Opinion: Sandy Hook ‘truthers’ made me lose hope

Jody Michael

Jody Michael

Jody Michael is a senior news major and opinion editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

I have lost hope in humanity. Last month’s Sandy Hook shooting was bad enough for my optimism, but the final blow came from the spread of a related conspiracy video on YouTube that reached eight million views within a week, as well as countless similar videos hurtling through social media.

The assertion from these “truthers,” as they’re being called, is that the shooting was staged — that President Obama’s administration hired actors to pull off a sophisticated, well-rehearsed fake shooting that would terrify the media and the public so greatly that he would attain the support needed to abolish the right to bear arms.

I know our government has done some appalling, horrible things in the past. Watergate comes to mind; the Pentagon Papers were another. My dismissal of the Sandy Hook conspiracy is not due to an absolute trust of everything the government says and does. The claims just do not pass the smell test. I wish that were enough to dispel the rumor, but the truthers don’t necessarily notice the holes in their story.

There was no second shooter; it was a parent whom police briefly handcuffed because he had been hurriedly roaming the school searching for his daughter. The school nurse was not fake; she appears online in a Newtown Patch story from 2010.

The claim that parents of the dead kids weren’t sad enough to be real is remarkable. When a younger brother of mine passed away when I was seven, the lone time I cried was at the very end of his funeral. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t upset. Granted, I probably would have cried more if some loathsome person had asserted that my ability to hold myself together was proof I was an actor.

Another conspiracy is that one deceased young girl is the exact same person as the sister who posed with Obama at the Newtown vigil wearing her sister’s dress. So siblings never look alike or share each other’s clothes? (I have an identical twin brother, so I could go on for hours about how stupid this allegation is.)

Further questions in the conspiracy involve Google, which time-stamps some Web pages about the shooting as having appeared on the Internet long before it happened. But the same thing happens for every breaking news story ever. I did a Google search for Web pages from 2009 about the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, which just broke Wednesday, and it gave me hundreds of results. The Google time stamps have never been reliable.

But the best way to debunk this theory is to actually spend four seconds thinking about how such a staged shooting would even work. How exactly would the government go about hiring and auditioning crisis actors while keeping it completely secret? We know Lance Armstrong was doping because his teammates spilled the beans. We know Te’o’s girlfriend didn’t exist because a friend of a friend spilled the beans. Are we to believe that not a single crisis actor has even one gun-supporting acquaintance that would speak out? Also, knowing that surely at least some of the millions of executive branch employees support gun rights and would be furious if the shooting were orchestrated, how could Obama hide that from all of them, or at least somehow prevent them from blabbing? Like I said, it doesn’t pass the smell test.

I first heard about the conspiracy video earlier this week; it had become viral enough that Salon and Gawker published some reports about it. I assured myself it was clearly implausible and that only a few dreadfully gullible people would believe it. But the number of views kept swelling. It finally arrived on my Facebook news feed Wednesday night./p>

My reaction fluctuated. I was sad the video existed in the first place, then angry at the sheer quantity of people who fell for it. But maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, many of the Sandy Hook truthers also seem to believe at least one of the following: that a repeal of the Second Amendment will actually pass in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and three-fourths of the states; that Obama will circumvent the lawmaking process and simply begin a gun ban that would somehow never become a Supreme Court case; or that the government would actually start sending agents to people’s homes to take their guns, expecting such an operation would be fully successful and not end with a bunch of agents getting shot and killed.

I’m that guy who replies to that false chain letter you shared by sending you the Snopes link that proves it wrong. To some, I’m probably annoying. But I’m justifiably baffled by how many people still pay attention to that stuff without even attempting to assess its accuracy. I wished it would stop. Now I’m resigned to the fact that it never will.