The Sandy Hook Truth Movement has Found a Victim

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?

  • Custador

    Personally I beat them with a cricket bat with nails through it.

    • Artor

      I like Beowulf’s example. Tear their arms off & beat them to death.

  • kessy_athena

    I find this trend increasingly worrying. These folks remind me a lot of the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And remember those people killed two US Presidents and started a world war. Crazy people who are completely out of touch with reality, think the government is out to get them, and both have weapons and are willing to use them is a recipe for trouble. I’m worried that if this trend continues it’s only a matter of time until people start getting assassinated.

    • UrsaMinor

      I would argue that the new assassination era has already begun, except that Gabrielle Giffords survived. But it seems likely that there are more attempts to come, and sooner or later one of them will succeed.

      Wanna bet that politicians on the left are going to be the primary targets?

      • kessy_athena

        LOL! No way I’m taking that bet. I was thinking about Giffords, but I thought the shooter in that case was severely mentally ill, and wasn’t really motivated by politics per se? Although it’s interesting how whenever something like that happens, right wingers always immediately start explaining, loudly, how they’re not responsible for it and the person didn’t do it because he was conservative. Even before anyone has any idea who the shooter was or why they did it. Guilty conscious, perhaps?

        I’m also worried about repeats of Waco and Ruby Ridge.

  • PsiCop

    Re: “It’s hard to imagine the Birthers or the 9/11 Truthers being as prominent without youtube and web forums.”

    … or well-known Rightists (as in, the elected-to-office kind, or the paid-a-lot-to-be-pundits-in-broadcast-media kind) tossing these cranks and wingnuts a wink and a nod, now and then. You know, by saying things along the lines of, “I believe the President when he says he’s a citizen, but people still have questions.”

    At the moment the idea that Obama either staged this massacre or ordered it to be carried out, fits very well into the Right’s sanctimonious rage against the President. Because, you know, he’s planning to take everyone’s guns away. Yes, he intends to do that … in spite of the Second Amendment and the Heller and McDonald decisions. Because he’s just itching for a chance to violate the Constitution, you know, and launch a Communist takeover of the country.

    In other words, there’s a very fine line between the raging insanity of things like the Sandy Hook Truther movement, and the basic underlying current of paranoia within the ideological Right wing, which controls a lot of states as well as the House of Representatives, and thus wields a good deal of power. In fact, I’d even say there is no “line” between them, just a continuum of nuttiness that goes from the merely-absurd to the outrageous all the way out to full-blown mental illness.

    • JohnMWhite

      If Obama intended to take people’s guns away, and was willing to have children shot as a means to that end, I don’t think the 2nd Amendment or the Heller or McDonald decisions would really matter. This is a guy who believes every human being on the planet is a viable target for being blown up by a drone on the basis of secret evidence they’re a terrorist, without a trial, without review by anybody else. I’m by no means saying he’s a dictator (certainly he’s better than the alternative, and he’s not exactly effective at getting his way), but if you already believe he is your enemy or he’s out to get you, appealing to extant laws as a buffer against him seems ludicrous. It’s like assuming the Catholic Church wouldn’t cover up thousands of instances of sexual abuse of minors so long as you remind them there’s a law against that. People with power use it and laws tend to quickly fall by the wayside.

      What really concerns me is that while it’s pretty damn obvious the vast majority of these right-wing reactionaries are reacting specifically to the colour of the President’s skin, and not basing their fears in any real facts about him or his actions, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to worry about. Obama does not seem poised to initiate a socialist takeover of the United States (as a European socialist, it’s hilarious to me that anybody uses that word to describe him), but governments do turn on their people and leaders do sometimes amass power and do dreadful things with it. Let us not forget Obama’s predecessor, and his legacy of hundreds of thousands of civilians dead, thousands of soldiers killed, millions wounded and displaced and who knows how many stuck in dark holes throughout the world and tortured, all after lying to his own population and wrecking their and all while sinking their economy and ruining their future. Guns aren’t the answer to that either, but I think it’s important to remember that it wasn’t so long ago the shoe was on the other foot, and there was a palpable fear among liberals of just what the US President was capable of.

      The 9/11 Truthers have some weird ideas about pods and replacement planes that seem to be uselessly convoluted, but the core concept of a government willing to deliberately kill its own people to facilitate a war isn’t exactly a fantasy. A lot of politicians are just bad people, and a lot of politics is deeply dirty. That’s simplistic, obviously, and doesn’t actually mean 9/11 was planned or allowed to happen by the US, but I can see where the fear comes from and dismissing it because it’s the other side that feels it this time seems misguided.

      • JohnMWhite

        “…all after lying to his own population and wrecking their …”

        Should read “all after lying to his own population and wrecking their perception around the world”

      • kessy_athena

        I think there is a difference between the reasonable skepticism of authority we should all practice and wingnut paranoia. It’s one thing to dislike and distrust Obama because of his politics. It’s another to be convinced he’s about to do things that he could only actually accomplish if he pulled off a coup. While I’m certainly not going to make the mistake of thinking a coup never happen here, there are some really big obstacles to it actually happening. A successful coup in the US would at a minimum require the support of a solid majority of the public, the military, and the national security establishment. While that certainly could happen, I’d say the chances of it happening in the near future are pretty slim. As for government involvement in creating “incidents” – you’re right that’s certainly happened in the past. But in the US today, the risk benefit analysis makes me think that’s pretty unlikely too. Such a plot would have a pretty high chance of being discovered, and the consequences of being discovered are really severe. The careers of anyone even implicated in such a thing would be immediately over, and their political agenda completely discredited. Not to mention the not insignificant risk of spending the rest of your life in prison.

        I will admit that a few thoughts did cross my mind in 2004 that if Bush won it might be our last election, but I never really thought that was anything other then a remote possibility.

      • PsiCop

        Re: “I’m by no means saying he’s a dictator (certainly he’s better than the alternative, and he’s not exactly effective at getting his way), but if you already believe he is your enemy or he’s out to get you, appealing to extant laws as a buffer against him seems ludicrous.”

        Here’s the scenario: Obama signs an executive order disarming all Americans, and arresting anyone who has a gun but refuses to give it up. He dispatches the forces of the federal government (probably DHS) to gather up all the guns and ammo and arrest those who resist. Someone who has his gun taken, and/or who’s arrested … or more likely, a whole group of them … sue the federal government over it.

        At that point it becomes something that cannot be ignored. The courts might start by issuing a moratorium on gun collections until the case is resolved. The Obama administration would probably litigate against that, and keep collecting guns & arresting people, but no matter how long it takes, at some point courts will end up making a decision either way. At that time Obama will have to choose either to abide by the court decision if it goes against him.

        Are you seriously contending he would continue collecting guns and arresting their owners, at that point?

        The comparison to the Catholic Church isn’t valid, because the entire reason the Church was able to abuse kids for so long is precisely because it was going on under the national radar … partially because they were able to keep it quiet, but also partially because the small number of people who knew about it were cowed into silence or chose to be quiet for their own reasons. The fact that it’s been investigated worldwide, and numerous lawsuits filed over it, means the Church is now less likely than before to get away with it.

        By contrast, Obama won’t be able to carry out a gun-collection-&-gun-owner-round-up, secretly or under the radar. It just can’t happen. I suppose it might be possible for Obama to attempt it, but I just don’t see how it could be kept quiet in the same way that R.C. Church child abuse was able to be kept quiet.

        • JohnMWhite

          “Are you seriously contending he would continue collecting guns and arresting their owners, at that point?”

          I’m not contending that, I’m saying that this is the contention somebody who thinks Obama is an enemy of democracy would very easily make. You’re missing my point. When you see a monster in charge of a country, you’re not going to be mollified by “don’t worry, we have laws you know”. You’re not going to believe that a dictator is going to actually stop when a court gives a ruling he doesn’t like. The issue is perception – these people truly believe Obama is capable of violently destroying their entire way of life, and that he wants to.

          And it isn’t about keeping it secret, it’s about doing it and getting away with it. The Catholic hierarchy still hasn’t been held to account for their role in covering up decades of abuse and they still continue to play the victim in public discourse and retraumatise thousands all over again while being welcomed with open arms by quisling politicians. Why? Because they have power, and that power allows them to flout the law and remain untouched by the normal consequences of their actions. In the right wing mind, Obama has that power too, and the will to use it. It’s easy to think that way when you see the world in black and white, good and evil, though I hate for us to forget that it wasn’t long ago when liberals thought the US president was determined to completely usurp the rule of law, up to an international level, and kill and torture thousands in his quest for corporate profit and personal revenge. I don’t think “there’s a law against that, someone can sue” was ever enough to assuage those concerns.

      • vasaroti

        “without review by anybody else. ” Actually, a lot of people contribute to the decision to take out a particular terrorist. Speaking as ex-Army, a drone strike beats the heck out of having a team go deep into hostile territory to find a terrorist, and drones have optical capabilities that humans on the ground do not, reducing the number of other people killed or injured. Where was all this criticism during the Iraq wars, when residences and gatherings were bombed in an attempt to take out key figures?

  • vasaroti

    Huh. I feel like I’ve seen plenty of Sandy Hook coverage, but I’ve never heard of this guy before. I hope he and his friends can trace the origin of the assertion that he is lying (Fox News?) and sue them.

  • ildi

    While the truthers and birthers may be just as wack, I’ve never heard of the truthers, for example, harassing the first responders for being part of the conspiracy. Am I wrong on this?

    • Yoav

      Probably for the same reason that PETA go after old ladies wearing fur but you never hear of them throwing paint at hell’s angels.

  • EP

    I really feel terribly for Gene and his family. Being harassed and scared for your well being, with threats from strangers, is an ordeal no one should suffer.

    And though I am no “Truther” (I am not even American), and though I feel for Gene…there is something fishy with his story.

    After spending mere moments searching him online (since I had no clue who he was), it becomes quite evident, quite quickly, that his story doesn’t add up. He tells one thing to one news agency, and another story to another interviewer and so on.

    His facts are inconsistent as he re-tells his story and the idea that he would keep children in his home, for a prolonged period of time, without calling police or parents, is troublesome as a parent. Not to mention the idea a bus driver would leave children in his/her care with a stranger is frightening.

    If news agencies are to blame, for skewing his story and causing him to be factually incorrect about his own admissions, then he should seek legal advice and consider taking action. Because though “truthers” are pulling strings in some cases, Gene’s interviews are making him look very suspicious.

    • Custador

      You have no idea how hard I’m resisting the temptation to… Oh, screw it.

      Lying Dickhead Translation Filter Engaging………Done.
      Scanning Input Text……..Done.
      Output Language: English (UK).
      Translation Follows:

      “Hi, I’m going to pretend that I’m not a conspiracy wingnut, and then proceed to highlight all of the things which I think legitimise me being a conspiracy wingnut, even though I’m not one. Honest. I’m too lazy and/or stupid to think of logical explanations for things, even when those explanations lie well inside my sphere of experience. And I would certainly never dream of using Google to find out what other people who are actually sane and rational think. No, I’d rather pretend that some innocent guy who was minding his own business one day and got caught up in a national news story through no fault of his own, is actually some creepy, untrustworthy liar who made the whole thing up. But I’m not a conspiracy nut! Honest!

      Translation Complete.
      Disengaging Lying Dickhead Translation Filter……Done.

      • UrsaMinor

        Some things are just too tempting. I have the feeling you would have eaten the apple and opened the box, too, had either or both of them been set in front of you.

    • EP

      The comment that I originally attempted to leave on here was edited, and quite heavily, without my consent, by what appears to be a Patheos comment moderator?

      I find this editing job hilarious and slightly disturbing, as I sit in my office laughing at what was written. So thank you for the amusement, though somewhat shocked a reputable website would do such a thing.

      I have had some spirited debate on the site before, intelligent debate at that, which I have greatly appreciated. I attempted to have that here, on this story, which is full of inconsistencies, which I assumed could be pointed out, and perhaps debated with civility.

      I see that is not the case. I will no longer be engaging with your website, and will submit a complaint to the webmaster, as I have written been a contributor for this site before. Sorry for your assumption of who I have, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.

      • Custador

        I didn’t alter what you wrote in any way, I only added to it. And you more than earned that mockery. Frankly, the affronted butt-hurt schtick is equally unwelcome considering the entire point of your first post was to character assassinate an innocent man who can’t respond or defend himself. Please feel free to submit your complaint to Dan. I’m sure it will ammuse him for a second or two.

        • Sunny Day

          His post is his post.
          It’s really shabby of you to abuse your powers over the website to alter another persons post, even just by adding to it, instead of replying like everyone else does.
          It smacks of grandstanding and abusing your authority.

        • Jabster

          As Sunny Day says … there’s one thing mocking him by just posting a reply but it’s quite another by altering his original post – problem is I do still find it a tad funny and the OP reaction was even better.

          • Custador

            …And yet it’s something that I (and others) have done several times over the years and received not one whiff of objection to until now…

            Bottom line: If he’d have just been honest about what he was saying he’d have just gotten an argument. Instead he opened (and continued) with that namby-pamby, passive-aggressive bullshit. It’s the equivalent of Bill O’Reilly saying “Of course I don’t believe Barrack HUSSEIN Obama is a foreign Muslim, but why won’t he show his birth certificate?” He claims to be one thing and his words prove he’s another. Sorry, but that kind of slimy, mealy-mouthed dishonesty deserves all the mocking it gets.

            However: If it’s going to cause a meltdown, I shall put his comment back as it was, in it’s original slimy form, and I’ll move the translation to a comment below it.

            • UrsaMinor

              In most cases, it is sufficient to post a rebuttal.

            • Kodie

              Mock it like a regular person then, don’t pre-mock it and take all the discussion away from everyone. We are capable of thinking and saying on our own without being fed a heavily moderated version of his post. You got what you wanted, he went away. Did we get what we came here for?

            • Kodie

              And then call it a “meltdown”? Sorry, but handle criticism better.

            • Sunny Day

              Aside from the worthless and obvious advertizing spam, I’m all for never altering anyone’s posts.
              If someone says something bannable just modify the end of their post with a “And this person just got banned.”

            • UrsaMinor

              Might help to state the reason someone is banned. Threats of violence, sockpuppetry, blatant proselytizing outside of the designated prosetylization thread on the forums, for example. Being disingenuous is certainly annoying, but not really a violation of the rules AFAIK.

            • Kodie

              There no longer seem to be any posting guidelines or comment policies, it’s just push the wrong button.

            • Sunny Day

              RAWR! YOU TAKE THAT BACK!

            • Custador

              The criteria for banning have not changed, the main one still being trolling. That is, however, a judgement call. What one person sees as trolling, the next person may not. And that’s fine, nobody expects the entire community to completely agree with every decision.

          • Rotney

            My goodness. You people here actually believe the load of crap the the main stream media has fed you?

            There is no law that says CNN or MSNBC have to provide the viewer with the truth.

            It’s happening people. Communism is expanding and the constitution is dissolving here in the US.

            If you can’t see the psy ops elements of Sandy Hook then your are not a logical thinking human being and you do not have the ability to notice small details.

            Eyes Wide Shut.

            • Custador

              You’re an idiot. That is all.

            • Troutbane

              What’s it like arguing for a long time with a conspiracy nut?


              My favorite is after line 132 where his logical argument was dis-proven. Its almost like you could hear the mental gears smoking right before the cognitive dissonance sets in.

            • Custador

              Damn, that was a painful read :-/ Reinforces my point though: Don’t argue with these morons, just mock them.

    • PsiCop

      Virtually every event that takes place, and which is reported in the media, will have aspects of the story that are “funky” in some way. It’s true there were odd things about how the Newtown massacre was reported. I ought to know, I live in Connecticut and was able to watch & hear some of the local news coverage.

      Weirdness #1: I saw video footage of police with dogs tracking a guy in the woods outside the school, being arrested. Yet, the police would not admit they took anyone into custody. To this day they refuse to acknowledge this. Whoever that guy is might now be rotting in some jail and no one would ever know because there’s no way to find out where he is.

      Weirdness #2: Early coverage claimed that the shooter had a girlfriend in New Jersey who’d gone missing. Then later we hear he had no girlfriend, and media outlets claimed to have confirmed she was not missing. That’s strange, though, because if the shooter had no girlfriend, then precisely who was it that they confirmed was not missing?

      Weirdness #3: Police announced they’d hired a geneticist to probe the shooter’s DNA and physiology. All I can say to that is, WTF? What is it they think they’ll turn up?

      That said, none of this weirdness means there’s any nefarious conspiracy going on. The media were as confused as anyone else that day, and it showed in their reporting. As for the guy the police picked up, it’s likely he had nothing to do with the shooting & was released, but if the police admitted it, they’d potentially expose the guy to harassment by reporters. So they deny he even existed. The girlfriend story was probably generated by various rumors the media had been pursuing; once they found out none of it went anywhere, they used the “confirmed she’s not missing” thing to shrug off the embarrassment that would ensue had they been forced to explicitly admit they’d been talking up their behinds. As for the genetic investigation, that’s just the state of CT trying to sound all high-tech and “CSI”-ish and give the impression they’re going to leave no stone unturned.

      That there are problems with Rosen’s accounts is no worse than any of the above. It doesn’t mean he did anything nefarious. It doesn’t mean there’s a vile conspiracy underfoot and it doesn’t mean he’s part of it. It means he got caught up in a stressful event and reacted to it as almost anyone would … with some confusion & even backtracking.

      It’s easy to cook up a wicked conspiracy to explain anomalies and inconsistencies. It’s comforting to do so, too, because it means everything can be bundled up neatly and explained fully. That’s the sort of thing that simpletons and children like. Mature adults, however, understand that real life is messy and confusing, and that sometimes there aren’t any neat explanations for things.

  • EP

    I did not character assasinate Gene in any manner. I can’t understand how you gathered that from my post. Mind you, I do find that sentiment somewhat ironic, since by altering and adding to my comment and name calling, you engaged in that very behaviour towards me.

    I merely pointed out there are holes in his story. Only a small amount of intelligence is required to see that is true.

    BUT I also stated that if it is the news agencies that have skewed his story to create the gaps, and cause questioning, that he should seek legal advice. They are the ones that gain from these stories.

    I expect this from other sites, which is why I never comment on them. Point taken that I can now add to the list.

    How disapointing. I hope you and Dan are amused.

    • Custador

      Yes. You did. And now you’re acting like a whining child because it got the mocking it earned. Go play the victim card to people who care to hear it, please.

      • JohnMWhite

        Come on now, Custador, you know better. If anyone is being childish here, it’s the big boy with the cool toys who is using them to mock somebody who thinks differently. While it’s clearly unfair to cast an innocent man who helped some children in a terrible situation as some kind of stooge or sinister villain, your response was out of proportion, out of character, and a blot on the credibility of this site.

      • Kodie

        The way I see it, favor always goes to the victims or the helpers and heroes, as if nobody ever wanted to get on TV so bad they inserted themselves into a major news story to get credit they didn’t deserve. How dare EP say he’s a liar! I haven’t paid enough attention to this after the fact to know what’s going on. There is apparently some suspicion about people on TV now claiming there is some harassment going on. There are people who think the whole massacre was staged, and then there is this guy who helped some of the kids say these people are harassing him and others who did what anyone else would have done in a crisis. I don’t know why.

        I know people who get too emotional at the news. I’m not talking about crying over what happened at the school, but wrapped up in the drama of the aftermath. People’s lives are so fucking ordinary that they have to get in there somehow. They have to believe there’s some “truth” they have to suss out by going to a guy’s house and harassing him…. I do believe people get that wrapped up in a news story that it becomes part of their own story somehow. I don’t know why people do that. It’s the news on tv 24 hours a day and they can’t let it go. They can’t say “what else is going on” when the news stays on one thing and feeds these consumers the raw meat they want every day. How many goddamned “details” do you need? I have seen these news stories go on and on for weeks with no wrap-up in sight until something else happens; it just keeps churning people up. It’s fascinating as well as fucking annoying. Bored people with nothing else to talk about, news stories activating them to reject what they’re told and believe the opposite, go out of their way to cause damage.

        We’re never told the whole truth, and that doesn’t mean there is an alternate, completely upside-down version that’s actually true. It’s just one thing that we’re trained to do is care about what other people care about and the news broadcasting one story over and over and the multiple facets and layers is how people know what’s going on. This used to be – water-cooler talk. “Hey, did you see last night on the evening news about they found that murdered woman’s body?” Similarly, “hey, how about those Ravens?” People are fed conversational openings by the TV. Now it has turned into a thing people do. They become personally invested in a story and figure out a way to be a part of it, such as harassing this guy, generating even more layers to a story. They don’t want to sit on their couch for hours and hours in a row eating chee-tos merely consuming the story. I have seen this over and over again, how people develop strong opinions, very strong, very important opinions. The world will stop turning if people don’t decide who is guilty, who is a liar, etc., and if the general climate of opinion and foreseeable outcome seems unfavorable to someone, they go out and do something about it.

        People who love their guns too much + conspiracy = something pretty bad and completely unnecessary. I don’t know why people are so bored and disaffected.

        But anyway, that’s more interesting to talk about than some asshole came to your blog and how offensive he is to express his suspicions. Where is he getting his information from, why do people think there are a lot more twists and turns to the story if they feel like the reporter didn’t tell them the answer to every question they had? The “rest of the story” is being picked apart on other channels by people being paid to keep talking.