Conspiracy Theory As Distraction From Reality

Rob Kall

It takes all kinds.

Did you know that Hurricane Sandy was really a false flag attack?

Did you know that The children in Sandy Hook were killed on behalf of Obama, because he and his evil conspirators are trying to use the disaster as an excuse to kill the second amendment and take guns away from people?

And really, there were aliens who caused tower number seven of the World Trade Center to collapse.

There are actually people who get upset about these things.

Now, there are some real legitimate questions about 911-- what happened who did what and who did not do what should have been done. There are legit questions about the JFK and RFK assassinations. There are genuine problems with electronic voting machines that some mainstream media cretins have dismissed. And then there are the right wing claims of voter fraud, used to push through voter ID legislation that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands.

Then there are the vaccine deniers. A fraudster in England published a bogus study that indicted one vaccine. Rumsfeld used his power as Secretary of Defense to push through a sale of Tamiflu, and all of a sudden ALL vaccines are dangerous and nobody should take any vaccines. Sorry, but that's potentially deadly dangerous. There are certainly many vaccines that have saved the lives of millions and eradicated diseases like polio.

There are some people who are just flat out full of sh*t and some who are batshit crazy and some who have more malevolent intentions. Some are gullible addicts for the craziest theories. Some are very aware of the reality that the government lies and does do evil things that we only find out about one or two generations later. The TV series HOMELAND, which just took home several Golden Globe awards, shows how the CIA lies, manipulates the truth, screws with people's lives and just plain screws up. It's purported to be Obama's favorite TV show and" it's very believable. So it's no wonder that people are willing to entertain theories that the government and other shadowy organizations are doing all kinds of nefarious things.

Most recently, a handful of people are suggesting that Aaron Swartz did not kill himself. While there is zero evidence that there was any murderous foul play, some people and websites are suggesting that Swartz did not hang himself-- that he was murdered. Some simply say that it's possible, that this kind of thing has been done betore. Others go further. The problem is, there is zero proof, zero evidence that this is the case.

Why do people do this and what are the costs? I think there are several reasons people propose conspiracy theories.

1-Some of them are based on actual facts.

2-There is so much real lying and bad behavior coming from the government, the collection of spy agencies and different police, paramilitary and military operations-- that actually happen that almost anything is possible and believable. So people look for foul play everywhere.

3- Mis-information-- we know that there are operations set up to misinform and to attack people and websites who criticize one side or the other. There are paid bloggers and sock-puppets who are taught how to, then paid to go to websites and sow misinformation and distraction on article and blog threads. The goal is to confuse, misinform and propagandize.

4-Distraction- Take the Aaron Swartz story. There is absolutely a real, emerging case that between the DOJ and MIT there was nasty abuse of prosecution. There's a long history of the DOJ and its Federal attorneys using their power for political and corporate means-- I k now people personally who have been victims of horrible assaults on them by the DOJ. But now, we have a handful of people talking about a conspiracy theory that Aaron Swartz was killed, that he did not commit suicide. It gets dicier, because Swartz parents are now reported to have said that the DOJ murdered Aaron. They are talking metaphorically. It was the headline on the front page of the Huffingtonpost yesterday. But I assure you, the conspiracy junkies will run with this. And instead of the focus being on the outrageous prosecutorial abuse and abuse of power by the DOJ, we will have a zoo full of crazy talk that dilutes and weakens where the real focus should be.

This is not a black and white, easy to address situation. As a publisher of a progressive site, my intention is to be as open as possible to exploring new ideas and possible threats to justice, democracy and freedom. But I must also balance that willingness to be open with the risk of entertaining too many crazy ideas which threaten the credibility of the site. I am blessed to have a collection of volunteer advisors. But they can only give their opinions and those opinions vary.

When it came to the Hurricane Sandy conspiracy theory, that was a no-brainer. I personally witnessed the flooding, the downed trees, the loss of electricity. it was offensive to me to have someone suggest this was bogus.

With the Newtown massacre of children, again, I found the conspiracy theory to be an offensive outrage. This one was clearly being put out by people who paranoidly oppose gun-laws-- NRA supporters on steroids. Anyone who gets on this conspiracy theory bandwagon is going to be opposing gun regulation or supporting those who do-- not exactly where a progressive site wants to be. This is a great example of how people's reasonable mistrust of government is being exploited. And the discussion of this conspiracy is not benign. Consider the report in this Huffingtonpost article:

"Anderson Cooper responded to claims made by a Florida professor who said the devastating shooting in Newtown, Conn., was part of a government and media conspiracy related to gun control.

Professor James Tracey questioned whether Sandy Hook even happened. Because of his conspiracy theory, families in Newtown who suffered losses have been inundated with hate mail and prank phone calls. One family even had to remove its online memorial page when it was attacked with hateful messages.

Cooper reported on Tracey on Friday and said that he rarely acknowledged such outrageous conspiracy theories, but did so because Tracey is a tenured professor at a public university. "These claims by him and others online have begun to cause deep distress to victims' families," Cooper said."

I should give a bit more attention to 911 Truthers. I was one of the people who signed the original 911 truth document, along with some pretty heavy hitters, like Van Jones, Thom Hartmann and many more. At the time, we were fresh off the 911 Commission report. That report was really bad-- incomplete, shrouded in secrecy, many unasked and unanswered questions. I still feel that to be true. That's why we, the signatories of that document signed on. Then, the Truther movement evolved. It went in places that most of the signatories never considered or supported. People started selling books, making money off the conspiracy theory. Truthers went further and further away from the original questions. They used the 911 attack as a reason to support all kinds of other biases and beliefs, like anti-Semites and the dancing Mossad spies who celebrated the attack. I recently had a conversation with Jon Gold, the guy who coined the term "truther." I found that I agreed with pretty much all of what he had to say in a talk" and then I discovered that he is now reviled by the mainstream Truther movement because he doesn't buy their crazy theories.

Bottom line, we live in a crazy world with a lot of real evil. We must remain vigilant because there are forces of evil that operate within government, within the military, on behalf of corporations and on behalf of nations and religions. Almost anything is possible. But it is also essential that we keep our eyes on the balls, not on the ghost balls, not on the mystical fantasy conspiracy balls.

It is challenging to keep open to questions about potential new nefarious underlying explanations and narratives for big news cases that are presented by the mainstream media with what seem to be obvious causes. The challenge is, if you allow speculation then you risk being treated as a conspiracy site. That reduces your credibility for covering non-edgy, non- questionable stories. Aaron Swartz is dead. He was being pressured by the DOJ and MIT. Those are facts. When writers speculate, without any evidence, that he was actually, not metaphorically, murdered, are they engaging in responsible journalism? That is a question that may seem easy to answer to some. It's not for me. I, frankly, don't think that there's anything to the conjecture. But I do think that there are enough examples of cases where suspicion is warranted that we need to allow people to raise the questions. Even if the theories and questions about Swartz are total nonsense, they are emerging because there are a lot of people believe that the CIA, the FBI, even Obama, who now decides who to kill with drones, with no judicial consideration, all have the potential to do such bad things.

I realize that writing this, I've made it clear how I stand on some of the conspiracy theories. I know that some people say that the simple use of the term "conspiracy theory" was initiated to marginalize and weaken arguments for certain theories, like the JFK assassination theories. Now we know that even RFK did not trust the conclusions of the Warren Report on JFK's assassination, even though, before his death he publicly said he did.

This is dicey stuff. I've had editors threaten to resign from their association with my website if certain topics are entertained. And I've banned some writers from the site because they submitted articles and comments promoting theories that our editorial staff had decided we didn't want to give oxygen to. I've been accused of censorship even though only governments do censorship. Publishers do curation and set editorial policies. Again, I'll say. It is challenging to attempt to maintain a responsible, credible, trusted open forum that allows and supports discussion of concerns about abuses by shadowy forces that we all know exist. Well, maybe not everyone knows. There are some who would attempt to attack those who question whether the government tortures, whether there have ever been false flag events. There are media who don't report on those truths. It's a sticky wicket that it's easier to deal with by avoiding the terrain altogether, safer to just report on the latest polls.

I am fortunate and cursed to not doing what I do alone. I say cursed because sometimes, there is not a consensus. Sometimes some of my advisors passionately believe one thing and others believe another. Sometimes, I disagree with them and there are more of them. And there are always people on both sides to accuse me of doing it wrong. It basically comes down to me making a decision. That flies in the face of my deeply held beliefs that bottom up approaches are the way to go. I tend to lean towards keeping the conversation as open as possible. We need places where people can express their concerns, even if they are crazy. I've been told I'm crazy, that things I've done could never be done. Many visionaries and inventors and leaders have been told they were crazy or criminal-- look at Mandela, at Galileo. So I will err on the side of openness, but sometimes make a call that some things are irresponsible or wrong-headed. Fortunately, the internet is big enough so if I make a call, or listen to and abide by my advisory team and make a group decision, there are other places for the people whose ideas I no longer choose to give a forum to.

I realize this is going to really upset some readers. My response is that you have every right to believe what you want. But it is the role of every publisher to curate content, to make decisions on what to cover and what not to cover. Only governments censor. Here at Opednews we will continue to struggle daily with what we choose to cover. I can assure you that it is not something that just gets set as an edict. Even as I write this article, there is lively discussion among the members of the OEN senior team.