For different historical tragedies, people conjure up conspiracies. Andrew McKevitt said these theories are not valid.
McKevitt, an assistant professor of history, said he thinks conspiracy theories are a way for people to redirect their anger or frustration in some other realm.
Some people believe the Sandy Hook shooting was an organized conspiracy by the Obama Administration to provide a solid foundation for them to pass the proposed gun laws, however, McKevitt said he disagrees.
“People use theories to make themselves feel better about tragic events,” he said. “Events in which the standard explanations just are not enough.”
He said a lot of conspiracy theories surround historical events that lead into social upheaval or economic downturn.
“For example, with 9/11, there were 18 guys who actually carried it out and for some people that just wasn’t big enough,” he said. “They want or need explanations on a bigger, grander scale.”
Elton Taylor, a senior history major, said he also does not agree with the Sandy Hook conspiracy.
“I watched the video on it and the creator made some interesting points, but I do not believe that the government would stage a fake massacre in order to push its own agenda on gun control,” he said.
Taylor, like McKevitt, said he does not believe in the validity of conspiracy theories.
“I know they exist, but I refuse to believe that there are government agencies or secret purposes for tragic events,” he said. “It seems far-fetched to me.”
Caitlin Snell, a sophomore chemical engineering major, said she thinks differently. She said she believes in theories on occasion, depending on the event and the evidence behind it.
“I think conspiracies can do a lot of damage or a lot of good,” she said. “It is important for people to think for themselves and to research major events instead of simply believing everything they hear.”
Conspiracy theories are good motivation for people to question the things they are told, Snell added.
McKevitt said he does not think the public knows everything that happened with the Sandy Hook shooting, but just because there is mystery does not mean there is a conspiracy theory.
“The mystery is where the conspiracy theories are created,” he said. “In situations where there is darkness, such theories are grown.”
Some people do not trust the government or the media’s explanation of events, he added.
“Someone could hear a rumor and that will ultimately fuel a theory,” he said. “We’ve reached a new age in communication technology which allows for more rapid and intense spread of such theories.”
McKevitt said this new technology could also shed light where there has not been light before, but for a lot of people, he thinks theories are just entertainment.
To most people, he said he thinks theories are viewed as rumors or gossip.
Taylor said he thinks theories give “believers” a sense of community or belonging.
“There are a bunch of people connected by the belief that things are not what they seem,” he said. “Happenings such as the Sandy Hook shooting are surrounded with secrets and lies.”
Conspiracy theories develop a cult following, Taylor added.
“Some people cannot accept the spontaneity of a tragic event,” he said. “9/11 was a tragic event that happened without any foreknowledge of the American citizens or its government, but some people want to add extra aspects to it in order to explain it away.”
To these people, the government is often viewed as an entity that seeks to push its own agenda through hiding or creating controversial events, he said.
“They pull at the heartstrings of citizens,” Taylor said. “They think the government is using tragedies to achieve some sort of goal, such as stricter gun laws associated with Sandy Hook.”
McKevitt said when big world-changing events occur, some people have a hard time accepting and it can lead to future problems.
“In context, such occurrences create fertile soil for conspiracy theories,” he said. “They become outlets for people who have political, cultural or social frustrations.”
Email comments to kjk...@latech.edu.