Religious Conspiracy Theories About Giffords Shooting Emerge

Pastor Carl Gallups of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church in Milton, Florida, has produced two videos about the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that glorify Gun Owners of America, claim that Giffords knew her assailant, assert that owning guns is a “God-given right,” and that gun control leads to genocide.

One of Gallups’ claims, that Giffords subscribed to Loughner’s YouTube channel, is now being touted by Jerome Corsi, the conspiratory theorist and contributor to World Net Daily who co-authored the book of Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry in 2004, and whose 2008 book Obama Nation was filled with falsehoods about the then-presidential candidate. Corsi is also a notorious birther.

Gallups, as documented by Richard Bartholomew last summer, previously produced a video, “Jesus Saw Satan as Baraq Ubamah,” and opined that the gulf oil spill was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Gallups’ videos appear on the channel of the anonymous YouTube user ppsimmons, and his theories are being promoted by Special Guests, a service that books conservative guests on talk radio, which is also plugging Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, in connection with Gallups’ videos.

As I wrote yesterday, Pratt told me last summer he is a “Biblical Christian” and insists that state militias need to be “given new life” because the federal government is largely unconstitutional. Pratt is featured in one of Gallups’ videos in a clip in which he is seen telling MSNBC host Chris Matthews, “the U.S. government is too big, and it has powers that it is exercising that is unconstitutional and socialistic. . . . and we are aiming to take it down a peg or two.” Pratt is described in Gallups’ video as “one of the leading proponents of the Second Amendment right of Americans to arm and defend themselves without government encroachment on that right.”

The video maintains that “there will always be guns” (but is amended by a subtitle which reads, “Of course there WILL be a world without weapons of any time [sic] when Jesus rules and reigns. But in THIS world – guns will always be in ‘someone’s’ hands.”)

“Can we really trust our government to be the only armed contingent in the country?” Gallups’ video asks, and then proceeds to claim that the worst genocidal dictators of the 20th century — including Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot — instituted gun control, enabling them to carry out genocide. The video calls their victims “20th Century ‘Gun Control’ Casualties.”

“All of these monsters began by confiscating private arms, then literally soaking the earth with the blood of tens and tens of millions of their own people,” the narrator maintains. (This was just after flashing an image of President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and Nancy Pelosi, and another of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton on the screen.)

“Is there any wonder, then, why liberal, socialist, and communist-bent government officials are so bent on destroying America’s Second Amendment right? Now you know the truth,” the video concludes.

Another of Gallups’ videos insists that the media is suppressing critical information about Giffords’ supposed relationship with Loughner. After decrying the comments of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnick and others condemning the rhetoric of right-wingers that is infused with violent imagery, the video takes pains — despite a lack of evidence — to describe Loughner as a “very angry leftist who hates America . . . . and religion.” The bit about the YouTube subscription, repeated by Corsi, is based on Gallups’ screen grab of Giffords’ YouTube page which Gallups maintains shows that Giffords’ account was subscribed to Loughner’s. Even if true (TPM also reported that Giffords’ YouTube account showed a subscription to Loughner’s, although the date of the subscription wasn’t clear) it is difficult to see what Gallups and Corsi are trying to prove: first, the media didn’t suppress this information; moreover, it is unclear what the subscription, if true, might prove, but it certainly doesn’t prove that Giffords knew Loughner. And it is not, as the ppsimmons YouTube account advertises, a “startling revelation.”

While it has been widely reported that Loughner attended a Giffords event in 2007 (Nick Baumann at Mother Jones reported that, according to a friend, Loughner was angry because he believed Giffords inadequately answered one of his questions) Gallups’ video twists this into the falsehood that Loughner worked for Giffords’ campaign. (What’s more, the Gallups video flashes a photograph of Loughner as apparent proof of his working for Giffords’ campaign, but the photo is one of Loughner volunteering at the Tuscon Book Festival.) The video concludes, “while it is now known that Loughner himself worked for Giffords election campaign in 2007, and that Giffords subscribed to Loughner’s website since October 25, 2010, suggests that the two may have been in contact more recently. As this case unfolds, you certainly need to know these facts.”

Will this half-baked conspiracy theory about a Giffords-Loughner connection (which appears to be promoted in an effort to dispel any notion that Loughner was in any way influenced by right-wing rhetoric or ideology), and the addled contention that gun control causes genocide, radiate further out into conservative circles? These videos contain elements of right-wing theo-political thought, common and accepted in some circles, on the ungodliness of government; a blurring of totalitarianism, communism, and liberalism; and the notion that gun regulation is not only an unconstitutional infringement of liberty, but a violation of God’s law.

It’s hard to say anymore what might appear on Glenn Beck’s blackboard.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email