Over a span of less than 24 hours, America endured two more mass shootings, both carried out by young white men armed with assault rifles, and fed by internet-driven hate. The motivations of El Paso shooter Patrick Crusius and Dayton shooter Connor Betts appear to have been different, with Betts in particular seeming to be driven more by personal animosity and hatred of women than any political cause.
The causes of the two shootings might diverge, but one thing that doesn’t is the conspiracy theories that started up in their wake. The discourse about the El Paso shooting was flooded almost from the first moment with fake news, memes, errors in early reporting, nebulous conspiracy theories, and outright lies.
The Dayton shooting didn’t generate much in the way of conspiracies, but that’s only due to it taking place late on a Saturday night. By then, it was easy enough to lump the two shootings together as part of some kind of vast plot, carried out in two different places by the same shadowy group.
Longtime watchers of the early discourse around mass shootings will recognize everything that was written and said about El Paso, because it’s the same stuff that’s written and said about every mass shooting. They all have the same conspiracy theories, the same fake allegations, the same mistaken eyewitness reports, and the same attempts to flood the news cycle with fakes in order to create chaos.
Every election cycle seems a little more beset by conspiracy theories, outrageous and unfounded accusations, and bizarre plots. They get weirder, and yet more normal at the same time.
The conspiracy theory community has mobilized to support Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans. And they’re going much further than anything that happened to John McCain in 2000, desperately trying to shore up their support with suburban white women by terrifying them into a thinking a rape caravan of ISIS invaders is (very slowly) making its way north to take their jobs, force them to drive electric cars, and treat refugees humanely.
But one day before the election, polling for the House of Representatives doesn’t look good, nor does it look good for Republicans to keep their death grip on state legislatures.
And if there’s one thing conspiracy theorists are good at, it’s making excuses for why the stuff they theorized didn’t come to pass.
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.
Conspiracy theories are like cheap ramen noodles. Easy to make, lacking substance, and quickly forgotten.
Earlier today, an Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia hit a dump truck that was on the tracks for an unknown reason.
The truck driver was killed, a passenger severely injured, and several GOPers suffered minor injuries as a result of the accident.
NOW: Amtrak train collides with garbage truck in Crozet. Nurse on scene reports at least one fatality and at least one in critical condition. NBC29 is on scene and will bring you more details as we get them. pic.twitter.com/eU0uYL0JQx
Normally, this kind of thing would be the domain of local news. However, the Republican party has been hijacked by a gang of conspiracy theorists who see the Obama/Clinton Deep State at work every time they stub their toe or the grocery store runs out of their favorite cereal.
Last month, I wrote that I wouldn’t be delving into a detailed debunking of conspiracy theories regarding the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, since most were just clickbait trolling that weren’t worthy of anyone’s time.
I had no idea that I’d be writing the same thing just weeks later.