The Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was the worst day for this country since 9/11 and it remains that, three years later. When the news broke of the shooting, which left 20 small children and six of their adult caretakers dead, it was 9/11 that I immediately compared it to; not another gun rampage like, say, Virginia Tech or Columbine, but the terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people. I did this because despite the vast difference in the number of casualties, the feelings Sandy Hook evoked in us as a society — the anguish, confusion, desperation and sense of helplessness — were tragically reminiscent of those we experienced as a result of the September 11th terror attacks.
Sandy Hook tore a hole open in our national soul and psyche and it’s one that, depressingly, hasn’t healed to this day if for no other reason than the fact that the event spurred nothing in terms of positive change. Since Sandy Hook, a kid has died by gun violence every other day in this country, hundreds of others have been killed in day-to-day shootings and so many mass casualty shootings have taken place that it’s difficult to keep up with them. We learned nothing from the tragedy in Newtown. We did nothing. We let the gun fetishists and gun manufacturers continue their reign of terror and dozens and dozens have paid for it with their lives. And it’s almost impossible to imagine anything ever getting better because if the deaths of 20 children weren’t enough to shake us out of our complacency and make us rise up in one voice against anyone who dares shriek about how the Second Amendment says everyone’s right to accumulate a personal arsenal “shall not be infringed,” then nothing will.
The most powerful legacy of Sandy Hook is that one: that we allowed nothing positive to come of the shooting so every one of the kids and adults who died that day did so completely in vain. But there’s another infuriating legacy to Sandy Hook that mostly impacts the families of those killed and the town of Newtown itself, a place still trying to recover from what happened there three years ago. Almost immediately following the shooting, Sandy Hook became ground zero for conspiracist nuts convinced that what happened there didn’t happen. The Alex Jones fever dream crowd descended on the place both figuratively and sometimes literally, torturing people who’d already lost so much by telling them that the children they were mourning never actually existed and accusing them of taking part in a giant hoax. They’re monsters, psychotics, probably the worst fucking people on the planet — but three years later they’re still a very big problem for the families of the Sandy Hook victims.
Over the past few days, a series of articles have appeared with a common theme: They dig into the life of Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son, Noah, was killed at Sandy Hook elementary. Pozner is one of the very few Sandy Hook parents who’ve actually attempted to engage the conspiracy theorists and “truthers,” in the hope of proving to them that his son was a real person and really did die on December 14th, 2012, along with 19 other little kids. Pozner says he’s doing it to protect the honor of his child — the problem is, as you’d imagine, that there’s literally nothing that can be done to convince a die-hard conspiracist that his insane theories are just that: insane. Still, Pozner has indulged a steady stream of comers, showing them pictures of his boy, telling them stories about Noah’s personality, even revealing the child’s birth and death certificates. So far, none of it has been enough to stop the relentless harassment — and if you understand anything at all about these lunatics, you know that almost nothing will stop it. No amount of proof would satisfy them. Because they’re completely obsessed with this nonsense “truth” that only they know.
Pozner apparently began a discussion with a guy named Wolfgang Halbig, a former Florida state trooper and director of school safety and security for the Seminole County school system who’s spent the past few years harassing the Sandy Hook families and Newtown officials because he’s convinced we’re all being lied to about the shooting. Like all conspiracy theorists worth their salt, Halbig has lived in the slim crevices between the answers — where some questions can still remain about the shooting — and he’s used his impressive-sounding resume to lend his bullshit an air of credibility. Sandy Hook truthers love to reference Halbig because they believe his alleged expertise makes him unassailable and he’s a favorite of Alex Jones acolyte and shaved monkey Dan Bidondi, who Bob Cesca and I regularly mock mercilessly on the podcast we do.
Pozner tried to meet with Halbig, but after some back and forth that included several run-ins with Halbig’s crazy followers on social media — one of whom who told Pozner,“Fuck your fake family, you piece of shit” — Halbig refused to actually come face-to-face with the grieving father. “Wolfgang does not wish to speak with you,” said someone doing the talking for him, “unless you exhume Noah’s body and prove to the world you lost your son.” That’s what it takes for these people. That’s how ghoulish they are. Dig up your son and let us see the body and maybe, MAYBE we’ll believe. The idea that Lenny Pozner, or really anyone who lost a child at Sandy Hook, has to suffer through this kind of thing — the relentless relitigation of his child’s life and death by delusional conspiracy theorists — is revolting. But it’s happening. It’s been a fact of life for the families of Sandy Hook for three years and it’s going to continue to be until the crazies either get bored or find something new to occupy their frenzied imaginations full-time (which isn’t likely seeing as how Sandy Hook specifically has attracted an unusually rabid brand of conspiracist following).
It’s been so traumatic that Lenny Pozner wrote an op-ed on the abuse he’s taken for South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel. The piece was targeted at one particular abuser, a Florida Atlantic University professor named James Tracy — don’t even ask why all these wack-jobs come from Florida — who has apparently spent the past few years heaping invective at Pozner and his family in public. According to Pozner’s op-ed, Tracy “sent us a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image. We found this so outrageous and unsettling that we filed a police report for harassment. Once Tracy realized we would not respond, he subjected us to ridicule and contempt on his blog, boasting to his readers that the ‘unfulfilled request’ was ‘noteworthy’ because we had used copyright claims to ‘thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event.’”
If you already think James Tracy sounds like a real peach, wait’ll you hear his response to Pozner’s op-ed. On his Facebook page, he dismissed the Pozners and all the Sandy Hook families as “alleged parents” and wrote about Lenny Pozner specifically, saying, “The only proof (he) has produced that Noah died in Sandy Hook is a death certificate he provided… which has been revealed as a fabrication.” The person who likely “revealed” the certificate as a fabrication — meaning he’s simply claiming it is — is a philosophy professor named James Fetzer, who’s pretty much the leading conspiracy theorist on Sandy Hook, which makes sense given that he’s also a renowned 9/11 truther and a proponent of the Kennedy assassination conspiracy. He believes the whole Sandy Hook thing was a put-on, a FEMA drill designed to trigger a clamp-down on gun rights — it was a huge success as you can plainly see — and that the families President Obama visited after the shooting and who were interviewed over and over again on CNN and such were just “crisis actors.” Because of this, he and his conspiratorial nut-job followers will likely never relent in their fight against the Sandy Hook families. They’ll continue to try to pick apart their lives looking for conclusive proof they’ve been right all this time.
In May of last year, I wrote a piece here at The Daily Banter that acted as an open letter to one particular Sandy Hook hoaxer. At the time, someone had stolen a series of placards dedicating a memorial playground to Sandy Hook victim Grace McDonnell, then phoned the little girl’s parents and tormented them, saying that he had taken the signs because their daughter didn’t exist. I called him out for it and, incredibly, he contacted me in response, e-mailing me pictures of the stolen signs in his living room to prove he was who he said he was. I did some investigating and we here at the Banter then worked with the police to lead them to the thief, who turned out to be a 28-year-old Virginia man named Andrew Truelove who had a history of trouble with the law. I worked with the cops because personally it’s hard to think of anyone more deserving of having his ass handed to him by life than somebody who tortures the families of dead children because he believes nonsense. Conspiracy theorists are a serious threat to democracy these days precisely because their beliefs aren’t founded in fact and yet they seek to influence policy. What’s more, these days thanks to clowns like Alex Jones and the proliferation of social media, these people can have an outsized influence they frankly don’t deserve at all.
As Christopher Hitchens famously said, that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. In other words, if all you’ve got are some coincidences and you’re extrapolating from that and alleging corruption on a massive scale, we get to just brush off everything you can. Got no firm evidence? Then you’ve got nothing, certainly not enough to claim a government conspiracy. But the Sandy Hook hoaxers don’t see it that way and that’s because, as we’ve said here before, the world of the conspiracy theorist is where arrogance and ignorance meet. They’re sure they know the truth and they’re the only ones who can see it because they’re so smart not to believe the official word like all those sheeple, but the fact is they don’t know dick. They’re completely fucking ignorant.
Thankfully, Lenny Pozner feels equally strongly about this new conspiracist movement that’s afflicted our country because rather than taking the abuse lying down, he’s fighting back — filing lawsuits, speaking out publicly, making his voice heard. And because he’s a Sandy Hook parent, he’s being heard. That’s good. It’s good for him and good for us and good for the next family of a murdered child, man or woman who these idiots decide never existed in the first place. Their tormenters will never wake up and realize how crazy and monstrous they really are, because it’s the nature of a conspiracy theory to be completely bulletproof to logic, reason or pleas for mercy and decency. But the more they’re put in their place by the rest of us, the better.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.