OPED: Perry takes conspiracy theory to the people

Dr. Mary Barnes
Springfield Township

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry recently appeared on national TV in a Tucker Carlson interview to discuss his concerns about ISIS being behind the Las Vegas mass shooting.

More:Rep. Perry, on Fox News, suggests Vegas shooter had ISIS ties

My pursuit in trying to understand where the York Republican was coming from has been an enlightening experience. I have learned much more about conspiracy theories (CT), their promulgators and believers. I’ve learned about ISIS’ patterns of claiming responsibility, direct and indirect, for major global attacks, whether or not it had anything to do with them, and how sloppy it has been in the last year with false claims including the casino attack in Manila, and the bomb plot at the Charles de Gaulle airport.

ISIS’ Las Vegas claim, clearly one of these, lacked any evidence, including the name of the shooter, Stephen Paddock. It turns out CT sources have been misquoting an Islamic terrorism expert, Rukmini Callimachi, who said, “Conspiracy theorists have repeatedly misquoted me as saying that ISIS was behind the Vegas attack. To date, zero evidence of an ISIS link has emerged. I am talking to both the sources in law enforcement and the U.S. officials in Iraq who are tracking the terror group closely. They have found nothing suggesting that Paddock either interacted with members of ISIS, or was inspired by them - and certainly no evidence that he converted.”

More:Gun industry gathers just a few miles from mass shooting

Additionally, she points out that the ISIS video some latched onto was false: it featured a Saudi Arabian flag in it, which ISIS would never allow.

I have learned more about the CT broadcasters in the extreme right-wing blogosphere including Gateway Pundit, Weekend Vigilante, Neon Nettle  and also about Alex Jones’ Infowars – where you can get a juicy conspiracy theory and also purchase something called Caveman True Paleo Formula and Super Male Vitality, etc.

More:Post-Newtown, mass shootings grow deadlier

The worst aspect of this is that those with connections to the White House are apparently promoting conspiracy theories and inflaming the base with politicized propaganda.

It appears, then, that our local celebrity, Rep. Scott Perry, was shamelessly carrying water for them to Fox.

I also learned about Las Vegas shooter, Paddock, in a newly released report from the Las Vegas police department. Highlights include:

  • He was a possessor of child pornography 
  • He was a high-stakes gambler, mostly video poker, and had lost a lot of wealth prior to the event
  • He was a heavy drinker and kept to himself 
  • His doctor noted he was “odd,” had “little emotion” and wondered about his having bipolar disorder, but Paddock refused most medication offered. His girlfriend noticed a change in the last year in his demeanor- becoming more distant, germaphobic, sensitive to smell, etc. (his autopsy showed no gross brain abnormalities)
  • He bought 29 firearms between 1982 and 2016 then more than 55 in the last year along with bump stocks
  • His father was a bank robber and on the FBI most- wanted list for 8 years.

Interviews with those who knew Stephen Paddock along with reviewing more than 2000 leads and 21,000 hours of video showed no apparent religious or political affiliation.

Mr. Trump himself called him a “very, very sick individual . . . a demented man with a lot of problems.”

So Perry, subsumed into this Las Vegas conspiracy theory, smells a rat and finds things don’t add up. My math says Perry scores a zero for providing no evidence to back up his suspicions and gets sent back a grade for his despicable reference to “potential terrorist infiltration through the southern border” during the recent appeal for support of Dreamers, those undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. when they were children. 

More:Ryan: Deporting young immigrants not in nation’s interest

Dreamers, under the President Barack Obama administration, had protected status through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But their status is now in flux following President Donald Trump's announcement that they will no longer be protected — and as Congress battles over their fate.

Injecting doubt and focusing on this conspiracy theory efficiently distracts from the conversations we should be having as a community and country, about gun control and mental illness.

And about the reality that a lone, white, native-born man can be domestic terrorist and unstopped by a sea-to-shining-sea, multi-billion dollar wall.

— Mary Barnes is a resident of Springfield Township.