A tragic accident that resulted in death could have been avoided if the crew on the film Rust were listened to. Alec Baldwin, a producer as well as star on the film, fired a prop gun and a live round from the gun killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and critically injured director Joel Souza. The Union workers had warned of unsafe conditions on the set and specifically the prop gun, which had not functioned properly in previous takes. Some workers quit over safety concerns, other Union workers were removed and non-union workers brought in to replace them. It’s unknown how a prop gun with a live round made it’s way on set– the investigation is still in process. I immediately knew that this would become conspiracy lore, and that was correct– I’ve since seen a variety of QAnon theories, with one even pinning a piece of yarn to Alec Baldwin’s role in the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October. Because, well…it’s October. How did I know this was insta-conspiracy material? Well, here’s the main reasons:
1. Baldwin is Already a QAnon Villain
QAnon believes there is an evil cabal of Satanic pedophiles out there and all you have to do to be put on this shit list is to be an opponent of Trump. There is a “6 degrees of Kevin Bacon” going on here– anyone that knew Jeffrey Epstein (except Trump himself, of course), associated with Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, etc. etc. is part of the conspiracy. But Alec Baldwin is one step beyond that– he is, in Trump’s squinty eyes, an actual enemy. Enraged by Baldwin’s doofy impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live, Trump used his Twitter platform to frequently attack SNL and Baldwin in particular.
In 2017, Trump tweeted that SNL was “very unfair and should be looked into.” In 2019 he tweeted that the “Federal Election Commission and/or FCC” should investigate the show because it spent “all of their time knocking the same person (me) over & over.” In 2019 he also tweeted:
“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!”
Again, to be clear, the President of These United States was all bent out of shape and spending an inordinate amount of time talking about this:
2. Trump Helped Normalize Spreading Conspiracies About His Enemies to His QAnon Followers
With Roger Stone (a self-described “dirty trickster”) as his spiritual guru, Trump quickly repeated the benefits of conspiracy theory as a weapon of choice in his campaign. It wasn’t the first time– Trump was the loudest and most famous voice that pushed the racist Birtherism conspiracies about President Obama. Many people still believe that Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii (as per his birth certificate). After beating down the vast field of Republican runners leading up to the 2016 election with silly nicknames, in the final stretch he knew he needed to “go hard” against the remaining few left standing. That’s when he implied that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination. Look, I despise Ted Cruz and thoroughly enjoy laughing about the conspiracy that he’s the Zodiac Killer, but the reality is that he’s not the Zodiac Killer and his father wasn’t involved in the JFK assassination, and the fact that Trump just got away with saying that without any repercussions is pretty insane.
If we lived in a normal timeline, that (along with him openly mocking a person with a disability, being racist, bragging about sexually assaulting women, etc.) would have ended his campaign. But one of the worst things about the Trump presidency is that it normalized conspiracies, misinformation, name-calling, narcissism, and labelled actual media as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” He got away with it by utilizing a “firehose of falsehoods” i.e. he was spouting out so much crazy stuff, it was hard to pin down one thing or another because minutes later he was saying something else equal to or more crazy.
Cruz was far from the only target. When Trump got butt hurt over watching pundit Joe Scarborough’s show, (Morning Joe, MSNBC) he dug up a conspiracy hit piece that he had murdered an employee in 2001 and left her dead body in a campaign office even though he was out of town. (See my column, “Trump’s Joe Scarborough Conspiracy Obsession“). And these are just a couple examples– I haven’t even mentioned Hillary Clinton, Hunter Biden, “Obamagate,” or the 2020 election.
3. The World is Chaos and That’s Something Conspiracists Can’t Wrap Their Head Around
Conspiracists don’t believe in coincidence. They think everything is a well designed plot, especially if there is an unknown element.
Take for example the murder of Seth Rich. Rich was a staff member of the Democratic National Committee. He was shot twice in the back and died just after 4am while walking home from a bar. Police believe it was an attempted robbery. Oh, but they didn’t take his wallet! Attempted– maybe something scared off the robber(s) but we don’t know because it’s an unsolved case. A feeding frenzy of conspiracy, from InfoWars to FOX News quickly spun a story that Rich was the one who sent DNC emails to WikiLeaks, and thus was murdered as part of the Clinton Body Count– the theory that Bill and Hill have left a pile of corpses behind them to rival Mickey and Mallory Knox as they’ve killed their way into power. I like to think of them cranking death metal and jumping out of bushes to personally stab the shit out of their enemies.
When I watched the report on the Alec Baldwin shooting on CNN, I was like, well this is definitely going to be a conspiracy because the reporting was uncertain. The anchor said “this is an accident as far as we know” and “we don’t know how such a tragic accident could happen.” That’s the difference between journalists and conspiracy peddlers. Journalists (good ones, anyway) need to wait for the facts. They can speculate, but they need to wait for investigations, reports, documentation. Those aren’t available immediately. Conspiracists, on the other hand, can pretend to know everything instantly– isn’t it suspicious how a prop gun could fire a lethal round? That’s because it’s a cover up– FACT.
Was this accidental shooting tragic and something that could have been avoided? Yes. Did it happen because Alec Baldwin was engaged in some kind of blood libel secret murder? NO.
You can read more about the tragic toll of conspiracy thinking in my book American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness a book by Tea Krulos (bookshop.org)