By now, most people out there have heard of the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories circulating the web. Salon has a comprehensive list and easily debunks them all here. These ideas tend to come up whenever there is a national tragedy as people try to cope with the arbitrary nature of violence and assign meaning to a tragic loss of life, but in the internet age they have taken on a new characteristic: witness harassment.
At the core of the problem is the erroneous belief that conspiracists have about themselves, holding a view that they are intrepid amateur journalists out there on the internet seeking the truth through exhaustive research. There is little about conspiracy theories, however, that resembles journalism.
Conspiracy theories are not scientific, but overwhelmingly religious in nature, an iron clad belief system driven by misinformation, cynicism and utopianism - conspiracists seek out common threads between national tragedies as disparate as the Kennedy assassination to 9/11 to Sandy Hook in order to create a delusional but satisfying narrative about American history: essentially, we are all serfs being controlled by powerful, evil forces who have staged every assassination or mass murder in history (from Lincoln on down) in order to consolidate their own power, line their pockets, and reshape the world to their own liking.
Most conspiracists in the U.S., though they come from very diverse backgrounds, will claim unequivocally to be guardians of truth, justice and American values, seeking only to expose these insidious forces and "wake up" their fellow Americans. For many of the more devoted conspiracists, their ideas are subsumed by deep paranoia and fear of individuals, groups and organizations they don't understand and takes on a dangerously self-righteous form of identity politics.
Ironically then, that Americans who claim to be the guardians of freedom and democracy should adopt a belief system strikingly similar to the political philosophies of fascist states. Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Stalinist Russia, and modern day Iran all based their external relations on conspiracy theories about capitalists, Jewish bankers and such, largely populist fantasies about exploitation that provoke indignation in people who feel powerless. Such ideas are more closely related to a Marxist view of history than anything the founding fathers would likely embrace.
Everything or everyone that is different, unknown, or perceived to have undue power - Jews, Jesuits, the Vatican, Freemasons, bankers, the British Royal family, Bilderberg Conferees, Hollywood moguls - become "the enemy," despite little evidence that such a diverse group share common goals, or can even cooperate.
These theories might differ based on one's background or worldview, but one thing they all have in common is that none really propose solutions - in the case of 9/11 or JFK, rejecting the official version of events has produced no viable, scientific alternative theories, but hundreds of loosely defined, incongruous, or even totally fanciful alternative scenarios. Many theorists believe Jackie shot her husband in the car; others believe it was Roy Kellerman, a secret service agent sitting in the front seat; still others believe in the grassy knoll sniper, or a sniper in a manhole. I've heard 9/11 theories that claim the planes were actually expertly rendered holograms cloaking missiles fired by the U.S. government. A person's beliefs seem only limited by their imagination.
Where does this "evidence" come from? Mostly amateur video or photo analysis. YouTtube has enabled the Zapruder film-mania of JFK conspiracism to spill over into virtually every national tragedy, making everyone think they are a brilliant investigative journalist by slapping together confused early reports of a tragedy, citing some false-flag history and PRESTO. Instant conspiracy theory. By their incredibly low standards of evidence, virtually every tragedy can instantly be converted into a government-based conspiracy where nothing is real and the only people who know the truth are the Jesuit-Jewish-Reptilian-Satanic-Alien-Royal-Banking elites.
Conspiracy theorists: I'm sorry, you are not investigative journalists. I know how easy it is to fool yourself into seeing shapes in old photographs, patterns in unrelated events and "truth" in a distorted worldview. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a tool of the "New World Order."