The murder of children and educators in Newtown, Conn., was a horrible, traumatic event. So naturally, the conspiracy theorists are now out in full force, claiming that it didn’t actually happen.
This may seem bizarre, but remember, there are plenty of people who still think that the Bush Administration blew up the World Trade Center so we could invade Iraq, which would make more sense if the Bush Administration had also managed to make the attack look like it was actually committed by Iraq. There are still people who believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, because no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. There are still people who think the Moon landing was faked. Heck, there are probably people who think that the Civil War was an elaborate hoax. Evidence doesn’t really matter to the conspiracy mongers.
Still, conspiracy theories can draw in unsuspecting people who don’t realize that they’re reading easily-debunked nonsense. We may not be able to convince the truthers that they’re wrong, but for those who are wondering, here are the three most obvious reasons they are.
1. Initial Reports are Often Contradictory and Chaotic
The first bit of evidence that the most-watched conspiracy video trumpets is the fact that early on, people thought there might have been a second or third shooter at the scene. This seems briefly damning, except for the fact that during moments of crisis, early reports are almost always contradictory.
The video makes much of a man detained by police, asking who the guy could possibly be, other than a potential second shooter? Well, the man in handcuffs trumpeted by the video was an off-duty police officer who was detained inadvertently during the initial police sweep. Why did police detain another police officer? Because in the midst of an attack on the school, the police were wading into an uncertain situation.
Similarly, the media rushed into the fore, and began pushing out a ton of information, much of it ultimately shown to be false. Why? Because in the middle of a shooting, there’s not a lot of time to sit down and start fact-checking. In military terms, this is the fog of war. Quite simply, when people are fighting to save lives — their own or others — people aren’t able to stop and carefully sift through evidence.
We can go down the line of the “inconsistencies” shown by the theorists. For example, some reports said that the shooter left his AR-15 in his car. He left a shotgun in the car instead. So were some initial reports wrong? Yes they were. But that doesn’t mean that there was a plot. Humans aren’t omniscient. Demanding that all evidence is correct right away is beyond our capabilities.
2. Google Is Not God
Another big point pushed by the conspiracy theorists is the fact that some websites related to the massacre are reported on Google as being set up a few days before the event happened. Damning! Or it would be, if Google’s dating system was infallible. It is not.
Certainly, you can believe that the Red Cross set up their donations website before the attack occurred if you want to. You can also use Google’s search feature to show you that one TV station had a story up about the attack way back in August. It’s possible that these nefarious actors have been planning this hoax for months, and put up world-readable websites early just for fun. It’s somewhat more likely that Google’s date algorithm is imperfect.
3. There is No “Right” Way For Grieving People to React
Everyone alive has had a moment where they found themselves laughing inappropriately at something. Our emotions do not have clean, defined boundaries, and at times of stress, people can react very differently than they are “supposed” to.
Most of us recognize this. Moreover, most of us understand that even in horror, life goes on. A joke can distract us from the pain for a moment; a memory of those we’ve lost can draw a smile, a chuckle, an outright joyous laugh. These reactions prove nothing, other than that a person is human.
The video makes much of shots of parents behaving “wrong” — chuckling, or recounting a memory without tears streaming down their faces. It points to the medical examiner, who chuckles nervously a few times, not a happy laugh, but a bitter one. It says, basically, that it is not possible for grieving people to behave this way.
That is an outright lie, and an offensive one at that. It has sparked claims that the parents, responders, and decent members of the community are all “crisis actors.”
Now, it’s possible that the conspiracy theorists are right. If so, hundreds if not thousands of residents of Newtown were in on a plot to claim that children were killed. The police in Newtown, the Connecticut medical examiner, and the FBI were working together with actors, who claimed to have kids at the school who did not exist. All the other parents with children at the school either knew that these parents were actors, or were fooled for years by actors with fake children living under deep cover. And not one of the many people in Newtown has come forward to give any evidence against this grand conspiracy.
Alternately, it’s possible that a disturbed young man, armed with a semiautomatic rifle, came to a school on a clear December day and slaughtered 26 children and educators. Initial reports were a bit confusing, but after sorting through them, we have a pretty clear picture of what damage an evil person with a gun can do.
One of those two scenarios is true. If you want to see a conspiracy around every corner, no evidence will dissuade you. If you want to see the world as it is, however, you have to accept the sad truth: kids were murdered in their classroom, and teachers died trying to protect them. I can understand why it’s nice to believe instead that it’s all a grand conspiracy; the truth is far, far worse.
Image Credit: torbakhopper
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