Like Sandy Hook, the Washington navy yard shooting will soon be co-opted by conspiracy theorists

Right now a film is being cut for YouTube. Within the edit, clips from various media broadcasts of Monday’s navy yard shooting in Washington DC are being selectively stitched together. The film will start by suggesting a deception has occurred, one wrought on the American people by shadowy, unseen forces. It will distance itself from other conspiracy theory videos, purporting to show “just the facts” about the events at the naval dockyard.

The film will highlight the complicity of the media that reported on the shooting, as well as the law enforcement agencies that responded to emergency calls. “Why would they lie?” the film will ask, followed by “who would have something to gain?” The film’s creator will then place himself (or herself) at the heart of events; having personally investigated the shooting (by going through the wealth of online material available) they have uncovered “the truth” about what really happened in DC that day.

After highlighting several inconsistent facts disseminated by the news media in the hours directly after the story broke, the “official motive” of the shooter will be questioned. The film will highlight reports of three gunmen rather than one and question which firearms were used and by whom. Having exposed the “cover-up”, the naval dockyard killings will by given a grander context, linked with the 2012 shootings in Newtown and Aurora.

As the conspiracy grows, events in DC may even be given an international flavour, tied with the killings in London on 7/7 or New York on 9/11 – the film unmasking a vast conspiracy which has provided the motive force for several recent historical events. The film will conclude by pointing to the national government as the primary source of deception, followed by a clear reason as to why – gun control. The film will ask: “Isn’t the naval dockyard shooting just what the government needs to reignite the gun control debate?”

Finally, the film will call for political activism. “Share this information,” it will say, “this affects you”. The threat is tyranny – a dictatorship the government desires but requires an unarmed populace to install. This form of activism, in which conspiracy theory is used as a conduit through which to channel a targeted political message, requires that anyone who supports the “official version” of events are discredited by any means possible.

Conspiracism is certainly not a new trend in the US, but its popularity has been greatly exacerbated by the deep-rooted, ideological and political divisions suffered by the country since 2008, adding focus to a population that in successive surveys between 2006 and 2011 had already showed large-scale endorsement for “some kind of conspiratorial narrative about a current political event or phenomena“.

The films are made because simply highlighting anomalies and questionable “facts”, specifically the ones that support a political narrative, allied to a disregard for logic or coherence makes this form of online activism simple and hugely effective. What’s more, this ideological intensity brings about its own psychological rewards, offering a valiant self-image that plays to the ego, all of which can be attained without doing any fact-based research, investigation, travelling to the scene, interviewing the people involved or anything beyond sitting at a computer with a broadband connection and some rudimentary editing software.

Yet the political implications are profound, not least the damage this type of expression does to genuine, fact-based dissent, while the “anything goes regardless of veracity” ethos can easily be co-opted and used against minority groups.

The conspiracy theories that arose after Sandy Hook were informed by a specific ideology and were embraced on such a wide scale not because of their truth but because adherents “selectively embraced conspiratorial narratives that delegitimized specific regimes” – the Obama administration. Expect the same in the coming days and weeks…

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

The Bilderberg protesters – conspiracy theorists or concerned citizens?

Nefarious plots by one-world governments, bankers, politicians or, in the case of this weekend, the infamous Bilderberg Group are nothing new. The latter, a “cabal” of influential Atlantacists that first met in 1954 to solidify relations between Europe and the USA (and who have been meeting ever since), has become a catchword for those who like to see “beyond” what they are told by government or media.

Yet for the 2013 conference, hosted at the Grove Hotel in Watford, the vale of secrecy had been partially lifted; the event boasted not only a website detailing attendees and the agenda but also a fringe festival on the perimeter, allowing those who believe the group’s activities might not be in the best interests of democracy a chance to protest in front of the world’s media.

For people who don’t see plot and intrigue behind every door, “Bilderberg” is something of a buzzword attached to the conspiracy theory community, along with “truthers”, “birthers” and countless other alleged “cover ups”, from JFK and the moon landings to the more recent accusations thrown at the families of the Sandy Hook victims late last year.

However, with one or two notable exceptions the attendees of the Fringe were far from the kooks, crazies or harbingers of a lizard apocalypse one might be led to expect. Several people told the HuffPost UK they were there because they were worried about issues of transparency in government. Several more voiced concerns about the concentration of power embodied by the politicians and business leaders enjoying canapés in the hotel up the road. Yes – there was talk of “shadow governments”, “hundred-year agendas” and “orchestrated media blackouts” but there was also talk of Libor, the problems of the EU and the unfolding Prism scandal.

When asked how they felt about being dismissed as conspiracy theorists, many pointed to large spa hotel next door as vindication that clandestine groups not only exist, but they could be unveiled by pressure.

Russell, a middle-aged man from Tiverton in Devon, was sat alongside his wife on deck chairs in the corner of the field. Both sported David Icke t-shirts. He told the HuffPost UK they were there to voice opposition to this “small group of people that wield such power”.

“Most people unfortunately still have their head in the sand,” he said. “They [the majority] are driven by the system, they’re controlled by the system and they’ll die by the system. They’re even told what food to eat and what medication to have.”

“It’s an undemocratic meeting,” said Claudio, 23, who had travelled from Germany to protest. “There are several attendees from German parties in there and a couple of CEOs. If you think this is just a conspiracy theory, why was the Bilderberg Group so secretive for so long? We’ve finally forced it into the open.”

John, in his thirties, had travelled to Watford from Aylesbury to raise public awareness about the group. “George Osborne and Ed Balls are both up there,” he told the HuffPost UK. “They work for opposing parties. Why are they discussing financial agendas behind closed doors? Also, you can’t discuss matters about Africa without African people here to represent those countries. Who are they [The Bilderberg Group] to make those decisions?”

John said that the influence of the group might be waning, particularly with the rise of the Chinese economy, but thought the group’s real focus was likely to be foreign policy rather than financial matters.

Despite the relaxed atmosphere inside the Fringe (it felt more like a picnic than a protest) security was heavy, with a strong police number backed up by guards in G4S uniforms. Everyone entering the event was given a thorough search with metal detectors, while guards in jeeps patrolled the perimeter fence.

Wearing a pink shirt, a cowboy hat and a large placard, protester Glynn Ellis, offered some flamboyance to the event, insisting he had been “groped” by police. “There are more questions than answers,” he serenaded before launching into a rant: “I don’t exist, this field doesn’t exist, I didn’t get groped on the way in here by G4S security, and there are definitely not 120 world leaders in that hotel up there… which doesn’t exist.” When asked what he thought was on the agenda, Ellis was clear: “The bombing of Iran.”

Then there was Alex Jones, the American radio host, who first came to British attention sparring with Piers Morgan on his CNN show over gun control. Jones, who along with the late Jim Tucker is seen as one of the founders of the movement against Bilderberg, was rapturously welcomed by protesters, being surrounded by cameras and peppered with questions, whilst making his own recording via an iPhone on a small tripod.

Yet in contrast to his bruising encounter with Morgan, Jones was charming, polite and measured in his criticism, his objections bouncing from corporate groups in Europe controlling policy, to manipulation of the media, to how Bilderberg “sets the agenda” for less secretive meetings, such as the G8 and G20.

Jones has been criticised in his homeland for cashing in on people’s fear and paranoia, and devotees of his radio shows will know his beliefs go way beyond Bilderberg, seeing the hand of government everywhere from the Sandy Hook killings to the Boston Marathon. However, it was ironic that the Fringe was held on the weekend that The Guardian broke the Prism surveillance scandal, perhaps giving pause for thought to even the most ardent sceptic who might just think there’s something in this after all.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.