The Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory and Why it Matters

It wasn’t long after the Sandy Hook tragedy that I started seeing images and videos purporting to demonstrate how the whole thing was a false flag attack orchestrated by Obama to justify disarming American citizens so that he could more easily establish his dictatorship. Salon has a great post on how these conspiracy theories actually impact innocent people. The post focuses on a local resident who helped school children in the aftermath of Sandy Hook who has become a target of harassment by Sandy Hook truthers who accuse him of being a government paid actor.

Unfortunately, such conspiracy theories about the government staging a tragedy to justify something evil are fairly common. Right after the Aurora theater shooting the same basic conspiracy theory was circulating about that tragedy. And I suspect that if you search for the term “false flag” and the name of any recent tragedy,  you’ll probably find quite a few YouTube videos “exposing” the “truth.”

A meme-tastic parody of the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories.

It is easier than ever to manufacture high quality “evidence” to support some conspiracy. Anyone can photoshop, edit a video, or do “research” online. The sheer amount of data available to Internet users means that you can find patterns anywhere and in any shape, if you look long enough.

In addition, the Internet has provided plausibility structures to support all kinds of strange theories. As I’ve mentioned before, many of the things we believe are largely dependent on a plausibility structure to hold them up. We need communities to make our beliefs seem reasonable. Before the Internet, it would be hard to find and socialize with a group of like-minded individuals who believed that every mass shooting was actually a government trick to steal our guns. With social media you can meet fellow conspiracy fiends, share stories, encourage one another, defend one another from outside criticism, and make these beliefs appear to be reasonable.

Reading stories like this, we can easily slip into an arrogant stance: I can’t believe how stupid some people are! But many of us allow our confirmation biases to blind us regularly as well. Liberals aren’t just trying to care for the poor, they want to enslave them to government aid. Conservatives aren’t just trying to create a fair and effective economy, they want to enslave the poor to corporations. Obama isn’t just a bad president, he’s also not legally president because he wasn’t born in the US!

At bottom, a good conspiracy theory makes us feel safe. It offers an explanation for the horrors and absurdity of the world. It is a secret gnosis that only the elect have. It fills our lives with purpose by making our political opponents into larger than life arch-nemises. It flatters our biases.

But ultimately, all conspiracy theories are false hopes. Because the world is not safe. Because any simple explanation for suffering and absurdity (like the Sandy Hook tragedy) almost necessarily results in gross distortions of the facts which cause only more suffering. Because we are saved by grace through faith, not by any secret knowledge. Because they cannot truly justify our lives by giving us purpose; they will always fail us. And because our biases need to be corrected by the light of truth.

It saddens me to say that I know Christians who have bought into some of these conspiracy theories, or at least promoted them online. Christians would do well to remember the commands against gossip and to recognize how much hurt can come from unsupported speculation.

About Alan Noble

(Co-Founder/Editor/Columnist) is a part-time lecturer at Baylor University. He received his PhD in Contemporary American Literature from Baylor, writing on manifestations of transcendence in 20th Century American Lit. He and his family attend Redeemer Waco, a PCA church. Alan's passion is studying how believers can be a faithful presence in culture to the glory of God and the edification of others. In addition to editing, Alan writes his column, Citizenship Confusion for CaPC.

---Follow Alan on Twitter @TheAlanNoble and on Facebook.

---For questions, comments, or interest in speaking engagements please email me at noble.noneuclidean [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • R.S. Ladwig

    From The article:
    “At bottom, a good conspiracy theory makes us feel safe. It offers an explanation for the horrors and absurdity of the world. It is a secret gnosis that only the elect have. It fills our lives with purpose by making our political opponents into larger than life arch-nemises. It flatters our biases.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth. I felt much safer thinking all the screwed up stuff in politics was because of the Democrats; when I came to the conclusion that the whole thing was a sham, run by powerful individuals that we never even see, I felt markedly less safe.

    As far as governments staging shootings and blaming it on their opposition, one may want to look at declassified CIA documents like “Operation Gladio” to see that they have done this very thing in the past. I haven’t a strong opinion on the Sandy Hook theories I have heard, the oddest anomaly in my mind is the guy running through the woods saying “I didn’t do it!” when he ran into someone.

    Here’s my take on the article: one could be just as justified to make the assertion that I quoted from the other perspective. People reject conspiracy theories out of hand, to confirm their bias, to feel safe, and to feel like they are in the know.

  • Junebug

    Ah, but that still satisfies an emotional need: it provides the illusion of greater control and an overarching order. Bad things don’t happen without reason; they happen because there is a secret underground cabal orchestrating events such that they can subdue the masses and bolster their own power. Such a worldview provides an explanation for all woes, and it does, in fact, engender a sense of hope. There is always the chance, if we wake up enough people and fight back hard enough, that we’ll take down the evil shadow organization. And when we do, all of the bad things will stop.

    Of course you don’t feel safe. But you’d feel a lot worse if you believed that there was no order or control at all; that much of what happens in life is due to chance; and that bad things happen because life is unfair and because humans are imperfect, not because there’s a man behind the curtain.

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  • Holly Pearl

    Hi Alan,

    I’m a former Baylor Bear, too. I came across your article, and I just wanted to say that I was much happier thinking politics weren’t the all-capable that I now know they are (not because of this recent issue.) Stepping away from the United States, you can see the ethical collapse of our governance–whether it be extraordinary rendition or the recently slain, never legally tried, Osama bin Laden. It certainly doesn’t expunge any crimes these parties may or may not have committed, but if not for the showy tactics of “hoax” videos, I’m not certain I, or other people I know, would have been awakened to see that we need to demand hard evidence before shifting policy, which sometimes develops into taking the lives of people in arenas abroad (I.e, war, CIA torture, drone strikes.)

  • Expose Truth

    Alan Noble, master of citizen confusion, and decider of all Christian acceptable thought and areas of allowable investigation let us first understand what a conspiracy theory is for. A conspiracy theory is what any detective starts with in order to solve any murder or possible murder. He will not solve any unsolved murder with a conspiracy theory. As far Christians (or others) supposedly engaging in “gossip” for investigating a series of mass shootings with strangely well timed, highly deadly, and amazingly high kill rates by different alleged lone gunmen, that is proposterous. The bible tells us to search the the truth repeatedly. It never says trust government blindly. It says there are pricipalities of darkness in high places, which we must fight against. Anyway you can watch the witnesses on youtube from local tv news where the son of the murdered head of the Sikh Temple and other witnesses says there were multiple shooters. Now no one photo hoped that or fake the video and audio. So how do you explain that? How do you explain the witnesses at the Aurora Shootings who saw multiple shooters? Ofcourse you can’t address that in your know-nothing little world of see no evil, hear no evil unless it’s by a lone gunman. It can never be a conspiracy which would not contribute to the gun confiscation agenda. But history shows us in Russia that the Bolsheviks and other communists staged mass shootings, bombings, and assassinations for over for years to terrorize the Russian people and the Czar into submitting to allowing gun confiscation. The foriegn financed Russian media worked hand in hand with these communist murderers to terrorize the people and always gave giving up the rights, especially their firearms, as the only solution to the end the violence. Once they were disarmed in large numbers the real mass murdering begin. Christians, especially farmers were the main victims of this evil mass murder. So Christians (As everyone else) should be ever vigilant when our anti-Christian government and media tries to take away their weapons of self defense. And when the very anti-Christian media refuses to tell the whole truth about anything and doesn’t investigate anything that doesn’t further their agenda why should we trust them? Oh and Mr. Noble we “ain’t” giving up our guns! Not now, not ever! Not for a democrat Prez, not for a Republicrat Prez, not for the these false liberals, NeoConArtists and/or zionists who help bomb and murder little kids in Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan and Afganistan daily. Not for any guise or trickery or mass murders, terror events, bioweapons attacks, etc, ever will we give up our weapons. I know you feel you can make more money towing the know-nothing line, and it might be true, but have courage and seek the truth and it will set you free.

  • Expose Truth

    Laura Phelps is a self admitted actress as can be viewed You Tube where she does a skit on stage before a live audience. So she is not a dinosaur. But she clearly is also Jennifer Greenberg Sexton and wife of Richard Sexton. She comes from a billionaire family out of Los Angelos, Florida, Arizona and New England and is a world traveler. Nick Phelps is also clearly Richard Sexton. I don’t know how you hope to a debunk anything with dinosaurs. I guess you feel it is necessary to show ridicule and contempt for the common, decent people who seek the truth by marginalizing them as silly fool or insane but it’s not working.

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  • http://kevingilmour.net Kevin Gilmour

    Personally I feel the conspiracy theory is weak, yes the conspirators do make some valid points but on this one I have to err on the side of caution.

    Although there are discrepancies in the main stream media reporting and from the Police Department, my gut tells me that anyone can find reasons to doubt information if your feelings and emotions are strong enough, thus leading to misinterpretation of facts.

    The Sandy Hook School massacre has stirred strong feelings in all of us, this is only natural, any act of mass murder is emotionally disturbing, let alone those involving young children making the crime even more heinous.

    A good article which debunks the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory can be found here: http://kevingilmour.net/sandy-hook-conspiracies-theories-debunked/3191

  • Alan Noble

    “I know you feel you can make more money towing the know-nothing line”—HA! Make money. Alex Jones makes money. A lot. And he makes it by lying to his multitude of readers. Which is gross. I have made 0 from my writing here. Before taxes.

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    Yesterday I found out that an acquaintance and Facebook friend of mine was a Sandy Hook “Truther” … that is, someone who insists that either the Sandy Hook killings DIDN’T take place, or that our own government actually orchestrated the slaughter of 20 beautiful six- and seven-year-olds as an excuse to confiscate everyone’s guns.

    This particular (now ex) Facebook friend of mine claims the latter, and he pointed me in the direction of a YouTube video created by one Ken O’Keefe, who purports that the Sandy Hook massacre was actually a sinister “psy-ops” ploy by the government. When I told him I didn’t buy into such nutty conspiracy theories, this acquaintance of mine accused me of not being “open-minded” enough.

    How does one possibly argue with this kind of lunacy? It would be easy to assume that if you just ignore it, it’ll go away. But in this age of YouTube videos and one-stop-shopping websites for conspiracy theories like InfoWars and WorldNetDaily and FreedomWorks, such nutty ideas DON’T go away. They go VIRAL.

    Other gun nuts are predicting civil war and armed revolution if the government passes so much as ONE new gun control law; how does one counter such threats? Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro predicts a “tyrannical” government will arise in the U.S. in the next 50-100 years; how does one argue against such prophecies?

    What the HELL is going on???

  • Nathan

    Was Bonhoeffer a conspiracy theorist or a prudent man whose beliefs required actions?

    Was this country truly founded on Christian principles by Christian men and like minded deists? The same ones who fought a war for our independence?

    Just because not all conspiracies are true you can’t claim there aren’t any. Your straw man argument willfully ignores what is happening on multiple fronts in this country. Curtailing of religious liberty, the abortion agenda, Obama care and the push against the 2nd amendment. Christians are called to be as cunning as serpents and as gentle as doves. Not like an ostrich with our head in the sand. Just because God is in control does not mean we have no onus to be paying attention. To take action where belief requires it.

  • Diane

    One Comment…WAG THE DOG

  • Travis

    Have you not read any scripture involving sheep in your entire life? Or how about Satan the great deceiver? What is this crap? I’m not exactly your average Christian as I find truth in all religions but I did grow up a Christian and know exactly what the Bible says. What boggles my mind is how you are using your own religious label to A) demonize people seeking truth and B) to boast your own credentials for the extremely biased and simple-minded article you are trying to pursuade readers to agree with. What’s your deal? Are you Satan or what?

  • Travis

    “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
    Hosea 4:6

    Sure, the quote isn’t directed towards you as it is written in the Bible, but you ARE forgetting the law of God, and you ARE rejecting knowledge.

    Why not, instead of focusing on the easily dismissable, absurd evidence and making it look even more absurd, you (and other simple minded sheep and media puppets) take a look at the legitimate questioning, ridiculous levels of misinformation, and outright lies that we all witnessed.

  • don

    Plausibility may be good and a real factor in conspiracy theories, BUT the gov’t relies on plausible deniability, so we are caught in a bind that the gov’t has set up. Too many times real questions go unanswered and too many times they have lied and denied things that
    later are verified as true. It all boils down to trust. There are too many times the gov’t does
    not look out for us, and out right lies to us for any good trust to remain. The point of the constitution is to limit gov’t not citizens / freemen.

  • MatthewS

    The appeal of the conspiracy theories is the same thing the silly ads in the sidebar appeal to: “Indiana mom discovers weird trick to lose weight” or “Insurance companies HATE this guy”, etc.

    Great paragraph in the OP:
    “At bottom, a good conspiracy theory makes us feel safe. It offers an explanation for the horrors and absurdity of the world. It is a secret gnosis that only the elect have. It fills our lives with purpose by making our political opponents into larger than life arch-nemises. It flatters our biases.”

  • Anon

    I can only think of one true “conspiracy” theory, if you could call it that. You don’t hear of it from those who know the truth because it’s not safe to talk about. But some people used to talk about it. Now it’s up there with the “lore” like “Elvis is still alive!”. Although, this theory is true. I can’t tell what it is, I’m sorry. I don’t feel like risking my life or the lives of those I love right now- sorry!

  • sandysmith

    Really? This “conspiracy” makes m e feel SAFE? Why are you So sure that the events unfolded the way the news media reported them? Wait……you can’t! First lanzas mom was a teacher. They even interviewed a school employee stating all knew and loved nancy lands who worked there! Now they say she had no scholar connection! Which is it? Does that not bother you?
    The gov. Used a pic of a little girl not involved in the shooting, as a victim portrait on their website! Really! The mom had to go to t he media to get t he pic off the memorial site! The pic was actually STOLEN from her flicker account. Still no red flags for you?
    How a bout the fact that t he school in the supposedly LIVE footage of the shooting and aftermath was not sandy hook at all! It was actually st.rose of Lima school! Look at both schools, sandy hook has no trees or rounded landscaping! But t he officers rushing in pass trees a nd a rounded landscaping /parking area. What on earth!
    So how is that a conspiracy theory? All you had to do was watch the news to see those crazy blatant inconsistencies! How do you explain them away? Please tell me! Please!
    I am a born again believer. I love my Lord. He tells us to be wise. To search things out. He does not tell us to rollover and go Bach to sleep . I trust Him, he is in controll..’……and he told us things were going to get very bad before he returned.

  • Jacquie

    well, well. The author doth protest too much.

    Kudos to the poster mentioning greenberg/sexton, and dallas Goldbug, who is a paid shill.

    Operation Northwoods and Gladio are products of a larger agenda. These are facts.

    You can diss people for wanting the truth (in America this is still allowed for now).

    We dont live in a rosy culture where the msm tells the truth anymore. I know firsthand of CNN and media fakery. People are waking up.

  • Damon F.

    27 people shot to death, perhaps more than a hundred emergency responders on the scene, extensively photographed including aerial footage from a helicopter, and not a single visible drop of blood on anyone. Rrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiggggggghhhht. I probably just observed this due to the comfort it provides me to think elements of our government would stage a mass psy-op.


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