By Doug Porter
Sane people had their hearts broken four years ago today. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza first shot and killed his mother, then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, opened fire and killed 20 children and six staff members before killing himself.
The massacre in Newtown Connecticut was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. It was also, as New York magazine points out, “the first major American tragedy subjected to the full force of the internet’s conspiratorial machinery in real time.”
Insane (a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction) people adopted this tragedy as the gateway into a fact-free world, brimming with conspiracy theories, and full of hatred for the victims and their families.
A Yuuuge Conspiracy?
One of these “truthers” –Alex Jones– has the ear of the President-elect of the United States. Candidate Trump called in to the radio show of the conspiracy-mongering founder of InfoWars and declared “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”
Even though the original reasoning behind Sandy Hook conspiracy theories –it was to trigger an all-out ban on guns–has failed to come to pass, the madness lives on.
Here’s an item from November 18, 2016, about the man who Donald Trump called after winning the election to thank him for his support, via the Daily Beast:
“Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured,” said Jones. “I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.” (There is absolutely no evidence to support this.)
And on his program Thursday, Jones doubled down on several of his thoroughly debunked Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, including: that CNN’s Anderson Cooper “was using a green screen” to report on the shooting, that Sandy Hook Elementary was “closed years before” the shooting, and that “weird videos” exist of parents fake-grieving.
Keeping Noah Posner From Being Erased
Last month, a 57-year-old Florida woman named Lucy Richards was indicted on charges of sending death threats to Lenny Pozner. He lost his son, Noah at Sandy Hook, and has devoted the last several years of his life to fighting Sandy Hook truthers.
Reeves Wiedeman’s story in New York earlier this fall about Pozner’s battle with the purveyors of these crackpot stories is a must-read.
…When the medical examiner found Noah lying face up in a Batman sweatshirt, his jaw had been blown off. Lenny and his wife, Veronique, raced to the school as soon as they heard the news, but had to wait for hours alongside other parents to learn their son’s fate.
It didn’t take much longer for Pozner to find out that many people didn’t believe his son had died or even that he had lived at all. Days after the rampage, a man walked around Newtown filming a video in which he declared that the massacre had been staged by “some sort of New World Order global elitists” intent on taking away our guns and our liberty. A week later, James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, wrote a blog post expressing doubts about the massacre. By January, a 30-minuteYouTube video, titled “The Sandy Hook Shooting — Fully Exposed,” which asked questions like “Wouldn’t frantic kids be a difficult target to hit?,” had been viewed more than 10 million times.
As the families grieved, conspiracy theorists began to press their case in ways that Newtown couldn’t avoid. State officials received anonymous phone calls at their homes, late at night, demanding answers: Why were there no trauma helicopters? What happened to the initial reports of a second shooter? A Virginia man stole playground signs memorializing two of the victims, then called their parents to say that the burglary shouldn’t affect them, since their children had never existed. At one point, Lenny Pozner was checking into a hotel out of town when the clerk looked up from the address on his driver’s license and said, “Oh, Sandy Hook — the government did that.” Pozner had tried his best to ignore the conspiracies, but eventually they disrupted his grieving process so much that he could no longer turn a blind eye. “Conspiracy theorists erase the human aspect of history,” Pozner said this summer. “My child — who lived, who was a real person — is basically going to be erased.”
What or who could motivate people to do such terrible things? Mike Spies at The Trace has a good idea:
…the conspiracy theories that sprang up after Sandy Hook have been exceptional. Less than a month after the shooting, a video called “The Sandy Hook Shooting — Fully Exposed” had received 10 million views on Youtube. Driving some of these hoaxers, in part, was a panic over new firearms restrictions. An infamous conspiracy theorist named James Fetzer called the Newtown attack a “FEMA drill to promote gun control.” The National Rifle Association laid the groundwork for such sentiments. In February 2012, Wayne Lapierre, the group’s executive vice president, described then-first-term President Obama’s hidden agenda: “Get re-elected and, with no more elections to worry about…erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and excise it from the U.S. Constitution.”
Hold That Thought
Whenever I mention the insane part of the internet, I get emails. San Diego Free Press gets conspiracy-driven comments that go directly into our digital trash can. I’m adding the following to refute those folks as means of discouraging them from making comments on social media that I might not see.
Lest anybody think any of this is harmless fun, consider these voicemail messages left for Lenny Pozner.
More Sandy Hook Thoughts
Here’s a snip from an essay by Abbey Clements, a survivor of the Sandy Hook School shooting and a volunteer leader with the Everytown Survivor Network and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, writing a plea for gun violence prevention at Refinery 29:.
On average, 91 Americans a day are killed by guns, hundreds are injured, and even more are witnesses. The senseless losses in recent years have shaken schools, churches, nightclubs, and homes. Lives are stolen, damaged, and forever changed. Is this the country we want to be?
Ask one teacher you know if schools are the same after the Sandy Hook shooting. They’re not. We have lockdowns, simulations, and a new fear of knowing that shootings can and do happen everywhere, including in K-12 schools.
Ask one professor you know if college life is the same after the tragedies at Virginia Tech and in Isla Vista. They’re not. In nine states — and the gun lobby is fighting for more — colleges are forced to allow guns on campus. What could possibly go wrong?
Despite the predictions about a crazed Black Guy in the White House ordering everybody’s guns to be seized, President Obama reacted as a father, a human being.
Speaking just hours after the massacre, President Obama urged the nation to come together and “take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
“The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” he said in the White House briefing room, pausing to wipe a tear from his eye. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. So our hearts are broken today.”
Stopping the Next Shooting
Sandy Hook Promise, a nonpartisan nonprofit led by family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School four years ago this month has released an amazing video in commemoration of this anniversary.
“When you don’t know what to look for, or can’t recognize what you are seeing, it can be easy to miss warning signs or dismiss them as unimportant. That can lead to tragic consequences,” says Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, who lost her first-grade son Dylan in the Sandy Hook massacre.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 14, 2016
On This Day: 1911 – Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole. He reached the destination 35 days ahead of Captain Robert F. Scott. 1995 – Some 33,000 striking members of the Machinists ended a 69-day walkout at Boeing after winning pay and benefit increases and protections against subcontracting some of their work overseas. 1995 – Classified documents from the White House were released that revealed the FBI had spied on John Lennon and his anti-war activities during the early ’70s in a possible attempt to have Lennon deported.
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