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Jan 18, 2013 Comments Off Chuck Biscuits

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Excerpted from Buzzfeed: There are two kinds of conspiracy theories: The ones, about the Illuminati and about mysterious “chemtrails,” that lurk forever in the online twilight zone, favored by a hard core of fringe believers; and the ones that, like the equally ludicrous speculation about Barack Obama’s nativity, break into the nation’s political conversation.

The repugnant and absurd theories about the massacre of children in Newtown, Conn. last month seem like an obvious candidate for the first category, simply too insane to gain any sort of wide acceptance. But some of the factors that can bring theories in from the fringe appear to be driving its unexpected surge this month: A connection to America’s intensely polarized political culture in general, and a message that appeals to a longstanding fear among gun owners, in particular.

The leading version of the “Sandy Hook Hoax” theory, such as it is, holds that the incident was staged by the White House as a prelude to disarming America. Many of its claims are rooted in contradictory and confusing media statements that came out of the chaos of the first hours of the shooting, and which are virtually always present in such chaotic moments. (Similar confused media reporting served as the basis of the 9/11 Truth movement.)

The theory is ludicrous, but there is hard evidence that it has begun to go viral. The leading, anonymous, 30-minute video created by YouTube user ThinkOutsideTheTV had been viewed 10.6 million times by Friday morning. The search engine Topsy, which measures Twitter conversation, shows discussion of the video rising fast this week starting on Sunday and then, as those conversations peak and drop, discussion of a “Sandy Hook hoax” largely continuing to rise, with only a slight dip. And Twitter is just a tiny slice of a broader social space that includes Facebook, YouTube, and, in particular, email forwards, which typically are the key communication channels for conspiracy theories.

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