With last weekend’s mass killing at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin fresh in the public’s memory, the usual players on the conspiracy scene have begun crafting wild, alternative narratives of what really happened.
The theory has started to spread that the attack was orchestrated by some dark sector of the federal government in order to justify rolling back gun rights. This idea, of course, has long been used by the antigovernment right to explain acts of domestic terrorism: Oklahoma City, for example, and even the jihadist attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. The Wisconsin version has appeared on dozens of right-wing blogs and appears to be gaining traction.
Infowars, the conspiracist website maintained by Alex Jones, seems to have led the charge. In an article published earlier this week after neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page killed six people in Oak Creek, Wis., writer Kurt Nimmo accused the federal government – and, ludicrously, the Southern Poverty Law Center – of somehow being tied to the shootings. The proof? Only dubious claims pulled from Page’s life story. The alleged skinhead gunman was in a psychological operations unit in the Army during the 1990s.
As Nimmo wrote, “It now appears the government has taken its psyop to the next level. … Instead of merely concentrating on small time busts and demonizing ‘rightwing extremists’ for propaganda purposes in a compliant corporate media, they have decided to add the racist ‘white power’ angle to the domestic terrorism narrative.”
Never mind that the “white power” angle is absolutely correct. White supremacists have a long history of violence and domestic terrorism.
In 2009, Richard Andrew Poplawski, who had posted racist and anti-Semitic screeds on white supremacist websites, killed three police officers responding to a domestic dispute at his home in Pittsburgh. Six months later, James von Brunn, a longtime neo-Nazi, shot a security guard to death at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. That same month, longtime white supremacist Dennis Mahon and his brother were indicted in Arizona in connection with a mail bomb sent years earlier to a diversity officer in Scottsdale that injured three people. Then, just last year, police arrested neo-Nazi Kevin William Harpham for placing a bomb packed with nails dipped in rat poison along the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in Spokane, Wash.
It’s no surprise that Nimmo got it wrong. The idea that the federal government would orchestrate such events to implement martial law, install a “New World Order” and role back the liberties of Americans has been a staple of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement’s mythology for years.
Weeks before the Wisconsin attack, some on the radical right also looked suspiciously at the mass murder at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
Writing about that shooting, Ted Cronin on GodfatherPolitics.com, a blog run by the Liberty Alliance, wrote: “The dark thought so many people are having is that the Aurora shootings were staged by our fine government as a way to stir up support for passing the United Nations Small Arms Treaty, which would result in the confiscation of personal firearms in the United States.”
His well-considered conclusion? “The timing is exquisite,” he wrote.