In 2012, a gunman came to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 20 first-graders and six educators. But what was strange about the deadly shooting was that the parents of the slain were berated by people, led by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who claimed it was a “giant hoax.” Although a court has found Jones liable for damages in three defamation lawsuits filed by parents whose children were killed, as one author observes, the problem of disinformation and conspiracy theory campaigns persist online.
“If you start with a conspiratorial mindset, what you tend to do is to look for, it’s a confirmation bias. You look for information that confirms your suspicions rather than the broad body of information that is available.” — Elizabeth Williamson, author of “Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth”
Listen: How conspiracy theories take hold and what we can do to stop them.
Elizabeth Williamson is the author of “Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth.” She says people who believe conspiracy theories are, partly, seeking community.
“Once someone has attached themselves to a conspiracy theory or theories, it’s really hard to talk them out of it because they tend to derive, as we said before, a kind of psychic income from this,” says Williamson. “They have companionship in the group of people who share these views, they get a little bit of boost of, you know, self-esteem, they feel kind of part of a community.”