Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Newtown truthers

Alex Seitz-Wald's piece in Salon is "Meet the Sandy Hook truthers".

One YouTube video, for instance, calls the whole massacre staged, leading to this "logical" conclusion:

... the adults who participated in the media coverage of the shootings “should be prosecuted as accessories after the fact in a mass murder” — i.e., the parents whose children were murdered in the massacre should be thrown in prison.
Are the mentally deficient knobs who promulgate and actually believe this crap Obama haters? Perhaps, but those responsible for the aforementioned video also made "a popular 9/11 Truther film", according to the article. One must therefore credit them at least with equal-opportunity ass-hattedness. However, they can't be pigeonholed into the usual slots of our polarized politics. There is no unifying political impulse (I scarcely think such people are capable of conceiving "theories") to explain these benighted souls', well, benightedness.

The summary/teaser below the article's title asks, "Have they no shame?" Evidently, they haven't. And that signifies a bigger problem: they're — well, not "happy", but certainly prepared to believe the most arrant and irresponsible nonsense about the world in which we all live. That makes them potentially dangerous to the rest of us. Sandy Hook truthers have already started harassing a Good Samaritan from the massacre. That's beyond despicable: that's inhuman.

In thinking about this appalling situation, I found myself envisioning committing these people to involuntary psychiatric care. That is an overreaction that is as dangerous as the truthers' deluded crusade: we can't go locking people up just because they have crazy ideas. Einstein's theories were crazy when he first presented them, too. Not that I'm in any way saying these nutjobs are contemporary Einsteins; I'm just saying we have to be very, very reluctant to go with our first instincts when it comes to incarceration.

I actually want there to be a robust range of options in our marketplace of ideas. One need only look at Nazi Germany to see the danger of sanctioning only certain opinions and ideas: it can lead literally to catastrophe. However, too many people who hold paranoid ideas these days are tempted to act on them. We need to have a good, robust discussion about assessing people's mental health, a discussion that includes how to tell if hate and fear are so consuming someone that he is becoming a danger to others. It may be a quixotic quest to stop the next Adam Lanza before he kills, but as the reality-challenged Newtown truthers harassing Gene Rosen demonstrate with every word, we have many reasons to try.

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