The Problem With Half-Baked Conspiracy Theories Is They Provide Cover For The Fully Baked Ones


LA WEEKLY: There’s a sign tacked to the tree where Hastings crashed that night, reading, “This was not an accident.” Taken down several times, it always gets put back up. Another sign says, “Didn’t have to know you to know the truth of what happened.” After the Fourth of July, someone gathered up about 30 mini American flags and planted them around the memorial site. Kimberly Dvorak, a freelance reporter for San Diego 6, was barely aware of [Michael] Hastings until he died in circumstances too bizarre for her to ignore. She’s now the leading reporter looking at “alternate” theories of the crash. “Something just kept telling me, ‘You need to look into this,’?” Dvorak tells the Weekly. “I just looked into it, and it grabbed me.” Dvorak has blogged about terrorism and immigration, generally from a conservative or libertarian point of view. (She has blogged about Obama’s “dubious birth certificate.”) She has not always been entirely reliable. She mistakenly reported, for instance, that Hastings’ body was cremated against his family’s wishes. Nevertheless, her reports have generated a wide following online, especially, she says, among hackers and supporters of Edward Snowden.

“A lot of people in that world are keeping this alive,” Dvorak says. “I’m not certain that Michael was a part of that world, but in their minds he became a part of that world when he died.”Dvorak does not claim to know what happened to Hastings. Asked if she believes it is possible that the government had him killed, she says, “It’s absolutely possible they could do something like that. “The more I find out about this, the more I’m convinced something happened,” she says. “But we are never gonna get someone from a federal agency raising their hand saying, ‘It was me, I’m sorry.’?”

Jonathan Kay, author of Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground, says the Hastings case is typical of conspiracies that can crop up around anyone who dies after being involved in controversial events. “Every time someone connected with 9/11 dies, for instance, I get emails telling me that this is part of the cover-up of the ‘inside job’ perpetrated by the Bush administration,” Kay says. What theorists do not recognize, Kay says, is that “the U.S. government does not go around killing journalists who happen to be investigating it.”

That said, Hastings likely had reason to be concerned about government surveillance. “I cannot count the number of times I’ve had my communications recorded, my computers ‘read,’?” Michael Ware says. “I’ve had transcripts read back to me of some of my conversations.” Hastings was working on a story about the CIA, and communicating with people abroad who were critical of the agency. It would not be a stretch to imagine that his calls really were being recorded. “It’s possible Michael was of interest to the intelligence agencies,” Robertson says. “If they were interested, they would own your communications. They could do that.” But that line of thinking can be “very dangerous,” Robertson adds. “Being of interest to the intelligence agencies is like doing a bunch of really awful speed,” he says. “Since you’re in a world of uncertainty, your mind races.” In that situation, marijuana may only have compounded the problem. “It would not be wise to go expose yourself to combat and then smoke a ton of extremely potent pot,” Robertson says. “Certain things are not good to do.” MORE

MOTHER JONES: Dvorak’s other theories are just as questionable. She claimed on air that the engine of Hastings’ Mercedes C250 coupe had been found behind the crash site, which would have been impossible with the forward velocity of an ordinary accident. The engine was found in front of the crash site. Her suggestion that a grainy video of the crash showed evidence of a “pre-explosion” sabotage has been dismissed by car experts. She has also reported that the intensity of the resulting fire might suggest the use of thermite accelerants—a popular theory among 9/11 truthers who believe thermite was used to melt the World Trade Center towers’ steel columns. She’s written credulously about the theory that President Barack Obama may not have been born in the United States. And Dvorak has repeated speculation by Richard Clarke, the former Bush- and Clinton-era counterterrorism czar, that Hastings’ car’s computer system may have been remotely hacked—something that’s technically possible but highly unlikely.

Dvorak also thinks the LAPD’s refusal to turn over information about its investigation is evidence of a conspiracy. “Despite the LAPD’s categorization of the Hasting[s] fatal accident as [not involving foul play],” she wrote, the police continue to ignore “requests made by San Diego 6 News for the police report, 9/11 call, autopsy, bomb squad and toxicology reports, or make the Mercedes available for inspection.” The police department’s reluctance to comply with Dvorak’s requests “only fuels conjecture,” she added. Dvorak recently received the 911 calls, which she suspects the LAPD may have given her to defy federal officials who are covering up the investigation, and says she’s enlisted the help of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog group funded by billionaire media mogul Richard Mellon Scaife, as she continues to file public records requests with local and federal agencies.

“I’m going out on a limb reporting this,” Dvorak tells Mother Jones when asked about her theories. “Journalists are becoming so irrelevant right now.” As Dvorak sees it, the story of Hastings’ crash must be told, even though she says she’s received death threats over her reporting, and no other journalists are interested in telling it. She hasn’t ruled out the possibility that the “stars could have aligned” and resulted in a tragic accident. But she says she remains suspicious that Hastings may have “faked his death” or been assassinated. “Whether it turns out to be true or not, that’s a whole other issue,” she adds. (San Diego 6’s news director, Irv Kass, who also writes for, did not respond to requests for comment.) […]

Dvorak is a “fucking disgrace,” Matt Farwell, a writer and friend of Hastings who is finishing his Brennan profile for an upcoming issue of Rolling Stone, told WhoWhatWhy. Farwell wants Hastings’ death to be investigated, but “unless it’s good solid shoe leather journalism…it’s not helping anyone,” he said. “It makes the LAPD and the feds go into closed-off mode and makes people not want to say anything.” MORE