‘False flags’ theories are malevolent nonsense

syria-assad-posters-flickrcharlesfred-400x400Originally published in the Batesville Daily Guard:

April 13, 2017

It’s rare that I find what a person says to be so loathsome and misinformed that I feel the need to comment outside of my private life and be public about it. But, wouldn’t you know it, social media put something before me that made me so disgusted that I felt the need to comment on it.

As you all know, it’s pretty much been accepted as fact that President of Syria Basher Assad’s government  launched a poison gas attack in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib that killed more than 70 people. Among those killed, as the images have shown, were several children. One of the most heart-wrenching images was of a father holding his dead 9-month-old twins in his arms. The twins’ mother died as well. Imagine being him.

I, like millions of others now, were deeply struck by the images of not only the deaths, but of children convulsing in the backs of flatbed trucks, being hosed down in hopes of getting the chemicals off of them. It wasn’t just the children; their parents and many other adults suffered, too. But for me, like many others, it’s the images of the children that stick with you.

But, according to former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, we didn’t really see that. According to Paul, it was a “false flag.”

What is a “false flag?”

False flags are basically conspiracy theories that blame one’s own government for carrying out an attack on its own people to accomplish some sort of PR endeavor.

“False flags” are the nastiest and mean-spirited of conspiracy theories. Whether they claim “9/11 was an inside job” or “Sandy Hook was a hoax” they pretty much dismiss the suffering of human beings who died, those who live but were maimed by the attack and the families that lost loved ones. The people who tout “false flags” at best, shrug all of this human misery off as “fake” and at worst, they entrench themselves and mock it.

Here is what Paul said of the gas attack:

“Trump said let the Syrians decide who should run their country, and peace talks were making out, and Al Qaeda and ISIS were on the run. It looks like, maybe, somebody didn’t like that so there had to be an episode, and the blame now is we can’t let that happen because it looks like it might benefit Assad.”

The problem with Paul’s claim is that the survivors themselves, speaking from hospital beds, say that the bombs were dropped from planes. Something, that the rebel forces don’t have. Paul has no evidence to support his claim aside from what he cooked up in his, apparently twisted, imagination.

So, if Paul is saying it wasn’t the Syrian government, who is he blaming? Probably not Syria’s ally Russia. Nope, even if he doesn’t come out and say it, he’s suggesting that the U.S. or its allies carried out the attack themselves. At least they seem to be the only other option, you know?

Either that, or he’s claiming that those victims of the gas attack are lying.

This is not the first time Paul has made such claims. When similar attacks killing thousands in 2013 were carried out, Paul was out defending Assad, blaming his opposition instead.

It’s stuff like this that has made Paul pretty much a persona non grata in Washington, D.C.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an audience. Newspapers across the country still print his column and he is still a frequent guest on radio shows, particularly Infowars, which is a media empire built by Austin-based water-filter salesman Alex Jones. If there’s a mean-spirited conspiracy theory out there, then Jones’ show is the place to go. I’d advise if you have friends who share nonsense from Infowars or Prison Planet on social media, that you re-evaluate whether you want them as friends.

This means despite relegating himself to the fringes, Paul still has a wide audience. As long as people hate the government, he and others like him will be there to feed and profit off the hate. Facts are the vaccine for that sort of thing, but like the literal kind, you have to get it to the person before they’re exposed. If you don’t, it’s a lot harder to cure.

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