Critical thinking experts shine light on dark conspiracy worldview

There may be nothing more upsetting in the news today for a rational thinker than people who believe that the Sandy Hook shooting may have been faked. A group of conspiracy and media experts take a look at the video claiming to present “facts” that support something different went on in Newtown than the official story.

This story features Ben Radford, Bob Blaskiewicz, David Mikkelson (Snopes.com) and D.J. Grothe. A stellar skeptical cast who do a good job of pointing out why this fantasy resonates with people and how they get away with it.

Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory Video Debunked By Experts.

David Mikkelson, founder of myth-bunking site Snopes.com, [says].

“In any kind of disaster or tragedy like this, if you go through things with a fine-toothed comb, you will find a number of contradictory statements,” Mikkelson told HuffPost. “Of course, most of them are cleared up within a few days of the initial reporting, but it’s not something you’re going to see in these [conspiracy] videos.”

Compiled together, this “evidence” not only addresses a theory, but also a much larger issue: Most conspiracy theorists have a very specific agenda, the experts said.

ThinkOutsideTheTV, for example, points to the notion that Sandy Hook could’ve been a scheme to disarm the American public and destroy the Second Amendment.

“What I think we are looking at in the video is an attempt to find evidence to fit a preexisting narrative, that the government is or is quickly becoming a tyranny and that the only thing stopping the government from terrorizing the nation is that the populace is armed,” Blaskiewicz said.

Here is the video.

What they don’t tell us (and maybe no one could) is how to address such an idea. It’s not based on reason so they is little chance that our reason can work to resolve it. In fact, I’m not sure there is ANYTHING you can tell those whose worldview is so reliant on distrust and paranoia. No logic works.

I posted a comment on this Huff Po piece thanking them for the rational coverage. Please consider doing the same.

Check out Bob’s piece on the information cycle to read more about how the news feeds into this worldview.

  19 comments for “Critical thinking experts shine light on dark conspiracy worldview

  1. January 17, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    I’m surprised that a counter narrative hasn’t emerged claiming that the shooting was orchestrated by some pro-gun cabal in an attempt to bolster firearms sales.

    Apparently gun sales have gone up in response to the incident. I suppose a “pro-gun” demographic (conspiracy theorists) would never advance a theory that would ever suggest that their favorite arms manufacturers could ever do wrong.

    The type of narrative they choose to advance is very telling, and illustrates a glaring bias.

    I just hope this nonsense serves as an example to the rest of the public, who are generally indifferent to conspiracy theories, and that the ensuing circus surrounding this specific issue ceases.
    The families, and community have been through enough.

    • spookyparadigm
      January 17, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      Considering it’s even IN THE SAME TOWN (duh duh duhn!) as a major firearms manufacturer. If an anti-gun group had its headquarters a couple of miles away, I’m sure we’d be hearing all about it.

    • One Eyed Jack
      January 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      “Apparently gun sales have gone up in response to the incident.”

      Gun sales have not gone up because of the Newtown shooting. Gun sales have gone up because some people believe the reaction to Newtown will be more restrictions on gun sales and ownership rights.

      And please, let’s avoid stereotypes such as ” ‘pro-gun’ demographic (conspiracy theorists)”. There may be an overlap in those groups, but they are not synonymous.

      • January 17, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        “Gun sales have not gone up because of the Newtown shooting. Gun sales have gone up because some people believe the reaction to Newtown will be more restrictions on gun sales and ownership rights.”

        Exactly my point. Gun sales have gone up as a reaction to Newtown.

        And you’re correct, there is an overlap between conspiracy theorists and gun ownership, hence my correct statement about them constituting a “demographic.” I think if you read what I wrote you’ll see that I did not stereotype. I may have struck a nerve, but I never said “All gun enthusiasts are conspiracy theorists.” That is why I used the word “demographic.” As in a segment of a population.

    • Moose McNuggets
      January 17, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      Good point. Dick Cheney has been remarkably silent through all this. Coincidence? I think not. Until someone can prove to me that Dick Cheney was NOT involved, I will continue to assume he WAS.

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to YouTube to post my latest video.

  2. Mr. Shreck
    January 17, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    I found the D.J. Grothe comment particularly interesting. I have no doubt that politicians will exploit tragedy to implement their agendas. Recognizing this, the conspiracy-minded, inclined to thinking in terms of will and agency, easily work backward into a reduction fallacy. Could it explain why the religious who view the world as being directed by intelligent beings seem to be particularly “good” at this kind of “thinking”?

    • January 17, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      I think you’re spot on. “Will and agency” is the same wether it’s a God(s) or an all powerful global organization.

      I think those types of beliefs provide a bizarre comfort of powerless understanding to their adherents.
      In other words “I may not have much, or any control, over things but at least I know what’s going on.” i.e., “I’m one of god(s) chosen.” or in conspiracy circles “I’m not a sheeple.” I think there is a comfort in being “In the know.” even if, or maybe because of, the lack of personal agency. Could also be projection?

      • Mr. Shreck
        January 17, 2013 at 2:15 PM

        In the interest of full coverage, “I’m a skeptic” might also be included. ;-)

        • January 17, 2013 at 2:37 PM

          Umm, no. We’re better than “those people”! JOKING. IT’S A JOKE, PEOPLE… sort of. ;-)

          • Mr. Shreck
            January 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM

            For what it’s worth, I laughed. :-)

  3. Bobbi Snow
    January 17, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    People who view everything as a “judgement by God against our sinful world” or “the furtherance of tyranny by an out-of-control government” have way too much time on their hands! And those who exploit disasters by preying upon the ignorance or the inability to think for themselves of others, to gain a following, are either borderline insane, or hate authority. There is no doubt some of the rebel-rousers actually BELIEVE their own crap; they are to be pitied and ignored. Those who take something negative and add to it for profit, are purveyors for profit. With 350 million(registered) weapons ((311,800,000 in mid-2011, not counting the undocumented people from all over the world), that means that ALL of us should have at least one weapon… And that’s just not true. Other statistics that recently were reported indicate only about 1/3 of Americans own a registered weapon. So that tells me more than 1/3 of our population has a stash of weapons squirreled away “just in case…” For someone who grew up around weapons, that’s a sad reality. I have never carried a weapon anywhere for any reason, even when I was being stalked and had a restraining order against my stalker. (The City of L.A. refused to grant me a permit to carry a concealed weapon, even though a judge considered my life to be in danger!) So to these people who say they wish to have the 2nd Amendment Right to carry a loaded weapon with them everywhere they go, and the right to have all the ammo and as many weapons as they want, I sort of pity them. It appears to me that their weapon(s) are an indication of their fear & cowardice to face life. I agree with our President: We need to stop all the insanity of storing ammo and weapons to battle against an imaginary foe. I am all for having a weapon in the home to defend my property and safety against intruders, but only in the rarest circumstances are weapons needed for every day carry.

    • Mr. Shreck
      January 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      “those who exploit disasters by preying upon the ignorance or the inability to think for themselves of others, to gain a following”

      Politicians?

      • January 17, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        On the other hand we do have to actually address the problem. It’s curious to note that pro-gun control politicians are labeled as “exploiting” the situation by the anti-gun control politicians, and vice versa.

        It’s kind of like how everyone hates lobbyists, with the exception of the lobbyists we like, who just so happen to share our political worldview.

        Who is doing the “exploiting” is largely contingent upon ones political views.

        • Mr. Shreck
          January 17, 2013 at 2:14 PM

          What if I think both sides are exploiting it? I find it hard not to view most of the history of political power as manipulation of the masses via their emotions.

          The idea that we have to address “the problem” is the first thing we should apply critical thinking to in my opinion. It is difficult to discuss it this way without triggering contempt/anger/horror because we have to look at costs and benefits when the problem is dead children, which mortifies any remotely sane person at a sub-rational level. In crisis, however, is when we most need cool heads to ensure we don’t leap off into reactionary or political opportunistic policies with harmful unintended consequences.

          • January 17, 2013 at 2:28 PM

            Very true. Exploitation does happen, and by politicians of all stripes. My fear is that this type of thinking “They’re all exploiting us” is a justification for apathy. Even worse is when the word “exploitation” becomes code for “there really isn’t a problem, here.” Then what we’re really saying is “We’re not going to even do the fundamental inquiry required to find out if there is a problem. We’re safe in assuming that there isn’t one, because “they’re” exploiting the situation.”

            I do believe we need to view this calmly, and in an evidence based fashion, but to automatically assume that the reality of politicians exploiting an event or situation equals non-existence of a problem is a logical fallacy.

    • Moose McNuggets
      January 17, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      We have more guns and more God than any other industrialized nation. And we have more violence than any of them as well. If you want to find somewhere even more violent than us, you’re pretty much left with underdeveloped Islamic nations like Somalia and Pakistan, where they have even more guns and even more God than we do.

      I realize this is only a correlation and doesn’t prove anything, but since one of the well known definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, I do have to wonder what the people who advocate more guns and more God are thinking.

      We should at least recognize that guns and God aren’t in any way solving our problems. That would be the biggest step forward that this nation has taken since it abolished slavery.

      • January 17, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        There are some very good numbers on the nationmaster site, as well as very well cited entries on Wikipedia.

  4. J
    January 17, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    I’m not even sure what to make of the video, as convoluted as it is, aside from the fact that they appear to make it look authoritative by superimposing their own Infowars logo over the videos they gathered.
    As for addressing this kind of poor thinking, all I can suggest is to try and understand what would appeal to believers of this stuff, or people who would be receptive to it.
    Lack of hard evidence is most likely what reinforces and justifies their beliefs (freedom of thought, maybe?), perhaps because it’s part of their mental scaffolding, so to speak, so speading these allegations is a way of being pro-social. Also, it may be a kind of opportunistic hero syndrome in the works, without having to create a tragedy in which to rescue people. So reason and logic may well strengthen their ego’s resolve to try harder and resist rational explanations, hence the occasional inane ranting.

  5. RDW
    January 19, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    It’s a bit of a shame that these doubters and “Skeptics” (puke) can’t be forced to sit in a room filled with graphic images of those poor, mangled little children. The gore. The blood. They’d think differently if they’d not had so much practice at shielding themselves from reality.

Comments are closed.