A Sandy Hook father who has been dealing with “hoaxers” and conspiracy theorists after his son’s 2012 death at an elementary school says the Internet paved the way for them to target those affected by the tragedy.
Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah Pozner was one of the victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012, has filed several copyright claims against hoaxers who have used photos or videos of his son without permission, the Guardian reported.
Pozner was once himself a conspiracy theorist and a fan of Infowars host Alex Jones. But he soon realized Jones was responsible for spreading the theory that the Sandy Hook tragedy was fake and staged by actors.
The father sent an email to Jones that read: “Haven’t we had our share of pain and suffering? I used to enjoy listening to your shows. Now I feel that your type of show created these hateful people and they need to be reeled in!”
Jones’ assistant replied with: “Alex has no doubt this was a real tragedy.”
But the damage had already been done.
The host told his audience in 2015: “Sandy Hook is synthetic, completely fake, with actors; in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids, and it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”
“Hoaxers need to be handled, not ignored,” Pozner told the Guardian when asked what he thought about conspiracy theories like “pizzagate” going mainstream. “It’s like a brushfire: You need to shape it and direct it. But if you leave it alone, it will burn down your forest, and it has reached all the way to the White House.”
President Trump has appeared on Jones’ show during his campaign and reportedly called him after his election victory in November.
Trump’s inner circle also includes conspiracy theorists like Steve Bannon, a former executive at Breitbart News — a conservative news outlet known for spreading conspiracies.
Ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn spread rumors alleging Hillary Clinton was involved in child sex trafficking. Roger Stone, a Trump adviser, claimed Chelsea Clinton had four plastic surgeries to look less like “her daddy.”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with Donald Trump or the crowd he surrounds himself with,” Pozner told the newspaper.
Instead, he’s focusing on helping other families targeted by online harassment. He founded the HONR network that lobbies against YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to stop “participating” in abuse.
Pozner says he doesn’t think the damage can be undone after engaging with hoaxers.
“It’s too late, and things have gone too far — the whole Amazon is on fire,” Pozner said. “When I was dealing with these people in 2014 and 15, you could utilize their stories and turn them around. I don’t know if you can even do that now.”
“Lawmakers don’t know how to deal with this. Police don’t know how to police the Internet, they haven’t been trained, they just tell you to turn off the computer,” he added.