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Barkun quoted in piece on TWA 800 conspiracy theories

July 9, 2021

Michael Barkun

Michael Barkun

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded in midair off the coast of Long Island. As quickly as the wreckage plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, questions arose. Conspiracy theories took shape. Twenty-five years later, the questions and conspiracies live on, despite National Transportation Safety Board officials concluding that an electrical failure ignited fuel vapors in a nearly empty tank in the belly of the jet. Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science, says internet forums and social media platforms have served as mass media outlets without gatekeepers. They allow unconventional ideas to quickly become mainstream. "Now anyone with an idea, no matter how bizarre, has a way of potentially getting it in front of fairly large audiences," he says. "That has eroded what was once a firm boundary between the fringe and the mainstream." Read more in the article, "‘First conspiracy of the internet age’ lives on 25 years after TWA Flight 800 exploded." 

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