Along with the deluded “Jesus is my vaccine” whackjobs, the conspiracy charlatans are peddling their own anti-science snake oil and superstition faster than any coronavirusvirus.
“Hundreds of you have requested that I watch and respond to the Plandemic movie ft. Dr. Judy Mikovits, recently published on social media. I decided to check it out and respond point by point to the biggest claims the conspiracy theory movie makes.”
The road to a police state: how ‘anti-terrorism’ is destroying democracy
Theory & History
via Vashti Kenway
In 1956, science fiction author Philip K. Dick wrote the short story “Minority Report”. In it, a shadowy government agency known as “pre-crime” arrests people in anticipation of crimes they suspect individuals will commit in the future. What appears as a dystopian fictional nightmare in 1956 has become a reality in Australia 60 years later.
One of the major legal transformations associated with the introduction of the various anti-terror acts in the 15 years since 9/11 has been the normalisation of the idea that you can be charged with a crime that you have yet to commit.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has the right to seek warrants that allow the detention of someone suspected or someone related to someone suspectedof considering a terror offence. This person can be detained in custody with no right to confidential legal counsel and no right to see the evidence brought against them.
Furthermore, the Terrorism Act 2002 makes it a crime to “provide or receive training, to possess a ‘thing’, or to collect or make a document, if (in each case) that conduct was connected with preparation for, the engagement of a person in, or assistance in a terrorist act”.
In 2010, these laws resulted in the conviction of three men for “preparing to prepare” an attack on the Holsworthy Army Base. One of the men visited the barracks and another had a phone conversation with a sheikh, seeking religious counsel about the moral virtues of possibly committing an act.
The sheikh eventually answered in the negative and advised the men against any action. Even the Victorian Supreme Court judge responsible for sentencing the men, justice King, admitted that “the conspiracy was not that much further along than just sitting and thinking about it”. She nevertheless sentenced them to 18 years’ jail. For thought crime.
What’s more shocking is that, legally, these “preparatory” offences are committed if the person either “knows or is reckless as to the fact that they relate to a terrorist act”. Being “reckless” can mean a whole range of things. It can mean that you say or write something that may inadvertently encourage someone else to engage in terrorist activity.
For instance, Division 102 of the Criminal Code imposes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment “where a person provides or collects funds and is reckless as to whether those funds will be used to facilitate or engage in a terrorist act”. This means that someone who donates money to a charity that turns out to have some putative involvement in terrorism could be imprisoned for life.
The definition of terrorism is suitably broad for a ruling class looking to criminalise a wide range of anti-government activity. Section 101.1 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as “conduct engaged in or threats made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”. The conduct or threat must be designed to coerce a government or population by intimidation. It must involve “harm” – broadly defined.
Added to this is “urging violence”. For example, it is an offence punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to “urge the overthrow of the constitution or government by force or violence, or to urge interference in parliamentary elections”.
Such definitions are disturbing. Again, “interfering in parliamentary elections” could involve encouraging voters to cast donkey votes or rip up ballot papers. Left wing newspapers regularly run pieces on the necessity of overthrowing many and various governments. The fact that such laws have been penned indicates how far we have come.
Under such legislation the United States Declaration of Independence, with its claim that “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [the Government], and to institute new one”, could be deemed a terrorist document.
Crime by association
A law introduced in 2014 that prohibits the advocacy of terrorism extends this issue of incitement into even more alarming territory. An organisation can be listed as terrorist if it “directly praises the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a substantial risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person … to engage in a terrorist act”.
If these laws had been enacted in the past they would have meant that the author of an article supporting the actions of Nelson Mandela in his struggle against apartheid in South Africa would become liable if someone might have read that article and acted upon it in a manner deemed terrorist by the state.
Today, the organisation of any author who is accused of “praising terror” can be listed. Being a member or even associated with a member of a listed terrorist organisation can incur up to 10 years in prison.
The mutability of what constitutes a “terrorist organisation” was revealed in the trial of 13 Muslim men in Melbourne in 2005-09. These young men were arrested after more than a year of intense surveillance of conversations between them and a radical Islamic preacher, Abdul Nacer Benbrika.
An extraordinary 27,000 hours of police surveillance revealed nothing more criminal than discussions about the morality or immorality of revenge actions against Australians for the government’s crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. No specific or concrete terror actions were planned, and they were never charged with planning a terrorist attack.
Nevertheless, the state charged them with membership of an unspecified, unlisted, unnamed terrorist organisation. The attorney-general declared it so – and a few more men who had had some association with Benbrika were charged with “supporting or providing funds” to a terrorist organisation.
Greg Barns, one of the defence lawyers in the Barwon 13 trial, pointed out the absurdity of the situation: “An organisation can be a terrorist organisation even if it has no terrorist act in mind”. Such realities call to mind Alice in Wonderland. “‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less’.”
Punished for being Muslim
The Barwon 13 trial also brought to light a number of other disturbing aspects of the anti-terror legislation. One of the most shocking revealed the prejudice against giving terror suspects bail.
This meant that from 2005 until 2008, when the judge handed down a decision, the defendants were held in the maximum security Barwon prison. Here, some as young as 19 were kept shackled in isolation for up to 18 hours a day. During their trial, they were strip searched every day and transported back and forth on the hour-long journey with their arms shackled to their waist and their ankles tied together.
Four of the 13 were found not guilty of any charges but were held in Guantanamo Bay-like conditions for, one can only suspect, being Muslim and associating with other Muslims. Four of the 13 were convicted on such spurious grounds that Michael Pearce from Liberty Victoria told reporters that they were victims of one of the “most sustained assaults on civil liberties in 50 years”. “Their treatment is an affront to the most basic principle of the rule of law”, he said.
The current targets of the anti-terror laws are Muslim. Nineteen of the 20 proscribed organisations are Muslim, and of the 46 people charged under the laws, all, with the exception of a couple, identify as Muslim. Not one of these people has been charged with actually committing a terrorist offence. All are offences of association, of planning or planning to plan.
State representatives claim that nipping terrorist actions before they happen is more important than civil liberties. But such claims are bogus when most of the terrorist atrocities they claim to be thwarting were never even in the planning stages.
One young man, Faheem Lodhi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison despite the fact that, according to a lawyer in his trial, he “had not yet reached the stage where the identity of the bomber, the precise area to be bombed or the manner in which the bombing would take place had been worked out”.
As civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary told Katherine Wilson in an interview for Overland: “They talk the talk, and it’s dangerous talk. But I can say whatever I like about who the real Iraq or Palestinian war criminals are, and how they should be brought to justice, and I won’t be imprisoned for it. Not unless I convert to Islam”.
When Muslim kids mouth off, they can be locked up for decades. If anything is likely to prompt feelings of hatred, anger and frustration that lead to the desire to commit terrorist acts, it is this kind of systematic legal persecution.
Islamophobia is the ideological mechanism through which the state has managed to get through such draconian legislation. Concerted public media campaigns vilifying Muslims – representing them as medieval barbarians intent on bringing down Western civilisation – has had its effect. Opposition to the anti-terror laws is minimal – the conflation of Islam with terror has been achieved.
Fifteen years in the making
Prior to 9/11, politically motivated violence was dealt with under criminal law. This all changed after 2001. In March 2002, federal attorney-general Darryl Williams introduced the first package of anti-terrorism legislation to parliament. He said the laws were “exceptional” but that “so too is the evil at which they are directed”.
Hyperbole abounded. Australians were told to be alert to shadowy internal threats and to report any “suspicious” activities they might witness.
From 11 September 2001 to the fall of the Howard government, the federal parliament enacted 48 anti-terror laws. In other words, on average a new anti-terror statue was passed every seven or so weeks under the Liberal government. The Labor Party supported the overwhelming bulk of these laws.
When Labor came to power, the pace of lawmaking slowed but the fundamental approach remained the same: use the terror threat to usher through increasingly draconian laws. Indeed, the Rudd government actively opposed independent reviews into the passing of its own anti-terror legislation.
Abbott came to office with an open and aggressive agenda. He was unabashed in 2014: “Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like … the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift”. The scales now well and truly have tipped.
Under Abbott and Turnbull, the existing anti-terror legislation has been strengthened and expanded, most dramatically with the introduction of astonishingly extensive data retention laws.
All of this frantic legislative activity has been accompanied by regularly staged anti-terror raids.
The Australian state has far exceeded the UK, the USA and Canada in the number of laws enacted. UNSW professor George Williams argues: “It would be unthinkable, if not constitutionally impossible, in nations such as the US and Canada to restrict freedom of speech in the manner achieved by Australia’s 2005 sedition laws”. US author Ken Roach describes Australia as engaging in “hyper-legislation”.
While initially introduced as “emergency legislation” to deal with imminent terror threats, anti-terror legislation has not only stuck, but has crept into other legislative areas. Laws recognised as exceptional, even by their proponents, are now used against groups and individuals who have nothing to do with the “war on terror”.
Bikie gangs and their members are subject to laws virtually identical to anti-terror legislation. The Rann Labor government in South Australia began the trend, drawing dramatic comparisons between bikies and terrorists. In 2008, Rann said, “Organised crime groups are terrorists within our communities” and described bikies as “an evil within our nation”. The laws passed almost without a whimper of opposition.
In Queensland, bikie gangs have been “declared” in the same way that so-called terrorist organisations have – which means anyone associated with a gang can be arrested and charged. If you are a member of a gang you cannot be seen with one or more “criminal associates”.
Bikies are also subject to something very similar to control orders – one of the most controversial aspects of the anti-terror legislation. They can be placed under house arrest, and have their movement and their oral and electronic communications limited. These restrictions can be decided in a secret court hearing, and the person will discover if they are subject to an order only after their arrest. All states have introduced similar laws.
The depth and breadth of the anti-terror legislation provided the perfect precursor to the use of equally (if not more draconian) laws against construction workers in the Howard government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
Turnbull is now preparing to fight an election over the reintroduction of the body. The ABCC’s coercive powers mirror ASIO’s. It has the right to hold secret interviews and jail those who don’t cooperate. Habeus corpus is out the window. Construction workers will again have no right to silence and no right to be represented by the lawyer of their choice. The terror bogey was simply the thin end of the wedge.
It is clear over the 15 years of the “war on terror” that many legal rights have disappeared. Basic legal assumptions like innocent until proven guilty, the right to silence, the right to a fair trial and the right to legal counsel no longer exist in expanding areas of the legal system. What’s more, the state’s powers to watch, listen, detain and punish have grown dramatically, and there is no indication that the government wants to pull back.
The US whistleblower Edward Snowden said of similar actions in the USA: “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power”.
Australia’s behemoth security state is now more powerful than even Philip K. Dick’s paranoid imagination could have dreamed.
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
If you want to jump out of this article, try these related pages:
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.”
Aussie out to show Secret Service blunder was to blame
by: ANDREW RULE
[Well, if the Yanks are so gullible and willing to palm off their hard-earned cash to conspiracy hucksters, why shouldn’t Aussies make a profit off American paranoia and gullibility? Wonder if Colin McLaren has been shown the Bronson footage yet?! He seems like a decent and rational individual. Perhaps he has a responder?]
Colin McLaren at his restaurant and accommodation Villa Gusto Source: News Limited
COLIN McLaren got the bad news the week he started at the police academy: his much-loved Uncle Neil had been killed in a shooting accident.
Neil McLaren was a sensible and seasoned shooter but he’d made a mortal error, getting into a car after a shooting trip without checking his shotgun. The car hit a bump, the gun went off and he was dead.
His nephew always had that loss hanging over him. He would spend years living dangerously in heavy squads and undercover jobs, dealing with the Walsh St murders and infiltrating Australia’s Calabrian mafia. He carried guns, but carefully. He knew mistakes could be fatal.
During his time in the force, a policeman called Neil Clinch was shot dead by a policewoman aiming at an “offender” – who was, in fact, a householder fearing the police in his backyard were intruders.
Then there was Constable Clare Bourke, shot dead at Sunshine police station by a policeman fooling around with an “empty” pistol.
Meanwhile, plenty of other incidents went unreported, such as the one in which a future Assistant Commissioner and another cop were chasing a suspect in Windsor. One of them accidentally shot a passing taxi. The bad guy escaped; the innocent cab driver surrendered immediately.
Anyone who has handled guns knows mistakes happen – and that we don’t always hear about it. McLaren was reminded of that in 1992 when he took a trip to New York to recover from a tough year investigating the “Mr Cruel” child abductions.
He picked up a book in Times Square for the flight to Chicago. The book, Mortal Error, outlined how a ballistics expert called Howard Donahue had proved beyond reasonable doubt that John F. Kennedy was hit in the head by a hollow-point bullet, not the conventional military rounds fired seconds earlier by Lee Harvey Oswald.
Donahue identified the origin of the fatal hollow-point – a Secret Service agent with an assault rifle in the open-top escort car behind the President’s. The iconic Zapruder film of the Dallas motorcade shows the alarmed Secret Service man clutching the weapon as he tries to stand just after Oswald’s shots strike from above.
The force of a simple story that fitted the facts satisfied McLaren’s detective instincts. To an expert, the bullet fragments revealed a tragic accident caused by Oswald’s crazy assassination attempt. This was no convoluted conspiracy theory, of which there were many, including the one peddled by Oliver Stone in his fictionalised hit film JFK. It seemed common sense.
But a dry, factual ballistics analysis was never going to compete for public attention with Kevin Costner starring in Stone’s fictionalised entertainment.
McLaren realised the case needed an independent investigation to test if the other evidence supported Donahue’s conclusion that Secret Service agent George Hickey had accidentally finished what Oswald had begun. Who better to do it than an outsider: an Australian investigator with no axe to grind?
McLaren was keen but first he had to see out his police career and finish other projects. He wrote two successful books based on his undercover work and built his hospitality business from scratch in northeastern Victoria.
Nearly five years ago, he started on the JFK project. As a detective, he says, he was happy to go “where the evidence takes us”. He bought a 26-volume set of the official Warren Commission report. Then the 5000-page Assassination Records Review Board finding of 1993, which lifted secrecy provisions on material from 28 Government agencies.
It seemed clear that key players had strived to save the Secret Service huge embarrassment by hiding the fact that Kennedy’s brain (which vanished immediately after autopsy) had been pulped by one of their own bullets.
Book cover – JFK The Smoking Gun , Colin McLaren Source: Supplied
McLaren traced 22 witnesses who saw Kennedy shot. Ten had smelled gun smoke and 12 of them saw it at ground level near the Secret Service car. Hickey normally drove but had been handed the weapon because the security detail was shorthanded.
Witnesses revealed they had been intimidated and gagged before and during the Warren Commission hearings in 1964. But now they could tell all.
McLaren worked with a Canadian production house to film a documentary, which will be aired in North America and Australia (on SBS) next month to follow this week’s launch of his book JFK: The Smoking Gun. Hickey died in 2011, which makes it easier to tell the story without the fear of a lawsuit. Hickey had attempted to sue Mortal Error’s publishers but failed.
McLaren knows that the fact most Americans don’t believe the official account of the assassination does not guarantee they will “buy” what he calls his “brief of evidence”. But when he launches a three-week publicity tour of the US and Canada today (including the David Letterman show and a Wall Street Journal interview) at least he gets the chance to argue it was a fumbling accident, not a murky assassination conspiracy.
Diehard conspiracy theorists might consider the fact that in September 2006, a Secret Service agent accidentally fired his shotgun while guarding the visiting Iranian President. It would the Secret Service years to acknowledge that embarrassing fact, now the subject of a book.
Then there’s the scandal of the death of an all-American hero, the former NFL footballer Pat Tillman who became a patriotic poster boy for the Afghanistan campaign when he quit a $3 million football contract to join the army after the 9-11 attacks.
Tillman’s enlistment was such a public relations coup that when he was killed by a trigger-happy American soldier in 2004, the cover-up ran from his own commanders to the White House. Tillman’s family were lied to for months about who killed their son. Which would make perfect sense to the Secret Service bosses who apparently covered up George Hickey’s blunder for 50 years.
One thing is certain: guns go off in the darnedest ways and places. When Lee Harvey Oswald was a marine, he once accidentally shot himself in the leg with his service pistol.
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.
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.
The way of things to come?: Or are UFOs just a CIA conspiracy?
Ufology is a faith that includes many beliefs, from the oddly popular one about Nazi aliens who live under the ground to David Icke’s contention that the Duke of Edinburgh is in fact a shape-changing, blood-sucking alien lizard.
But here’s the core of the faith – that some UFO sightings and encounters are real, the U.S. government knows all about these extraterrestrial visitations, and they’ve mounted a huge conspiracy to keep the aliens secret and us in the dark.
This book threatens to demolish that faith. Because here Mark Pilkington sets out to prove that the U.S. government really has been conducting a top-secret UFO conspiracy – only one designed not to hide UFOs but publicise them, fuelling and even creating the major UFO myths. Flying saucers, alien abductions, crash-landed spacecraft, secret underground bases in New Mexico – they were all created by the U.S. government.
As Mark Pilkington immediately acknowledges, that might sound only marginally less ridiculous and emptily melodramatic than claiming that the Royal Family are actually alien reptiles. But he begins to build a pretty convincing case that U.S. agencies really have been conducting just such a long-running disinformation campaign to promote UFOs. And it does make sense.
UFOs make the perfect cover story to hide experimental aircraft from prying Russian eyes as well as those of their own citizens. Ufologists are a particular pest to U.S. Air Force security, for ever trying to root around their secret projects and hack into their systems – they need to be led up various extraterrestrial garden paths and far away from finding out about actual highly-classified experiments in weaponry or aircraft.
The Roswell Incident: were alien bodies really found?
Pilkington’s theory would certainly explain why so many of the key UFO sightings and events happen near U.S. Air Force bases – such as Roswell, home of the famous ‘incident’ when an alien craft was supposed to have crash-landed, with a couple of aliens aboard.
And why so many extraterrestrial spaceships seem to behave like the pilotless drones and stealth aircraft developed by the U.S. Air Force. And why flying saucers should first turn up at the start of the Cold War, just when the U.S. Air Force was beginning to experiment with exotic new types of flight.
According to Pilkington, the campaign to promote the idea of UFOs was masterminded in the Fifties by the head of the CIA, Allen Welsh Dulles. More recently, many of the leaked fake documents and bogus stories seem to have come from the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).
One victim of fake UFO documents evidently supplied by the American government was Timothy Good, whose international bestseller about supposed contact with aliens, Above Top Secret, included completely bogus papers planted in the American National Archives.
Another is George Adamski, an early fan of flying saucers whose bestselling books in the Fifties described his meetings with a chap called Orthon from Venus and his own trips in flying saucers.
I came across one of Adamski’s mad books in my local public library when I was a boy, and I remember being disturbed and perplexed – this was a book, a proper printed book, so all this stuff about going to Venus and meeting Venusians … it had to be real, didn’t it? Now, it seems Adamski was an innocent, eager dupe and that Orthon and the spaceships weren’t figments of his silly or venal imagination but real people and vehicles supplied by the CIA.
Fake spaceships, fake aliens, fake documents and even a fake underground alien base – it might all seem unduly elaborate and indeed expensive.
But the Americans certainly had the money for it, budgeting billions of dollars for the CIA’s black arts.
The Pentagon already had a good bash at that themselves, sponsoring a recruitment film of the Seventies, which claimed that UFOs were real and which included footage of a flying saucer landing at a U.S. Air Force base and a couple of aliens disembarking.
And that, you might think, is the Pentagon bang to rights. But at this point in the book, things begin to get even more complicated.
An AFOSI agent takes Pilkington aside and confides the real ‘truth’ – yes, there is a huge government conspiracy to produce a smokescreen of nonsense about UFOS, of course; however, it’s designed to hide not supersonic test-flights but … real UFOs.
Because, you see, by offering up a series of scary stories about UFO invasions and alien abductions, this will gradually desensitise the public to the eventual truth that the U.S. government really has been in contact with aliens.
Argh! Clearly, obviously, surely, this is more hokum, an attempt to exploit Pilkington with a slightly refined version of the same old stories – but he has previous as a Ufology believer and he can’t quite shake off the thrill of thinking that maybe, just maybe, an alien spaceship did crash-land at Roswell. That’s typical of a book that isn’t quite the rigorous hard-hitting investigation it could and should have been. Pilkington just about manages to hold on to his scepticism but ends with a spiel about nobody knowing for sure what the truth can be and Ufology being a murky, grey area.
No, no, no. There’s nothing grey about it. Either we have been visited by aliens and the American government is covering this up or we haven’t and it isn’t.
Either that debris at Roswell was part of a crashed flying saucer or it came from a test-flight that went wrong or a knackered high-altitude weather balloon. Either the Duke of Edinburgh is a blood-sucking alien reptile seeded from a distant star system or he is a human from Greece. So. What do you reckon? Great credit to Pilkington, though, for revealing who Orthon really was/ those aliens really are.
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:
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.”