The Paranoid Style: Conspiracy Theories Gain Traction | Southern Poverty Law Center
In West Memphis, Ark., a man and his son shoot two police officers to death after being pulled over. In Washington, D.C., one man murders a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, while a year later another badly wounds two Pentagon police officers. In Austin, Texas, a man commits suicide by flying his small airplane into an IRS building, setting off an inferno and killing an employee. In Pittsburgh, a man murders three police officers called to his house.
What do these men have in common? What could have motivated them to murder, often dying themselves in the bargain?
In each case, they were motivated by conspiracy theories.
James von Brunn, who killed the museum guard in June 2009, believed that Jews controlled the world, including President Obama. Joseph Stack, who died in the February 2010 crash in Austin, thought that government “thugs and plunderers” were destroying the country and that the IRS had no right to tax U.S. citizens. John Patrick Bedell, who a month later tried to kill two police officers near the Pentagon, saw America as being in the grip of a narco-conspiracy whose protagonists had murdered an Air Force colonel. And Richard Poplawski, who shot to death three officers called to his home by his mother in 2009, was certain the government was planning gun confiscation, martial law and concentration camps.