Lenny Pozner

JournalArchive

Apr 25

Lenny Pozner’s young son died in the Sandy Hook mass killing. Conspiracy theorists believe the killing was staged. Pozner’s efforts to educate them, to prove that his son died, only resulted in relentless trolling and harassment. Yet he keeps trying: “I’m going to have to protect Noah’s honor for the rest of my life,” he says.

 

To further his cause, Pozner has created an organization, called the HONR Network, whose goal is to “bring awareness to Hoaxer activity” and “prosecute those who wittingly and publicly defame, harass, and emotionally abuse the victims of high profile tragedies.” Since there is no criminal law that protects families like Pozner’s from the darker impulses of the Internet, he and his volunteers — folks he met virtually, when he began debunking — perform a slow and painful task. Whenever a video or a screed appears online attacking the victims of a horrible event, they alert venues like YouTube that their rules have been broken. The victories have been small. Though they’ve removed hundreds of links from the Internet, there are countless more like them.

 

“I know that the more garbage that is out there, the more it ages over time, the more the myth becomes accepted as a disgusting historical fact that tries to dismiss the existence of my child,” says Lenny Pozner. “I mean, damn it, his life had value. He existed. He was real. How dare they.”

 

Pozner occupies a place I know many are becoming familiar with: hoping that conspiracy theorists and other obsessives are arguing in good faith, but knowing, deep down, that it’s not the case. The subject at hand (and whatever human cost comes with it) is just an excuse to lash out and to justify that behavior.

The HONR Network [honr.com]

Jan 31

A Florida woman has pleaded not guilty on charges that she sent death threats across state lines to a man whose son was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Prosecutors told the judge that Lucy Richards, 57, told FBI agents after her arrest that she’d been “looking at these sites about government hoaxes” and “got angry,” leading her to threaten Leonard Pozner.

 

Pozner’s son Noah was the youngest Sandy Hook victim, just five years old when he was killed by the gunman. Leonard Pozner has since dedicated himself to fighting truthers who claim that Sandy Hook and other mass casualties are staged events. He also founded the HONR Network, which says it supports families being targeted by what they call “hoaxers.”

 

Pozner has spoken frequently about James F. Tracy, the conspiracy blogger and former professor who demanded certified proof that Noah had ever lived. Richards, according to a Sun-Sentinel account of her arraignment hearing, hasn’t held a job in over a decade, can’t drive, uses a walker, and gets by each month on $900 in disability assistance and SNAP benefits:

 

Richards used a walker and wore furry black house slippers, black pants and a flowery top in court. The former waitress, who said she has been unemployed since 2004, spoke in a soft voice and told the judge she is receiving Social Security disability assistance.

 

Richards is being charged with four felony counts of transmitting threats across state lines. She pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Monday. She reportedly doesn’t have a computer, but uses her cell phone to access the internet. After perusing those unnamed websites, she’s accused of sending Mr. Leonard Pozner three voicemails (“You gonna die, death is coming to you real soon,” was one of the messages, prosecutors say) and one email, which allegedly contained the words, “Look behind you it is death.” NBC Miami reports that Richards said her only previous arrest was for theft, for stealing “two sandwiches” due to hunger.

 

Richards, who is represented by a federal public defender, remains free on bond. She’s been ordered to seek mental health treatment, stay off conspiracy websites, and avoid contacting any Sandy Hook families. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Oct 05

On December 14, 2012, six-year-old Noah Pozner was murdered along with 20 other children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

 

I interviewed his mother, Veronique Pozner, six days after her son’s funeral when the family had just finished sitting shiva, the traditional Jewish mourning period. Even as she was in deep grief, she told me that the incident had lit a fire within her to fight for gun control.

 

“This topic has got wings for me,” she said at the time. “It has got to take flight.”

 

Meanwhile, Noah’s father, Lenny Pozner, has been involved in a very different sort of fight, also one without a clear end in sight. He is battling against the horde of conspiracy theorists who have claimed that the Newtown mass shooting was fabricated and that his son didn’t die. Some claim that Noah never existed in the first place.

 

According to a new piece in New York Magazine, the Pozners and other Sandy Hook parents have been inundated with online harassment in the 3-1/2 years since the shooting. Hoaxers claimed that Veronique Pozner wasn’t a Newtown nurse but a Swiss diplomat, and suggested she had been Photoshopped into family photos. One hoaxer wrote a letter to the Pozners demanding they prove they were actually Noah’s parents.

 

The hoaxers also targeted state officials with anonymous telephone calls, showed up at the Newtown Board of Education meetings and filed Freedom of Information Act requests demanding evidence that the shooting actually took place.

 

The Pozners, who have since divorced, left Connecticut after the massacre and relocated to a state that they asked the magazine not to identify “given the threats that conspiracy theorists have leveled against some Sandy Hook families.”

 

According to the story, Lenny Pozner is especially attuned to the world of hoaxers since he used to entertain conspiracy theories himself, at one time questioning whether the moon landing was real and arguing over whether 9/11 was an “inside job.” Given his familiarity with hoaxers, he believes that ignoring them isn’t actually a productive way of fighting them.

 

“People don’t understand what trolls are,” he told journalist Reeves Wiedeman. “If you don’t feed them, they don’t just go away.”

 

Lenny Pozner has become the “de facto leader of the anti-hoaxer movement,” Wiedeman wrote. Lenny Pozner has attacked the trolls from various angles.

 

He started a web site to raise awareness about the issue and call for “legal consequences” against YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for providing a platform to conspiracy theorists. He scours the web for illegal use of his family photographs, notifying web sites of copyright infringement.

 

He also cowrote an op-ed with Veronique Pozner calling for Florida Atlantic University to fire professor James Tracy, who wrote a blog post questioning whether the massacre had taken place. Not long after, Tracy was dismissed but has since sued to get his job back.

 

Pozner also filed suit against one of the most notorious trolls, Wolfgang Halbig, for invasion of privacy.

 

“Suing Halbig is symbolic,” Lenny Pozner said. “If I can show that if you go after a victim, a victim is gonna sue you, that’s real.”

 

Lenny Pozner isn’t the only one to fight back. A group of 18 Newtown men — none of them lost children in the shooting — have taken it upon themselves to “disrupt the hoaxers’ lives” by trolling the trolls. The group covered some of the hoaxers’ cars in rubber duckies, a symbol of hope for Newtown since a Kiwanis club sent a box of 500 to surviving students.

 

Even so, it’s not at all clear that their efforts, or Lenny Pozner’s, will stop the online harassment. And Lenny Pozner believes that there are dire consequences for Noah’s memory if it doesn’t.

 

“Conspiracy theorists erase the human aspect of history,” he told New York Magazine. “My child — who lived, who was a real person — is basically going to be erased.”

Sep 09

On December 14, 2012, Lenny Pozner dropped off his three children, Sophia, Arielle, and Noah, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Noah had recently turned 6, and on the drive over they listened to his favorite song, “Gangnam Style,” for what turned out to be the last time. Half an hour later, while Sophia and Arielle hid nearby, Adam Lanza walked into Noah’s first-grade class with an AR-15 rifle. Noah was the youngest of the 20 children and seven adults killed in one of the deadliest shootings in American history. When the medical examiner found Noah lying face up in a Batman sweatshirt, his jaw had been blown off. Lenny and his wife, Veronique, raced to the school as soon as they heard the news, but had to wait for hours alongside other parents to learn their son’s fate

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It didn’t take much longer for Pozner to find out that many people didn’t believe his son had died or even that he had lived at all. Days after the rampage, a man walked around Newtown filming a video in which he declared that the massacre had been staged by “some sort of New World Order global elitists” intent on taking away our guns and our liberty. A week later, James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, wrote a blog post expressing doubts about the massacre. By January, a 30-minute YouTube video, titled “The Sandy Hook Shooting — Fully Exposed,” which asked questions like “Wouldn’t frantic kids be a difficult target to hit?,” had been viewed more than 10 million times.

 

As the families grieved, conspiracy theorists began to press their case in ways that Newtown couldn’t avoid. State officials received anonymous phone calls at their homes, late at night, demanding answers: Why were there no trauma helicopters? What happened to the initial reports of a second shooter? A Virginia man stole playground signs memorializing two of the victims, and then called their parents to say that the burglary shouldn’t affect them, since their children had never existed. At one point, Lenny Pozner was checking into a hotel out of town when the clerk looked up from the address on his driver’s license and said, “Oh, Sandy Hook — the government did that.” Pozner had tried his best to ignore the conspiracies, but eventually they disrupted his grieving process so much that he could no longer turn a blind eye. “Conspiracy theorists erase the human aspect of history,” Pozner said this summer. “My child — who lived, who was a real person — is basically going to be erased.”

 

The Pozners moved to Newtown in 2005, partly to send their kids to better schools, but after Noah’s death they saw no choice but to leave. “What happened just weighed on the town like a Chernobyl-like cloud,” Veronique told me from her home in a state far from Newtown that the Pozners prefer not to identify, given the threats that conspiracy theorists have leveled against some Sandy Hook families. The Pozners’ marriage had been falling apart before the shooting, and though Noah’s death briefly brought them back together, the couple eventually divorced. They still co-parent their daughters, who developed a fear of the dark after the shooting and asked Veronique to find a home in a gated community.

 

Lenny, who has a goatee and a middle-aged paunch, lives by himself a few miles from Veronique. Since relocating, he has moved apartments four times and gets his mail delivered to a P.O. Box on the other side of the state. “It’s part of what I need to do to stay vigilant,” he said. After eight months in his newest home, the living room was sparsely furnished, save for a painting of Noah and a cluttered coffee table topped with his daughters’ Barbie dolls and a book called The Meaning of Life.

 

“I prefer the term hoaxer to truther,” Lenny said, kicking a pair of jeans and Adidas flip-flops onto the footrest of leather Barcalounger. “There’s nothing truthful about it.” There is no universal Sandy Hook hoax narrative, but the theories generally center on the idea that a powerful force (the Obama administration, gun-control groups, the Illuminati) staged the shooting, with the assistance of paid “crisis actors,” including the Pozners, the other Sandy Hook families, and countless Newtown residents, government officials, and media outlets. The children are said to have never existed or to be living in an elaborate witness-­protection program.

 

Conspiracy theories run deep in the American consciousness — 61 percent of Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone — but a mass shooting had never drawn the conspiratorial attention that Sandy Hook did. The modern internet is partly to blame, with hours of uploaded cable-news coverage and reams of documents to parse for circumstantial evidence.

 

The internet also made it easier to reach victims, and the Pozners became an early target for hoaxers. Veronique, who is a nurse, joined several parents in channelling her grief into vocal gun-control advocacy. One early conspiracy theory held that she was actually a Swiss diplomat named Veronique Haller, who once attended a United Nations arms-control summit. (Veronique is Swiss, and her maiden name is Haller.) Hoaxers quickly scoured family photos on Veronique’s online accounts and began dissecting them for odd shadows or strange poses, suggesting that she had been inserted into the family via Photoshop.

 

Lenny may have been the first Newtown parent to discover that conspiracy theorists didn’t believe his son had been killed, because he used to be a serious conspiracy theorist himself. “I probably listened to an Alex Jones podcast after I dropped the kids off at school that morning,” Pozner said, referencing the fearmongering proprietor of InfoWars. Lenny Pozner had entertained everything from specific cover-ups (the moon landing was faked) to geopolitical intrigue (the “real” reasons why the price of gold sometimes shifted so dramatically) and saw value in skepticism. But for him, the appeal of conspiracy theories was the same as watching a good science-fiction movie. “I have an imaginative mind,” he said.

 

When he first discovered the theories about Noah, Lenny, who grew up in Brooklyn, made only a halfhearted attempt to respond. “I feel that your type of show created these hateful people,” Pozner wrote in an email to Alex Jones, to which one of Jones’s employees replied that Jones would love to speak to him if “we confirm that you are the real Lenny Pozner.” Pozner declined, in part because he found himself unable to do much of anything.

 

Read full story here at: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/09/the-sandy-hook-hoax.html

Jul 01

Parents of a victim called for James Tracy’s dismissal after he called the shooting a hoax

 

A university in Florida made efforts Wednesday to fire a professor who upset many by calling the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School a hoax.

 

Florida Atlantic University gave associate professor James Tracy 10 days to file a grievance before facing termination. Tracy wrote that media reports of the shooting in Newton, Conn. were fake, according to the Washington Post.

 

Parents of one of the victims responded in outrage last week. Lenny Pozner and Vernonique Ponzer penned an op-ed in the Sun-Sentinel calling for Tracy’s dismissal. Perhaps no one knows this better than Lenny Pozner, whose life was turned upside down when his son Noah became the youngest child slaughtered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES).

 

“The heartache of burying a child is a sorrow we would not wish upon anyone. Yet to our horror, we have found that there are some in this society who lack empathy for the suffering of others. Among them are the conspiracy theorists that deny our tragedy was real. They seek us out and accuse us of being government agents who are faking our grief and lying about our loss.”

 

The letter continues, detailing Tracy’s interactions with Lenny Pozner and Vernonique Ponzer.

“Tracy even sent us a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image. We found this so outrageous and unsettling that we filed a police report for harassment. Once Tracy realized we would not respond, he subjected us to ridicule and contempt on his blog, boasting to his readers that the “unfulfilled request” was “noteworthy” because we had used copyright claims to “thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event.”

 

In response Tracy wrote a post on the “Hoax at Sandy Hook” Facebook page defending himself and reasserting that there were no deaths at Sandy Hook. The Post reported that Tracy claims that “local co-conspirators” profited from faking grief and that the Ponzers sought to bully the school into firing him over his extensive research.

 

Tracy, who earned a doctorate at the University of Iowa, “teaches courses examining the relationship between commercial and alternative news media and socio-political issues and events” according to Florida Atlantic’s website

 

Tracy has 10 days to file a grievance to a notice of termination that university officials filed publicly Wednesday.

Also read: Florida’s unhinged ‘truthers’ exacerbate Newtown’s grief