Signs of support are seen along the road between Newtown and Monroe, where the kids from Sandy Hook Elementary will begin to attend classes in Monroe, Connecticut, January 2, 2013. (Photo : Reuters)
Thanks to a confluence of factors - especially the Internet - Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting conspiracy theories continue to snowball out of control this week, with numerous videos and blog posts, supposedly offering the truth, racking up views in the tens of millions.
"It's by far the hottest topic of the moment," David Mikkelson, the co-founder of the myth-debunking website Snopes.com told BuzzFeed.
BuzzFeed expounded on widespread permeation of the theories in the American consciousness: "Some of the factors that can bring theories in from the fringe appear to be driving its unexpected surge this month: A connection to America's intensely polarized political culture in general, and a message that appeals to a longstanding fear among gun owners, in particular."
Indeed, the conspiracy theories have proliferated vastly beyond their authors' traditional niche audience.
"This has gone super viral. It even surprised me how crazy insane the interest in this stuff is," Paul Joseph Watson, a guest host for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, said, Salon reported.
According to Robert Goldberg, a University of Utah historian who studies conspiracy theories, we can thank Al Gore and the Internet for much of what we're currently experiencing. 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."
The theories have been so successful it's frightening.
Since the most popular viral conspiracy video, titled "The Sandy Hook Shooting - Fully Exposed," was posted Jan. 7 to the YouTube channel ThinkOutsideTheTV, the 30-minute video has amassed almost 11 million views. There are also at least 40 other Sandy Hook conspiracy theory videos on YouTube with over 100,000 views. And as Salon notes, Alex Jones' conspiracy websites, which get 11 million visitors a month, publish new theories about the Newtown shooting daily.
The term "Sandy Hook hoax" has also dominated Twitter in the last week, according to Salon, with searches for the words mostly coming from conservative bastions such as Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
Even presumably credible people are questioning the Newtown massacre, offering their own theories as to what really happened at Sandy Hook. Among them, James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University who even drew Anderson Cooper's ire last week, TV anchor Ben Swann, and Denard Span, centerfielder for the Washington Nationals, who tweeted last week, "I was watching some controversial stuff on YouTube about the sandy hooks thing today! It really makes u think and wonder." Span reportedly later apologized and backtracked on his comments.
Tracy, a 47-year-old tenured history professor, wrote a lengthy post on his blog - memoryholeblog.com - saying the Sandy Hook school shooting may not have happened, and even if it did, it didn't happen the way it was reported. Tracy's claim is solely based on the early conflicting, erroneous reports from the crime scene in Newtown. The professor uses the mass confusion as proof that the truth regarding the shooting has not been reported.
Like many other Sandy Hook theories, Tracy claims part of the Sandy Hook conspiracy was political in nature.
"As documents relating to the Sandy Hook shooting continue to be assessed and interpreted by independent researchers, there is a growing awareness that the media coverage of the massacre of 26 children and adults was intended primarily for public consumption to further larger political ends," he wrote.
He goes on to argue that Senator Dianne Feinstein was already in the middle of trying to rework an assault weapons ban she co-sponsored in the 90s, and that the shooting gave her the leverage she needed to move it through the legislative process.
According to Salon, over 60 percent of Americans believe one conspiracy theory or another.