On the 7th of December 75 years ago, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, killing 2,403, crippling the Pacific fleet, and destroying 188 planes. The following day, the U.S. declared war on Japan.
Today we remember those who were there . . . well, some of us do. My grandpa wasn’t there at the time, but was there a time or two during the war while he was on a hospital ship in the Pacific. I can only imagine what those who were there that morning went through.
You would think this tragic event would be treated respectfully. But then, that wouldn’t be the new America, would it? Silly people.
Instead, conspiracy theories have surrounded Pearl Harbor and other deadly events for years, and now that we have a president-elect who seems to buy wholeheartedly into such things, I don’t see logic returning any time soon. (Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post calls Donald Trump “the Old Faithful of fake news.” I wish I’d thought of that one.)
Hindsight lets us see all sorts of things, and for the conspiracy-minded, any stray bit of coincidence becomes proof of conspiracy. Countless stories maintain that President Roosevelt knew the attack was coming, that Winston Churchill knew of the attack beforehand but withheld that information from FDR so he could pull the U.S. into the war in Europe, or that FDR provoked the attack in order to get Hitler to declare war on the U.S.
Even innocuous documents have been interpreted as proof that FDR knew all about the attack far in advance. The McCollum memo, for instance, which contained a containment strategy for Japan, was instead an example of hypothetical war plans just about any nation would make in case war happened (in most cases it wouldn’t); there is no evidence the October 1940 memo (14 months before the attack) ever even got to FDR.
Not that it matters to those who want to believe in an all-powerful cabal headed by—depending on your favorite theory—the UN, the Rothschilds, the freemasons, reptilian aliens, etc. Nor does it matter that national intelligence and government information-gathering and sharing in the U.S. at the time was dismal, leading to an overhaul of the intelligence community once the war was over.
Rob Citino of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans told NPR of the Pearl Harbor theories, “It’s ridiculous, but it’s evergreen. It never stops. My students, over 30 years—there’d always be someone in class [who’d say], ‘Roosevelt knew all about it.'”
This isn’t to say that conspiracies don’t exist, because they do. They’re just very rarely of the magnitude some people seem to believe, because the more moving parts there are, the harder it is to hold a conspiracy together.
One of the dangers of believing conspiracy theories with no evidence was amply demonstrated Sunday when a North Carolina man was arrested after police say he walked into the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., with a rifle, shot off an inside lock, then pointed the gun in the direction of an employee. Luckily there were no injuries, but Edgar Welch told police he went to the restaurant to “self-investigate” the pizzagate conspiracy and rescue any children held there. Apparently that investigation needed three guns (reportedly two others were found), though police say he’s now satisfied no children were being harmed.
And just what is pizzagate? That would be the false allegation that Hillary and Bill Clinton, along with campaign manager John Podesta and restaurant owner James Alefantis, have been operating a pedophilia ring out of Comet Ping Pong, supposedly in tunnels under the restaurant.
Evidence? Nothing so far except strained suppositions concocted out of Podesta’s leaked emails, coincidence and a lot of imagination, but the rumors by themselves have prompted death threats against Alefantis and his employees. Businesses in the area have also been threatened by people who believe pizzagate is real. And now this. Though to hear some tell it Monday, the incident Sunday didn’t really happen and was only a “false flag” … you know, like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and others. Because you know those weren’t real either, right?
Alefantis posted a lengthy note on Facebook Sunday thanking law enforcement and the restaurant’s customers, as well as addressing the rumors that appear to have been started by a white supremacy Twitter account and spread profusely by 4chan, Reddit and Facebook users:
“What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.”
But as with the theories that have been repeatedly debunked about Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and others, there will be people who will never stop believing that the D.C. pizza place with a funny name is a haven for pedophiles. Because it’s much easier to blindly believe than to seek the truth.
It’s like we expect people to use that gray matter in their skulls. Crazy!
Finally today, a note of thanks to the Voices page’s longtime assistant, Stephanie Brown, who due to a reshuffling is no longer in our department (though still at the paper). Stephanie has been a rock and a wonder, and I’ll truly miss seeing my friend and fellow cat-lover every day.
For the Voices page, that means more work, and a plea to readers: Since I am now a one-woman operation, the rules for letters may have to change a little; I’ll figure that out as we go along. I will, though, not discontinue fact-checking, which means I may have to ask you for your sources if I can’t find something. Yeah, I know, horribly mean … but exceedingly necessary if there is any hope to stem, even slightly, the spread of fake news (like pizzagate).
For now, some reminders: We can only print letters from Arkansas residents, one per reader every 30 days, and no longer than 250-300 words. Please remember to include valid contact information and your name so I can reach you by email and/or phone (email frequent fliers will probably be contacted mostly by email). For those still sending in letters by snail mail, please, please, please write as legibly as possible as my skills at deciphering chicken-scratch aren’t as acute as Stephanie’s. And whether by email or snail mail, please, no missives in all capital letters.
Most of all, be patient and polite, as it will take more time to produce the page now. And I’m not nearly as patient as Stephanie, especially with bullies.
Well, unless you’re furry and cute and named Luke.