Did you know that Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old said to have been killed by a white Ferguson police officer earlier this month, is actually still alive? And that his well-publicized corpse was instead a dummy? And that Brown may never have existed at all, and that his parents are actors? Did you know this elaborate hoax was orchestrated to distract us from "arch-Zionist crimes, including the Israelis categorical failure in Gaza, where they were defeated by the Palestinians"?
If you believe the "mainstream" version of events, these theories say, you’re being duped by the government. What’s really happening in Ferguson isn’t the product of years of economic inequality and racial tension.
So what is happening? The conspiracy theories vary.
Alex Jones of InfoWars claims the Department of Justice has teamed up with Communists and the Black Panthers "to hijack what were largely peaceful protests that have turned increasingly violent in recent days." And in a video titled "Army Admits Plan to Execute Americans En Masse," he says that the military has a secret battle plan "to use lethal force against unarmed non-violent Americans"—namely African Americans. "This is the attempt to start the civil war, where they will then stage terror attacks, blame it on the Liberty movement during a race war," he says, "and then have the feds come in and crush the inner city people and the, quote, mainly white militia, as a pretext for restoring order." He even invoked the tactics of the Islamic State and the Nazis.
D.C. Clothesline's Dean Garrison posted a video by YouTube user DAHBOO77 ("Underworld World News") claiming to show an "agent provocateur" throwing a smoke bomb back at police. The evidence? That he was acting alone, but "police never once interacted with this man."
"Is this whole thing an elaborate false-flag set up?" Garrison asks in his post. "As far-fetched as that might seem, I never say never. It has been claimed that the man in the picture works for the City of Ferguson and it has been suspected by some that he is a plant." (DAHBOO77 says the man may be a janitor at Ferguson's City Hall.)
It's all hokum, of course. But these conspiracy theories—as always—contain morsels of truth. Yes, Attorney General Eric Holder and the New Black Panthers are both in the city of Ferguson, and outsiders have instigated much of the violence.
Why Ferguson, though? Conspiracy theories tend to flourish where information is incomplete or contradictory. Before Brown's death, it was the MH17 shootdown; before that, the Boston Marathon bombing; and long before that, 9/11. All of these tragedies have something else in common: deaths caused by unexpected violence. And Ferguson had the additional ingredients of the federal government's involvement and a militarized police force. It would have been a surprise if conspiracy theories hadn't sprung up in the past two weeks.
But how damaging are they? At best, they're a grand waste of time and effort. At worst, they're distracting some Americans from the real issues—racial profiling, economic segregation, war-ready cops—that the events in Ferguson raise. If you were conspiratorially inclined, you might even argue that these theories were invented for that very reason.