When a young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school and shot multiple bullets into small children in a 1st grade classroom I could not fully believe it. I checked to see if it was a town where a friend lived and it wasn’t, I moved on. Later a colleague said a bunch of kids were shot. I clicked into it and found some of the story. Again, I didn’t believe it. I wanted to think this was the cable news trying to rush news to air quickly and not accurately. But that night when I saw the news, when I read the reports, when I heard local officials speaking about it, I believed. In the days that followed I saw the deconstruction of what was again bad reporting, the number of guns, which ones, how many shooters, where it happened, who were the players. This has become common in a culture where the news is always on and crisis news is the bread and butter of what passes for journalism on the internet and television. Many news sources reported wildly inaccurate information as fact, but those mistakes were explainable by the sloppiness of the journalists. However others saw it as sign of something nefarious.
To my surprise, horror and shock there is an entire segment of the internet dedicated to what are being called Sandy Hook truthers. That is right, like 9-11, there are people that almost immediately started calling the events a hoax. There are many different theories. One says that no one was killed and the parents and others in the news are actors citing, among other things, the way the parents acted in private moments caught on camera, or before speaking of their children. The extent of this is to suggest no one is actually dead, again citing a photo of one of the victim’s sisters on the President’s lap asking if this isn’t the girl who was murdered. One says that it was a government action, that it was CIA operatives who did the killing. The reason for these? The President wants gun control. Oh course so does a majority of the country and while the numbers have gone up since Sandy Hook, this was not an issue on the President’s agenda. But there it is. My favorite conspiracy is that it was Mossad agents, attacking the United States to hurt the President for a number of things, including the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. The idea being that Israel was upset that Hagel has had a real vocal past that some perceive as anti-Israel.
Like most conspiracy theories a hidden bad guy has been uncovered by a tireless person by linking together a variety of factoids, strange coincidences and outright falsehoods. In these stories about Sandy Hook wild accusations are leveled based on the thinnest of evidence, but that is always true for a conspiracy yarn. But there is something that I can only say is sinister about these people who are promoting these so-called theories. The one about Israel is par for the course. In the last 2000 years Jews have been blamed from everything from the fall of Rome to the plague to 9-11 to Hurricane Katrina. I think the fact that a 6 year old Jewish kid was killed was the only thing that didn’t have a whole slew of people saying that the Jews were warned. But that is not the worst of it. The one thing about some of the conspiracy theorists is how comfortable they are attacking the people who lost children. In many of the videos on the net there are claims that the families of the victims are paid actors and the evidence is the way they mourn, they way they talk and the fact they smile. One person actually says that it is no way that a person who lost their child would act. How would this guy know? Seriously is there a book that could teach him that? And if that was all there was it would be horrible but there is a weirder part of these theories. In a video that has over 10 million hits one guy suggests that one of the children killed, Emilie Parker, isn’t dead and that her wake, funeral and grave are all a hoax. In fact the evidence is a picture of the President meeting with the family. A child on the lap of the President looks like Emile and is wearing the same dress from a photo pulled from the families online photo album. Now it is clear to anyone the picture is of Emilie’s younger sister who also had the same style of dress, but for the conspiracy theories. Their need for special knowledge does not allow for them to practice common decency and now if you Google Emile’s name the first several hits are questioning whether she is still alive. So to be clear, the parents of a dead child are not only being questioned about their emotions on camera but the memory of their dead daughter will always be tainted by the fact that so many people will continue to believe she is still alive, hidden from view and being exploited for some kind of policy goal. I can’t even imagine.
There was a time when this kind of stuff was roundly rejected by ordinary people. It wasn’t that long ago when these kinds of reactions were met with more skepticism especially when it involved the death of ordinary citizens. But massive distrust of government, the news and of course each other has led to a rampant paranoia that finds a home on the internet and is perpetuated by massive ignorance coupled by the ability to distill massive information of into whatever we want it to say. Conspiracy has become mainstream, be it Donald Trump’s birtherism, Wayne LaPierre’s ignorant zealotry, or even the members of Congress who repeat lies about things like the Affordable Care Act. We must reject this, wherever it comes from. Ten million people watched this disgusting video, if all who saw it for what it was told two friends to respond we could make it go away. But even more so we must do the same when a member of a lobbying group, or political campaign or member of Congress lies. As I finish this up I am watching Mr. LaPirerre lie about the President to the NRA. I look forward to someone taking this clown apart, he is no better than the person to made the video and gun owners should feel ashamed.