A former acquaintance is a full-blown conspiracy theorist. She calls herself a “truth seeker”; I call her a smug, insensitive jerk. This is why we are former acquaintances.
I would occasionally see this woman out and about, urging everyone to conduct the research necessary to realize that 9-11 was a government hoax. She called people who hold full-time jobs “debt slaves” who must open their eyes, although she never explained how society would function if nobody worked. She posted obtuse links about The Illuminati, a secret society in Bavaria in the 18th century that has apparently infiltrated every aspect of government, for nefarious reasons I can’t recall.
This woman appears normal in most respects — she has a family, kids, friends, etc. But in her fevered mind, the world is a dark place filled with evil government operatives intent on defrauding the American people.
We’re all entitled to our opinions, however absurd they might be. But when she posted last year on her Facebook page the standard nutjob theory that Sandy Hook was staged and never happened, I got angry. I asked whether she was aware that her remarks were incredibly offensive to the loved ones of 20 first-graders and six adults who were massacred in Newtown, Connecticut. I asked how she could possibly accuse grieving parents of acting, presumably to provide a pretext for stricter gun control.
Her replies, as always, were condescending. She said that while she loves me as she loves all people, I’m a member of a deluded mainstream media that’s oblivious to the truth. She said she had conducted “hundreds of hours of research,” so that she’s eminently qualified to expound on topics that the rest of us dismiss, because we are sheep. We went back and forth and she eventually unfriended me, as even love apparently has its limits.
This woman is by no means unique. You probably know a conspiracy theorist. Maybe you’re married to one, in which case I offer my sympathy. Maybe you’re one yourself, in which case I offer the humble request that you stay away from my house. Seriously. You people are bonkers.
So now comes John Hanlin, sheriff of Douglas County, Oregon, the very guy investigating the latest mass shooting at Umpqua Community College on Thursday that left nine people dead. As reported by the deluded mainstream media, Hanlin posted a sickening video to his Facebook page in 2013 that also raised questions about the Sandy Hook massacre.
Called “The Sandy Hook Shooting — Fully Exposed,” the YouTube video was your basic garden-variety conspiracy theory summation, filled with utter nonsense.
“This makes me wonder who we can trust anymore,” Hanlin wrote. “Watch, listen, and keep an open mind.”
When asked about his post on Friday, the same day it was deleted, Hanlin told CNN that, “I know what you’re referring to, but that’s not a conspiracy theory that I have.”
Um. OK, sheriff. This is the same man who is stridently opposed to tougher gun laws and who posted a letter to Vice President Joe Biden within days of his Sandy Hook post, urging him to leave the Second Amendment alone. He also wrote that he would never comply with any gun control law coming from the Obama administration. Because members of law enforcement are allowed to enforce only the laws that they like, of course.
“Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings,” Hanlin wrote, adding that efforts to restrict gun ownership “would be irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people.”
Issues such as gun control are debatable, although it’s hard to understand how the pressing need for stricter gun laws isn’t obvious. But when it comes to documented atrocities such as 9-11 and Sandy Hook, those who argue that they never happened are despicable, primarily because they’re denying the validity of the grief of devastated families.
And how ironic that a deep thinker such as Sheriff Hanlin refers to gun laws as an “indisputable insult to the American people,” when he had the gall to question the reality of Sandy Hook and insult that grieving community.
While my former acquaintance doesn’t have a job, I’m wondering whether Sheriff Hanlin should be holding his. Conspiracy theorists may be ignorant, but they’re also indefatigable, and social media is already rife with posts claiming that the Oregon shootings are a hoax. What an outrage. Sorry, Sheriff, but you know what they say about karma.

Dianne Williamson is a Worcester Telegram & Gazette columnist. Follow her on Twitter (@WilliamsonTG) or reach her at (508) 793-9291 or dianne.williamson@telegram.com