Gene Rosen’s story at Salon jumped out at me:
“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?”
“The quantity of the material is overwhelming,” he said. So much so that a friend shields him from most of it by doing daily sweeps of the Web so Rosen doesn’t have to. His wife is worried for their safety. He’s logged every email and every call, and consulted with a retired state police officer, who took the complaint seriously but said police probably can’t do anything at the moment; he plans to do the same with the FBI.
What did Rosen do to deserve this? One month ago, he found six little children and a bus driver at the end of the driveway of his home in Newtown, Conn. “We can’t go back to school,” one little boy told Rosen. “Our teacher is dead.” He brought them inside and gave them food and juice and toys. He called their parents. He sat with them and listened to their shocked accounts of what had happened just down the street inside Sandy Hook Elementary, close enough that Rosen heard the gunshots.
In the hours and days that followed, Rosen did a lot of media interviews. “I wanted to speak about the bravery of the children, and it kind of helped me work through this,” he told Salon in an interview. “I guess I kind of opened myself up to this.”
In American, conspiracism has always been with us. Sometimes it’s funny. But increasingly, thanks to the internet, small groups of vocal conspiracists are able to push their narrative into the public eye. It’s hard to imagine the Birthers or the 9/11 Truthers being as prominent without youtube and web forums.
So, yeah, don’t feed the trolls. But what do you do when the trolls start biting on you?