Sandy Hook 'truthers' harass Newtown man, conspiracy theories go viral
Sandy Hook truthers have attacked Gene Rosen, who took in six terrified children right after the shooting. The conspiracy theories stem from a distrust of government and media, among other things.
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Just days after 20 first-graders and six adults were shot and killed at the school in Newtown, Conn., alternative theories and wild claims began circulating. In recent days, one Newtown man who helped survivors of the shooting has come under attack.
Some of the conjectures have arisen out of distrust of the government and media outlets. In other cases, they've gotten traction because they offer an explanation, when the "why" of the shooting has been elusive. A desire to deflect blame, for example away from guns, could also be at work.
In almost all instances, the Internet has been key to the claims' proliferation.
“The Web seems to be the new home of the conspiracy theory. It’s where conspiracy theories live, because the Web is so good at virally spreading around these kinds of little stories,” says Jeffrey L. Pasley, an associate professor of history at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he teaches a class on conspiracy theories.
Individuals questioning the mainstream account of events have already been dubbed Sandy Hook truthers. They're turning to websites like SandyHookHoax.com, questionable photos, and YouTube videos that take issue with reporting on the day of the shooting.
One person the truthers have zeroed in on is Gene Rosen, a Newtown man who took in six terrified students the morning of the shooting. He gave interviews to various media outlets afterward, and since then, he's been accused of being an actor paid to play a part. Fake Facebook profiles have been created in his name, and footage of the interviews with him has been edited and reposted, purportedly proving that Mr. Rosen is an actor.
“I don’t know what to do,” Rosen, a retired psychologist, told Salon. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting e-mails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘How much am I being paid?' ”
The underlying theme in all the theories is that the media, the government, and Obama administration specifically either manipulated or orchestrated the shooting to move political opinion on gun control. In particular, a comprehensive truther video focuses on discrepancies in initial reporting about the number and types of guns used by Adam Lanza.
Conspiracy theories are often used as a way of deflecting blame, Professor Pasley says. “If you’re a gun owner, you don’t want it all blamed on your group. So you adopt a conspiracy theory that blames it on someone else,” he says.
“Naturally people start coming up with different stories that aren’t about how having a house full of weapons is likely to lead to some sort of tragedy,” Pasley adds.