New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson has published a new book, titled, "Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth," interviewing the parents of Sandy Hook children who sued Alex Jones for defamation. Speaking to Vox, Williamson says the Sandy Hook mass shooting "was a foundational moment in the world of misinformation and disinformation that we now live in."
“I traced a throughline: from Sandy Hook to Pizzagate to QAnon to Charlottesville and the coronavirus myths to the election lie that brought violence to the Capitol on January 6,” she says. “I started to understand how individuals, for reasons of ideology or social status, tribalism, or for profit, were willing to reject established truths, and how once they’d done that, it was incredibly difficult to persuade them otherwise.”
A trial was supposed to begin to determine how much money Jones owed the families who sued him for defamation, but Jones filed for bankruptcy at the last minute, forcing the trial to be delayed.
Williamson told Vox that the reason Sandy Hook sparked so many conspiracy theories was because it was seen by both sides in the gun policy debate as a "watershed moment."
"A crime this horrific, killing so many children, who were so young — both sides in the gun debate knew it would lead to a real battle for legislation. Alex Jones, within hours of the shooting, was portraying it as a false flag operation, a gun grab by the federal government. That became the narrative that took hold. That was one reason," she says, adding that another reason is the fact that the massacre happened during a time when there was a large uptick in social media use.
In regards to what drove the conspiracy theories that emerged from Sandy Hook, Williamson says it's "less about politics than psychology and a need for social connection and status."
"Many of the people that I interviewed for the book who are conspiratorially-minded started out being on the political left and then they moved to the far right," Williamson says. "What I learned through the psychologists and the political scientists I interviewed for the book, about the motives behind the spread of these conspiracy rumors, is that it can be about fact-finding, it can be about a shared doubt in the official narrative."
Read the full interview over at Vox.