These days, conspiracy theories abound for just about everything. Some corners of the internet believe Hillary Clinton conducts occult rituals. Others think the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Recently, the Las Vegas concert massacre has generated its own set of theories. Gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino onto the Route 91 Harvest Festival below, killing 58 and injuring hundreds more. Over the past few weeks, theorists have called some aspects of the event into question. We rounded up the craziest ones, proving people will believe anything.
1. Injured concertgoers receive death threats
Braden Matejka shut down his social media accounts after conspiracy theorists have continually attacked him and his family online.
“You are a lying piece of s— and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head,” one person wrote on Facebook. Another commented, “Your soul is disgusting and dark! You will pay for the consequences.” Matejka’s brother Taylor tried responding to some of the posts, but said the authors don’t want to hear it.
“There are all these families dealing with likely the most horrific thing they’ll ever experience and they are also met with hate and anger and are being attacked online about being part of some conspiracy,” Matejka told the Guardian. Social media just makes the problem worse.
2. Memes accuse victims as ‘crisis actors’
“It’s madness I can’t imagine the thought process of these people. Do they know that we are actual people?” asked Matejka. As it turns out, no. Shortly after the massacre, memes began circulating social media attacking victims as “crisis actors” and accusing them of faking their injuries for fame.
“It makes you angry,” said Rob McIntosh, 52. He got shot in the chest and arm in Las Vegas and has also been accused of faking. “You’ve already been through something that’s traumatic and terrible, and you have someone who is attacking your honesty. You don’t even have the opportunity to respond.”
People like Matejka and McIntosh have come under fire when trying to recover.
3. Social media users level additional threats at sufferers
When Braden Matejka’s family started a GoFundMe account to help him recover, critical comments began pouring in. One woman posted 26 messages under Taylor Matejka’s request for donations. Claiming to have worked as a nurse for more than two decades, she called the victim a con artist.
YouTube has contributed to the problem, as well. Mike Cronk, another Las Vegas survivor, became a target after he did interviews with ABC and NBC. A YouTube search shows conspiracy videos in the top results for “Mike Cronk Las Vegas,” even higher than the real interviews. The crisis actor theories don’t even represent the craziest ones.
4. Did the Illuminati carry out the shooting? (Short answer: No)
According to Metro US, the Illuminati conducted the shooting as a “blood sacrifice.” Sheila Zilinsky of the website Weekend Vigilante announced her theory on YouTube and Twitter. Zilinsky claims the shooting was organized by the “deep state” Illuminati.
“Folks, this whole thing in Las Vegas. This killing field in front of this sphinx, this pyramid, this obelisk, this is no coincidence,” Zilinsky explained in her YouTube video. “This thing was nothing more than a strategically located blood sacrifice ritual, a death ritual across from a pyramid.”
Others believe the attack came from other often-blamed sources.
5. Some call Las Vegas an act of extremist terrorism
Mother Jones also reported a spate of additional theories. Conservative columnist Wayne Allyn Root called the attack terrorism covered up by the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. The Breitbart News contributor tweeted to his 110,000 followers that it came as part of a “coordinated Muslim terror attack.” He added, “Just what I’ve warned of. Biggest threat to this country is Islamic terror, not police abuse.” No evidence supports his claims.
The next group also revealed no ties to the event, but that did not stop one well-known theorist.
6. InfoWars came out with a doozy of a theory
InfoWars host Alex Jones spread theories that the shooting came as part of an attack on conservative America. “The Las Vegas shooter didn’t commit suicide as the mainstream media is reporting, but was killed by a FBI hostage rescue team who also found Antifa literature in his hotel room,” he reported on his website. His “evidence” relies on an unnamed source.
Jones also hosted right-wing journalist Laura Loomer on his show linking Paddock to ISIS. Loomer told Infowars, “I think that this guy is a hardcore leftist with Antifa connections who became radicalized through ISIS.” She said, “You see a lot of these leftists who are embracing Islam.”
Jones’ web gets even more tangled from there.
7. Others say Paddock intended to start a civil war
Journalist David Knight spoke on Infowars, theorizing that “Democrats-funded leftist groups” orchestrated the massacre to create a civil war. That’s allegedly also part of a bid to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. NeonNettle reported on the theory, citing fake tweets from Trump supporting it.
Knight linked the massacre to the 100-year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and said “multiple groups” have talked about trying to overthrow the government. He further speculated that Democrats in Congress, who he called “Marxists” planned the “false flag” shooting to influence gun control legislation.
Others believe that Paddock did not act alone, or that the Mandalay Bay Resort has something to hide.
8. Loomer says she has evidence against casino, police
On GotNews.com, Loomer laid out what she calls “inconsistencies.” She claimed to have evidence pointing to additional shooters or collusion within the casino.
“I have uncovered multiple inconsistencies in the [Las Vegas Police Department] and FBI narrative of the Las Vegas shooting,” she said. “Sources who work for the Mandalay resort have told me Stephen Paddock checked into his hotel suite on Sept. 25 … [That date] directly contradicts the Sept. 28 date that was provided to the American people by local law enforcement in Las Vegas.”
The journalist also said two people checked into Paddock’s room, which she calls evidence of a second shooter. She also released a video of a body at the casino and an alleged tip about a woman warning concertgoers on her twitter feed. Loomer also believes the JFK investigation papers came out at a suspicious time.
Experts also think several factors contribute to the rampant theories.
9. Why the Las Vegas shooting invites speculation
Pace University propaganda teacher Adam Klein told Mother Jones he sees three main factors creating the theories. First, Paddock’s absence of a clear motive invites speculation.
“The authors here are lighting fuses and they’re supposed to lead back to some secret, explosive connection,” he explained. “‘Oh, this is all about gun control at the end of the day.’ Or, ‘This is all about the anti-fascists.’ Or the other narrative, that the FBI is trying to hide proof that ISIS is spreading and Paddock is the next example of that. That can all fall under the category of political score-keeping and people trying to prove that this is part of a left wing conspiracy.”
But how do these things spread so fast?
10. We have Twitter and Reddit to blame for stoking the fire
Technology also represents the biggest factor, Klein noted. Fringe websites use social media to spread information, which then catches on and can infect centrist media, as well.
“The internet itself provides kind of an x-factor because, yes it’s a place a lot of false information forms, but it also coalesces with trusted sources and trusted information,” he said.
Klein further explained that Twitter and Reddit act as “incubators” for these theories. “They allow some of these conspiracies to grow through hashtags … [then] they graduate onto a mainstream website, a news channel, or a politician who repeats these narratives.”
While uncertainty abounds about the shooting, conspiracy theories do not help matters. They only hurt those involved and confuse the narrative, obscuring the real truth as it continues to emerge.
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