The first information I saw about the Boston Marathon bombing was a Facebook post from BuzzFeed. Within minutes, Huffington Post had a “live update” page going. Over the next few hours, media outlet updates mixed with personal reactions, which were mostly variations on expressions of horror at the bombing and well wishes for the victims of the attack and the city of Boston in general.
And then there were the conspiracy theories. Conspiracy-monger and notorious attention-whore Alex Jones—whose tweet laying the blame at the feet of the FBI went live not even 30 minutes after the explosions—kicked things off.
Some people pivoted off that and claimed that the FBI had been conducting a “training exercise,” the premise of which just so happened to coincide with the real events. They then extended that claim to say that this was the case in every major terrorist attack going back to 9/11, so, like, Illuminati. Or something. The evidence to support this was a tweet by the Boston Globe stating that officials were preparing a “controlled explosion” near the Boston Public Library.
What they failed—or refused—to realize was that this tweet came hours after the explosion and referred to a suspicious package that officials had found near the library. In other words, this was the Boston Globe spreading the word that the explosion people were about to hear wasn’t another attack, it was just the responders doing their job.
The FBI has certainly been guilty of its corruption, and I imagine the kind of “off the books” shit perpetuated by the bureau would shock most Americans if all truths were known. But I have a hard time believing that the FBI, or any other government agency, would intentionally commit mass murder against innocent American citizens, on American soil, during an event which draws thousands of participants and millions of eyeballs.
Jones and his ilk would claim that these so-called “false flag” operations are designed to prepare the way for some impending encroachment of the police state—a real issue our society is genuinely wrestling with—and an unfortunate number of credulous Americans buy into what these snake oil salesmen are hawking. And once someone has accepted the underlying assumptions of the conspiracy theory, challenging it becomes problematic, as contrary evidence is dismissed as part of the conspiracy.
But Jones has no evidence, no special insight, no exclusive sources. He’s just a guy who makes a living generating fear and controversy and selling the resultant attention to advertisers. Rush Limbaugh for the post-apocalyptic set. And there’s no way in hell he had any reason to accuse the FBI of mass murder while the smoke was still clearing. Well, perhaps one reason.
A few minutes after his initial tweet, Jones followed up with a secondary accusation against the FBI, and then exhorted his followers to “tune in” to his radio show, which I won’t bother to name, because fuck Alex Jones.
Jones was hardly the only offender. One low-rent internet radio website I had “liked” because a friend had been involved in its creation started posting hourly links to the same Boston Globe article, wildly making inaccurate claims in the link description (“Many Dead In Boston!”). Some of their assertions were actually directly contradicted by the article preview appearing next to the link. Needless to say, their posts no longer appear on my news feed.
The New York Post—in a demonstration of non-journalistic cynicism that should surprise exactly no one—put out an article claiming that not only were authorities questioning a suspect, but that the individual in question was a “Saudi national.” Far be it from the Post to miss an opportunity to stir up some anti-Arab hatred (or utilize sensationalism to troll for web traffic), but you would think even a Rupert Murdoch outfit would exhibit some standard of factual reporting under the circumstances.
The Post, Alex Jones and the proprietors of that awful internet radio website all saw what happened in Boston, and their first thought was, “How can I use this for my own benefit?” This type of selfishness is not uncommon to our species, but when it happens in relation to a tragedy like the bombing in Boston, it is especially disappointing.
Pete Macy, Massachusetts native and co-creator of the New York-based web series Showcaine, took to Facebook in response to all the conspiracy posts and invited anyone engaged in such attention-seeking to kindly remove themselves from his friends list.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but seeing how it had only occurred a few hours earlier, there was zero facts to base a conspiracy theory on,” says Macy.
And responding to the graphic imagery that often accompanied these conspiracy claims, Macy adds, “Anyone who would post a picture of a guy with his leg blown off asking you to open your eyes to the media lies is a dickhead. Plain and simple. If your point is valid, you don’t need gory photos to prove it. Be a human for 24 hours. Think about the people who were actually affected by this. It’s not the time for finger-pointing or self-aggrandizing. It’s a time to help.”