There are still plenty of unanswered questions surrounding the mass shooting in Las Vegas earlier at a country music festival that left 58 people dead. So little is still known about the motives of gunman Stephen Paddock, and conspiracy theorists have attempted to fill in the gaps to explain why the rampage happened. Naturally, like the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, survivors and family members of the victims have become targets of these conspiracy theorists. Those affected include Braden Matejka and Amanda Homulos, who tell their story in the above Associated Press video.
On Facebook and YouTube, videos and memes are spreading that accuse survivors of being paid crisis actors and either perpetuating a hoax or being involved in an event staged by the government (no one can quite agree). Several victims have been doxxed and personally attacked, leading them to close their social media accounts to escape the abuse.
Braden’s brother, Taylor, spoke to The Guardian. “It’s madness. I can’t imagine the thought process of these people. Do they know that we are actual people,” said Taylor said. Ironically, the story of Braden (who was shot in the head but survived) was only picked up by the conspiracy theorists after Taylor and other family and friends began spreading a GoFundMe page to raise money for Braden, who would be missing work while recovering from the swelling in his brain and blurred vision. One harasser sent 26 messages.
The brothers tried reasoning, but ultimately decided to delete their social media accounts, which only fueled the conspiracy theorists:
Taylor said he tried to respond to the conspiracy theorists, but nothing seemed to work: “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.”
Other victims are similarly frustrated.
“It makes you angry,” said Rob McIntosh, 52, who was shot in the chest and arm in Las Vegas and has since been accused of being an actor who faked his injuries. “You’ve already been through something that’s traumatic and terrible, and you have someone who is attacking your honesty. You don’t even have the opportunity to respond.”
So far, YouTube claims it has removed several conspiracy theory videos that violated the video platform’s terms of service, but plenty of videos remain.