Iran’s state-run news network blames ‘Israeli death squads’ for Sandy Hook shooting

December 18, 2012

Screenshot of PressTV, an Iranian state-run outlet.

Iran's state-run media outlet PressTV, which broadcasts in English, on Tuesday carried a story blaming Israel for the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. PressTV has a well-earned reputation for incendiary anti-Israel stories and for wild conspiracy theories, but even this seems a far stretch for the organization, which maintains a bureau office in the District.

PressTV portrays Adam Lanza as a "patsy" – their word – who is taking the fall for an Israeli special forces squad sent to punish President Obama for not better supporting Israel. The ongoing investigation is in fact, they argue, a concerted U.S. government "cover-up." It's not clear why the United States would cover-up an attack against the U.S. government, but if you think that's the most glaring inconsistency in this story then I have bad news for you: it gets a lot worse.

The outlandish theory is not very clear, but it appears to argue that the attack would have been retribution for Obama's diplomacy during Israel's recent clashes with Gaza and for his potential selection of former Senator Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary, a move opposed by some pro-Israel groups. The story's evidence largely relies on an interview with an Arizona one-time gubernatorial candidate named Mike Harris who publicly associates with neo-Nazi groups, a series of fatuous questions (i.e., implying that the school was filled with Israeli troops, "Why were so many children told to close their eyes while leaving the building?"), and, I am not making this up, anonymous e-mail forwards.

The story is very long and can be frustrating to read for its obvious logical fallacies, but here is a representative sample:

After Harris’ broadcast, key members of the military and law enforcement community contacted Veterans Today in full support of Harris’ analysis.

One three star general is quoted as saying, “Harris hit the nail right on the head and it is about time someone spoke up.”

As days have passed, key issues involving the Sandy Hook terror attack have been cited as “debunking” the “lone gunman” cover story: From a viral email that is growing every hour with more reasons to doubt the official story: According to the official story, Adam Lanza was found with his older brother’s ID, and it was not stolen. However, older brother Ryan - whom officials say is very cooperative - claims not to have even seen his brother since 2010. Where would Adam get this ID? And why does such use not qualify as a theft?

According to the official story, Adam Lanza was wearing a black outfit with a mask and bulletproof vest. Why would he want to hide his identity, and why would he wear a bulletproof vest if he planned to kill himself?

The PressTV story is sad and upsetting, mostly for its incredible insensitivity but also, to a lesser degree, for the obvious bankruptcy of Iranian propaganda. Who, exactly, is this story supposed to convince? Iran is not North Korea; information flows in and out of the country much more freely, and though public attitudes toward the United States are not exactly warm, nor are they so twisted by hatred or ignorance that such an outlandish story as this would seem likely to convince many readers. And, beyond the Mike Harrisses of the world (he also blames last year's Norway shooting on Israel), it doesn't seem likely to exactly turn American opinion away from Israel or toward Iran. And yet here it is, outrageous, offensive, and clearly counterproductive, for all the world to see.

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