Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School experienced pure hell on Valentine’s Day of this year. The 17 victims who lost their lives that day share a fate with hundreds of others who have been ruthlessly murdered in mass shootings.
While many people grieve along with the families of these victims, there are others who do something very, very different in reaction to such a catastrophe. Millions of people hop on their laptops and begin discussing, producing, and spreading disinformation throughout the Internet. What they’re subscribing to is not fueled by compassion. Instead, it’s an act of disrespect without any logical backing only fueled by their own selfish agendas: Conspiracy theories.
The Cycle Of Conspiracies
There are common themes woven through each procured conspiracy theory. In December of 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary suffered a massive loss of 20 students and six adults. Many conspiracy theorists claimed that this event did not happen at all, that it was a total fake. Others claimed that they could spot the same crisis actors that had appeared in scenes like Columbine or the Las Vegas mass shooting last October.
These are always quickly squashed by journalists and the public by demonstrating that each person at each scene is, indeed, a different person.
Anderson Cooper interviewed David Hogg, a man who was survived the Parkland shooting. Theorists claimed he was a crisis actor. In response to Cooper’s question about how he felt being called a fraud, Hogg’s responded, “I’m not a crisis actor. I’m someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that.”
Crisis actors are legitimate, but they are only present during reenactments for military and police training.
Other conspirators use the two-shooter theory to “debunk” mass shootings, as we see in the 1963 assassination of J.F.K. as well as the Las Vegas shooting. Both theories have been rejected by the government and investigators who were able to witness the evidence and prove otherwise.
Mass Media Mayhem
Some faces in the media, especially infamous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, push these outlandish ideas in order to further their own careers. Shows like Jones’s “Infowars” have been around for years and have millions of followers. He speaks (or yells, rather) at his audience, begging them to look further into mass shootings like Sandy Hook (which he claimed never happened). With a recognizable face and an intelligent way of speaking, Jones is able to push his agenda and increase his number of followers and views on his YouTube channel.
Spreading the nonsense is not the only problem. People attempting to shut down these conspiracies can’t quite figure out how to accomplish it. If an article or site addresses the theories as the lies that they are, they are bombarded by conspiracy theorists who disagree. If the articles or sites are taken down, they are again called out as “evidence” that it was a conspiracy, to begin with.
A Need To Believe
So we beg the question, “Why?” For one thing, there is so much information out there that it’s hard to distinguish what’s real and what isn’t. Additionally, the majority of mass shooting theorists are individuals against any form of gun control. Any talk of restricting their gun access strikes fear in them, and they become more susceptible to believing that many of these devastating events are constructed to further the opposite party’s agenda.
There’s also another, deeper reason why people believe conspiracy theories in general. When a tragedy of this magnitude occurs, our mind needs a logical answer as to why it happened. Creating answers to these questions that don’t necessarily have satisfying answers helps people cope with a tragedy.