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.
Having survived the shooting of his classmates, Douglas High School student David Hogg has since been the subject of a firehose of conspiracy theories calling him an actor from Los Angeles, a stooge of his FBI-linked father, and a plant paid by George Soros.
Now comes a new accusation against Hogg: that he wasn’t even at school the day of the shooting, but instead rode his bike there afterwards, shooting footage and pretending like he’d survived the incident. Naturally, if Hogg didn’t actually survive the shooting, his activism would be a sham, and his instant celebrity would quickly fade.
There has been an avalanche of conspiracy theories regarding the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Many revolve around concepts like false flags and crisis actors – terms that are familiar to those who study and write about fringe culture, but are new to the populace at large.
This can lead to an air of authoritative knowledge by those who decidedly do not have it. And unfortunately, they seem to come up for every tragedy – be it a shooting, terror attack, or even a deadly accident.
In the case of Parkland, Douglas High School student David Hogg has been described as a “crisis actor” paid to espouse gun control views. The whole thing has been called a government-perpetrated “false flag” by prominent conspiracy theorists and conservative infotainment figures. Rumors are flying that the shooting was covered up by an active shooter drill that “went live.”
The “crisis actor” derpderpers think (1) there’s a vastly richly-funded conspiracy to trick us with fake events, and (2) the vast rich conspiracy re-uses actors to save a few bucks and because it’s hard to find actors.
But what does any of that mean? Are these real concepts? Have these things been done before – and could the shooting in Parkland be the next iteration?
While these concepts are mostly unknown to the public (who are then appalled to hear them), I’ve been writing about them for years. On Skeptoid Blog, I wrote posts diving into each one of these ideas, and am extremely familiar with how they work – and don’t work.
This piece summarizes what I wrote there, and if you want more information, feel free to read the original posts. They have crazy comments!
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.