"Crisis actors": a conspiracy theory that re-victimizes shooting survivors

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2015/09/14/crisis-actors-a-conspirac.html

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What does one say?

Wouldn’t they just take your guns? They’ve got whole armies with much more & bigger guns. It would be incredibly easy. They have tactical nukes - you’re some weird guy hiding in the woods & afraid to look under his bed.


“Too strong a belief in the rationality of people in general, or of the world, will lead us to seek purposive explanations where none exists.”

Huh. From the dawn of time this deep-seated psychological desire (to believe that events happen for a reason, from intention) has a long history of leading us into strange deeply-held systems of belief.

I’m guessing that to be advanced social animals, our brains are hardwired to see intention all around us so that we can comprehend a socially-constructed world, and consequently we are inherently liable to see intention it in places it isn’t.

Then add to that the internet… and oh dear.


Conspiracy theorists now use any new tragedy the way a 13-year-old boy uses a tube sock. Just go to /r/conspiracy on Reddit after any new tragedy, and within five minutes they’ll be declaring it a hoax and everyone involved to be actors. A minute later they’ll be blaming the Jews. A minute after that, and the moderators will be banning anyone who disagrees.

The 9/11 “truthers” often declare even those who died in the attacks to be “actors.” Doubly so for witnesses who contradict their fantasies.

Do a Google search on Val McClatchey, who photographed the Flight 93 crash debris/smoke cloud. It’s attack after attack after attack on her. “Every time I’ve done any stories it goes online and all these conspiracy theorists start up and they call me and harass me,” said Mrs. McClatchey.


The ‘best’ thing the NRA ever did was convince a bunch of rednecks who shoot on the weekends that they could defeat a modern well trained army.


The NRA likes to claim that every new Democrat presidential candidate will take away everyone’s guns.

But pre-Bush II, the US military was focused on fighting uniformed soldiers operating Soviet armor. It’s the Republicans who sent the US military to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, giving them a decade of training and experience as an occupying force vs. un-uniformed armed insurgents and roadside bombs. Basically the NRA’s worst nightmare.


There are so very few gun nuts that I know (and I know a lot of gun nuts) that believe they could defeat an army in the field. At most, they believe that the proverbial “rifle behind every blade of grass” would make the army not wish to follow orders oppressing their fellow Americans.

Of course, most mockery of this “we can defeat the Army” sentiment comes from the same side of the political spectrum that points out how a population far less well armed than the average American (Iraq) was able to make the United States army look pretty damned ineffectual at an enormous political cost to its political pursuits.


Wouldn’t it be better if they convinced themselves that they don’t exist?


I think it was irony. It can be hard to see here but it was that and it wasn’t very funny or poignant. What I don’t think it was was serious. Just some bs.

That actually happened to me in real life. A guy I knew for several years in the scouts ended up going on a shooting spree in Seattle. I hadn’t seen him for a year or two. Someone at the pizza shop brought up the incident, scoffed and said the guy was a professional hoax actor. I pointed out that I knew him personally, indeed he had issues with schizophrenia even back in the scouts and that the photos are actually of the person I knew.

The guy then proceeded to berate me as complicit in the hoax. It was very hurtful to say the least. I eventually just said, “you’re a fucking moron, you have no idea what you’re talking about and people like you are the reason we don’t have a lot of the nice things liberal democracies consider standard kit.” And stormed out.

Nobody was willing to come to my aid. It was insane. I fucking knew the shooter, he wasn’t an actor. He was a guy with some mental health issues and socialization problems. For fuck sake. Just… It’s fucking wrong.

Armchair conspiracy theorists can all go kill themselves. If they’re not willing to do the leg work of real investigators, like interviewing witnesses, and talking to police, and doing FOIA requests, then they should just fucking sew their goddamn poisonous mouths shut.


It beats having the responsibility of forming a well regulated militia. You know, the actual hard work of a democratic-republican society. We should deport those un-American layabouts.


The term “Truther” has become an ironic opposite of what the word should logically mean.

I pondered for a long time what I could say to Holocaust deniers, and the best I could come up with was this:

“Nobody, not even neo-Nazis and “historical revisionists”, denies that Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” with all its nasty antisemitism comparing Jews to vermin, nobody denies that Nazi Germany passed the Nuremberg Laws removing all rights and property from Jews, nobody denies they were forced to live in walled-in ghettos that were basically prisons, nobody denies they were eventually transported on trains to the camps, so why is wholesale murder out of the question when it’s the next logical step? We have Jewish survivors, we have German witnesses, we have allied military witnesses from both the east and west, and civilian witnesses from multiple countries, we have mountains of German bureaucratic paperwork, we have films and photos and the now crumbling remains of the camps. All you have to counter that is a conspiracy so grand and improbable it implies the Jewish people really are sinister puppet masters controlling the world. So, what should be done about it? Anyone who says the Holocaust didn’t happen is really just hoping to get another chance.”

I’ve tried this on a couple Holocaust deniers and it left them at a loss for an answer, but I imagine the more seasoned ones have something to say about it.

Perhaps there is a similar argument you can make for other “hoaxes.” For the Boston Marathon bombing I often say “So, there’s this evil government conspiracy to take away our guns, and they are so powerful they can hire hundreds of actors, completely mob a public place so no outsiders can get in, and fake a bombing so that nobody actually gets hurt? If these guys are so evil, wouldn’t they just, you know, use a real bomb and actually kill some people? At the very least it would be a lot simpler. You’re basically saying they want to take away all our guns to usher in a dictatorship, but they don’t have the balls to actually kill anyone?”


I don’t use the term “truther” myself. I prefer to use the term “denialist”. It’s completely accurate and also points out that no answer will be satisfactory to them. They will deny the truth in the face of the most compelling evidence, so they are in fact denialists.


That actually isn’t true. They do rank and rate politicians, but there are Democrats who get A and B ratings. Though they are a minority as many Democrats toe the party line.

This new “false flag” shit is just mind boggling. I guess it has always been around, but now with the Internet and Alex Jones we get to hear about it more. It is, in my opinion, literally insane. It takes conspiracy theories to a whole new level. Some people I guess just want to believe in some big Illuminati pulling strings.


From my own experience talking with these conspiracy theorists, the impression I get is that they’re scared, childlike people who can’t handle the fact that the universe is just fucking random and that bad things happen for no good reason. Sometimes people just go crazy. Most of the time there’s no “there” there. It’s just that the world is a fucked up place and there’s very little you can do to protect yourself and there’s no point in trying to make sense of it at a human level.

So in their desperation for teleological explanations of every single thing that happens they demand agency behind every action. Where some people substitute in god or fate or giant magnets in the sky, these people sub in lizard people, actors, and the scary gubmint.

They’re more comfortable railing against an illogical oppressor with a human face, than admit that a lot of their lives are completely out of their control.


Yeah they are total crap. That is a sad, awful story. I’m typically civil but if someone did that to me, I’d be pretty hard-pressed to remain so. It sounded like a work situation and from that point on, he would receive every conceivable evil from me.


It wasn’t work. We were patrons in a college pizza shop that I go to on the weekend because it’s cheap and the only place for miles around that sells by the slice. The dude even pulled out a 9/11 denier textbook to try and bolster his claims that “all these disasters and acts of violence are intentional and faked in order to make the population fearful.”

I told him he can keep the book, and that I’d use it to roll joints sooner than dignify his bullshit.


They may also rank and rate politicians, but they’re constantly preaching to the membership about how Obama and Clinton before him and every other potential Democratic candidate is going to take away everyone’s guns.

The NRA has been little more than a propaganda arm of the Republican Party for a couple decades now.


I had a friend in college who was a total conspiracy freak. But he was also a gulf war vet from the first gulf war and he was crazy to begin with. And when he came back, even crazier. Total right wing crazy violent weirdo. Would go out with his rifle in the woods at night alone. I felt sorry for the guy. But I did also like his stories. They were actually interesting. I was one of only about three guys who’d listen to him. But I knew how to handle him. He would try to give shit and I just gave it back calmly. Any kind of aggression would have been fisticuffs and I would have lost, since he was a 300 pound, 6’ 2" very burly black man with a huge attitude. The only handling was calm handling. We fell out of touch because I left college on some leave terms. While I was away, he went batshit crazy. He sent anonymous death threat letters to people but got found out, got himself kicked out of school, went home and shot himself in the head in the stairwell of a parking garage. With a .22 of all things. What a horrible, sad life and a terrible, maximally suffering way to end it.


Well Obama has said many times we should look into more gun control. Clinton actually passed the Assault weapon ban. So their attacks on them are warranted. They also give failing grades to Republicans and I have seen congressional races where the Democrat was the one they urged members to vote for.

Of course they are still slanted towards Republicans because the Democrats make gun control part of their party platform.

I can see that. I also see it as like the most inept deflection tactic. Because there are gun control activists that are “scared, childlike people who can’t handle the fact that the universe is just fucking random and that bad things happen for no good reason” and want the government to save them. So they concoct some conspiracy that turns the savior into the villain.

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