Skepticism

More Dangerous Conspiracy Theories: Sandy Hook & Mike Cernovich

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Sorta transcript:

A few weeks back I talked about “Pizzagate” and how seemingly innocuous conspiracy theories can turn dangerous, like when a man fired a gun inside a pizza place because idiots online told him there was a child sex trafficking ring in the basement. Much like the Alamo, the pizza place didn’t even have a basement, so obviously that was a bust.

I was hoping to be done with that, because each time I do a video about any conspiracy theory — 9/11 Truthers, “crisis actors,” chemtrails, etc. — I get a new influx of absolutely batshit people telling me they’re going to kill me, or the government is going to kill me, or I’m going to kill myself. It gets old fast.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more apparent that conspiracy theories are going to flourish in this new political climate. I blame global warming. And we absolutely have to fight back if we have a hope of preserving any kind of objective truth in our discourse.

Here’s what’s happening right now: in Florida, a woman is standing trial for making death threats against the parent of a child murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre. Why would you threaten to kill a person who has experienced one of the most tragic losses a person can experience? Because you believe that the person in question is a crisis actor, paid by the government to fake a national tragedy for the purpose of cracking down on 2nd Amendment rights.

In addition to being an obviously batshit insane idea, this particular “theory” can’t even hold up under its own premise. The US government did essentially nothing to crack down on gun ownership in the aftermath of twenty innocent children being murdered. Nothing. Why bother arranging such a huge hoax and then doing fuck all about it?

As an aside, yes, it should make you furious to remember that Sandy Hook happened four years ago and there have been no significant changes to our laws or our society in general to stop it from happening again. The American people and government collectively decided that the murder of twenty four- and five-year olds was acceptable.

The woman in question has pled not guilty, and while awaiting trial she’s been forbidden from accessing conspiracy theory websites, because she stated that she was reading one when she sent the threats. That seems almost impossible to enforce, but that fact aside it does bring up once again whether we are going after the right people when it comes to threats like this. This woman should be punished, but punishing her is treating the symptom. The disease is people and websites who actively persuade credulous people to believe absurdities and commit atrocities. People like Glenn Beck, and Mike Cernovich.

Cernovich in particular is currently riling up his 183,000 Twitter followers to believe that pretty much anyone he hates is an actual pedophile involved in a sex trafficking ring of some sort. His latest target is Vic Berger, a talented video editor who often collaborates with Tim & Eric. Berger has made several videos about the presidential race and has been critical of Trump, and then of Cernovich himself, so Cernovich has branded him a pedophile. Reasonable.

Now Berger has had to involve the police because neo-nazis are threatening to murder him. Cernovich still seems to have zero self-awareness, having posted a Periscope titled “When is someone responsible for what his or her fans do?” I think this is a pretty clear case of Cernovich being almost completely responsible if someone decides to follow through on their threats and murdering Berger or his family. He completely 100% created the idea of Berger being a pedophile out of whole cloth, and he should be taken to task for it. At the very least, he should be banned from Twitter, but as of this recording he’s been doing this for days and is still happily Tweeting away.

Free speech in the United States has always had limitations, and one of them is inciting violence. Another is libel. Cernovich and people like him are clearly breaching those laws, and I personally would love to see the government finally stop treating the symptoms and start treating the disease by going after the people who are radicalizing credulous idiots.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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3 Comments

  1. December 22, 2016 at 7:36 am —

    But, but.. If we cracked down on libel and inciting violence half the Republicans would have nothing on which to run for office!! Wait, no. That actually seems like a damn good thing. lol

  2. December 22, 2016 at 9:41 am —

    >The American people and government collectively decided that the murder of twenty four- and five-year olds was acceptable.

    Not factual. NO innocent death is acceptable. Nor is pointless attenuation of civil rights. No one offered any realistic gun control proposals (outright confication of all firearms in not realistic) that actually would have prevented Adam Lanza from acquiring a firearm with the same capabilities as the one he used. Further, firearms aren’t necessary for the Adam Lanza’s of the word:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster

    I agree with you that our government should enforce laws regarding speech that incites violence or falsely defames people. But if you are suggesting that people should be restricted from expressing or discussing ideas that might cause another person to behave violently, then I disagree.

    Who gets to decide which ideas are safe? You have spoken and written about many subjects that have resulted in people behaving violently (threats of violence are still violence) towards you. In the interest of your own safety should you be restricted from writing/talking about them?

    Freedom and security are often at odds with one another. Be careful what you wish for…

  3. December 23, 2016 at 7:49 am —

    While I sort of agree in principle, I know damn well that what we are going to see here is a crack down on protests, “because they seem to always become violent!”, while websites promoting everything from bombing clinics, to shooting up pizza places, will be ignored as, “Not responsible.” Its standard right wing thinking – you can’t yell fire in a theater, but if you do, then everyone in the room should be arrested for it, but its totally acceptable to talk about lighting fires in theaters, in places where paranoid lunatics congregate.

    Its telling, frankly, that some wacko militia, who collects guns, tends to be seen as a “patriot” by a lot of these new “national leaders”, but a group of liberals marching down the street are seen as a massive threat to the safety and security of the nation. And.. it makes it really damn hard to take seriously the idea that maybe some of their speech isn’t just offensive, but inciting.

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