Continuing our series of lists on the worst reactions to the Boston attack, we examine four viral claims. The smoke has barely cleared, and while the real search for suspects continues, a large number of people believe they already know who did it. Alex Jones cracked the case less than 40 minutes after the first blast. Lew Rockwell, Tom DiLorenzo, and others at LRC* are on a similar track.
So whodunnit? Like every single event to happen anywhere–ever–it was a government conspiracy! Here’s their proof.
#1: Look! White People! In Hats!
From Alex Jones’ Infowars.com comes this prime example of
schizophrenia — I mean, “internet sleuthing.”
“Savvy Internet sleuths have found images taken from surveillance cameras of members of the crowd gathered at the Boston Marathon that appear to identify Navy SEALs.”
Leaving aside the fact that military personnel are allowed to attend public sporting events without being automatically presumed guilty of mass murder, how were these “Navy SEALs” identified? Well, see for yourself. –>
See??? A white guy! With a Punisher logo on his baseball cap! I mean, a hat like that… it’s gotta run you 15, 20 dollars, easy. We’re obviously on to something here. So far so good. What else? Look, he’s wearing tan pants! And he has a phone!
Clearly, the only people in America who meet this description are government employees. And where there’s government employees, there must be a secret conspiracy to commit terrorism.
Great detective work, internet. +A. If only the police were using cutting-edge techniques like this to catch criminals.
#2: It Was Peter Griffin!
Well, if this doesn’t convince you skeptics, I just don’t know what could. Conspiracy theorists have cut and spliced together snippets from an episode of Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy to make it appear that Peter won the Boston marathon by exploding a bomb. InfoWars fell for it immediately.** Because they are credulous idiots.
Fans immediately identified the clip as a hoax, but that hasn’t stopped it from circulating all over the internet as “proof” of… what, exactly? That Seth MacFarlane is a) leader of the New World Order, and b) decided to broadcast his evil plans in a cartoon on national television? Well, never mind logic–making sense is for sheeple. It’s internet sleuthing, not philosophy class, Professor Government Shill!
#3: No Blood?
This claim is that one of the most horrifying photos of the scene after the blast is staged. On the one hand, this claim at least has substance, and on the other, the substance is a vile insult to the victim who lost his legs in the blast, to the people who rescued him, and lastly to the intelligence of the listener.
This picture taken by the AP’s Charles Krupa (warning: extremely graphic) shows a man in a wheelchair, with both legs torn to ribbons below the knees. Asshole conspiracy theorists say the man is an “actor” because there isn’t a “blood trail” behind the wheelchair and because he’s still conscious. This is idiotic for a variety of reasons, but mostly because there is blood all over what’s left of the man’s legs, on the wheelchair, the bandages, and the hands of man pushing the chair. And people in shock can stay awake and responsive during horribly traumatic injuries, as anyone who saw the Louisville game last month can testify.
He’s not spurting geysers of blood because there are tourniquets and bandages tied around his legs to stop him from bleeding to death. In fact, he appears to have lost so much blood lying on the ground that his face is noticeably ashen. Where is the blood? Everywhere. The first thing his rescuers would have done was to stop the bleeding by tying off (or even cauterizing) the arteries, and then rush him to an ambulance–and that is exactly what the photo shows.
Update: the man in the photo is Jeff Bauman, age 27. He was taken to Boston Medical Center where doctors performed to surgery to amputate what was left below the knees. He had to be resuscitated several times during surgery, given numerous blood transfusions because he had lost so much. The man in the cowboy hat who saved his life is Carlos Arredondo. His father found the picture of him on Facebook.
#4: Police Drill! Bomb Dogs!
This is probably the most popular claim circulating at the moment: conspiracists claim the presence of bomb-sniffing dogs at the marathon proves that police “had foreknowledge” or were “in on it.” A dog handler with experience around police bomb dogs sums it up in the headline of her article refuting this claim: “You Only Think the Presence of Bomb Dogs in Boston is “Evidence” of a Conspiracy Because You Don’t Know Shit about Bomb Dogs.”
“Isn’t it suspicious that there were bomb dogs at the event for “training?” Do you really expect me to believe that’s a coincidence?”
It’s neither suspicious nor coincidence. Bomb dogs have a very rigorous training standard, which includes hours of active searching and testing regularly to retain certification. Like any other police activity, training is best done in varied situations and stress levels. Dogs are handled in controlled environments as well as public events to assess the dog’s ability to work in a variety of situations.
It’s a “two birds, one stone,” situation – the dogs get valuable training in a large crowd, and the event gets bomb sweeping. It is NOT uncommon for bomb dogs to be at marathons. The dog I worked with had been trained and serviced at more than one. Chances are, any large event you’ve gone to post-9/11 has had a bomb dog training at it.
(Much more on this here.) This point can’t be overstressed: all major public events have a police presence. Imagine if there hadn’t been any police or bomb-sniffing dogs at the event! Conspiracy theorists would then be trumpeting this as evidence the police knew the attack was going to happen in advance and removed security on purpose to allow the bombs to go off. We don’t even have to guess this is what they’d say–they made this exact claim about the 9/11 attacks.
This is how conspiracy theorizing works: anything can be interpreted as evidence for the “theory.” Bomb dogs present? Government was in on it. Bomb dogs not present? Government was in on it. High security? Government knew. Light security? Government knew. No photos of victims? No victims. Photos of victims? Fakes and actors. Police don’t catch a suspect? They let him escape on purpose. Police caught suspect? Framed patsy. Security cameras show suspects? Photoshop. Cameras don’t show them? Cover up.
Impervious to Evidence
Conspiracy theories are beliefs that are systematically insulated from disconfirmation. They are formed by connecting every dot to every other dot, whether the connection makes any sense or not (like cartoons predicting terrorism).
Moreover, theorists don’t need to find motive, and they don’t need to identify specific individuals who are responsible for carrying out the attacks. They believe “the government” is a single, monolithic entity, with a single agenda, that is perfectly competent, acts in unison, and is totally committed, at every level, to murdering innocent people.
The why doesn’t matter because whatever the government does after the attack is always assumed to be the reason for the attack, neatly reversing the causal arrow. It’s the post hoc fallacy–“after this, therefore because of this”–in reverse–an ante hoc fallacy, if you will: “before this, therefore because of it.”
This is why it doesn’t matter who the police eventually charge with the attack–no matter how strong the evidence–even if the suspect confesses. To the conspiratorial mind, it will only be proof of how big the “cover up” is. These “theories” are self-contradictory in a host of points, but it doesn’t matter: they can accept an umbrella of conflicting claims, as long as they all deny the “official story.” It’s not about resolving the facts and sorting the evidence to get to the truth. It’s about finding ways to twist the evidence to prove a worldview they’ve already accepted: the “New World Order” controls the whole world from the top down, and nothing important ever happens without “them” intending it to.
What’s the “official story”? The fact conspiracy theorists are already denying it proves that it doesn’t matter, because there isn’t any story yet, “official” or otherwise. Nobody (except people for whom the evidence doesn’t matter) has any idea what happened. The first response of sites like InfoWars and LewRockwell.com was to declare it a “false flag” attack. False flag? WHAT flag? Nobody knows who was behind it, so it can’t be falsely signalling who was behind it. But they don’t care: they know who did it–Barack Obama and the reptile people–so anyone else has to be innocent. Their worldview depends on it.
More Links and A Final Note
The response to this will be predictable: I’ll be accused of being a “disinfo” agent, paid off and deluded. I’ll be attacked for criticizing other libertarians. I’ll be accused of being a “statist,” because I prefer to start with evidence and then work my way to conclusions, and not vice versa.
Predictably, people will fall back on the “just asking questions” defense. Asking questions is fine, but rephrasing your statement in the form of a question that assumes what it is trying to prove (“When did you start beating your wife?” and “Why is the government lying?” and “How much are they paying you?”) is not. Keep an open mind–but not so open your brains fall out.
- Snopes.com | Boston Marathon Bombing
- Slate – David Weigel | Why the Conspiracy Theorists Will Have a Tough Time With Boston
- The Skeptical Libertarian | Libertarians Should Reject Conspiracy Theories
- Skeptoid | False Flag Attacks: Myth and Reality
*LewRockwell.com and **InfoWars.com have pulled the original posts from their sites, so I’ve linked cached copies.