What Do Newtown Conspiracies Really Cover Up?

On the day before one of the biggest mea culpas in sports, the awaited Oprah interview with Lance Armstrong, the efforts to delegitimize President Obama in his second term have increased their velocity and are becoming more extreme and desperate. The efforts are also bigger and more ridiculous. And sad and tragic.

As the empty chair staged at the Republican convention quickly became a set piece to symbolize lynching as empty chairs were roped and swung from trees, so from the tragedy of Newtown, a legion of “truthers” have taken snippets of video and blasted the internet with lies. But look beyond the unfounded proofs that are asserted as facts. What the errors of facts and leaps of judgement and flights of make-believe reveal is a distress that is emotionally frayed. Its deep anger and helplessness has nothing to do with Newtown or the government—or the falsehoods strenuously pushed as facts.

It takes several deep breaths to get past the conclusions that are passing for facts about Newtown. It takes deep reflection to understand the attraction of this insanity in the comment streams. It leaves a country wondering whether it can survive as a civil society when hate and ideology seem to grow without constraint, grabbing our sorrow into its arcade.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) released a computer app for ages four and up that simulates an indoor practice range, and allows players to shoot a digital rifle (M9) at targets that are human coffins that are painted with bulls-eyes one by one. When targeted and hit, the casket falls to the ground, flat. For ninety-nine cents, the app upgrades the firing weapon. Does this promote responsible gun ownership and safety? Is it encouraging the use of safe firearm technologies, including owner recognition? The NRA says yes; their free “one touch” app provides safety information and other updates.

Does the app warn youngsters about the dangers of gun accidents in language they can read or understand? No, but Apple’s iTunes lists it as available to four-year-olds, since it is only shooting at coffins and not human action figures, and therefore is not deemed violent. Does it require supervision? No. Yet it creates the NRA version of video games the NRA argues are responsible for gun violence in the first place. Now the NRA has added to the culture it claims makes killing an attractive macho fantasy with game of its own—for four-year-olds—by reinforcing the thrill for children as young as four of pulling the trigger and watching the coffins fall. Again. And Again. It scores every hit.

The newest National Rifle Association ad,out today, calls the President an “Elitist Hypocrite.” That description is a direct personal attack. It also uses his two children as a part of the attack. They have armed coverage, the ad says. Why shouldn’t the rest of America’s children have armed protection?

Can the same level of training and professionalism be guaranteed for all of America’s children? In the form of teachers, principals, volunteers, and security armed, with no prior experience, nominal training, and no common standard? Or will it vary, as do educational results?

But to the point: do other American kids receive death threats every day? Yes, the President’s adorable girls receive a stream of unpublicized threats. Do other kids get their names associated with the darkest, sickest acts that humans can commit against each other? When given the opportunity for taking the high ground and leading a national stand-down, the NRA instead issued more slime, called attention to the President’s children, adding the kind of inflammatory labels they believe to be partly responsible for the rise in random violence! Their ad targets the President with no real facts, just as spree killers with no real ties target those they want to take out. And the ad ignores and fails to answer the big question: will banning assault rifles reduce the threat for all children, everywhere?

So the NRA ignores the level of threat faced by the President’s family. It ignores that more guns means more opportunities for their misuse. And the NRA ignores that its own ads and apps celebrate and push what it claims to deplore, making them hypocrites and liars, and elitists who value guns over saving lives.

The NRA ad exhibits the same blind fury that shooters do. Its words have the same purpose as bullets.

But Newtown has become a creation myth of disbelief. What’s interesting is no society can sustain itself on negatives, can govern itself as outlaws, can sustain a war against civil authority. The long-term conflicts in Africa’s western, central and eastern regions show clearly the scars of sustained conflicts, both political and armed. Hunger, poverty, illness, violence, helplessness, despair, assassination, and loss of family and community lead to a life of fear and want. But America is unique in trying to build a consensus on disbelief. Continue reading What Do Newtown Conspiracies Really Cover Up?

The Sad News of A Bad Bet

The sad news is that Republicans have added to their list of the left’s conspiracies: the latest being the notion that Barack Obama actually won reelection as the President of the United States. Of course, Barack Obama received 62.26 million popular votes, won 26 states with 332 electoral votes—an electoral vote number that GOP pundits Dick Morris, George Will, Newt Gingrich and others predicted and called a “landslide”—for Romney! When the President actually achieved those numbers, becoming one of only five Democrats in history to twice receive 50 percent of the vote, the same bokors of make-believe called it a close election, becoming one of the few conspiracy groups in history to ignore the obvious.

Conspiracies are usually built around things unseen. In the dark mysteries of human ideas, conspiracies are born when people spring to action to carry out evil and destruction to gain power and turn human suffering into a demonic benefit that destroys the cherished good of freedom and prosperity. Conspiracies attack a life reasonably free of want, and crush to ruins a pride based on person production and skill.

History is filled with the great societies of prosperity and pride with a legacy of inside and outside conspiracies; ancient Egypt, the Mayans and Incas, the Dynasties of China and Persia, the Iroquois and the Sioux nations. These early societies had material wealth and superior knowledge, exhibited fantastic engineering success beyond their spectacular buildings. China and Persia, and the Mayans, for example, had extensive underground water systems, with reservoirs. But conspiracists no longer embrace global, historic or infrastructure success. For many conspiracists, these successes are an a priori sign of an invisible cabal, whose power is multiplied by the depth of its secrecy.

So of all the conspiracies attributed to Barack Obama, it was obvious that socialists carrying clipboards with petitions, illegal ACORN registrations, or backdoor gifts from socialist Europe or radical communist countries like Cuba, Estonia, Russia or China didn’t win the election. (Although the Romney-Sheldon Adelson connection offers fertile ground for outside influence by China and Israel!) It was obvious that the million mailed releases of a DVD tying Barack’s mother to Chicago labor leader Frank Marshall Davis, claiming a new baby daddy for infant Barack (one which incidentally would have firmly established his American citizenship—at odds with birther conspiracies!), didn’t work, either.

It’s also hard to claim that a President with a good mid-range jump shot and an arching, floating lay-up, who picks his own NCAA Final Four brackets (men and women’s), regularly invites Stevie Wonder to the White House, and brews his own pale ale from White House honey needs “to learn how to be an American.” So as all the conspiracies failed, falling one by one, it was obvious: Barack Obama won due to a yet-undiscovered-conspiracy even more wrongheaded and subversive than the GOP overpaid crybabies had thought!

Before we say “good riddance,” let’s do a careful review. For Karl Rove and many others, race has all minuses and no pluses in national politics. They assume a wider distribution of doubt and lingering worry over race than the actual election results revealed. What they missed is that as race once magnified negatives—the stereotypes of criminality, morality and personal ethics—it now also multiplies the character of success, skills at speaking, reasoning, caring, leadership and vision.

Rove and others assume these positive traits are dampened down by race. As they see it, race limits the upside of the positive narrative while acting to amplify and enlarge mistakes and negatives. But their cultural calculus is passing from a changing American national community; the new American national identity is a patriotism that proactively seeks to include all heritage communities and build a national community of trust and tolerance. In this America, stereotypes have almost no impact on the acceptability for leadership among members of heritage communities. Stereotypes do still exist, but as jokes that ridicule old-school thinking as much as they do the targeted group. Look carefully: much of contemporary humor uses stereotypes to laugh at the notions and distortions that stereotypes imply—and mock the stereotypes themselves!

But for Rove and others, the old ideas are still life and death. In a great irony, they see the election of a black man as President as the death of liberty rather than its celebration. Liberty has killed itself, they think, by going too far and becoming imprudent. Thus, their campaigns are always about the dangers of democracy: the decisions and acts that are, in their defective world view, excesses, bad, condemned. Continue reading The Sad News of A Bad Bet