Public paranoia is at an all-time high, fueled by extremists, conspiracy-theory nutcases and the misinformation superhighway (AKA the Internet).
Over the last few days, I’ve read too many paranoid fantasies on this web site, fueled by readers who seem to have left common sense at the door.
I’ve made it clear for many years that this web site is not and never will be a gathering ground for those who see a boogeyman behind every tree or a government plot everywhere in society.
While few distrust the American government more than me, I neither subscribe to or give credence to the fantasies that claim a U.S. government plot to bring down the World Trade Center, the often-cited “new world order” or concentration camps built by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Most of these screwball theories have been debunked and proven wrong more times than any of us can count but they continue to dominate discussion boards, forums and web blogs.
In nearly every case, they turn out to be fantasies fueled by paranoia, misinformation, gullibility and outright stupidity on the part of those who accept, and spread, the lies.
The FEMA Concentration Camp fantasy is so out of control that even Popular Mechanics Magazine felt it needed to examine the issue to prove it wrong.
A year ago, PM examined claims that a FEMA Concentration Camp was built in Wyoming. The claim included an aerial photo that perpetrators of the lie claimed was posted on a FEMA web site.
PM editor-in-chief James Meigs looked into the allegations and the photo and discovered the photo was a shot of a North Korean camp and not — as claimed — a facility in Wyoming.
Some who buy into the FEMA Detention Centers lie point to H.R. 645, The National Emergency Centers Act, a bill introduced last year by Rep. Alcee Hastings that called for:
(b) Purpose of National Emergency Centers- The purpose of a national emergency center shall be to use existing infrastructure–
(1) to provide temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster;
(2) to provide centralized locations for the purposes of training and ensuring the coordination of Federal, State, and local first responders;
(3) to provide centralized locations to improve the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts of government, private, and not-for-profit entities and faith-based organizations; and
(4) to meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Item number four became the rally cry for the conspiracy nuts. It would allow, they claimed, DHS to turn the centers into concentration camps.
Of course, they forgot to mention the bill died in committee. They also forget that two similar bills, introduced in the two previous Congresses, met the same fate.
Other proponents point to the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II and say that it happened before and it could happen again. Again, they fail to mention that the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 barred the federal government from creation of such internment camps in the future.
I’m growing increasingly tired of the off-the-wall conspiracy theories that have hijacked the national debate at a time when we should be focusing our energies on real-world decisions.
Until reality returns to the debate, any hope for real solutions will remain buried under a mountain of monumental stupidity.