Sandy Hook Truth, 9 months later

It has been about seven months since I first looked at the Sandy Hook Truth movement, an assortment of individuals who believe they have uncovered evidence of labyrinthine conspiracies behind the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre.
These intrepid investigators have had nearly nine months to crack the case wide open and tell us who really did the crime, and why. Let’s take a look at what they’ve found by comparing/contrasting aspects of the “official story” with some of their results. After that, I’ll list the Sandy Hook Truth movement’s best evidence.

The Official Story

On the morning of December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, in the home they shared in Newtown, Connecticut. He then drove his mother’s Honda Civic to Sandy Hook Elementary School with four semi-automatic firearms licensed to Nancy. He took three of the guns with him when he entered the school.
Using a  Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, he shot his way into the locked building at approximately 9:35 AM local time. Between that time and about 9:49 AM, he killed principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, teacher Natalie Hammond, first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, teacher’s aide Anne Marie Murphy, substitute first-grade teacher Lauren Rousseau, and 20 students who were 6 years old or younger. 6-year-old Dylan Hockley was autistic. Lanza shot all but two of his child victims multiples times; 6-year-old Noah Pozner was shot 11 times. All of the staff members died trying to stop the gunman or shield their students. Ms. Murphy covered Dylan Hockley’s body with her own. Throughout the school, teachers and faculty members hid children in closets and bathrooms, thereby saving an untold number of lives. 
Six children fled Ms. Soto’s classroom and escaped from the school, making their way to the driveway of a home owned by Gene Rosen.
Before police could reach him, Lanza returned to Soto’s classroom and shot himself in the head with  a Glock 10mm.
His motivation remains obscure, but Lanza reportedly suffered mental and emotional problems that left him socially isolated and unable to work full-time or complete college. Around the time of the massacre, Nancy Lanza told friends she was considering leaving New England and attempting to enroll Adam in college for a third time.
Adam had access to the weapons because his mother was an avid collector who had taught both of her sons how to shoot.

The Truther Stories

The most popular alternate theory of Sandy Hook, by far, is that it was a government operation engineered to push through restrictive gun legislation, psychologically destabilize Americans, make blood sacrifices to the Devil, and/or distract us from “more important” things that are happening.
Some Sandy Hook Truthers agree with the general outline of the official story, but suspect Lanza was a victim of government-sponsored mind control (according to one Truther, Lanza’s mind control programming could be linked to Satanism, the Illuminati and Lady Gaga).
Some Truthers think Lanza may have had accomplices, and this is not completely unsupported speculation, as Connecticut State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky did mention other “potential suspects” when arguing that unsealing warrants in the case could compromise the investigation.
Other Truthers have floated the idea that the shooter was not Adam Lanza, but a man named Scott Vollmer. Vollmer was apparently singled out because his mother Janet taught kindergarten at Sandy Hook, and the school nurse seemingly confirmed to a reporter that the shooter’s mother taught kindergarten at the school (see “The Nurse” under Best Evidence, below). Also, Vollmer is said to be an event manager for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a vocal advocate for increased gun control. In reality, Vollmer was a director of special events for Bloomberg TV’s catering company, Flik International. Not exactly the guy you would handpick as an assassin.
Other alternative suspects include: A three-man Israeli hit team, the FBI, three people in a purple van, and men in the woods (whom Truthers have still not identified; see “The Man in the Woods” under Best Evidence).
But not all Truthers buy into the notion of alternate suspects. For example, YouTube user “ReviewManify” has posted a video titled “There Is No Shooter” in which he discusses – and dismisses – the Vollmer theory before telling us that there is no evidence that even one child died in Sandy Hook Elementary. Funerals and grieving parents notwithstanding, “There ain’t no proof of that.” So, no shooter. Problem…solved?
Florida professor James Tracy came under heavy criticism when he suggested basically the same thing on his Memory Hole blog, but he later clarified in an interview with Miami’s WLRN that he believes some people died at Newtown. He went on to publish his Sandy Hook articles on the website of Global Research, a Canadian outfit that has also declared the Srebrenica massacre a hoax and argued that Rwanda was really a massacre against Hutus, not Tutsis.
There are also Truthers who have argued that Adam Lanza does not exist and Sandy Hook was not actually a school.
The idea that no one died at Sandy Hook has led to the harassment of several people involved in the tragedy. The first person to come under heavy attack from Sandy Hook Truthers, strangely enough, was not a city official or a government agent. He was Gene Rosen, the retired grandfather who sheltered six escaped kids in his house until their parents arrived. For reasons I can’t even begin to fathom, some Truthers decided Mr. Rosen was not only an actor portraying a helpful Newtown resident, but could also be a pedophile, a liar, and/or a government agent. He has allegedly been harassed and slandered by conspiranoids who think he’s a paid “crisis actor” or a Satanist. The anti-Semitic wing of the Sandy Hook Truth movement is certain that Gene Rosen’s ethnicity is a key to his involvement. A YouTube user posted a music video about “creepy Gene”, to the tune of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”. Rosen has also reportedly received threats on his life. Yet not one shred of real evidence has been presented to back up any of these slurs. Truthers tried to prove that Rosen was a professional actor, but that turned out to be a different Gene Rosen.
The official Sandy Hook investigation is ongoing, and the final report may not be released until late autumn. But by the end of February, there was already a bumper crop of Sandy Hook conspiracy documentaries online, including Mark Howitt’s Sandy Hook: The Documentary, “Sandy Hook Massacre: A Closer Look” by Tina Charby (one of several Truthers who has pointed out “suspicious nuns” at Sandy Hook), and Sandy Hook Shooting: Fully Exposed  by “ThinkOutsidetheTV”. That last one went viral, resulting in a long Snopes entry. Press TV (Iran state television) had already decided that Israelis were probably to blame, as had retired professor and conspiracy researcher James Fetzer and the bizarro “anti-Zionist” publication Veterans Today (see Fetzer’s article “Did Mossad Death Squads Slaughter American Children at Sandy Hook?“).
The rush to judgment spawned countless red herrings, like the rumour that Adam Lanza’s father, Peter, was scheduled to testify on the Libor banking scandal at the time of the massacre (here is an example of that rumour in action, from an Infowars forum user). It turned out that Peter Lanza, a GE exec, had no link to the scandal. Max Keiser.com and Occupy Corporatism were among the alternative media outlets that worked to squash this rumour, alleging that it originated with Sorcha Faal, the same peculiar conspiracy-monger who was behind one of the least credible conspiracy theories about Michael Jackson’s death. Another red herring was that Nancy Lanza’s car was actually registered to a man named Christopher Rodia. Truthers went crazy connecting Rodia-Lanza dots (Andrew S. MacGregor even made the Rodia vehicle the linchpin of his FBI-did-Sandy-Hook theory) until blogger Joe Quinn helpfully pointed out that police-scanner references to Rodia had nothing to do with Sandy Hook.

Best evidence

I’m going to leave out the sillier evidence, like the Batman/Sandy Hook connection and the Freemasonic links and the allegations of Satanic ritual sacrifice.

Gun grab
The gun theory of Sandy Hook, which is definitely the most popular one out there, posits that the Powers That Be are so desperate to dismantle the Second Amendment and disarm the people that they stage mass shootings to help ramp up popular support for restrictive firearm legislation.
If that’s the case, then Sandy Hook was a miserable failure. The massacre actually mobilized the pro-gun community, and bills to restrict sales of semiautomatic weaponry and legislate tougher background checks for prospective gun buyers were shot down. In the end, cries of “gun confiscation” were cries of wolf.
There’s no question that elements of both the pro- and the anti-gun lobbies have exploited Sandy Hook and the Aurora incident, but there’s no smoking-gun evidence (no pun) that anyone engineered the massacre just to take away guns. By this logic, any incident involving firearms could be a staged event. And that’s exactly what “media lookalike” proponent Ed Chiarini of Dallas believes; he has stated that not one of the school shootings in the U.S. was a real event. Each and every one was faked.

Actors
The “actor” theory of Sandy Hook holds that no one actually died. The whole thing was an exquisitely stage-managed fake event in which crisis actors and/or other professional performers were hired to portray bereaved family members, eyewitnesses, and even shooting victims.
No one has managed to locate the bogus Sandy Hook students and their families. Are they in Witness Protection? Underground bunkers? Ed Chiarini believes some of them have gone back to work as actors, athletes, and performers. For instance, Robbie Parker (father of 6-year-old victim Emilie Parker) is actually skateboarder Tony Hawk, and the late Emilie is an “actress” who has also “portrayed” the daughters of Bachelorette contestant Emily Maynard and Taylor Armstrong of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Adam’s Lanza’s father, Peter, is really comedian Michael McDonald from MADtv. The part of Lt. J. Paul Vance was played by John Goodman. You get the drift. You can see more of this weirdity on Chiarini’s website.
Henry Makow, a Canadian who used to call his conspiracy site “Save the Males”, believes he can spot the actors’ “handlers” by what kind of purses they carry.
However, many Truthers, like Mark Howitt, dismiss the actor theories as absurd and divisive. Some of them have even become casualties of the theories; Dan Dicks of the Canadian alternative media outlet Press for Truth says he was accused of being a Crisis Actor at one point, and Ed Chiarini has proposed that Sonia of the Truther Girls conspiracy radio show is played by 30 Rock actress Tina Fey. In the description for one of her Sandy Hook-related videos, Sonia sensibly points out that no actor would be foolish enough to impersonate a grieving parent on national television – he/she would instantly be outed by relatives or acquaintances, and if not, recognized during auditions. There goes his/her career. In another Sandy Hook video, Sonia opines that the actor theory provides an easy target for those who wish to undermine Sandy Hook trutherism; who in their right mind is going to believe the Truthers if they go around insisting that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is really Henry Winkler?
Other Truthers, like James Fetzer, are willing to entertain and promote the actor theory without necessarily embracing it. As I have mentioned in my previous posts on Chiarini, I suspect “actor-based reality” theories may be rooted in the Fregoli delusion or something similar.

Sealed case documents and unreleased evidence
This is a prime example of the fallacy that if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Nearly every Sandy Hook Truther has complained at some point in the last nine months that case evidence is being withheld or isn’t being released quickly enough; the authorities must either be hiding it to conceal “what really happened”, or the evidence simply doesn’t exist because nothing happened.
But it is not just the big bad authorities who don’t want the evidence released. The parents of at least three of the child victims have campaigned to prevent case evidence such as crime scene photos from being made public. Dylan Hockley’s mother, Nicole Hockley, said to a Hartford press conference, “What purpose would releasing these documents serve? The shooter is dead and in terms of checking first-responder procedures they have all the information they need. The media won’t learn anything either. I will defend this as long as possible.” Her husband Ian Hockley, Mark and Jackie Barden, and Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene joined her in signing a petition to block the release of certain information related to the murders of their children, including 911 calls. In a letter to the Hartford Courant, Dean Pinto (father of 6-year-old victim Jack Pinto) also urged that the photos and calls not be made public.

If you have to wonder why parents would want to keep crime scene photos and case documents out of the hands of the media, think back to the JonBenet Ramsey case. Did the media use discretion in their handling of autopsy photos and 911 calls? The Globe tabloid triumphantly published six leaked autopsy photos, in full colour. Would you like to see death photos of your murdered child, or friend, or niece, as you stand in line at the grocery store or flip through channels?

The nurse
An unassuming school nurse named Sally Cox has become a central figure in Sandy Hook conspiracy theories.
Because of a large divorce settlement and her son’s educational needs (Adam was mostly homeschooled), Nancy Lanza was not employed. Nonetheless, there were (erroneous) reports that she worked as a schoolteacher. This led to a great deal of confusion in the wake of her son’s spree killings, because there were (erroneous) reports that she was (or had been) employed as a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. There were even (erroneous) reports that Nancy had called in sick that day, and Adam targeted the class she usually taught. Later, there were reports that Nancy may have been a volunteer teacher’s aide for Adam’s class at the school, years earlier.
On the night of December 14, WUSA reporter Andrea McCarren approached Ms. Cox and asked her if she knew the shooter’s mother. Cox affirmed that she did. McCarren then asked her if his mother was known to be a good kindergarten teacher, and Ms. Cox said that she was a very loving woman, good with the children.
Her response truly is a bit baffling, because we now know that Nancy Lanza never worked as a teacher at all, anywhere (she was a stockbroker back in the ’90s). Nor has it been confirmed that she volunteered at Sandy Hook when Adam was enrolled there. It’s quite possible that Cox knew Nancy, but that has never been confirmed, either. Truthers would pounce on this flawed report and some minor inconsistencies in Cox’s accounts of that day, but what does any of it prove? Even if the school nurse lied about knowing Nancy Lanza and/or seeing the gunman – and I’m certainly not saying she did – that would not be evidence of conspiracy.
Another red herring popped up when Truthers revealed that no one named Sally Cox was registered as a nurse in the state, not knowing that “Sally” is an old-fashioned nickname for “Sarah”. Sarah Cox is, indeed, a fully-qualified and registered nurse in the state of Connecticut, and has been employed at Sandy Hook for over 15 years.

The guns and inaccurate media reports 
Initially, there was a lot of confusion as to which guns Lanza used, and where they were found. Sandy Hook Truthers hold up a few apparent discrepancies in the earliest media reports as solid evidence that the entire official story is a sham, ignoring the fact that early reports are often inaccurate. At first, Adam’s older brother Ryan (who was not even in Newtown on the morning of December 14) was reported to be the shooter (which helped spawn conspiracy theories, of course).
There has been extensive analysis of the media gaffes and spectacularly shoddy reporting that occurred in the hours after the massacre (see, for instance, Paul Farhi’s piece in the Washington Post). In my opinion, the bad reporting on that day serves as evidence against a cover-up, because a massive conspiracy would have micromanaged the media, feeding reporters carefully selected tidbits. Instead, it was the usual media free-for-all, with news outlets so desperate to get something – anything – into print or on the air that they seized upon rumours heard from bystanders, statements taken from traumatized witnesses, and other unreliable sources. This is reflective of a general decline in media standards, as far as I’m concerned, but that’s a whole other post.
Some early reports indicated that only two guns had been found inside the school; this was later amended to three guns, with a fourth left in Nancy Lanza’s car. To make things more confusing, some reports stated all four guns were inside the school, and NBC’s Today Show reported that Lanza shot his victims only with handguns.
These early-report errors were soon straightened out, but the Sandy Hook Truthers continue to use them as a foundation rock of their theories. You can see an example of this in a Veterans Today article by Jim Fetzer and Dennis Cimino, in which they highlight “the Bushmaster hoax”.

Emilie Parker’s Dad
Robbie Parker has been raked over the coals by every Sandy Hook Truther on the planet. Why? Because he laughed, and then cried, at a press conference. That’s pretty much it. He was laughing at something when he approached the mic to speak about his murdered 6-year-old daughter, but within seconds he was weeping and speaking emotionally about what his family was going through. Truthers decided this was a performance. Some even suggested that Emilie wasn’t dead at all; she posed with the President days later (this was actually Madeline Parker, one of Emilie’s two younger sisters).
While excoriating the rest of us for buying into the media’s epic lies, Truthers have whittled the entire spectrum of human emotion down to “sad” and “not sad” – if you exhibit both, you’re screwed. You will be permanently branded a member of the conspiracy. This has happened not just to Robbie Parker, but to several other parents of Sandy Hook victims. The Sandy Hook Hoax website maintained by Jay “New Age Messiah” Johnson has an entire page dedicated to exposing them.
For those who accept the “crisis actors” theory, there is an intriguing paradox here: Wouldn’t professional actors be more convincing than actual grief-stricken people? An actor would already be in character before the cameras even started rolling. Authentic emotion, however, obeys no such rules. Many times, I have seen tears and laughter at funerals and memorial services.
Like the actor theory, this “not sad enough” line of reasoning doesn’t cut it with all Truthers. Sonia of the Truther Girls observed in one of her Sandy Hook videos that it’s difficult to judge people’s emotional responses to the loss of a child, particularly if we haven’t experienced such loss ourselves.

The coroner
Truthers like James F. Tracy point to the answers given by Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver during a December 15, 2012 press conference (see video below)  as proof that he didn’t really do a thorough job of examining the victims’ bodies, if he did so at all. An editor at Global Research finds it “startling” that Carver only conducted seven of the autopsies himself, though it is far from unusual for assistant coroners to do autopsies, particularly when there are mass deaths.
Carver’s answers are rather peculiar, and his behaviour strikes me as awkward and odd, but there’s nothing here that can’t be chalked up to fatigue, and/or a reluctance to reveal information that the police didn’t want to reveal yet. From Carver’s comments, it seems he has had some bad experiences with courtroom testimony in the past and is painfully aware that committing yourself publicly to anything can have serious repercussions. For instance, he knows it would be improper to speculate about the weapons, since that isn’t technically within his field of expertise. Truthers make much of his statement that he doesn’t know if the children were standing or seated when they were struck, but without knowing the layout of the classrooms and the relative positions of the shooter and the victims, that’s not something that can always be determined at autopsy.
In keeping with his “crisis actors” theory, Ed Chiarini attempted to prove that H. Wayne Carver is actually the late “Mafia hitman” Richard “Ice Man” Kuklinski, who died in prison in 2006.


The man in the woods
This is one of the genuine enigmas in the case. A WABC news helicopter captured footage of at least one adult male, dressed in camouflage, dashing through a wooded area close to the school, being pursued by police officers. This occurred around 12:24, over two and a half hours after the shooting stopped, according to the ABC News timeline of events. Who was this man?
We know that there were at least two arrests at the school immediately after the shootings – Chris Manfredonia, father of a first-grade student, was apprehended near the school and briefly detained. He reportedly said he was en route to his daughter’s classroom when he heard shooting, so he remained outside the building. A second unidentified man was also briefly detained, and police determined him to be a bystander, according to Snopes. Either of these individuals could be the man that one student reportedly saw handcuffed on the ground near the school.

But the man in the woods remains an unknown. According to the last sentence of a December 27 article in the Newtown Bee, a law enforcement source stated the man in the woods had a gun and was an off-duty tactical squad (SWAT) officer from “another town”. No Truthers have confirmed this, nor have they uncovered the man’s identity, so we have no idea why he was there or why he was apparently running away from police. One witness, seen in this video, told a reporter that he and other observers saw a handcuffed man in camo pants being led out of the woods and placed in a police car. Was this Camo Man, or someone else?
One theory holds that Manfredonia is Camo Man, but why he would be fleeing into the woods has not been explained.

Adam Lanza’s death certificate and inaccurate date stamps
Truthers accessed an electronic version of Adam Lanza’s death certificate (the Social Security Death Index Record) via geneology websites like Ancestry.com and Geneology Bank, and breathlessly reported that Lanza died on December 13…one day before the massacre. Truthers like Jeffrey Phelps are aware that this date is probably a typographical error that might not even exist on the original document, but that doesn’t stop them from presenting it as evidence.

One of the most popular pieces of Truther evidence is that some of the webpages created on behalf of Sandy Hook families seem to have existed prior to the shootings. For example, the United Way Sandy Hook support fund was created three days before the massacre, according to the Google timestamp. But as a Salon article points out, wonky timestamps are more the rule than the exception; one Fox News article on Sandy Hook is dated by Google as having been published in 1983. That’s 13 years before Fox News existed, and 9 years before Adam Lanza was born. Also, webpages are sometimes repurposed.

The drill
Since 9/11, conspiracy researchers have embraced Webster Tarpley’s theory (outlined in his book 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA) that training exercises and drills conducted by law enforcement and military personnel are sometimes used to mask false flag attacks. They will point to training exercises that occurred in proximity to a real event as evidence that someone in authority knew all about it in advance. During a January 18 interview on The Alex Jones Show, for instance, James Tracy said the Newtown massacre was a “drill that went live”. Holocaust revisionist Nick Kollerstrom, in a Veterans Today piece written with Fetzer, attempted to draw parallels between Sandy Hook and the 7/7 bombings in London, another “drill that went live”. Somewhat paradoxically, Kollerstrom opens his article by introducing the possibility that the Newtown shootings didn’t actually happen.

Here’s the deal: On the day of the Sandy Hook shootings, an “active shooter drill” was being conducted at a school in the community of Carmel, New York, by the Putnam County Emergency Response Team (ERT), a unit comprised of specially-trained officers from the sheriff’s office and two area police departments (Carmel and Kent).  This, presumably, is the drill that Tracy contends “went live”.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Two days after Sandy Hook, the Southeast Brewster Patch newspaper reported that the drill was part of regular ERT training, and that the Putnam County ERT commander had phoned Newtown police to offer ERT assistance at the school. He was told the ERT would not be needed, since police had already secured the scene. Nonetheless, Truthers insist the ERT must have been involved. The team even plays a key role in an alternate timeline of Sandy Hook events compiled by Andrew S. MacGregor – though McGregor doesn’t present any actual evidence documenting ERT presence at the scene, because his scenario is wholly speculative.

Truthers have also responded negatively to a FEMA course offered under the auspices of the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (part of Connecticut’s Division of Emergency Services and Public Protection), titled “Planning for the Needs of Children in Disasters”, that was held six times in November and December 2012, including on the day of the Sandy Hook shootings. Frankly, I don’t know what this has to do with the massacre. The course deals not just with school violence, but with natural disasters, fires, and other emergency situations that could befall any school at any time. I view this as another red herring.

Henry Makow and others have catalogued “evidence” that Sandy Hook was part of some other, unspecified, drill.

The Bottom Line

The Sandy Hook Truthers will continue their investigative efforts, but this will probably be the last post I devote solely to their results. I have five good reasons for this:

1. Twenty children and six women are dead, beyond question. Adam Lanza is dead, beyond question. Nancy Lanza is dead, beyond question. I have not seen any persuasive evidence that the key figures in the investigation are not who they say they are. Keep in mind that hoaxes involving even one fake person always collapse under their own weight. Look at the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, the Kuwaiti incubator babies fraud, and the Catfish case; they were all exposed by just a few diligent people within weeks.
2. The Second Amendment is firmly intact.
3. The noise-to-signal ratio is incredibly high in the world of Sandy Hook Truth. Red herrings vastly outnumber genuine leads. After nine months, we still don’t have viable alternate suspects, smoking-gun evidence of a conspiracy, or anything else of substance. The majority of the Truthers have never been to Connecticut and have not spoken to anyone close to the case.
4. Truthers working in multiple countries have not yet supplied answers to the few unanswered questions that remain about the tragedy. If they can’t even figure out who Camo Man was, I doubt they could expose an epic false flag operation.
5. Bizarre, groundless conspiracy theories pop up after every mass shooting, as I discussed in another post.

Will Sandy Hook Conspiranoia Go Mainstream?

totallylegit

As reported last week by Salon, relatively normal people like twentysomething New Yorker Brendan Hunt are now embracing alternative Sandy Hook theories. They’re harassing interviewing witnesses, searching for other gunmen, and trying to tie the tragedy to secret societies and/or the military-industrial complex in any way possible.
Hunt is by no means a self-proclaimed messiah like Jay Johnson or a Fregoli delusion sufferer like Ed Chiarini. He’s smart, well-spoken, and…well…ordinary. With guys like him promoting Sandy Hook conspiranoia, Salon writer Alex Seitz-Wald argues, even more ordinary people will be persuaded to believe there’s “something not right” about the Newtown massacre.
The thing is, though, that Brendan Hunt already bought into some dodgy conspiracy theories before discovering Sandy Hook (Kurt Cobain was murdered, Illuminati stuff). He’s not exactly cut out to be a Pied Piper, leading the unsuspecting masses off to Kooklandia.
But Salon does have a valid point. Even the fringiest conspiracy theories do have a tendency to leach insidiously into the mainstream, like sludge from some ancient, poisoned well seeping into the ground water.

Here’s how weird conspiracy theories often work:

  1. Something notable happens.
  2. The media reports it, authorities investigate it, people talk about it, etc.
  3. Wingnuts crawl out of every hole to explain what really happened.
  4. Over time, the alternative theories become normalized, and relatively sane people feel comfortable embracing them, even though they still don’t make much sense.

This happened with the assassination of JFK and 9/11. It started with a handful of kooks suggesting that the dyslexic, troubled Lee Harvey Oswald was a crack CIA assassin, or that Israel’s Mossad engineered an aerial assault on America. Gradually, the theories metastasized into an ever-expanding industry of self-published books, seminars, conventions, documentaries, even Hollywood films. In the case of 9/11, entire social movements comprised of energetic young people sprouted from ideas that should, by all the laws of reason, have remained confined to the hidey-holes of a few eccentric curmudgeons. Today, most Americans believe JFK was the target of a conspiracy, and a vast number of people think there’s “something not right” about the 9/11 attacks. It can get to the point where conspiracists are considered skeptics or truth seekers, while anyone who insists on basing their conclusions on evidence are seen as naive, dishonest, or part of the conspiracy.

A few celebrity endorsements never hurt. When a daffy prosecutor decided in the late ’60s that Kennedy had been taken out by some sort of far-right lavender mafia, comedian Mort Sahl volunteered his services as a researcher, and Johny Carson welcomed him onto his show to unreel a barely-baked theory about fake railroad bums who turned out to be actual railroad bums. Yale-educated director Oliver Stone had no trouble recruiting an all-star cast for an execrable film that was supposed to expose the Warren Commission as a fraud.
A whole slew of celebs have publicly expressed support for 9/11 Truth: Rosie O’Donnell, the Sheen clan, Mos Def, David Lynch, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson.

Now we have Sandy Hook. While the Aurora massacre and countless other mass murders have spawned popular conspiracy theories, it’s Sandy Hook that really seems to have captured the hearts and imaginations of the conspiracy world. Let’s take a look at how the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories played out, using the model above:

  1. Adam Lanza allegedly entered Sandy Hook Elementary School In Newtown, Connecticut and opened fire, killing 20 children and 6 adults before shooting himself in the head.
  2. The story drew international media attention. Investigators concluded that Lanza likely acted on his own. There was a worldwide outpouring of sympathy and support for the families of victims , as well as a national outcry from people who wished to see assault weapons strictly controlled or banned in the U.S.
  3. Ed Chiarini, a Texas conspiranoid who believes everyone he sees in the media is actually someone else (the last pope was actually Robert Blake, John Stossel is actually Freddy Mercury, etc.), declared that some of the Newtown parents he saw on the news were actually actors hired by the government. A man calling himself New Age Messiah (real name Jay Johnson) set up a website called Sandy Hook Hoax to explain how the New World Order faked the entire massacre. An insanely popular video (since scrubbed from the Internet for copyright infringement) explained how a map of Gotham briefly displayed in The Dark Knight Rises “predictively programmed” the Newtown massacre. World Net Daily feebly attempted to link Lanza to devil worship, and speculated about a Satanic-cult conspiracy. Alex Jones stated on his radio show that the Sandy Hook massacre could be a government-staged event designed to usher in gun confiscation and draconian legislation (which he does after pretty much every massacre). Veteran JFK researcher and 9/11 Truther James Fetzer decided “Isreali death squads” were probably responsible. YouTube users created novelty songs and “documentaries” accusing rescuers, grieving parents, and investigators of being complicit in a massive conspiracy/cover-up.
    Most disturbingly, many of these people insist the murdered children are still alive.
  4. Fragments of “evidence”, such as an Ed Chiarini visual aid “proving” that two Newtown parents who appeared on news broadcasts are actually paid actors from Florida, began to pop up on social networking sites, divorced from their wider (crazier) context. Seen in isolation, some of this “evidence” can seem quite intriguing and persuasive. As more and more average people are exposed to these free-floating factoids that have landed in the public square, many of them will be persuaded to believe there’s “something not right” about the Newtown massacre. And a new conspiracy industry may be born. There aren’t any celebrity endorsements so far (Dick Gregory must be otherwise engaged), but if we don’t get a Vincent Bugliosi to nip this thing in the bud, we could soon be watching a 12-part History Channel series on The Men Who Did Sandy Hook.

Correction: Spoke too soon about Dick Gregory. Here he is explaining what really happened.

Wednesday Weirdness Updates

Developments in the two stories covered in this week’s Weirdness Roundup

  • The saga of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s bogus dead girlfriend is getting even weirder. Te’o still insists he was the victim of a hoax, but according to both athletic director Jack Swarbrick and an article published today in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Te’o now admits he knew “Lennay Kekua” wasn’t really dead. Early last December, three months after she supposedly succumbed to leukemia in California, she phoned him to confess that she staged her death to evade some drug dealers.
    If this story is true, then Te’o was complicit in the hoax for at least a month. He reportedly told Notre Dame officials about the call, triggering a hush-hush investigation in late December, but he and Notre Dame apparently elected not to share their findings with the public.
  • Salon has published “Your comprehensive answer to every Sandy Hook conspiracy“. I wouldn’t call it “comprehensive”, exactly, but it does cover the basics. One of the most popular pieces of “evidence” is that the webpage for the United Way Sandy Hook support fund was created three days before the massacre, according to the Google timestamp. But as this article points out, wonky timestamps are more the rule than the exception; one Fox News article on Sandy Hook is dated by Google as having been published in 1983. That’s 13 years before Fox News existed, and 9 years before Adam Lanza was born.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

Notamused

  • Off the Hook: Conspiracy theories about the shootings in Connecticut, if they can even be called “theories”, are starting to draw attention from mainstream newspapers, websites like Salon and Gawker, and TV reporters. I’ve talked a little about these theories (here, here, and at Leaving Alex Jonestown), but the Sandy Hook conspiracy meme is far more contagious than I realized. 8.5 million people have viewed a 30-minute YouTube video by anonymous user Think Outside the TV. It’s basically a mishmash of outdated information culled from early reports, misinformation, and the “media lookalike” nuttery of Ed Chiarini, the Texan who believes the Pope is actually Robert Blake. Among other weirdness, TOTV includes the “theory” that one of Adam Lanza’s victims, 6-year-old Emilie Parker, is not only alive and well, but met with the President for a public photo op after she was murdered.
    The media is critical of websites such as Sandy Hook Hoax, which was started by Jay Johnson. Johnson bills himself as the New Age Messiah, and boasts that he “solved LOST” with the aid of an Egyptian goddess. He has also written a screenplay about his life (or, as he likes to call it, the “greatest true story ever told”). His evidence for a grand Sandy Hook conspiracy is essentially the same as TOTV’s. He is quite indignant that family members don’t publicly cry enough for his satisfaction.
    But not everyone in the mainstream media is critical of the Sandy Hook theories. Ben Swann, an award-winning reporter with Cincinatti’s Fox affiliate, devoted a segment of his Full Disclosure Web series to the possibility that Newtown, Aurora, and the Sihk temple massacre involved more than one gunman, citing early interviews with non-eyewitnesses and footage of Newtown police chasing a suspect into the woods (this man turned out to be a parent, Chris Manfredonia, who may have fled the school). To Swann’s credit, he didn’t actually tack a theory to any of this. It’s interesting to note, though, that he has been a guest on The Alex Jones Show. Jones, as always, is at the forefront of conspiranoids who insist that nearly all mass shootings are false flag operations perpetrated by drugged-up Manchurian Candidates on behalf of the New World Order.
    A World Net Daily article by Aaron Klein attempts to tie Adam Lanza to other “Satanic” killers, and even suggests the possibility of a Satanic conspiracy.
    Other online Sandy Hook theories too ridiculous to attract U.S. media attention include wacky Biblical interpretations of Google maps, “Newtown is a hub of Satanism”, “Lady Gaga and Satanism had something to do with this“, “Freemasons had something to do with this” (a theory that also emerged in the wake of the Dunblane massacre in 1996) and of course Jews did Sandy Hook. And Jews did Sandy Hook.
    We could pass this off as harmless crankery – and most of it is – but we must face the fact that conspiracy theories have real-world consequences. In this case, an entire county in Connecticut shut down its schools after the Christmas break because the religious conspiracy website Revelation Now warned that a map in the latest Batman movie predicted another school attack. Gene Rosen, a retired Newtown resident who assisted six children after they bravely fled their classroom, is being harassed and slandered by conspiranoids who think he’s a paid “crisis actor”, a Satanist, or even a paedophile (merely because he took children into his house). The anti-Semitic wing of the Sandy Hook peanut gallery is certain that Gene Rosen’s ethnicity is a key to his involvement in a mass murder conspiracy. He has been threatened with death.
    Yes, the Sandy Hook “theories” are idiotic – but they’re also deadly serious.
  • I know, I know, it’s really serious: It can be said that the only perfect girlfriend is an imaginary one (or maybe that chick with three breasts). Devoutly Mormon Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o seems to have taken that literally.
    Last September, media outlets around the nation relayed the touching and inspiring story of how Te’o led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 victory against the Michigan State Spartans just days after his beloved grandmother passed away and his girlfriend of nine months, Stanford graduate Lennay Kekua, lost her battle with leukemia. Lennay, 22, had been diagnosed after a car accident early in 2012. A cover story in the September Sports Illustrated Regional hailed Te’o as a “star student” who had “restored the shine to the golden dome” in spite of his personal tragedies. Writer Pete Thamel described how Te’o spent his few free hours on the phone to Lennay, comforting her as she lay in her hospital bed. Even after Lennay slipped into a coma, he continued to call and speak reassuring words through the phone. Her death on September 12, coming just six hours after the death of his maternal grandmother, was a devastating blow to the 21-year-old design major. They had been good friends since 2009, and began a relationship in January. A Yahoo! Sports piece describes how Te’o dedicated the September 15 game against the Spartans to his gran and his girl, grateful for the support of Lennay’s family after he made the difficult decision to stay with his “football family” and play Saturday’s game rather than fly to Oahu to be with his and Lennay’s relatives. Writer Dan Wetzel opined that Te’o is just the kind of player Notre Dame needs – young men of “accountability and awareness”, and athletic director Jack Swarbrick is quoted as saying Te’o “may be the perfect Notre Dame football player”. Even I heard about this amazing kid, and I don’t follow college ball.
    The warm fuzzies lasted all the way up until this week, when the sports news site Deadspin released its investigative report on Te’o’s story. Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey could find no evidence that Lennay Kekua existed; she was not registered at Stanford, birth announcements can’t be found, no obituary was ever published, and no one other than Manti Te’o has ever met her (remember, he did supposedly meet her in person; according to an October story in the South Bend Tribune – which has been yanked offline – Brian Te’o said his son Manti met with Lennay several times in Hawaii in 2010 and 2011). They could find no record of a 2012 traffic accident in California involving a Lennay Kekua. Nor could they find any relatives of Lennay, like the older brother (Koa) mentioned in the Sports Illustrated article. Sure, there were photos of Lennay (one was shown on CBS This Morning the day of the Notre Dame/Michigan game, and her Twitter feed featured a few more), but Burke and Dickey claim to have traced them to a woman in California who was shocked that her pictures have been misrepresented to the media as photos of a woman she doesn’t know.
    Te’o and Notre Dame are insisting that Manti is the victim of a cruel hoax. Having never met his girlfriend in person (which contradicts his earlier stories about meeting her), he was duped into believing that a voice on the other end of the phone was Lennay Kekua. However, he has not addressed Deadspin‘s examination of the Twitter accounts belonging to him and to “Lennay”, which indicate they met online in 2011 rather than in-person in 2009. At this point in the story, it’s still possible that Te’o is a hoax victim. But here’s where things get sticky for him. The California woman told Deadspin that an acquaintance named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo asked her to pose with a sign reading “MSMK”, supposedly to cheer up someone who had suffered a car accident, and she obliged. “LoveMSMK” was the name attached to Lennay Kekua’s Twitter account. Here’s the problem for Te’o: He knows Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, and exchanged Tweets with him all last year (he even plugged a song recorded by Tuiasosopo). Then there’s the issue of a supposed relative of Lennay trying to hush up the controversy by sending emails to webmasters, contacing Nev Schulman of Catfish fame, and being given a shout-out on Manti’s Twitter feed. It looks like Manti Te’o may have been undone by his own twittering.
    I don’t know how common fake girlfriends are, but cancer hoaxes occur with troubling frequency. Just two months ago, the Wednesday Weirdness Roundup featured another one that had the town of Gypsum, Colorado mourning a little boy who never existed.
    Anyway, time will tell. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to read Deadspin‘s exposé yourself. This post is already far too long for a Wednesday Roundup. In honor of the fictional Ms. Kekua, let’s have a musical interlude…

Media Lookalikes: Enough Already

The media lookalikes conspiracy meme started by Ed Chiarini of WellAware1, which I’ve covered here and here, is getting out of control. I thought it was restricted to the fringiest fringe of conspiranoid kooksters, but the picture below has gone viral in a minor way among conspiracy folks, even ending up on Snopes along with other Sandy Hook-related weirdness. On one Facebook page alone, it has received well over 1500 likes, and roughly half the commenters seem to think the whole media lookalikes theory could have some validity (the other half are dumbfounded that anyone would fall for it).

actors

Yes, Nick and Laura Phelps are real people. Obviously. They live in Newtown, Connecticut. They have two children enrolled at Sandy Hook Elementary, and in news reports they have mentioned that they don’t know how to explain the shooting to them.
Seriously, people, why would the media need fake parents when there are dozens of real grieving parents in Connecticut right now? Who would risk putting fake parents on TV, knowing that teachers and other parents and neighbours will immediately blow the whistle on a pair of shameless hoaxers?
Ed Chiarini (AKA “Dallasgoldbug”) is suffering from the Fregoli delusion, or something very much like it. He thinks Winston Churchill and Lionel Barrymore were the same man, that Walt Disney was literally Hitler, that Freddy Mercury became John Stossel, and that Steve Carell is also Alice Cooper.
This is just absurd. It is the stupidest and least credible conspiracy meme I have ever encountered. Satanic bloodsucking lizardpeople from Mars make more sense than this.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Massacre Conspiracy Theories

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One of the most troubling things about wonky conspiracy theories is that they can, and do, have real-world impact.

On December 18, the religious conspiracy website Revelation Now.net – which specialized in Hollow Earth theories and Biblical prophecies – posted an article titled “The Next School Massacre Target?”. In it, the author embraced the theory that most – if not all – mass shootings are stage-managed by some shadowy cabal (in this case, the Illuminati). I’ve written a little bit about some of these recent theories at Leaving Alex Jonestown.
The Revelation Now article pointed out that a prop map briefly shown in The Dark Knight Rises featured Bane’s intended targets, and one of the target locations was labeled “Sandy Hook”. Another label on the map was “Narrows”. This means very little to the average viewer. “Sandy Hook” is an absurdly common name throughout the U.S., and the Narrows is a fictional ghetto located near the fictional Arkham Asylum in the D.C. comic universe.
But the Revelation Now author clearly accepts the theory of “predictive programming”, which says that the elite must tell us of their monstrous plans before putting them into action. As an Infowars article says of the Dark Knight map, “This definitely begins to tread into Satanic and occult territory, the purpose of which is known to only a select few in tight-knit circles at the very top branches of various secret societies.” An article at Before It’s News makes a similar comment about the Aurora massacre and the movie map: ““I was denying to myself that this shooting was staged by the deep state and the Illuminati just like the last one in the movie theatre in Colorado. But not anymore. It’s impossible to deny.”

Following these leads, the Revelation Now author connected the dots in typical conspiranoid fashion:

– Aurora, Colorado killer James Holmes liked The Dark Knight and costumed himself as the Joker before going on his rampage.
– This massacre was staged by the Illuminati. Holmes was a victim of mind control programming.
– Newtown, Connecticut killer Adam Lanza was also a mind-control victim. The Illuminati selected his target for him: Sandy Hook Elementary School.
– The Dark Knight Rises contains a map with the names “Sandy Hook” and “Narrows” on it. The Illuminati controls Hollywood, so this means something.
– Ergo, the next Illuminati school shooting will take place somewhere with Narrows in its name.
– There is a Narrows Elementary School in the town of Narrows, Virginia.

Normally, this kind of nuttery restricts itself to the conspiranoid community, social networking sites, and casual watercooler conversations. This time, however, officials in Giles County, Virginia, heard about the Revelation Now article and promptly decided to shut down all schools in the county this week. Giles County Sheriff Morgan Millirons told the press, “We have to take this as serious information.”
But do we? These crackpot massacre theories are nothing new, and every one of them seems less coherent than the last…

The Dunblane Massacre (1996): Freemasons and paedophiles arranged for Thomas Hamilton to kill 16 schoolchildren, to cover up a child-abuse ring and/or to usher in increased gun control in the UK.
The Port Arthur Massacre (1996): This was engineered as an excuse for the Australian government to ban automatic weapons. Martin Bryant was a mind-controlled assassin or a patsy.
Columbine (1999): There are numerous conspiracy theories about the massacre in Colorado. The most ridiculous comes from William K. Zabel, one of the most popular guests ever to appear on the Binnall of America podcast. He contends the massacre was stage-managed by the military-industrial complex, primarily as a ritual sacrifice, and that the parents of the victims knew all about it in advance.
Virginia Tech (2007): Mind control again. Some faculty members knew what was going to happen, and even participated in Seung-Hui Cho’s grooming.
The Norway Massacre: Anders Breivik stated that his rampage was motivated by his anger at liberals who were “ruining” Norway with their socialist and immigration-friendly politics. Yet conspiranoids continue to insist this was a false flag terror operation headed by globalists, as an excuse to crack down on anti-banking activists. Wayne Madsen, a frequent guest on The Alex Jones Show, declared Breivik could be an Isreali agent.
Sandy Hook: Jim Fetzer, a former professor, claims Adam Lanza was just a patsy for the real killers – Mossad “death squads”.

The alleged motives for these “elite” crimes are manifold. According to the conspiracy theorists, mass shootings are crafted to usher in repressive legislation like gun control laws, traumatize and destabilize the population so that we will submit to further abuses of our rights, make offerings to Satan, neutralize troublesome opponents, thin out the population, and/or distract us from “more important” things that are going on in the world.
Conspiracy theorists point only to massacres that occurred after 1980, in a feeble attempt to link mind control to SSRI antidepressants, and completely ignore massacres that occurred half a century or more before Prozac went on the market. Just one example: In 1975, Ottawa teenager Robert Poulin raped and murdered a neighbor girl, set fire to his house, then shot up a school.
[note: It has been brought to my attention that my previous example, South Pasadena Junior High principal Verlin Spencer, may have been under the influence of bromide at the time of his arrest in 1940. Spencer killed five of his colleagues, wounded a sixth, then non-fatally shot himself. The example has been removed pending further investigation.]
If such massacres have been occurring for decades (and they have; the first school shooting in America took place in the late eighteenth century), isn’t it reasonable to conclude that the petty gripes and mental problems that motivated those murders would also hold true for today’s mass killers? What makes a Brenda Spencer any different from a James Holmes, other than more thorough preparation?

The ironic thing is, conspiracy theories themselves may contribute to massacres. Byron Williams’ thwarted attack upon a small, nonprofit organization called the Tides Foundation was inspired, in part, by the rantings of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, who insisted the foundation was wholly controlled by one of their bogeymen, George Soros. Williams was planning to murder at least a dozen Tides Foundation employees in protest of supposed left-wing world domination. The problem is, only about 5% of the foundation’s annual funding came from Soros, Soros had no role in the foundation’s operations, and it is a relatively small and obscure organization.

Canadian killer Marc Lepine considered himself the victim of some sort of feminist conspiracy to marginalize men. He claimed to believe he was denied entry to the engineering program at the École Polytechnique de Montréal because the university was admitting “too many” women. In reality, his substandard grades kept him out of the program.

The Symbionese Liberation Army shot Oakland’s first black school superintendent, Dr. Marcus Foster,  eight times with cyanide-tipped bullets because they believed his (withdrawn) support for school ID cards was part of a sinister CIA plot to keep tabs on schoolchildren.

Revelation Now was quickly dismantled after the Giles County school shutdown hit the news, but it was just one of hundreds of sites that promote terrifying conspiracy theories spun from tenuous connections, suppositions, misinformation, and recycled nonsense. I doubt that all those webmasters out there are going to stop and think about the potential consequences before they commit the next baseless theory to the ‘Net.