Tuesday, 11 April 2017
The BBC on Sandy Hook Conspiracies and Donald Trump
“Shame and ridicule are most effective tools to detooth opposition to a theory or belief. You assume, in your opening sentence, the veracity of the Sandy Hook incident by clearly stating it was a massacre and in your next sentence you label all opposition to that theory as, get ready, here comes the coup de gras, 'conspiracy theory' - those dreaded words that immediately inform your fearful readers that they'd better be on board with your point of view or run the risk of being social outcasts...
You, sir, are intellectually dishonest and you, Mr. Murphy, are a COWARD of the first degree.... You are a disgrace to investigative journalism, you coward.”
- FranklyBen (In the comments section of my American Thinker article.)
Before writing this piece I had no particular interest in the Sandy Hook massacre. Indeed I could hardly recall it. However, I am interested in conspiracy theories from both a political and psychological point of view.
On the one hand, I'm convinced that most conspiracy theories are created to advance political goals and/or to sustain/backup pre-existing ideologies or political positions. On the other hand, inconvenient (or politically incorrect) theories are often conveniently classed as “conspiracies theories” simply because they advance something that's against the political status quo (or the government's “official narrative”).
The other thing about the Sandy Hook case, and the corresponding conspiracy theories, is how they've been represented by the media - in this case, by the BBC. To clarify, the BBC's piece (Sandy Hook to Trump: 'Help us stop conspiracy theorists') is actually more about the attempts - of various persons - to counteract the conspiracy theorists than it is about the Sandy Hook massacre itself.
To cite a quick example to begin with. The BBC tells us that X is connected to Y “who has been linked with President Donald Trump”. These tangential and often feeble connections are stated four times in this piece on the Sandy Hook massacre. Thus, just as we had Obama using the massacre to advance an anti-gun position; so we have the BBC today using the conspiracy theories about the massacre to advance an anti-Trump position.
Nonetheless, there's one line in this BBC piece piece which I agree with. The BBC says that conspiracy theorists “seize on small inconsistencies between initial news reports from the chaotic scene and the facts”. Perhaps that's why none other than Press TV (the media arm of the Iranian Islamist state) advanced its very own “anti-Zionist” conspiracy theory; which blamed "Israeli death squads" for the Sandy Hook shooting. (You can guarantee that the Jews - in some form or other - will be a major part of the majority of conspiracy theories.) Thus, just as Iran's conspiracy theory helped it advance its anti-Israeli cause; so minor and irrelevant anomalies are often used to advance conspiracy theory themselves (or most of them).
One Theory About the Massacre
The BBC concentrates on one of the leading conspiracy theorists (I'm of course begging the question here with those two words) about the Sandy Hook massacre. His name is Wolfgang Halbig. Mr Halbig says:
"I think it probably took them two, two-and-a-half years to write the scripts for all the participants that were invited to participate in that exercise - or drill as I will call it.”
What he doesn't say is how many people would have been involved in the hoax or conspiracy (excluding the “actors” he refers to). In this case one can only guess. I would suggest 5, 000 people or more. (How can one quantify this?) This is akin to those who would have needed to be in-the-know about a particular 9/11 conspiracy. According to David Aaronovitch (in his book Voodoo Histories), “a hoax [though he's referring to the 1969 moon landing] on such a grand scale would necessarily involve hundreds if not thousands of participants”. He goes on to write:
“There would be those who planned it in some Washington office; those in NASA who had agreed; the astronauts themselves, who would be required to continue with the hoax for the whole of their lives, afraid even of disclosing something to their most intimate friends at the most intimate moments; the set designers, the photographers, the props department, the security men, the navy people who pretended to be fish the returning spacemen...”
All this would, of course, depend on which hoax we're talking about.
Donald Trump and Sandy Hook
It's ironic that the BBC itself should use this story - which is about the political use of theories about events - to paint an anti-Trump picture (if quietly and tangentially). For example, the BBC tells us that that the theories of the conspiracists
“have been picked up by one of America's most popular conspiracy theorists, a man who has been linked with President Donald Trump”.
It then says that “their false theories have been repeated by a media mogul conspiracy theorist who has been linked to Donald Trump”. Not only that: the BBC also claims that “Sandy Hook residents are pleading with President Trump, asking him to speak out and help stop the madness”.
The BBC delivers an even more tangential snipe at Trump when it says that conspiracy theories “have been fuelled by America's deeply partisan political environment”. It's clear, from the rest of the text and the fact that so many other commentators have stressed this “partisan political environment”, that the BBC is talking about Trump's Presidency here. This is strange when we consider the numerous conspiracy theories about 9/11 alone; as well as the many conspiracy theories advanced by progressives/Leftists well before Trump assumed power (e.g., conspiracy theories about 9/11, Zionism/Mossad/Israel, “far-right terrorism”, capitalists conspiring behind the scenes, racism, the platonic Media, and Trump himself).
The BBC spends quite some time on Alex Jones, the host and founder of Infowars. Alex Jones, of course, is also linked to Trump. Jones, as quoted by the BBC, said:
"'Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn't believe it at first. I knew they had actors there clearly but I thought they killed some real kids, and it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.'"
Then comes a neat bit of BBC footwork. It tells us that “Jones, who did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, has also been linked to President Trump”. Yes, “in late 2015, Trump appeared on Jones's radio programme” - as he also appeared on countless other radio and TV shows! What's more, “[f]ormer Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone regularly appears on [Alex] Jones's show, and reportedly was the person who introduced the presidential candidate and the talk show host”.
Despite all that, the BBC does have the decency to say that “Trump has not endorsed the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, nor has he spoken about Jones's claims that the massacre was a hoax”. Yet if the BBC admits that's the case, then why has it made Trump the major subplot in its Sandy Hook piece?
Political Conspiracy Theories
In the introduction I claimed that conspiracy theories are invariably concocted to advance a political cause and/or sustain a political ideology (or set of political positions). In this case, many of the conspiracists think that the Sandy Hook massacre was a vast plot carried out by the government (of the United States) to legitimise or justify gun control. Now I feel uncomfortable about that because, if I were an American, I wouldn't be in favour of gun control. Nonetheless, I have a strong distaste for most conspiracy theories. And the fact that this particular one seems to rub dirt into the faces of both the dead and their living relations makes it even more objectionable. Then again, that dirt-rubbing can also be said about 9/11, the London bombings, Charlie Hebdo, etc. - all of which generated a large number of conspiracy theories. Not only that: virtually every conspiracy theory (as far as I see it) involves advancing political causes and sustaining ideologies.
Then again, theories aren't in themselves bad things. Indeed I would agree that some conspiracy theories are true or have been shown to be true. My own theory about this BBC article, for example, is that its primary purpose is to have yet another go at Trump. (The BBC has turned Trump-bashing into a sport.) I can't prove this because it's not really the kind of thing that can be proved; even if my theory is correct/true. As with the larger and more important conspiracies (such as those about 9/11), it's effectively impossible to either prove or disprove such theories; primarily because they're so open-ended and so many “auxiliary hypotheses” (Karl Popper's term for Marxism's endless qualifications) are brought in to counter conclusive counter-arguments and inconvenient facts. (More basically, proof only really belongs to the domains of mathematics and logic - and even here there are controversies!)
One final thing needs to be stressed.
There's a big difference between the following:
i) Rejecting the conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook massacre.
ii) Rejecting the claim that the government (of the time) used the incident to promote its own anti-gun laws.
In this case, Obama's government most certainly did use this terrible incident to advance its own anti-gun legislation.
This means that (particular) conspiracy theories helped promote and advance the pro-gun-owning position. And the massacre itself helped promote and advance (at least for Obama) the anti-gun-owning position.
Either way, we still have to contend with the many political interpretations and uses of the Sandy Hook massacre.