An unsettling pattern has emerged in the aftermath of national tragedies, like the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Survivors and victims’ families are grieving the loss of their loved ones but these days, they are also the targets of a wave of vitriol aimed directly at them.
They are often harassed online and in person by conspiracy theorists who think the whole thing was a hoax.
Take the March arrest of two people outside of the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church where 26 people were murdered in 2017. The pair confronted the church pastor, whose daughter was killed, saying the murders never happened and his daughter never lived. They called him a “crisis actor.”
This type of incident isn’t isolated to Sutherland Springs or to the two people arrested, either.
So, first, KJZZ turned to Joseph Uscinski, a political science associate professor at the University of Miami who studies conspiracy theories, to find out what his data says about these people and why they believe what they do.
No one knows the pain this type of harassment can wield on a grieving family more than Lenny Pozner. His son Noah was the youngest child murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Since that day he has had to deal with, deflect, outmaneuver and confront what he calls “hoaxers.” These are people set on revealing that he is part of a vast conspiracy from the government.
To combat this, Pozner started the HONR Network to raise awareness of this type of harassment for other families of victims.