Evil Hooded Figure Red Eyes

Can’t spell “Charlie Hebdo” without “lie”

I bet you didn’t know that Charlie Hebdo attacks were a false flag operation and that everything you’ve ever believed was a lie, did you? Up is down, Canada is on Mars, and nothing is what it seems. Question everything!

I kid, but it’s no laughing matter: Some brave conspiracy nut has just cracked the code. Using sophisticated tools like access to YouTube and grainy video footage, one brave soul has unraveled a worldwide conspiracy of the century: It turns out the widely shared video of the police officer being gunned down outside of Charlie Hebdo offices is fake, you guys! Fa-bri-ca-ted. Boom. Are you impressed? Unplug from the Matrix and open your eyes, sheeple!

I won’t link to this conspiracy, but a Google search on “Charlie Hebdo censored video” will lead you to it. Warning: Graphic, obviously. Wear a tinfoil hat when you watch it to get the full experience. If you haven’t watched it yet, here’s the short premise: According to the conspiracy theory, the video shows that the officer wasn’t actually hit in the head. The bullet misses. That’s why evil corporate media has deleted that segment when playing the video—they’re afraid of exposing the truth. That truth? That something something corporate media is lying and also Obama Antichrist lizard Zionists, probably. They author doesn’t actually say.

By now I’m used to every major story breeding a web of conspiracy theories. It’s almost a given. Yet that still doesn’t stop me from being irritated whenever I come across one on my Facebook feed. Why is it not enough to acknowledge that horrible tragedies like the Charlie Hebdo attacks happen? For some reason, some people always have to find the hand of the CIA, Illuminati, aliens, or an invisible race of giant Lhasa Apso dogs behind every event.

Look, I’m a skeptical guy myself. I don’t harbor any illusions about the altruism and purity of feelings of world leaders. You can point out plenty of hypocrisy and ask plenty of questions about the tragedies governments focus on while overlooking others.

Having said that, the same skepticism makes me highly allergic to conspiracy theories. Here’s why: Most conspiracy theories take that healthy skepticism and run with it all the way to Cuckoo town. Conspiracy theorists try to position themselves as investigative journalists, “simply asking questions.” However, they most decidedly aren’t investigative journalists.

Investigative journalists try to dissipate doubt and get closer to the truth. Conspiracy theorists feed on doubt and cherry pick seemingly revealing anecdotes to string together a false narrative.

A good investigative journalist will discuss and weigh all possible explanations and arrive at the most plausible one. A conspiracy theorist, on the other hand, will usually start out with a preconceived narrative and pick events that strengthen it while completely ignoring anything that contradicts it.

The goal of an investigative journalist is to get closer to the answer. The goal of a conspiracy theorist is to mislead their audience with loaded questions into arriving at far-fetched answers that usually don’t stand up to thorough scrutiny.

An investigative journalist appeals to reason and verifiable empirical evidence. A conspiracy theorist plays on your emotions, your doubt, your mistrust of authority.

I’m neither of the above two. But just by asking questions, as encouraged by the conspiracy theory itself, I can punch more holes in its premise than a rusty sieve. Which I’m about to do.

Note: I realize that because I’m using a clinical and sometimes humorous approach, it may feel like I’m making light of the situation. I want to make it abundantly clear that I consider the Charlie Hebdo attacks a horrific crime and a terrible loss for so many people. It’s precisely that consideration that makes me so angry when I see conspiracy theories like this one.

For the sake of the argument, let’s try to answer some of the questions this conspiracy theory directly or indirectly asked.

Why did they censor this video?

They didn’t. Unless by “censored” you mean “had publicly available on multiple YouTube channels since the day it was uploaded.” Like this one, for instance (you may need to confirm your age due to graphic content). Is there a global “censorship” body I don’t know about? One that unplugs all of our computers, preventing us from watching YouTube videos? If so, I can proudly announce that I’ve hacked through their advanced Big Brother CensorWall™ by simply making a search on YouTube. I can access the video. Try it, maybe your computer can hack through the Matrix too?

But why did major news channels cut that one (allegedly) incriminating piece from the video?

Hmmmm, I dunno, maybe it has something to do with not wanting to display what they considered to be the graphic killing of an innocent cop on national television? Why is that a novel or bizarre concept? We’re talking about an industry where news networks often have to apologize for e.g. inadvertently looking through people’s luggage while reporting live about air crashes.

But he was clearly not shot in the head! What other explanation is there?

Really? You can truly tell that from the low-quality, low frame-rate video? I mean, I can certainly see how it may indeed appear that way, but are you able to reach such a definitive conclusion based on those frames? You’re suddenly a ballistics expert? I’m quite sure you aren’t. Neither am I, for that matter.

But do you know who is a ballistics expert? Untold people who are actual fucking ballistics experts, all over the world. Not one of them has seen the incriminating video and went to the nearest press outlet with the huge story? You’d really rather believe that they have collectively decided (were paid to, were brainwashed into, were blackmailed into, were replaced by clones) to keep silent about such an obvious fake, while a random dude who runs a conspiracy website solved the puzzle?

But okay, I’ll bite. Let’s assume that this video is worthy of exploring and shows something fishy. Is “a major worldwide conspiracy” the only possible explanation for what we’re seeing? No it’s not. How about:

a) The policeman was, in fact, shot in the head. What you’re seeing on the video is a ricochet, or a bullet going right through that poor man’s head. This isn’t in any way inconsistent with the type of damage AK-47 can be expected to make at such a close range. Quote from AK-47 Wiki (emphasis mine):

The 7.62x39mm M43 projectile does not generally fragment when striking an opponent and has an unusual tendency to remain intact even after making contact with bone. The 7.62x39mm round produces significant wounding in cases where the bullet tumbles (yaws) in tissue, but produces relatively minor wounds in cases where the bullet exits before beginning to yaw. In the absence of yaw, the M43 round can pencil through tissue with relatively little injury.

The person behind the conspiracy video shows us footage of a watermelon getting shot with an AK-47 round, in order to demonstrate the extent of damage we can expect. Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: A human skull is not a fucking watermelon. Curious, isn’t it? Yes, watermelons are sometimes used in movie effects in place of a human head, but are you honestly expecting the human head to always explode like a watermelon when shot? If you do, maybe you should be careful around watermelons lest one of them accidentally falls on you and cracks your head open. Life isn’t a video game.

b) The policeman was shot elsewhere in his body, say chest (like some have claimed based on the video). Media outlets have incorrectly interpreted the video and have misreported the exact nature of his wound. This happens all the damn time during fast-paced, constantly developing stories.

c) The gunman does only shoot at the ground to subdue the policeman, who later dies of his other injuries. Media misreport what they’re seeing, just like in point b).

Those are just a few possible explanations I can come up with off the top of my head, and it only took me a few moments of “just asking questions.”

Now that I’ve (hopefully) challenged some of the claims, let me ask a few counter-questions.

Did the gunmen know that they’re being filmed at that exact moment by that exact camera?

There are two possible answers: They did, or they didn’t.

If they didn’t, then why would they go through the effort of faking that particular fatal shot? Who are they staging this spectacle for? Most sane people are hiding. Or are they doing this just in case there’s a camera at that specific angle? If so, what’s stopping them from actually shooting the man, seeing how they’ve killed over 10 others (more on that later)?

If they did—and, as far as I can gather from the conspiracy theory, we’d have to assume the cameraman was in on the whole thing which was staged and filmed for effect—then why even fake such an (apparently) easily debunkable shot? Why not stage something more convincing? Or better still—assuming the cameraman is in on it—why not just avoid releasing this video after seeing how badly they’d failed at putting on a convincing performance?

You see, here’s the irony: This conspiracy theory is quick to point out how stupid and ridiculous it is for us to believe that one of the gunmen had left an ID card in the getaway vehicle (something various sources have claimed). It’s a fair question to ask: Why did the gunmen go through the trouble of preparing such an organized attack and then do something as stupid as leaving an ID in the car?

However, this same theory doesn’t question the mind-shattering ridiculousness of some dark government forces (or the ghost of Thomas Edison?) faking and filming an elaborate shooting involving what must be hundreds of people and the “deaths” of over a dozen and then uploading incriminating video of their own epic failure to the most popular video-sharing service in the goddamn world. Does that not sounds insane to you?

Did the policeman die?

Again, two possible answers: Yes or no.

If yes…then why the hell is the way he died even a source of discussion? Does the exact manner in which he died change anything in the overall narrative and the outrage we should rightfully be feeling?

If no, then this should be incredibly easy to verify. There are witnesses everywhere (as also seen in the video). Nobody rushed to the guy after the gunmen left to find out whether he’s alive? None of the people physically present at the scene questioned what they’d seen? It took a random Internet genius to point out something that was missed by everyone actually present? Or are they all in on it?

What about all of the paramedics and officials who arrived later? Were they all paid off or mislead into announcing a guy dead when he wasn’t? Or did some men dressed in black arrive and carry his “body” away in a tinted vehicle with no license plate without anyone raising any questions whatsoever? Did they switch the body without any expert coroner calling bullshit? I can’t think of even one sequence of events that doesn’t require one to be high on clown-fumes to believe.

On top of that, there are relatives, friends, and acquaintances whom any journalist worth their salt can interview to corroborate or debunk such an obvious fake. Or seriously, are all of these people in cahoots?

Also, if he magically is not dead, then…

Are we also questioning the deaths of the other victims?

If the others are dead, then why would the gunmen go through the effort of faking the death of that particular policeman? On camera? Is one extra dead person exactly what they needed to trigger an outrage? It wasn’t tragic enough with “just” the other 11 people?

“Sir! The terrorists have just attacked and murdered 11 innocent people!”
“Meh, let’s wait and see how it plays out.”
“Sir! It turns out our numbers were wrong. There are actually 12 people dead!”
“Holy buckweasel tittypricks! Scramble everybody, this is a Code Fuchsia. I repeat, this is Code Fuchsia!”

If we’re assuming that the other victims are somehow also alive, then take my argument in the previous point and multiply it by goddamn infinity. How in the world did they pull that off without a single person close to the victims or any of the experts, TV reporters, bystanders involved raising questions? Where are all of these people? In a secret facility, chilling with Elvis and Michael Jackson?

Sure, we can assume that this is a flawlessly executed (yet somehow super easily debunked) operation involving hundreds (if not thousands) of people, all of whom have chosen to remain silent for various reasons, but for me, that scenario requires a bit more suspension of disbelief than just going with the official explanation from “evil corporate media.”

Who is the mastermind behind this alleged conspiracy?

I’m not even sure the people who spread these conspiracies have a clear answer or agree. They’re fine with a vague phrasing that hints at some dark forces, content in the knowledge that each reader will fill in the blanks themselves. They don’t explicitly state anything, at least not in the video I’m referring to. But I’ve already come across several explanations by conspiracy enthusiasts, ranging from anti-Muslim radical parties trying to further their agenda to the US punishing France for considering to drop sanctions against Russia (yes, really).

The most commonly sited one seems to involve unnamed anti-Muslim forces (Israel? US? Your racist grandma?) trying to galvanize support for the fight against Islamic extremists. Well, that’s interesting…because do you know who already does a great job of galvanizing support in the fight against Islamic extremists? Freaking Islamic extremists. You know, the guys who behead Western journalists and slaughter people? We already have worldwide condemnation of and unified effort in the fight ISIS, precisely because ISIS is being all ISISy.

Also, if that’s what they were going for, then here’s the kicker: Why exactly did they fake the death of the one victim that actually weakens their “Muslims are the bad guys” case?! The policeman in the video, Ahmed Merabet, was allegedly Muslim. His death is already being actively used in touching articles to rightfully remind us all that Muslims are not the enemy—violent radicals of all backgrounds are. Damn, those stupid, Muslim-hating fake shooters must be so embarrassed right now!

I can probably keep digging like this forever, but I’ll stop now. The point is: Yes, you should absolutely have a healthy level of doubt, to question what you’re told, and to look for answers. But for Bob’s sake, don’t let that questioning stop at the “Wow, that sure looks fake, it’s all a giant conspiracy. Check and mate!” stage. Your natural skepticism should extend equally to mass media and fringe conspiracy guys (and also this very post). Don’t ever let someone abuse your skepticism, otherwise they’re no better than those they criticize.

As a final note, ask yourself: Why would you rather believe in some massive shadow organizations operating on the edges of society (but somehow fucking up in such monumental ways that all it takes to catch them is access to YouTube) than in shitty people sometimes doing horrible things? Sadly, bad guys exist. Random acts of violence happen. All the time. Let’s find unity against them and try to do something to make things better, instead of spawning thin conspiracy theories that only succeed in splitting us and diffusing our focus. We have enough evil people to worry about without having to look for imaginary ones.

If you feel like I haven’t covered some legitimate questions or points worth discussing, I’ll be happy to hear from you in the comments. If it’s well-meaning input, I promise to update this post and address it. I consider it a living document. Thanks for reading.