The intent of this thesis is to better comprehend the strategies used in crisis denial videos from the perspective of kategoria. Benoit and Dorries taxonomy of kategoria was applied to crisis denial claims using the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting as a case study. The claims of prominent truther and YouTuber, Alex Jones, were coded and analyzed based on this taxonomy. The categories of the taxonomy include: accused committed the act before, accused planned the act, accused knew likely consequences of the act, accused benefitted from the act, and other. Two coders trained in identifying these criteria coded three transcribed YouTube videos focused on Sandy Hook with a combined total of over 1.5 million views. Accused planned the act and accused committed the act before were the most used taxonomy, with a 4 to 1 and 2 to 1 margin respectively, showing a consistent preference on how Jones likes to construct his claims. These tactics put the victims of Sandy Hook in an uncomfortable position because they are forced to deny the denial, a process that quickly becomes cyclical. The responses either transcend to an issue of free speech versus defamation or attack the accuser through litigation and public organizations dropping him. Claims that the accused has done it before denies closure to multiple crises while claims that it was planned seem endless and also contribute to denying closure. This denial puts victims in a chronic stage where they are forced to constantly and endlessly re-evaluate the crisis without resolution, disrupting current stage theory in crisis recovery. Truthers have changed how we define hoax. Previously, a hoax was the crisis, but now claims are made post-crisis depicting the crisis as hoax. Further research should focus on the formulation of a response to crisis denial that can break the cyclical pattern.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Sellnow, Timothy


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Advertising and Public Relations


Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Release Date


Included in

Communication Commons