You’ve probably heard of Alex Jones, but you probably haven’t heard of Wolfgang Halbig, or Reverend Carl Gallups. They are among the thousands of people who cling to the notion that the Sandy Hook shooting was faked.
During the slaughter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT., every parent’s nightmare materialized as deranged gunman Adam Lanza murdered seven adults and twenty young children.
It was later determined that he did not legally own the gun, but instead took his mother’s guns, shot her dead, and used her weaponry to kill twenty-six others. This did nothing to deter anti-gun advocates for demanding stronger gun restrictions and, in some cases, the abolishment of the Second Amendment.
The debate over personal gun rights has been seen in the United States and other countries for more than a century. Whenever a tragedy of any sort occurs, the arguments flare and pro- and anti-gun advocates attempt to swing people to their point of view. The conspiracy theorists, however, go a different route. They claim the tragedy didn’t occur, and that it is merely a manipulation by others (usually, the government) to sway the public toward abandoning their guns.
Sandy Hook was a flash point for the debate because of the number and the youth of the children. There was no obvious motive, merely a score of childrens’ lives snuffed out by a madman. Because of the heightened attention given to the rifle debate, the inevitable “false flag” claims were more prominent.
Alex Jones has been sued by eight of the victims’ families, in two separate lawsuits, for defamation. He recently (July 3, 2018) hired a high-profile lawyer who specializes in free speech cases to defend him. (Huffington Post)
One of the two plaintiffs in the first defamation suit was a prior fan of Jones, a man named Leonard Pozner whose son, Noah, was the youngest victim at a mere six years old. Pozner, being a former conspiracy theorist himself, has been the strongest advocate against the theories. He knows how they originate, how they spread, and who some of the major “thought leaders” are in the conspiracy movements. (NY Magazine) His success led to pushback from other theorists, including actionable death threats by at least one, the only-recently-freed Lucy Richards. (Miami Herald)
The method that Rev. Gallups, a prominent Evangelical figure who sometimes writes for WorldNetDaily, and Halbig, who formerly ran sandyhookjustice.com, use to promote the “hoax” idea is one that is commonly used by conspiracy theorists to simultaneously distance themselves from potentially offensive positions and to validate themselves is that they’re “only asking questions.”
We are taught, correctly, to have an open mind. But an integral part of valuing questions is valuing answers. The Naval nuclear field has a term for this: 2.5 knowledge. That is regarded as the basic knowledge required for anyone to be trusted anywhere near a nuclear reactor, and it is defined as “recognizes the correct answer when told.” Unless one is ready to acknowledge correct answers, questions are not valuable but instead are merely cheap disguises for offensive positions.
The BBC has an interesting video of this, from Halbig. It is very much worth viewing, as it is short and attempts to treat Halbig fairly. They take care to include how he hopes he is wrong, and how he has promised to check himself into a mental institution if he is demonstrated to be wrong, because of the pain he has caused the families.
The problem here is that he has been demonstrated to be wrong. He simply refuses to believe it.
The questions currently raised generally focus on the official responses to the shooting. For example, from a list posted to Medium:
Who was the Certified Environmental Bio-Hazard Decontamination company contracted by the Newtown Public Schools to remove 45–65 gallons of blood, skull fragments, brain tissues, bodily fluids, blood soaked carpets and any other decontaminated are a inside the Sandy Hook School?
Who and Why did they not request the Life Star Helicopters knowing that children and school staff are seriously injured and clinging to life?
These questions tend to be procedural. “There are rules in place, why weren’t they followed?” The answer to that can be found in human nature, and is the reason for drills. When stressed, the average person does not respond like an action hero, immediately taking the best course of action, even though most of us imagine we would do so. Instead, the average person looks for touchstones of proper behavior, trying to assess the situation and respond appropriately. With training, mistakes happen. With training, mistakes still happen, merely fewer. Expecting mechanical precision when following procedure will always highlight deviations and failures, but those deviations do not indicate a grand conspiracy.
Worse yet, these are the new questions. The original questions have already been long-since debunked throughout major media sites, such as this one at Salon, from 2013: Your comprehensive answer to every Sandy Hook conspiracy theory.
It was reasonably comprehensive at the time. Since then, the questions have shifted. Because it’s not enough for people like Halbig to be given answers to their questions; if provided, they simply find new questions or reject the answers as incomplete.