Imagine being one of the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting. Think about what it might be like a few hours after the shooting. Let’s say it’s 11:35 am, and you were sitting at work about to go for lunch, and you get a phone call from the school or the police.
The person who calls you tells you that someone had entered the school of your six-year-old with a Bushmaster XM15 rifle (AR-15 type) and shot your child to death. It’s hard to imagine a situation that would be more difficult and painful than hearing this, assuming that your brain was able to process it in the first place.
Now imagine that at the end of the day of dealing with the fallout of your child’s death, you turn on the TV and see Alex Jones denying that the school shooting ever took place and that the whole thing was just a political stunt to ban guns in the United States, calling the parents of dead children part of the hoax.
Sandy Hook Lawsuits
For some people, a massive lawsuit was the only way to answer Jones’ attacks. These lawsuits led to a $73 million wrongful death settlement from Remington Arms. But it also led to a massive defamation judgment against Alex Jones.
The parents had requested a $150 million judgment, but the jury awarded $49.3 million. The defamation lawsuit went after Jones for saying there was no shooting and that the parents were in on the lies. The jury awarded $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages.
The Alex Jones judgment should be seen as a warning sign to people who make reckless statements and defame people. And it should serve as hope for victims of online harassment and bullying. If you can find out who is harassing you online, then speak to a lawyer and see what your options are to hold your bully accountable.
I’m no stranger to being defamed
While I have no idea what it feels like to lose a child, I know what it feels like to be shot and then defamed. I also sadly know what it feels like to be bullied online.
I was in the Canadian military for seven years, and once while on operation, I was shot. The event itself wasn’t as eventful as one would think, and I got through it. But after Veterans Affairs gave me $100,000 for my injury, and other soldiers found out, I was harassed for “taking the money.”
Part of military culture is to always put the mission or team above yourself. And the idea of taking a large payment while fellow soldiers received nothing was considered extremely wrong. I was defamed online by other soldiers, who had said I had lied about being shot so that I could benefit financially.
The harassment from people who I had thought were my friends was more terrible than the actual event itself. It’s not a stretch that the parents of the children lost in Sandy Hook might have a larger grudge against Alex Jones than Remington Arms or even Adam Lanza. But only they could answer that question.
To this day, I continue to be harassed online for a very different reason. I now run a lawyer rating directory, where the public can leave 1 to 5-star reviews for lawyers. Rating websites are not illegal, and they know that. So when a lawyer gets a bad review, they sometimes take to social media to spread terrible rumours about me.
When I see someone like Alex Jones get held accountable for what he said, and the false information he spread online, it gives me hope that one day we won’t live in a society where online harassment is normalized and tolerated.
Before someone starts spreading fake information online or on a podcast, they should think about the verdicts in the Alex Jones and Johnny Depp cases. Speech is free, but telling lies can be very expensive.