“Truther” videos continue to rack up views on YouTube, but the power and far-reaching influence of the videos looks to have been deflated. (Photo : Reuters)
Sandy Hook conspiracy and hoax theories have been successful with multiple YouTube videos totaling tens of millions of views, but has the "truther" movement finally plateaued?
With numerous groups and individuals relentlessly pushing Sandy Hook related conspiracy theories, January has been dominated by various allegations for the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012.
Since the most popular viral hoax video, titled "The Sandy Hook Shooting - Fully Exposed," was posted Jan. 7 to the YouTube channel ThinkOutsideTheTV, the 30-minute video has amassed almost 12 million views.
The video assembles random assortments of news clips to draw attention to the "inconsistencies" in the media's coverage of the Sandy Hook shooting, a similar line of reasoning used by Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy in the Newtown conspiracy theory he wrote on his blog, memoryholeblog.com
"This is a simple, logical video. No aliens, holigrams [sic], rituals or anything like that, just facts," says the video in its first seconds.
"The video begins with something that really everybody can accept -- 'We are just raising questions,'" Benjamin Radford, author of "Media Mythmakers," told The Huffington Post. "The whole subject is framed like, 'Don't look at us, we're not saying this crazy stuff, we're just asking questions.'"
Of course, that's exactly what the video is: Questions, and nothing more.
"All they offer are tantalizing 'could be's," Radford said.
"The classic conspiracy theorist sees the hidden hand in everything. Nothing is as it seems. There's something bigger that's going on. They dont know where it is, but they are willing to tantalize people and throw out any number of suggestions, which are oftentimes contradictory," he said.
"Once I learned about all the false flag attacks in history that have been proven to be true, I knew it was only a matter of time before another came a long," the anonymous creator of the Sandy Hook Shooting - Fully Exposed" YouTube video stated to Gawker.
There are also at least 40 other Sandy Hook conspiracy theory videos on YouTube with over 100,000 views. As Salon notes, Alex Jones' conspiracy websites, which get 11 million visitors a month, publish new theories about the Newtown shooting daily. And even seemingly credible people like Tracy are espousing "false flag" like theories.
The "truther" movement may have finally peaked, though. According to Salon, searches for "Sandy Hook hoax" and "Sandy Hook conspiracy" have decreased dramatically in just the last two weeks, after rapidly gaining millions of hits by Jan. 16.
"Truther" videos continue to rack up views on YouTube, but the power and far-reaching influence of the videos also looks to have been deflated; "Pt. 2" of the "Fully Exposed" video hasn't gone anywhere near as viral as the first, only amassing about 200,000 views since it debuted over a week ago.
According to Robert Goldberg, a University of Utah historian who studies conspiracy theories, we can thank Al Gore and the Internet for the popularity of the Sandy Hook hoax theories. Thanks to the Internet, the media can no longer just squelch a leftfield conspiracy by ignoring it.
"The biggest problem for theorists was always getting their message out," Goldberg told Salon. "The Internet has completely changed that. Often, they don't even bother trying to get their theories in the mainstream media anymore."
While the public's attention seems to have drifted away from the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, Deen Freelon, an assistant professor at American University in Washington, says the current drop in the number of Internet views doesn't necessarily point to a loss of public interest in the topic, or that conspiracy theorists have ceased their efforts.
"These search and media peaks and valleys are probably driven by news coverage," he explained. "We found similar patterns in our work on Twitter use during the Arab Spring - many of the tweets were from people interested in the topic as opposed to protest participants, and I'd be surprised if something similar wasn't going on here."