Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Paranoid Conspiracy

It always amazes me how easily people will believe in even the stupidest things.    The latest and saddest one to date is by the "Truthers" who believe that the whole Sandy Hook Massacre is a hoax because they have uncovered conflicting accounts from witnesses and police accounts to lead them to believe that the entire tragedy was created to take guns away from law abiding citizens.   Their smoking gun includes a photo of a six year old girl named Emilie Parker who was reported as one of the Sandy Hook victims who was later seen in a photo with President Obama wearing the same dress that she wore in a different photo.   The reality for those supposed "truthers" is that the girl with the President is Emily's sister who looks like her and she just happened to be wearing the same dress her sister wore possibly as a way to feel connected to her.   For them, it proves that the President is in on the conspiracy and is using it to further his political agenda.  Forget that if that was true, it would be very sloppy for the President to be seen with someone who was assumed dead, but for those want to believe in the unbelievable, nothing is impossible and the truth that's out there is the one they manufacture. 

The "truthers" would be easily dismissed if they were just a group of whack jobs who congregated in basements or in chatrooms and kept on writing weird letters to the National Enquirer editors.   But unfortunately in this electronic age, they have unleashed their collective fury on people we would consider heroes of the Newtown tragedy.  Somehow by harassing people like Gene Rosen they feel righteously indignant at the possible fall-out of Sandy Hook - which in their minds includes the repeal of the Second Amendment.  Rosen, who lived just one-eighth of a mile away from the school, found six shell shocked kindergardeners on his lawn and offered them food and comfort.  He is now the subject to terrible harassment for this kindness.  These "truthers" have set up  false websites and Facebook pages that suggest that Rosen is a pedophile or an actor looking to be in the movies.   These paranoid people will stop at nothing to discredit those they see as threats even if it proves to everyone else the extent of their lunacy.    A few YouTube videos that uses some of these "truths" have gotten anywhere from 45,000 to over a million views.    I'd like to think the bulk of these views are from people who are outraged at the hoax implication but why do I think most of the views are from like-minded nut bars who need to prove that their crazy theory is true.  It's a sad state of affairs but then conspiracy theories are not new — and for those that are easily duped into believing them, the simple truth does not hold the mystique that an elaborate hoax does.   Think about it - first there was Hurricane Sandy and then the tragedy took place at Sandy Hook - both incidents in the same part of the country within weeks of each other -  somehow it has to be related, right? 

Of course, President Obama has been plagued by another set of crackpots called the "Birthers" who insist that he was not born in this country even after he submitted both this birth certificate and his long form birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii and is a legal citizen worthy of being elected.   It's interesting that 13% of Americans still believe that he was not born here -  of that number, 23% of them are Republicans.   However, the problem with paranoid conspiracy theorists is that no matter how many actual facts you throw their way, they will find a way to dismiss it as forgery.   There are lawsuits trying to block the President's inauguration as illegal or even suing John Roberts, the Chief Supreme Court Justice who will swear him in.  It would seem that after two resounding wins in 2008 and 2012 that those "birthers" would be silenced and realize they are in the minority because the rest of America is not buying their level of crazy.   But alas, the more the reality of a second Obama term is coming to fruition the more these people want to vehemently deny it because the rest of us "just don't get it".  In their minds, he was obviously born in Kenya.  The talking head of this movement has been Donald Trump, a rich man who has a vested interest in defeating President Obama both for publicity and political reasons.   His constant demand for documents which are produced, authentic and certified never seem to satisfy him - because like many conspiracy theorists, anything can be forged.   You will never know the truth until it's admitted publicly.   Interestingly enough, Macy's and NBC are standing by him, possibly to allow consumers and viewers who are not in the majority of his viewpoint to vote with their wallets.  If The Apprentice ratings are dismal (which my guess is they will be this season) he will be cancelled, ironically with his own tagline - "It's not personal, it's business."   

What's interesting in the minds of those that believe in conspiracies is that if they believe in one conspiracy, they will likely believe in multiple ones even if they contradict each other according to an article on  "They're explained by the overarching theory that there is some kind of cover-up, that authorities are withholding information from us," said Karen Douglas, a study researcher and reader in the school of psychology sciences at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. "It's not that people are gullible or silly by having those beliefs. … It all fits into the same picture."  In the first of two experiments, Douglas and colleagues asked 137 students to rate how much they agreed with five conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in 1997.  "The more people were likely to endorse the idea Princess Diana was murdered, the more they were likely to believe that Princess Diana is alive," explained Douglas. "People who thought it was unlikely she was murdered were also unlikely to think she did not die."  

Of course not all conspiracies are make-believe.  The attacks on 9/11 were coordinated by a group of terrorists who wanted to kill the most number of Americans that they could.   Their coordination of the attacks were by definition a "conspiracy."  However, the conspiracy folks would have you believe that that Bush administration knew and allowed it to happen or even coordinated the attacks so they could invade Iraq. If that were the case, wouldn't they have done a better job coordinating the size and scope of the war?  Eleven years of fighting is a long time to be mired on a conflict that was manufactured by "big government."  Obviously the conspiracy folks have a greater confidence that our government is efficient enough to hide the facts for over a decade with brilliant accuracy than I do.  Have you ever had to deal with the federal government to correct a tax issue or to get a name change for your Social Security?   Good luck getting it corrected the first or even the fifth time.  The reality is that our government bureaucracy is not set up for that kind of collusion.  I mean really you can't expect thousands of government workers to keep those secrets under wraps - it would be impossible.  Yet, for conspiracy experts the government is all knowing so it's all plausible. 

A prime example that the government simply would not be able to handle a huge conspiracy is Watergate.   The whole scandal started out simply enough - a few burglars broke into the  Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington in June 1972 during the course of the Presidential Campaign to wiretap the headquarters.   The original five were arrested but their arrests led a FBI investigation which led to the White House and President Nixon recording key conversations that would implicate him and eventually led the way for his impeachment.  On August 9, 1974, Nixon took to the airwaves and resigned.  Later his Vice President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon.  Keep in mind, this was back before there was the internet and thousands of places to keep information - yet Nixon was brought down by the dogged fact finding of two Washington Post reporters.   After Nixon's resignation and subsequent investigations, 48 people were found guilty of the cover-up.  While many different branches were implicated including the CIA, in the end, all the President's men fell including Nixon himself.   Yes, there was a conspiracy, but it started to fall apart almost immediately after it began.   

The Kennedy Assassination is another topic that is ripe for a full on Government or Mafia conspiracy.   How could Lee Harvey Oswald have acted alone to kill the President?  It seems impossible for it to be so random - it must have had to be something more - part of a larger plot because that one moment changed the course of history.  History should not change because to the act of one insane individual.  It had to have been a plot - there are just too many contradictions.  Yes, there are conflicting witness reports but ask any detective about trying to piece together a crime scene and they will tell you that it's not unusual for there to be wide variety of differences in witness accounts.   The third shot that was captured on film was more than likely the exit wound and not a fourth shot from a second shooter.   Jack Ruby killed Oswald within days after the assassination - surely that must have been part of the plot.  All indications are that Jack Ruby also acted alone.  The movie JFK perpetuates many of the myths and actually adds more for dramatic effect.  Filmmakers like Oliver Stone feel that it must have been a conspiracy because Kennedy was going to pull troops out of Vietnam and if that had happened the war would have ended.  All those young soldiers would still be alive.  Someone must have ordered the murder to prevent that from happening.  If Kennedy had lived, Stone would not have gone to see the horrors he witnessed as a young man serving in Vietnam and documented in his film Platoon.  His friends would not have died in that horrible place.   The government had to be behind the President's murder that extinguished Stone's own youthful innocence because the universe cannot be that random and cruel - and yet sadly, sometimes it is. 

I was discussing the content of this blog with my 12 year son and told him that there are some people who would dismiss Sandy Hook as a hoax because they see conspiracies in everything, including things like Global Warming, 9/11 and the death of Princess Diana.  I took the Devil's advocate role when he tried to explain that global warming is real.   My answer for all the photos that he tried to show me of the Polar Ice caps melting was that they were forged and unless he had been there himself to witness it, he had no definitive proof to offer that it was real.   I could see him getting frustrated even though he knew that we were role playing.   Later when we were getting ready to go to church and I couldn't find my keys or make-up, I jokingly attributed it to a conspiracy.   It was meant as a joke but then I realized that if you see the world as full of plots and conspiracies, you don't really have to take responsibility for how messed up your life is because there is some puppet master making sure you don't get to where you need to go.  Your relationships fall apart because those around you don't possess the same level of understanding that you do or they are part of the plot to undermine you.  Your search for the truth will never end because the truth you are looking for was never there to begin with. 

So for those that bought into the Mayan Apocalypse and now have a whole basement full of rations much like the ones you had for Y2K, sorry things did not work out.  To those that think the government is watching us through our DVRs or tracking us via our driver's licenses, I would suggest that if you are going to turn over any more rocks looking for plots, try going to an actual park with real rocks where real human beings are taking in the sun and enjoying life.   You'll hear children laughing and feel sunshine basking on your face.   You might even remember a time before the world became a cold sinister place.   However, if it does make you feel any better, I will admit that there is someone who is after you.  They are closer then you think - I mean really, really close.  Just get up slowly and go into the bathroom and take a good hard look in the mirror.   You'll find that the truth is staring right back at you because if all you can believe in are conspiracies, you are easy to manipulate.  People like Donald Trump who perpetuate these crazy theories know that.  Don't get paranoid though, it's not personal - it's business. 

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