Today’s column touches on the conspiracies and counter-narratives about Newtown.
My deadline is usually Wednesday evening, so I wrote this before the late-week clamor over Martha Dean’s posting of the most heavily trafficked Newtown-was-staged video. A day or so after writing the column, I also heard about a Hartford area suburban hockey practice where moms were looking at the video on their phones. (The video in question has more than 11 million hits as of this morning.) I mention this because I think many of us assume that the people who dabble in this stuff are “somewhere else..” Florida. Idaho. Maybe it starts there, but it doesn’t stay there.
The staff of my radio show has been in deep discussion about whether and how to do a show about this unpleasant phenomenon. One proposal: do a show analyzing the rise and spread of this kind of counter-narrative, without actually putting one of its promulgators on the air. (The argument here is: you don’t want even to hint at legitimizing these people by giving them a mainstream platform, and you don’t want to assault the sensibilities of listeners.) My preference, however, is to do all of the preceding but to begin with an interview with one of the people spreading these claims. But we’re still talking about this.
I believe the intensity and viral spread of this outlandish set of claims derive, at least in part, from the way President Obama and the Newtown massacre are intensely linked. Crazy talk about Obama has been dragging on for so long that we’ve habituated to it. The same screwy logic and rhetoric, applied to Newtown, is a slap in the face.