January 8, 2013

Professor who teaches a course called Culture of Conspiracy...

... is denounced for "inquir[ing] whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place — at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation's news media have described."

People these days seem to be so confused. If we hear about something terrible happening, it's as if talking about the details is equivalent to saying you don't care about the people who were hurt. This is a dangerous development, which itself ought to be examined as a possible conspiracy.

59 comments:

Jay said...

On his blog, however, he has hit a number of the classic conspiracy theories: the September 11 attacks


Yes September 11th with 100X more deaths. And the "outrage" about that is where _____ again?

rhhardin said...

The news audience gets what the news audience will stay tuned for.

It's not a conspiracy but a business model.

The pushback is protecting the business model.

ndspinelli said...

The textbook is authored by Oliver Stone.

Ann Althouse said...

@Jay It looks like he studies conspiracy theories. If that is your academic interest, of course you look at the truthers.

Part of thinking about conspiracy theories is debunking them, using them to test the official story, and so forth. It doesn't mean you're falling for them or promoting them.

I'm noticing a post-Truther trend to squelch debate by equating io Trutherism.

Ann Althouse said...

It's also valuable to examine how conspiracy theories capture the public imagination and how they can be used to manipulate people.

There could be a conspiracy theory that is wrong, but there could on top of that be a conspiracy -- that's real -- to use the people's vulnerability to the incorrect theory to go to war or commit genocide, for example.

Tim said...

"People these days seem to be so confused. If we hear about something terrible happening, it's as if talking about the details is equivalent to saying you don't care about the people who were hurt. This is a dangerous development, which itself ought to be examined as a possible conspiracy."

Sure.

But this guy lives in a world in which everything isn't what it is reported to be, or seems to be.

That's not good, either.

Also, who the hell does not know the first reports on most anything chaotic are often wrong, and often significantly so?

So, those who fail this basic intelligence test bitterly cling to the "trooth" of initial, false reports to foster delusional fantasies about a world that simply does not exist.

So then, how about we foster an intellectual climate in which rational people can ask rational questions about important events, and get honest answers, while recognizing the idiot, conspiracy theorists for who they are, and then ignoring them?

Lem said...

Even though he is paid to teach a class called Culture of Conspiracy which will undoubtedly produce outrageous ideas, Florida Atlantic University appears to feel that the questioning of the murder of first graders was a bridge too far.

We need legislation requiring a conspiracy theory waiting period.

Robert Cook said...

I think the outrage has to do with the professor's qualifier "if the shooting happened at all."

Certainly the initial news reporting was replete with errors of fact in describing the events at Sandy Hook, and so it is entirely appropriate to pursue the truth of what happened. However, the bullet riddled bodies of two dozen children and a few adults certainly confirms that the shooting did occur. It is that qualifying phrase that warrants criticism.

Tim said...

"It looks like he studies conspiracy theories. If that is your academic interest, of course you look at the truthers."

NO.

He PROMOTES conspiracy theories.

Here's his blog:

http://memoryholeblog.com/

Decide for yourself: honest academic, or whacked-out nutjob?

Jay said...

Part of thinking about conspiracy theories is debunking them, using them to test the official story, and so forth. It doesn't mean you're falling for them or promoting them.


I understand that.

The point I was getting at is nobody seems all worked up about the fact that the guy "examined" the 9-11 narrative.

Jay said...

This guy is free to teach or blog about whatever suits his fancy.

The "trend" that I hate is the faux outrage.

This was all over Twitter today with people rushing to prove how much they care about the children by Tweeting how outrageous the guy is.

EMD said...

The point I was getting at is nobody seems all worked up about the fact that the guy "examined" the 9-11 narrative.

There were no Little Eichmanns in attendance at Sandy Hook that day?



Bryan C said...

For any theory to be useful it has to be falsifiable. I'm not sure exactly what this guy is alleging, based on the article, but unless he's willing to make specific claims regarding the facts he disputes he's just wasting everyone's time.

The authorities can clear all this up by simply releasing everything they've got about the incident to the public. Radio dispatches, 911 calls, interviews, transcripts, camera footage, etc. I can't think of any valid reason why they'd be permitted to withhold it. Or why they'd want to.

Lem said...

I think the outrage has to do with the professor's qualifier "if the shooting happened at all."

"if God created the heavens and the earth at all" used to be an outrage... but eventually it dies down.

Michael said...

Fine, just don't ask about Benghazi because we aren't going to get to the bottom of that one, maybe not even the top 10%. The more people in government clam up the more a conspiracy (at least of silence) is plausible. Lindsay Graham is gobsmacked at how his requests for information on Benghazi go into the ether. Ignored. Lost. Etc. Where are the survivors of Benghazi and why have we not heard a single peep from them?

garage mahal said...

Problem with 9/11 and Benghazi Truthers is they always seem to dig in even deeper when facts are presented.

EMD said...

when facts are presented.

I'm still waiting on some testimony, then I'll let you know.

mccullough said...

There's a difference between looking at how people manipulate actual events to further a politicial agenda and thinking that the actual event was made up to further an agenda.

There's also a difference between studying conspiracy theories and propagating them.

This guy is a conspiracy theorist. That's nuts.

Mitchell the Bat said...

"[I]t's as if talking about the details is equivalent to saying you don't care about the people who were hurt."

There was an episode of the TV version of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye tangles with some Army analyst sent to calculate how many casualties will be coming in after some new offensive.

Hawkeye learns the guy got the numbers spot on and he freaks out and tries to punch the guy out calling him a vulture or a goul or something like that.

That stuck me as a pretty dumb way to see things.

But I guess the idea was that you were supposed to love Hawkeye because he cared.

Marshal said...

Ann Althouse said...
I'm noticing a post-Truther trend to squelch debate by equating io Trutherism.

garage mahal said...
Problem with 9/11 and Benghazi Truthers


Lem said...

Benghazi Truthers?

Hillary has not even testified and we are already prejudging it, insinuating her testimony will be a lie or at least irrelevant?

Nice going Garage.

Tibore said...

Of course it's possible to teach conspiracy theories but not fall for them. I myself think it's productive and instructive to study some subjects - medical research, for example - by including conspiratorial fantasies and seeing how that contrasts with the reality of scientific research. Ditto some elements of history, if only to understand how possible it is for false memes to penetrate the general narrative (that seems to be one of trutherism's, as well as JFK conspiracy theory's - actual accomplishments).

But that being possible doesn't preclude some people falling for it. In James Tracy's case, it appears as though he's actually a conspiracy advocate, not merely a researcher like Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule. If so, the possibility is unfortunately open that Tracy is proselytizing via the classroom.

Marshal said...

mccullough said...
There's a difference between looking at how people manipulate actual events to further a politicial agenda and thinking that the actual event was made up to further an agenda.

There's also a difference between studying conspiracy theories and propagating them.


There's also a difference between the media admitting conspiracy nuts exist (truthers) and pushing the conclusion that the existence of conspiracy nuts taint everyone critical of the conspiracy's target (birthers).

Mary Beth said...

In his description of the coroner answering questions from the media, he didn't seem to understand that the coroner was describing hollow points. Also, he said that the coroner shook his head excitedly. I did not take the time to watch the video but I think "excitedly" is subjective, could it have been emphatically instead?

Lem said...

This guy is a conspiracy theorist. That's nuts.

Mowing down school children nuts?

or

Saying we don't have a spending problem while owing 16 trillion nuts?

Ann Althouse said...

"I think the outrage has to do with the professor's qualifier "if the shooting happened at all.""

I need to know the context. If the idea is: How do we know that anything that we haven't personally witnessed is true? It's all hearsay. When do we test the truth and how? Our sense that obviously it happened is tested. Why are you so sure? This is a standard thing to say -- I would think -- if your subject is "The Culture of Conspiracy."

Ann Althouse said...

"Decide for yourself: honest academic, or whacked-out nutjob?"

Why is he teaching at a college? Why is the course called "The Culture of Conspiracy"?

Well, I haven't read his blog. I guess I should check it out.

J.P. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

If something (like sensitivity) can be said to be threatened by free speech... then there is a good chance its BS.

Elisabeth Wurtzel

I know that people who do these things (follow prescribed norms) are happy because happiness is the untruths we tell each other and ourselves or it would be unbearable.

Tibore said...

While it's often legitimate to ask "when do we test the truth, and how?", I think it's also worth noting that too often conspiracy mythology believers often use the otherwise laudable tendency to accept a questioning of a given narrative as legitimate in order to distort that very narrative. They start by using either a false fact (the "magic bullet" from JFK'ism, or the "melted steel" lie from 9/11 trutherism) or a slanted/spun presumption (such as the "Why was the military response to 9/11 delayed" charge), then they make the broader charge that the dominant narrative is supposedly fatally flawed. Suddenly, the appearance of legitimate debate is given.

And it stems from the again naturally laudable tendency to accept seemingly rational inquiry into what is normally taken as accepted.

Now, I'm not saying that we should slam the door on anyone who ever presents "alternate" theories for something. It's just that it often also takes the application of Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit to analyze whether you're seeing an honest inquiry, or a disguised preaching. As Apollo Hoax buster Jay Windley has noted: "Remember that the goal of conspiracy rhetoric is to bog down the discussion, not to make progress toward a solution". It may be difficult to separate the genuine inquiries from the cranks, but the fact that cranks not only exist but take advantage of people's natural tendencies to give room to questioning. And that always has to be kept in mind when hearing from someone advocating for conspiracy myths. It's legitimate to ask "when and how we test the truth", but it's every bit as legitimate to demand that information that's presented be the truth, and as factually accurate as possible. Otherwise, we allow provably false conspiratorial narratives to take up public attention that legitimate controversies and problems ought to occupy.

Lem said...

Speech codes... Muhammad cartoons... conspiracy theories.

oh... don't forget to get the guns.

garage mahal said...

I'm still waiting on some testimony, then I'll let you know.

Most of the righties seem to already know exactly what happened.

Obama was watching people die for 6 hours on a monitor somewhere and refused to send any help!

Sorun said...

Obama was watching people die for 6 hours on a monitor somewhere and refused to send any help!

No, he said, "Benghazi who?" and then rolled over and went back to sleep.

edutcher said...

This goes back to the 50s when the Men In Black seemed to be everywhere.

garage mahal said...

Problem with 9/11 and Benghazi Truthers is they always seem to dig in even deeper when facts are presented.

Yes, damned facts keep vindicating them..

Jay said...

garage mahal said...
Problem with 9/11 and Benghazi Truthers is they always seem to dig in even deeper when facts are presented.


You mean facts like this, right?

MS. RICE: Well, Jake, first of all, it’s important to know that there’s an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired.

But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.

We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo.


Because those were the "facts" presented by the Obama Administration.

Amartel said...

This guy should invite Alex Jones in as a guest lecturer.

Tim said...

"Why is he teaching at a college? Why is the course called "The Culture of Conspiracy"?"

Good questions. I don't know.

After learning about Ward Churchill (and Elizabeth Warren), I can't vouch for the rationality of college hiring and tenure processes.

Can anyone, anymore?

Amartel said...

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” ~ John F. Kennedy

chrisnavin.com said...

Do you get a tinfoil hat if you get tenure?

John said...

In another forum, almost in another universe, I raised the possibility that the govt (exec branch) was behind the Sandy Hook shootings.

I am about 95% confident they are not but you should have seen the reaction.

This is a forum which has had a number of 9/11 truthers in the past. They seem to be treated respectfully, even when disagreed with. Everyone seems to accept the possibility that the govt blew up the WTC.

In the more general population we have Rosie "Fire can't melt steel" O'Donnell, Michael "Farenheit 911" Moore and many others who believe that 9/11 was an inside job.

It seems to be an acceptable view even if outside the mainstream. But suggest Obama had anything to do with Newtown? Katy bar the door!

Whether Obama had anything to do with Sandy Hook shootings or not, and I don't think he did, he is certainly riding that pony for all it is worth. He is going to use it to restrict our gun rights. He is trying to do it now while emotions are still running strong.

I rejoined the NRA after a 15 year lapse. I joined the Gun Owners of America for the first time. Last time I handled a gun was in 74 when I carried 45 for Uncle. I have no desire to own a gun.

I am a fervent absolutist on the 2nd Amendment, though.

John Henry

John Henry

I Callahan said...

However, the bullet riddled bodies of two dozen children and a few adults certainly confirms that the shooting did occur. It is that qualifying phrase that warrants criticism.

Just playing devil's advocate here, so PLEASE don't think that I agree with the following. Having said that - did you see pictures of those bodies? How do you know the ones who did see those bodies weren't lying?

I only said this to show the parallels to 911. Apparently, a majority of the left believes it was an inside job, and that planes really didn't hit the building, and that Popular Mechanics was in on it.

The point is this: if we're on a slope where people actually believe only what they DON'T see, we really are screwed.

I Callahan said...

The "trend" that I hate is the faux outrage. This was all over Twitter today with people rushing to prove how much they care about the children by Tweeting how outrageous the guy is.

The problem is that the above reaction plays entirely into the hands of the conspiracists. ie, the only reason the reaction is so over the top is because they want to shout you down. Therefore, there must be some truth to it.

How do we get past that type of mentality?

Quayle said...

The biggest problem I see is not that we don't know the truth, or that we know things that aren't true.

It is that we don't care about the truth that we know.

Obama shreds the constitution and bursts the constitutional bounds on his powers, and the country yawns and turns the channel.

That, my friends, is what's done us in.

Methadras said...

So Sandy Hook is now an exercise into existentialism?

Marshal said...

John said...
In the more general population we have Rosie "Fire can't melt steel" O'Donnell, Michael "Farenheit 911" Moore and many others who believe that 9/11 was an inside job.


These people get a pass - I think because we don't really believe they mean it. We've internalized that leftists are propogandists so holding them to a basic standard of honesty seems unreasonable. Only the right is held to any standard at all, and their standard is whatever it needs to be for them to fail. Note how our leftists insist Romney was insufficiently detailed in his plans, while Obama's failure to outline his own plans passed without mention.

Alex said...

I think people who grow up with significant personal traumas tend to believe in conspiracy theories as a way to feel like they are in control of something.

Marty said...

Postmodernism is a conspiracy to quash reason with an unstoppable gush of emotion. Althouse, like William F. Buckley of yore, stands athwart this hideous compulsion to self-dehumanize and cries NO!

creeley23 said...

In the immediate wake of President Obama’s May 1, 2011 announcement of the alleged extrajudicial killing of Osama bin Laden by US military forces, a struggle reemerged over the official 9/11 myth that major journalistic outlets have been complicit in perpetuating over the past decade. The corporate media’s reaction to the robust skepticism over bin Laden’s assumed execution suggested a great deal about the extent to which they are locked in to upholding the broader 9/11 parable and serving the Anglo-American political-economic establishment and status quo.

A similar dynamic is at play in defending the 9/11 myth. Yet today public skepticism more forcefully presents itself as an unmanageable chorus of disbelief through the internet. Nevertheless, following the lead of official spokespersons when such sources should be vigorously scrutinized, the so-called free press continues its willful immersion in a false historical reality. In so doing it condemns much of society to a constant forgetting and continued existence in a government-devised milieu impervious to conventional reason and logic.

James F. Tracy is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University

THE 9/11 MYTH: State Propaganda, Historical Revisionism, and the Perpetuation of the 9/11 Myth


Prof. Tracy is leftist-truther of some sort. He never spells out in the article what he means by the "9-11 myth" but clearly he believes the conventional "al-Qaeda did it" explanation is a myth and there really is nowhere to go from there but conspiracy.

David said...

I did read the blog.

This guy is raising questions scattershot. It's hard to tell what he thinks happened, but pretty clearly he is NOT saying that the shootings did not occur. His words "if . . . . etc" taken in context are just a clumsy way of saying that all is not as it appears. Of course it never is.

Much of the stuff he finds potentially suspicious is likely just the product of confusion, shock and misreporting. Those attacking him are using his misstatement to discredit all questioning though. There is already a recieved version of this event, and lots of people are interested in preserving it.

A few questions of my own:

How did Lanza actually get into the school?

Why couldn't/didn't the teacher lock him out of the classroom where the most killing occurred?

Why were the new security measures that the school had instituted and emphasized so ineffective? Who was kidding whom when they did all their "security drills.?"

Again--read the blog. This guy is not denying the occurrence.

There is a lot of potential culpability here. The children were not adequately protected by the adults who had responsibility for them--the politicians, the bureaucrats, the security consultants, the school board, the school staff and others.

And now the entire conversation is about guns?

No matter what gun control rules we institute, there will be guns available all over the country to those who wish to do harm.

We need to focus much more realistically on how to protect children from harmdoers. Pretending that we can keep guns out of the hands of evil doers is not going to work.

After Columbine the Clinton administration spent hundreds of millions of dollars studying and sometimes implementing armed school security.

Now that is an evil idea.

So just what is the conspiracy, people?

Amartel said...

I guess I wouldn't believe in anything anymore if it weren't for my lucky astrology mood watch.



h/t Steve Martin

Amartel said...

This is the problem when there are no longer reliable reporters of fact and/or when the few remaining reliable reporters are toxic.
Conspiracy theories abound and there's no general wisdom to keep them in check.

Mary Beth said...

Is it still a conspiracy if people act to achieve the same goal, even if they aren't actually conspiring? The government and the media do like to use this type of event to try to ban guns.

Tim said...

"This guy is raising questions scattershot. It's hard to tell what he thinks happened, but pretty clearly he is NOT saying that the shootings did not occur. His words "if . . . . etc" taken in context are just a clumsy way of saying that all is not as it appears. Of course it never is.

Much of the stuff he finds potentially suspicious is likely just the product of confusion, shock and misreporting. Those attacking him are using his misstatement to discredit all questioning though. There is already a recieved version of this event, and lots of people are interested in preserving it."


I think a well-ordered mind, academically trained (seriously, do think at all this guy does serious research, and writes seriously about his research, with this style?), sensitive to the situation, would approach the unknown, conflicting reports of Sandy Hook with better questions (and better writing). The "lone gunman" is so evocative of the JFK assassination as to not be an accident.

I've read far too many academic research papers in my life to chalk this guy up as a serious academic. He's a whacker.

Lyle said...

A lot of people are scared to talk about the facts surrounding Trayvon Martin's death, for example.

virgil xenophon said...

@Amartel/

Is that watch a 1st cousin to my mood ring?

virgil xenophon said...

Speaking of consoiracy theories, as an ex-Air Force pilot who also spent some time in operational intelligence, the "crash" of TWA Flt 800 on take-off from JFK in July, 1996 is one terrorist conspiracy/govt cover-up I DO believe in..

Amartel said...

"Is that watch a 1st cousin to my mood ring?"

Well, I guess, although lucky astrology mood watch also tells the time on Neptune (home planet), casts my horoscope, and is lucky.

virgil xenophon said...

@Armatel'

Well, you've certainly got me beat all to hell..I'm jealous, jealous, jealous...obviously just not the hipster I thought I was..

Sam L. said...

I do not expect the newspapers or TV stories to be correct at the beginning. And sometimes later.