Recently, Florida Atlantic University fired an associate professor who, in his blog, radio show and classroom lectures insisted that the 2012 murders of 20 children and 6 staff members at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown Connecticut was either planned and carried out by the government or staged entirely. The professor, James Tracy, is not alone in this belief. There are, apparently, thousands of others who share his point of view.
Does this conspiracy theory have anything in common with other theories that accuse higher powers and authorities with crimes and cover-ups?
As far as some of the Newtown conspiracy theorists are concerned, some Federal agency (possibly in collusion with local authorities) either assigned or hired one or more people to do the shootings or somehow manipulated some local psychopath (in Newtown it was Adam Lanza) to do it.
And for those who believe it was staged (as some people believe the church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina and the recent mass murder in San Bernardino California were staged), that means there were no shots, no screams, no blood, no wounded, no bodies, and no families and communities sent into shock and mourning. It’s all a fake.
It’s impossible for me to imagine that anyone actually living in these places believes this delusion. I think it must be people who live at a distance or spend their lives on The NET who believe such things. I doubt that Professor Tracy ever visited the scenes of these murders, but I don’t know for sure. He’s got a blog called Memory Hole, on which, by the way, he also talks about his firing and the conspiracy behind that.
Why would the government commit or invent these crimes? Simple—they did it to further a political agenda; specifically, the mass confiscation of all firearms. And, secondarily, to fuel the great (and legitimate) fear of terrorism so that they (the government) could increase their police powers.
…There have always been conspiracy theories.
The general public tends to dismiss them as unbelievable and just plain crazy because most of us, by training and instinct, find it hard to imagine that our own government (who are, after all, human beings like the rest of us) would act in a way that violated universally accepted standards of morality—and our most basic laws—then lie about it, just so they could keep secrets, increase their power, or lead us into a war.
Here are just a couple of random examples of conspiracy theories:
(A note here— I don’t want to automatically suggest that a conspiracy theory is inherently the product of group mental derangement. In my life I’ve seen that, given enough time, investigative effort, and persistent opposition, conspiracy theories that at first appeared to be completely improbable can come to be accepted as historical truth).
…The most important in recent times is, of course, 9/11. You could reasonably argue that much of what has happened to the USA in the last fifteen years, both domestically and internationally, has some of its roots in what happened on that awful day.
That it did happen—there’s no doubt. The buildings came crashing down and almost three thousand people were killed in three separate incidents that day. How it happened, who did it, and why, have been the subject of violent debates since the minute flames shot out of the windows of the first tower.
The government’s agenda this time would be to gain strategic military and political advantage in the Middle East, extend control over oil and gas reserves, and aid in the expansion of the American empire.
This next example is somewhat dated now but there are people who believe—despite a live TV broadcast seen all over the world—that American astronauts never walked on the moon in 1969. NASA created a mock-up of what the landing would be like, and this was used to train the astronauts. As the theory goes, this mock-up served as the backdrop for the TV broadcast. The reason for the fraud? We were in the “space race” with the Soviets and NASA was always looking for ways to get more money.
Then there’s “Area 51” in Nevada. This is a part of Edwards Air Force base, since WW2 a highly restricted location where secret weapons and aircraft have been developed. A lot of people believe that this is where the U.S. government hides crashed Alien spaceships and, perhaps, Aliens themselves. (As always, popular culture abounds with references to many modern “myths”… See the movie, Independence Day). The reason for this subterfuge is keeping advanced technology, weapons, and contact with other forms of life a secret from the general public.
…There are books about Franklin Roosevelt and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The theory is that Roosevelt (and select aides and military personnel) knew that attack was coming—even where and when—but they let it happen or even facilitated it because Roosevelt and the group around him wanted to push the USA into WW2.
That we would eventually be in the war, fighting the Japanese and the Germans, was inevitable. But at the time isolationism was a very strong force in the country and the Roosevelt wanted to overcome the natural resistance Americans had always felt (at least back then) about getting entangled in “foreign” wars (as if we weren’t already a world power with an empire to go with it). So, the theories go, he colluded in the attack on Dec. 7th 1941.
…The most famous conspiracy theory of my generation (I was in my teens then) was the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Who was behind it, how was it carried out and would the true facts ever see the light of day? These questions obsessed large portions of the public for a long, long time. And just two years ago they popped up again when the country marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
The Warren Commission investigation and final report was full of secrecy and contradictions and the doubts about it overlapped with America’s tragic involvement in Vietnam. You could almost say that The Sixties (with its generation’s profound distrust of the government) began—along with the Civil Rights movement—with JFK’s assassination and what followed soon afterward.
There are plenty of motives suggested here. Kennedy was known to be reluctant to participate in the Bay of Pigs attack in Cuba, Lyndon Johnson hated him, as did the Mafia, the Dulles brothers and J. Edgar Hoover. Also, there were rumors that JFK was considering pulling US “advisors” out of Vietnam, thus preventing the U.S. invasion.
So, we have various conspiracy theories, all involving the government, and all located somewhere on the continuum of delusion and proven fact.
However, what is not a delusion or a theory is that various government administrations (and large corporations, which, in America have always been practically the same entities) have, almost throughout our history, routinely lied to the public about the most basic life and death issues.
The war in Vietnam and the invasion of Iraq were based on absurd exaggerations, self-serving incitement by politicians and the media and just plain lies. The “unprovoked attacks” by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin and Saddam Hussein’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (including his efforts to build nuclear capable missiles)… Millions of people killed, wounded and traumatized for life—and trillions of dollars spent—on lies.
And the fraudulent propaganda the Johnson and Nixon administrations churned out about Vietnam continued throughout the whole war; cover-ups of massacres, rapes, gratuitous burnings of villages, the bombing of Cambodia, inflated “body counts”, etc. It took several years (and practically a generational civil war on the streets in America) but finally the public (and the media) caught on to the evil that was perpetrated in Vietnam.
In the Iraq invasion, which that venal idiot, George Bush, declared as “Mission Accomplished” in May of 2003, no one ever discovered the “great stockpile” of weapons of mass destruction that were the public excuse for the whole operation in the first place—and our occupation of that country continues to this day.
And then there are the crimes of the CIA—all funded with billions of dollars, a lot of it in cash, that remain completely unaccounted for; black prison sites, torture, assassinations, subversion and overthrow of governments. All of this is not exactly new territory for the CIA but they went so far this time that even the corporate media had to pay attention.
And then there’s Guantanamo, an illegal and inhumane prison camp where no one has any protection or basic civil rights… A place that for years operated almost completely in secret.
When Edward Snowden’s revelations that the Federal government was illegally spying on millions of its own citizens were first published he was denounced as a traitor and a fabulist. That couldn’t possibly be—our own government, listening to our phone calls, copying our e-mails and web searches? He must be making it all up. Eventually the administration was compelled to admit the truth and we discovered (to the limited extent we will ever discover) how much money, time and effort was—and continues to be—being spent violating our rights and tearing up what’s left of the Constitution.
And then there’s big business…
The lies and cover-ups of Tobacco, Pharmaceutical, Energy, Agricultural and Banking corporations, with the almost complete failure (if not enthusiastic cooperation) of the government agencies charged with policing them, have resulted in the deaths, or destroyed the health of, millions of people. And they have forced more millions of Americans into bankruptcy and near-poverty—or, at the very least—the prospect of a dire financial future. Not there’s anything new about this in America, but these days it’s not even considered cynical to regard Congress, most Governors and the majority of State Legislatures as little more than employees of huge corporations and the very rich.
Scott Walker gets a paycheck from the State of Wisconsin, but he works for the Koch brothers.
Mr. Tracy and others who claim government conspiracy in Newtown and other shootings, believe that corporate media (and their local affiliates) are involved in the cover-up.
Corporate media is gullible and sensationalist and has been “embedded” with the government for so long now, that such a belief is entirely understandable—though there is no rational cause to believe that it’s true in these recent mass shootings.
Responsible news organizations should be essential in maintaining any kind of real democracy, but it’s always important to remember that in the case of corporate media conglomerates, you are, after all, dealing with just another big business—and the interests of all big businesses are virtually indistinguishable from the interests of centralized government power. Owners of big media corporations (including leading editors and journalists) and the people who wield power in government are, sometimes, so inextricably entwined it seems almost impossible to tell them apart.
For instance, it’s generally accepted that the Hearst newspaper chain in the 1890’s pushed the US government into war with Spain (the agenda was American Imperial expansion). But, really, how much pushing did the government need? The two entities seemed to be operating as one.
And there were many major news organizations, both print and electronic, that bought whatever the government was selling about Vietnam. And through all the demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience and virtual political civil war at home, the media, by and large, didn’t really question what was going on.
It took years before they started demanding real answers and publishing (and showing) Americans what a nightmare their government had gotten them into.
It was during the first Gulf “War” that the media was first—with very little apparent protest—turned into tame pets of the Pentagon. If they wanted to report any news at all they had to report what they were fed by the government. And during the George W’s invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the major media was an adjunct of the military and had almost no real exposure to what was actually going on.
Most of the real reporting coming out of Iraq was (once again) from “alternative” news sources in the US or foreign journalism.
Conspiracy theories. Some of them are clearly the products of collective delusion, mass hysteria and deliberate incitement by people with something to gain. That kind of behavior is as old as recorded history, and eventually finds its way into the world of myth and religion.
But before we dismiss all modern conspiracy theories as some form of collective psychosis, we always have to factor in the long history of crimes and cover-ups that have been foisted on us by our government and their corporate partners (controllers).
And now we have to add to this mix the almost incalculable effect of social networking and The Net on public opinion and belief. What were previously just fringe lunacies metastasize (sometimes within hours) into “common knowledge”. But also actual news—real instances of government and corporate crimes and the subsequent lies and cover-ups are also available instantaneously from countless sources.
It’s extremely difficult to know in whom or where to place your trust. In the end, I suppose, you have to pick your sources of information and combine that with your own experience, intuition and judgement.
Do I really know that those children and teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook? After all, I wasn’t there—didn’t hear any screams or see any blood, didn’t see any of the wounded and dead being carried out. But there has to be a base-line of belief (along with the knowledge that there are nuances to every story)—a shared, common understanding that some things are real and some are not.
I can’t explain why some people choose to believe in certain conspiracy theories or to what extent they are influenced by their own psychological needs or outside influences.
But if there is no trust and no truth then we operate in a vast sea of unknowing—where everything is chaos and nihilism.
**Note: Professor Tracy, the Newtown conspiracy blogger, was fired by the university due to the violation of a bureaucratic rule; he didn’t report outside work he was doing. Obviously, the real reason he was kicked out was because his extreme views were embarrassing the school. As of now, no one knows if he will appeal the firing due to a possible violation of his right to free speech.