kincaid, the site’s editor. The piece reveals that the Vatican, the U.N., and the Third Reich have been working together on a covert and sinister plan to exterminate, and I am quoting now, “as many as 3 billion people through Vatican unholy wars of terror against Muslim and Jewish states, designer diseases, and famine.”
This story really astounded me, because it sees both Jews and Muslims as victims rather than perpetrators. That’s not what you usually read on websites of this kind, trust me. Some of the most virulently anti-Islamic websites today, many of them run by Jews, feature stories that could have been written by 1930s anti-Semites like Elizabeth Dilling or Gerald Burton Winrod, except the word Shariah replaces the word Kehilla, and instead of out-of-context quotes from the Talmud about the necessity of lying to the gentiles they are pulled from the Koran and refer to the supposed doctrine of Tawriya. Of course a major theme at those sites is Obama’s suspicious sympathies toward the Muslim world.
The theories that we file under the unfortunate rubric of conspiracy theories are theories of everything. They have a kind of metaphysical authority, and, in their confidence that everything is ultimately connected, a scope and a moral framework that is almost theological.
Most of all, they are reactive. Conspiracists are people who feel threatened—in their pocketbooks, their status, or both. Conspiracy theories explain what is happening to them and why, assigning blame to an adversary who is consciously and deliberately carrying out an evil intention.
Conspiracists use the word “evil” as a noun as well as an adjective; they believe that their adversaries are literally demonic. Much as a Kabbalist believes that God fashioned the world out of Hebrew letters, many conspiracists believe that their enemies sign the catastrophes that they cause in visual, numeric or symbolic codes.
They look backward nostalgically to what they’ve lost, they look forward with anxious expectation to a bloody reckoning. As a political candidate once said in an unguarded moment, they cling to their guns and their religion.
Conspiracism turns chaotic events into coherent narratives—surprisingly often, one that hews to the storyline of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an early 20th-century anti-Semitic pastiche that was cut and pasted together by Eastern Orthodox defenders of the absolute monarchy of the Tsar.
Conspiracy theories’ narratives unfold much as the storylines of massive multi-player online games do. They take place in a universe that’s bounded by hard-and-fast rules and peopled by broadly drawn, cartoon-like characters. Whatever happens is either part of the algorithm or something that one of the player gods has intentionally caused to happen.
You see this kind of thinking when you read claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged by “actors,” or that purport to identify the fake blood and prosthetic limbs in the carnage after the Boston Marathon “false flag” bombing. Like the ancient Gnostics, or the characters in “The Matrix” or “The Truman Show,” they believe that God is a Satanic impostor—that the world is a deliberately constructed illusion, the opposite of the place that its designated authority figures purport it to be.
The Left, I freely admit, is not immune to conspiracy theories. If many of the “false flag” claims originate with quasi-Bircher populists like Alex Jones, they resonate in some leftist quarters as well. Communist dialectics and the theory of history that undergirds Premillennial Dispensationalism share some attributes; party propaganda was as filled with paranoid conspiracy theories (some of them true) as anything that the organized right has ever produced. But I do tend to think that the very reactiveness of reactionary thinking predisposes it to conspiracism a bit more. This is why as many extreme ideas resonate within the Republican mainstream as they do.
Conservatives, especially conservative white men of a certain age, many of them living in the states of the Old Dominion and the mountainous West, are feeling beleaguered in this fifth year of the Great Recession. As conservative as his governance has turned out to be in practice, the election of an African American president has tended to exacerbate their feelings of victimization.
Public Policy Polling has issued a couple of surveys on conspiracy theories this year. And belief pretty clearly breaks down along partisan lines:
34 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Independents believe a global power elite is conspiring to create a New World Order—compared to just 15 percent of Democrats.
Fifty-eight percent of Republicans believe global warming is a hoax; 77 percent of Democrats do not.
Sixty-two percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Independents believe the Obama administration is “secretly trying to take everyone’s guns away.” Only 14 percent of Democrats agree.
Forty-two percent of Republicans believe Shariah law is making its way into U.S. courts, compared to just 12 percent of Democrats.
More than twice as many Republican voters (21 percent) as Democrats (9 percent) believe the government is using “false flag incidents” to consolidate its power.
Forty-four percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Independents believe that Obama is making plans to stay in office after his second term expires. Only 11 percent of Democrats agree.
Most elected officials who traffic in conspiracy theories are too rich and successful themselves to believe in them; they deploy them opportunistically, to push voters’ emotional buttons. As Michael Tomasky wrote in The Daily Beast last week, “The rage kept the base galvanized….The rich didn’t really share the rage, or most of them. Even the Koch Brothers probably don’t….But all of them have used it. And they have tolerated it, the casual racism, the hatred of gay people, and the rest….because they, the elites, remained in charge. Well, they’re not in charge now. The snarling dog they kept in a pen for decades has just escaped and bitten their hand off.”
Back in the winter of 2012, a couple of weeks before my book “The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right” was published, I was at a party at my sister’s house, and she introduced me to the husband of a friend of hers, a lawyer active in the Democratic party. I told him how conspiratorial memes about the Illuminati have echoed down to us from the 1790s, and how the influence of fringe groups like the John Birch Society extends beyond marginal figures like Alex Jones and Ron Paul and can even be discerned in the GOP’s campaign rhetoric.
He just laughed derisively. “What possible relevance do those nuts have today?” he said. “Nobody cares about them.” Judging from the recent events in Washington, I think it’s safe to say that his complacency was a bit premature.
Arthur Goldwag is the author, most recently, of “The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right”
In 1992, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov admitted that the KGB was behind the Soviet newspaper articles claiming that AIDS was created by the US government.
Operation: INFEKTION was a KGBdisinformation campaign to spread information that the United States invented HIV/AIDS as part of a biological weapons research project at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Soviet Union used it to undermine the United States’ credibility, foster anti-Americanism, isolate America abroad, and create tensions between host countries and the U.S. over the presence of American military bases (which were often portrayed as the cause of AIDS outbreaks in local populations).
According to U.S. State Department analysts, another reason the Soviet Union “promoted the AIDS disinformation may have been its attempt to distract international attention away from its own offensive biological warfare program, which [was monitored] for decades”–in addition to anthrax, the Soviets were believed to have developed tularemia, the plague, and cholera for biological warfare purposes, as well as botulinum toxin, enterotoxins, and mycotoxins. An alternative explanation is that the operation may have been in retaliation for American accusations that the Soviets used chemical weapons in Southeast Asia, later dubbed the yellow rain incident.
The groundwork appeared in the pro-Soviet Indian newspaper Patriot which, according to a KGB defector named Ilya Dzerkvelov, was set up by the KGB in 1962 “in order to publish disinformation”. An anonymous letter was sent to the editor in July 1983 from a ‘well-known American scientist and anthropologist’, stating that AIDS was manufactured at Fort Detrick by genetic engineers. The ‘scientist’ claimed that “that deadly mysterious disease was believed to be the results of the Pentagon’s experiments to develop new and dangerous biological weapons,” and implicated CDC scientists with being sent to Africa and Latin America to find dangerous viruses alien to Asia and Europe. These results were purportedly analyzed in Atlanta and Fort Detrick and thus the “most likely course of events” leading to the development of AIDS.
The Segal Report
The campaign started in earnest in October 1985 after the story was ignored for two years, with the original article being published again by Literaturnaya Gazeta. To lend credence, the Soviet Union used a pseudo-scientific paper written in 1986 by a retired East German biophysicist named Dr. Jakob Segal, co-authored by his wife Dr. Lilli Segal and Dr. Ronald Dehmlow, at Humboldt University. The report was quoted heavily by Soviet propagandists, and the Segals were often said to be French researchers in order to hide their connections with communism. Dr. Segal postulated that the AIDS virus was synthesized by combining parts of two distantly related retroviruses: VISNA and HTLV-1.  An excerpt of the Segal report is as follows:
It is very easy using genetic technologies to unite two parts of completely independent viruses… but who would be interested in doing this? The military, of course… In 1977 a special top security lab… was set up…at the Pentagon’s central biological laboratory. One year after that… the first cases of AIDS occurred in the US, in New York City. How it occurred precisely at this moment and how the virus managed to get out of the secret, hush-hush laboratory is quite easy to understand. Everyone knows that prisoners are used for military experiments in the U.S. They are promised their freedom if they come out of the experiment alive.
Elsewhere in the report, Segal said that his hypothesis was based purely on assumptions, extrapolations, and hearsay and not at all on direct scientific evidence.
The AIDS story exploded across the world, and was repeated by Soviet newspapers, magazines, wire services, radio broadcasts, and T.V. It appeared forty times in Soviet media in 1987 alone. It received coverage in over eighty countries in more than thirty languages, primarily in leftist and communist media publications, and was found in countries as wide spread as Bolivia, Grenada, Pakistan, New Zealand, Nigeria, and Malta. A few versions made their way into non-communist press in Indonesian and Philippine press. 
Dissemination was usually along a recognized pattern: propaganda and disinformation would first appear in a country outside of the USSR and only then be picked up by a Soviet news agency, which attributed it to others’ investigative journalism. That the story came from a foreign source (not widely known to be Soviet controlled or influenced) added credibility to the allegations, especially in impoverished and less educated countries which generally could not afford access to Western news satellite feeds. To aid in media placement, Soviet propaganda was provided free of charge, and many stories came with cash benefits. This was particularly the case in India and Ghana, where the Soviet Union maintained a large propaganda and disinformation apparatus for covert media placement.
To explain how AIDS outbreaks were simultaneously so prevalent in Africa, the Moscow World Service announced that Soviet correspondent Aleksandr Zhukov discovered that in the early 1970s, a Pentagon controlled West German lab in Zaire “succeeded in modifying the non-lethal Green Monkey virus into the deadly AIDS virus.” Radio Moscow also claimed that instead of testing a cholera vaccine, American scientists were actually infecting unwitting Zairians, thus spreading it throughout the continent. These scientists were unaware of the long period before symptom onset, and resumed experimentation on convicts upon return to the US, where it then spread when the prisoners escaped.
Other disinformation campaigns running at the same time made the AIDS accusations more believable. In 1987, Professor Rychkov, the head of the human genetics lab at a Soviet genetics institute, claimed the United States was researching a DNA molecule capable of controlling people’s minds and behavior, and said it was a definitely a possibility that AIDS was made by the U.S. Other allegations were made that included the creation of an ‘ethnic bomb’ to destroy non-whites, and fine-tuning it to target specific age groups and genders. The U.S. was also said to have released killer mosquitoes into Pakistan, violating arms control agreements, trafficking in baby parts, and creating treatment resistant and ultra-deadly strains of dengue fever, malaria, and other tropical illnesses. 
Claims that the CIA had sent “AIDS-oiled condoms” to other countries sprang up independently in the African press, well after the operation was started. In 1987, a book (“Once Again About the CIA”) was published by Novosti, with the quote:
The CIA Directorate of Science and Technology is continuously modernizing its inventory of pathogenic preparations, bacteria and viruses and studying their effect on man in various parts of the world. To this end, the CIA uses American medical centers in foreign countries. A case in point was the Pakistani Medical Research Center in Lahore… set up in 1962 allegedly for combating malaria.
The resulting public backlash eventually closed down the legitimate medical research center. Soviet allegations declared the purpose of these research projects, to include that of AIDS, was to ‘enlarge the war arsenal.’
Worldwide Response to AIDS Allegations
Ironically, many Soviet scientists were soliciting help from American researchers to help address the Soviet Union’s burgeoning AIDS problem, while stressing the virus’ natural origins. The U.S. politely refused to help as long as the disinformation campaign continued. The Segal report and the plenitude of press articles were dismissed by both western and Soviet virologists as nonsense. 
Dr. Meinrad Koch, a West Berlin AIDS expert, stated in 1987 that the Segal report was ‘utter nonsense’ and called it an ‘evil pseudo-scientific political concoction.’ Other scientists also pointed out flaws and inaccuracies in the Segal report as well, including Dr. Viktor Zhdanov of the Ivanovsky Institute of Virology in Moscow, who was the top Soviet AIDS expert at the time. The president of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences clearly stated that he believed the virus to be of natural origin. Other scientists and doctors from Paris, East and West Berlin, India, and Belgium called the AIDS rumors lies, scientifically unfounded, and otherwise impossible to seriously consider.  Although Segal himself never said ‘this is fact’ and was very careful to maintain this line throughout his report, “such technical qualifiers do not diminish the impact of the charges, however, because when they are replayed, such qualifiers are typically either omitted or overlooked by readers or listeners.”
US Embassy officials wrote dozens of letters to various newspaper editors and journalists, and held meetings and press conferences to clarify matters. Many of their efforts resulted in newspapers printing retractions and apologies. Rebuttals appeared in reports to Congress and from the State Department saying that it was impossible at the time to build a virus as complex as AIDS; medical research had only gotten so far as to clone simple viruses. Antibodies were found decades earlier than the reported research started, and the main academic source used for the story (Segal’s report) contained inaccuracies about even such basic things as American geography—Segal said that outbreaks appeared in New York City because it was the closest big city to Fort Detrick. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. are all closer, while New York is 250 miles away.
The Gorbachev administration also responded indignantly and launched a defensive denial campaign “aimed at limiting the damage done to its credibility by U.S. efforts to raise world consciousness concerning the scope of Soviet disinformation activites”.  The Soviet Union interfered with general attempts by US Embassy officials to address misconceptions and expose the Soviet disinformation campaign, to include placing pressure on news agencies that recanted their position. For example, Literaturnaya Gazeta on December 3, 1986, castigated a Brazilian newspaper which earlier in the year had run a retraction following its publication of the AIDS disinformation story. In 1987 “Moscow’s Novosti news agency disseminated a report datelined Brazzaville (Congo), calling on the West to put an end to the ‘anti-African campaign’, and repeating the charges that the virus was created in US military laboratories” while in 1986 Literaturnaya Gazeta warned specifically against contact with Americans. 
In 1988, Sovetskaya Rossiya put out an article defending their right to report different views, and the chief of Novosti stated that it drew upon foreign sources for much of the AIDS coverage and the press was free under glasnost. The Mitrokhin Archives reveal that
faced with American protests and the denunciation of the story by the international scientific community, however, Gorbachev and his advisors were clearly concerned that exposure of Soviet disinformation might damage the new Soviet image in the West. In 1987, US officials were told in Moscow that the AIDS story was officially disowned, Soviet press coverage of the story came to an almost complete halt.
The campaign faded from most Soviet media outlets, but it occasionally resurfaced abroad in third world countries as late as 1988, usually via press placement agents.
Fairly recent research shows the ongoing effect on the public mind.
In 1992, 15% of Americans considered it definitely or probably true that “the AIDS virus was created deliberately in a government laboratory.” In 2005, a study by the RAND Corporation and Oregon State University revealed that nearly 50% of African Americans thought AIDS was man-made, over 25% believed AIDS was a product of a government laboratory, 12% believed it was created and spread by the CIA, and 15% believed that AIDS was a form of genocide against black people. Other AIDS conspiracy theories have abounded, and have been discredited by the mainstream scientific community.
In 1992 Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov admitted that the KGB was behind the Soviet newspaper articles claiming that AIDS was created by the US government. The book Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police describes how the Stasi cooperated with the KGB to spread the story.
Once one of Britain’s principal conspiracy theorists as well as friend to David Icke and Alex Jones, Charlie Veitch, was known as a 9/11 “truther.” As soon as he realized that he had been duped, he stopped. But that was when his problems really began.
According to an interview Veitch gave to the Telegraph, Veitch, who had been Right-wing, joined the Territorial Army (TA). After a drunken night out with his best friend, his friend had turned to Veitch and told him that they had been lying to him. He told Veitch that 9/11 was not what he thought it was and that he was being given “special knowledge.” Veitch’s friend went on to show him a video entitled Terrorism: A History of Government Sponsored Terror, a video that was produced by US radio talk presenter, Alex Jones.
Veitch was shortly after made redundant, so with some of his payout, he purchased a camcorder and megaphone, in the style of Alex Jones. He used eccentric methods to publicly express his beliefs, such as swooping on public spaces and embarking public transport to make announcements to whoever was available to listen. In one piece of footage, Veitch was heard to say to a group of passengers: “I am a proponent of the idea that the Twin Towers were brought down in a controlled demolition manner. Those buildings would not have collapsed in the slightest from a Boeing 767 hit.”
But one June afternoon, in New York City’s Times Square, Veitch began to film himself on his cell phone, as he made statements to camera about the devastation of the World Trade Center. Only this time, his message was different from all the others he had posted on Youtube. In the video, he said that he no longer believed that 9/11 was an inside job.
Because of his conspiracy theory films and the fact that he was at the forefront of what is known as “The Truth Movement” arm in the UK, Veitch had been approached by the BBC to go on an all-expenses paid 9-day trip to the United States, to examine these “conspiracies” from a scientific standpoint, with a view to furnish him with real information.
In the BBC program, entitled 9/11: Conspiracy Road Trip, 4 additional individuals, with divergent opinions from the official account of events of 9/11, had been selected to go on the road trip with Veitch.
The conspiracy theorists were given the opportunity to talk to building engineers, scientists, FBI and CIA agents, demolition experts and designers of the World Trade Center. They were also allowed to talk to relatives of those who had tragically lost their lives, as well as pay a visit to the Pentagon, the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pennsylvania United Flight 93 site.
After all of the scientific evidence was put to Veitch, he did something completely out of the ordinary for a hardcore “truther.” He did a U-turn and changed his mind. Standing in front of the White House, on that sunny day in June, Veitch spoke to the BBC presenter and road trip leader, Andrew Maxwell. In front of the BBC camera, Veitch told him:
“I found my personal truth and you don’t have to agree with me, but I can’t push propaganda for ideas that I no longer believe in and that’s what I do, so I just need to basically… take it on the chin, admit I was wrong, be humble about it and just carry on.”
Before the end of his road trip, Charlie Veitch held up his cell phone in the middle of Times Square, pointed the phone’s camera on himself and told the world that he had changed his mind, that he had been wrong. He said:
“This universe is truly one of smoke screens, illusions and wrong paths, but also the right path, which is [to] always be committed to the truth. Do not hold on to religious dogma. If you are presented with new evidence, take it on, even if it contradicts what you or your group might be believing or wanting to believe… you have to give the truth the greatest respect… and I do.”
Veitch’s turning point piece-to-camera at Times Square
After Veitch posted his video, the 9/11 Truth Movement’s reaction to one of its most prominent “truthers” changing his mind was one to be expected. Veitch was labeled a flip-flop, a shill sellout who was taking cash for working for the BBC. The Truth Movement did what any organization of its kind would do to someone who, for want of a better term, came to their senses. They tried to discredit him.
Veitch told Myles Power in his BBC-funded interview, how he once had too much time on his hands, “Idle hands are the conspiracy theory world’s ideal way to get into your head,” he said, as he described how he started to watch Alex Jones and David Icke documentaries, as well as other scientific theory videos which he said spun a pretty convincing yarn on its conspiracies. He became convinced that the Illuminati were behind it all, with its so-called New World Order. After becoming absorbed by his interest in conspiracy theories, he took up his megaphone and camera and began to make films about them, which he said, elevated him to a “high priest” status of the Truth Movement.
But so with age, comes wisdom and reason. Veitch began to look critically at the proponents of the conspiracy theories, beginning to not only question what could have been in it for the establishment to have blown up the World Trade Center, but in a sudden turnaround, he questioned the agenda of those who now came across to him as crazier and angrier than the actual perpetrators of terror; the Truth Movement. He also said that the risk factor would be far too great for such so-called powers of the establishment, who had too much to lose, to instigate such an atrocity and then attempt to shroud it in secrecy.
He went on that the paper trail would be too vast and that there would be more likelihood of other world powers, with advanced technological methods of getting a hold of such information, should it even exist, than an organization like the Truth Movement. He concluded by saying that if things were truly as the Truth Movement had claimed, then there would be a civil collapse, should the evidence be presented, but that there is no evidence, because it was not an inside job.
Veitch said that before he accepted the BBC’s offer of the road trip, that the activist, conspiracy, new age and spiritual worlds seemed to love him, but he now admits how he became arrogant and fell for the hype. He had believed that the Truth Movement was about being purveyors of truth in the world, but realized that it was closer to a religious cult, with its indoctrination methods.
Charlie Veitch’s Times Square video provoked such aggressively negative responses from Truth Movement followers, who sent him messages telling him to rot in hell, that he was simply a pawn and that he was paid to do it. Within days, he was renounced by his friends and sent death threats. An email had been sent to his followers, claiming to be from Veitch and falsely admitting that he was a pedophile: a message that ultimately reached his mother, causing her utter distress.
Another follower had created a channel on Youtube, entitled Kill Charlie Veitch. On the channel, he had said that he was coming to kill Veitch and that he should enjoy his last few days. His face had also been superimposed on to a pig as it was being slaughtered. Even David Icke had posted a message to say that Veitch would deeply regret his actions, while Alex Jones told him not to even bother communicating with him, as he no longer knew him.
In an interview on AdamVsTheMan on RT, Veitch opened up about how he had spent 4-5 years looking at the conspiratorial view on 9/11 until the BBC helped present him with hard facts. He talked about how he already began to have his doubts before the US road trip, but really felt his change of heart when he was standing on top of Building 7 at the World Trade Center site, having just grilled building experts on the nature of the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Veitch has concluded that conspiracy theorists are professional victims who have a hatred of high achievers and who were likely to have been bullied at school. He put his misdirection down to his vulnerable ego and has, unsurprisingly, become very cynical and misanthropic. He may have come to his senses now, but he will always be remembered as The 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Who Realized He Was Duped.
Veitch currently lives with his young child and fiancée in Manchester, England and is planning to become a documentary maker.
Six really stupid 9/11 conspiracies debunked in about six seconds
by: ANTHONY SHARWOOD
Nah, that’s just a missile. And Santa Claus is the pilot. (AP Photo/Carmen Taylor, File) Source: AP
PSYCHOLOGISTS will tell you that even perfectly sane people have the ability to accept wild conspiracy theories. The more powerless or alone we feel, the more likely we are to develop such theories.
It’s all linked to self-esteem. If you’re the sort of person who feels isolated or disenfranchised, you’re much more likely to develop wild theories as a way of making you seem more knowledgeable, more powerful, more special.
That might help explain why many Americans are into conspiracies. The irony of our technologically over-connected age is that there are scores of socially disconnected people sitting in dark rooms extrapolating all sorts of crap from factoids they find online. Here are six of the worst:
STUPID THEORY 1: The US government did it
SIMPLE REBUTTAL: People who say it was an inside job are split into two camps. There are those who say the US government cooked up and enacted the whole crazy plot, and those who say they let it happen without intervention. In both cases, conspiracists generally claim that the aim was to give the Bush government an excuse to wage war on the Islamic world.
So here’s your simple rebuttal. US governments have shown for decades that they will intervene when and where it suits them. The last thing they need to do to justify any foreign policy is kill 3000 of their own citizens.
STUPID THEORY 2: The twin towers did not collapse. They were demolished.
SIMPLE REBUTTAL: 9/11 “truthers”, who would perhaps be more accurately described as 9/11 “liars”, like to rope in an expert to tell you that no office fire ever made a building topple. Well, that’d be because no office fire was ever as big as these two, with as much jet fuel to help it along.
But the real reason the twin towers collapsed was structural. Most buildings have their core structural supports at the centre. The towers had some major central steel columns, but that elegant exterior steel shell was also crucial in providing perimeter support. Also, the perimeter columns supported massive steel trusses which supported each floor.
So basically, when the exterior of the building was penetrated so devastatingly by the planes, the structure’s ability to hold itself up was threatened. So when one floor went, the combined weight meant they all went.
Pretend the towers were a conspiracy theory. Then pretend they were subjected to the force of logic. Here’s your result. 11/09/2001. Source: AFP
STUPID THEORY 3: World Trade Center 7 did not collapse. It was demolished.
SIMPLE REBUTTAL: Riiiight, so the world’s tallest tower collapses on its neighbour less than 200m across the road. You’ve got 110 storeys of rubble pummelling a 47-storey building, setting it on fire, covering it in untold extra weight and inflicted untold stresses. And later that day, when the smaller building collapses, it’s obvious the CIA did it with explosives. And Elvis left the building right before it happened.
Oh, and if you want a secondary explanation of why the building really wasn’t toppled by mysterious people with explosives, try googling any of the so-called architects or engineers in the wacky YouTube vids. Almost none of them appear to be either a) currently employed or b) affiliated with any group other than 9/11 conspiracy groups.
STUPID THEORY 4: FLIGHT 93 was shot down in Pennsylvania and the people who were supposedly on it were murdered or relocated.
SIMPLE REBUTTAL: The small jet flying low in the area, which some believe shot down Flight 93, was in fact a business jet which had been instructed to fly low to inspect the wreckage. Also, the log of calls made from Flight 93 is pretty compelling evidence that those were real people aboard a hijacked jet. If these people are actors who are actually still alive somewhere, the real mystery is why they haven’t made squillions in Hollywood. Because they were seriously convincing.
And they’re fake trees and that’s a fake wall and Gilligan is still stuck on Gilligan’s Island. Picture: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP Source: AFP
STUPID THEORY 5: There was no “stand down” order, which proves the US government dunnit.
SIMPLE REBUTTAL: A stand down order is an order from the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) to scramble fighter jets. This didn’t happen until too late on September 11, prompting conspiracists to say the government deliberately held off to let the carnage unfold.
But NORAD didn’t actually track flights within America prior to 9/11. Also, the hijackers turned off the transponders on their planes, which meant Air Traffic Control couldn’t track them. And NORAD needed an alert from Air Traffic Control to act. So basically, you had a system which ensured bureaucratic bungles, but that’s a far cry from complicit officials.
STUPID THEORY 6: They weren’t planes, they were missiles.
SIMPLE REBUTTAL: Some of the worst nutters claim that the original planes which struck the twin towers weren’t planes but missiles. This was fuelled by an early eyewitness account broadcast on live TV from a journalist who said he thought the first plane had no windows. But the journalist saw the plane in a blink of his eye – a fact ignored by conspiracists who have seized on this statement.
The obvious plane-sized holes in the buildings are a bit of a giveaway too. But you know, maybe they were just caused by Batman or something.
CIA Kept Area 51 Secret Because Rumors Cooler Than Reality
Kelsey D. Atherton
[Australian Popular Science gives credence to what we’ve repeatedly inferred, that conspiracy theories are frequently employed as a style of propaganda. In this case, fabricated UFO and Alien conspiracies employed as a cover for real, but secret military experiments. As noted on this site previously, conspiracy theorists were the most prominent dupes and disseminators of crackpot, anti-American propaganda entirely fabricated by the Kremlin, for instance manufactured anti- American AIDS conspiracies as well anti-US, Kremlin invented JFK conspiracies.]
A Pair Of U-2 Spyplanes One the left is an original U-2, with an 80 feet wingspan, and on the right is a U-2R with a wingspan of 103 feet.
IMAGE BY Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday the CIA declassified a 400-page document about Area 51, the secret facility in the Nevada desert that has fascinated armchair historians and tormented conspiracy theorists for decades.
The site, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, has been associated with a number of legends and rumors: about strange aircraft, experimental weapons, weather control, and especially aliens. So many alien conspiracytheories.
Area 51, it turns out, was just test site that housed spy planes, most notably the U-2. Introduced in 1957, the U-2 could travel as far as 7,000 miles, at an altitude of 70,000 feet, and stay airborne for up to 12 hours. U-2s are still in service with the U.S. Air Force today, and the old film cameras have been replaced U-2s used to carry have been replaced by digital cameras. In fact, some public land has weird, barcode-like patterns on it, built for U-2 camera tests.
Why is the CIA involved? Before spy satellites, U-2s flew over the Soviet Union to collect information about the USSR’s nuclear program. This was intelligence by airplane, conducted secretly and with huge consequences on the international stage. In 1960, a U-2 was shot down by Russia, spoiling a diplomatic meeting and escalating Cold War tensions. Later, in 1962, a U-2 took photos of what looked like preparations for nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is all old history by now, but when the CIA first classified the U-2 program and chose to keep Area 51 a secret, it was state-of-the-art technology, and an incredibly important test site for collecting secrets.
The declassification of the CIA’s documents won’t deter any conspiracy theorists; the kind of person who thinks the government creates weather machines for mind control will have no qualms believing the government also falsifies documents to cover up evidence of the same.
The Heretics is an accessible and absolutely compelling read
Homosexuality leads to paedophilia. Las Vegas is full of aliens in wigs playing the gaming tables. We have eyes in the back of our heads.
These are just some of the beliefs, ranging from the farcical to the toxic, explored in journalist Will Storr’s utterly engrossing series of interviews.
Laced with self doubt and, at times, intense irritation with his subjects, Storr sets out to discover why individuals nurture beliefs that fly in the face of scientific evidence, from climate change denier Lord Monckton to the late UFO believer and Harvard professor John Mack.
Yet this is no Louis Therouxstyle “let’s laugh at the oddballs” narrative as Storr delves deep into the world of neuroscience. He grapples manfully with attempts to explain how our brains can deceive us and selectively create a universe that slots in with our belief system, despite a lack of consensus among the disciplines that research the workings of the mind.
“Intelligence is no protection against strange beliefs,” Storr tells us.
He admires the raw IQ of such heretics as David Irving and creationist John McKay while failing to be remotely convinced by their arguments.
On the other hand, when speaking to the internationally renowned doyens of science, rationality and reason Richard Dawkins and James Randi (an opponent of anyone who believes in the paranormal and the occult), Storr discovers an astonishing amount of subterfuge and skulduggery at work to prevent their own beliefs being tested too rigorously.
There never seems to be any danger of Storr buying too deeply into the polemics of any “enemies of science” but he also mounts a considerable attack on the smugness and arrogance of those who attack believers in homoeopathy, past-life regression and creationism.
At one point, Storr takes part in a mass public overdose of homoeopathic medicine which claims to “prove” the uselessness of the products and he is amazed by the participants’ lack of knowledge. “Have you ever read any scientific studies into homoeopathy?” Storr asks one of the organisers of the overdose. “Not personally,” is the response.
Storr sets out to discover why individuals nurture beliefs that fly in the face of scientific evidence
This kind of complacency and hubris irritates Storr who, not unreasonably, suggests that perhaps the high-handed approach of the sceptics is masking a deeper insecurity. How else, he asks, can one explain James Randi’s belligerence? He takes part in a series of last-minute dodges to avoid participating in scientific tests with people who believe they can prove the existence of paranormal power under controlled conditions.
Perhaps predictably, many of these “heretic” believers turn out to be rather damaged individuals. The motley crew of racists, conspiracy theorists and fantasists who join Nazi historian David Irving on a concentration camp tour are granted the opportunity to expand upon their opinions. The result is an achingly heavy vista of dead air punctuated by bigotry, self loathing and personal loneliness.
Despite the appalling personal characteristics of many of the people he bravely manages to engage, The Heretics is an accessible and absolutely compelling read, Storr leaving us with a distinct lack of trust in the verity of our own beliefs. The most dangerous thing anyone can do is dismiss as stupid the beliefs of fringe extremists.
A future common theme on this blog will be that governments don’t just partake in conspiracies, but they also create and amplify conspiracy theories. Note the difference here. The former is legal term about individuals colluding in secret; while the latter pertains to a narrative about these collusions. One is ontological to do with the world; while the other is epistemic to do with beliefs about the world.
There are various reasons why governments would need to create a belief in conspiracy. Sometimes it is to cover up black projects or intelligence failures, i.e. covering up real conspiracies. Other times the conspiracies are created as offensive weapons against some international actor, i.e. creating fake conspiracies. For the moment, I’d like to discuss the aforementioned reason from a case that is in actual scholarly literature: Operation INFEKTION, which was the Soviet disinformation campaign to pin the origin of AIDS on the USA.
A good source on this disinformation operation is an essay entitled “AIDS Made in the USA”: Moscow’s Contagious Campaign, which is from the book The New Image Makers: Soviet Propaganda & Disinformation Today. The author is the noted historian of counterintelligence Roy Godson. You won’t find this essay published on the Internet, which is unfortunate given it is a well-reasoned argument giving us a clear example of governments creating conspiracy theories (I may get around to scanning it, and putting it up on this blog). The reason why this clear example is so important is because it allows us to draw some broader themes of how governments go about spreading disinformation. True believers in high weirdness and conspiracy circles often accuse each other of spreading disinformation, and it sometimes becomes hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. A clear non-bullshit example can be quite illuminating.
Godson argues in the essay that the “AIDS was made in the USA” disinformation campaign was created by the KGB in 1985. They continued this disinformation campaign for around two years. Godson identifies five reasons why they did this:
To discredit the United states by falsely claiming that AIDS originated in CIA-Pentagon experiments.
To discourage undesirable political contact with Westerners by portraying them as potential carriers of the disease.
To create pressure for removal of US military bases overseas on the grounds the US service personnel spread AIDS.
To undermine US credibility in the Third World by maintaining that hypotheses about the African origin of AIDS are an example of Western, and especially American, racism, and;
To divert attention from Soviet research on biological warfare and genetic engineering and to neutralize accusations that the Soviet Union has used biochemical agents in Asia.
Notice the two wider themes here of using conspiracy theory. (1) to (4) are all examples of undermining the ethos or moral stature of some actor or groups. (5) is an example of diverting attention away from an actual conspiracy. These twin themes of undermining ethos and diverting attention from actual conspiracies will arise again in future posts about government use of disinformation. Also, when I say ethos, I mean in the rhetorical sense. To undermine someone’s ethos in rhetoric is to undermine their character. This is important in rhetoric, as building rapport with the audience by appealing to one’s character and moral stature is one of the foundations for a rhetorical speech.
I won’t recount the timeline of how this disinformation campaign came about. You can read the Wikipedia article above on the operation to recount this. But some other tidbits worth noting here are the following:
The disinformation campaign started in newspapers in Russia and India. They then spread to radio, and then other sources from around the world picked up on the disinformation. This disinformation campaign was also backed by pamphlets, which were spread in Africa. One of these pamphlets was written by biologist named Jacob Segal, and was backed by (what appeared to be) scientific reasoning. Segal was then cited in a news article in England, which then spread the disinformation about the planet like wildfire. Once major papers from around the planet picked up on it, the KGB no longer used their primary sources. Instead they started spreading the disinformation by stating other major papers from around the planet had confirmed the theory about AIDS. What we can learn from these is that:
disinformation can be sophisticated. It can use individuals that people trust (like scientists), and can dress itself up with reasonable arguments.
disinformation campaigns can use multiple sources (radio, newspapers, pamphlets).
disinformation campaigns will try to hide the original sources. Once the campaign is in the open, they may switch to sources that their targets may trust (in this case, domestic newspapers). In rhetoric this is a combination of using kairos (the opportune moment to switch sources), combined with exploiting ethos (sources people trust).
Godson also has a lengthy paragraph on how the AIDS campaign was, “a diversionary tactic against claims that the Soviet Union has used biochemical weapons in Cambodia, Laos, and Afghanistan and is engaged in genetic-weapon research.” The first claim about chemical weapons pertains to Yellow Rain. Those interested in disinformation should also read that Wikipedia article on Yellow Rain for a possible similar campaign conducted by the USA. The second claim about genetic-weapons pertains to US attempts to undermine Soviet bioweapons research via UN arms control treaties (Godson quotes a State Department report here). Godson states that one of the aims was to “muddle the debate” between bio-chemical weapons and AIDS.
So finishing up, we have the two aims of government use of conspiracy theory:
To undermine ethos, and;
To divert attention away from actual conspiracies.
We also have some general properties of these disinformation campaigns:
They can be epistemologically sophisticated.
The sources will change themselves according to the opportune moment for spreading the disinformation.
They will take into consideration the targets of the campaign, and will use sources that the target trusts.
Now, true-believing conspiracy theorists might state something along the lines of, “Yeah, but how do we know this Operation happened? It could be a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory.” The answer to this, is that it actually happened. You can look up old news archives and find the disinformation spread in actual newspapers. There are also multiple corroborating sources that this event occurred, including sources from the Russian parliament and members of the East German Stasi admitting to the campaign. Godson has 26 footnotes to his essay, most of which are primary sources. I will endeavour to upload a scan of this essay in the future.
THIS IS THEBLAZE’S POINT-BY-POINT SANDY HOOK CONSPIRACY THEORY DEBUNK
By Billy Hallowell
Was Adam Lanza really the only shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Why are there supposed inconsistencies surrounding the weapons that were used during the attack? And are some of the parents really “crisis actors” brought in to make the situation that much more believable?
Those are only a few of the questions that have been posed by conspiracy theorists who have used the Internet to virally spread their doubt about the horrific massacre that unfolded in Connecticut on Dec. 14.
The main crux of the arguments presented in documentary-style videos is that the Sandy Hook massacre is either a government-planned hoax intended to lead the nation to overwhelmingly embrace increased gun control measures. Or, at the least, those who have put the videos out believe that essential information is being withheld from the American public surrounding multiple shooters and other game-changing elements. The motivations of those who have created these theories are difficult to pin down, as most are spouting their views anonymously.
A video documenting purported inconsistencies surrounding the tragedy that killed 20 children and six adults inside the school has gone viral, gaining more than 11 million views in just two weeks. And a follow-up “documentary” has also been released, adding further “evidence” to the claim that the event either didn’t unfold at all or that it happened contrary to the media narrative that has been advanced.
To most people, the idea that any of it is true is repulsive. So we decided to visit the most popular of the theories and break them down in a point-by-point debunk.
In addition to questioning the official account of weapons used and whether or not crisis actors were employed by the government, theorists have taken aim at parental reaction to the shootings and have claimed that memorial pages for the victims were published before the shooting took place. And these notions only scratch the surface that is the bizarre world of Sandy Hook Trutherism.
The shadowy individual behind the first video, entitled, “The Sandy Hook Shooting – Fully Exposed” (30 minutes in length), weaves together sparse details and attempts to poke holes in the overall story. As for the first video, Snopes.com, a web site known for debunking untruthful information, dismissed it as “a mixture of misinformation, innuendo, and subjective interpretation.” You can see the clip here:
The second part of the Truther initiative, titled, “Sandy Hook Fully Exposed” (19 minutes in length) tackles similar themes, builds upon the first video and attempts to defend those individuals who are questioning the details associated with the event. In addition to asking a variety of questions about family members who lost children, the videos even devote time to questioning whether “crisis actors” were brought in to speak with media in the wake of the attack. See Part II, below:
“Isn’t something like Sandy Hook just what the government needs to start disarming the public so they don’t have to worry about people being a threat to them anymore?,’ text embedded in the video reads.
TheBlaze has decided to go through both videos to provide you with a recap of the major points that Truthers are raising. In addition to presenting the arguments that those perpetuating an alleged hoax are positing, you’ll see reasonable explanations that essentially debunk their claims and questions. In any crime scene – especially one as traumatic and dramatic as what unfolded at Sandy Hook – information flows quickly and it isn’t uncommon for incorrect details to make their way into media. This, as you will see, is the case when it comes to numerous elements surrounding this tragic shooting.
THE MAN IN THE WOODS & ADDITIONAL SHOOTERS
Sandy Hook Truthers have spent a great deal of time and energy reporting about a man who was allegedly chased in the woods nearby the school; the individual was subsequently apprehended and the entire spectacle is captured on video — footage that is now being used to advance the idea that there was another shooter. The first “expose” shows media interviews with witnesses who claim to have seen this individual in handcuffs following the incident. If it is true that there was more than one shooter, this would obviously turn on its head everything that has been said about a lone murderer (i.e. Lanza).
The man in the woods, though, isn’t the only theory about additional shooters floating around. Additionally, others claim that there were two men who fled the scene in a van. Initial media reports did say that there may have been more than one shooter involved, but as the details came in and the events were clarified, Lanza was the only gunman named and the evidence cleared every other initial suspect.
While conspiracy theorists continue to question where these additional suspects are and why the media has allegedly failed to report about them, there are some pretty convincing counter arguments and debunks surrounding this matter.
The Newtown Bee, a local outlet, reported that a law enforcement official told them that the man seen in the woods had a gun and was nearby the school. He was apparently an off-duty tactical squad police officer from a nearby area. Also, Chris Manfredonia, the father of a 6-year-old student at the school, was handcuffed briefly by police after he ran around the school in an effort to find his daughter. And another unidentified man was briefly detained, but later released when he was found to be an innocent bystander, Snopes.com claims.
Those being interviewed by media likely saw one of these individuals, leading Truthers to suspect something sinister. Lt. Paul Vance, a media relations representative with the State of Connecticut, dismissed the notion that there were other shooters, while also highlighting and confirming the fact that authorities did end up detaining and quickly releasing other individuals.
“Were there other people detained?,” Vance rhetorically asked. “The answer is yes. In the height of the battle, until you’ve determined who, what, when, where and why of everyone in existence…that’s not unusual.”
THE WEAPONS USED INSIDE THE SCHOOL & THE VICTIMS’ BODIES
Another point of contention that Truthers seem to be focusing upon is the weapons that Lanza used in committing his crime. In the first video, the narrator claims that, according to media, three guns were found at the scene (two handguns and one assault rifle). Four handguns were also allegedly found inside the school. The inconsistency here comes from the Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, the chief medical examiner, who said following the incident that the assault rifle appeared to be responsible for the children’s deaths.
Here’s why Truthers are jumping all over the claims surrounding the assault rifle. The first video alleging a hoax claims that this particular weapon was later recovered from the trunk of the car that Lanza was driving. If this is the case, then critics are questioning how Carver’s claims could be possible. The shooter clearly couldn’t have used the assault rifle to commit his crimes if the weapon was in the trunk of the car the entire time.
But there’s an understandable answer here as well. A few days after the attack, clarity surrounding the guns finally emerged. Lanza left a shotgun in the car, but he had three other weapons that were brought into the school – a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm (the latter two are handguns). The fourth weapon – the shotgun – was left in the vehicle’s trunk. Carver was correct in making his claim that it was the AR-15 that was responsible for the children’s deaths – a firearm that was not in the trunk as the first video indicates (CNN actually has a great primer on the weapons that expounds upon this in detail).
While we’re on the subject of Carver, it’s important to dispel another rumor – that the parents never saw their children’s bodies. While they did not identify the bodies in their entirety, pictures of the kids’ faces were provided to the families. This wasn’t done to be sinister or to hide details; quite the contrary, the doctor was trying to spare the families the pain of seeing the horrific injuries the children sustained, so photos of their faces were used instead.
SCHOOL NURSE’S ALLEGED CLAIMS ABOUT THE KILLER’S MOTHER
Andrea McCarren, a reporter for WUSA, reported in the wake of the killings about a conversation she had with Sally Cox, the Sandy Hook school nurse. Cox, who McCarren described as “fairly traumatized,” apparently told the reporter that she knew the killer’s mother, a kindergarten teacher at the school. Initially, media reported that Lanza may have been the son of a teacher, but this was soon dispelled.
Truthers are questioning this story, though, obviously wondering how McCarren was given information about the killer and his mother that ended up being entirely untrue (they argue that the school nurse should have had the information correct and that her mention of a teacher at Sandy Hook is curious, especially considering the details we now know).
During McCarren’s report, the journalist also said that the nurse expounded, claiming that Cox said that the kindergarten teacher was kind and exactly the person one would want his or her children to spend time with. Snopes notes that the USA Today also “mistakenly reported…that Nancy Lanza” was a teacher at the school. Perhaps this report and McCarren’s were based on the same misinformation.
Some have also claimed that Cox is also not a registered nurse, but her real name is Sarah and a search of that name does, indeed, yield results that show that the woman is a registered nurse in the state’s registration system. Since “Sally” isn’t her birth name, it’s obvious that a license attacked to that name isn’t available in the Connecticut database (see above).
ROBBIE/EMILIE PARKER & LYNN/GRACE MCDONNELL
Emilie Parker, one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook, is a central character in Truthers’ questioning, as they throw a number of theories about her very person and her family’s reaction to her death into the mix. In addition to claiming that the young girl was Photoshopped into at least one family image, those questioning official accounts claim that her father, Robbie Parker, can be seen getting “into character” before a press conference — something they dismiss as proof that he may, indeed, be acting or playing the role of a grieving father.
This latter accusation relies upon footage of Robbie purportedly laughing before a press conference. In the clip, he can be seen smiling, taking a moment to compose himself and then allowing emotion to overtake him. “How many parents are laughing and joking a day after their first child has been shot,” a text message reads across the screen in the first hoax video. Later, the words, “I smell B.S.,” are added to describe the father’s reaction.
The video also claims that Parker wasn’t in her class photos and that she appears in images with President Barack Obama following the shooting (something that obviously wouldn’t be possible had she been killed during the incident). But the below video explains that the little girl shown in the image is one of Emilie’s sisters, not the young girl who perished just days before:
At least one other parent was targeted for the same reason – for appearing too chipper in the wake of losing a daughter in the horrific incident. Footage of Lynn McDonnell, mother of a child named Grace, came under scrutiny after the parent spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about her immense loss. While remembering her young child, she expressed facial expressions of joy. However, considering the content of her commentary (she was remembering her young child) it seemed entirely appropriate (in fact, TheBlaze covered the inspirational interview when it aired in December).
CHILD SECURITY EVENT PLANNED FOR DEC. 14
Those embracing the notion that Sandy Hook was a hoax also question an event that was put on by the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (this department falls under the state’s Division of Emergency Services and Public Protection). This particular event was purportedly planned before the shooting and aimed at helping explore strategies for protecting kids in the result of emergency situations like what happened that same day at Sandy Hook.
This event did occur, but it isn’t as surprising as some might assume. On the surface, it may seem odd that the FEMA class, called “Planning for the Needs of Children in Disasters,” was offered on the same day that Sandy Hook unfolded. But this course was also offered six additional times in the state of Connecticut during November and December. It wasn’t a rare occurrence only planned on the day of the shooting; it was an event that had been repeatedly held within the state’s boundaries during recent days and weeks.
MEMORIAL PAGES & ASSOCIATED INTERNET TIMESTAMPS
The Truthers are particularly fired up about various memorial pages and social media initiatives that they claim were created days before Lanza’s crimes at the elementary school. In addition to teacher Victoria Soto’s Facebook memorial page, which they claim was created on Dec. 10, four days before the shooting, the individuals behind the video and movement also point to a GoFundMe initiative, among others, as also having timestamps that precede the event.
Inquisitr explained how the Internet, despite being quite advanced, still has its hiccups. Here’s a brief recap that explains some of the reasons behind date stamps seeming incorrect on various posts and web sites:
To understand the Sandy Hook websites that seem to have been published early, you must first understand the way the internet reconciles dates as well as how Google crawls them. If a page is repurposed to host other information than it originally displayed, it may show up as having been “published” earlier.
Further, servers and sites often have incorrect dates. Having used a number of WordPress panels in my career, it is a job to keep track of where dates and times are set in order to avoid publishing in the past when scheduling a post, something that could be at play and an easily explainable factor not often acknowledged by Sandy Hook truthers.
And given the fact material can run afoul on an individual computer, a site’s panel and then a search engine, sites like the United Way’s Sandy Hook page could easily register as a prior date on Google.
When it comes to Google results – another target the Truthers point to – the Internet giant isn’t always correct. Sometimes, search results have the incorrect dates associated with them, clearly a factor that is overlooked in the conspiracy theory videos. As for the web sites that seem to have an earlier date stamp, another theory is that certain donation and Facebook pages that were created for other reasons were edited and amended to assist with Sandy Hook efforts following the shooting. While they retained their earlier creation date, their intended purposes changed.
TheBlaze spoke with Justin Basch, CEO of Basch Solutions, a web site production company. The tech expert dismissed conspiracy theorists’ claims, calling them “nonsense.” He explained the many ways that dates can be manipulated in WordPress (the platform running at least one of the web sites at the center of the debate).
“It’s very, very easy to manipulate a date that content was published — whether it’s through text, whether it’s through date manipulation, etc.,” Basch explained.
THE SYMPATHETIC AND HELPFUL NEIGHBOR: GENE ROSEN
Then there’s Gene Rosen, the neighbor who lives nearby Sandy Hook. He began appearing in media immediately following the shooting, telling of his involvement in housing six children who had escaped the school that fateful morning. Rosen has been interviewed numerous times by the mainstream media and he has explained how he entertained the children inside of his home after they fled the school in terror.
The Truthers, though, claim that Rosen’s story has some troubling inconsistencies. Among them, they charge that he is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG), a professional union of acting professionals (thus, advancing the theory that he might be a crisis actor). They also claim that Rosen’s story about discovering the children in his driveway changed and evolved during various appearances. While in some interviews he described the six kids sitting with a female bus driver, in at least one other account, he described a male adult talking harshly to the children, the video proclaims.
Additionally, Rosen, a retired psychologist, told reporters that the children told him their teacher, Ms. Soto, was dead. Initially, some media reported that only one child escaped the classroom where the majority of the kids perished, but this ended up not being the case (others seemingly escaped as well). Rosen also said in one interview that he saw the list of victims not long after the shooting, but conspiracy theorists claim this isn’t possible, as it wasn’t released until after the time he claims to have seen it.
A list of casualties, though, was released the day after the shooting and, as Snopes documents, the Gene Rosen who is a member of SAG is a different individual – one who has never lived in Connecticut. The retired psychologist at the center of this particular case has always lived in the state (while both are in their 60s, the actor is 62 and the Newtown resident is 69).
LANZA’S VEHICLE ON THE DAY OF THE SHOOTING
In the second video, which spent some time defending Truthers against attacks, an bizarre claim is made about the vehicle that Lanza drove to Sandy Hook on Dec. 14. While it has been widely reported that the car belonged to his mother, whom he also shot dead before heading to the school that morning, hoax theorists believe that the car is registered to a man named Chris Rodia.
While it may be tempting for those looking for holes in the story to wonder if Rodia was complicit in helping Lanza with the attack, Snopes.com debunks this, claiming that Rodia was pulled over at a traffic stop and, thus, ended up being named on a police scanner. Salon recaps how this particular element of the story was debunked:
This one was debunked by the theorists themselves just a few days after the shooting. Blogger Joe Quinn obtained the police audio, which definitively debunking the myth. (Rodia appeared on the scanner because he was getting pulled over in a traffic stop miles away, but his license plate doesn’t match Lanza’s car). “This was a huge blow, because lots of people were making big leaps on this … but we now have to look elsewhere,” another amateur investigator said on YouTube.
To clarify: Rodia is not a suspect and he did not own the car that Lanza drove to the school, as the video seems to allege. Rodia was also not at the school at the time of the shooting. Snopes claimsthat “he was driving a different vehicle in another town at the time.”
CRISIS ACTORS DEPICTED IN MEDIA
Truthers’ have gone out of their way (there’s even a disclaimer at the start of the first video) to claim that they are not trying to dismiss the event as though it never happened. Instead, they say that they are merely asking pertinent questions and, in a sense, exercising their civic duty as caring and in-tune Americans (a tactic likely being used to separate themselves from the criticism being thrown their way). Among those curiosities, a consistent theme emerges: The idea that crisis actors were used.
We already covered Rosen and the theory that he is one of these individuals. But there are others who are being dubbed potential crisis actors. One couple in particularly has come under scrutiny. CNN interviewed Nick and Laura Phelps, parents of two children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the exchange, Nick becomes emotional while describing the principal at the school as “a very special person.” It’s clear that the family was impacted by what unfolded.
But Truthers question the motivations, sincerity and identity of Nick and Laura, claiming that they may actually be Richard and Jennifer Sexton, two actors from Florida. This bizarre claim — that the couple was brought in to merely depict parents who have children at Sandy Hook Elementary, is one of the more curious ones being floated. The evidence being posited?
The hoax video shows images from an alleged Picasa account belonging to Richard and Jennifer (the actors). Those who believe that something isn’t quite right about Sandy Hook claim that the photo album was deleted after it gained attention. In addition, Truthers are using a clip showing Laura (or Jennifer) giving what appears to be an audition or performance.
But Snopes claims that the husband and wife duos merely resemble one another and that they are not, in fact, the same individuals. While the videos seem to indicate that there may be a connection between the Crisis Actors company – a group that provides actors to simulate traumatic and disastrous events, there is no connection between the actors provided by the group and the individuals shown in media interviews. Plus, a simple web search shows that the family does, indeed, live near the school.
Crisis Actors (the company) also makes it clear that its performers do not engage in real-life events. While the video alleges connections between the Sandy Hook families and these individuals, no such connections exist. In fact, the company has gone out of its way to dispel such rumors.
See Anderson Cooper address some of these controversies:
UNDERSTANDING THE VIDEOS AND THEIR CREATOR
While the conspiracy-laden clips have intrigued some, others find themselves completely horrified, sickened and offended by their contents — especially considering the pain that the families of Sandy Hook victims have already endured. Following the publication of the first video, reaction and media coverage was swift. As noted, the creator of the videos made it a point to vehemently defend himself against critics.
“This video was made to clear up confusion and shed light on new information. Apologies to anyone offended by the past videos,” a caveat at the beginning of the second clip reads. “[W]e hope this one is easier to digest. Would you rather be hurt temporarily by the truth, or comforted forever by lies?”
Later, the anonymous individual behind the clips claims that it is unfair for critics to label him and others supporting his ideas as “Truthers” – or even “conspiracy theorists.” Such labels, text embedded in the video reads, implies that those questioning the event are “over the top, crazy, and against everyone else.”
“These are millions of everyday people that deserve answers to their questions,” the text continues. “And it seems by labeling them like that, it’s easier to dismiss them and not have to look at the facts.”
However, those looking to debunk the Sandy Hook debunkers would dismiss these views as fringe. Even the person who created, “The Sandy Hook Shooting – Fully Exposed” and its companion video was surprised by its viral nature. In an interview with Gawker before the video released, he seemed surprised by its viral nature, telling the outlet that he would have “spent more time on it” if he knew it would be so popular. TheBlaze reached out to him to get further comment, but we did not receive a response.
“[I]t all started when me and my friends used to research 9/11 in high school,” said the source, who refused to identify himself to Gawker. “That’s what really got me started when it came to researching government cover ups…Once I learned about all the false flag attacks in history that have been proven to be true, I knew it was only a matter of time before another came a long.”
Apparently, in the mind of the individual behind the videos (which were published on a YouTube channel under the account ThinkOutsideTheTV), Sandy Hook was next in this purported line of government cover-ups. The individual went on to tell the outlet that he felt as though the event was “too perfect” and that the people and the town involved had an “artificial vibe about them.”
Since Sandy Hook unfolded, other conspiracy theories have emerged, although the aforementioned YouTube clips have become the most pervasive and widespread. TheBlaze already told you about James Tracy, a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and his controversial comments about the Sandy Hook massacre.
Tracy, too, appeared on radio interviews, where he advanced the crisis actor angle, claiming that the Obama administration might have deployed these individuals to stage the attack in an effort to further crack down on guns. On his personal blog, he cited InfoWars.com as well. Later, he clarified his comments, claiming that while “one is left with the impression that a real tragedy took place,” images and information have been withheld from the public.
The entire ordeal, which captured national attention and was covered by TheBlaze earlier this month, led FAU to separate itself from Tracy’s comments. Lisa Metcalf, director of media relations, said, “James Tracy does not speak for the university.”
In the same Blaze report, Jason Howerton covered Dr. James H. Fetzer, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). In an op-ed published in an Iranian (state-owned, of course) outlet, he charged that, perhaps, the Mossad (Israeli security forces) were responsible for the attack.
“The killing of children is a signature of terror ops conducted by agents of Israel,” he wrote. “[W]ho better to slaughter American children than Israelis, who deliberately murder Palestinian children?”
These, of course, of just two of the numerous alternative conspiracy theories being floated. There are plenty of other ideas that have circulated since Dec. 14. However, the growth in popularity of the latest videos creates some serious questions that deserve to be answered in order to properly educate readership.
At least one father of a first-grader at Sandy Hook took the issue to heart, showcasing his frustration in an on-air phone call that was placed to radio host Glenn Beck. The father, named “Pete,” expressed his dismay at the conspiracy theories, calling Trutherism an “unimaginable way to even look at a tragedy or horrific event.”
“I was there. I’ve been to the funerals,” he told Beck. “I know the families very closely. I know a lot of those children. It happened. It really happened.”
But if thats not convincing enough, consider BuzzFeed’s logic: ”The evidence on which these budding theories are based is, even by the standards of fringe conspiracy theory, remarkably thin, and demand massive collusion between hundreds of private citizens, the federal government, local authorities, and the news media.”
While the viral nature of the videos has begun to simmer, the mainstream media has not provided a level of coverage that would disseminate the truth fervently enough to dispel the rumors. Setting the record straight and showcasing the truth, though, is essential.
Anyone who spends any amount of time on the internet has seen them.
They are the moonbats, the wingnuts, the whackjobs, the Conspiratorialists. They are America’s new Lunatic Fringe, and their numbers are growing.
While the rise of the internet fed a segment of society that has always existed, when the cyberworld became an increasingly important source both of entertainment and information, an entirely new demographic joined what was already amongst us.
Who are they and what do they believe? The Lunatic Fringe is not uniform in either its background or beliefs. Some clearly seem to be emotionally disturbed. Some are racist and hateful. Others are simply naïve and gullible, or uninformed. Still more are frustrated by an economy and a government that are behaving out of whack with what most people expected from life and from leadership. They want to believe America stands for something noble, but it is increasingly felt by them that it does not. They are confused, frustrated, and disappointed. They feel violated and betrayed. They grow angrier by the day. Some harbor a diffuse rage which could blow at any time. Others have figuratively thrown in the towel and have joined the ranks of what are called Preppers and Survivalists.
Collectively, though individually they differ, the beliefs of the Fringe conspiracies behind the JFK assassination, the lunar landing, and 911. The collective also includes the Birthers, and believers in everything from FEMA Camps to chemtrails to that retro old favorite of Colonel Jack Ripper, fluoridation. The Fringe holds beliefs that have the world controlled variously by the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, the Bilderbergers, Bohemian Grove, Skull and Bones, the Council on Foreign Relations, 33rd Degree Freemasons, the Vatican, the Queen of England, or just The Illuminati. Every event and every incident in the world is affected by some Master Plan carried out by whomever the believer chooses from the aforementioned gallery of rogues. For many, al Qaeda is really al CIAda, and the prime directive of that organization, along with all the other USG alphabet agencies, is to further the goals of the elite, usually through some “false flag” operation or “psy-op”, and funded through illicit drug sales.
Believers can “prove” each and every one of their claims via a series of cross-referenced and circular internet links, the source of many undoubtedly just someone’s fertile imagination, but very real to the believers.
To the uninitiated this all seems rather humorous, albeit slightly unsettling. It would be both wrong and unwise, however, just to slough it off as the ramblings of the insane. The reason such beliefs are gaining favor is because many Americans have lost faith and lost trust in the government and America’s elected leadership. Given what has happened over the last decade, this is not only understandable, it is even, in an odd way, reasonable. A continual drift to the fringe can be expected because of the many very real things that make the foolish things suddenly more believable.
Why have the people lost faith and trust? There is a host of reasons, perhaps beginning with the war of choice in Iraq and the vociferous and passionate claims of WMD that turned out to be false. That war cost lives, cost sympathy and diplomatic capital, and cost trillions even when America was told by former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that the war “would pay for itself from oil sales” and that “Americans would be welcomed with garlands”. Neither was anything close to accurate. Instead the US has war dead, war wounded, a huge bill, fewer friends, and many more enemies.
What truly exacerbated the rush to the fringe were the Financial Crisis and the subsequent railroaded bailouts, which “democratic” America opposed to the tune of 97%, and which were, and still are viewed as rewarding the very people who caused the collapse. The oft-spoken official claims that “the taxpayer made a profit on the bailouts” just adds salt to the taxpayers’ wounds, as it conveniently fails to take into account the host of programs—from TALF to ZIRP to QEI, II, and III and Twist—that virtually handed the banks the money with which they could “pay back” the bailout cash.
America sees backroom deals and favors to insiders every step of the way, and rightfully so they see this, because that is exactly how the bailout was affected. No one had to pay for his mistakes, and equally significant, no one has been prosecuted despite overwhelming evidence of fraud, malfeasance, and corruption. Americans cannot help but subscribe to the cynical quip, “everyone is equal under the law, except for those who are above it”. Fines don’t count, especially when the money to pay them comes right back through another door.
America’s prisons are filled with people who did little more than use a banned substance. It’s time some bankers and officials faced the possibility of similar accommodations, as their crimes are greater and victims substantially more.
The belief that all is not fair is further cemented when the Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer can be taped (PBS, “Frontline”) saying, “Well, I think I am pursuing justice. And I think the entire responsibility of the department is to pursue justice. But in any given case, I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case, there’s some huge economic effect — if it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly, counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly — it’s a factor we need to know and understand.”
No matter how one parses that quote it still says the same thing: some are above the law.
The American people are well aware they have been lied to by the leadership. They know that a lobbyist has an infinitely greater chance of getting his way than an entire nation of voters. They know who pays the bills—the taxpayer—as well as who pays the politicians—the lobbyists. They see the Federal Debt ballooning to Greek-like proportions, and the best Congress can do, other than take vacation or kick the can, is to tell Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to “get to work, Mr. Chairman”, which means print more money, monetize the deficit, and further dilute the value of the dollar.
Even some people within the government are undoubtedly growing frustrated. Imagine someone in DEA, FBI, CIA, or the military, who sees the slap on the wrist fine handed to a certain non-US bank for a decade or more of drug money laundering and laundering money for Iran, some of which might well have found its way to Hezbollah or to parties aiding the Iraqi insurgency. There are people in Waziristan who face the wrath of a drone-fired Hellfire missile with less evidence to back up the attack. This bank, incidentally, received a $3.5 billion payment-in-full upon the US taxpayer bailout of insurer AIG.
When trust is gone, everything becomes an affront, a conspiracy, a power grab by the elite. The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gives the President incredibly broad powers, seems to obviate both habeas corpus and the entire Bill of Rights. When the trust is gone, people are less willing to believe that such a bill would never be used recklessly, or vindictively to put down vocal opponents of whatever Administration happens to be in power at the time. When trust is gone, the people question new efforts to alter the Second Amendment, even if many are personally outraged at the rash of gun violence that has come to epitomize the United States, so they rush to guns rather than run from them. When the trust is gone, the message of the Lunatic Fringe is afforded greater reception. When the trust is gone the Fringe grows into the mainstream. When trust is gone in some aspects of governance, all governance is questioned.
The government can no longer afford to ignore the Lunatic Fringe, because it is becoming less loon and more understandably and righteously indignant every day. The government did not create the Fringe, but through callous disregard, incompetence, blatant self-interest, cronyism, selective enforcement, and pandering to its financial support base, the government has fertilized the fringe until it has grown to redwood-like size. The nation’s leadership is viewed not with respect, but with distrust. It is not the solution, but the problem. It has morphed from friend to enemy, at least for a not insignificant portion of the citizenry. The fringe is not going to go away, but instead it will grow. Its wounds will fester. It will continue to hammer away at an already fragile society. It may well lead to significant social unrest, even violence, and that violence is likely to be directed at those seen as responsible for the fiscal, financial and moral decay, which means the elite and the government that is seen as catering to it. New records in the Dow will not alter the focus, nor ameliorate the bubbling rage, even if the financial media or the Federal Reserve thinks it will. This growing demographic of citizens must have its concerns addressed before it is too late.
Woe to those who ignore it, because they will become the targets, rightfully or not.
To paraphrase a certain career New York Senator, “Mr. Government, get to work!” Or better yet, get out of the way.
Field Guide to the Conspiracy Theorist: Dark Minds
When does incredulity become paranoia? Radio personality and filmmaker Alex Jones believes an evil cabal of bankers rules the world.
by John Gartner, Ph.D.
Alex Jones is trying to warn us about an evil syndicate of bankers who control most of the world’s governments and stand poised to unite the planet under their totalitarian reign, a “New World Order.” While we might be tempted to dismiss Jones as a nut, the “king of conspiracy” is a popular radio show host. The part-time filmmaker’s latest movie, The Obama Deception, in which he argues that Obama is a puppet of the criminal bankers, has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.
When we spoke, Jones ranted for two hours about FEMA concentration camps, Halliburton child kidnappers, government eugenics programs—and more. When I stopped him to ask for evidence the government is practicing eugenics, he pointed to a national security memorandum. But I found the document to be a bland policy report.
Jones “cherry picks not just facts but phrases, which, once interpreted his way, become facts in his mind,” says Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, who knows Jones, a fellow Austin resident. When I confronted Jones with my reading of the report, he became pugnacious, launching into a diatribe against psychologists as agents of social control.
Conspiracy thinking is embraced by a surprisingly large proportion of the population. Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe President John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, and 42 percent believe the government is covering up evidence of flying saucers, finds Ted Goertzel, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University at Camden. Thirty-six percent of respondents to a 2006 Scripps News/Ohio University poll at least suspected that the U.S. government played a role in 9/11.
We’re all conspiracy theorists to some degree. We’re all hardwired to find patterns in our environment, particularly those that might represent a threat to us. And when things go wrong, we find ourselves searching for what, or who, is behind it.
In his 1954 classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, historian Richard Hofstadter hypothesized that conspiracy thinking is fueled by underlying feelings of alienation and helplessness. Research supports his theory. New Mexico State University psychologist Marina Abalakina-Paap has found that people who endorse conspiracy theories are especially likely to feel angry, mistrustful, alienated from society, and helpless over larger forces controlling their lives.
Jones insists he had a “Leave It to Beaverchildhood.” I couldn’t confirm such an idyllic past. When I asked if I could interview his family or childhood friends, he insisted his family was very “private” and he had not kept in touch with a single friend. When I asked if I might look them up, he became irritated. He doubted he could “still spell their names,” and besides, I’d already taken up enough of his time. “I turned down 50 or 60 requests for interviews this week,” he wanted me to know.
The number sounded wildly inflated. Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history, Hofstadter held. Jones has a “messiah complex,” Black contends. Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.
Even well-grounded skeptics are prone to connect disparate dots when they feel disempowered. In a series of studies, Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern demonstrated that people primed to feel out of control are particularly likely to see patterns in random stimuli.
Might people be especially responsive to Jones’ message in today’s America, marked by economic uncertainty and concerns about terrorism and government scandals? “There is a war on for your mind,” Jones insists on his Web site, infowars.com. He calls his listeners “infowarriors.”
Information is the conspiracy theorists’ weapon of choice because if there’s one thing they all agree on, it’s that all the rest of us have been brainwashed. The “facts” will plainly reveal the existence of the conspiracy, they believe. And while all of us tend to bend information to fit our pre-existing cognitive schema, conspiracy theorists are more extreme. They are “immune to evidence,” discounting contradictory information or seeing it as “proof of how clever the enemy is at covering things up,” Goertzel says.
Conspiracy theories exist on a spectrum from mild suspicion to full-on paranoia, and brain chemistry may play a role. Dopamine rewards us for noting patterns and finding meaning in sometimes-insignificant events. It’s long been known that schizophrenics overproduce dopamine. “The earliest stages of delusion are characterized by an overabundance of meaningful coincidences,” explain Paul D. Morrison and R.M. Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. “Jumping to conclusions” is a common reasoning style among the paranoid, find Daniel Freeman and his colleagues, also at the Institute of Psychiatry.
Indeed, there are no coincidences in Jones’ world. In a scene from The Obama Deception, Jones dives “into the belly of the beast,” the hotel where purported conspirators will be meeting. As he begins a telephone interview, the fire alarm goes off. “The bastards have set us up,” he says.
Jones says that he has been visited by the FBI and the Secret Service but can’t discuss the interviews. It may be that federal agents, in fact, wanted to evaluate whether he is a threat to the president. There’s no reason to believe he is—but the same can’t be said of his listeners. In 2002, Richard McCaslin, carrying an arsenal of weapons, entered the Bohemian Grove, a campground in California that annually hosts a meeting of the political and business elite. He told authorities he had been planning his commando raid for a year, after (he says) hearing Jones claim that ritual infant sacrifice was taking place there.
The “war”continues. In a video promoting The Obama Deception, Jones urges, “We know who they are. We know what they are. We know what has to be done.”
Beck Provides More Insights into Obama’s Looming Civil War
Submitted by Kyle Mantyla
Earlier today we posted a clip of Glenn Beck warning that President Obama was trying to foment civil war in America and it was a topic he returned to on his radio broadcast this morning, explaining that since the moment Obama took office, he has been systematically pushing conservatives in an effort to get them to react violently while simultaneously constructing a narrative that blames conservatives for everything bad in the world, which will justify his crack down in response to the violent rebellion that he has intentionally provoked.
Then, just for good measure, Beck threw in some talk about Nazi death camps while proclaiming that he stands on the side of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Jesus:
“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?”
“The quantity of the material is overwhelming,” he said. So much so that a friend shields him from most of it by doing daily sweeps of the Web so Rosen doesn’t have to. His wife is worried for their safety. He’s logged every email and every call, and consulted with a retired state police officer, who took the complaint seriously but said police probably can’t do anything at the moment; he plans to do the same with the FBI.
What did Rosen do to deserve this? One month ago, he found six little children and a bus driver at the end of the driveway of his home in Newtown, Conn. “We can’t go back to school,” one little boy told Rosen. “Our teacher is dead.” He brought them inside and gave them food and juice and toys. He called their parents. He sat with them and listened to their shocked accounts of what had happened just down the street inside Sandy Hook Elementary, close enough that Rosen heard the gunshots.
In the hours and days that followed, Rosen did a lot of media interviews. “I wanted to speak about the bravery of the children, and it kind of helped me work through this,” he told Salon in an interview. “I guess I kind of opened myself up to this.”
The “this” in question is becoming a prime target of the burgeoning Sandy Hook truther movement, which — like its precursor that denied the veracity of the 9/11 terror attacks — alleges that the entire shooting was a hoax of some kind. There were conspiracy theories surrounding the shooting from Day One, but the movement has exploded into public view the past two weeks, and a Google Trends search suggests it’s just now picking up steam. It’s also beginning to earn the backing of presumably credible sources like a professor and a reporter.
Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist who now runs a pet-sitting business and volunteers to read books to kids in schools, initially called me to ask if I thought he should reach out to the FBI about the harassment. I said it probably couldn’t hurt. When I asked if I could tell his story, he was reluctant at first. “Here’s my fear: If I start talking like this, will one of these truthers read this and will it embolden them? Will they say, screw that guy, how dare he impugn our credibility or question our intellect, I’m going to go one step farther? Am I being stupid?” he asked.
After thinking about it, Rosen decided that he had to speak out: “I talk to you about this because I feel that there has to be some moral push-back on this.” Rosen said he’s a staunch believer in free speech, and realizes there is little legal recourse possible unless he gets direct threats, so he had a different idea.
“There must be some way to morally shame these people, because there were 20 dead children lying an eighth of a mile from my window all night long,” he said, choking back tears. “And I sat there with my wife, because they couldn’t take the bodies out that night so the medical examiner could come. And I thought of an expression, that this ‘adds insult to injury,’ but that’s a stupid expression, because this is not an injury, this is an abomination.”
The harassment has turned Rosen’s life upside down, and made him feel things once foreign to him, like searing rage. “I was sitting in a restaurant the other night and these guys who were part of a car club came up to me and shook my hand and said, ‘You know, you’re a hero to me.’ He had seen me on TV. So I said thank you. Then I’m sitting there and I hear this other guy, ‘Oh yeah, it was a conspiracy.’ He was a big guy,” he said.
“I tell you what, I had evil thoughts. I wanted to go over to the first guy, and he had about 15 big guys with him, and say, ‘I’m going to go talk to this other guy — just watch my back.’ And then I wanted to go over to the other guy and get up in his face and say, ‘See those guys over there, just know they’re keeping an eye out for me.’ And then I wanted to say, ‘I want to see what you look like. I want to see what a person who generates this kind of evil shit looks like. I want to look at your face and tell you you’re an asshole,’” he said.
He didn’t do it, of course. “But it tells me how rageful I am. And I am rageful about it, both for the children and for the mother of the child who came to my house looking for her son, and I wanted to look at this guy and I wanted to just fucking decimate him. That’s my rage.”
But when he starts to feel that way, Rosen can think of the first man. And the countless others out there who see Rosen as a hero, and not a tool of some shadowy conspiracy. Because for every angry call or email, there any many, many more praising ones: “I get the most beautifully written cards, wonderful calls.” Let’s hope they continue to be the majority.
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon’s political reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.
Alex Jones rails against Glenn Beck: Jefferson would spit on you, you little b*stard
By Eric W. Dolan
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones slammed conservative personality Glenn Beck on Monday, attacking his supposed libertarian credentials.
“Glenn Beck is despicable,” Jones told The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur. “He has five guys watching everything I do, taking my news articles. Listen, four or five year ago he wouldn’t talk about any of this stuff. Now he takes it but spins it in a neocon way, and I’m sick and tired of him. He’s a punk. He called me a fascist. This is a guy who made jokes about torture and said it was a great thing. This is a guy who supports drones. This is a guy that supports the PATRIOT Act.”
On his radio show last week, Beck claimed Jones was not a conservative and also said Jones was being used by the media to push for more restrictions on firearms. Beck’s comments came after an eccentric interview between Jones and CNN’s Piers Morgan.
“I’m a constitutional libertarian who loves freedom, and my views are my own, and that little piece of trash needs to know this,” Jones continued. “You jackass mainline conservatives don’t speak for me. You’re the ones that have discredited true conservatism and libertarianism. Thomas Jefferson would spit on you, you little bastard, you little piece of trash. That’s what I have to say to Glenn Beck. I’m sick of him.”
But Jones, who has mastered the art of monology, wasn’t finished there. The prominent conspiracy theorist claimed he was the driving force behind conservative radio talking points.
“I saw that 15 minute clip where they attacked me. They looked scared because they’re a bunch of nelly punks who can’t stand the fact that I’m the one who’s turning the ship around. I’m the one that’s got all the conservative hosts aping my information and my talking points, because I’m original and I’ve done the research. I’m leading the pack and all these fake jackass conservatives know it.”
Have you heard the one about the latest Batman movie foretelling the shooting at the Sandy Hook school? The story has been floating around for at least two weeks now and i’ve been addressing the issue on a number of forums, so i thought i would bring the issue here to iLLumiNuTTi.com.
Bizarre evidence that the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut may have been staged has surfaced in the form of YouTube videos which point out the words “Sandy Hook” were written on a map that appeared in the most recent Dark Knight movie, a startling revelation given the deluge of mysterious coincidences already plaguing the movie.
According to numerous YouTube videos, a scene appears in which Commissioner Gordon points at a Gotham City map and confusingly, directly to the words “Sandy Hook.”
Here is a still shot from the movie The Dark Knight with an explanation below:
Click image for much larger view.
The top photo is a still shot from the movie showing the map of Gotham City. Allegedly (i’m not motivated enough to personally verify this ridiculousness) at 1:58:41 into the movie Commissioner Gordon sets his hand down on the map of Gotham City (lower left) on a location called Sandy Hook (lower right) and says, “To mark the truck. Get a GPS on it so we can start to figure out how to bring it down.” Also notice the words “strike zone” are written on the map (lower right). Shiver me timbers.
According to conspiracists, this can only mean one thing: It’s obvious the Sandy Hook shootings were foreseen by the filmmakers behind “The Dark Knight Rises“!!!!
“As more of these ‘strange coincidences’ continue to pop up, it would take a fool not to question the motive behind it all: Is this all part of an evil pre-conditioning program?”
“This definitely begins to tread into Satanic and occult territory, the purpose of which is known to only a select few in tight-knit circles at the very top branches of various secret societies.”
Yes, “evil pre-conditioning programming,” “Satanic and occult territories” and “the very top branches of various secret societies.” Are you scared yet? You shouldn’t be.
According to Batman co-creator Bill Finger, Gotham City is based on New York City:
«Writer Bill Finger, uncredited co-creator, with Bob Kane, of the DC Comics character Batman, on the naming of (Gotham) city and the reason for changing Batman’s locale from New York City to a fictional city said, “Originally I was going to call Gotham City ‘Civic City.’ Then I tried ‘Capital City,’ then ‘Coast City.’ Then I flipped through the New York City phone book and spotted the name ‘Gotham Jewelers’ and said, ‘That’s it,’ Gotham City. We didn’t call it New York because we wanted anybody in any city to identify with it.”
“Gotham” had long been a well-known nickname for New York City even prior to Batman’s 1939 introduction, which explains why “Gotham Jewelers” and many other businesses in New York City have the word “Gotham” in them. The nickname was popularized in the nineteenth century, having been first attached to New York by Washington Irving in the November 11, 1807 edition of his Salmagundi.»
Look at a map of New York, there are A LOT of places in and around NY called Sandy Hook – most notably Sandy Hook Bay (only a stones throw away in NJ) and the 10-plus locations surrounding Sandy Hook Bay with “Sandy Hook” in the name.
Click image for much larger view.
Gotham City is based on the city of New York. New York is surrounded by many locales with the name Sandy Hook. Why do conspiracists ignore this obvious connection between the map of Gotham and the name Sandy Hook?
Hagee: ‘God Will Hold America Responsible’ for Re-Electing Obama
SUBMITTED BY Kyle Mantyla
Yesterday, John Hagee opened up the “Hagee Hotline” to answer questions from parishioners about the election; questions like “do you believe [President Obama] is the precursor to the Anti-Christ?” Hagee never really answered the question, simply predicting that an economic crash is coming that will result in the rise of a global economic czar who will, in fact, be the Anti-Christ.
But as for the election, Hagee warned that “America chose a leader who is for men marrying men” and who is “pro-abortion” and who has “attacked freedom of religion” and so this nation is “about to face the consequences of our choices” because “God will hold America responsible for that choice”:
The controversial cover of The New Yorker magazine on July 14, 2008 in New York City, which carries an illustration depicting Barack and Michelle Obama, dressed as a Muslim and a gun-toting militant. Photograph: Chris Hondros/Getty images
It’s tough keeping up with all the paranoid conspiracy theories swirling around President Obama. Fortunately, Mother Jones has compiled a summary, accompanied by a handy chart.
Chart: Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory Ever
By Asawin Suebsaeng and Dave Gilson, Mother Jones
Barack Obama’s presidency has been an inspiration to many Americans—especially nutjobs. Ever since the first-black-president-to-be appeared on the national political stage, a cottage industry of conservative conspiracy theorists has churned out bizarro, paranoid, and just plain racist effluvia—some of which has trickled into the political mainstream. Below, we’ve charted some of the Obama-baiters best (i.e., worst) work. (Scroll down for more detailed descriptions of the conspiracy theories in the diagram.)
The Conspiracy Theories
Disclaimer: It should go without saying that none of these are true. Follow links at your own risk.
Obama is a secret Muslim: This one began right after he took the stage at the 2004 Democratic convention, with chain emails alleging his “true” religious affiliation. The rumor soon found its way onto the popular conservative online forum Free Republic, and took on a whole new life in the years to come. Related: Obama secretly speaks Arabic, attended a madrassa as a kid in Indonesia, referred to “my Muslim faith” in an interview, and was sworn in on a Koran.
Obama’s bringing 100 million Muslims to America: Avi Lipkin and his PR outfit Special Guests claimed to have evidence of a scheme to bring roughly 100 million Muslims from the Middle East into the United States, converting the country into an Islamic nation by the end of Obama’s second term and making it easier to obliterate Israel.
Obama once aided the mujahideen: Harlem pastor and professional race-baiter James David Manning contended that in his younger days, Obama went undercover as a CIA agent to facilitate the transfer of cash and weapons to the Afghan mujahideen in the ’80s, thereby aiding what would become the Taliban.
Obama is in the pocket of the Muslim Brotherhood: Billy Graham’s son Franklin wants you to know that Obama is allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the federal government.
Obama redecorated the Oval Office in Middle Eastern style: Driven by his fierce sense of anti-American interior design, Obama got rid of the red, white, and blue decoration scheme in his White House office.
Obama married a Pakistani guy:World Net Daily correspondent and conspiracymonger extraordinaire Jerome Corsi posted a videoin which he claimed to have “strong” evidence that Obama was once married to his college roommate from Pakistan. The smoking gun: Photos of the chums in which the future president is “sitting about on the [Pakistani roommate’s] lap.” Related:For years Obama wore a gold ring on his left hand. Was it his gay-wedding ring?
Obama’s ring has a Koranic verse on it: The very same ring is allegedly emblazoned with a key phrase in the Islamic declaration of faith: “There is no god except Allah.” (It’s not.)
Obama was funded by a Saudi prince: Another fairy tale courtesy of Corsi: In late-’70s Chicago, Obama secured political and academic funding from a variety of sketchy Arab sponsors, including a Saudi prince. Which may explain why President Obama bowed to the Saudi king.
Michelle’s “whitey” tape: During the 2008 campaign, rumors surfaced that a video of Michelle Obama using the word “whitey” would be released to sink her husband’s campaign. It’s never materialized. Related: The time Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a racist.
Obama is the son of Malcolm X: Because, you know, black people. This charmer popped up on Atlas Shrugged, Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim website. (Geller is also known for obsessing over Shariah turkeys she believes are destroying Thanksgiving.)
Obama is the son of Frank Marshall Davis: The conspiracy film Dreams From My Real Father espouses the theory that Davis, a leftist activist, was not only Obama’s ideological mentor but his biological father. Related: Obama got a nose job to make his nose look less like Davis’.
Obama’s mom and dad were communists: And you know that communism is an inherited condition.
Obama’s ghostwriter was Bill Ayers: Conservative commentators claimed they uncovered evidence that ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers was the true author of Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams from my Father. Former Republican congressman Chris Cannon of Utah went as far as to try to commission an Oxford professor to confirm Ayers’ authorship through computer analysis.
Obama trained to overthrow the government: In 2008, leading Obama conspiracy theorist Andy Martin declared on Fox News’ Hannity’s America that the then-presidential candidate had trained for “a radical overthrow of the government” during his time as a community organizer in Chicago.
Obama wouldn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance: During the ’08 campaign, Obama was rumored to have refused to say the pledge during a town hall meeting. A photo of the incident was actually taken while the national anthem was being sung.
Obama removed the flag from Air Force One: …and replaced it with his campaign logo.
Obama ordered soldiers to swear allegiance to him: In April 2009, a clearly satirical report detailing how secretary of defense Robert Gates was growing “extremely frustrated” with the White House’s plans to scrub the Constitution from the military oath of loyalty made the rounds on the right-wing blogosphere.
Obama secretly gave away American islands to Russia: Texas House candidate Wes Riddle endorsed this theory and noted the relinquishment as grounds for impeachment. However, the seven Arctic islands were actually given away in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush.
Obama caused the recession—in 1995: According to a recent Daily Caller story, Obama’s efforts to force banks to lend to African Americans in the mid-’90s led to the subprime mortgage crisis that killed the economy in 2008.
Obama’s coming for your guns: Extreme gun-rights outfits, along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), alleged that the Obama administration is supporting the (nonexistent) United Nations Small Arms Treaty, which would lead to nationwide gun confiscation.
Obama’s coming for your gold: This theory was floated by Glenn Beck—and the gold company he shilled for.
Obama is planning FEMA concentration camps: Again with the camps. This theory got a big boost from Glenn Beck (who claims he didn’t mean anything by it). Related: An executive order titled, “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” was issued in the middle of March 2012. Conservative commentators saw it as a martial law power-grab that allowed the president to commandeer farmland, steal everyone’s food, and draft any American into slave labor for a war of aggression against Iran. Also, he has a “secret vault” at Interpol’s headquarters for imprisoning Americans. (Chuck Norris is on the case.)
Obama caused the BP oil spill: Conspiracy-minded radio host Alex Jones promoted the theory that the Deepwater Horizon spill was all part of the administration’s plans of oil nationalization and global government.
Obama was behind the Aurora massacre: In July, Gun Owners of America blasted out a press release claiming that the mass murder at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, was suspiciously timed. “Someone in Washington” was probably behind it, paving the way for Obama-led firearm confiscation and “government genocide.”
Obama personally caused Hurricane Sandy: It wasn’t global warming that made Sandy so intense; it was Barack. Alex Jones’ site reportedthe president engineered the storm using a Pentagon weather modification project. The mayhem caused by the hurricane would afford Obama the opportunity to score points by briskly managing disaster relief a week before the election.
Obama had Andrew Breitbart killed: In March 2012, conservative media impresario Andrew Breitbart died of heart failure. Less than a month prior to his death, he had announced that he had uncovered footage of Obama’s formative years as a radical. So obviously, Obama had him offed. (The tapes were later revealed to contain things like a young Obama hugging a black college professor.) Related: People—like a Rod Blagojevich fundraiser and an Obama impersonator—died between 2008 and 2012. Obama was in office between 2008 and 2012…coincidence?!?!
Obama spiked the jobs report: ”Jobs truthers” (like former GE CEO Jack Welch and Florida tea party congressman Allen West) accused the Obama administration of cooking the September unemployment numbers to manufacture a rosier picture of the economy and boost the president’s chances of reelection.
Obama faked bin Laden’s death: Since no photographs of Osama bin Laden’s corpse were produced, the Al Qaeda leader must still be out there. Fox News’ Steve Doocy and Andrew Napolitano entertained the idea that Operation Neptune Spear was merely a ploy to revive Obama’s sagging approval ratings. Related: Obama was photoshopped into the iconic killing-OBL White House photo.
Obama’s plan to fake an assassination attempt: A false-flag operation would create urban tumult and give Obama the pretext to declare martial law, thus suspending democracy, postponing the 2012 election, and prolonging his stay in office. The theory was flagged by Tenn. State Rep. Kelly Keisling, among others, after circulating online.
Obama the brainwashing hypnotist: As a master of neurolinguistic programming, Obama convinced Americans to vote for him via subliminal messages. Related: Rush Limbaugh pondered if hypnosis was the reason that so many Jewish voters were in the bag for Obama.
Obama’s teleprompter: Obama’s eloquence is a myth! The 44th president is incapable of speaking in public with his teleprompter.
Obama had a ghostwriter for everything: Jack Cashill over at WND had a hot scoop on how Obama’s love letters to his college girlfriend were ghostwritten.
Obama’s anti-Semitic poetry: However, according to the American Thinker, Obama’s ghostwriters did not write his youthful poem “Underground,” which compares Jews to fig-eating underwater apes and echoes Koranic verse.
Obama’s exiled lover: Obama was supposedly fooling around with an attractive young staffer from his 2004 Senate campaign. Michelle Obama had the temptress packed off to the Caribbean before the ’08 campaign.
Obama is gay: Which explains why he joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church. No, really. (Via Corsi, of course.)
Obama’s crack cocaine/gay sex/murder orgy cover-up: In 2008, a small-time conman named Larry Sinclair and his kilt-wearing lawyer held a press conference to tell the world of the future president’s murderous, drug-and-sodomy-fueled crimes.
Obama’s campaigns were funded by drug money: During an October conference call organized to oppose pot legalization, a writer from Lyndon LaRouche’s magazine asked about “reports [that both Obama’s] 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns have been financed in part by laundered drug money.”
Obama is the Antichrist:Obviously. Related: If you play his 2008 Democratic nomination acceptance speech backwards, you can hear him instruct listeners to do Satan’s bidding.
Obama is a lizard overlord: According to codes hidden in Biblical verse, Obama is a reptilian humanoid. This idea has found its way on to some right-wing radio shows, and two Daily Caller reporters recently published a (satirical?) e-book on the topic titled, The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama’s True Intergalactic Ambitions by an Anonymous White House Staffer.
Obama’s adventures on Mars: As a teen, Obama participated in a CIA initiative to teleport to Mars using a top-secret “jump room.” Self-described time travelers William Stillings and Andrew Basiago claim to have met the future POTUS at American space bases on the Red Planet. In early 2012, a spokesman for the National Security Council actually acknowledged these claims, and issued a fairly convincing denial.
Super-Storm Sandy Spawns Plethora of Conspiracy Theories
Posted in Anti-LGBT, Antigovernment, Conspiracies by Hatewatch Staff on October 30, 2012
Even before the winds of Hurricane Sandy began to moderate, conspiracy theorists of a variety of bents got busy explaining the real meaning of the storm. Because, of course, a monster storm can’t just come from something like “weather” or “climate.”
No, a storm like that just must be the product of nefarious or, perhaps, spiritual forces too big for most of us to understand. And so, while millions of Americans deal with the aftermath of what has become the largest Atlantic tropical storm in recorded history, lots more are busy explaining what’s behind all that wind.
Here, gathered over the last few days, is a sampling of their views.
• It’s the gays! We here at Hatewatch knew somebody would be sure to blame LGBT people. Sure enough, Pastor John McTernan of Defend and Proclaim the Faith Ministries started us off with the claim that the storm was God’s judgment on America for, as the pastor stated on his ministry’s website, “the government promoting homosexual `marriage’ as an ordinance.” America, he says, “has not repented of promoting the homosexual agenda, so the judgments will not stop.”
It’s not individual sex acts that is angering the deity, McTernan points out — it’s America’s support for homosexuals and marriage equality that’s behind the weather wallop. Of course, this isn’t the first time McTernan has blamed LGBT people/homosexuality for natural disasters. As reported in the EDGE, an LGBT news site, McTernan linked the recent Hurricane Isaac to New Orleans’ Southern Decadence festival.
• It’s bad policy toward Israel! Leave it to the folks at the conspiracy-riddled World Net Daily to publish this one. Basically, WND says, natural disasters in the U.S. correlate to attempts to divide Israel. At least that’s what a man named William Koenig — WND bills him as a “Journalist and White House Correspondent” — has been claiming for years. Says Koenig: “When we put pressure on Israel to divide their land, we have enormous, record-setting events, often within 24 hours.”
Because both American political parties have endorsed a two-state solution with regard to Israel, an angry God produced Hurricane Sandy. Oh, and in case you wondered, Koenig published a book that “proves” that natural disasters that hit the U.S. are tied to presidential policy toward Israel, specifically during the George W. Bush administration.
• It’s Obama/the government! It seems that President Obama “engineered” Hurricane Sandy in an attempt to sway the election. Or so says InfoWars, a website run by conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Alex Jones. Kurt Nimmo, the InfoWars editor who wrote the site’s piece last Friday, suggests that Obama would benefit by looking like a strong leader in the face of a major storm — and so he orchestrated the storm he needed.
How’d he manage that? Nimmo cites another website’s claim that there have been “unprecedented levels” of ionospheric phenomena in the upper atmosphere, supposedly created by the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), which is a congressionally initiated program managed by the U.S. Navy and Air Force.
The actual purpose of the program is to create a center for scientists to study the Earth’s upper atmosphere in order to aid communications and navigation systems for military and civilian use. But conspiracy theorists claim that the government uses HAARP to manipulate weather (and exert mind control) using electromagnetic waves.
• It’s an excuse for the government to take your guns! Cam Edwards, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association (NRA), went on conspiracy-monger Glenn Beck’s TV show Monday to warn not about the cause of the storm — but rather the way he says the Obama administration will use it.
Harping on a well-known far-right meme, Edwards referenced the story of Patricia Konie, a New Orleans woman who had a revolver confiscated by her city’s police department in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Gun rights extremists have used the case ever since to claim that the government will use any national disaster to engineer a gun grab from its citizens. In fact, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass did order law enforcement officials to confiscate all civilian weapons after Katrina hit, but he resigned just a few weeks later. The NRA went on to sue New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Compass’ replacement.
The case was settled in 2008 and, in July 2012, the Department of Justice and New Orleans announced sweeping reforms to address serious issues in the police department, including a culture of excessive force, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and discriminatory arrests. But the NRA is dead certain that Obama is coming for your guns.
• The Department of Labor is using Sandy to delay the jobs report! And that means it’s trying to get Obama re-elected! The right-wing Drudge Report and conservative news organizations like Fox News claim that the government is planning to use Sandy to delay releasing its jobs report until after the election.
This, they claim, is an attempt to influence the election by delaying an inevitably terrible jobs report. They also claim that using a weather emergency to delay a jobs report “is unprecedented.” But, like much of what they write, that’s simply not true. The Labor Department delayed a jobs report in 1996 because of a budgetary stalemate and then a blizzard.
How The Right’s Latest Conspiracy Theory Might Unleash a Wave of Domestic Terrorism if Obama Wins
Some types of spin are more dangerous than others.
September 25, 2012 |
Two of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged with murder and conspiracy to assassinate Obama.
In a somewhat desperate attempt to maintain morale among a Republican base that disdains its standard-bearer, a number of conservative media outlets are pushing an alternate reality in which Mitt Romney is leading in the polls by wide margins and American voters have a decidedly negative view not of the challenger, but of Barack Obama.
It’s an exceptionally dangerous game that the right-wing media are playing. If Obama wins – and according to polling guru Nate Silver, he’d have a 95 percent chance of doing so if the vote were held today – there’s a very real danger that this spin — combined with other campaign narratives that are popular among the far-right — could create a post-election environment so toxic that it yields an outburst of politically motivated violence.
A strategy that began with a series of rather silly columns comparing 2012 with 1980, and assuring jittery conservatives that a huge mass of independents was sure to break for Romney late and deliver Obama the crushing defeat he so richly deserves, entered new territory with the bizarre belief that all the polls are wrong. And not only wrong, but intentionally rigged by “biased pollsters” – including those at Fox News – in the tank for Obama. (See Alex Pareene’s piece for more on the right’s new theory that the polls are being systematically “skewed.”)
Consider how a loosely-hinged member of the right-wing fringe – an unstable individual among the third of conservative Republicans who believe Obama’s a Muslim or the almost two-thirds who think he was born in another country – expecting a landslide victory for the Republican might process an Obama victory. This is a group that has also been told, again and again, that Democrats engage in widespread voter fraud – that there are legions of undocumented immigrants, dead people and ineligible felons voting in this election (with the help of zombie ACORN). They’ve been told that Democrats are buying the election with promises of “free stuff” offered to the slothful and unproductive half of the population that pays no federal income taxes and refuses to “take responsibility for their lives” – Romney’s 47 percent.
They’ve also been told – by everyone from NRA president Wayne LaPierre to Mitt Romney himself – that Obama plans to ban gun ownership in his second term. (Two elaborate conspiracy theories have blossomed around this point. One holds that Fast and Furious – which, in reality, is much ado about very little – was designed to elevate gun violence to a point where seizing Americans’ firearms would become politically popular. The second holds that a United Nations treaty on small arms transfers (from which the United States has withdrawn) is in fact a stealthy workaround for the Second Amendment.)
And they’ve been warned in grim, often apocalyptic terms of what’s to come in a second term. The film, “2016: Obama’s America,” offers a dystopian vision of a third-world America gutted by Obama’s supposed obsession with global wealth redistribution. His re-election would bring something far worse than mere socialism – it would be marked by Kenyan anti-colonialism, in which America’s wealth is bled off as a form of reparations for centuries of inequities between the global North and South.
These kinds of fringe views aren’t relegated to the fever swamps of the right-wing blogosphere – they’re often reinforced by elected Republicans. Reps Steve King, R-Iowa, Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas and others warn that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by Islamic Extremists. An elected judge in Texas advocated a tax increase – yes, a tax increase! – in order to better arm local sheriff’s deputies whom he claimed would serve on the front-lines of the civil war likely to come should Obama be re-elected. “I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator,” he said.
They’ve been hammered with the idea that while these facts are obvious for those whose eyes are open, the media is covering it all up. Rather than a Democrat with whom people tend to connect running a good campaign against a flawed Republican candidate, many on the far-right will see an illegitimate president colluding with an array of perfidious forces, both foreign and domestic, to deny them the right to finally ‘take their country back.’
Obviously, there’s no need to fear a massive rebellion from millions of engraged Glenn Beck fans in their Hoverounds; rather, the danger is that in the aftermath of such an election, a small number of dangerously unstable anti-government extremists will take matters into their own hands — and even a small number can do significant damage.
After the 2008 election, there was a run on weapons and ammunition, and gun sellers are expecting another bonanza if Obama wins a second term. We’ve seen a dramatic wave of right-wing domestic terrorism since Barack Obama’s election. Recently, four active-duty soldiers – and five others – based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, were arrested after murdering two compatriots they suspected of betraying their plot to assassinate Obama. The group had been “stockpiling weapons and bomb parts to overthrow the U.S. government.” With $87,000 in weapons and explosives — and combat training courtesy of Uncle Sam — this was a potentially devastating plot. Just think about the havoc that a few heavily-armed men with military discipline were able to wreak in Mumbai in 2008.
It’s a real threat, but political correctness keeps it in the shadows. At a senate hearing last week, a former Department of Homeland Security official named Daryl Johnson testified that “the threat of domestic terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies is often dismissed and overlooked in the national media and within the U.S. government.” He continued:
Yet we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity, specifically from violent right-wing extremists. While violent left-wing attacks were more prevalent in the 1970s, today the bulk of violent domestic activity emanates from the right wing…. Since the 2008 presidential election, domestic non-Islamic extremists have shot 27 law enforcement officers, killing 16 of them.
That the “unskewed” polls show Romney heading towards a blow-out win is likely to lead more disturbed people to see themselves as victims of a dark plot to undermine America’s “traditional values.” It’s not the only iteration of the alternate universe that the right has conjured up in recent years – just ponder, for a moment, that the creator of “Conservapedia” – a hilariously inaccurate right-wing version of Wikipedia – has undertaken to write a distinctly conservative version of the Bible (one in which Jesus presumably inveighs against taxes and regulation dragging down job creators, and doesn’t constantly blather about the poor).
But while those efforts are often laughable, the unintended consequences of offering the hard-right a Bizarro World analysis of the 2012 election may prove deadly serious if Obama pulls out a win.
8 Ways to tell a Conspiracy Theorist is really a Fraud
As I have been observing conspiracy theories, and by extension, conspiracy theorists themselves. From my observations I’ve noticed that some of them may not be entirely truthful in what they believe, and that some of them may be out right frauds.
Here are eight ways to tell if a conspiracy theorist is a fraud:
1. Constant self promoter
It’s one thing for a conspiracy theorist to promote the conspiracy theories they believe in, it’s quite another for a conspiracy theorist to constantly promote their own materials and media concerning conspiracy theories they allegedly believe in.
The fact is, is that some people do make money off of promoting conspiracy theories, and some fraud conspiracy theorists do realize they can make lots of money creating and pedaling books and videos about conspiracy theories.
2. Tells people to ignore facts
While most legit conspiracy theorists will usually ask a person to examine all of the facts before asking you to conclude that they are right, a fraud conspiracy theorist will tell you to ignore any facts other then the “facts” that they present. Some even go so far as to call real facts disinformation. This is done as a way to discourage people from actually examining real facts, and by doing this a person might stop believing a certain conspiracy theory, and thus stop believe the fraud conspiracy theorist.
3. Constantly making up stuff
A fraud conspiracy theorist constantly makes up stuff, and then discards certain “information” when no one believes it any more, or no one really cares about it any more.
One of the main reasons this is done is because it keeps people coming back, wanting “new” information.
4. Claims to be withholding information until a later date
Many fraud conspiracy theorists claim they have “secret information” that they claim they are withholding until a later date. Most of the times this “information” isn’t even revealed at all, or the “information” that is revealed is actually false and made up, and sometimes not even new at all, just reworded.
5. Presents known fraud media as real
Some fraud conspiracy theorists will take documents, photos, and videos that are known to be fraudulent, some that were even created as a hoax in which to point out how gullible some conspiracy theorists are, and present such media as real and legit. Sometimes a fraud conspiracy theorist will even create the fraud media themselves.
6. Claims persecution, but presents no evidence
Many fraud conspiracy theorists claim they are being persecuted, but present no evidence what so ever that they are being persecuted, whether it be official legal documents, photos or videos showing they a being persecuted, or other credible eye witness backing up the claims of persecution.
7. Lying about credentials
Fraud conspiracy theorists will often times lie about their credentials, such as lying about military service, or about their education, or their expertise. This is done in order to make it seem that they know what they are talking about when they are discussing a conspiracy theory, and in hopes that the conspiracy theory they promote will seem more valid.
One of the most likely ways to tell if a conspiracy theorist is a fraud is that they are unable to pass a lie detector test concerning the conspiracy theories that they promote, or they are unwilling to take a lie detector test concerning the “information” they present, or concerning whether or not they believe in what are promoting in the first place.
Why people who believe in one conspiracy are prone to believe others
ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, I spent several hours on a hot bus in a neon desert called Las Vegas with a merry band of British conspiracists during their journey around the Southwest in search of UFOs, aliens, Area 51 and government cover-ups, all for a BBC documentary. One woman regaled me with a tale about orange balls of energy hovering around her car on Interstate 405 in California, which were subsequently chased away by black ops helicopters. A man challenged me to explain the source of a green laser beam that followed him around the English countryside one evening.
Conspiracies are a perennial favorite for television producers because there is always a receptive audience. A recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary that I participated in called Conspiracy Rising, for example, featured theories behind the deaths of JFK and Princess Diana, UFOs, Area 51 and 9/11, as if there were a common thread running throughout. According to radio host and conspiracy monger Alex Jones, also appearing in the film, “The military-industrial complex killed John F. Kennedy” and “I can prove that there’s a private banking cartel setting up a world government because they admit they are” and “No matter how you look at 9/11 there was no Islamic terrorist connection—the hijackers were clearly U.S. government assets who were set up as patsies like Lee Harvey Oswald.”
Such examples, along with others in my years on the conspiracy beat, are emblematic of a trend I have detected that people who believe in one such theory tend to believe in many other equally improbable and often contradictory cabals. This observation has recently been confirmed empirically by University of Kent psychologists Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton in a paper entitled “Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories,” published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science this past January. The authors begin by defining a conspiracy theory as “a proposed plot by powerful people or organizations working together in secret to accomplish some (usually sinister) goal” that is “notoriously resistant to falsification … with new layers of conspiracy being added to rationalize each new piece of disconfirming evidence.” Once you believe that “one massive, sinister conspiracy could be successfully executed in near-perfect secrecy, [it] suggests that many such plots are possible.” With this cabalistic paradigm in place, conspiracies can become “the default explanation for any given event—a unitary, closed-off worldview in which beliefs come together in a mutually supportive network known as a monological belief system.”
This monological belief system explains the significant correlations between different conspiracy theories in the study. For example, “a belief that a rogue cell of MI6 was responsible for [Princess] Diana’s death was correlated with belief in theories that HIV was created in a laboratory … that the moon landing was a hoax … and that governments are covering up the existence of aliens.” The effect continues even when the conspiracies contradict one another: the more participants believed that Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered.
The authors suggest there is a higher-order process at work that they call global coherence that overrules local contradictions: “Someone who believes in a significant number of conspiracy theories would naturally begin to see authorities as fundamentally deceptive, and new conspiracy theories would seem more plausible in light of that belief.” Moreover, “conspiracy advocates’ distrust of official narratives may be so strong that many alternative theories are simultaneously endorsed in spite of any contradictions between them.” Thus, they assert, “the more that participants believe that a person at the centre of a death-related conspiracy theory, such as Princess Diana or Osama [bin] Laden, is still alive, the more they also tend to believe that the same person was killed, so long as the alleged manner of death involves deception by officcialdom.”
As Alex Jones proclaimed in Conspiracy Rising: “No one is safe, do you understand that? Pure evil is running wild everywhere at the highest levels.”
On his Infowars.com website, Jones headlines his page with “Because There Is a War on for Your Mind.” True enough, which is why science and reason must always prevail over fear and irrationality, and conspiracy mongering traffics in the latter at the expense of the former.
Without a single side to make the looming Presidential election a Manichean battle of good vs. evil for certain segments of the country (since Romney isn’t exactly a paragon of the common man or the folksiness of the Tea Party), the Birthers have taken to stirring up shit the only way they know how: by asking ridiculous questions based only on a vague conspiracy theory. And as the Birthers have proved in their past ability to influence idiots across America (one in four Americans believe Obama is a Muslim), “asking the question” is a form of push-polling. The existence of a largely-publicized “debate” provides ammunition to those who are inclined to use it as such.
My own experience in work as well as life is that it is dangerous to give voice to the fringe and lunatic voices simply because they make for sensationalized headlines. Almost like the Streisand Effect applied to politics, even pointing out that such a position is ridiculous gives it added weight and gravitas (by dignifying it as a question worth focusing on).
So why do media outlets give any focus to these kinds of fringe theories if they patently lack legitimacy? It’s not like anybody is writing stories about people who deny we landed on the moon or about who claim there is a secret Illuminati controlling the government (other than crappy novelists). Presumably, it’s because these new allegations are salacious and potentially important enough to give people the satisfaction of reading further, even if they know the debate is entirely artificial. Like reading the tabloids, or something like that.
One birther explains that Romney’s citizenship is up for debate because his dad was born in Mexico. Thats right, Mitt Romney’s father was born in the Mexican colony that Mitt’s great-grandfather founded after fleeing the United States so he could stay married to Romney’s four great-grandmothers.
Then again, maybe these are questions that can reveal something about the character of the candidates.
Here’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County, where there must be something in the water, explaining that the birth certificate for Barack Obama released by the White House was forged, and pledging to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. And if you have the gall to criticize him for being a conspiracy-minded loon, “there’s something wrong.”
In another section of this bizarre event, Arpaio said that he has identified “a person of interest” in the case. Weapons grade idiocy, from a pretty highly placed elected official.
More from this pathetic spectacle:
So his career has to be over now, right? Oh wait, Arizona.
Arizona’s far right Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now holding a press conference to announce the findings in his utterly stupid investigation into the dreaded birth certificate of Barack Obama. Here’s the live video feed, so we can all make fun of it.
Right now, there’s a moron explaining that the “optimization” and “layers” and “white halos” in the scanned document prove it’s a sinister forgery by the Impersonator in Chief.
[Surreal crypto-racist event now finished, video removed.]
If you agree with one of these theories, there’s a good chance you’ll subscribe to both even though one suggests Princess Diana is alive, the other dead, a new study indicates.
It’s known that people who believe one conspiracy theory are inclined to endorse others as well. But new research shows that conspiracy theorists aren’t put off by contradictory theories and offers a reason why.
“They’re explained by the overarching theory that there is some kind of cover-up, that authorities are withholding information from us,” said Karen Douglas, a study researcher and reader in the school of psychology sciences at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. “It’s not that people are gullible or silly by having those beliefs. … It all fits into the same picture.” [Is This Article Part of a Conspiracy?]
In the first of two experiments, Douglas and colleagues asked 137 students to rate how much they agreed with five conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in 1997.
“The more people were likely to endorse the idea Princess Diana was murdered, the more they were likely to believe that Princess Diana is alive,” explained Douglas. People who thought it was unlikely she was murdered were also unlikely to think she did not die.
They also asked 102 students about the death of Osama bin Laden last year. The students rated how much they agreed with statements purporting that: bin Laden had died in the American raid; he is still alive; he was already dead when the raid took place; the Obama administration appears to be hiding information about the raid.
Once again, people who believed bin Laden was already dead before the raid were more likely to believe he is still alive. Using statistical analysis, the researchers determined that the link between the two was explained by a belief that the Obama administration was hiding something.
The central idea — that authorities are engaged in massive deceptions intended to further their malevolent goals — supports any individual theory, to the point that theorists can endorse contradictory ones, according to the team.
“Believing that Osama bin Laden is still alive is apparently no obstacle to believing that he has been dead for years,” they write in a study published online on Jan. 25 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.