The Red Glare of the Baltimore Bridge Collapse Conspiracy Theorists

The Red Glare of the Baltimore Bridge Collapse Conspiracy Theorists 

(Photo : Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images) BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: A fireworks display concludes a ceremony to commemorate the bicentennial of the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner at Fort McHenry National Historic Park on September 13, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The poem verses were written by Francis Scott Key in the War of 1812, during a British naval bombardment of Fort McHenry from the Chesapeake Bay, and adopted as The National Anthem 200 years ago.

As Francis Scott Key watched the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814 during the War of 1812, he noted the "red glare" of the rockets and the "bombs bursting in air." Later, the lawyer and poet from Frederick, Maryland, would pen these words into our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."  

The collapse of the Baltimore bridge bearing Key's name following a collision with a 948-foot-long cargo ship last week killed six construction workers and snarled port traffic into the East Coast. While the investigation is still ongoing, the initial reports indicated that the vessel had lost power before striking one of the bridge's concrete support columns, causing the sudden catastrophic collapse. 

Almost immediately, conspiracy theories surrounding the events that led to the tragedy ran rampant. Primarily perpetuated by far-right personalities and influencers on social media, wild rumors of World War III, cyber-terrorism, COVID-19 vaccines, Israel, ISIS, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies being behind the collision quickly proliferated online. 

Misinformation, Disinformation, and Lies

(Photo : Photo by SHAWN THEW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) TOPSHOT - Republican Representative from Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene shouts at US President Joe Biden as he delivers his third State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2024.

Never mind the sanctity of the six lives lost, the immigrant fathers doing hard labor overnight to support their families at home and abroad. Never mind the disruption of the 47 million tons of cargo that pass through the port each year and the effects on global supply chains. Never mind irrefutably long-established facts of science, engineering, and physics. Instead, it's straight to Jewish Space Laserland, baby. 

Among the usual peddlers of misinformation, disinformation, and - let's just call them what they are - lies, are Andrew Tate, the online influencer currently detained on human trafficking and rape charges in Romania, and Alex Jones, the far-right radio show host ordered to pay $1.5 billion to the families of victims for calling the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting a hoax. Tate proclaimed in an X/Twitter post that the "ship was cyber-attacked," and Jones inferred the same. Also adding to this festering cauldron of delusion were elected United States members of Congress including Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA 14th District) and Phil Lyman (R-UT 69th District) who quickly turned to X/Twitter to comment on the tragedy. 

"Is this an intentional attack or an accident?" Greene posted to the 1 million consumers of her nontruths, suggesting that the accident should be investigated as a potential act of terrorism. Lyman took another equally nonfactual tack by asserting that Maryland's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies were somehow responsible for the failure of a critical support column after it was struck by the Dali. "This is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing and security of citizens," Lyman said. As it was calculated by the New York Times though, this is what happens when a container ship - the length of three American football fields weighing almost 100,000 tons - hits a single concrete pylon with the force of 100 fully loaded 18-wheelers at 80 m.p.h. It's called science. 

Back to Reality

(Photo : Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MARCH 26: The cargo ship Dali sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. According to reports, rescuers are still searching for multiple people, while two survivors have been pulled from the Patapsco River. A work crew was fixing potholes on the bridge, which is used by roughly 30,000 people each day, when the ship struck at around 1:30am on Tuesday morning. The accident has temporarily closed the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest and busiest on the East Coast of the U.S.

One non-consumer of such falsities, "The Wire" producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter, David Simon, wasn't buying the cascade of misinformation, disinformation, and lies. Answering Greene's post on X/Twitter, Simon responded, "Are you intentional or just an accident? You complete submoronic pratfall of a human being." Compared to the social media maelstrom of misinformation and disinformation related to the incident, as demonstrated by nonpartisan fact-checkers, it would seem that only Simon's post has some semblance of truth. 

The FBI's special agent in charge of the Baltimore field office also confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday morning that "There is no specific or credible information to suggest there are ties to terrorism in this incident." According to Maryland Governor Wes Moore as he addressed the media after the crash, the crew of the Singapore-flagged Dali had issued a "Mayday" distress call shortly before impact which allowed police to quickly stop the flow of traffic on the bridge. "These people are heroes," Moore said. "They saved lives last night."

Despite such confirmations, conspiracy theorists like Tate, Jones, Greene, and Lyman continue to seize any opportunity to boost their content, regardless of the facts. Today, the "red glare" comes not from British rockets over Baltimore, but from the sea of red flags raised by the "alternative facts" being fed to the American people. 

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