In Depth

Las Vegas shooting conspiracy theories: What are they and where did they come from?

As YouTube alters search algorithm over conspiracy videos, we take a look at some of the outlandish claims made about the shooting

Just a handful of days after 58 people were killed by a lone gunman Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, a number of videos have surfaced on Youtube, claiming the shooting was staged.

Las Vegas police have stated that Stephen Paddock “is an individual who was not on our radar or anyone’s radar prior to the event”, but have so far failed to identify a motive for the killings, leading some to believe he was an associate of antifa, a soldier of Isis or even a plant by the Democratic Party

While politicians and the police have distanced themselves from such claims, the videos detailing these theories have still received millions of views, causing Youtube to alter its search algorithms to stop them rising to the top.

But what are the theories, and why are they so persisent?

Paddock was a member of antifa

One of the most common conspiracy theories is that Paddock was a member - or at least an associate - of a militant anti-fascist organisation known as antifa.

Antifa is known for holding protests against right-wing organisations and groups and was involved in the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a confederate statue.

The connection to Paddock, however, is a tenuous one. Controversial radio talk show host and fervent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed on his Youtube channel - which currently has over 2 million subscribers - that once Las Vegas police had stormed the hotel room from which Paddock was shooting, “there was antifa crap everywhere”, adding that such information was “directly from the hostage rescue team”. 

Jones is not the only one. FactCheck.org reports that a site called neon-nettle.com posted a story shortly after the attack with the headline: “Las Vegas Shooting Exposed as Antifa-led False Flag Attack.” The site based Paddock’s links to antifa on a pair of fabricated tweets attributed to President Donald Trump.

Fox News gave airtime to an alleged “intel operative” who claimed that Paddock has chosen a country music festival as a “politically motivated target” because it would be attended by “pro-gun folks and Trump supporters”.

None of this has been confirmed by authorities, and FactCheck.org says that there is no evidence of a link between Paddock and antifa.

He was a plant by the Democratic Party

After the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, in which 20 children were killed, Alex Jones claimed that the entire shooting was faked by the Democratic Party in order to further their political agenda regarding tighter gun control legislation.  

He says he believes the same is true of the Las Vegas shooting, claiming on his Youtube channel that the Democratic Party had staged the attack, but his reasoning this time is not clear.

He claims that “the whole thing has the hallmarks of being scripted by deep state Democrats and their Islamic allies using mental patient cut-outs”, and says Paddock had organised the shooting to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, in which the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party overthrew the Russian Tsarist government. He also claims “they [the police] released O.J. [Simpson] just 20 hours before the attack took place so all the media would come [to Nevada] and be in place to cover this event”.

He was a member of IS

Perhaps the strangest claim surrounding the shooting is that Paddock was a soldier of the Islamic State (Isis), and had converted to Islam six months prior to the attack.

This theory originated from Isis itself, which published a communique that referred to the gunman as "Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki” and calling him a “soldier of the caliphate”.

Despite the group having a reputation for claiming responsibility for almost any attack, whether or not it's true, this didn't stop some fringe media outlets and personalities from spreading the information.

Vox also pointed out that mainstream news had helped spread misinformation by covering Isis' claims in detail, without adequate emphasis on the police having already declared the claims as false.

As the Independent writes: “Right-wing pundits are struggling to accept the Las Vegas shooter was just a rich white man.”

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