One of the points Charles Pierce made in his excellent book, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, was that we in the U.S. love our conspiracy theories. He traced several such theories over the course of our nation's history, and I suspect we can all think of a few in our present and recent past. One of the newest and most disturbing concerns the mass murder that took place in Newtown, CT, late last year. Evidently, some on the right are now pushing the theory that President Obama faked the entire thing, hiring actors to make it look convincing. And why would he do such a thing? To provide false justification for taking our guns, of course.
This particular theory, like so many others on the right, starts with the conviction that black helicopters filled with ATF agents are going to show up on our property any day now in order to disarm us. "It will be like Waco but on a larger scale!" Sure it will. From the belief that this outcome is inevitable, they work backwards to provide a way in which it could come about. And somehow the UN will be involved. They always are.
When I first saw bits and pieces of this theory emerging on Twitter and assorted websites, I was disgusted. That initial reaction has largely passed and been replaced by one of disappointment. You see, it occurs to me that this is precisely the sort of thing our reality-based community ought to love smacking down. With our professed love of skepticism, critical thinking, reason, debunking myths, and the like, this sort of garbage should be drawing us together. We could be the ones taking the lead on providing reasonable voices to counter this stuff.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that we all support gun control or that we should do so. I'm rather conflicted on that subject myself. I just wish I believed that we are all capable of setting aside our petty squabbles for awhile to focus on dismantling this theory and those like it before they do additional harm. If the atheist community is not going to be at the forefront of debunking this sort of delusion with the same vehemence with which we approach religion, disappointment seems to be the appropriate reaction.