Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Truthers' bent on inventing Newtown fiction

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The truth is out there, and a loosely knit cabal of conspiracy theorists say it is determined to defy the authorities and share their reality.

"Truthers" believe, among other improbabilities, that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax and the grieving parents were paid actors, that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by George W. Bush's administration and that U.S. President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, making him ineligible to occupy the White House.

The Internet allows truthers a vast platform. Recently, that resulted in anguish for the Sandy Hook parents. Former Winnipegger Nelba Márquez-Greene took to Facebook to plead for an end to this nonsense. Here's what she said after a news conference held by Sandy Hook parents set off another wave of disbelievers:

"Many want the 'real' story. Here is the real story: Evil visited Newtown," she wrote. "Now it's our choice to respond. We choose good. We choose life. We choose hope. We choose that even though we're sad and we weren't perfect parents, we got one thing right: We invested in eternal things."

Conspiracy theories are as old as recorded history, a cultural phenomenon purporting to explain personal or world events with claims of hidden agendas, generally by big government or media. The New World Order conspiracy asserts international elites control and manipulate governments, industry and banking. The 1963 assassination of American president John F. Kennedy launched still-enduring theories that the CIA, FBI, KGB or Fidel Castro played a role in his death.

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the site where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot, is rich with photos, exhibits and video of the event. I met former Dallas police officer James Leavelle at the museum. He was handcuffed to Oswald when the sniper was shot by Jack Ruby. His belief that Oswald acted alone was unshakable.

But truthers persist. They parse photos, news reports and rumour to "prove" their theories. Sandy Hook has provided a fresh opportunity, and many of these lunatics have filled websites with their nonsense.

In a blog, James Tracy, a tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University, expressed doubt the Sandy Hook killings took place.

"With the exception of an unusual and apparently contrived appearance by (slain six-year-old) Emilie Parker's alleged father," he wrote, "victims' family members have been almost wholly absent from public scrutiny... While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place -- at least in the way law-enforcement authorities and the nation's news media have described."

I was at Ana Márquez-Greene's funeral. His suggestion is obscene.

Another truther website claims people were paid to act as parents and students.

"After such a harrowing event, why are select would-be family members and students lingering in the area and repeatedly offering themselves for interviews," it asks. "A possible reason is that they are trained actors working under the direction of state and federal authorities and in co-ordination with cable and broadcast network talent to provide tailor-made crisis acting that realistically drives home the event's tragic features."

This would be almost entertaining if the truthers weren't reaching such a large and gullible audience.

One of the most popular Sandy Hook truther theories is that the alleged slaughter of children was a scam pulled off by Obama's team to bolster support for the president's gun-control measures. Earlier this week, the NRA launched an ad campaign attacking Obama for trying to curb gun violence while using armed Secret Service agents to protect his own children.

In truther world, Obama is a hypocrite bent on wresting guns from the hands of average Americans. They believe, he'll even pretend 20 little Americans were murdered to further his nefarious campaign.

The truth is out there. Evil happens. Children die. More than 900 Americans have been killed by firearms since the Newtown massacre. Assault weapons should be banned. If there's a conspiracy, it is by those who benefit from the sale of guns and turn a blind eye to the resulting carnage.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 B1

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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