Seven weeks to the day since the Aurora theater shooting, the sort of James Holmes tribute pages that popped up in the immediate aftermath of the massacre are showing unexpected staying power on Facebook. Most (like this one) are mainly about shock value. But the largest Facebook group we've found -- it's among several that operate using the moniker James Holmes is Innocent -- insists that it's a serious effort to unearth evidence in the case.
The group, which currently consists of 332 members, is described in a long introduction that users apparently don't want to see cut and pasted all over the web; it concludes with a note reading, "This description is to be used solely by this this group and should not be copied without permission from an admin of this group."
That's a dubious caveat for a collective that's open to the public. But because an apparent administrator didn't respond to our request to reproduce it, we're going to stick with paraphrasing the contents instead of direct quotes.
According to the intro, the page was created in an effort to prove that the available information about the Colorado tragedy may not tell the whole story. The official tale includes a number of inconsistencies, the authors claim, as well as clues that may not have trickled down to the general public, but which the group will endeavor to share.
The page then stresses that it's not the place for hate of any description, including bigotry and racism, and rude behavior and attacks won't be allowed. Those who post are encouraged to treat everyone with respect, whether they agree with their views or not.
In addition, the intro discourages users from posting about each conspiracy theory that arises, noting that there are other forums for that. It concludes by asserting that justice and truth for everyone involved is the page's main goal. Members aren't trying to condone the taking of lives or blindly back murderers, the passage maintains, but to underscore the philosophy that everyone is innocent until proven guilty -- even James Holmes.
This section is followed by nine rules of conduct for the group, with a special emphasis on trolls, who are told at the outset that cruel comments or attacks won't be tolerated and will lead to removal. And indeed, the most recent post at this writing concerns a young man who claims to have interviewed the Aurora Police about the killings. The item points out that the person in question was removed from the group several weeks ago due to what's called his behavior.
As for the other posts, they are free of the jokes, willfully offensive memes and other hallmarks of the nastiest James Holmes-related Facebook entries (like the one that switched allegiances from Holmes to Sikh temple killer Wade Michael Page) -- and neither are they as worshipful as the the so-called Holmies fan groups.
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But that's not to say the collective's wall is festooned with new and startling information that will change the minds of the average person. One recent post asks whether bad grades could really have motivated someone as clearly intelligent as Holmes to act out in such a horrific manner. Another wonders if Holmes's psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, might have been using some kind of mind control.
Still, the page represents an interesting evolution in the online reaction to this terrible event -- the transition from the lionizing of a murderer and wild conspiracy theories to unlikely but less feverish attempts to explain the inexplicable.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting: Five twisted theories about the attack."