Following our previous roundup of insane conspiracy theories regarding the mass murder, Michael Moynihan reports for the Daily Beast on the paranoiacs who variously claim that “the government was behind the school massacre. Wait, it was Obama, in a ruse to take our guns away. No, it was Iran! Israel! Batman!”:
In the mid-1990s, during the infancy of the World Wide Web, a visit to my local university library demonstrated that the Internet would be both a great tool of liberation and a megaphone for the fantastically mad. That small bank of Internet-connected computer terminals was reliably occupied by a few student researchers and an army of honking, snorting, flaky-skinned cranks, furiously posting to Internet bulletin boards. (I frequently traded pleasantries with one twitchy local who wore homemade body armor, claiming that it shielded his organs from computer smog while browsing the Internet.)
Almost 20 years later, behold how Tim Berners-Lee liberated the crackpot from his world of Manichean newsletters, how he freed the basement-dwelling “researcher” to hawk bad ideas to the undereducated and paranoid (think of the 9/11 “truth” movement). Indeed, the Internet allows us curious observers to view the creation of conspiracy theories in real time. For instance, while initial news reports of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., were plagued with dubious and false information—as is frequently the case with major tragedies—such “inconsistencies” precipitated a hunt for the real truth.
While ignoring the generic rantings that circulate via email and Facebook, I spent the past week browsing the websites and YouTube channels of the Internet’s most popular fear peddlers—those who almost, but not quite, trespass upon the mainstream—to witness the paranoid mind create an “alternative” explanation of the Newtown massacre.
It started with this story on BET.com. Def Jam rapper Gunplay, who currently is under house arrest on charges relating to an armed robbery, informed his 100,000 Twitter followers that the “Government killed dem [sic] kids to take our guns away. Another 9/11. Dont [sic] get it twisted.” It’s a surprisingly common belief among conspiracy theorists, I discovered, who claim not that the president seized upon the tragedy to push through onerous gun legislation—too simple—but that he engineered the tragedy.
Cui bono, ad absurdum.
Gunplay’s semi-literate tweet was later deleted, only to be replaced by a vague warning that President Obama had perpetrated a “gun hoax”—with a link to a febrile rant by talk-radio host Alex Jones. Jones, proprietor of the website Infowars.com and host of a wildly popular syndicated radio program, has acted as a clearing house for Sandy Hook conspiracies…
[continues in the Daily Beast]