Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Top Stories

Burriss on Media: Newtown Conspiracy

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BURRISS)  --  Here’s a little computer exercise for you to try: go to Google and search for the name “Emilie Parker.” The first entry includes pictures of young Emilie and President Obama. But the web site claims there is something odd about the photos: the pictures were supposedly taken after Emilie was shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

It didn’t take long, but a whole cottage industry has sprung up claiming the shootings were part of a conspiracy. In this case the multiple threads include a combination of notions the shootings were arranged by gun control advocates, that actors were brought in to pretend to be grieving parents, and that the Israeli Mossad was somehow, for some reason, involved.

Of course, the media are thought to be active players in the conspiracy, going so far as to actually prompt the grieving parents, if there were any, as to what to say on camera.

So what is it that prompts large numbers of people to believe the shooting in Newtown never happened, we never landed on the moon, and the events of 9-11 were staged?

First, everyone likes to know a secret. Conspiracy theories thrive on the notion that the masses are brainwashed, and only a select few really know the truth. The fact that the truth can’t be supported by hard evidence doesn’t seem to make any difference.

Second, conspiracy theories seem to simplify a confusing, complex world. Conspiracy theorists try to take what appears to be conflicting data and reduce it to a simple narrative that is easy to understand, but which almost always falls apart on closer analysis.

Finally, conspiracy theories always divide the world between the forces of good and the forces of evil, again making the complex and confusing events simple. Then, the forces of evil are traced back to a single source that is so well hidden that no one can find it, except those who have exposed the conspiracy.

Conspiracy theories have been around since the middle ages, and the uncontroverted evidence seems to show they will always be with us. Like the old adage says, “Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is made up.”

I’m Larry Burriss.