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Friday, January 18, 2013

What to Tell Conspiracy Theorists Who Think That the Newtown School Shooting Didn't Actually Happen

Posted by on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Slog tipper Shane writes in:

I have an acquaintance who has expressed doubts that the Newtown Massacre ever occurred. After I got done calling him a fucking idiot, he brought up the point that I had never met anyone involved in the massacre so I had no way of knowing if it actually happened and he pointed out discrepancies in the police reports. This person is extremely conservative, and I am not, so we have had our disagreements, but this one takes the cake. What should I say to him, besides telling him to go fuck himself?

Frustrated in the South Sound

Dear Shane,

Here is how you respond:

• Discrepancies in police reports involving a mass shooting with hundreds of witnesses, most of them under the age of nine? YOU DON'T SAY.

• You haven't talked to any of the people involved in the massacre? Me neither! BECAUSE THEY WERE MURDERED. (Also: Have you ever been to Australia? No? Then how can you be sure it exists? Does paper actually come from trees? Steak from cows? HOW FAR DOES OUR GOVERNMENT COVERUP GO???)

• And finally, why is it easier for you to believe that hundreds of children, teachers, neighbors, responding police officers, medics, and on-scene media colluded with the government to gin up a horrific school shooting than it is for you to believe that one mentally unstable person entered a school with assault weapons and brutally killed 26 people before shooting himself? Are you really that big of a fucking idiot?

Or, as Slog commenters point out, if you're ready to risk the brain hemorrhage that could result from honestly debating these batshit conspiracy theories with someone, Salon.com is your new best friend.

 

Comments (53) RSS

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Cato the Younger Younger 1
LOL!!! "If I didn't see it it didn't exist." I got in SOOOO much trouble in my college Historiography class back in the day. I was being a smart ass and "seriously" supported the idea of how any of us could really know for certian ANYTHING happened before anyone of living memory was born? Maybe everything was just planted there just before the oldest living person was born? HOW CAN WE KNIOW!?!?!?!?
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
But, China has a Moon Base and they are mining all the Green Cheese!
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 18, 2013 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Fnarf 3
Better yet, never speak to him again.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 18, 2013 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 4
Yes, and the same retorts can be applied to the whole Bush Cheney engineered 9/11 conspiracy.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on January 18, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Report this
5
Bravo Cienna, bravo!
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on January 18, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Report this
6
The conspiracy theory manifesto:
"When reality doesn't appear to support my beliefs, re-write reality until it does."
Posted by Proteus on January 18, 2013 at 11:51 AM · Report this
biffp 7
It's disgusting the lengths Walmart and gun manufacturers will go to to protect their profits.
Posted by biffp on January 18, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
heywhatsit!? 8
Just stay far away from a person like that.
Posted by heywhatsit!? on January 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM · Report this
9
I have never been to Florida and I refuse to believe that anything that fucked-up could be real
Posted by eptified on January 18, 2013 at 12:01 PM · Report this
very bad homo 10
The easiest way to deal with a person like this is to just stop being friends with idiots.
Posted by very bad homo on January 18, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
11
That's even worse than the creationists' argument against the Big Bang: "How do you know? Were you there?"

And it reminded me of this Onion piece:
http://www.theonion.com/video/us-high-sc…
Posted by NotYourStrawMan on January 18, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this
12
I've not bothered with any of this nonsense. But I did see this article on Salon this morning titled "Your comprehensive answer to every Sandy Hook conspiracy theory":

http://www.salon.com/2013/01/18/your_com…
Posted by California on January 18, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 13
These answers all SUCK. Do any of you seriously think that reductio ad absurdum response is going to change the mind of a conspiracy theorist?

If you've never talked a real conspiracy theorist back to sanity, then you're not qualified to answer this question. Instead, shut up and help find somebody who knows the answer. I'd kind of like to find out myself, though I'm pessimistic about the ability of people to truly change.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on January 18, 2013 at 12:26 PM · Report this
Rotten666 14
I hope I never meet one of these people because instead of giving them a rational explanation of why they are wrong, they are going to get a smack in the fucking mouth.
Posted by Rotten666 on January 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 15
@ 7, I know telling you not to be a dope is like telling the sky not to be blue, but don't be a fucking dope, alright? Walmart and the gun manufacturers didn't make this up. People who are susceptible to conspiracy theories are already likely to be into guns; it isn't hard for them to imagine a new conspiracy, now that gun control is back thanks to Newtown.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 18, 2013 at 12:34 PM · Report this
Fnarf 16
Read the link @12. Actual facts.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM · Report this
17
Cienna, I like your answer, but it's only useful to a sentient being. Talking to someone whose brain is so paralyzed by dogma, gun lust, ideology and wingnut propaganda doesn't constitute talking to a sentient being.

Let your dog pee on its leg and continue on your way.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on January 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Lose-Lose 18
I'm glad you all have the privilege to just mock/ignore/unfriend these crazy conspiracy-theory freaks, but it's a privilege not all of us enjoy. I got me one of those people in my family, and my family has exactly THREE OTHER PEOPLE in it (wait? What was that? cries of "leave your family!" already? I am not heartless). To make it worse, my uncle is a great, lovable guy in person, it's just that he promotes these hatefilled, vengeful theories in email.

So yeah, Cierra, your article is funny but useless to those of us who actually have to deal with conspiracy theorists. Luckily, my expectations of the stranger aren't so high, and there are better sources to turn to, like this article:

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2013/0116/S…
Posted by Lose-Lose on January 18, 2013 at 12:48 PM · Report this
heywhatsit!? 19
Maybe we should ask sgt. doom for an insiders perspective on dealing with conspiracy theorists.
Posted by heywhatsit!? on January 18, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 20
Euthanasia
Posted by keshmeshi on January 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM · Report this
COMTE 21
Conspiracy theorists are just people of average-to-slightly-above-average intelligence (for the most part) who have a compulsive need to feel superior to everyone else, by "proving" they possess knowledge (always arcane, always suppressed by TPTB) the rest of us are either too dumb, too brainwashed, or too lazy to see for ourselves. It's just like religious mania, only with the conspiracy substituting for divine revelation.
Posted by COMTE on January 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 22
@19 Um, that's the friend Shane is talking about.
Posted by Sir Vic on January 18, 2013 at 1:24 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 23
@13, 18-
Why try to reason the conspiracy nuts back to reality? Because there are others watching or listening that could be persuaded to believe the nonsense, if just only for a short while. And they might then take other things the conspiracy kook repeats at face value rather than immediately suspecting it as crap.

I dont speak dieectly to the conspiracy-kook gun nut in my family, but i've countered his bullshit on facebook and caused other family members to begin to doubt the bullshit he spews.

I'll probably never stop him from believing every wingnut theory to come along but i'll be goddamned if I let him suck anyone else into his bubble of crazy.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on January 18, 2013 at 1:28 PM · Report this
24
@21, yup, that's my father, a total conspiracy theorist, to a T. He also used to be extremely religious. I believe conspiracy theorists probably also have over-active pattern-recognition skills which lead them to see patterns that don't exist.
Posted by JenV on January 18, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Report this
25
@21 "average to above average intelligence"

They've all got shit for brains. There's nothing intelligent about them.
Posted by GermanSausage on January 18, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Report this
26
These kind of conspiracies only work if the world is run by Rube Goldberg.
Posted by giffy on January 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Lissa 27
@14: Rotten, you and I are in absolute perfect accord on this.
Posted by Lissa on January 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Arsenic7 28
A good response to conspiracy theorists I heard recently is to actually respond to them with competing theories that you've heard.

Oh, you think the government intentionally planted bombs in the twin towers? Yeah that's a good theory. I heard it was actually israel and they used suicide bombers to target key structures of the building. Also Al Queda did hijack the plains but they were filled with high yield explosives provided by Iran.

The idea is that most conspiracy theorists will either acknowledge those as good ideas, despite the many conflicts that creates, or they will reject it without any better reasoning to back up their own opinion.

I look forward to trying this out on someone.
Posted by Arsenic7 on January 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
29
So far, my response has been to click "Unfriend" and walk away from the computer muttering F-bombs.
Posted by J from Oregon on January 18, 2013 at 1:40 PM · Report this
Fnarf 30
@24, "over-active pattern-recognition skills which lead them to see patterns that don't exist" is a pretty good description of the human mind. We are ALL pattern-seekers. It's what made our biggest successes and our biggest failures as a species. It's what gave us science, but it's also what gave us fallacies all the way from eugenics to belief in "the hot hand" in sports. We HATE thinking that randomness plays a part in anything we do -- but of course it does.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 18, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
31
there is some whack job in Texas that thinks every news story and shooting are staged. Snopes has done a good job here of sorting things out.... http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/newt…
Posted by nador on January 18, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 32
Next time you see him, sneak up behind him and punch him hard in the kidneys. If he gets mad, get indignant and insist that he never saw anyone punch him in the back and demand hard evidence that the incident occurred at all.
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on January 18, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
biffp 33
@15, shut the fuck up. There's obviously a profit motive involved you fucking chimp.
Posted by biffp on January 18, 2013 at 2:04 PM · Report this
fletc3her 34
Reminds me of an old joke I heard when I went to school back east about how you know Idaho really exists since you've never been or met anyone from Idaho.

It fell flat on me since like many from Washington I have been to Idaho and know several people who live in Idaho, but I suppose that isn't true of your average Pennsylvanian.
Posted by fletc3her on January 18, 2013 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 35
@23

Yes, it's not a matter of a point-by-point rebuttal. They'll just spawn ten alternative theories for every one you shoot down.

It has to do more with the tolerance of paranoia in general in American politics, and the practice of false equivalence in even quality news sources. Treating Fox News or the Daily Kos as legitimate news sources.

Also, the internet. Where a tiny fringe can be magnified. And where many of these theories are actually spread by jokers and trolls. It's a lot deeper than proving individual facts.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on January 18, 2013 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 36
@28- Yes, that's good too. I think XKCD may have started that idea (or at least was the first to put it into cartoon form).

The gist of it was to reply to Truthers with the competing theory that it was the gub'mint's way of disposing of a couple of outdated Chemtrail jets. And we all know how explosive the Chemtrail chemicals are, donchaknow...?
Posted by Dr_Awesome on January 18, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 37
@28,

I've already seen conspiracy theories that Israel was behind 9/11. Haven't you seen the claims that no Jewish workers showed up for work in the towers that day? A really adorable conspiracy theory I saw recently posited that Israel was behind riots in the Middle East. The evidence: some rioters had the Star of David tattooed under their clavicle. That Jews are religiously forbidden from getting tattoos apparently escapes anti-Semitic conspiracy nutters.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 38
I should point out, that as the population ages, and Seattle is included in that, the increase in paranoia and delusional beliefs will also increase.

It's also correlated with PTSD, and Seattle is known for having a very high number of veterans residing here.

So, "arguing" might not be the most effective strategy.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 18, 2013 at 2:47 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 39
@37 remember, Hitler took away the Jewish main battle tanks and hovercraft.

(ducks)
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 40
This reminds me of the worst conversation I ever experienced in my life. Someone I considered (stress the "ed") well educated said that these days scientists are like the priests of the Catholic church during the dark ages. That what the scientists say must be taken in faith by him, and that he has no ability to voice disagreement because he cannot dream to be allowed "into the fold". To which I blew up at. Does he not understand the scientific process? No one other than the very few people studying a very specific thing can really dream to understand the science behind it. That's what PhDs and research is about. Those few people who understand review and check everything other laboratories try to publish. There is nothing mystical, there is nothing you must take in faith. ARRRRAGHH!
Posted by ScienceNerd http://stanichium.tumblr.com/ on January 18, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
42
Conspiracy theory is a sort of folk philosophy; it fills the void that religion left.

"never met anyone involved in the massacre so I had no way of knowing if it actually happened" Is he taking intro to philosophy as an elective at the local c.c.? Sounds kind of brain in a vat-esque to me. Of course the in-vogue question these days is "DO WE LIVE IN A SIMULATION?" which is weirdly probable when you get down to it. It appears that the batman shooter was deeply interested in these ideas; professionally and philosophically [as was Ted Kaszinsky as evidenced in his fringe but sound arguments]

This stuff is only gonna get worse people; as society becomes increasingly shallow and materialistic and less community based and self reliant.
The chickens coming home to roost y'all! I advocate pulling out the troops metaphorically and literally. Let half the states [the dumber ones] regress back to deep red and watch the other half progress at a break neck pace. Its so inhumane to poke these angry knuckle draggers [or fucking idiots as the author calls them] with sticks; why not let em' go? Eventually you will agree with me; what else can be done? Try to make the argument that things are not getting worse for the majority of people in our society; and spare me the racial argument [there's more black guys in prison right now in the US than there were enslaved at the height of slavery.]
Posted by carsten coolage on January 18, 2013 at 4:30 PM · Report this
Cienna Madrid 43
I think it's the fluoride the government puts in our water that's making everyone so paranoid.
Posted by Cienna Madrid on January 18, 2013 at 4:59 PM · Report this
originalcinner 44
Is there such a thing as a left wing conspiracy theorist? I've never met one.
Posted by originalcinner on January 18, 2013 at 5:02 PM · Report this
emor 45
@33

Wait, so you seriously believe that Wal-Mart is planting these theories so they can sell guns? Your conspiracy theory sucks.

Anyways, I'm nervous that some of my coworkers believe this stuff. In fact, one of them fits the "I'm smarter than most I know things you don't" mold perfectly. I'm pretty sure he reads those weird conspiracy sites, too. Hmmm. Better keep all conversation centered on work.
Posted by emor on January 18, 2013 at 5:04 PM · Report this
biffp 46
This is as spontaneous as the Tea Party movement.
Posted by biffp on January 18, 2013 at 5:05 PM · Report this
emor 47
@44

They believe in things like crystals, homeopathy, and Buddhist monks hat sustain themselves for months on prayer.
Posted by emor on January 18, 2013 at 5:07 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 48
@47 - And don't forget: Big Pharma doesn't want you to know about [completely ineffective, useless bullshit] because if people found out about [bullshit], all the diseases would be cured, and nobody would need their medicine any more.
Posted by MacCrocodile http://maccrocodile.com/ on January 18, 2013 at 6:00 PM · Report this
Y.F. Redux 49
The only thing to say to someone who believes this garbage is, "You're an imbecile. I can see why you're afraid the government is going to take all your guns. You're not fit to own one."
Posted by Y.F. Redux on January 18, 2013 at 6:14 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 50

@44 - See @7.
Posted by Free Lunch on January 18, 2013 at 6:45 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 51
Well I wouldn't say that it's a good idea to burn bridges with friends who believe in whack conspiracy theories, because that could mean more isolation for people who are veering into crazyland. but yeah, sheesh, talk sense into them! this conspiracy theory even sounds far less believable than the 9/11 truther conspiracy theories, because we're talking about a whole small town of average people making shit up, over an incident that impacts their lives forever as well as this country. Not a neocon cabal of imperialist oilmen and military industrial complex spooks staging a conspiracy from within the administration of a man whose grandfather did in fact work with Nazis.

I would like to have a long conversation with anyone who believes this shooting was a conspiracy theory. I've believed in, or have been open to, some conspiracy theories before. But this? Hell no. I'm not even surprised that it happened. With all the untreated mentally ill folks in this country (most of whom are more subject to violent attacks than actually being violent) and all the goddamn guns we have sitting around, and violence celebrated all throughout this culture, it is no surprise. There will probably be another massacre somewhere in this country next week whether or not it involves a bunch of kids.

Obama derangement syndrome is fucking up toooooons of people in this country and it's rather sad, seriously. People who honestly believe the USA is finished thanks to Obamacare, the Obama czars, and these new gun regulations. Has this country ever been so freaked out by the non-existent secret agenda of a US president before?
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote http://www.prettyopenended.com on January 19, 2013 at 10:48 AM · Report this
52
When confidence in political institutions is as low as it is at present ( http://www.gallup.com/poll/1597/confiden… ) conspiracy theorists find fertile ground. Working to establish a representative and functional government would likely be more effective than debating conspiracy theorists.
Posted by anon1256 on January 19, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
NaFun 53
The longer and harder you look, the more obvious it appears!
Posted by NaFun http://www.dancesafe.org on January 20, 2013 at 12:19 AM · Report this
McJulie 54
@40 This idea, that scientists are like the high priests of a religion called science, is implicit behind a lot of the stuff creationists have to say.

I think it's like this -- the scientific method was an astonishing leap forward in human development, and if you truly understand it, then you get why science is different from religion, magic, superstition, folk customs, and anything else that came before it. But if you don't get it -- you don't even get what it is you're not getting. It's a Dunning-Kruger effect.
Posted by McJulie on January 20, 2013 at 7:21 AM · Report this

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