I have noted recent news reports decrying incidents of Sandy Hook trutherism with a certain degree of cynical un-surprise. This then, is the fruit of modern journalism; now we have news consumers who are absolutely convinced that the mass murders either didn’t happen, didn’t happen as most reports have it, or believe that it was a put-up job entirely. Of course there have been conspiracy buffs since human history began; wherever there was a tragic or shocking event there have always been unexplained details, dangling loose ends and things which just seemed to convenient, too coincidental for some observers. Supposing the existence of a conspiracy explains shattering and usually random events all very neatly, which is why people are attracted to conspiracy theories in the first place. Since I was in grade school, I’ve been hearing about the plot, or plots which supposedly took down JFK. It’s to the point where I can paint myself as a radical just by insisting that Oswald was a lone radical nut-case and no, it wasn’t that hard a shot. And sometimes suspicion of a conspiracy has been very well based; look at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
So, nothing new here, that there should be whispers of conspiracies with regard to the Sandy Hook murders, and nothing new that with the rise of the internet, conspiracy-minded people have no problem finding a wider audience for their particular obsessions than they would have, back in the day when getting the word out as a single activist or group meant a mimeograph machine, a mailing list and sufficient postage. The element that I suspect is new would be the widening lack of trust in the establishment media; broadcast and print alike. I’ve often lamented the manner in which formerly respected news outlets perceived by the public as being generally trustworthy have been pissing away that trust for the last two decades. Of course, up until about fifteen years ago, the internet wasn’t developed to the point where it was relatively easy to fact-check the establishment media; they may have have been just as craven, partisan or incompetent back then, (Hello, Mr. Duranty, Mr Rather, Mr. Eason, Mr. Arnett – your table is waiting!) and there would have been no way for any but a tiny number of people to know for sure.
But now we do know … and one of the things we also know is that just about everything first reported about the Sandy Hook murders, or the Zimmerman-Martin shooting, or the shooting of Gabby Giffords and a hundred other more news stories-du-jour turned out to be wrong. Just about everything said about the Tea Party by the major media turned out to be wrong – and this I know form personal experience as a local Tea Party activist. On the other hand, we know practically nothing about the takeover of the American consulate office in Benghazi late last year and the death of four Americans there. As a candidate for the highest office in the land in 2008, Barack Obama was treated as a precious and lustrous pearl by the national media, given only the lightest buffing and polishing, while his experience, qualifications and past associates went carefully and (to all appearances, deliberately) unexamined.
Reasonable, un-paranoid and non-tinfoil-hat-wearing Americans these days have every reason in the world to distrust what has been printed or broadcast. Rich soil in which to plant the seeds of paranoid conspiracy theories – and the funniest and most ironical part, is that the professional mainstream news media have laid down the deepest layer of that soil themselves, in appearing to trim the sails of coverage to suit the favored political and politically correct winds of the moment. As ye sow, ladies and gentlemen of the establishment press – so shall ye reap, a full crop of suspicion and paranoia.
(cross-posted at www.ncobrief.com)