If you ever needed another reason to not want to be unwittingly involved in events like mass shootings (and you don’t,) the increasingly prolific concern surrounding bizarre and far-fetched conspiracy theorists should do it.
Tragedies like mass shootings have long proved perfect fodder for Internet conspiracy theorists and amateur “sleuths”. And many of the circumstances surrounding the Las Vegas concert shooting and its aftermath has led to this particular tragedy proving extremely popular with the Internet’s most paranoid collective.
Changes to the timeline of events, witness statements contradicting each other and errors in media reporting – while deemed inevitable by the rationally minded – are some of the things that have been jumped on by conspiracy theorists determined that any erroneous information or unanswered question is somehow definitive proof of a nefarious conspiracy at play.
Many of these conspiracy theorists have focused their attention on Jesus Campos, the security guard at the Mandalay Bay who was the first to encounter shooter Stephen Paddock as he fired onto the crowds below him. Many theories and videos have emerged claiming Campos was a second shooter, or an accomplice to Paddock, with a number of fake stories circulating the Internet asserting Campos had been arrested by police.
There is absolutely no credible evidence whatsoever that Jesus Campos was an accomplice in the shooting, and reports that he had been arrested or was being treated as a suspect by the police are false. However that hasn’t stopped numerous reports circulating the Internet claiming otherwise. For example, on Oct 12th, a fake CNN website was setup and published a popular article that claims Campos had been arrested.
The frenzy only worsened when Campos cancelled a number of media interviews sending the conspiracy theorists into overdrive. Instead of focussing on more mundane explanations, such as simply losing nerve, many concluded that Campos had been “silenced” or was “on the run”, while other crazier theories claiming Campos had been assassinated or brainwashed. Of course none of these theories offered a shred of evidence to support their nonsensical claims.
After the cancelled interviews, even mainstream media outlets played their part in fuelling the frenzy, apparently unable to differentiate between completely vanishing and opting to lie low from the public spotlight. (The police have confirmed that Campos hasn’t either vanished or is on the run.) LVMPD officer Larry Hadfield says to Snopes.com –
[Campos] is not missing. He’s not under arrest. We tell people what we know. If they don’t believe it but they’re going to believe whatever web site, then I don’t know what else to tell you.
As the conspiracy theories continue to circulate, an infuriating and disappointing reality comes to light, and that’s the continued harassment those involved will receive from a variety of paranoid people in the business of peddling conspiracy nonsense online has now become a standard phenomenon. The lawyers representing the family of Victoria Soto who was among the victims at the Sandy Hook school shooting have told of the continued harassment by paranoid ‘delusionists’ determined that the entire family are “crisis actors” and that Victoria had never really died. Gene Rosen, who had taken in children during that shooting also reported continued harassment from Internet users who believed he was lying.
Jesus Campos – who reportedly now has his own security – faces a similar fate. Those that peddle these silly theories have already begun turning up to his house, including “investigative journalist” (we use the term loosely) Laura Loomer.
There is no shortage of conspiracy theorists, but you’d be lucky to meet two who’d agree on the same version of events concerning the Las Vegas shooting. Theories have included the claims Paddock was actually a government patsy, an ISIS operative, a hard line “leftist” Antifa operative or an Illuminati agent orchestrating a sacrifice, claims there was a second shooter, the government staged the attack to exercise stricter gun control and no one really died (never gets tired that one,) it’s all a “leftist” plot to celebrate 100 years since the Russian revolution, President Obama and Hillary Clinton ordered the shooting (seriously, people believe that,) and even that the MGM casino orchestrated or was involved in the massacre.
Or, if you’re Alex Jones from InfoWars, you’ll promote all of the above in the hope that 100 lottery tickets have a better chance of hitting the jackpot than just one.
There are indeed a number of unanswered questions as authorities continue with their very large-scale operation. But conspiracy theories – most of which are incompatible with one another – run rampant and help no one. The Internet truly is a scary place.