A survivor of the Las Vegas shooting has spoken to reporters about the torrent of harassment and abuse he received online from crazed conspiracy theorists convinced he is a “crisis actor”.
Braden Matejka, a heavy duty mechanic from Canada, was in Las Vegas with his girlfriend for his 30th birthday when a hail of bullets rained down on the country concert he and thousands of others were attending. As they tried desperately to escape the concert venue, Matejka was struck in the head by a bullet.
Luckily for Matejka, the bullet didn’t penetrate far into his head, missing his brain. He was rushed to hospital and was soon on the road to recovery.
However, after being interviewed about his ordeal from his recovery bed, Matejka soon discovered that his social media accounts were flooded with vicious, threatening and hate-filled comments from a plethora of fringe conspiracy theorists who believe that the entire shooting was a staged hoax and Matejka was one of [presumably] thousands of actors hired by the US government to play certain roles. Matejka, according to such theorists, simply played the role of a surviving victim.
This has sadly become a common occurrence in the United States. Since the evolution of social media, conspiracy theorists will take any mass shooting or terrorist attack and claim it never really happened, and that everyone directly involved is an actor. Such theories usually claim that no one really died or was injured in such attacks, and that entire identities had been created and actors planted inside communities to play the part of these identities.
Matejka shared some of the responses he received on his Facebook. One person wrote to him “You are a lying piece of **** and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head.” “Obviously a TERRIBLE CRISIS ACTOR” commented another Internet user on a Facebook post linking to a GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising money for Matejka who had to take time off work.
Other messages included “You’ll pay on the other side”, “HE’S SCAMMING THE PUBLIC … This was a government set up.” A graphic with Matejka’s face along with the words “I’m a lying c***” also circulated across Facebook.
Even Matejka’s family members were targeted by angry online users convinced they were all lying about the events at Las Vegas. Despite trying to reason with the angry mob, Matejka was eventually forced to close his social media accounts amidst the plethora of messages he was receiving. Even that action further convinced conspiracy theorists that he was part of a government cover-up.
“I’d be happy to talk to these people, but it seems there’s no reasoning. A really sad part of this is that a lot of these people think they’re fighting the good fight and exposing truth.”
For the most part, he’s right. There is no reasoning with those who spout such conspiracy themed nonsense. Whatever evidence or reasoning is given by the authorities or those directly involved is merely discarded by conspiracy theorists determined that it’s all been faked or staged.
Matejka joins other Las Vegas survivors as well as others involved in other mass shootings who have faced similar online harassment at the hands of such angry and common sense illiterate keyboard warriors. So bad was the abuse received by the family of Victoria Soto – a teacher killed in the Sandy Hook massacre – that the family attempted to trademark her name in an attempt to stop people using it on social media to promote their crazed theories.
YouTube in particular is plagued with such conspiracy theory nonsense, and the Google-owned video site has received criticism for featuring fringe videos above videos of actual news, as well as failing to remove videos aimed at harassing or promoting harassment to victims of mass shootings and their families.
With the voice that social media affords to people like this, this isn’t likely to be a problem that is going anywhere any time soon.