Debunking YouTube Shooting Conspiracy Theories

Here we go again.

On Tuesday afternoon, a female suspect entered the main campus of YouTube in San Bruno, CA, and opened fire.

Mass shootings bring heartache for their victims, and anger and confusion for those helplessly watching. Now, they also bring conspiracy theories meant to either politicize the incident, grift off those predisposed to believe conspiracy theories, or simply troll.

Here is a roundup of YouTube shooting conspiracy theories and hoaxes, and it will updated continuously.

Hoax: The shooter is a man named Sam Hyde

A person named Sam Hyde is a YouTube star and frequent cypher for trolling mass shootings. His name is put forth as a suspect instantly on places like 4chan, Twitter, and Reddit; and mainstream outlets who haven’t cottoned on to the joke go public with it.

Sam Hyde is the Baba Booey of the 21st century, only not amusing or clever. He’s not the shooter, and never is the shooter.

Conspiracy Theory: The shooting is a “false flag” meant to attack gun rights.

This is a common outcry among both conspiracy believers and grifters in the days after a mass shooting. Here’s an example from InfoWars.

Places like Infowars drive traffic from spreading conspiracy theories. For Alex Jones to declare a shooting like this is simply a result of too many unbalanced people with too easy access to guns would be as out of his character as it would be for Oprah to get in front of a crowd and spout racial slurs.

The Second Amendment is not “under attack,” just like it wasn’t after Sandy Hook, Aurora, Las Vegas, or even Parkland. There will be outcries for more gun control laws, all of which will be either ignored or mocked by those wedded to the gun lobby.

It’s also likely that there will be “Crisis actor” allegations, accusing the victims and bystanders of being paid performers hired by either the government or George Soros. This meme has never been substantiated for any mass shooting.

Hoax, at least so far: The shooter is a woman seen to be wearing a head scarf, indicating radical Islam

At this moment, no details have been released about the shooter, other than her gender, and that she killed herself. There are a number of right wing accounts breathlessly parroting claims of eyewitnesses having seen a woman in a head scarf shooting.

It’s entirely possible that this is true, but it hasn’t been confirmed by San Bruno police, and even if the shooter was in a head scarf, there could be reasons for that that have nothing to do with Islam. It’s also possible that witnesses genuinely believe they saw something that they didn’t. That’s a common trope of shootings, where witnesses hoestly claim to see or hear two shooters, despite no second shooter ever emerging.

Finally, the claim is being spread by accounts who continuously spread Islamophobic slurs.

There is also no indication thus far that the shooter is an “illegal immigrant,” as California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher immediately claimed.

Hoax: 37 people were shot in the incident

This is not true, and appears to be a mishearing of a police scanner reading off the age of a victim.

The real number of victims stands at three right now, with the age of one being 37. So far, there have been no fatalities other than the shooter.

Conspiracy Theory: The shooting was prophesied by the mysterious “Q” as part of the conspiracy “The Storm.

This is the hot new right wing conspiracy theory, which I’ve written about many times. I said in a piece for Daily Dot, the Storm is a conspiracy theory of everything, swallowing up every event around it and turning it into proof of its own existence.

Since there is no evidence that “The Storm” actually exists, it’s impossible to prove that the shooting is part of it. And since we know nothing of the shooter’s motivation or identity, it’s impossible to say whether she knows anything about QAnon, The Storm, or anything related internet conspiracy.

More updates to come later

Late 4/3 edit:

The YouTube shooter has been identified as a 39-year-old animal rights activist named Nasim Aghdam, born in California and of Iranian dessent. She apparently was a prolific YouTuber who was angry at the company for “censoring” and filtering her protest videos.

At this point, she doesn’t fit the usual criteria of a mass shooter, and her anger seemed almost entirely directed at one person at YouTube. Rumors of her being a “jihadi” appear to be unfounded, and mostly a product of conservative grift and fearmongering.

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