I’ve always had some sympathy for conspiracy theorists. I used to buy into a lot of these silly ideas about the government having secret contact with aliens and stuff. Even when I stopped believing in them, conspiracies like that were still interesting and exciting. And I have a measure of nostalgia looking back on those beliefs, not unlike a kid who has lost belief in Santa Claus and still loves Christmas.
I’ve taken my love of conspiracy theories and merged it with my love of comedy writing. It turns out that absurdity is a good resource for humor. But as I’ve gotten more involved in the skeptical movement, I’ve begun to see the worse parts of this “X-Files are totally real” approach to life. It started mild enough, such as when I lost interest in a woman I had a crush on because she started talking about how Barack Obama was part of the cabal that destroyed the World Trade Center. That was disappointing, but not rage inducing.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting however, a particularly awful conspiracy has begun floating around. Claims that the murders of that day never happened. That the grieving parents are in fact “crisis actors” paid by the government to play along with a charade. The supposed motive behind this conspiracy is that staging a horrific shooting will allow the Evil Empire to finally steal guns from law abiding citizens.
I’m not sure where I stand on gun control, but what kind of regulations you support is irrelevant to this issue. What I see with this conspiracy theory is that people are so enamored with their guns that they are willing to deny that the tragedy even took place, to insult parents who were forced to bury their children. If you have to invoke a conspiracy theory to bolster your political position, then your position is pretty goddamn weak.
Recently Salon highlighted some of these assholes’ actions against Gene Rosen, the retired psychologist who looked after six of the children who had fled the school. Rosen helped these kids at a time they desperately needed it. And this is the feedback he is getting from Sandy Hook Truthers:
“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?”
I can’t tell you how upset this makes me. I have a 6 month old son, and when I heard the news about Sandy Hook, I had to fight back tears. I couldn’t read about it without thinking about myself in that position. The thought of anything like that happening to Marcus makes me sick to my stomach. I wasn’t numb to these sorts of events before I became a father, but they hit me a lot harder now.
We have a moral obligation to be rational. This gets brought up often with regards to religion and alternative medicine, because we all encounter that in our daily lives with regularity. We tend to think of conspiracy theories as mostly harmless comparatively. I don’t think that anymore. This conspiracy theory is not fun. It is not harmless. It is vile and I have no sympathy for it.
I write a lot of jokes. Some of them are in this book.
I also host the podcast of the Skepchick events team, Some Assembly Required, and cohost the WWJTD Podcast.
You can also follow me on Facebook or that bird thing.