The shooting that occurred in Newtown, CT took the lives of 27, plus the shooter himself. Most of the victims were young children. For a small town in a small state, the loss and grief is enormous. In time, the event will fade from the headlines, but for the community, the tragedy will linger much longer. It will likely be more than a year before the town even begins to return to normal and the shooting stops dominating the lives of those who live in the area. Of course, for those who lost loved ones, things never really will return to normal. The grief will be life-long and time will only dull, but never remove the sense of loss.
Unfortunately, the process of recovering from the horrible tragic events of December 14 has only been made worse by the rise of conspiracy theories and the invasive and disrespectful actions of conspiracy theorists and self-pointed “investigators.”
The conspiracy theories basically claim one of three things:
- Adam Lanza was somehow under the control of the government or that his actions were the result of government influences
- Adam Lanza was not the murderer. He was just a scapegoat and the deaths were actually purported by the government. Some claim Adam Lanza was not even a real person or that he had died some time ago and the identity was assumed into the fictional character created to be the perpetrator.
- The shooting never happened. It was all staged. The victims may not even be real people at all, but just characters made up for the false story.
The motives put forward for such a conspiracy are predictable: that the massacre would result in an outcry for more school security, more gun control and more law enforcement powers and that this would allow the government to take away rights from the people to a degree that would not otherwise be accepted. Some claim that other recent shootings, such as the one in Aurora Colorado are proof that the government has begun a program of planned or staged massacres with the intention of convincing the public to submit to greater government authority, ultimately leading to all out fascism.
The claims of “evidence” of a conspiracy vary considerably. One of the most common claims is that the reports are conflicting or that the information given does not fit the events. Indeed, early news reports did indicate everything from the possibility of a second shooter to the suspect apparently being apprehended. Recordings of two-way radio traffic demonstrate that police officers may have believed that the suspect had fled or that the circumstances were different. This is very typical for such a chaotic and sudden event. It did indeed take some time to ascertain the actual circumstances. Others are that apparent victims have been seen alive or that some of those killed or involved have some kind of connection to the government.
Latest American conspiracy theory claims Newtown mass shooting a hoax
WASHINGTON – The United States has long been a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists, spurred by an often violent history riddled, in particular, with shadowy political assassinations.
But the latest conspiracy movement seems custom-made to underscore the need for a national debate on mental illness. Some of the Sandy Hook Truthers, as they’ve been dubbed, believe last month’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.
The Obama administration perpetrated the hoax, the conspiracy theorists claim, in order to ratchet up support for tougher gun control measures.
They call themselves Operation Terror, and many of the movement’s adherents appear to have ties to the so-called 9-11 truthers who have long held that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job by the George W. Bush administration.
Their theories on the Dec. 14 shooting in Sandy Hook appear to lack any basis in fact, reality or common sense. But Google Trends suggests the movement is gaining momentum with both a Florida college professor and a libertarian Fox News anchor in Cincinnati questioning the official narrative on the events.
On various websites and blogs, some Sandy Hook truthers crow about the “smoking gun” they say proves the shooting was a hoax — a photo of President Barack Obama, backstage at a Newtown vigil two days after the shooting, a young blonde girl sitting on his lap.
They insist the girl is six-year-old Emilie Parker, one of the 20 child victims of the shooting. The Sandy Hook truthers claim her parents slipped up in their participation in the hoax, and allowed their eldest daughter to cuddle up to Obama.
“The story that she was killed at Sandy Hook is not possible, because here she is sitting on the president’s lap after the shooting,” intones the narrator of a YouTube video, one of dozens of its kind, this one the recipient of more than 260,000 web hits.
In fact, it’s the dead girl’s little sister.
Although I doubt my word will count for much, I can assure readers that Emilie Parker was real and died that day. No, I did not know her or her family, but I know people who do, and unless I have several personal friends and acquaintances who are already deeply involved in the conspiracy, she did indeed loose her life.
Many of the conspiracy theorists are of the standard variety: the same group that claims 9/11 was an inside job and spends most of their time listening to Alex Jones and posting on various conspiracy-oriented boards and making poorly edited youtube videos. However, one of them has gained more attention because of his background as a professor. James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, has become the most prominent mouthpiece for conspiracy theorists with his accusations that the entire event was staged and his pledge to personally investigate the circumstances. Later, he did concede that some people died, but maintains that the scale and circumstances are false and the shooting was caused by a massive conspiracy.
Conspiracy theory professor who said Sandy Hook tragedy never happened NOW concedes some ‘people undoubtedly died
The so-called ‘Nutty Professor’ who said the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting never happened is now willing to concede some people, indeed, lost their lives in the tragedy.
But James Tracy, a Florida Atlantic University tenured communications professor, is only seemingly willing to meet his many detractors half-way in their demands for outright contrition.
‘There are certainly people that lost their loved ones, there is no doubt of that,’ Tracy tells WLRN in Miami.
‘If a similar tragedy were visited upon me and my family, I would be beside myself,’ he reportedly said.
‘But I think one of my ways of healing would be attempting to find out what went wrong, where was the failure.’
The 47-year-old professor suggested on his blog – memoryholeblog.com – the massacre at the least did not unfold in the way authorities said it did, and may not have happened at all.
‘While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place—at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described,’ he wrote.
‘As documents relating to the Sandy Hook shooting continue to be assessed and interpreted by independent researchers there is a growing awareness that the media coverage of the massacre of 26 children and adults was intended primarily for public consumption to further larger political ends,’ he wrote on his blog.
Tracy has seemingly based his allegations largely on the flurry of conflicting media reports released during the hectic day.
Tracy is a professor of communications. He has academic tenure, and this puts Florida Atlantic University in a difficult position. Academic tenure prevents schools from terminating or taking action against professors except in specific circumstances, where they have directly violated contractual obligations – such as not showing up for classes or failing to do other basic duties of their job or engaging in directly inappropriate behavior. Tenure exists for a reason: its purpose is to foster a free and open academic environment, where professors do not need to worry about university politics interfering with their ability to freely teach, publish and conduct research.
Unfortunately, in circumstances like that of Tracy, tenure can result in a university being unable to dismiss a faculty member who is an embarrassment to the institution. FAU would just as soon wash its hands of the “nutty professor” and many are outraged by the fact that he is receiving money from a taxpayer-funded institution. An investigation has been opened by the university, but it’s not entirely clear whether they will be able to make a case for his termination. Tracy has been asked to resign and has refused.
With or without Tracy at the head, there is clearly a growing group of “Newtown Shooting Truthers” who will not go away. A youtube search shows hundreds of videos on the subject have already been posted.
Here is one example, pretty typical of the kind of videos and claims being made:
So what we have here is a combination of errors made by the news media early on and a few made by officials (for example, the medical examiner who was under the impression that a different gun was used, although at the time the ballistic evidence had not been processed and the investigation was only begining.) We also see images of parents and others reacting to the shock of the events with confused emotions.
In fact, during times of extreme emotional stress, shock and grief, it is quite normal for individuals to show confused and rapidly changing emotions. In such high stress situations, it is quite normal to see people go from completely composed to crying hysterically and back again in a brief period of time. While it may seem highly inappropriate, laughter and apparently being happy is a well known phenomena seen in those who are first dealing with loss. Some of these initial responses are simply the brain trying to deal with a severe emotional overload.
Newtown locals and families of victims being harassed:
Being accused of being part of a conspiracy or having their recent losses and trauma questioned is difficult enough for those close to the shooting.
Many of the conspiracy theorists have targeted 69 year old Gene Rosen, a retired psychologist living in Newtown. Rosen lives a short distance from the Sandy Hook school. On the morning of the shooting, he was coming out of his garage, where he had been feeding his cats, when he saw a group of six young children sitting on his lawn and one adult standing over them, in an apparently frantic state. The six children were students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who had fled the school when the shooting occurred and the adult was a school bus driver who had ushered the children away from the school to the relative safety of the nearby residential neighborhood. The six children were the only survivors from Victoria Soto’s classroom, where their teacher and other classmates were all shot dead.
Rosen did what any reasonable human would do. He invited the children and the bus driver into his home and attempted to provide them with some comfort, offering them juice and his grandchildrens’ stuffed animals while he called the authorities. The school bus driver contacted the busing company, which was able to provide the cell phone numbers of the student’s parents. The children were sheltered at the home for about an hour and a half before their parents were located and came to pick them up. Shortly after the last child was picked up, the parents of one of the deceased children knocked at Rosen’s door, having heard that some of the children had fled to his home and hoping that their son might be amongst those who had survived.
As one might expect, Rosen has been deeply impacted by the shock and trauma of that day and being thrust into the media spotlight by no choice of his own. He has generally been commended for his actions, although he has been dismissive of being called a hero, instead pointing to the bravery of the children who maintained their composure and stayed together after escaping the school. Unfortunately, Mr. Rosen has also become the target of numerous conspiracy theorists, who have gone so far as to harass him in person.
Gene Rosen sheltered six kids during the Sandy Hook massacre. Now he’s become a target of conspiracy theorists
“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?”
“The quantity of the material is overwhelming,” he said. So much so that a friend shields him from most of it by doing daily sweeps of the Web so Rosen doesn’t have to. His wife is worried for their safety. He’s logged every email and every call, and consulted with a retired state police officer, who took the complaint seriously but said police probably can’t do anything at the moment; he plans to do the same with the FBI.
The harassment has gotten far worse than just phone calls and e-mails, however. A number of conspiracy theorists have gone out of their way to post his personal information online, including his address, personal telephone number and information about his family. There are some Youtube videos that show his info and how to get to his home. I will not post them, but they are easy enough to find. Mr. Rosen has been harassed so badly he now worries about his own safety, given the fact that his address has been so widely published. After retirement, Rosen had earned extra income by running a pet-sitting business, but his website has been flooded by harassing e-mails disguised as requests for pet sitting services.
While Gene Rosen may be the most visible victim of harassment, he is not the only one. The families of the victims have kept quiet about the extent to which they have been harassed, and the Connecticut State police have worked to shield their privacy and assure their safety, but a few family members have also been targeted. The fact that most of the families were previously low profile, and thus did not make any effort to have unlisted phone numbers and hidden their addresses can make this difficult.
Robbie Parker, who lost his daughter Emilie has been singled out by a number of conspiracy theorists. A video called “Robbie Parker Exposed” has gone viral. (no I won’t link to it) On some websites, extreme conspiracy theorists have called for an “open bounty” on Robbie Parker – an extremely disturbing and directly threatening action. Others who have been the subject of harassment and accusations include Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, who lost their daughter Ana and Nicole Holkey, who lost her son Dylan. The family and friends of teacher Victoria Soto, who died in the attack have also been accused of being part of a conspiracy. Not surprisingly, Adam Lanza’s father and extended family have kept a very low profile and received protection due to concern over threats.
The fact that so many are facing harassment is deeply disturbing and the possibility that they may be in danger of violence makes it even worse.
It is important to remember that everyone responds to this kind of shock and grief differently, and their reaction cannot be used as evidence of anything. For some, the experience is so shocking that they show little emotion at first or seem to respond with an unexpected lack of sorrow. Others become immediately emotional. For some, the tragic events may make them feel a drive to activism or to speak out for policy changes.
Of course, many will avoid the media spotlight and try to maintain their privacy, but it is also not unusual for those who have experienced loss to actively seek the opertunity to speak publicly about their loved one. This is especially true of parents. Having lost a child who they were so proud of, they may feel a deep desire to let the world know how great they believed their child was and to memorialize their loved ones publicly. Some wish to be completely alone and others want constant support and companionship.
None of these responses are wrong, inappropriate or evidence of deception. Regardless of how they have reacted to the death of loved ones, those involved in the Sandy Hook shooting should have their wishes respected and be left alone unless they indicate a desire to be contacted. These conspiracy theories are especially shameful. Hopefully those who crossed the line to direct harassment and threats will be dealt with severely by law enforcement.
NOTE: There are a few major sites now dedicated to this conspiracy theory. You can easily find them with Google if you wish.
This entry was posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2013 at 7:04 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Conspiracy Theories, Culture, Events, media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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