The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, unleashed wave after wave of conspiracy theories. And rather than ignore them, our posture should be actively debunking them.
LA Times correspondent Matt Pearce made an observation about the inevitable churn of conspiracy theories and nonsense that now follow every such event:
As soon as the shooting in Parkland became public, so too did the un-evidenced claims that “something wasn’t right” about the “official story.” Usually, the accusation is that the shooting was a “false flag” planned by the authorities to either restrict gun rights or instill fear in the population.
As “evidence” that the shooting was “fishy,” conspiracy theorists almost always amplify early reports that a second shooter was involved. A second gunman increase the body count and create more fear, and exposing them instantly puts a lie to the “official story.”
Sure enough, the right wing grief ghouls and professional conspiracy grifters instantly found a video of a traumatized student saying she spoke to the shooter, and also heard shots coming from another part of the school.
Digging deeper into tweets about the student involved, we find all sorts of claims that she’s an actress (and not a very good one, because she was smiling during the interview), that she doesn’t even exist, and that she inadvertently blew the whole false flag wide open and will be the next one to die.
However, nothing in her interview actually is that alarming when you study mass shootings. Her smiling can be explained by the varied responses to trauma that people have. People smile when recounting awful stories, tell jokes at funerals and make chit-chat over death watches at hospitals. It’s not like a movie.
Beyond that, her insistence that there was a second shooter hasn’t been corroborated by evidence, but it also doesn’t mean she was lying or accidentally revealing a hidden truth.
During the investigation into the breakup of TWA Flight 800, numerous witnesses claimed they heard an explosion, then turned to see the streak left by a missile hitting the plane – despite such a series of events being impossible due to light traveling faster than sound. The sound of a plane exploding would have reached their ears at least a minute (and likely more) after the plane actually blew up. So nobody who claims they heard then saw the explosion is correct, because of the laws of physics.
Are they lying? Are they disinfo agents sent out to spread false rumors? No, they’re just people who saw something and thought it was something that their brain told them it was. What did Alexa Miednik hear? Did she hear anything at all? Who knows, but we don’t have evidence thus far that what she heard were gunshots.
Finally, we know that the shooter attempted to escape by blending in with other high school students fleeing the building. So Alexa talking to him during the chaos tracks perfectly with established facts.
For a while, the Alexa Miednik video was the only substantive evidence of a second shooter. Then came another clip, this one of Douglas creative writing teacher Stacey Lippel describing what sounds like a shooter fully clad in protective armor and SWAT-like gear. Interviewed by Good Morning America on February 21, this is what Lippel says she saw while she was hustling students into her room before locking the door:
“I suddenly saw the shooter about twenty feet in front of me […] actively shooting down the hallway, just a barrage of bullets, and I’m staring at him thinking ‘why are the police here? this is strange’, because he’s in full metal garb, helmet, face mask, bulletproof armor, shooting this rifle that I’ve never seen before.”
This wouldn’t be noteworthy, except no other description of the shooter has him wearing anything like that type of equipment. It also completely contradicts the “official timeline” of the shooter taking an Uber to the school, pulling a fire alarm, opening fire, then blending in with the escaping students to engineer his own escape. How could a shooter clad in tactical gear blend in with students wearing shorts and t-shirts? Doesn’t this mean there was a second shooter the whole time? Or that the official story about the shooter has been a lie from the start?
This sounds like perfect conspiracy fodder. But without any corroborating evidence or additional eyewitnesses, Lippel’s story can be dismissed the same way Miednik’s can: the faulty nature of memory. We know SWAT did eventually breach the building, and the simplest explanation is that in the chaos of the shooting and its aftermath, Lippel simply conflated the shooter firing with a SWAT member entering her classroom. There were hundreds of other eyewitnesses, and not one (so far) has claimed to have seen what Lippel said she saw. Either they’re all in on the conspiracy, or Lippel is simply relaying something she believes happened – but that didn’t.
Beyond these two easily falsifiable videos, nothing that’s come out regarding the Parkland shooting disproves the “official story.” Rote claims that the shooter was antifa, a DACA recipient, or affiliated with ISIS, accusations made about numerous different incidents and accidents, were almost immediately revealed as hoaxes. The next day, news broke that he was actually affiliated with a white nationalist militia called Republic of Florida. (2/16 edit: this claim also appears to be untrue, and a product of right wing fever swamp 4chan.)
Likewise, followers of the online conspiracy theory QAnon claimed that the shooting was part of some larger military operation, and that hasn’t come to pass either – just like all of the fantastical claims made by the supposed “insider” and his followers.
Another QAnon conspiracy theory, this one originating in a YouTube video that somehow has almost 100,000 views, is that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High was chosen for the “false flag” because of its namesake. The half-hour ramble claims that Douglas was a conservationist who fought to preserve the Everglades, and was against “draining the swamp,” which, of course, was Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. (how’s that going, by the way?) She also wrote a play called “Storm Warnings” which is obviously a reference to a phrase Trump would use nearly 20 years after Douglas died.
There’s also some rambling about the Rothschild family, Bill Clinton and the Philadelphia Eagles, working in concert to…do something. Hey, don’t look at me, I’m not the one making it up.
As more of the Douglas High students began speaking out against the easy availability of weapons like the AR-15, and in favor of their ability to go to school without being shot, invariably, fever swamp attention turned toward them.
In the days after the shooting, an alternative narrative began spreading online: that the most vocal Parkland teens weren’t just random teens, but were crisis actors. That is, they were hired, coached to portray victims and speak out against guns, and paid off by liberal philanthropist George Soros, who is the alt-right’s version of Stephen King’s child-killing Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The result was a torrent of abuse against the kids, including numerous misspelled articles, and personal insults by people throwing stones from glass houses.
The “crisis actor” meme is a familiar one for anyone who’s spent time reading about conspiracy theories. It assumes that the survivors of the Douglas High shooting exist in a vacuum, and did not appear until it was necessary for them to appear. Once the shooting was unleashed by the government, the crisis actors were “deployed” to advance the government’s narrative and turn the population away from law-abiding gun ownership, and toward Marxist slavery.
Of course, even the most cursory research would reveal that many of the students of Parkland have active social media lives, and did well before the shooting. Accusations that they’re crisis actors or paid agitators are almost entirely based on their opposition to the NRA, or “flaws” in what conspiracy theorists think should be their affect. If you smile at any point after a tragedy, they opine, you’re a paid actor. As for compelling evidence that such paid actors exist? There really isn’t any.
One student in particular, David Hogg, has drawn an outsized amount of shelling from the keyboard warriors of 4chan and reddit. They accuse him of being coached by his retired FBI agent father into spouting George Soros-approved anti-gun propaganda, and also of being from California, rather than Florida, and also of being an actor who either works for or wants to work for CNN.
As “evidence” of this chicanery, the droogs attacking Hogg have cited an interview he gave with local news in Los Angeles last year, after getting into some kind of altercation with a lifeguard over a boogie board in Santa Monica. There’s also this obviously made-up accusation that Hogg is listed in the yearbook of a high school in California, despite one of the other classmates in the photo clearly wearing a shirt with the Douglas High School logo on it. Oops.
The idea that Hogg’s father worked for the FBI dovetails nicely with the anti-FBI crusade that Trump’s supporters are on. Beyond that, it’s pretty much all either all out-of-context information that’s not relevant to the shooting, or made-up nonsense. The fact that Hogg once went to Los Angeles doesn’t mean he’s a crisis actor – it simply means he did the same thing that lots of other aspiring media personalities have done. ‘
These are the same accusations and memes that now accompany almost every other terrorist attack, and they have never been proven correct. Incidentally, that “Laguna Beach Antifa” Twitter account is gone, and was never a real person or organization.
Even two weeks after the shooting, anonymous trolls were still smearing Hogg, this time with fake tweets purporting to show homophobic slurs he supposedly tweeted. But Snopes exposed the tweet as obviously fake, written in a different font and appearing nowhere on Hogg’s timeline.
Finally, some of President Trump’s more vociferous defenders have blamed not ISIS or antifa for the shooting, but the FBI itself, claiming that the law enforcement agency was too distracted by trying to take down Trump on behalf of the deep state to stop the shooting from happening.
While the shooter was reported to the FBI, the agency didn’t have enough identifying information or evidence to take any action against him. Beyond that, the FBI is a big agency with a lot of divisions, not one overworked temp at a desk with an ever-increasing backlog of cases to ignore. This starts to veer away from conspiracy theory and into cult of personality.
There’s another aspect to mass shooting conspiracy theories, and if anyone was talking about it, there wouldn’t be any conspiracy theories in the first place.
That aspect is that there’s absolutely no motive to perpetrate a false flag mass shooting.
These shootings are usually posited as excuses to take away gun rights. But no American mass shooting has had any major impact on gun laws in America. Nobody’s right to own an AR-15 was infringed after Orlando, nor was your precious bump stock confiscated after Las Vegas.
Gun laws don’t change, and gun access doesn’t get curtailed, no matter how many die and how young they are.
Sandy Hook led to a few new minor state-level gun laws, but no federal legislation was passed, despite numerous attempts. They were all blocked by GOP legislators who have received millions of dollars in campaign donations from the NRA.
If false flag shootings are a government excuse to get gun laws passed, the government is failing miserably. No conspiracy is required, only the complicity of politicians terrifying of biting the hands that feed them.
So the mass shooting conspiracy theories will continue, pushed by people trying to profit from human misery, and believed by those unable to think critically.
This post is being updated continually to add new nonsense.