Anyone publicly writing about issues of science and medicine from a pro-science perspective likely gets many e-mails similar to the ones I see every week. Here’s just one recent example:
Im sorry the medical community has become decadent and lazy as most that follow your stance could care less to study the real truth. I have also seen it much more deviant as many professionals know the risks and harm vaccination cause but continue to push it through there practices because of pure greed. Many are also scared of loosing there practices for not following the corrupt industry. Im sorry but the medical industry has become drug pushing decadent slobs that only care about there bottom line.
The e-mailer clearly has a particular narrative that he is following (in addition to the amusingly common poor grammar and spelling). He even writes at one point in our exchange, “the details really don’t matter at this point what matters is what the bigger picture…” He is certain of his big picture conspiracy narrative. The details are unimportant.
Being on the receiving end of an almost constant barrage of such medical conspiracy theories it might seem that such beliefs are extremely common. Of course, such e-mails are self-selective and therefore not representative of the general population. I was therefore interested to see a published survey polling the general population about such beliefs. The survey is published in JAMA Internal Medicine, authored by Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood.
Here are the six survey questions and the percentage who agree or disagree (the rest indicating that they do not know).
The Food and Drug Administration is deliberately preventing the public from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies. (37% agree, 32% disagree)
Health officials know that cell phones cause cancer but are doing nothing to stop it because large corporations won’t let them. (20% agree, 40% disagree)
The CIA deliberately infected large numbers of African Americans with HIV under the guise of a hepatitis inoculation program. (12% agree, 51% disagree)
The global dissemination of genetically modified foods by Monsanto Inc is part of a secret program, called Agenda 21, launched by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations to shrink the world’s population. (12% agree, 42% disagree)
Doctors and the government still want to vaccinate children even though they know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders. (20% agree, 44% disagree)
Public water fluoridation is really just a secret way for chemical companies to dump the dangerous byproducts of phosphate mines into the environment. (12% agree, 46% disagree)
The numbers are not surprising, in fact I would have guessed they were a bit higher, but again that perception is likely distorted by my e-mail inbox. They found that 49% of Americans agreed with at least one conspiracy, and 18% agreed with three or more. This is in line with the level of belief in non-medical conspiracies. They did not publish, but I would be interested, in the percentage of people who said they disagreed with all of the conspiracies. Many of the respondents indicated that they did not know if a particular conspiracy were true, likely because they had not heard of it before, but were unwilling to disagree on plausibility grounds alone.
Right now a film is being cut for YouTube. Within the edit, clips from various media broadcasts of Monday’s navy yard shooting in Washington DC are being selectively stitched together. The film will start by suggesting a deception has occurred, one wrought on the American people by shadowy, unseen forces. It will distance itself from other conspiracy theory videos, purporting to show “just the facts” about the events at the naval dockyard.
The film will highlight the complicity of the media that reported on the shooting, as well as the law enforcement agencies that responded to emergency calls. “Why would they lie?” the film will ask, followed by “who would have something to gain?” The film’s creator will then place himself (or herself) at the heart of events; having personally investigated the shooting (by going through the wealth of online material available) they have uncovered “the truth” about what really happened in DC that day.
After highlighting several inconsistent facts disseminated by the news media in the hours directly after the story broke, the “official motive” of the shooter will be questioned. The film will highlight reports of three gunmen rather than one and question which firearms were used and by whom. Having exposed the “cover-up”, the naval dockyard killings will be given a grander context, linked with the 2012 shootings in Newtown and Aurora.
As the conspiracy grows, events in DC may even be given an international flavour, tied with the killings in London on 7/7 or New York on 9/11 – the film unmasking a vast conspiracy which has provided the motive force for several recent historical events. The film will conclude by pointing to the national government as the primary source of deception, followed by a clear reason as to why – gun control. The film will ask: “Isn’t the naval dockyard shooting just what the government needs to reignite the gun control debate?”
Finally, the film will call for political activism. “Share this information,” it will say, “this affects you”. The threat is tyranny – a dictatorship the government desires but requires an unarmed populace to install. This form of activism, in which conspiracy theory is used as a conduit through which to channel a targeted political message, requires that anyone who supports the “official version” of events are discredited by any means possible.
Also See: Navy yard shooting as false flag? Alex Jones is on it (salon.com)
- The Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theorist (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy Theorists Are Already Calling the Navy Yard Shooting a ‘False Flag’ (theatlanticwire.com)
- Conspiracy Theorists Already Suspect Navy Yard Shooting Is a ‘False Flag’ (defenseone.com)
- Gun control laws less responsible for mass shootings than mental health care failure: poll (washingtontimes.com)
- How a technical glitch accidentally started the Navy Yard ‘truther’ movement (washingtonpost.com)
- Stupid Conspiracy Theorists (stevengoddard.wordpress.com)
- Professor Claims Navy Yard Shooting Was Staged (thecollegefix.com)
- Ten People Shot at Washington Navy Yard, Gunman Remains at Large (Updates) (washingtonian.com)