You Didn’t See It, You Weren’t There | Vol. 3 / No. 3.2

Now available in hat form | Photo: topquark22, CC BY 2.0
Now available in hat form | Photo: topquark22, CC BY 2.0

I just can’t even with people, some days. You know?


The vast majority of us, as we learned of the tragedy in Paris on Friday, felt emotions that fell within a certain range: sadness certainly, plus horror, anger, frustration, resentment. But I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of us did not automatically reach for and find suspicion. Nevertheless today I learn, from the interwebs, that at least some people did.

Tom Boggioni, over at Raw Story, has a piece entitled “Despicable truthers use photos of four different women to ‘prove’ that Paris attacks were staged.” I’d recommend you go read it, but chances are it’d just make you angry. Even my brief description below probably will.

The long and short of it is that there are people on the internet, whether for monetary gain (from clicks) or out of a genuine conspiracy-theory mindset, promoting the idea that the attacks were somehow faked. They can’t agree on why — a so-called “false flag” operation to justify attacks on Syria, or to justify the creation of a “security state,” or to lock down Paris in advance of the coming climate talks — but they all seem to circulate around the idea that the attacks were staged (or perhaps really undertaken, but not by ISIS). What evidence do they have? This:

Image of supposed "crisis actor"| Photo montage: These Conspiracy Theorists
Image of supposed “crisis actor,” actually four very upset people | Photo montage: These Conspiracy Theorists

As you can see — as redditor /u/GiantSquidd put it so perfectly, I think — “Holy [****], there are pretty, average looking brunette women in France too?!!” 

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me they look like very different people. The one Paris, for instance, doesn’t have the widow’s peak of the one from Sandy Hook. There’s that, and of course the fact that they all seem, to me at least, to have completely different faces.

But it doesn’t matter, does it? Because there’s no way something like evidence will get in the way of a determined conspiracy theorist. All contradictory evidence can be easily dismissed as fake, all mistakes on the part of these grand conspirators — using the same actress for four different “fake” tragedies knowing there will be cameras everywhere, for instance — dismissed as a deliberate taunt to the self-congratulatory narcissists who believe someone who would spend millions to fake this kind of thing would go out of their way to taunt some mental midget on the internet.

But you don’t know, they’ll say, you weren’t there.

I wasn’t there for a lot of things conspiracy theorists imagine were faked. I wasn’t in Auschwitz, for instance. I didn’t personally experience the entirety of the Earth’s historyI certainly wasn’t on the moon in 1969. But these things nevertheless took place. How do I know? Because the evidence supports them.

Imagine, for one moment, you wanted to fake the Paris attacks. How would you do it? First you would need actors — a lot of actors. Enough actors to play the families of the 129 people killed. You’d also need roughly 350 people to play those injured. You’d also need hundreds more to play the uninjured survivors from the restaurants and the Bataclan. You’d need to plan this years and years in advance, too, or be very good at faking social media histories — maybe half a dozen fake facebook accounts to converse with each fake person. You’d need to either buy off the Eagles of Death Metal or else posit that in 1998 the CIA formed a fake death metal band knowing it would come in handy nearly twenty years down the line. All told, you’re probably talking a conspiracy of over a thousand people — maybe twice that — none of whom can ever come out and say “hey this is fake, we’re all plants.” And of course this being done by the same people that would use the same actress in four different attacks speaks of a kind of carelessness that would make this impossible, but I digress.

It would be far, far simpler just to actually kill the 129 people who really died in this tragic attack. And fine, if that’s what you’re saying, say it. But then you don’t need actors, you need victims.

And you’d need fake perpetrators (actually working for the CIA or NSA or Public Security Section 9). You’d need to fake the identities of their families, too, because they were someone’s son and someone’s brother, many if not all from Europe, with their accompanying facebook accounts and social media footprints. You’d need people to actually blow themselves up in the case of the suicide bombers (now that’s dedication). Then you’d need to buy the police doing the investigating, because it’d become apparent rather quickly to at least some of the investigators that nobody really knew these people, and there’s no way you could leave that to chance. I’d say you need to convince ISIS to take credit for it, but if we’re being honest I think we all know ISIS would take credit for everything from earthquakes to old age if they thought we’d believe them.

And after all this, it would only take one person — one rightfully angry person, given the number of deaths of innocent people involved — to turn on whoever was faking it, and it would all be over.

Frankly, the risk would be just too high. I’ve never seen a state that even seemed to need a revenge reason to attack another one, and it’s not like anti-ISIS sentiment was lacking. France was already engaged in Iraq and Syria, not to mention fighting Boko Haram (another bunch of violent Islamist fanatics) in Nigeria. If France wanted to bomb ISIS, literally all it had to do was launch fighters from the Charles De Gaulle. Killing French citizens in order to foment anti-ISIS sentiment makes little to no sense.

So, yes, the Paris attack happened. One hundred and twenty nine people are really dead, with dozens more at death’s door. It was really done by real terrorists, whatever that term means these days, most if not all of whom European citizens with links to ISIS.

I don’t know all the details, I wasn’t there. But enough people were that within hours the cracks would start to show. Just like in the insane theory being pushed by the denialists this time.


Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and techno-futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.

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