In recent weeks, Sandy Hook conspiracy theories have cut into an ever growing share of attention focused on the tragedy, with many on the web “questioning the official narrative” regarding the sad event — positing that the Newtown school massacre didn’t happen as reported or, as they have also suggested, didn’t happen at all.
The Sandy Hook conspiracy crowd has been referred to as “Sandy Hook truthers,” and, in a digital age, they amplify their message via Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook as they connect with one another and share theories and conjecture about the tragic murders at the Connecticut elementary school.
The Inquisitr has addressed these Sandy Hook conspiracy theories individually in separate and cumulative posts. The “evidence” ranges, including but not limited to, levels of grief deemed improper from parents of the murdered children, the involvement of Newtown resident Gene Rosen (who sheltered six children that fled from the school and has subsequently been harassed by Sandy Hook truthers), the seeming pre-event existence of websites and Facebook accounts memorializing the victims and raising funds, and the alleged involvement of “crisis actors” on the scene in Newtown and in subsequent media appearances during which they purport to be witnesses or grieving parents.
Sandy Hook conspiracy theories are, under a modicum of critical consideration, an amalgamation of conjecture, faulty reasoning, inaccurate early reporting, and ignorance about the mechanics of the workings of Google — but despite their flimsy premise and ultimately vague end-game, Sandy Hook truthers seem to be growing in rather than declining in number — even drawing in MLB star Denard Span, who tweeted yesterday:
I was watching some controversial stuff on YouTube about the sandy hooks thing today! It really makes u think and wonder
— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) January 16, 2013
In the realm of conspiracy — whether it’s Sandy Hook truthers, Birthers, 9/11 deniers or otherwise — some common behaviors and attributes exist including a strong level of resistance to any evidence that conflicts with their worldview. Another is the lack of clear direction in conjecture like the Sandy Hook conspiracy — no clear picture ever emerges, and doubts are sold to the gullible through the guise of narrative questioning.
After the Sandy Hook conspiracy phenomenon blew up, Skeptical Inquirer‘s Benjamin Radford spoke to the Huffington Post, telling the site that the “questions” frame makes the subterfuge line easy to buy as the simple act of asking questions in and of itself is not problematic:
“The video begins with something that really everybody can accept — ‘We are just raising questions,’ … The whole subject is framed like, ‘Don’t look at us, we’re not saying this crazy stuff, we’re just asking questions.'”
As Radford explains above, Sandy Hook conspiracy merchants are then absolved (at least in their own minds) of responsibility for their rhetoric, jettisoning their role in promoting baseless theories as just curiosity. He illustrates:
“All they offer are tantalizing ‘could be’s’ … The classic conspiracy theorist sees the hidden hand in everything. Nothing is as it seems. There’s something bigger that’s going on. They dont know where it is, but they are willing to tantalize people and throw out any number of suggestions, which are oftentimes contradictory.”
David Mikkelson, one half of the internet urban legend busting team behind Snopes, has seen a few conspiracy theories in his long tenure getting to the bottom of things on the web. Commenting to HuffPo, Mikkelson explains that the Sandy Hook truther trend is not unlike those that came before it and that the conflicting reports in the news do not a massive global conspiracy make.
“In any kind of disaster or tragedy like this, if you go through things with a fine-toothed comb, you will find a number of contradictory statements … Of course, most of them are cleared up within a few days of the initial reporting, but it’s not something you’re going to see in these [conspiracy] videos.”
Both Mikkelson and Radford speak to one weak Sandy Hook conspiracy theory that murdered student Emilie Parker later appeared during a photo-op with President Obama in Newtown. (The child depicted was actually the younger sister of Emilie.)
Putting aside the obvious question of why the government would be so sophisticated as to pull off a world-tricking Sandy Hook conspiracy but overlook a key detail like hiding one of the alleged false victims, the pair explain that this sort of claim is common in “truther” rhetoric. Radford told HuffPo:
“They’ll see things that have double meanings … What the rest of us see [in that photo] is Emilie Parker’s sister, but they’re looking at the exact same photograph and they are interpreting it very differently.”
“You can get a lot of mileage out of vague physical similarities.”
Of Sandy Hook conspiracy pushers, fellow skeptic DJ Grothe says that the conclusions are often wrong even if the base evidence is correct. Citing a human desire to make sense of the nonsensical, Grothe says Sandy Hook truthers and their brethren in other, similar groups often make the mistake of assuming that all the pieces are part of a larger thing, which is not always the case:
“Political conspiracy theorists are completely wrong [in their conclusions], but they’re not crazy … The leading conspiracy theorists … are right on many of their initial factual claims. Depending on what the theory is, they might even be correct in all of their claims. Where they are wrong is connecting the dots that aren’t there.”
Despite a wealth of evidence to cast doubt on claims of a Sandy Hook conspiracy, the truther movement seems to grow louder each day.