Conspiracy theories can be attractive because they help us make sense of senseless acts; but they are rarely the truth. Large conspiracies are just too tough to hide from the public. Recently I have seen some Newtown massacre conspiracies start to surface. I watched a bit of an online video cobbled together with news footage and content from a popular conspiracy webpage. I am not going to mention either because I don’t want to give them any more attention.
It is very easy to pull news clips and assemble information to make almost any case. I watched about 7 minutes of aforementioned video so I can’t comment on all of it. In the aftermath of events like Newtown everyone in the media is trying to present as much info as possible and that leads to some sloppy news gathering where lots of things are reported that aren’t true. For example: the naming the shooter as the brother and that the shooter was wearing body armor and his mother was a teacher at the school. I will mention one example from the video; the director asserts that the rifle reportedly used by the shooter was pulled from the trunk of the car and then shows video of a rifle being held over a trunk. We don’t see any context other than the assertion of the director. Could this be a police gun- sure. Could it be the gun used by the shooter, taken from the scene after processing and in the process of being unloaded and secured for transport- of course. The viewer doesn’t know and the director fills that void with an assertion. The director then shows the medical director reporting that most of the injuries were cased by the rifle. Conspiracy theories like this usually rest on creating confusion and showing gaps and problems in the official stories. They don’t have to build a logical case showing all the motives and addressing all the facts. They just pick and choose selectively finding “facts” that support their assertions. With the explosion of information in modern society it is easy to find “facts” some of which aren’t even somewhat true and other that are taken out of context or distorted.
In order to buy into a conspiracy at Newtown you’d have to have a tremendous amount of co-conspirators and they would all need to be quiet. Tremendous scrutiny is placed on these events and the news media loves uncovering deception or conspiracy of any kind. Consider Watergate or the Clinton- Monica Lewinsky affair, far fewer people were involved and the truth came out. It is also notable that the “news media” is bigger and more diverse than ever before and not controlled by a few powerful corporations that could be compromised. Some might argue that some “news” media is reporting the conspiracy- but that only bolsters my point. The fringe story doesn’t go beyond that step. Matt Drudge a fringe blogger at the time uncovered the Lewinsky affair but then the story spread quickly to all the media precisely because it had validity.
Conspiracy theories exist for 911, the JFK shooting, MLK shooting and virtually every major news event. I used to buy into at least a bit of the JFK shooting theories but after years of examining the full evidence and seeing re enactments I am convinced that Oswald acted alone and that the official story is true. Thankfully we have many others who make it their business to attack conspiracy theories such as Snopes and Popular Mechanics which addressed the 911 conspiracies.
Another common conspiracy theory is what I will call the Corporate conspiracy. Corporations are by their nature less open than government and they do tend to have more consolidated power at the top making conspiracies more possible. With the GMO (Genetically Modified Organism; typically seeds) debate in full swing a common conspiracy I hear is that Monsanto and the government both know that GMO food is dangerous but are in league together to continue promoting the products for money. In order to buy into this you have to believe that literally thousand of geneticists and scientists including medical doctors are all willing participants knowingly hurting people. You also have to believe that somehow Monsanto has enough money to maintain this influence over government which monitors and approves its’ products. Lets look at some numbers; Monsanto had 13.5 billion in revenue last year and a market cap (total value of all shares) of about 50 billion, according to opensecrets.org they spent 4.7 million in 2012 on lobbying which is about their average. Monsanto is a big powerful company with lots money to spend but when you compare it to the power of the federal government it seems trivial. Our government spends about 10.5 billion every day or 3,700 billion a year. I want to make clear that corruption does exist and it is likely that Monsanto does have some influence over some regulators. It is also clear though that there are strong interests opposing Monsanto and corporations in general. Many in government are naturally inclined to be anti corporate especially in regulatory positions.
It is also clear that you can believe that GMO food is bad without believing in any of these conspiracies. Conspiracy theories provide cover from a real debate on the science and evidence. It has been said when the facts are with you lean on the facts and when the facts are not bang on the table. Many times ideas and philosophies are emotionally driven and we are inclined to buy into conspiracies that support our ideas.
I am not asserting that all conspiracies are wrong. There are some very well documented conspiracies in history. Many of these come from totalitarian regimes and are well known and exposed quickly even in closed societies. There have also been corporations who have made big mistakes and tried to cover them up for a time it is logical to assume that some conspiracies have never been exposed. When a conspiracy is proposed I look at the merits and the evidence. The truth tends to come out in time and in modern society that time frame is shorter than ever before due to the speed that information moves.
Leaders do use tragedies for political purposes. Former White House chief of staff and current mayor of Chicago: Rahm Emmanuel is famous for saying: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” The current administration is using Sandy Hook to advance an anti gun rights agenda. I don’t question their intentions, I think they mostly believe what they are doing is good for all just as those of us who favor more gun rights use Sandy Hook to call for our ideas of meaningful change.
I am not naive; the powerful must be watched and monitored closely. This particular administration has been deceptive and the 9-11 Libya attack and Fast and Furious debacle are examples of that.
Suggesting a Sandy Hook government conspiracy is illogical and just not feasible in our relatively open society.