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Samantha Bee Takes on Tragedy Conspiracy Theories and the Twisted Myth of Crisis Actors

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One of the most bizarre responses to school shootings is the insistence, by what we all hope is a small but very loud swath of people, that those tragedies never happened, and that the survivors, parents, or other activists trying to draw attention to the events are hired “crisis actors.”

These conspiracy theories that have been developed around Sandy Hook, Parkland and other shootings seem to be at the extreme end of the same vein where some on the right consistently assume liberal outrage at various issues are “fake” or “manufactured.” It seems that many far-right conservatives simply cannot imagine a world in which people genuinely care about things like immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, or even gun safety and the prevention of more school shootings.

On this week’s Full Frontal, Samantha Bee takes on the absurdity of the crisis actor theory, starting with the fact that if the Democratic Party were organized enough to have staged this level of pageantry, the political landscape would look a hell of a lot different. There’s also the weird belief that these widespread conspiracies, allegedly faking mass shootings and manipulating the subsequent international media coverage in an effort to getting the public to support strict gun laws, all hinge on the talents of a high school drama department.

In reality, as Bee puts it, the term “crisis actor” simply translates to “a victim of a mass shooting who I’d rather not feel sorry for.” But as she points out, this sort of conspiracy theory has a long history dating back far before our modern epidemic of school shootings. The idea goes back to the Civil War era, when some anti-abolitionists just couldn’t believe that black people didn’t just love being enslaved. It was also applied to Civil Rights activists and the Little Rock Nine.

These tactics aren’t new but “thanks to the internet, every random conspiracy theorist finally has something they never did before: access to a mainstream audience.” That audience then builds up hoaxer celebrities like Alex Jones and these ideas don’t just gain attention in subreddits, but they’re able to gain actual political traction.

And all because gun nuts can’t wrap their heads around the idea that guns are dangerous and people don’t like seeing children murdered.

(image: Screengrab)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.