Alex Kirkpatrick Blog Post 1
The Sandy Hook Hoax
On December 20th, 2012, the country stood by in shock as they watched the news unfold about the events that occurred that morning at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. On that morning, Adam Lanza walked into the school armed with a rifle and two handguns and shot 20 school children and 6 adults. As people around the nation watched parents grieve the loss of their children, most agreed this was a national tragedy. Except for some. As the story continued to develop, so did the idea that the shooting was fake. While the population of people who believe this shooting was a hoax is small, it is fascinating the theories they have come up with to try and prove this event was a hoax. The popularity of this idea peaked in the aftermath of Sandy Hook and has since declined, but there are still people who are avid believers. It is of significance that there are people out there who believe this event was faked because it discredits the real suffering and grieving that the families went, and are still going through. Information about Sandy Hook and why some believe it is a hoax can be found all over the internet. Most notable is a YouTube video with over 10 thousand views, that gives all the reasons why the shooting was fake. This belief is extraordinary because it goes against all logic. No one would even think to consider that all these families are grieving the loss of children who are actually still alive. This belief seems impossible, which by definition, makes it an extraordinary belief.
Believers in this theory offer several explanations of why this event was a hoax. They claim that it would be incredibly hard to hit moving children as many times as Lanza did. Another belief is that all the parents there are actually trained crisis actors sent there by the government. This idea comes from a brief bit of video footage showing two parents smiling and laughing. Many feel that these people must be actors because who would be able to laugh and smile after the death of your child? Another reason that some believe this event was faked is because there are supposed sighting of the dead children. One child, Emilie Parker, is supposedly seen posing in a picture with President Obama days after the shooting. On the other hand, there are reasonable explanations for why these beliefs might be false. Adam Lanza was armed with a semi-automatic shotgun, capable of firing hundreds of rounds in minutes, so it’s very possible he was able to hit children multiple times. As for the claim that the parents were crisis actors, that video clip was taken out of context. Both parents were in an interview reliving found moments of their children. It was not Emilie Parker in that picture, but instead her younger sister, wearing one of Emilie’s dresses.
I believe that this a prime example of cognitive dissonance. People simply don’t want to believe that Adam Lanza was capable murdering 20 young children, so instead find it more comforting to believe that the whole thing was a set up and those children are alive somewhere. The reality is that those who believe this event was a hoax are simply misinterpreting the “evidence”. As discussed above, the various reasons they give for this being a hoax can usually be explained with a quite simple explanation. This is a good example of Ockham’s razor. The reasons given by believers are a prime example of pseudoscience. Many of their reasons give the appearance of science. They are bold and seem like they could be true, but upon further inspection they fall apart. For example, saying it impossible to hit as many children as many times as Lanza does seem realistic until you find out that he was equipped with a semi-automatic rifle. Many claims also seem to fall under the category retreating to the supernatural. Every time they are presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs they change the belief a little, or say that the evidence isn’t good enough. Many believers claim that one of the deceased, Noah Polzner, is actually alive. When his grieving father released Noah’s death certificate to show that his son was actually dead, suddenly that wasn’t good enough and they needed Noah’s body exhumed.
Believers in this theory come from a diverse population made up of the young and old, white and black, and from various regions across the country. I believe that the biggest social influence that helps them to sustain this belief is the government. Many believers of the conspiracy think that the government orchestrated the event and is then trying to cover it up in various ways, such as employing crisis actors. So naturally, when the government denies their claims, it is interpreted as “of course the government would say that”. Thus, believers are engaging in post hoc theorization, which allows this belief to continue. They are rationalizing the government’s explanation to fit their beliefs.
Sandy Hook was an awful tragedy that forever changed the lives of the people living in Newtown, Connecticut. While most people believe that this was a horrible act of violence committed by a mentally ill individual, some believe that the whole thing is an elaborate hoax put on by the government. While at first it might seem that the claims this group make appear to be scientific, after further inspection these claims all have another, simpler, more logical, explanation, and as Ockham’s razor says, “the simplest explanation is often the best”. Believers of the hoax are able to keep their beliefs alive by engaging in cognitive dissonance and post hoc rationalization. Some might question why it matters that there are people out there who believe this event was fake. Belief in the hoax takes away from the fact the 20 real children were really murdered. It disrupts the grieving process of the parents and lifts the burden of guilt off Adam Lanza’s shoulder and places it on the government shoulders. It’s important to discredit these beliefs when possible because further adherence to these beliefs will only continue to overshadow the true victims here; the 26 people who died that day.
- C. (2019, January 02). Connecticut Shootings Fast Facts. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/07/us/connecticut-shootings-fast- facts/index.html
- Mikkelson, D. (2012, December 15). FACT CHECK: Was the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting a Hoax? Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sandy-hook-exposed/
- Weideman, R. (2016, September 06). Lenny Pozner Believed in Conspiracy Theories. Until His Son’s Death Became One. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2016/09/the-sandy-hook-hoax.html