Conspiracy theories are an unfortunate, paranoid and counterfactual outgrowth of any national tragedy. But in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Navy Yard, so-called “truthers” found some hard proof that something was off: The attack happened on Sept. 16, but both ABC.com and British Columbia’s Kelowna Daily Courier published stories dated the day before.
Thousands of people, including some of the Internet’s most popular conspiracy theorists, seized on the time stamps as evidence of a vast government conspiracy to orchestrate tragedies and clamp down on gun rights in the aftermath. They have other “proof” too, of course — conjecture about “crisis actors” and John Wilkes Booth and the two rumored shooters who didn’t end up being part of Aaron Alexis’s plot. But the time stamp issue is the foundation of many of the more popular videos circulating on YouTube, Facebook and that seedy corner of the Internet where people debate the Illuminati and UFOs.
“Now we have what might be the best smoking gun evidence yet, and it is time-stamped from September 15,” rails the popular conspiracy vlogger Dahboo77 in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 90,000 times. “These guys must have put this into the system right before midnight, right before they left the office, on the 15th. And they knew it” — “it” being the Navy Yard rampage, hours before it happened.
The reality is, of course, a little more mundane: Both sites incorrectly ingested a feed from the Associated Press, which caused their AP stories to display the wrong time stamps.
A little background in wire services is helpful here.
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