Newsweek Examines Conspiracy Theories, For a Change

Remember Newsweek? It used to be a news magazine, but they magazined so poorly that they were just a website until recently. They’re back in print, and here’s the latest cover:

(I’d like to point out that the JPG artifacts surrounding the magazine’s name are not from me shrinking the image down. Those are in the image on the magazine’s website, so they’re apparently still committed to quality.)

The cover story is on America’s obsession with conspiracy theories, an obsession I share, except America is obsessed with believing in them. It’s a worthwhile thing to talk about, since it seems like every since issue that comes up for debate is tainted by some kook declaring it the work of the Antichrist, Jews, George Soros, and so forth. The same people who snorted derisively at Hillary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” now can’t shut up about the plots and wheels behind Benghazi. Every incident is either something cooked up by one group or a “false flag” cooked up by the other. It’s a poisonous environment where no sensible discussion can emerge.

The media doesn’t help, either, since it loves giving these people a voice. If some nutjob thinks that the American Medical Association joined with ACORN to do the Newtown shootings, we have to bring them on the show and let them holler, or at least admit that they raise a lot of questions.

The Newsweek article talks about all of this, mentioning death panels, Agenda 21, Common Core, and other current darlings of conspiracy lore. But then they say this:

Take the theories about the George W. Bush administration. There have been claims and suggestions that Bush used the 9/11 attacks — or even engineered them — as a pretext to engage in wars and increase the state security infrastructure; that his vice president, Dick Cheney, orchestrated the Iraq War to shovel millions of dollars in reconstruction contracts to his former employer, Halliburton; and that the administration rigged the 2004 election through fraud in Ohio. And while these ideas have been put forward by plenty of regular citizens, they have also been advanced by national political figures: respectively, Keith Ellison, a Democratic congressman; Senator Rand Paul, a Republican associated with the party’s libertarian wing; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of Bobby Kennedy, who is now a liberal radio talk-show host.

Maybe I’m too far gone down the rabbit hole myself, but there’s a huge difference between “Bush did 9/11” and “Bush and Cheney used 9/11 as a way to get a war they had already wanted in Iraq to happen.” The former is unsupported nonsense. The latter is documented fact. It doesn’t take an unhinged mind and a lot of logical gymnastics to deduce that Bush and Cheney took advantage of the attack to steer sentiment towards the Iraq war. That’s not the stuff of grainy photos, rumors, and smudged Xeroxes, it’s easily verifiable, countable data that we actually were interested in for a brief moment a few years back.

This isn’t just obnoxious and self-serving, it’s dangerous. To deny what actually happened in the lead-up to the Iraq War is to basically say that the story of the time, that we had credible evidence of imminent WMD use, is legitimate. It’s not, and it never was. It wasn’t a case of the CIA cooking the evidence up, it was a case of the CIA being told to cook the evidence up by the White House. Again, this isn’t wild speculation, we have facts on this. It supports the narrative that anyone who supported the call for war (including Ms. Clinton herself) was understandably convinced of a clear and present danger, which was simply not true. Furthermore, dismissing the fact that Bush and Cheney lied and lied some more to get their war done as a mere fairy story for cranks not only lets them off the hook, but it permits further presidents to do the same.

But of course, looking at the evidence of manipulation would reveal just how much of the media, Newsweek included, whenever they weren’t reporting about the reality of Heaven, aided and abetted the White House by breathlessly repeating whatever hysterical absurdities they were told without doing any work — such as, say, journalism — to verify if any of it matched reality. Better still to say, “No, there was no outright falsification and manipulation of information that we both fell for and encouraged.” If there were no perpetrators, then there can’t be any victims or accomplices.

It’s also interesting to see Newsweek reporting on studies of how people who believed Sarah Palin’s “death panels” story reacted when given evidence that such things didn’t exist. Newsweek, and few other media sources, can’t give examples of when they themselves revealed that the “death panels” nonsense was a lie because they have absolved themselves of this duty, instead explaining that if Palin said it, they just have to report it and their work is done. You cannot fault Americans for hanging on to faulty information if you are responsible for disseminating it without question.

You’ll note that when asking where conspiracy theories come from, Newsweek cites the usual: fringe sources, social media, “the Internet”. Certainly not reputable places like Newsweek, who would never, ever do such a thing. They mention “the mass media” and “news outlets” but only in a matter-of-fact way. They also end the article with

So it goes with the endless loop of conspiracy theories. They can’t be corrected, they can’t be killed. Anyone who attempts to disprove some feverish thought must be involved in the plot. Indeed, most of the experts interviewed for this article agreed on one fact: Once it was published, Newsweek would be accused of being part of the conspiracy.

That’s me rolling my eyes at you, Newsweek.

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