Critical thinking confused with wild speculation in light of Sandy Hook conspiracy bullshit

In light of all the links to that awful Sandy Hook conspiracy theory video, I hopped on my high horse and wrote an 800-word Facebook status. Say what you will about the triviality of social media interaction, but at no other time, short of me going on the mic in front of a large crowd, can I reach that sort of an audience. So, here is that status in its entirety, because I think it’s an important conversation to have:

Dear newly-found Sandy Hook conspiracists,

Before you post that link to that video you just saw on somebody else’s timeline and had to share because it was so “eye-opening”, think about the consequences of A) How insanely dumb it really is, and B) How insanely desensitized it is. The video itself actively implores you to do your own research, so please do before you post something so ridiculous that it questions the motives of a parent based on two-minutes of soundless video of a mother who is smiling two days after the shooting.

I saw that Anderson Cooper interview, you know what she was smiling about? SHE WAS REMINISCING ABOUT THE INNOCENCE OF HER DEAD CHILD. You know, telling anecdotal stories. Nearly half that video relies on the assumption that people grieve in a linear fashion. C’mon. Have you ever lost somebody? Did you cry exactly the same way the person next to you cried? Did every single person affected go weeks without smiling?

I’ll give you this, the video raises some eyebrows in terms of all the differences in reports out there. But, the reality of the situation is that the only thing you can really draw from all that is, there are a lot of REALLY bad journalists out there. I mean, it’s a tough job to begin with because you have to rely on people to help you craft the story and advance the narrative, and, you know… PEOPLE ARE REALLY DUMB.

They just don’t know very much about anything, and a lot of them aren’t exactly skilled orators. So they wind up saying something based on, not only their own experiences, but their own deduction and reasoning. The result is often factually inaccurate, and it’s not because they’re trying to deceive you, it’s because they’re dumb and were generally misunderstood. Children, for instance, really haven’t had a lot of life experiences, so they don’t know a lot of things. A 7-yr old that a camera catches coming out of a massacre at an elementary school probably hasn’t touched on rhetorical figures of speech in English class, so when you ask him what it sounded like and he says, “It sounded like a door was being kicked in,” that’s probably what he thinks a gunshot sounds like. Were you expecting him to say something that would be confused with a passage from a Tom Clancy novel? Or, maybe someone kicked a door in.

Some people are just crazy. Like that guy who was in the Screen Actors Guild. I’m not a clinical psychologist, so I won’t say with certainty, but in my limited dealing with crazy people, I’ll say that guy seemed a little on the kooky side to me.

Then of course there’s that chief medical examiner, otherwise known as a coroner. You know, a guy who works with dead people. Ask anyone in the medical profession what the general consensus on coroners is. Go ahead, ask them. The general consensus is that they’re weird people. A lot of times they’re uncomfortable with social situations, which is why they chose to apply their medical expertise to people who are already dead. Doesn’t that explain that awkward giggle and the headspin that the video plays like 19 times consecutively a little better than “The shooting either A) didn’t happen or B) was a major government conspiracy.” Doesn’t it? Also, as a medical examiner in a city of 30,000 people with a minuscule crime rate, excuse me if I don’t consider him a ballistics expert.

The point is, the people who made this video are asking you not to take anything anyone tells you at face value, while expecting you to accept their own conclusions at face value. Sure, they say you should do your own research, but they realize that the vast majority of the public won’t actually take the time. They’ll either write if off immediately as slander, or they’ll be scared, or sometimes even thrilled, into accepting it as a conspiracy.

Questioning authority is good. Postulating wildly and assuming the absolute worst (along with the most absurd) is bad.

This is long, I know, but I felt the need to respond and I think you’d be hard pressed to address a 30-minute video in 140 characters. Unless, of course, you just said something simple like “This is bullshit.” Unfortunately, I’m a little wordier than that. Blame my chosen profession.

Now, notice near the top that I said the video was “insanely dumb” and not you (the video posters.) That’s not normally my style, but I’m trying to muster as much civility as possible right now. Critical thinking is more important nowadays than ever. That video is NOT an example. If five people make it to the end of this, it’s worth it to me to fuck up your newsfeed. Even if you still think I’m an idiot.

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About Ryan Wooden

Told people I was a sportswriter enough times for it to become true. Contributor at ChicagoSideSports.com, correspondent for the Morris Daily Herald, general freelancer and all-around idiot.
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