Exene Cervenka, a member of the 1980’s punk band X, has made the claim that the recent killings in Santa Barbara were a hoax. She also claims that the Newtown shootings were a hoax. She says these things are part of a conspiracy by the government to take away our guns. (If the government really wanted to take away our guns, it would go ahead and do it.) There are other people besides Cervenka who believe these things. Some of them have harassed the family members of the Newtown victims.
Think back to the Columbine shootings in 1999. No one ever claimed the shootings were a hoax. The only controversy was over whether stricter gun control laws might have prevented the shootings. The term “false flag event” didn’t even exist in people’s vocabularies at the time. What happened between then and now were the September 11th attacks and the conspiracy industry that grew up in their wake. This industry claimed that the government, the media, and the military had conspired in the attacks and in a subsequent cover-up. If someone is willing to believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of people willingly committed treason just to give George W. Bush a political advantage, it’s not much of a stretch for that person to believe that almost anything in the news is a hoax.
9/11 conspiracy theories were mostly associated with the Left, but there were some on the Right who took them up, most notably Alex Jones. Jones’s Facebook page has 799,491 likes. (Consider that the largest far left group in the US, the ISO, has fewer than a thousand members.) Jones’s followers and like-minded people make up a small percentage of the population, but they are becoming increasingly vocal and militant. It’s worth remembering here that it only took one person to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.
I don’t pretend to know what to do about this problem. What I do know is that we shouldn’t simply dismiss these people as funny kooks. We need to think seriously about what to do about this problem before somebody gets hurt.