Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Disgusting conspiracy

When a young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school and shot multiple bullets into small children in a 1st grade classroom I could not fully believe it.  I checked to see if it was a town where a friend lived and it wasn’t, I moved on.  Later a colleague said a bunch of kids were shot.  I clicked into it and found some of the story.  Again, I didn’t believe it.  I wanted to think this was the cable news trying to rush news to air quickly and not accurately.  But that night when I saw the news, when I read the reports, when I heard local officials speaking about it, I believed.  In the days that followed I saw the deconstruction of what was again bad reporting, the number of guns, which ones, how many shooters, where it happened, who were the players.  This has become common in a culture where the news is always on and crisis news is the bread and butter of what passes for journalism on the internet and television.  Many news sources reported wildly inaccurate information as fact, but those mistakes were explainable by the sloppiness of the journalists.  However others saw it as sign of something nefarious. 
To my surprise, horror and shock there is an entire segment of the internet dedicated to what are being called Sandy Hook truthers.  That is right, like 9-11, there are people that almost immediately started calling the events a hoax.  There are many different theories.  One says that no one was killed and the parents and others in the news are actors citing, among other things, the way the parents acted in private moments caught on camera, or before speaking of their children.  The extent of this is to suggest no one is actually dead, again citing a photo of one of the victim’s sisters on the President’s lap asking if this isn’t the girl who was murdered.   One says that it was a government action, that it was CIA operatives who did the killing.  The reason for these?  The President wants gun control.  Oh course so does a majority of the country and while the numbers have gone up since Sandy Hook, this was not an issue on the President’s agenda.  But there it is.  My favorite conspiracy is that it was Mossad agents, attacking the United States to hurt the President for a number of things, including the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.  The idea being that Israel was upset that Hagel has had a real vocal past that some perceive as anti-Israel. 
Like most conspiracy theories a hidden bad guy has been uncovered by a tireless person by linking together a variety of factoids, strange coincidences and outright falsehoods.  In these stories about Sandy Hook wild accusations are leveled based on the thinnest of evidence, but that is always true for a conspiracy yarn.  But there is something that I can only say is sinister about these people who are promoting these so-called theories.  The one about Israel is par for the course.  In the last 2000 years Jews have been blamed from everything from the fall of Rome to the plague to 9-11 to Hurricane Katrina.  I think the fact that a 6 year old Jewish kid was killed was the only thing that didn’t have a whole slew of people saying that the Jews were warned.   But that is not the worst of it.  The one thing about some of the conspiracy theorists is how comfortable they are attacking the people who lost children.  In many of the videos on the net there are claims that the families of the victims are paid actors and the evidence is the way they mourn, they way they talk and the fact they smile.  One person actually says that it is no way that a person who lost their child would act.  How would this guy know?  Seriously is there a book that could teach him that?  And if that was all there was it would be horrible but there is a weirder part of these theories.  In a video that has over 10 million hits one guy suggests that one of the children killed, Emilie Parker, isn’t dead and that her wake, funeral and grave are all a hoax.  In fact the evidence is a picture of the President meeting with the family.  A child on the lap of the President looks like Emile and is wearing the same dress from a photo pulled from the families online photo album.  Now it is clear to anyone the picture is of Emilie’s younger sister who also had the same style of dress, but for the conspiracy theories.  Their need for special knowledge does not allow for them to practice common decency and now if you Google Emile’s name the first several hits are questioning whether she is still alive.  So to be clear, the parents of a dead child are not only being questioned about their emotions on camera but the memory of their dead daughter will always be tainted by the fact that so many people will continue to believe she is still alive, hidden from view and being exploited for some kind of policy goal.  I can’t even imagine. 
There was a time when this kind of stuff was roundly rejected by ordinary people.  It wasn’t that long ago when these kinds of reactions were met with more skepticism especially when it involved the death of ordinary citizens.  But massive distrust of government, the news and of course each other has led to a rampant paranoia that finds a home on the internet and is perpetuated by massive ignorance coupled by the ability to distill massive information of into whatever we want it to say.   Conspiracy has become mainstream, be it Donald Trump’s birtherism, Wayne LaPierre’s ignorant zealotry, or even the members of Congress who repeat lies about things like the Affordable Care Act.  We must reject this, wherever it comes from.  Ten million people watched this disgusting video, if all who saw it for what it was told two friends to respond we could make it go away.  But even more so we must do the same when a member of a lobbying group, or political campaign or member of Congress lies.  As I finish this up I am watching Mr. LaPirerre lie about the President to the NRA.  I look forward to someone taking this clown apart, he is no better than the person to made the video and gun owners should feel ashamed. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Right Wing Noise Machine

The recent gun debate and re-election of the President has really empowered the right wing noise machine on radio and Fox News.  This new energy after the pathetic defeat of the ideals they hold dear in the last elections has sparked many posters on Facebook, Twitter and Internet message board clogging them with lies and some times with simple filth.  Attacks on anyone, even a fellow member of the right, who dares suggest that talking about gun restrictions, have polluted the airwaves pitting former friends against each other.  The stunning thing to me is the number of sheer ridiculous statements made about an incredibly important and dangerous issue facing our country.

Guns are part of the American culture and history.  Guns were important to the colonial survival and industry.  Guns helped to win the fight for independence and over power the British.  It was guns that allow explorers to have the confidence to move west.  While not all encounters driving by personally owned guns were ethical, moral and righteous, guns did help settle the west even beyond the mythology that we think happened.  Guns are not going away and no one who is serious wants all guns to go away.  But you see there is a place to discuss what guns can exist in private hands, how many rounds one should be able to shoot without reloading and how much the government and law enforcement should know about who is owning guns.

The National Rifle Association, that speaks for the gun industry (though the profess to speak for gun owners) came out a week after the shooting as Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 kids between 5-7 years old were murdered with 6 adults and concluded the guns were not the problem and we should put arm guards in schools.  Problem solved.  Thank you Mr. LaPierre.  Except we know armed guards can help and might be a good solution for part of it but it is not the only answer.  In fact a armed guard traded fire with Columbine shooter Eric Harris and weeks later then the NRA was meeting with Vice-President Joe Biden to discuss solutions, an armed student injured 2 people at a school with an armed guard.  At the very same moment.  The NRA would have you believe that we have no business talking about the weapons used and their minions both in Congress and on the radio repeated their words.

Now that the President has released his first volley in a series of executive orders and New York State has passed a series of laws there is more craziness.  The NRA has released an ad that has been universally called disgusting as it brings the President's children into the equation and of course the Tea Party members are calling for impeachment.  Ah, everything old is new again.  But there is some cracking in the Republican wall.  Many are saying that some regulations on clips and types of guns are necessary as are some high profile generals like some guy named Colin Powell and another Stanley McCrystal.  Of course the noise machine has attacked them.  Steve Doocey at Fox even seemed to forget he was Secretary of State at one time in an attack on him.

One guy however took the new energy of the right to a new level.  Alex Jones started a petition to deport Piers Morgan, a British National on CNN who is an outspoken advocate on gun control.  Jones is a special kind of crazy and the perfect foil for Morgan, who has the journalistic integrity of Rita Skeeter.  Jones, a conspiracy nut who loves to hear himself scream, has been know to hijack movements he agrees with if he isn't in the front of the line.  So he went on the show and deliciously lost his shit for the whole world to see.  We heard revolution, 9-11 was an inside job, the grassy knoll and all manner of ridiculous notions.  In the end I needed a shower and Morgan needed a Xanax.  It was funny, it was nuts and it was par for the course.

What was interesting is the next day a members of the right wing noise machine elite, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck weighed in on Jones trying to distance themselves from him.  Both suggested that the left was making Jones the story and Hannity even said on his show he had to "look him up".  But what is amazing is that for years Jones attacked Hannity regularly and was a bit of a regular on Hannity's former partner Alan Colmes' radio show often attacking Sean.  You would think that someone would have told him about it.  Also the incestuous nature of the noise machine means he would have to be so detached from his profession as to be exactly what some have thought, just a puppet of someone else.  Hannity and Beck both are trying to distance themselves from Jones and while I agree they are not cut from the same cloth they are all in the same section of JoAnn's.

Joe Scarborough, a conservative MSNBC host and a constant critic of the failures of the GOP and a lifetime A+ rated NRA guy lost it.  He came out in favor of some kind of gun reform that included restrictions on large clips and so-called assault weapons. (Yes I know that is a political term)  He was called all manner of things by others of his own party and conservative ideology.  In fact I think they had to change their handshake and not tell him.  It is amazing, here a voice of an attempt at reason and middle ground is attacked.  While Joe doesn't care, he makes money being himself and isn't running for office it is a bit crazy that his body of work, carrying right wing water and trying to help the party is ignored because he simply ask the GOP to consider restrictions.  

What is amazing is the clear lack of self-reflection on the part of the noise machine. Anyone who tears the curtain down and shows just how crazy the noise machine has become is savaged. Anyone who comes close to thinking for themselves and going off the reservation are savaged.    When outrageous statements are made by the NRA or elected officials there is constant justifying.

I believe in the right to bear arms, I believe that it is not only about hunting and target shooting, and I believe we must do more than just go after guns.  But we must have a serious discussion about certain types of weapons and clips and perhaps make them less ubiquitous.  But the bigger issue in this discussion and many discussions is that we have become a country driven by a noise machine and that I think is far more dangerous in the long run than any AR-15.

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