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Human cost of conspiracy theories.

Feb 8, 2018
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There are fun conspiracy theories, silly ones, stupid ones and dangerous ones. We'll be discussing dangerous ones.


"Conspiracy theories used to be seen as bizarre expressions of harmless eccentrics. Not any more. Gone are the days of outlandish theories about Roswell’s UFOs, the “hoax” moon landings or grassy knolls. Instead, today’s iterations have morphed into political weapons. Turbocharged by social media, they spread with astonishing speed, using death threats as currency.


Together with their first cousins, fake news, they are challenging society’s trust in facts. At its most toxic, this contagion poses a profound threat to democracy by damaging its bedrock: a shared commitment to truth.

Their growing reach and scale is astonishing. A University of Chicago study estimated in 2014 that half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory. When they repeated the survey last November, the proportion had risen to 61%. The startling finding was echoed by a recent study from the University of Cambridge that found 60% of Britons are wedded to a false narrative.

The trend began on obscure online forums such as the alt-right playground 4chan. Soon, media entrepreneurs realized there was money to be made – most notoriously Alex Jones, whose site InfoWars feeds its millions of readers a potent diet of lurid lies (9/11 was a government hit job; the feds manipulate the weather.)

Now the conspiracy theorist-in-chief sits in the White House. Donald Trump cut his political teeth on the “birther” lie that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and went on to embrace climate change denial, rampant voter fraud, and the discredited belief that childhood vaccines may cause autism.

Amid this explosive growth, one aspect has been under-appreciated: the human cost. What is the toll paid by those caught up in these falsehoods? And how are they fighting back?

The Guardian talked to five people who can speak from bitter personal experience. We begin in a town we will not identify in Massachusetts where a young man, who tells his story here for the first time, was asleep in his bed.



Valentine's Day 2018 was Marcel Fontaine’s day off. He slept late into the afternoon, having worked a double shift the day before. When he woke up, a wave of happiness washed over him – he was in a relationship, had a job he loved at a local concert venue. His life was good.

By the time he roused himself, the deadliest high school shooting in US history was already over. A 19-year-old with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle had entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, and opened fire. Seventeen had been killed, though Fontaine, who has no cable TV or radio, was oblivious to the tragedy.

Then he received a text from a friend. A photo of Fontaine was flying around the internet and he was being accused of carrying out the terrible Florida shooting.


His immediate response was bewilderment. What shooting? Where? He was in Massachusetts, 1,500 miles away. It would take a four-hour flight to reach the school. He’d only visited Florida once when he was a little boy to see Mickey Mouse.

Fontaine, 25, describes himself on Twitter as a “non-binary gay queer autistic commie that loves horror movies and metal!” He was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum as a child and for years has struggled with anxiety and a debilitating stammer. At moments of heightened stress, he flaps his hands like a bird.

In short, Fontaine is a vulnerable leftwing individual who would not harm a flea, which apparently makes him perfect fodder for the sadistic mockery of 4chan, the anonymous message board that hosts alt-right activists and other extremists.

A few days before the Parkland shooting, a photo of Fontaine wearing a T-shirt of Marx, Lenin, Mao and other communist luminaries dressed in party hats had been grabbed from his Instagram feed and posted by an anonymous user on 4chan, where he was promptly derided as a “lefty dimwit”. The T-shirt, Fontaine protests, was a joke, a pun on Communist party.

In the conspiratorial bubble of 4chan, it was but a small step from ridiculing Fontaine to casting him as the Parkland shooter. Within two hours of the massacre, the image had been reposted on the bulletin board, now saying: “Florida Shooter Was A Commie!”

From there, Alex Jones’s conspiracy theory site, Infowars, leapt into the fray. Its “reporter” lifted Fontaine’s photo directly from 4chan and, without any attempt at verification, ran with it on the front page. “Shooter is a commie. Alleged photo of the suspect shows communist garb,” the outlet screamed. The false rumor quickly spread from Miami to Beijing.

Fontaine was horrified. “I knew a lot about the Alex Jones fanbase – that they were radical extremists who believe every word he says, and that a lot of them hold firearms. I knew my life was at risk.”

The first death threats landed via Facebook messenger by nightfall: “I hope someone throws you out of a rotary aircraft, you commie!” Another made a direct reference to the concert venue that employed him. “They knew where I worked, what I did. It just got me so afraid.”

Death threats and autism spectrum conditions make poor bedfellows. They exacerbated his condition, ramping up his anxiety, insomnia and social isolation.

“I wasn’t able to function, to cook, do basic tasks. I went days without taking a shower. I didn’t want to go out, I just wanted to be with myself.” Soon, he started having frequent panic attacks.

Over the past six months, Fontaine has slowly pulled himself back together. He is in therapy to combat the bouts of panic and sleeplessness that still trouble him. But he has become less trusting of people and freezes whenever he sees someone dressed in camouflage or wearing a Make America Great Again hat. Do they read Infowars? he wonders. “I get very nervous because they might recognize me and want to actually pull something out on me. Or like beat me to a pulp.”

As the anniversary of the shooting approaches, he finds it hard to understand why he was singled out. “It makes me sad. This event got me to a point where I just can’t be myself again.”


Lenny Pozner, 51, is preparing to pack his bags, again. A few weeks ago, “hoaxers” – as he calls conspiracy theorists – reproduced a map of his Florida neighborhood with a dropped pin marking the precise location of his apartment. It will be the eighth time in five years he will have been forced to move home as he strives to keep one step ahead of the fanatics who relentlessly hound him.

Pozner’s crime, in the eyes of conspiracy theorists, is being the father of one of the 20 children who were gunned down in the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. Noah was the youngest of all victims. He had just turned six.

Within months, conspiracy theorists, egged on by Alex Jones and Infowars, went to work. They generated thousands of web posts and a 426-page book called “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook”.

Their thesis: the shooting at the elementary school never happened. The 20 kids who died were “crisis actors”. The tragedy was a con. Noah had never even existed, he was a construct of Photoshop.

Within a year, it had reached such a pitch that Pozner knew he had to do something. “I agonized about the situation for several weeks. But ultimately I felt I owed it to my son to protect his memory.” He posted on his Google+ page his son’s birth and death certificates and kindergarten report card.

“I was extremely naive. I believed that people were simply misinformed and that if I released proof that my child had existed, thrived, loved and was loved, and was ultimately murdered, they would understand our grief, stop harassing us, and more importantly, stop defacing photos of Noah and defaming him online.”

Instead, he watched his deceased son buried a second time, under hundreds of pages of hateful web content. “I don’t think there’s any one word that fits the horror of it,” Pozner says. “It’s a phenomenon of the age which we’re in, modern day witch-hunts. It’s a form of mass delusion.”



Within a year, it had reached such a pitch that Pozner knew he had to do something. “I agonized about the situation for several weeks. But ultimately I felt I owed it to my son to protect his memory.” He posted on his Google+ page his son’s birth and death certificates and kindergarten report card.

“I was extremely naive. I believed that people were simply misinformed and that if I released proof that my child had existed, thrived, loved and was loved, and was ultimately murdered, they would understand our grief, stop harassing us, and more importantly, stop defacing photos of Noah and defaming him online.”

Instead, he watched his deceased son buried a second time, under hundreds of pages of hateful web content. “I don’t think there’s any one word that fits the horror of it,” Pozner says. “It’s a phenomenon of the age which we’re in, modern day witch-hunts. It’s a form of mass delusion.”

Pozner is extraordinarily controlled. His voice is flat and preternaturally calm, as though all emotion has been pummeled out of him. His apartment has the same pared-down, antiseptic quality. “I’ve gotten good at moving, I’ve adapted to it,” he says.

He left Newtown for Florida in 2013 with Noah’s mother, his now former wife Veronique De La Rosa, and their two daughters in the hope of rebuilding their lives. (He asked the Guardian not to identify the town he now lives in.) He has deliveries sent to a separate address and has rented multiple postal boxes as decoys.

The most serious of death threats came from Lucy Richards, a Florida resident who was so fervent in her belief that the Sandy Hook massacre was fake that she left messages on Pozner’s cellphone saying: “You’re going to die. Death is coming to you real soon, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” In June 2017, Richards was sentenced to five months in prison, followed by a further five months under house arrest.

Pozner sees this outpouring of hatred as a product of digital technology running ahead of society’s ability to contain it. “Social media hasn’t matured. We lack a segment of law enforcement specializing in it. There really is no one to help.”

But he reserves his staunchest criticism for Alex Jones, who he blames for amplifying conspiracies in the pursuit of profit. In a lawsuit suing Jones for defamation for more than $1m, lawyers for Pozner and De La Rosa chronicle how Infowars baited them over many years: the shooting was “staged”, a “giant hoax”. The school was an elaborate film set. It was all a “soap opera”.

But in targeting Pozner, Jones picked on the wrong guy. Since 2014 Pozner has made it his life’s work to confront the conspiracy theorists. Through his organization the Honr Network, Pozner has systematically challenged those who he believes cross that line, forcing moderators to delete posts. In 2018 alone, he reported 2,568 videos to YouTube and had 1,555 of those expunged.

Pozner’s lawsuit against Jones, which mirrors a similar legal case brought by Fontaine, is making its way through a federal court in Austin, Texas. Earlier this month they received a legal boost when the judge granted them access to Jones’s financial and marketing documents under discovery.

Jones denies defaming anyone, though he has so far failed in having the suits dismissed on free speech grounds.

Regarding the free speech argument, Pozner says: “You have the right to express yourself and your opinions, no matter how offensive they may be, until your chosen form of expression impedes my rights to be free from defamation and harassment.”

What shocks Pozner most, he says, was how alone he was when he began this fight. “I was the only one standing up to the hoaxers, and other than the loss of my son that was my biggest disappointment at the time.”

At least he has brought his son’s memory back to life. If you search Noah Pozner on Google you will find hundreds of articles about the boy’s life and death, and virtually none of the bile from those who questioned his existence.

By Pozner’s reckoning, one in five people around the world are suggestible to conspiracy theories, and their obsessions are amplified by the crude logic of digital algorithms. “There is just no more truth, there is just what’s trending on Twitter,” he says. “Used to be, you had to burn books to keep people from finding out the truth, now you just have to push it to page 20 of a Google search.”



Paul Offit strode into a dispute over the safety of children’s vaccines in 1998. Twenty years later, he is still embroiled in it. His latest death threat arrived only about a month ago, when someone wrote on a forum frequented by vaccine skeptics that Offit was “dead already so they might as well assassinate him”.

Offit’s worldview, as a pediatrician at the Children’s hospital of Philadelphia who has himself created a vaccine against rotavirus, had always revolved around the scientific method and evidence-based reality. “The assumption was that if you publish good papers in good journals, truth emerges and people abandon ill-founded beliefs. Didn’t work that way.”

In 1998, the since-discredited British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a paper in medical journal the Lancet linking the MMR vaccine (against measles, mumps and rubella) to autism. Wakefield went on to advise parents to avoid MMR immunization for their children, spreading pandemonium across Europe and the US. In 2000, Offit decided to act, shocked that nobody was standing up for science. He set up the Vaccine Education Center to give the public a basic appreciation of vaccines which globally prevent up to 3m deaths each year.

The backlash came almost immediately. It began with a flurry of emails calling him Satan, a Nazi. “It was devastating. It hurt, it always hurt, it still hurts. I never got so thick-skinned that when people assume my motives are evil it doesn’t hurt me.”

He was stalked by a man who followed him from from one speaking engagement to the next. Protesters appeared outside medical meetings bearing placards with Offit’s face above the word “TERRORIST”.



A voicemail was left for him at home. The man mentioned he had young children the same age as Offit’s. “We all want what’s best for our children, I’m sure you want what’s best for your children,” the man said, before going on to name Offit’s kids as well as the school they attended.

It was the one time that Offit considered dropping it all. That night, he talked to his wife, Bonnie, and offered to quit standing up for vaccines. “If Bonnie had said stop to me that night, I would have stopped.” Bonnie told him to hang in there. You’re doing the right thing, she said, for science, for children. You mustn’t let them shut you up.

Offit, 67, is hanging in there, sustained by two powerful motivations. The first is anger: although at least 17 major studies have found that MMR does not cause autism, conspiracy theorists continue to propound the falsehood. Offit is angry in particular at what he calls the “small group of professionals who do this as a living, the media-savvy, politically connected, lawyer-backed group” of anti-vaxxers who have become all the more vocal by using the internet as an organizing tool.

“I think they’re evil, to be quite frank. I think they hurt children, they put children in harm’s way and to me they have to be defeated.”

His second motivation: children. As the Guardian reported last month, anti-vaccine movements spurred on by rightwing populism are on the rise across Europe and immunization rates are plummeting as a result. The World Health Organization has included such movements – which it called “vaccine hesitancy” – among its top 10 global health threats for 2019.

The result of this surge in conspiracy theories around vaccines is that measles outbreaks are at a 20-year high. In 2018 there were more than 60,000 European cases with 72 deaths, twice the number from the year before.

Offit has seen at first hand what that means. One of the cases that haunts him is that of a mother who decided not to vaccinate her infant son against influenza, having read some fallacious material about the treatment.

The little boy was brought in to the hospital and went through a progression of increasingly invasive care as his body was ravaged with flu. First the child was given an oxygen face mask, then put in a ventilator, then an oscillator and heart-lung machine, until finally he died. “The mother watched her child die in slow motion, like falling off a cliff slowly. It was very hard.”

After the boy’s death, Offit asked the mother if she would be willing to talk to other parents wrestling with the decision to vaccinate as a way of preventing further tragedy. She politely declined. “She said to me she still thinks she made the right choice – the vaccine would have been more harmful.”



As a developer of video games, Brianna Wu is well placed to judge the stakes involved when someone becomes caught up in the real-world fantasy that is a conspiracy theory. To her trained eye, the chances of prevailing within the maelstrom are passingly low.


“If you address the conspiracy theory head-on, you just amplify the message you are trying to disprove. If you ignore it you just get screamed at and harassed until your career is over. It’s a no-win scenario,” she says.


Wu, 41, speaks from brutal experience. “I will never forget the day it happened,” she says, recalling when she tweeted a collage of comments lampooning male conspiracy theorists in her industry. “My Twitter caught on fire with all kinds of threats and nasty comments. I knew I had a choice to make: I could sit down and say nothing, or I could take a stand.”


She did take a stand, and by doing so, propelled herself into Gamergate, the misogynistic conspiracy theory that ran riot through 4chan, its sister imageboard 8chan, Reddit, Twitter and other social media platforms.


The blow-up began in 2014 when fellow video game developer Zoe Quinn became the target of hundreds of anonymous male trolls propagating the false claim that she had sought to advance her career by having an affair with a video game journalist. The conflagration spread like wildfire, engulfing several other women in and around the gaming world. The bedlam could not have come at a worse juncture for Wu, erupting just weeks after she had launched her first video game, Revolution 60.


Wu believes that women are targeted by conspiracy theorists more frequently than men, and yet they’re rarely heard. “The cost of speaking out is so high for women, I understand why most decide not to. I’ve heard hundreds of times over the last few years women with children saying ‘I am afraid to speak up because I don’t want my children to be targeted’. That is an utterly rational position – many women are correctly scared to talk.”


Wu was scared, too. Her frivolous internet meme ridiculing the male trolls of Gamergate triggered an assault that continues to this day. At its peak, a woman turned up at her alma mater, the University of Mississippi, impersonating her in an attempt to acquire her college records. Someone else surreptitiously took photos of her as she went about her daily business. Wu was unaware of it until she received anonymous texts with pictures of her in coffee shops, restaurants, at the movies.



An accurate floor plan of her house was assembled and published online, along with her address and pictures of her car and license plate. And then there were the death threats – up to 300 by her estimate. One message on Twitter threatened to cut off her husband’s “tiny Asian penis”. The couple evacuated their house and took refuge with friends and in hotels.

Wu now devotes her time to running for Congress from her home in Dedham, Massachusetts. She sees her candidacy as a way of pressing federal authorities to take the problem of online conspiracy theories and harassment seriously. “The FBI employs about 30,000 agents in the US. As best as I can tell there’s no division that is specifically tasked with prosecuting extreme threats online – it’s simply not a priority for them,” she says.

Wu looks back on Gamergate and is torn over its legacy for her. On the positive side, “it did show me there’s a toughness and resilience inside myself, it gave me almost rhinoceros-thick skin.” Then she quickly corrects herself. “Let’s not glamorize abuse. I came to a conclusion that having to read every day about people wanting to rape or kill me did permanent damage.”



In October 2016, a month before Trump was elected, James Alefantis hosted a party to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Comet Ping Pong, his Washington DC pizza restaurant.

Within days, his establishment was under siege and he found himself at the center of the mother of all modern conspiracy theories: Pizzagate. Hillary Clinton, so the narrative went, was masterminding a global child-trafficking ring that was holding kids as sex slaves in his basement.

The rumor-mongering began when private emails of John Podesta, Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, were stolen allegedly by Russian agents and released through WikiLeaks. In them, Podesta mentioned his brother Tony’s friend and their occasional cooking companion, Alefantis, as well as a fundraising dinner they were planning together at Comet Ping Pong.

Soon, photos of Alefantis’ godchildren were being lifted from his Instagram page and repackaged to support claims of hideous pedophilia. Conspiracy theorists were arguing that “James Alefantis” was a bastardization of “j’aime les enfant” (I like children) and that cheese pizza, “cp” for short, was a code for child pornography.

The heinous notion that Alefantis was a pedophile working with Hillary Clinton to abuse children in the basement of his restaurant (Comet Ping Pong has no basement) hurtled around the internet. Abusive messages were posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page and in Yelp reviews; one online critic claimed to have found a child’s hand in his pizza.

But it was not until bigger beasts got involved that it became truly dangerous. Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired army general Michael Flynn, fanned the flames by tweeting about Clinton’s “sex crimes w children”. Then up popped Alex Jones once more, telling his thousands of Infowars listeners that “something’s going on, something’s being covered up”, exhorting his devotees to “go investigate it for yourself”.

So they did. The self-appointed “investigators” stepped out of the computer screen and began turning up at Comet Ping Pong.

“There was this break into the physical world that began to happen,” Alefantis recalls. “People came into the restaurant to film or look around. They came by my house, asking neighbors questions. Suddenly you look around and you don’t know who to trust.”

In December 2016, Edgar Welch answered Jones’s call to investigate the satanic child sex ring. He drove 350 miles from North Carolina and burst into Comet Ping Pong armed with three guns. He went table to table, terrifying customers and staff, then shot into a locked closet before giving himself up to police. Six months later, he was sentenced to four years and is still behind bars in Elkton federal prison in Lisbon, Ohio.

Alefantis finds it impossible to talk about that day without tearing up. For a full year after the gunman’s appearance, armed guards were posted at both doors of the restaurant, which remains equipped with multiple security cameras and panic buttons.


Alex Jones eventually apologized for promoting Pizzagate, and in August was barred from YouTube, Apple and Facebook and other leading social media platforms. Last week the streaming device Roku joined the ban having granted Jones and Infowars access to its content for less than one day. But for Alefantis this is too little too late. The damage has gone too deep.


His extraordinary, petrifying ride has taught him a lot about the modern world. At one point, against the advice of friends, he reached out to some of his assailants and asked them why they hated him so much.


“I communicated with them. I realized that they also live in fear. That there’s a sense of abandonment and powerlessness where young people online believe the government is conspiring against them or stealing their children which is outrageous but real for them. We have a lot of learning to do about who is disenfranchised in this country.”


Through it all he has held on to positive thoughts, encouraged by the support of the community of pizza lovers that rallied around in his darkest hour. “It feels at times that things are out of control, that hate is on the rise. But I now understand the power of community. It saved this place. There’s no reason it can’t save the rest of the country, or the world.”
"
Source (Guardian)

Last story was one of the messiest so left whole bit.

Crazy how people can get radicalised and take it upon themselves to get "justice", more education and label the people spreading misinformation appropriately.

Please keep it civil and discuss appropriately. Restrain from drive by posts and try to imagine being in their shoes.

P. S. In before the obligatory "fake news"
 

guggnichso

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While I think that post should be in the politics subforum, even if people would just dismiss it because of Brianna Wu, who is a genuine lolcow by any metric we know, this is an important article.

We have a LOT of Infowars apologists on this board nowadays, and it should be front and center in any discussion of this shitshow what the cost of this dudes slander is.

Free speech can only go so far. Singling out innocent people and giving an attack command to all those unhinged conspiratards with weapons is a catastrophe. If your own show is unhinged conspiratard nonsense, it will attract unhinged conspiratards, and pointing them to people whose only „crime“ was to lose their children in a mass shooting or doing science (this was not mentioned in the article, but PETA is great at pointing violent fuckers at scientists) MUST be an actionable offense.
 

guggnichso

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Why no mention of the Covington kids and the conspiracy against them?

Ok. Look, really, you know why. I will now treat your post as if it was not disingenuous partisan whataboutism.

The most likely reason for that is that the Writing of this article was started months ago. The Writer most likely had to contact a bunch of people who because of their experiences do not like to be contacted and actively HIDE their contact information. The Writer then had to convince them that they were a real journalist and not some internet troll, which likely took even more time. This article was probably submitted long before the „idiot maga kids“ incident even happened.

So there you go.
 

infinitys_7th

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Feel free to create a thread, this article covers those 5, although a conspiracy OT could be fun.

One of those isn't even a conspiracy, by any metric. Wu herself is a conspiracy theorist who thought she was dodging sniper fire and that a guy doing a act (Deagle Nation) was part of some conspiracy to kill her.

To compare her treatment or GG to fucking Pizzagate is ridiculous. GG was just calling out how journalist collude with each other to protect their interests, something which the entire media is guilty of.
 
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Trojita

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Why no mention of the Covington kids and the conspiracy against them?
I don't think that reaches the bare minimum of conspiracy theory? There would have to be the belief of some type of conspiratorial belief among their detractors? Including Wu in the article is a bit reaching, but that at least has the connection with the conspiracy surrounding Quinn and her boyfriend.
 
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infinitys_7th

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I don't think that reaches the bare minimum of conspiracy theory? There would have to be the belief of some type of conspiratorial belief among their detractors? Including Wu in the article is a bit reaching, but that at least has the connection with the conspiracy surrounding Quinn and her boyfriend.

The propogators believe that the school is training boys to be racists and to use their "privilege" to look down on minorities. That's as much a conspiracy theory as Pizzagate.
 

infinitys_7th

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Ok. Look, really, you know why. I will now treat your post as if it was not disingenuous partisan whataboutism.

It's not whataboutism, it's about hypocrisy. Why should I take you seriously if your actions don't match what you say?

You can't cry about how mean Alex Jones is when you did literally the exact same thing as he did with the same consequences (in fact, worse consequences,pas prominent people were promoting harming children). The media has yet to apologize on a broad basis.
 
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Trojita

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The propogators believe that the school is training boys to be racists and to use their "privilege" to look down on minorities. That's as much a conspiracy theory as Pizzagate.
As much as a a conspiracy as pizzagate? lol

I've seen people question if a private school in Kentucky might overlook the racist actions of their students. That ain't much of a conspiracy theory dude.
 

infinitys_7th

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As much as a a conspiracy as pizzagate? lol

I've seen people question if a private school in Kentucky might overlook the racist actions of their students. That ain't much of a conspiracy theory dude.

It is when no racist actions existed.

Those kids were as racist as Hillary is a spirit cooker. Nada. Video evidence proves it.
 

guggnichso

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It's not whataboutism, it's about hypocrisy. Why should I take you seriously if your actions don't match what you say?

You can't cry about how mean Alex Jones is when you did literally the exact same thing as he did with the same consequences (in fact, worse consequences,pas prominent people were promoting harming children). The media has yet to apologize on a broad basis.

Dude. Really. Please provide evidence of the journalist writing this article doing the „exact same thing“ they criticize.

I‘m waiting. (And still pretending that you’re arguing in good faith, which you definitely are not)
 
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infinitys_7th

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Dude. Really. Please provide evidence of the journalist writing this article doing the „exact same thing“ they criticize.

I‘m waiting. (And still pretending that you’re arguing in good faith, which you definitely are not)

It promotes the same mainstream media line that was used to try to restrict speech while most of those conspiracy theories were popular.
 

guggnichso

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It promotes the same mainstream media line that was used to try to restrict speech while most of those conspiracy theories were popular.

So you’re just talking out of your ass and have NO basis AT ALL for your stupidly lame accusations. Why do you waste my time?
 

Trojita

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It is when no racist actions existed.

Those kids were as racist as Hillary is a spirit cooker. Nada. Video evidence proves it.
There's a difference between kneejerk responses to breaking news with fragmented information delivery vs a long campaign believing in a conspiracy theory, the belief that a group or people have agreed to keep information and their agreement secret while benefiting in some way from the conspiracy. That describes Sandy Hook Truther bullshit and Pizzagate nonsense. That doesn't really describe some people thinking a school in the south might be racist.
 

Redneckerz

Those long posts don't cover that red neck boy
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Stuck in 1Q84.
Are you trying to ruin this thread?
Can't have a topic around dangerous conspiracy theories without the two users who actually buy into them.

On a more serious level though, through social media, its easier than ever to make a scapegoat. Its all easy to look back at when you aren't on the recieving end.

I reckon that's what these theories end up doing. They forfeit the fact that behind the theory, there is a human being - One that may not even be related to the event in question. These people end up being scarred, because folks look for a scapegoat.

Perhaps its because they are too scared to confront their own inner demons.
 

timberger

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Surprised at Brianna Wu being included over the likes of Anita Sarkesian or Zoe Quinn(Who seemed to be the primary targets of Gamergate), but at least that's touched upon in the text I guess.

The propogators believe that the school is training boys to be racists and to use their "privilege" to look down on minorities.

Yeah, it's ridiculous that students can't even go to basketball games on school grounds openly wearing blackface to jeer at black players without them or their school being called racist these days.
 
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It is when no racist actions existed.

Those kids were as racist as Hillary is a spirit cooker. Nada. Video evidence proves it.

Asking for restraint and for people not to take action that is not needed is reasonable I believe. The five cases and the human cost to all involved is the main thing here.

Edit: if they persist we’ll ask a mod to post ban em from the thread.

They're why we can't have nice things.
 
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guggnichso

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Can't have a topic around dangerous conspiracy theories without the two users who actually buy into them.

.

One of those dudes believes (or much more likely pretends to believe) that the earth is flat. There’s no valuable input coming from them. So what is YOUR opinion on the matter at hand?
 

Redneckerz

Those long posts don't cover that red neck boy
Jun 25, 2018
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Stuck in 1Q84.
Where? I only see a line tagging some dudes.
I mean, you quoted it?

''On a more serious level though, through social media, its easier than ever to make a scapegoat. Its all easy to look back at when you aren't on the recieving end.

I reckon that's what these theories end up doing. They forfeit the fact that behind the theory, there is a human being - One that may not even be related to the event in question. These people end up being scarred, because folks look for a scapegoat.

Perhaps its because they are too scared to confront their own inner demons. ''
 

Rentahamster

Rodent Whores
Jun 26, 2007
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Is it weird that I'm actually kind of relieved because I thought this thread was going to be about the really fucking bizarre theories like the Earth is flat, space isn't real, we never landed on the moon, the Earth is 6,000 years old, vaccines are bad for you, and there's an all-powerful sky friend that created the universe who cares very deeply whether or not I masturbate or have pre-marital sex in my bunghole.

Well, I guess the anti-vax one is there, so there's that lol.
 

Catphish

Member
Jan 13, 2017
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Chicago, IL, USA
If I were the guy who lost his kid at Sandy Hook, I'd invite any asshole who wants to come around. I'd even make my address public.

Show up, motherfucker. I'll have something special for ya.
 
Feb 8, 2018
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Is it weird that I'm actually kind of relieved because I thought this thread was going to be about the really fucking bizarre theories like the Earth is flat, space isn't real, we never landed on the moon, the Earth is 6,000 years old, vaccines are bad for you, and there's an all-powerful sky friend that created the universe who cares very deeply whether or not I masturbate or have pre-marital sex in my bunghole.

Well, I guess the anti-vax one is there, so there's that lol.

I made one a few months back on a more fun conspiracy theory.
 

Cybrwzrd

Banned
Sep 29, 2014
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I am actually John Titor. This timeline is trash. Sorry I broke you off on to this terrible shard. Y2K should have happened instead.
 
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I'm pure sure that Brianna Wu's inclusion in that list more or less invalidates anything this article has to say because they obviously didn't do any actual research. She loves to insert herself into other people's dramas and make it all about her, then spend months complaining how she was harassed because she went somewhere she wasn't invited and started insulting everybody. The only conspiracy theory involving her that I've heard is about her birth gender. Don't know (or care) if that's true, but at least it is a conspiracy theory. "Attention Whore" isn't.

I've got a conspiracy theory too. It's that the major news media has been infiltrated by the CIA through something called "Operation Mockingbird", where places like the NY Times have actual intelligence officers employed on their staff and run their publications through intelligence agencies before going to print. The Guardian is basically state media that has published outright falsehoods to further the agenda of their government. When you've got vaccines and PizzaGate being defended here, all it does is convince conspiracy theorists that their theories are MORE likely.
 

#Phonepunk#

Banned
Sep 4, 2018
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so the human cost is 5 people being mildly inconvenienced?

meanwhile how many millions are entertained by these theories, how much capital is being raised, how many products are produced, employees employed, etc.? guess that is irrelevant for a hit piece.

conspiracies really aren't a big deal, since they have to keep using the same old examples.

i don't understand the point of this article, are they arguing that conspiracy theories are somehow new or otherwise must stop? conspiracies have been part of life for as long as there has been human culture.

moreover, i feel like the media's constant obsession with conspiracy details a worrying grasp on The Truth. i feel like right now the NSA could bake in some "anti-conspiracy" internet privacy legislation that lets it define what is true and false, a Ministry of Truth, or something equally Orwellian. a lot of this isn't even about conspiracies, it's about the internet making it real easy to harass people.

conspiracies are an age old thing. they will always exist. as long as any text can be interpreted by people in different ways, you will have conspiracies. we will never be rid of them.
 
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King of Foxes

Banned
Jan 9, 2018
3,316
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Latvia
I find it hilarious the first guy calls himself a queer commie on the autistic spectrum.

Pretty sure being queer and or autistic would have gotten him a first class ticket to Siberia in any of the former communist states in Europe.
 

Enygger_Tzu

Banned
Jul 7, 2018
1,744
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Johny Flynt was not targeted by GamerGate supporters or anyone else, most of it, HE did it HIMself.
 

infinitys_7th

Gold Member
Oct 1, 2006
12,324
22,360
1,885
I'm pure sure that Brianna Wu's inclusion in that list more or less invalidates anything this article has to say because they obviously didn't do any actual research. She loves to insert herself into other people's dramas and make it all about her, then spend months complaining how she was harassed because she went somewhere she wasn't invited and started insulting everybody. The only conspiracy theory involving her that I've heard is about her birth gender. Don't know (or care) if that's true, but at least it is a conspiracy theory. "Attention Whore" isn't.

I've got a conspiracy theory too. It's that the major news media has been infiltrated by the CIA through something called "Operation Mockingbird", where places like the NY Times have actual intelligence officers employed on their staff and run their publications through intelligence agencies before going to print. The Guardian is basically state media that has published outright falsehoods to further the agenda of their government. When you've got vaccines and PizzaGate being defended here, all it does is convince conspiracy theorists that their theories are MORE likely.

She claims she was harassed and had yet had a faux stalker photo taken of her standing at her window to (melo)dramatize her experience. Seems legit.
 

daveonezero

Member
Nov 19, 2018
1,462
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I feel really bad for these people and that they had their lives ruined but this is nothing compared to the numbers of lives ruined by media.
How many times has the media falsely accused someone of something and never redacted the statement?

How many wars has the media lead the United States people into because the White House demanded it? Who was playing 24/7 WMD theories and filming reporters supposedly in the Middle East on a green screen set in the US?

I don't trust lies calling out lies.

This statement by Wu is scary "“The FBI employs about 30,000 agents in the US. As best as I can tell there’s no division that is specifically tasked with prosecuting extreme threats online – it’s simply not a priority for them,” she says."

Making threats is not ok but raiding their houses with SWAT is probably not the best solution. If you volunteer to get on twitter to talk to strangers you are opening yourself up to them talking to you.
 

Trojita

Rapid Response Threadmaker
Feb 9, 2009
37,903
4,869
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I'm pure sure that Brianna Wu's inclusion in that list more or less invalidates anything this article has to say because they obviously didn't do any actual research. She loves to insert herself into other people's dramas and make it all about her, then spend months complaining how she was harassed because she went somewhere she wasn't invited and started insulting everybody. The only conspiracy theory involving her that I've heard is about her birth gender. Don't know (or care) if that's true, but at least it is a conspiracy theory. "Attention Whore" isn't.

I've got a conspiracy theory too. It's that the major news media has been infiltrated by the CIA through something called "Operation Mockingbird", where places like the NY Times have actual intelligence officers employed on their staff and run their publications through intelligence agencies before going to print. The Guardian is basically state media that has published outright falsehoods to further the agenda of their government. When you've got vaccines and PizzaGate being defended here, all it does is convince conspiracy theorists that their theories are MORE likely.
Your last bit. Are you saying people are defending those conspiracies or the opposite?
 
Dec 3, 2018
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Your last bit. Are you saying people are defending those conspiracies or the opposite?
I'm saying that conspiracy theorists consider the mainstream media to have been infiltrated by conspiracy players, so any defense that comes from this media will be seen as evidence that the conspiracies are true. After all, if the CIA comes out and says that the CIA isn't doing something, then your first thought will be, oh, the CIA is totally doing that.

This means that the purpose of articles like these aren't to get conspiracy theorists to change their minds and behave more responsibly, it's to shame them and discredit them to other non-conspiracy theorists so that nobody else takes them seriously. Which, of course, is a conspiracy. Fun fact: This is why the CIA coined the term "conspiracy theory".
 

strange headache

Fluctuat nec mergitur
Jan 14, 2018
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I was nodding in agreement as I was scrolling down while reading this... until the name Brianna Wu popped up. Talking about conspiracies...



Brianna is the literal definition of insanity and she was also running for congress on one of the most harebrained campaigns ever devised in the history of mankind. She also lied about being a successful tech entrepreneur and game developer with her only claim to fame being a shitty mobile game called Revolution 60. She claimed to have been harassed by the late TotalBiscuit, resulting in a long spat between her and TB:





After TB passed away, she was quite ecstatic:





She's probably one of the most toxic people on the internet as she is well known for engaging in hyperbole and all sorts of fabricated claims in order to garner social media attention. Everywhere Brianna goes, insane drama and bullcrap follows.
 
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RedVIper

Member
Jun 13, 2017
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I have to agree, the inclusion of Brianna Wu is lol worthy, she's one of the most insane people I've seen.
 
Dec 3, 2018
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Brianna Wu made me doubt all the other people up there
The other two people I recognize from this list are Pozner and James Alefantis. Pozner is a real piece of work (I talked about him in the Sandy Hook thread), and spend ten minutes reading anything about Alefantis and you'll swear PizzaGate might have a point (the guy literally called people's home phones to make death threats). These two (three with Wu) are the least empathetic people in existence and I wouldn't use either in a persuasive essay against conspiracy theories. It's like writing about the human cost of being banned from NeoGAF and using Denis Dyack for your example.
 

Taxexemption

Member
Oct 11, 2011
1,438
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If you don't think governments or corporations lie to you i don't know what to tell you bud. A lot of it may not be malicious, but simply a product of erroneous thinking on how people will react to facts. Once people are aware that we are ocasionally lied to by people and organizations for their own interests and we can't discern the truth without a significant amount of expertise in highly specialized fields its off to the races. This is something that will exist in a highly complex society like ours, especially when our government and private corporations have got it wrong as many times as they have.
 

Tschumi

Banned
Jul 4, 2020
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As always, kudos for wading into a hostile environment and risking the wrath of some anonymous antagonists..

The article should have a photo of the us Constitution/us capitol, which has been a victim of a ridiculous conspiracy theory ^_^ hooo

I think the giant rejection of trumpism evidenced by mid term elections, general elections, senate runoffs etc is a sign of hope that the narrative which has enabled rabid, violent conspiracy theories will not remain in the political mainstream. It doesn't win elections, one for four.

---

To be slightly more on topic, well, i agree that in this day and age people are taking conspiracy theories seriously to the point of mobilising about them, which is just wacky
 
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I think this is why we should invest as much into mental health as we do bodily health. Conspiracy theories are dangerous for a functional society.
 

Papa

Banned
Apr 25, 2009
23,408
47,519
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He/him
As always, kudos for wading into a hostile environment and risking the wrath of some anonymous antagonists..

The article should have a photo of the us Constitution/us capitol, which has been a victim of a ridiculous conspiracy theory ^_^ hooo

I think the giant rejection of trumpism evidenced by mid term elections, general elections, senate runoffs etc is a sign of hope that the narrative which has enabled rabid, violent conspiracy theories will not remain in the political mainstream. It doesn't win elections, one for four.

---

To be slightly more on topic, well, i agree that in this day and age people are taking conspiracy theories seriously to the point of mobilising about them, which is just wacky

What's your goal here