Why Sandy Hook and Related Conspiracy Theories Are a Detriment to Alternative Media's Credibility
By Mikhail Bakunin / filmsforaction.org

The Sandy Hook conspiracy can no longer claim censorship by the mainstream media as one of its articles of evidence. Sandy Hook 'truthers' can now find their claims mentioned and addressed in dozens of articles online, and in some TV coverage. The best written response I've found so far addressing the claims can be read here and watched here. Yet rather predictably, the reception has not been positive.

This article is one example of the fall-out. Below I've listed a half-dozen more. It is the inevitable product of so many Facebook pages and conspiracy-tolerant alternative media websites lacking any of the journalism ethics that gives news the potential to be reliable. As I witnessed first hand, following the posting activities of dozens of Facebook pages from the day of the tragedy up to today, a personally alarming number of media activists picked up and promoted virtually every theory or question that has circulated on the internet, regardless of its factual credibility. Not even a day went by without people alleging that it was a false-flag event staged as a pretext for the government to seize our guns.

There are now dozens of articles on the mainstream web tearing these questions, easily refutable claims and theories to shreds, lumping in the "Sandy Hook Truthers' with 9/11 Truthers and Birthers, which only further reinforces the public's disdain of 'truther' perspectives and makes legitimate truths about our country more difficult to consider and accept. Furthermore, it delegitimizes the alternative media which promotes these theories and makes the mainstream media look more credible by having these basic fact-checking standards in place to filter out the nonsense.

On top of the disdain, however, is also disgust, because the truthers are effectively calling the people mourning the loss of loved ones liars and fakers. This cannot possibly help build a wider movement of resistance against legitimate problems.

I know many people on Facebook that have shared content like this so they may disagree and may be offended by this. But I'm concerned that the lack of anyone offering a dissenting opinion within some activist Facebook page networks is creating a band-wagon or group-think effect that is going to collectively harm our movement in the end. It's creating a slippery slope where the only acceptable conduct within the group is to question everything, and if you draw a line anywhere, then you're not radical enough.

If you try to debunk a claim, you get attacked for trying to stymie an honest search for the truth. Or you get called a sheeple. This atmosphere can be dangerous for the intellectual health of a group, because it ultimately lets the most extreme voices lead the way. It is a group-think mentality that silences dissenting or moderate voices, further reinforcing the mindset of the whole. I've seen this occur within the Infowars/Alex Jones culture, where it's pretty much heresy to say, "No, this wasn't a false-flag. Not everything is a conspiracy." But this can't be surprising since Infowars is pretty much the factory of origin for virtually all new conspiracy theories.

Ironically, the lasting effect of this pattern is a new group of "sheeple." They aren't the mainstream sheep anymore, but have grown into a new culture of alternative, conspiracy-oriented sheep. They see conspiracy in every event, because every event can be reverse-engineered by logic to appear to be fitting some larger narrative. (A mass gun shooting will prompt gun legislation discussion hence the gun shooting was manufactured as an excuse for legislation - and yes, prior examples of true problem-reaction-solution strategy only adds fuel to the fire.) But where does it end?

When will truthers develop the self-discipline and restraint to say: "There is sufficient evidence that *this* event was a false-flag event (Golf of Tonkin), and *this* event was, at very least, allowed to happen (9/11), but this one wasn't, this one wasn't, and neither were any of these."

For conspiracy-activists to retain or regain any credibility (which is difficult enough, and may be impossible at this point), they absolutely must learn to practice this level of critical thinking and discernment, and to speak up when they see their peers going over-board. Yes, from a great deal of knowledge-seeking we have reached a common conclusion (the government is corrupt and will readily use violence to protect the interests of American empire), but how can we ensure that we don't fall into the trap of fitting every event to match our current conclusion?

This is the trap many bloggers and sites fell into. Posters hit the share button or wrote their articles or posted their videos without thorough fact-checking or critical analysis of alternative explanations because the conspiracy explanation confirms the narrative these groups are promoting. It's more fuel for a willing audience which has already been primed for this perspective and is equally able to digest it, trusting the source to have done some fact-checking or simply believing because it confirms their narrative about the world as well.

Rather cynically, a new conspiracy is like red-meat for the conspiracy crowd in the same way that trashing Obama is red-meat for any conservative stump speech. It fuels page views and creates group solidarity among the 'in-crowd,' sheepily agreeing with each other while mocking the mainstream sheep for not being able to see what seems so obvious to them.

However, I just want to throw out one strategic question to conspiracy advocates: if the narrative we can both agree on is true (most generally, that the American government is a corrupt and criminal system of power -- a conclusion, I should add that requires not one conspiracy to hold true) should we really need any questionable examples to make our point? If our narrative is true, what is the value of promoting these theories to the public, when the consequence of being wrong is a serious blow to our credibility and the marginalization of our movement in the eyes of the public?

If our narrative is true, I don't think we should need or want to rely on *any* questionable ideas. We should have ample evidence, indisputable evidence which is echoed by leading intellectuals and organizations in the movement. This is the information we should focus on to sway normal folks to more radical conclusions about the world. Because if we have a strong case, we need to use the strongest arguments. One weak argument can be seized on by defenders of the status quo, laughed off as crazy and used to shut people's ears to anything else we have to say. And unfortunately, this is *exactly* what is happening, and it only gets worse with every new half-baked theory that gets traction on the web.

Accepting the truth about our increasingly militarized and corrupt oligarchical American empire is already a difficult enough truth to swallow for most people, and that's why most people still haven't accepted it.

We shouldn't give people any excuse to dismiss this already disturbing idea. Because ultimately what we need is a critical mass of well-informed people that can further influence a majority of our country until true change becomes unavoidable. We've got to try to avoid all the detours and distractions along the way, staying focused on the core information until these values and ideas have made their way into every institution of society from the bottom up: from our education to the media to our economics to our politics.

I realize this can be difficult. Even with a lot of less sensational topics, not of the conspiracy variety, I find myself getting distracted, promoting information which really isn't that relevant to my core awareness-raising goals. And again and again, it can be too easy to focus on problems while not giving enough attention to solutions and the effort to implement them. That said, we're all learning as we work to "become the media."

Hopefully a lively discussion about this can help sharpen all of our media-literacy skills and strategic thinking, and we can help support each other with what really matters: realizing our vision of the just and sustainable future that we all basically share in common.

To do that though, we need to drop the conspiracies.

 

More examples:
  

http://www.salon.com/2013/01/18/your_comprehensive_answer_to_every_sandy_hook_conspiracy_theory/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/sandy-hook-conspiracy-theory-video-debunked_n_2487427.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular#slide=1502035

http://www.salon.com/2013/01/16/newtown_truthers_where_conspiracy_theories_come_from/singleton/

http://www.businessinsider.com/sandy-hook-shooting-conspiracy-theories-2013-1

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/gene-rosen-sandy-hook-conspiracy-155033813.html

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/15/16529522-grandfather-who-comforted-sandy-hook-elementary-kids-says-truthers-are-targeting-him?lite

http://gawker.com/5969532/the-insane-sandy-hook-conspiracy-theories-that-are-already-flooding-facebook-and-twitter

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/newtown-libor-hunger-games-theories.php

 

Video that addresses multiple conspiracy claims:

Best Thorough Written Response addressing the claims.

Second Best written summary addressing conspiracy claims.

B
est video summarizing claims. 

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Why Sandy Hook and Related Conspiracy Theories Are a Detriment to Alternative Media's Credibility