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Mainstream Pundits Give Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories Power

March 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Amanda Marcotte, Salon

Parkland conspiracy theories started on the internet, but they get life from pundits who wink at them on TV.

As happened after the Sandy Hook school shooting, conspiracy theories started to fly around online, suggesting that the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida was somehow faked. Paranoid gun nuts, unwilling to admit their preferred gun control policies lead to mass murder, flocked to online forums to swap claims that the teenaged survivors are “crisis actors” and the whole incident is a “false flag” being perpetrated by a shadowy cabal of “globalists.”

Craig Timberg and Drew Harwell of The Washington Post published an interesting piece on Tuesday, tracking the rapid spread of these conspiracy theories through 8chan, YouTube, social media and sites like Infowars, arguing “the episode became the latest cautionary tale about how the Internet itself had become a potent tool of deception wielded by political extremists, disinformation warriors and conspiracy theorists.”

It's all very true, but what their analysis fails to take into account is how these conspiracy theorists are empowered by more mainstream conservative figures, those who are on TV, radio and published in traditional newspapers — and by the president himself. The internet may be teeming with lurid claims, but conservatives working for media outlets that supposedly have vetting processes have developed a habit of hinting at conspiracy theories and winking at their proponents, a process which helps validate and perpetuate those conspiracy theories.

The Parkland shooting conspiracy theory machine is a crystalline example of this process. While pundits on Fox and CNN weren't about to utter the words “crisis actors,” they got busy validating the idea that the young people on TV talking about their experience with gun violence were insincerely parroting lines written by others — which is to say, accusing them of being a kind of crisis actor. And while TV pundits won't quite say that the whole thing is a “false flag,” they did wink at the idea that there is something not quite real about the shooting. And while you absolutely will never hear conservatives in more mainstream spaces outright claim an international conspiracy of Jews is running the whole thing, they …read more


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