The Associated Press has published an article debunking the conspiracy theory that a recent ammunition purchase by the Social Security Administration (SSA) signaled an attempt by the Obama administration to impose tyranny upon the American people. AP reporter Stephen Ohlemacher identified conspiracy website InfoWars.com and the right-wing online publication The Daily Caller as prominent pushers of the theory.
It didn't take long for the Internet to start buzzing with conspiracy theories after the Social Security Administration posted a notice that it was purchasing 174,000 hollow-point bullets.
Why is the agency that provides benefits to retirees, disabled workers, widows and children stockpiling ammunition? Whom are they going to use it on?
"It's not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest," the website Infowars.com said.
Another website, The Daily Caller, said the bullets must be for use against American citizens, "since the SSA has never been used overseas to help foreign countries maintain control of their citizens."
The clamor became such a distraction for the agency that it dedicated a website to explaining the purchase. The explanation, it turns out, isn't as tantalizing as an arms buildup to defend against unruly senior citizens.
The bullets are for Social Security's office of inspector general, which has about 295 agents who investigate Social Security fraud and other crimes, said Jonathan L. Lasher, the agency's assistant IG for external relations.
The agents carry guns and make arrests - 589 last year, Lasher said. They execute search warrants and respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees and customers.
Agents carry .357 caliber pistols, Lasher said. The bullets, which add up to about 590 per agent, are for the upcoming fiscal year. Most will be expended on the firing range.
On August 28, Media Matters called attention to a Daily Caller opinion piece by retired U.S. Army Major General Jerry Curry, who theorized that that each piece of ammunition purchased by the SSA "represents a dead American."
Curry speculated that the SSA ammunition could be used in a plot to kill members of the military and replace them with individuals loyal to the president. He then focused on other ammunition purchases by the federal government, suggesting that a larger ammunition purchase by the Department of Homeland Security constituted "enough ammunition to empty five rounds into the body of every living American citizen."