In my view, there are a base group of life skills a human needs to be a worthwhile member of humanity: the ability to have empathy and concern for others, honesty, and a sound grasp of the surrounding world. If you’ve spent a fair amount of time on social media, you may have noticed that there’s a significant portion of your friends who don’t possess the latter, which in turn causes them to be severely lacking in the first two.
I’m not referring to people who take a conservative stance on gun control. I’m talking about people who operate on a different set of facts — people who select various fictions, as if they’re plucking fruit from a tree, and present it to the world as an alternative to corroborated history. I’m talking about people who’ve convinced themselves that mass shootings are actually a set-up by the government (or Barack Obama’s secret field operatives) to usher in new gun control laws or to justify a mega gun-grab.
Essential to this claim are the “crisis actors,” because of course, a government’s false flag operation wouldn’t be complete if they weren’t playing three-dimensional chess by hiring people to *play* the roles of victims. One of the most vile forms this conspiracy theory took was after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 that left 20 children and 6 teachers dead. In the wake of the shooting, theories began to emerge online (fanned by Alex Jones and others on his media tier) that the victims weren’t real. But most horrifically, conspiracists began harassing grieving parents. “Fake kid”, “Didn’t die”, “Fucking liar,” were some of the online comments left on photos of Noah Pozner, the youngest child to die at Sandy Hook.
My estimation is that this is about where the quacks reading this will call me a “sheep” and go back to scrolling InfoWars. Good. This piece isn’t trying to change anyone’s mind. It can’t be done. We’re not talking about a debate that’s to be had. What we’re dealing with is an almost incurable psychosis.
The CACT (crisis actor conspiracy theory) is like a universal electrical plug — you can insert it into any form of nonsense that may be going viral at any given time, and it’s not just far-right Alex Jones types that disseminate it; for example, there’s a weird strain of pro-Syrian regime leftists who’ve said that wounded children in Syrian war footage were crisis actors employed by the Al-Qaeda-linked White Helmets (their claim). A common thread among many in this group is that they’re employed by the Russian state-sponsored outlet RT.
Are people really that retarded and not realize he was not a student at Parkland, and was hired as a tragedy actor?
— Tilly (@SewLica) March 17, 2018
In my horror after learning of the Parkland shooting, one of my first thoughts was how long it would take for the first false flag/CACT claims to emerge. Of course, it was immediate. But something seemed a little different this time around. It’s almost as if the younger generation of conspiracists don’t have the attention spans their 9/11 truther, chemtrails/anti-vaxxer predecessors had. Lies have a shelf-life, and holding them together under constant intellectual scrutiny isn’t tenable, so creating a template that can be applied over and over again to different tragedies is a great way to phone it in. Now, it seems like everything is a false flag with crisis actors. It doesn’t require weaving together intricate backstories. All it takes is some videos taken out of context that are then applied to a universal theme of shadowy government people staging mass shootings.
So how does one go through life harboring these beliefs? Poorly, I would assume. A CACT purveyor is indicative of someone who’s willing to forgo one of the most innate forms of empathy we have as human beings — the ability to feel for children who are suffering. If a person can convince themselves that the grieving family and friends of murdered children are actors, then that person doesn’t have to deal with the emotional impact such a scenario brings, It’s a truly emotionally underdeveloped way of dealing with the complexities and hardships of the real world.
This kind of self-imposed psychology is what allows entire populations to turn the other way when genocides are happening in their midsts. In her disgraceful and pathetic waffling responses to the Rohingya crisis, Burma’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi dismissed the military’s systematic rape, torture, killing, and ethnic cleansing of the country’s Muslim populations as “fake news.” When confronted with reports of Rohingya women being raped by soldiers, Suu Kyi’s own office dismissed the accounts as “fake rape” — a Trumpian brand of rhetoric designed to achieve the same goals as the crisis actor claim; dehumanize the victims to make the misinformation more palatable.
Grown adults who utilize this kind of moral stupidity aren’t just a threat to this country because they aim to misinform. They’re spreading a mentality that enables societies to crumble under the weight of their own apathy to the suffering of their neighbors.
Featured image via WBUR