Black Backpacks and Colored Circles
May 23, 2013 8:41 AM   Subscribe

The Boston Marathon bombings may be fading from the front pages, but the numerous conspiracy theories that sprang up in the wake of the incident continue to rage on, spurred by professional conspiracists such as Alex Jones. Book reviewer and skeptic Anita Dalton (previously), at her new website devoted to skeptical examinations of conspiracy theories and paranormal claims, has kicked off a meticulous and in-depth series of posts comprehensively debunking the Boston Marathon conspiracy theories. (Related: Why rational people buy into conspiracy theories.)
posted by El Sabor Asiatico (72 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. I'm from Boston and thought I'd read everything, but I've never heard of most of these theories.
posted by Melismata at 8:46 AM on May 23, 2013


I can't imagine the FBI's fatal shooting of a suspect in a closely related case, as he was (allegedly) about to confess, is going to quiet the conspiracy theorists any.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:48 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Man, I hate seeing Alex Jones linked on Metafilter. Feels so dirty, and not in a good way.
posted by justgary at 8:49 AM on May 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


has kicked off a meticulous and in-depth series of posts comprehensively debunking the Boston Marathon conspiracy theories.

Which will do absolutely nothing to convince these people that there is no conspiracy.

See also: Every other conspiracy theory.
posted by bondcliff at 8:51 AM on May 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I wanna say up front that I know that all of this is bullshit. When things were unfolding, though, I was pretty anxious that things would come out sounding pretty suspicious. Using a thing like this to brush aside the vote for and ultimately justify a thing like SOPA would have made conspiracy theories way too truthy for anyone so inclined to ignore.

Things didn't though.
posted by cmoj at 8:52 AM on May 23, 2013


Alex Jones peddles so much misinformation that I honestly don't know if believes what he says; I wonder if he's just bilking his audience to enrich himself.
posted by qcubed at 8:54 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


It was Craft International! Look, they are wearing their uniforms!

But if you were going to conspire to kill American citizens on behalf of the government wouldn't you, like, not wear your uniform? Seems a little traceable, doesn't it?

That's just it! They wore their uniforms as a way to take the heat OFF of them, plausible deniability, because who would do that? AND IT IS WORKING.

It's got to be exhausting being you.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:55 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


And the OK tornadoes? Yeah, Alex Jones can blame them on Obama.

The part that should boil your blood is more reputable sites link to this crap.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:56 AM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


With Tough Mudder and their ilk of macho obstacle races growing in popularity, the Boston marathon organizers planted the bombs so they could stay ahead of their competition.

That ones for free.
posted by dr_dank at 8:58 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


And the OK tornadoes? Yeah, Alex Jones can blame them on Obama.

The part that should boil your blood is more reputable sites link to this crap.


It's not just reputable sites, it's also influential legislators (at both the state and federal levels) and/or potential candidates for President.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:01 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


What fucking gets me is that the reality of the situation is a conspiracy. A couple of shitbags conspired to bomb the Boston Marathon. But that's not exotic enough and doesn't flatter the particular cognitive defects of these fuckheads, so instead let's make up a different story!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:08 AM on May 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


I actually think the Orlando story is quite interesting, and would love to know what really happened.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:09 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Related: Why rational people buy into conspiracy theories.)

If Alex Jones or anyone that takes anything he says seriously is considered rational then I'm Alex Jones.
posted by item at 9:11 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


qcubed: "I wonder if he's just bilking his audience to enrich himself."

Oh come on. The water filters he sells work great! Gotta rid your self of all the mind control chemicals some how!
posted by Big_B at 9:13 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love conspiracy sites (the more woo-woo the better) and have been sad to see more and more of them infected by this whole Truther-vibe. The site that used to be my go to place about chemtrails and orgonite has gone over the bend with this stuff, linking places like NoDisInfo (where you are always less than one click away from someone yelling ZIONISTS!) and that Alex Jones-wannabe Henry Makow instead of good ole reptilian sighting reports.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:19 AM on May 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've always wanted to ask a diehard conspiracy nut (of pretty much any stripe) one simple question: assuming I had access to verifiable recordings, notarized documents and other related evidence, is there anything I could show you that would make you doubt your "theory"? Anything at all? If not...well, what does that say?
posted by Bromius at 9:21 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine the FBI's fatal shooting of a suspect in a closely related case, as he was (allegedly) about to confess, is going to quiet the conspiracy theorists any.

Nor can this!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:23 AM on May 23, 2013


Alex Jones thinks Obama is the Weather Wizard? Biden: Captain Cold or Captain Boomerang? Central City has a right to know.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:26 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


If Alex Jones or anyone that takes anything he says seriously is considered rational then I'm Alex Jones.

Should we start calling you "MeFi's own Alex Jones" then?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:29 AM on May 23, 2013


Which will do absolutely nothing to convince these people that there is no conspiracy.

Is it the purpose of debunking to convince the True Believers?
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's not much point in trying to counteract True Believers with facts, a conspiracy theorist will believe the conspiracy no matter what you tell them. But it's useful to counteract the noise for ordinary folks.

One thing I, an ordinary person, am curious about: how did the Tsarneavs end up shooting an MIT campus officer on the night they got caught? They'd been laying low and acting normal for a few days, then suddenly they're all murdering and carjacking. Early reports had them robbing the 7-11 in Central Square but that turned out not to be correct. Of course there's some straightforward explanation, probably turning on the stupidity of the criminals. Has it come out yet?
posted by Nelson at 9:35 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alex Jones is pants-on-head crazy, but as mentioned in the last link, conspiracy theorists might not be so pervasive if the conspiracies that we DO know the US Government has involved itself in weren't so common and outlandish.

"Ok, so historically the government has shown willingness to lie to black people about their illnesses in order to study what happens when they go untreated, funnel money to the Mafia in for the purposes of facilitating an invasion of Cuba, sell weapons in violation of an arms embargo in order to illegally finance counter-revolutionaries in another country, and kidnap people and transport them to foriegn locations in order to make torturing them politically less problematic. But a false flag attack on US soil? That's just too much!"
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:37 AM on May 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


then suddenly they're all murdering and carjacking

I know, it's crazy, it's like their names and faces were suddenly pasted over every news outlet in the free world just a few hours earlier or something!

But a false flag attack on US soil? That's just too much!"

With what purpose? Why would they bomb a public event just to smear some college kids? The other actual conspiracies you cite have actual "practical" outcomes that are fairly predictable. You have to ask why in these cases and in this one there is no realistic answer.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:38 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I sympathize with the conspiracy theorists much more than the sizable fraction of the U.S. that is not curious about what happened and simply wishes for suspects to be executed without a trial.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:44 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


If the FL suspect wasn't shot as part of a coverup, I'm supposed to believe what? That a low rent Orlando scumbag MMA fighter and self-professed murderer has anger/impulse control issues that got him killed? Seems farfetched.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:53 AM on May 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Parasite unseen - there have been plans to actually fake an attack on the US. This happened between the end of Eisenhower's watch and the beginning of the Kennedy era as a suggestion as to how to get the public onside for an invasion of Cuba. Never happened obviously but always fun to know that some public servant somewhere thought that was a sound idea...
posted by longbaugh at 9:56 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll give Alex Jones a pass on being solely an Obama-basher. He's been bashing the sitting president since at least Clinton's first term and he wasn't sitting quiet during the Bush years to my recollection.

The thing I find fascinating about Jones is that he used to be tight with Bill Hicks. That makes me wonder if Bill would be a truther conspiracy theorist if he were still alive today (he was already pretty heavy into conspiracy theories, especially after Waco) or if Alex Jones is just milking a cash cow.

Also, I'm disappointed to see the Freemasons haven't been implicated in this yet.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:56 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I ought to post this on my Facebook and see if anyone unfriends me. I see conspiracy theory stuff posted on my FB wall all the time. Latest one was that the Feds used HAARP to send the tornado to Moore, OK because they wanted to kill/dehouse some poor working class people. For what it's worth the person who posted said theory is a radical left winger.
posted by smoothvirus at 9:58 AM on May 23, 2013


The thing I find fascinating about Jones is that he used to be tight with Bill Hicks. That makes me wonder if Bill would be a truther conspiracy theorist if he were still alive today (he was already pretty heavy into conspiracy theories, especially after Waco) or if Alex Jones is just milking a cash cow.

Bill and Alex had a bit of a split, I think due to Bill appraising Alex as a total nutcase per a documentary on Hicks I recall, however finding reports of that is tricky because the internet is currently choked with posts about how Alex Jones actually IS Bill Hicks. Sigh.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:05 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Alex Jones. When someone directs me to look at his site for "proof" of anything it's a big flashing signal that it's ok to laugh and start giving them noogies.

I knew someone who was into all of this stuff. It was sad to see people embrace all of this hokum while there were real, no-foolin' out-in-the-open machinations happening all around us. The Rothchilds but not Goldman-Sachs? Really?
posted by 1adam12 at 10:07 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


More and more, the conspiracy theorist mindset becomes almost a standalone mythology, a way of making sense out of a world that manifestly does not make sense. From a certain vulnerable perspective, it is probably preferable to believe that you live under the rule of an evil government rather than that evil is in fact so pedestrian that it can strike at any time and without warning. HAARP is Thor's hammer or Zeus's lightning bolt in this technological age.

I used to be really fascinated by this when it consisted primarily of arguments about what really happened in Rendelsham Forest or whether there really is a base in Dulce. Now, it kind of breaks my heart a little. It's like that Ray Bradbury story, where the child never does manage to see the sun.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:19 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Alex Jones peddles so much misinformation that I honestly don't know if believes what he says; I wonder if he's just bilking his audience to enrich himself.

Evidence points to cynical enrichment. I do wish we could stop giving attention to this profiteering dickweed on MetaFilter at all.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:25 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


one simple question: assuming I had access to verifiable recordings, notarized documents and other related evidence, is there anything I could show you that would make you doubt your "theory"?

A counter-question:

What would it take for you to reverse your opinion on something? The same kinds of documents?

Because up-thread there are links on Operation Northwoods and a few other things. Is what has been presented by the parasite unseen enough for you to believe in what was presented? If not, what would it take for you to believe?

Alex Jones is pants-on-head crazy*

Yea, like the machine elves and DMT comments.

If Alex Jones or anyone that takes anything he says seriously is considered rational then I'm Alex Jones.

Anything? So you don't believe British royal family membership has dressed up as Nazi's? That Operation Northwoods existed?



*What makes Alex effective is he starts more than a few of his conclusions based on some sort of verifiable truth - like the things parasite unseen linked to. The conclusions, well as one Blueian stated a few says ago , Things in life don't need to make logical sense - the need to make emotional sense.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:31 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


If the FL suspect wasn't shot as part of a coverup, I'm supposed to believe what? That a low rent Orlando scumbag MMA fighter and self-professed murderer has anger/impulse control issues that got him killed? Seems farfetched.

I don't know. Kill a guy in a high-profile way that demands copious red tape, pulling in even more investigators to examine the case, and inviting the scrutiny of civil-rights groups? Even if he did have something to say, just arrest the guy, because everyone knows that suspects are bad people who would say anything to deflect guilt.

I'm unwilling to attribute to nefarious genius what seems at first glance, like an example of the kind of stupid that police and suspects get into every week, if my newspaper is to be believed. I suspect the biggest conspiracy is the FBI and State Police dropping the words "Tsarnaev connection" at every opportunity. That's the kind of thing that's routine when working with people accused of violent felonies though, so it's not exactly a sexy conspiracy.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:36 AM on May 23, 2013


What makes Alex a dickhead that we shouldn't even pay attention to is that he is profiting off the deaths of children in Boston and now Oklahoma. This guy needs to go down the Ann Coulter memory pit along with all his followers.
posted by Big_B at 10:37 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


always fun to know that some public servant somewhere thought that was a sound idea.

That existed not because of 'some public servant' but MANY public servants thought it was a good idea.

And rather than work towards a world where the Alex Jones would have no raw material to weave his "art" from, many decry the "art" and not the material the "art" is made from.

Getting rid of the raw, nasty, material Alex uses for his "art" would not only be a benefit for mankind, but also leave Alex talking about machine elves and he'd thusly fade away.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:39 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


What makes Alex a dickhead that we shouldn't even pay attention to is that he is profiting off the deaths of children in Boston and now Oklahoma

If 'profiting from the deaths of children' is the bar to limbo under, I believe the end of the limbo line starts a far ways away. To get there, you'll need to go past the military industrial complex building, turn right at the national press media that covered Boston/Oklahoma, turn left at ... ya know what, just ask others in the limbo line who THEY think have 'profited from the deaths of children' .

But congratz! I've not seen a "think of the children" argument as for reasons for Alex to not be listened to.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:46 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know, it's crazy, it's like their names and faces were suddenly pasted over every news outlet in the free world just a few hours earlier or something!

I could have done without the snark, but thanks for the hint. The FBI released video of the suspected bombers at 5PM Eastern time May 18. Collier was murdered at 10:30pm and they carjacked the SUV at 10:39pm. So that's all consistent with them going on the lam after the FBI posted their images. Police sources said they believe Collier was killed for his gun.

The 7-11 part still doesn't quite makes sense. Originally there was a rumour they were caught on tape robbing the 7-11; that turned out to be false. There's still a story that they were caught on 7-11 surveillance video, maybe as part of using an ATM card stolen in the carjacking, although that seems both a little late and awfully lucky.

I'm picking on this one little question because it's one I remember. If I were conspiracy-minded, I could spin this into some crazy story. I'm not. I have a good appreciation for the unreliability of rumor, the natural confusion and incomplete information in real world events, and that occasionally lucky concidences can happen. But thinking about this question makes me appreciate how scumbags like Alex Jones can operate, to turn these little questions and uncertainties into some grand story that seems like it has meaning.
posted by Nelson at 10:47 AM on May 23, 2013


Why would "they" perform a secret syphilis study? Long-term effects of untreated syphilis have been known for hundreds of years.
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:49 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


how scumbags like Alex Jones can operate, to turn these little questions and uncertainties into some grand story that seems like it has meaning.

As parasite unseen had pointed out - other scumbags exist.

Alex could not have his little 'empire' of MLM offerings without the past scumbags.

(Now there's a hurf-durf Alex Jones article to be written - what is the history of the MLM stuff Alex pimps on his show. )
posted by rough ashlar at 10:56 AM on May 23, 2013


I've always wanted to ask a diehard conspiracy nut (of pretty much any stripe) one simple question: assuming I had access to verifiable recordings, notarized documents and other related evidence, is there anything I could show you that would make you doubt your "theory"?

I've asked this of a total conspiracy loon before, and the response was, 'Well, if you had proof, of course I'd believe you, but... [insert ranting about Jews here]'.

After all, it seems like all conspiracy theorists believe themselves to be profoundly rational, keenly observant, equipped with excellent research skills, &c., and so believe that they've already found the 'verifiable recordings, notarized documents' and oodles of other evidence to back their claims.

I can test this out tonight, though, if you like? I have to meet up with a die hard conspiracy-licker in half an hour, and - since he pretty much exclusively talks about conspiracy theories - the opportunity will arise...
posted by jack_mo at 11:16 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


To me, the most mind-boggling thing about conspiracy theorists these days is the absolutely insane vanity. If you're clever enough, even the world's most complicated conspiracies can be unraveled with a little bit of Googling and careful viewing of YouTube videos. You don't even have to put on pants or leave the computer.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:22 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would "they" perform a secret syphilis study? Long-term effects of untreated syphilis have been known for hundreds of years.
posted by Cookiebastard

I don't know but they did for about 40 years, even after penicillin was validated as a cure in the 1940s. like Rough Ashlar asked above, what evidence would it take to make you belive in a conspiracy theory, for Tuskagee really was a conspiracy.

"I've always wanted to ask a diehard conspiracy nut (of pretty much any stripe) one simple question: assuming I had access to verifiable recordings, notarized documents and other related evidence, is there anything I could show you that would make you doubt your "theory"?

I am not a die hard but love the stuff. It is hard to say and would probably vary from person to person depending on (a) the actual conspiracy, and (b) how die-hard they were. Also, if I say "the jews are trying to take over the world/control the world" how would you actually disprove this? (Woody Allen I'm watching you....)
posted by marienbad at 11:24 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If you're clever enough, even the world's most complicated conspiracies can be unraveled with a little bit of Googling and careful viewing of YouTube videos

Ok, Definitively prove there are no shapeshifting* reptilains on Earth right now.

(* Showing me an episdode of DS9 and pointing at the awesome Odo doesn't count)
posted by marienbad at 11:26 AM on May 23, 2013


I've sometimes wondered if some of the wilder conspiracy theories are seeded as distractions away from the more mundane stuf, like drones and assassination, cyberwarfare involving Microsoft's anachronistic use of MD5 hashes, or masked molotov-cocktail anarchists wearing police-issue boots slipping away into police stations.

(I still suspect that if the Tsarnaev's were associated with an experienced Chechen or Islamic terror group, or were set up by the government, a vest bomb would have had the dual advantages of higher casualties and closing a security hole.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:33 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I could have done without the snark, but thanks for the hint.

Sorry, think of it as sarcastic ribbing as opposed to mean-spirited snark, but you're right, too much.

MetaFilter: I could have done without the snark

If 'profiting from the deaths of children' is the bar to limbo under, I believe the end of the limbo line starts a far ways away.

Say what you will about the media disaster-porn industry and us ghouls that suck it up, but at least the lame-stream media isn't intentionally trying to deceive their own audience by giving them the gruesome they crave.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:37 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


a vest bomb would have had the dual advantages of higher casualties and closing a security hole

Maybe the backpack was supposed to be a suicide bomb, but Tamerlan was too cocky and egotistical and thought he could pull it off without having to kill himself? If what has been said about him is true, he does appear to be a pretty big asshole (ya know - besides the whole blowing up kids assholish thing).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2013


I am of the opinion that Alex Jones is fulfilling a very important purpose, which is to foster the attitude that people who believe in consipiracy theories are nuts and to pollute the channel so fully with noise that there is no way to tell what is true.

By the comments in this thread, he is doing a very good job.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


at least the lame-stream media isn't intentionally trying to deceive their own audience by giving them the gruesome they crave.

While not 'giving the gruesome' you have historical deceptions and the mundane ones. I'll point out the CNN coverage of 2 people in the same parking lot shot like there were on a conference call together. Or as reported by digital journal - CNN video of police charge at Sandy Hook is not Sandy Hook.

to foster the attitude that people who believe in consipiracy theories are nuts

Wouldn't that make Alex a CIA asset? It is the blueprint for employing "CIA media assets" to smear critics of the Warren Commission. The justification for this perversion of truth, justice and democracy was clearly stated: "Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society."

no way to tell what is true.

At what point is any narrative to be trusted? What one sees with ones own eyes can be faked, words can be stitched together with computers to create things never said, and even sworn affidavits in courts can be perjury.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:03 PM on May 23, 2013


Before mocking any conspiracy as being crazy, please check out Operation Gladio.


There is a full BBC documentary on youtube.

The following link touches on most of the main points of the BBC documentary.
Operation Gladio: CIA Network of “Stay Behind” Secret Armies
The "Sacrifice" of Aldo Moro


The take away points from this is that there were hundreds perhaps thousands of people involved in these conspiracies and they kept quiet for decades.

The second main point is the 'Strategy of Tension'. The terrorist attacks were engineered to cause people to turn public opinion against the leftists and to cause people to willingly give away some of their freedoms for security.

It doesn't seem all that different than what we have watched play out in Iraq and Afghanistan more recently. I don't know for sure that this is happening in the US, but I do think we should be vigilant of it. Who benefits if we don't constantly question the official story and it's implications?
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:48 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


For the record, Alex Jones is a total ass and full of shit. However, at the risk of being lambasted, I'm very put off by the attitude of the writer in the article as well as by many of the comments here. There were at the time and still remain unanswered questions about the events. But based on the article and the comments here, it would seem that the only acceptable response is to wholeheartedly and unquestioningly believe whatever "the authorities" say, and any deviation should be branded a (harmful!) conspiracy theory. I'm not suggesting anybody listen to a word Alex Jones says, and I don't agree with the conspiracy theories I've read. I guess I'm just not supposed to think for myself or agree with anyone who doesn't support the official version of events. Cause, ya know, governments and authority figures are always paragons of virtue and would never deceive anyone.

That is all, now on with making fun of everyone who doesn't believe everything the see on TV or read in the newspaper.
posted by krash2fast at 1:51 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gladio is unreal. Wiki.

I tried reading Ganser's "Nato's Secret Armies," but it is terrible. There is a new one out now, but I haven't read it yet: "NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis"

Gladio previously on Mefi

posted by marienbad at 2:32 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


krash2fast, I think one of the points of the article, if not the entire site, is that some people are believing things based on flawed reasoning and inadequate evidence (some of whom are led to do so by charlatans like Jones), not that we should only believe what the authorities say.

The author goes to great pains to point out when we know something and when we don't, and that it's impossible to draw good conclusions based on things we *think* we know that aren't actually so.

That said, I am very sympathetic (and Anita as well) to your point of view: there are some hinky things about the case, and we must question them, and the authorities need to be a lot more forthcoming with the evidence they claim to possess (for starters). I think Anita is just trying to weed out bad questioning.


* In the interest of full disclosure, I am Mr. Anita Dalton, and I get to read her posts before anyone else, which is pretty great.
posted by anvilcity at 2:49 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a government that has funded the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments and MKULTRA has made it very easy for the public to buy Alex Joneses Kool Aid.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:50 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


However, at the risk of being lambasted, I'm very put off by the attitude of the writer in the article as well as by many of the comments here. There were at the time and still remain unanswered questions about the events. But based on the article and the comments here, it would seem that the only acceptable response is to wholeheartedly and unquestioningly believe whatever "the authorities" say, and any deviation should be branded a (harmful!) conspiracy theory.

I think that's a false dichotomy also being played on the other side, that we can't be skeptical of the idea that Boston was a false flag operation--given that one half of congress is chasing its tail over the IRS and H. Clinton, and the other half still can't move shit past a fillibuster--without denying Tuskegee and other current and historical conspiracies. The narrative makes even less sense to me than 9/11 trutherism, and that disaster was quite successfully co-opted to sell foreign policy plans and law enforcement changes drafted back in the Reagan era. (I don't believe that Poindexter, Abrams, and Co. planned or were involved in 9/11. I do think they had all the relevant policy documents and carefully groomed intelligence analysis ready to be rubber-stamped in preparation for another Beirut, hostage crisis, or truck bomb.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:37 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alex Jones is pants-on-head crazy, but as mentioned in the last link, conspiracy theorists might not be so pervasive if the conspiracies that we DO know the US Government has involved itself in weren't so common and outlandish.

Yeah half of my friends are conspiracy mongers, so the Boston stuff is sorta background noise. When one of them posted a link about the US using drone strikes on its own citizens i filtered it in the same category until I saw it came from the NYT.

That said these people are so annoying it would be fun if they did detain Alex Jones for a few days. and given how dangerous some of the might be it would be prudent to have their phones tapped, at least.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:42 PM on May 23, 2013



And the OK tornadoes? Yeah, Alex Jones can blame them on Obama.


not clicking the link, but 'HAARP weather control wake up!'
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:42 PM on May 23, 2013


The Boston bombing was a conspiracy. Specifically, it was a conspiracy where a radical group of Chechens planned a bombing as an attempt to protest the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. That's a conspiracy, and it makes sense. Or take 9/11. A group of foreign radicals, backed by a billionaire with ties to the powerful Saudis, secretly organize an ambitious attack that will destroy a major landmark and kill thousands. That's a conspiracy.

Of course, people take these relatively small-scale, plausible conspiracy and tried to turn them into something else: impossibly large Rube Goldberg conspiracies that are lead by the highest echelons of our own government, and involved the cooperation of hundreds if not thousands of people from different organizations that have no history of working together and completely incompatible motivations. And they this in spite of the fact that they have no supporting evidence and these new conspiracy theories usually don't even make sense.

Perhaps most damningly, the same people who pull of the conspiracies often fail to use them for their own gain. If Obama successfully faked Sandy Hook to take our guns, (yes, people actually believe that), you'd think that he would have the ruthlessness and competence and influence to get some kind of meaningful gun legislation through Congress. The idea that the Obama administration got dozens of parents and teachers to fake their kids' deaths, but couldn't arrange a "hunting accident" for Wayne LePierre, defies every order of logic.


According to conspiracy theorists, Bush was able to successfully fake 9/11 by getting tens of thousands of engineers, soldiers and government officials to lie about the murder of thousands of their own countrymen. If they can pull that off, you'd think the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan would have gone swimmingly. Especially if one of the Taliban's biggest allies, Osama bin Laden, was an ally of the U.S. all along. (Yes, people believe this.)

That's not to say that the powerful are incapable of lying or conspiring against for their own interests. Bush an Co.did, in all likelihood, manipulated the American people into the Iraq war by misrepresenting intelligence. The Iraq war may have been motivated more by potential Halliburton profits than any of the administration's stated reasons. Lyndon B. Johnson may have insisted that the Gulf of Tonkin was an attack, while knowing full-well the evidence was shaky at best. Oil companies in Europe likely cheated people out of billions by illegally fixing prices. Large banks have bought politicians, using their political capital to deregulate the industry in their favor. Then they took enormous risks, kept the profits, and got the government to cover them when their recklessness caused an economic disaster.

All of these theories are conspiracies, involving dozens or hundreds of powerful people secretly planning things that benefit them at the expense of people at large. In the most literal sense, they are without doubt conspiracy theories. And yet, most of these things are widely accepted as truth, and none of them are commonly called 'conspiracy theories.'

The phrase 'conspiracy theory,' as commonly used, has taken on a very specific meaning. Here's my off-the-cuff definition: an impossibly convoluted, utterly implausible theory. Generally accuses hundreds or thousands of people of colluding in secret to do something terrible, in spite of questionable motive and opportunity.' And it's unfortunate, because as a people, we do need to be on the lookout for real conspiracies. The popularity of batshit crazy theories can undermine this, by making people assume that all conspiracy theories are equal. They aren't. Some actually make sense, are actually non-crazy, and actually have actual evidence behind them.

It makes it harder to get widespread support for things like the Occupy wall-street movements when the most vocal advocates seem to be equally* split between two types of people: one saying that the banks colluded with U.S. politicians to set up laws in their favor, the other saying that banks caused 9/11 so they could make money off Iraq. To people that don't pay attention, they get lumped together as 'crazy conspiracy theorists.'

And thus, I'm going to propose my own conspiracy theory:

Any and all conspiracy theorists are actually paid by the government to invent crazy theories, thus making plausible conspiracies sound crazy by association. Their leader, Alex Jones, is actually a figurehead paid by the Bank of America, hired to de-legitimize realistic concerns about how globalization is often implemented in a way that benefits the ultra-rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.


*okay, equally is admittedly pretty hyperbolic. But I was acquaintances with several people who were huge advocates of OWS, and were motivated in part because they thought the banks were behind 9/11.
posted by Green Winnebago at 5:59 PM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Before mocking any conspiracy as being crazy, please check out Operation Gladio.

I've seen a reference to an "Asian Gladio" in the last month so there may be MORE to read about and shake ones head at. In the past Gladio discussion I've linked to a free e-book about Gladio and plenty of names I remember hearing WRT BCCI and Iran Contra are mentioned.

or truck bomb.

One of the bits brought up in the Oklahoma truck bomb event is how the truck was too tall to go in the parking garage but the next thought tied to that bit of info was not "isn't it great that the government helpers were working to sabotage the plan by getting a too big truck!" but "incompetent government planning, can't get the truck size right."

t clicking the link, but 'HAARP weather control wake up!'

You forgot Air Force document (blah) 'Own the weather by 2025 as force multiplier'. Its a good thing all that matters is not facts but what feels like it is true eh?

Lyndon B. Johnson may have insisted that the Gulf of Tonkin was an attack, while knowing full-well the evidence was shaky at best.

Lyndon has other things you could have picked - a man behind JFK getting killed or how about the attack on the USS Liberty. The JFK angle just had a book published in the last year and go to the "right" places on the Internet and one can still find people demanding some sort of action about the Liberty.


I think a government that has funded the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments and MKULTRA has made it very easy for the public to buy Alex Joneses Kool Aid.

And the only way to stop such in the future is "sunlight" in how government operates. The Chicago education FOIA of this week is an anti-example of "sunlight".
posted by rough ashlar at 8:46 PM on May 23, 2013


Any and all conspiracy theorists are actually paid by the government to invent crazy theories, thus making plausible conspiracies sound crazy by association. Their leader, Alex Jones, is actually a figurehead paid by the Bank of America, hired to de-legitimize realistic concerns about how globalization is often implemented in a way that benefits the ultra-rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.


This is Anita from Houdini's Revenge and don't be surprised if I borrow this at some point in the future. ;)

Seriously, though. There are legitimate harms happening to people in this country and conspiracy theory can, for the right person, serve as a rage proxy. It seems that we as citizens are paralyzed to do much about all the bank bail outs, the continuing horror in the Middle East, the complete destruction of the middle class and so much more. It becomes, in my opinion, a comfort to look at Sandy Hook or Boston and "solve" it. To be on the inside, to have knowledge no one else has. If nothing else, conspiracy theorists have the comfort of knowing some real truth that they think other people are too blind to see. In a world where the average man has little control, that is a heady experience. And whether or not they see it that way, their distracted rage does, in fact, serve The Powers That Be because while people are arguing that Aurora and Sandy Hook happened via training young men to be Manchurian Candidates so that their fathers could not testify in imaginary Senate Finance Committee Hearings on the LIBOR scandal, our government is still in thrall to banks and foreign interests that in no way serve most Americans.

And I really want to chime in on Alex Jones. As I find myself despairing of him, I still have such a soft spot for him. Before he became the clown prince of conspiracy theory, he was actually a man interested in objective truth and justice. I moved to Austin back when he was still the scourge of local cable access and it was he who got me interested in conspiracy theory. Except at the time, he was not obsessed with outlandish tales of government false flag and staged atrocities. He was concerned about the complete government mishandling of events at Ruby Ridge and Waco. He was hyperbolic but he made perfect sense and he was actually able, eventually when more evidence was released, to prove his case.

I genuinely do not think Alex believes in much of what he says anymore. He's become a showman for the paranoid but if he had not had the base of support from people who remembered his sober analysis of Waco and the Federal Reserve, he wouldn't be standing where he is now. I have to draw a line between good Alex and the man I call The Ruddy Huckster. I almost feel like a disappointed mother so I cling to the good boy I remember. He could have done so much good in this world. Ah, well. Down the hatch. More for me to debunk, if it's debunkable that is.

I also just want to add that I am a debunker, not a government uber alles type. I think there are grave issues with the way the media and the government have handled the Boston bombing case. When I finally post my analysis of the complete hash that has happened with Dzhokhar and the information about him, hopefully my stance as someone who looks at what we know objectively rather than being the type who exhaustively debunks everything will be clearer. That more people are not concerned that a kid who was shot in the head, in the neck (losing part of his tongue in the process) and in the leg and almost died of blood loss was questioned immediately after surgery and his "confession" was not itself questioned by the feds is troubling. There's a lot to this case, so much that each day more happens and I feel I will like never catch up and discuss all the theories. In regards to Dzhokhar, it's a complete shit show.
posted by Oddeverything at 9:16 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


he [Jones] was actually able, eventually when more evidence was released, to prove his case.

That is not how you establish that someone is working in good faith and worth serious consideration. That is proved by them admitting they are wrong with evidence contradicts them.

It's kind of like when the press talks about how great our culture of democracy is when a new president is elected. The proper evidence is that the previous president leaves.

(Yes, this ignores how our elections suppres voters and ideas that have been labeled as "extreme", but you get my analogy, no?)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:34 PM on May 23, 2013


benito.strauss, I didn't word that very well. Sorry about that. The longer and more precise version is that Jones was appalled that the Feds were involved on the level they were involved in Waco, he questioned how it was that so many people just decided to die in a fire - it all seemed so hinky - and later when the FLIR films seemed to show people being shot at as they tried to leave the fire, it confirmed his sense of something wrong with the scenario. Similar with Ruby Ridge. He stated facts and feelings that didn't add up but never came out and said, "The Feds entrapped Weaver and then killed half his family in sickening abuse of power," until facts verified his assumptions and hunches. He was still in a phase of feeling odd about things but not stating them as fact until they were known as fact, or as close to fact as we can get in any of these situations.

But even so, your analogy is probably correct even with my caveats and better explanation because had the evidence pointed a different way, there's no telling what his response would have been. Given that he went from being merely wacky with a tinge of integrity to being who cries false flag 41 minutes after a bomb blast and who deliberate misrepresenting necessary FEMA supplies as proof they want to take us all to camps and kill us (and then carton us up individually and bury us, I guess), if I am not engaging in sentimentality, it's clear he was on a road to an irrational destination.

And all this is just sentimentality on my part. As much as I used to like him and found him earnest, it's hard to hang any intellectual hat on his rack. Even when he was more honorable and accountable than he is now, he was still a "creative" thinker who processed evidence differently than most people. He was inculcated in his own father's bizarre thinking, and is a second generation theorist. I'm just remembering fondly how he used to be, and how he used to be still had its problems.
posted by Oddeverything at 10:54 PM on May 23, 2013


No worries, Oddeverything (and BTW welcome). I wanted to make something like that point and your comment gave me an excuse. I'm lazy and find it easier to "correct" an existing claim than to make an original one.

I've shared your fondness for conspiracy theorists (anyone up from some Dave Emory?), but think they should be treated like potato chips — enjoy them but realize what you're eating. And just because every once in a while your body does need the salt, don't make them the basis of your diet.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:20 PM on May 23, 2013


Ugh, I just made so many typos in a reply on an entry that touts my site. Excuse me as I cringe.
posted by Oddeverything at 11:29 PM on May 23, 2013


The Tuskegee Syphilis Study mentioned above as an example of a real conspiracy upthread is instructive in a couple of ways I think. First, over the 40 years that the study was ongoing the researchers published no fewer than 13 scientific reports on it. Late in the study there were public arguments by scientists calling for the study to halt--well before the 1972 news articles that created the outcry and brought the end. Is that a conspiracy? To me that is some unethical scientists in a racist culture doing something terrible that it took a cultural shift and a scientist who said "no" (after the shift was underway) to stop. But the secret was there in plain view.

Second, a lot of people think that the study actually infected men with syphilis. That is because a conspiracy theory was put forward claiming this years ago. But that isn't the case. And to this day some still believe it. But it isn't true. The doctors tried to withhold the proper treatment from men already identified as having the disease so that they could study the effects. That is horrible enough.

And really this is the thing that I find so abhorrent about conspiracy theorists. They often take something terrible and try to make it worse. Isn't it bad enough that children and their teachers were killed by a profoundly damaged person with access to weapons in Newtown? Isn't it bad enough that a couple of men for reasons still not fully known yet decided to kill and maim people cheering on Boston Marathon runners?
posted by Cassford at 11:36 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a couple of conspiracy nut friends and will indulge in them sometimes (and after Operation Gladio Operation Ajax, Operation Northwoods, Iran-Contra, MKULTRA, etc - WTF), but my first pro-Alex Jones friend actually did buy the water filters and listened to the show for quite some time while driving to job sites, but eventually decided that there really was shady stuff going on as usual, but Jones was just there to make specific theories seem ludicrous by passionately going off the deep end explaining things. Or, other completely different stuff is going on behind the scenes and Jones is a distraction.

I would respond that he's doing it to make money (hello water filter, $160 for the plastic one I believe) and is probably left alone because he isn't a specific threat, he is perhaps unintentionally serving other purposes that benefit the guilty, but useful idiots don't have to be summoned and given orders if they organically find themselves in a convenient place.

The problem with the whole "we'd never kill our own people" claim is that there's a record of false flag attacks or potential attacks, and when intelligence agencies coordinate internationally, you can do things like bring in soldiers from another country's elite black ops pool to make it a little easier to do the job, with the benefit of just needing to send them back home like the "DH-ella" guys on that episode of the Sopranos. Yeah, I'm just making shit up and it's fun.

So this has probably already been said before, but if there is a sinister conspiracy, I bet it's that the FBI was doing something they've done before, hanging back and prodding things along and basically cultivating and supervising the planning of an attack that they would then thwart to great fanfare on July 4th. Then perhaps the attackers caught wind and decided to attack during the marathon, changing the plans from July 4th so they could actually carry out the attack without being used as patsies. Perhaps they have family in Chechnya (you can tell how informed I am about this story) and were promised they would be taken care of in exchange for the dudes' short lives.

I don't earnestly believe anything unfortunately when it comes to accounts of recent events that I haven't witnessed, though I did have an extremely bizarre incident in my own neighborhood after Boston that never got reported and was just weird as hell, and I was high and drove through it all so that's not cool: blockades all over the neighborhood, lots of radio silence on scanners punctuated by cryptic numbers and descriptions of various people being pursued in various areas close to my place, and then they talked about changing the perimeter here and there, rinse, repeat, and just left when dawn broke, which was probably just some mundane thing but I was too weirded out to ask anyone but the wife of a police officer in the adjacent city who claimed that you'll never know what they were doing if it didn't get reported, but it's some weird military-SWAT-style-practice for normal non-SWAT cops. OK...

But she's an Obummer nut and it's weird to hear her talk about her hubby's peers like that.

When we talk about the extreme unlikelihood of certain imaginative explanations that counter official stories (which are by nature punctuated by little problems like errors or omissions like WTC 7 in the 9/11 commission report), you're describing the fertile ground in which clandestine operations are nurtured, and real-world shit has gone down with amazingly beyond-the-movies coordinated activities, often involving barely-informed participants, like sleeper cells that actually interact with other cells.

What I need to read more on for my own entertainment and WHO KNOWS! is the "training exercise" claims surrounding 9/11, the 7/7 London Bombings, the train bombing in Spain, and potentially the Boston Marathon. Alex Jones likes to say that one of the ways they get lots of people involved without knowing it is using them in training exercises that mirror the actual attack. I haven't dedicated any brain cells to exploring that one in my imagination.

And who's to say there isn't an Operation Gladio-type setup in the US to resist "Islamofascism" and that the elite are genuinely afraid of Islam's growth in that Harris-Dawkins-Hitchens sort of way, and that we'll be seeing more and more one-off attacks by dudes who kind of snuck away and came back ready to instigate violence.

But really, I'm just entertaining ideas, I struggle to come out of this and into the "Real World" of yes-we-can Obama and predator drones and no gun control reform or attacks on tax shelters or what have you, no Glass-Steagal reunion tour on the horizon, and it's hard to stay afloat and a lot more exciting and "dungeons-and-dragons-y" to indulge in clandestine conspiracy theories...crap, "clandestine" is too general too, we'll have to call them "+x standard deviations from the official story theories."
posted by lordaych at 1:17 AM on May 24, 2013


(cop wife lady insinuated that they were particularly planning for subduing civilians later, which I didn't make clear)
posted by lordaych at 1:25 AM on May 24, 2013


Jon Ronson has an book called Them: Adventures with Extremists, several gonzo/Louis Theroux-style embed...ments... with notable conspiracy theorists and fringe radicals.

His one with Alex Jones was especially entertaining (though I can only find an excerpt). It reveals Jones to be at least partly genuine about his pursuits - genuine enough to join Ronson on an investigation of Bohemian Grove, getting puppyishly excited at leads, overreacting to dangers - even if he seems mostly in love with his own mouth.
posted by forgetful snow at 2:57 AM on May 24, 2013


As for the JFK assassination, consider that on November 22, 1963, the Sentate had testimony underway which was about to get LBJ tied into the Bobby Baker scandal. The news of the assassination interrupted the investigation, and it was subsequently dropped.

Either LBJ was one extremely lucky mofo, or he helped get JFK killed.
posted by MikeWarot at 4:54 AM on May 24, 2013


LBJ was "lucky" then. The Baker scandal didn't even start to come to light until September 1963. And it did not disappear after he became president--it went on and on. You can listen to audio and read transcripts of what LBJ actually did to try to stop himself from getting pulled down by it at http://allthewaywithlbj.com/lbj-and-the-bobby-baker-scandal/

This is a great example of what we're talking about. Either LBJ was lucky or he helped get JFK killed...or else the "facts" the conspiracy theory is built on are not facts at all.

I just don't get it. Smart people with big brains choosing to lend credence to this stuff is confusing enough. But add onto that the fact that the whole point of view that conspiracy theorists and their enablers profess to be coming from is about being focused on the facts and getting into the details that make everything in life messy and hard to nail down. Fine. But then they throw out all of the other facts that don't support the conspiracy explanation.

I don't understand the psychology behind this kind of behavior and frankly it frightens me that people who are smart enough to program software or do any of the other amazing things they do with their brains are susceptible to this kind of thinking.
posted by Cassford at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem with Alex Jones type conspiracy theories is that none of them are nearly wild and crazy enough to be true.
posted by telstar at 8:36 PM on May 24, 2013




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