The Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theory has unfortunately been around since about a month after the shootings occurred, thanks in part to a hugely popular YouTube video and sites like InfoWars.
The truth of the matter is that 20 children, six adults, and the shooter's own mother died that day in December 2012, but that's not what the theories would have you to believe.
About a month after the Newtown shootings, the YouTube piece was viewed 10 million times. In the nearly two years since Slate debunked that piece, it has picked up an additional 1.5 million views.
I thought we as a society were about rid of it until earlier this week when a friend on my Facebook list shared it from Political Ears, one of the numerous conspiracy sites polluting the web.
"FBI REPORT: NO DEATHS AT SANDY HOOK," the headline screamed in all-caps. "WAS EXERCISE, MISREPORTED, CREATED CRISIS."
Normally, I would shake my head and move on, but this was someone close to me, a female family member whom I thought had enough sense to check out something so outrageous before dumping it onto her feed.
To say my respect level for her dropped a few points would be an understatement. Sandy Hook was not a hoax, and suggesting that to be the case is beyond irresponsible. In fact, it's downright offensive.
Unfortunately, it isn't alone. Birth certificate truthers, 9/11 truthers, Holocaust truthers -- if there is something that can be exploited for political gain, the reassurance of one's personal beliefs, or even mere attention and shock value, it will be.
That's why I'm writing to you, good reader, with some suggestions for how you can quickly and effectively put a stop to it, even if you at first are taken off-guard and half-believe what you are reading.
(There will be no charge for this.)
For starters, if you're using Facebook, check the related stories. Had my family member done this before sharing the idiotic Sandy Hook hoax story, she would have seen this:
The Snopes article is an in-depth brutal beatdown of this theory; naturally, the conspiracy sites have not offered rebuttal.
Also, be sure to consider the source of the article you are about to share. Bring some due diligence to the table and open up a new tab or browser. Type in something like "Sandy Hook hoax." Start intentionally seeking out articles or videos that take a contrarian approach to the initial article. Even if you still have a hunch that Obama is from Kenya or that Bush ordered 9/11, you should have enough of an understanding on both sides of the argument before sharing something with your friends and followers that could later make you look like an idiot.
Finally, if you're incapable of doing Nos. 1 or 2, deactivate your account. Seriously. If you have a friend/follower/family member that you care about who can't seem to stop posting ignorant news stories, stage a brief intervention. Send them a private message that says, "Hey, that's been debunked, you might want to remove it," along with a link to the actual debunking. With your help, stories like the Sandy Hook hoax and the other conspiracies mentioned here will be gone for good, and you'll have a humbler, wiser friend to show for it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a message I have to send.