Why do these people care so much?

One of the most astonishing things in the current zeitgeist is the utter lack of empathy that is voiced in many quarters for the loved ones of the victims of gun violence. You would think that even if one were not personally touched by such a tragedy, one would feel sorry for the people who were. But not only do many people not seem to care, they seem to be impelled to deny that such tragedies even occurred.

It has become routine nowadays in the immediate aftermath of mass killings for people to claim that the events did not really happen but were faked, presumably as part of an elaborate and wide-ranging plot to discredit the easy availability of high-powered, rapid fire weapons and to advance gun-control measures. This has happened again following the mass killing of parishioners in a Texas church. That was another horrific shooting spree that quickly faded into the background by the subsequent mass killings that now routinely occur. The pastor of the church, whose daughter was murdered, is being harassed.

Two conspiracy theorists who have pushed the idea that the mass shooting at Sutherland Springs on Nov. 5 didn’t happen were arrested Monday at First Baptist Church, the site of the massacre, after the church’s pastor accused them of repeatedly harassing the community.

The Wilson County Sheriff’s Office declined to provide charging information on Robert Ussery, 54, who founded conspiracy website Side Thorn, and his partner Jodi Mann, 56, who is referred to as “Conspiracy Granny” online. The booking process was not complete Monday evening and no information would be made available until Tuesday, a supervisor there said.

The pair believe the church shooting was staged by accomplices of the government, though Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed there, knows better.

“He said, ‘Your daughter never even existed. Show me her birth certificate. Show me anything to say she was here,’” Pomeroy said. “I just told him there was enough evidence already visible, so if he chooses not to see that, how would I know he would believe anything else?”

The conspiracy website Side Thorn is full of homemade videos — taken from TV news reports and Ussery’s own camera — supposedly proving that the Sutherland Springs massacre, in which 26 congregants were killed, did not occur. It also claims that the tragedies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut; the Boston Marathon and the country music concert in Las Vegas are hoaxes devised by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

That people are paranoid or ideologically committed or stupid enough to believe such nonsense is not what is surprising. There are always people who will believe the craziest things. But what surprises me are those people who go out of their way, and make great efforts, to actually harass and attack the families of the victims, claiming that they are participating in the hoax. As we saw after the killings in the Newton elementary school, people actually went to the trouble of traveling significant distances to personally confront the parents of dead six-year olds and accuse them of lying.

I think it is too facile to dismiss such people as simply being insane. They are manifesting symptoms of some disease that exists in society but infects the minds in bizarre ways.


  1. anat says

    Either they are cynically trying to suppress the voices of survivors in order to prevent policy changes that might limit access to guns or they can’t accept these shootings happened because somehow they go against some deeply held beliefs. And they can’t deal with the repeated evidence, so they do what they can to make it stop.

  2. lanir says

    It feels to me like it has some parallels with anti-abortion groups that go shout at people outside of clinics. Both follow a similar track. Pick a viewpoint. Imagine things about why anyone else could be involved with this topic. Attack them based on this straw man. That few people seem to come to similar conclusions is actually a bonus. It allows them to pretend that they’re special and insightful.

    The whole thing in either case is just bullying. Because neither one gains anything for the cause they say they believe in*. I think it’s done for the usual reasons people bully someone else. They think they’ve found someone weaker who can’t fight back and they need a boost to their self-esteem.

    * The anti-abortionists could work toward legistlation that improves support during and after childbirth and promotes pregnancy. Basically provide a more attractive option. The people who are into gun rights could ignore the NRA and it’s unhinged promotion of anything that has a chance of increasing gun sales and sit down with gun control activists to find the common ground areas that even gun owners and NRA members agree could use some improvement. And polls seem to indicate those areas are very real. Either tactic would do far more to promote their respective causes than yelling and bullying.

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