Conspiracy theories surrounding the most tragic events in recent U.S. history are not unusual. The number of people who believe there’s something fishy about 9/11 attacks — especially the attack on the Pentagon and the collapse of World Trade Center 7 — is not a tiny minority. An easy YouTube search will bring up videos questioning whether the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was filled with paid actors.
Even the Boston Marathon bombing and the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting have not escaped a litany of “here’s what really happened” claims. Often times, the theorists suggest a clandestine government operation aimed at either getting America into a war or creating new laws to limit our civil liberties.
These so-called “false flag” conspiracies have sprung up in large number since the horrific attack that killed 59 people and injured 527 at a Las Vegas concert on Sunday. And some of the survivors are upset that social media powerhouses like Google, YouTube, and Facebook seem, to them, to be promoting the “false flag” theory.
Numerous theories have pointed out that Stephen Paddock doesn’t fit the mass murderer profile and have questioned how he managed to sneak so many firearms into his hotel room. Others have pointed to a video of what they say is a persistent muzzle flash coming from the fourth-floor window of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino rather than the 32nd floor. There’s also the particularly chilling video of a concert-goer’s account of a woman telling people they’re all going to die just 45 minutes before the shooting started.
But to some people there on the ground when the bullets began to fly, and for others upset that such a horrifying attack happened again on American soil, the spreading of these theories is the height of insensitivity.
According to UK’s The Guardian, one of the top results for Las Vegas shooting videos on Google-owned YouTube was entitled “Las Vegas ‘Shooting’ ... Did It Actually Happen?” The video suggested the victims were simply actors.
While few of the Vegas “false flag” theories have gone as far as to suggest the mind-boggling idea that nobody at the concert really died, that particular one made shooting survivor Stephen Melanson especially furious.
“When I see my wife fighting for her life with a gunshot wound to her chest, and my daughter was also shot, it’s pretty conclusive evidence that it did happen,” he said. “My daughter texted me … ‘There is a shooting right in front of us’ and another text said, ‘Mom is shot.’”
Conspiracy claims have shown up high in the results of Google and Facebook as well, according to The Guardian, because so many people are clicking on them. Some people simply want to see what the latest “out there” theory is. Facebook, though, has been in a mad scramble to reduce the reach of news stories they believe lack concrete evidence.
Faith Family America did a quick search of “Las Vegas shooting” on YouTube Wednesday evening and found a conspiracy video as the third result. Clicking on that video brought up other “false flag” videos as suggestions for watching next.
“It’s not fair to all the family members who have been going through this,” said Melanson, who has joined others in calling for the social media giants to suppress search results for these types of videos and articles.
Amidst those calls, YouTube released a brief statement about their ability to share numerous viewpoints, adding that its users can go directly to more mainstream new sources if they want.
“When a major news event happens, these sources are presented on the YouTube homepage under ‘Breaking News’ and featured in search results, with the label ‘Top News’,” YouTube instructed.
What do you think about all of this? In related news, Franklin Graham shared some poignant thoughts on who really is to blame for the Las Vegas attack.