What An Untrustworthy National Media Has Brought Us To: The Sandy Hook Truthers

One big wedge is missing.

One big wedge is missing.

Until recently, I was happily unaware that an active conspiracy theory has metastasized around the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, what can be thought of as the soot and sludge of the still-rolling ethics train wreck created by that tragedy, except that this is unfair to soot and sludge. The internet is abound with theorists, including at least one professor, who believe that the shooting was an elaborate hoax, possibly engineered by the Obama administration to facilitate gun confiscation and the repeal of the Second Amendment.

In a recent incident reported by Salon, a Newtown man who sheltered some students from the school after the shooting has been relentlessly harassed by Sandy Hook Truthers who have accused him of being part of the government plot.

Obviously, these conspiracy theorists are demented, but the increasingly polarized and biased news media has fertilized the dementia with its incompetence. If there were a trustworthy mainstream news media that had not proven itself beyond all doubt to be unethically protective of this President, sympathetic to his administration’s objectives and reluctant to report, much less investigate, incidents and scandals that might undermine the President’s influence and power, I doubt that such unhinged conspiracy theories could attract enough supporters to fill a good sized SUV.  Large scale conspiracies like the Newtown theorists posit are impossible to even conceive of with a vigorous and non-partisan press doing its duty. As it is, however, the idea that a complicit, gun-hating journalistic establishment could be recruited to assist in a manufactured crisis to put the NRA on the defensive is almost plausible.

Except, of course, that it’s nuts.

Unfortunately, the absence of a vigorous, objective, non-partisan press in America creates a fertile ground for distrust, cynicism, fear and paranoia to take root.

______________________________

Facts: Salon 1

Sources: Salon 2, Before It’s News

Graphic: Some Canadian Skeptic

18 thoughts on “What An Untrustworthy National Media Has Brought Us To: The Sandy Hook Truthers

  1. The problem goes further back than for this administration, or the last.

    You have it right that media is no longer trusted, that it’s increasingly polarised. But the signs were there in the late 90’s.

    Neither Left nor Right has a monopoly on batshit insanity. Historically the left has been worse – see Cynthia McKinney.

    Recently though, the fanatics have come into actual political power at the state level, resulting in trans-vaginal ultrasounds, creationism is schools, birtherism … just as in the past we had legislation about chemtrails from the loony left.

    There were always those who thought that the word WASTE on bins was “We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire” or the equivalent. But now it’s members of state legislatures saying it too – and the more extreme elements taking direct action. The bounds have been stretched, and by media that is sensationalist not informative. Left vs Right doesn’t signify so much.

    • “Neither Left nor Right has a monopoly on batshit insanity. Historically the left has been worse – see Cynthia McKinney. ”

      Michelle Bachmann, Todd Akins, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Broun, Richard Mourdoch, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, Michele Malkin, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, James Bopp, Jan Brewer, Andrew Breitbart, Pat Robertson, Harold Camping, Terry Jones & The Westboro Baptist Church, Wayne LaPierre, et al.

      Left has been worse? I think not.

      I could go on with my list, but I aver my point is made.

  2. This is an insane conspiracy theory, but the news media’s incompetent reporting on it almost guaranteed this one.

    1. The media reported that the long guns (AR-15 an shotgun) were in the shooter’s car and he only had handguns on him when found. Then the anti-assault rifle people want assault rifle’s banned and suddenly everyone was shot with the assault rifle.

    2. The media made a big deal about the fact that the shooter’s mother was a teacher at the school, only she wasn’t.

    3. Something was seriously wrong with the shooter, but no one is really sure what. His brother thought he had some kind of learning disability, maybe Asberger’s, but he’s not sure, he hand’t talked to him in 3 years despite the fact that they live close to each other.

    That is really terrible reporting and give the appearance that something isn’t right. This is because, in all likelihood, something isn’t right. After having a mass shooting by a gunman with a history of mental illness (doesn’t that sound familiar now?) happen very close to me once, it is really apparent that the media just fabricates a large amount of what they report.

    If you can’t trust anything you see, hear, or read in the media, why is such a conspiracy that far fetched? Doesn’t “the media made up a school massacre to push an anti-gun agenda through Congress” sound just as reasonable as a “Our entire media, made up of thousands of highly paid people with impressive degrees, can’t get simple facts straight or tell a coherent story”. Again, our society’s tolerance of incompetence leads to more problems.

  3. If there were a trustworthy mainstream news media that had not proven itself beyond all doubt to be unethically protective of this President, sympathetic to his administration’s objectives and reluctant to report, much less investigate, incidents and scandals that might undermine the President’s influence and power, I doubt that such unhinged conspiracy theories could attract enough supporters to fill a good sized SUV.

    Why is it that FOX – which fufills all the “we don’t trust Obama” requirements you list here, and is widely trusted on the right – doesn’t serve the purpose?

    Gun advocates, including officials of the NRA, have pushed conspiracy theories for years – as the NRA’s Ray Arnet said, “You keep any special interest group alive by nurturing the crisis atmosphere.” It would make more sense to blame the NRA for years of fostering conspiracy theory thinking among its followers and allies.

    It’s ridiculous that you blame the media, rather than blaming your political allies who have been directly pushing conspiracy theories.

    • “George Bush blew up the twin towers on purpose”. This conspiracy theory is more embedded and supported by the left more than any crackpot theory by the right. I don’t know anyone who subscribes to the “Sandy Hook Hoax” (although I know many who think that something’s not right with the reporting), but most staunch Democrats that I know think Bush blew up the World Trade Center so he could invade Iraq. Maybe you should look to YOUR political allies as well.. You also shouldn’t assume that I am a Republican.

      If you want to know why people think Fox news wouldn’t report the ‘truth’, with their thinking, how would Fox get it? With the government and the liberal media working together, there is no way for Fox to get a different story. For a real life example of this at work, a gunman shot numerous people at my university while I was a student. The gunman was stopped by an ex-marine bartender, who was shot when he tacked the gunman. He has to yell at the police for quite awhile before they would come out of hiding to arrest the gunmen. He kept yelling “cowards, get out here and help me!”. In the national news coverage, however, the police were praised for their “quick action” in apprehending the suspect and for keeping the tragedy from being any worse. No mention of the bartender was made. The simple explanation is that the police “neglected” to mention a few things when questioned by the national media because they were embarrassed and didn’t want to look like they couldn’t protect the public and the media didn’t bother to check. An alternate explanation is that the police and the media want you to think that the police and the government will protect you and intentionally reported the story that way. What do YOU think the explanation is?

      • “George Bush blew up the twin towers on purpose”. This conspiracy theory is more embedded and supported by the left more than any crackpot theory by the right.

        Can you name a single Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 who supported 9-11 truthers? Or even said it was worth looking into? Because Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney all either made “birther” comments, supported birtherism, or said it was worth looking into.

        Which Democratic governors have supported trutherism, the way that Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Scott have supported birtherism?

        Can you name any truthers who were speakers at the Democratic convention? Because at least six Republicans who either are birthers or who have flirted with birtherism spoke at the GOP convention (Bobby Jindal, Rick Scott, Donald Trump, Janine Turner, Sam Olens, Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Cathy Rodgers).

        Around a third of both Democrats and Republicans say they support trutherism or birtherism, respectively, although the exact number depends on how the question is phrased. So there are fools in both parties. But the conspiracy theorists have a much bigger institutional foothold inside the GOP.

        (I know, I know, Cynthia McKinney. But McKinney has been rejected from Democratic circles (including by the voters) since her alleged trutherism came out. The same is not true of birthers in the GOP, who are still serving as governors and speaking at the convention.)

        • I agree that Republicans and conservatives as a group lap Democrats and liberals in susceptibility to conspiracy theories. But don’t forget Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky when considering paranoids on the Left.

          • Moore is an embarrassment…

            It’s funny, because I have no idea where my place is in American politics because the crazy idiots on both sides scare me. What scares me almost as much is the ordinary people who justify acting stupid because “the other side does it”.

            I consider myself a classical Conservative- both parties have been overtaken by histrionic reactionaries.

    • 1. Barry, I have no “political allies”. I think that’s a cheap shot.
      2. If I did, they wouldn’t be gun advocates, which I am definitely not. I feel the same way about the NRA (no restrictions on guns!)that I do about NARAL (No restrictions on abortion!), the Tea Party (No new taxes!) and the Democrats (Don’t touch entitlements!) Their absolutist positions are unreasonable and irresponsible.
      3. None of which has anything to do with the post. I didn’t “blame” the idiotic Sandy Hook conspiracy on the media, and no rational reading of the post would conclude that.
      4. The American media, including Fox News (which exists only because of the unethical bias in the rest of the broadcast media) has made it clear to anyone with the integrity and honesty to see it that it no longer has any commitment to reporting facts or truth without a partisan slant (if it ever did, though the slant has moved around), and does not with sufficient consistency that it can be trusted. It accepts this administration’s routine cover stories and deceits without proper skepticism, or ignores stories for days or months. If you can’t come up with your own examples, I feel sorry for you.
      5. Even without its disgraceful coverage of the last election, which against all odd managed to surpass its 2009 coverage in level of bias ( the coverage of Palin vs Biden, to name the obvious example, and the sector-wide push to elect Obama, which the fairer members of the media ultimately admitted), the news media’s full-throated advocacy for gun controls (Gregory, Morgan, CNN Morning, many others) would have been sufficient to create the belief that if there WERE a conspiracy, this crew would have little interest in exposing it.
      6. Apparently you find it comforting to have a mainstream media that reflexively swings close to your own beliefs. I don’t. I don’t comprehend why anyone would. I feel this is the great failure of the democratic formula envisioned by the Founders—a free, competent, independent press with the integrity to take its role in keeping the public informed seriously. The idea of a media establishment willing to coordinate with the government and act as a propaganda arm, as the current mainstream media has come frighteningly close to doing on many occasions, is the stuff of totalitarianism.
      7. The Truthers believe what they do in part because they don’t think the press would have discovered/uncovered/bothered to investigate the conspiracy on 9/11, because THEY believe the press serves entrenched power, regardless of Party. The Birthers believe that Obama’s true place of birth has been hidden, and one reason they believe this is possible is that they don’t trust the press. Their theory is ridiculous, but they are right not to trust the press.
      8. Any reading of history, going as far back as you want, supports the conclusion that American journalism has never dependably reported and investigated all of the facts and events it should, and that political biases, partisan agendas, and misguided loyalties (protecting JKF’s infidelities, for example, even the ones that endangered natioanal security. You don’t think that history helped grease the skids for the persistance of the Dallas conspiracy theories? You’re deluded.). Walter Cronkite’s famed objectivity and trustworthiness was a fraud, as his recent biography showed. Dan Rather emerged from the culture Cronkite helped build, and tried to frame a President with a forgery. The news networks have never met their own ethical guidelines, such as in the area of conflict of interest: that Gwen Ifill was permitted to moderate the VP debate in 2008, for example, was a disgrace. George Stephanopoulus should never interview Hillary Clinton, but he has. Palin should never have been allowed to serve as a Fox analyst while she was politically active. George Will should not have been writing about the presidential campaign while his wife was actively working for Rick Perry. They don’t care. The public doesn’t hold them to the industry’s own standards, and they’d rather be power-brokers than true journalists.
      9. It is much more difficult for conspiracy theories to thrive when the press is trusted to be the watchdog on power and liberty its own ethical standards commit it to be. The point is worth making, which is why I made it. and your knee-jerk response attempting to make that correct and important observation into a partisan statement just make you look defensive and foolish.

    • “Why is it that FOX – which fufills all the “we don’t trust Obama” requirements you list here, and is widely trusted on the right – doesn’t serve the purpose?

      Off the mark. He didn’t list requirements to “not trust Obama”. He merely commented that the Left wing media bends over backwards to ensure positive spins or outright non-reporting of bad marks on the administration.

      He has not asked for a counter-media that bends over backwards to ensure negative spins or outright non-reporting of good marks (which Fox doesn’t do anyway)

      He, like all America, has asked for and needs, an UNBIASED, OBJECTIVE media, therefore a trustworthy one.

  4. These people are beneath contempt and while I tend to be a shrinking violet and never tell people how I really feel I think the only response to people like this is to tell tem “You really are bone fucking stupid aren’t you.”

  5. Except, of course, that it’s nuts.

    A lot of people in 2010 would have thought that the idea of the government encouraging gun shops to sell guns to Mexican drug cartels in order to prove that 90% of cartel guns comes from the United States and to campaign for more laws restricting guns was nuts.

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