Thursday, March 8, 2018

How The Right Seized On A Historical Reference To Create A Specious Conspiracy Meme

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Even as we saw video this morning of the Stoneman Douglas student activists moving into their own office space, e.g.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/never-again-movement-stoneman-douglas-students-behind-the-scenes/

We also know the Right's snowflakes are trembling at the spectacle, scarified of these young, idealistic activists who they try to dismiss as "crisis actors". Now, we also know for the first time, thanks to a WSJ piece, how a historical reference and geopolitical role defining crisis actors (as nations in crisis) was seized and mutated into child crisis actors playing victims. All this compliments of the Right's trolls who double as snowflakes given their fear of kids less than half their age.

To cut to the chase, we owe WSJ writer Ben Zimmer a debt of gratitude for debunking the Right's nonsense about child crisis actors in his excellent Review article  ('Plots, Politics and Crisis Actors',  Mar. 3-4) . He begins by reminding us that:

"Crisis is from a Greek word for turning point or sudden shift, and has long been used for traumatic or stressful events, or more broadly for unstable situations leading to drastic change".

Then adding:

"Combining the word with 'actor' suggests all manner of performance at a critical juncture."

Zimmer then informs us that there is actually a firm historical and geopolitical basis for the term 'crisis actor'. The Right's trolls didn't just recently invent the term - whether to infect events with their ignominious false flag ideations, e.g. in the Sandy Hook massacre (describing the kids actually killed as "crisis actors" not really killed) or imposing it on the Stoneman Douglas students now taking to the air waves to fight for gun control laws.  Oh, and moving into their new office to continue the fight and organize other students nationwide.

Zimmer then explains further the historical genesis of the term (ibid.):

"The two words were first brought together by political scientists. In 1977, Michael Brecher, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, used it in a report on how countries behave in times of crisis - calling the countries in conflict "crisis actors".  Together with Jonathan Wilkenfeld of the University of Maryland, Mr Brecher launched the International Crisis Behavior Project, which maintains an online database of 476 crises since 1918."

To fix ideas we're then informed of the main crisis actors in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: The U.S., Cuba and the Soviet Union.  NO kids (dead or alive), no students or gun shot survivors anywhere to be found because the term was coined to specifically refer to nations embroiled in crises.

But then, alas, the term was mutated to serve the agenda of the Right's loopy conspiracy spinners especially in the era of Obama- who they regarded as against their gun rights, and 2nd amendment rights. (No surprise gun sales consistently went into the stratosphere because the real "snowflakes"" - the Right's gunnies - were terrified their little toys would be taken away by a bunch of kids with voices).

Anyway, as Zimmer informs us, the process to the warped conspiracy memes of today are interesting to follow.

"Crisis actor' took a more theatrical turn in 2012 in the wake of a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that July."

 See e.g.:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/07/time-to-reel-in-us-gun-culture-zealots.html


"A few months later in nearby Denver, an actors'studio called Visionbox sought to help active shooter drills by providing realistic 'crisis actors' as part of role playing exercises. Visionbox promoted the group on the website crisisactors.org and cited backing from state authorities in a release."

Again, role playing actors for psychological exercises to help in active shooter drills are not the same as sneaky child actors hired to deceive the public,  gun buyers or not.

Zimmer goes on:

"The term acquired more nefarious connotations after the shooting at Sandy Hook ELementary School  in Newtown, Conn. in December, 2012. A since deleted article on the Washington Examiner news website questioned whether the school was participating in 'an emergency response exercise using paid crisis actors funded by a grant from our federal government' thereby linking it to the Visionbox release."

Again, let's note there wasn't an iota of evidence to make such a linkage, nor was Visionbox ever a federally funded program. It had "backing" from state authorities here in Colo. but that backing didn't mean funding. It meant psychological support backing as in "Rah, rah! Go forward!"

Despite this, we learn from Zimmer:

"The tenuous chain of reasoning was enough for conspiracy theorists to begin imagining that Newtown was a staged event populated with 'crisis actors'"

Zimmer traces the actual origin to a whacked out blogger-   James Tracy - a then professor of communications (if you can believe it) at Florida Atlantic University - but who later lost his job there, and for good reason.

Of course, once the deformed use of crisis actor appeared it was bound to get further traction,, especially by those unaware of the real history of the term. Zimmer again:

"Since then, high profile mass shootings have inevitabbly brought out groundless 'crisis actor' theories. With the Parkland massacre pushing the phrase into ever greater prominence, Facebook and Youtube have been cracking down on posts and videos using the term."

Which is good. The Right's ubiquitous trolls should not be permitted to demean the victims of horrific school shootings by labeling them "crisis actors". And certainly not under specious First amendment claims.  As Joe Scarborough recently pointed out, the first amendment has limits just like the 2nd. Neither is open ended and replete with 'anything goes'.

In the meantime, it is appropriate to note how gun sales are going down in the U.S. of A. despite the students' gun control activism. see e.g.

https://www.denverpost.com/2018/02/27/gun-sales-under-donald-trump/


More good news:  The Florida legislature has passed a moderate gun reform bill (no assault weapons ban, but we know a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step) .  The bill SB 7026 passed by 67- 50 in the Florida House (after 20-18 Senate passage) and provides for:

- A 3-day waiting period on gun purchases

-Raising the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21.

- $100 m to increase school security

The bill now only awaits Gov. Rick Scott's signature. We will soon see whether he really cares about the Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors or whether his words in the aftermath were mere gaseous effluent and beer talk.

We also learned in yesterday's WSJ  (p. A21) that Yale University's  admissions office is encouraging students to actively partake in the school walkouts scheduled this month in support of the #NeverAgain movement. As the author Walter Olson writes:

"Senior assistant director of admissions Hannah Mendlowitz, makes clear that Yale considers participation in such a walkout to be a plus, rather than a subject of indifference..

'For those students who come to Yale, we expect them to be versed in issues of social justice', Ms. Medelowitz writes.  'I have the pleasure of reading applications from San Francisco where activism is very much a part of the culture.'"

So go ahead, Parkland kids and others, and walk out on March 24th and spread the message of needed gun control - especially for military assault weapons. There is no reason, none at all, this nation can't do what the UK (after the Dunblane massacre) and Australia (after Port Arthur, 1996) already have.  The argument these weapons - solely designed to mass kill - are needed for "protection" is pure Right wing snowflake babble.  Protection from what? An invading cadre of 200 ISIS terr'ists? Grow a pair for once!

So is the balderdash one needs them for hunting. As one former infantryman (Ralph Peters) put it, that only applies if you plan to destroy the meat. And what manner of snowflake idiot prefers to destroy the meat - e.g. hog - he wants to eat? What kind of snowflake gun baby needs an AR to kill a hog when a 30.06 with hollow points will do?  At least for a real hunter as opposed to poseur.

See also:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/02/the-parkland-students-arent-going-away/554159/

And:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/belle-chesler/78040/high-school-students-the-canaries-in-the-coal-mine-of-american-disaster

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