Debunking: Las Vegas Rumours, Hoaxes, and Conspiracy Theories



When something dramatic happens the emergence of wild claims soon follows. Las Vegas has been no exception. If you have a Facebook account then you will have potentially made the observation that almost immediately speculation and even various conspiracy claims started popping up.

As an example, once a week on a Sunday I look back to see what the three wildest weirdest religiously inspired claims during the past seven days have been, and that posting highlighted two that related to Las Vegas. One was Pat Robertson suggesting that it happened because there was a lack of respect for Trump and God, and the other was a clip by creationist Kent Hovend promoting that idea that it was a false flag operation. The fact that they made such claims simply confirms something that many of us already knew about these pundits of BS.

Today I am wondering if there are any good sources for debunking such claims. The answer is that yes indeed there are, and so here are a couple that you might find useful.

Who was Stephen Paddock?

So far the best distillation of what is actually known is the new Wikipedia page on him. I would anticipate that as further insights and information comes to light, the page will be updated.

Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Las Vegas Shooting

Steve Sheldon, is a conservative writer and speaker, and also avid gun enthusiast. He has also created a nice list is rebuttals to the various Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Las Vegas Shooting, so if you feel that his debunking is a liberal plot, then you will seriously need to reexamine that assumption.

His debunking which has been quite rightly widely shared is a list of 15 “questions” that supposedly hint at a grand conspiracy along with common sense answers that blow that idea right out of the water …

1.  How did he get that many weapons into his room without being noticed?  

A: With a luggage cart and ten suitcases over 3 days.

2.  How did he fire off that many rounds without training?  

A: A monkey can pull a trigger; and, who says he didn’t have practice?

3. How was he able to kill that many people in such a short time?  

A: He had 11 minutes firing on near full-auto (using a bump fire device) into a crowd of people that had no idea where the fire was coming from.

4.  Why did he have so many weapons?  

A: First, he was a psychopath. Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said it best, “No Ma’am, I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.” 

Second, he probably thought he would be there for an extended period of time and perhaps thought he would heat up one or more guns. Maybe he wasn’t good at changing magazines? Again, first answer is always a fit. Seriously, how can we apply reason to a psychopath?

Finally, some questions for the conspiracy theorists.

How do hundreds of law enforcement officers secretly conspire to cover up evidence in one of the nation’s worst modern massacres?  What would be their motivation? Would conspiracy advocates be satisfied when they see video evidence of the shooter by himself committing the act and ending it by putting a gun in his mouth?

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Please folks, stop with the conspiracy insanity and let the investigators do their jobs.  Seriously, just stop.

Snopes

Another great source is of course snopes. The cacophony of rumors, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories has been keeping them very busy, and so there is already a large collection of rebuttals for the various claims available at the following link …

Las Vegas Shooting Rumors, Hoaxes, and Conspiracy Theories

What else can be checked?

Going to google and entering whatever it is that has popped up along with the word “skeptic” or “debunk” can also often turn up a rebuttal, so if all else fails, then giving that a shot is often worth it.

Remember to not only consider the information, but also consider the source

If you do hear about some crackpot theory, then ask yourself this …

  • What is the source for this information?
  • Is it a credible source with a generally good reputation? (Hint: Neither Brietbart, nor Fox News are, and that is not a political stance, but is instead a fact-based one).
  • Do other sources independently verify it?

Is there something odd about people who believe or promote such ideas?

The short answer is no. Humans are awash with many cognitive biases and so we are all at risk of buying into a belief in something that is not actually true at all.

There are however a couple of important points to remember when encountering people who embrace conspiracy theories …

  • Generally they are quite sincere
  • The degree of human intelligence plays no part, there is no correlation between the belief and how smart they are. The smarter somebody is, the better they are at dreaming up rationalizations for absurd notions.
  • It is not specific to a particular demography, they are not all white nerdy guys living in their moms basement.
  • It is not about a lack of some information and misinformation. Sometimes a rebuttal does not convince some
  • Not everybody who articulates a conspiracy idea is actually buying into the belief, instead there are some who are simply carried by the tide of popularity for an idea. If presented with a well-reasoned fact-based verifiable argument, then they tend to be persuaded. Others however, when faced with such arguments, do tend to demonstrate an immunity to any rebuttal.

It has perhaps always been like this with humans. What is actually new is that since about the mid 2000’s the Internet has acted as an amplifier for such ideas.

Why do such beliefs take root and flourish?

University of Miami political scientists Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent looked into what really explains this. They noted that in laboratory experiments …

“researchers have found that inducing anxiety or loss of control triggers respondents to see nonexistent patterns and evoke conspiratorial explanations” and that in the real world “there is evidence that disasters (e.g., earthquakes) and other high-stress situations (e.g., job uncertainty) prompt people to concoct, embrace, and repeat conspiracy theories.”

In other words, when faced with a high-stress event such as the Las Vegas shooting, people embrace beliefs, perhaps religious or perhaps simply a conspiracy, as an attempt to explain it, and so gain some degree of control over the emotional trauma. Because it is embraced at an emotional level, any debunking of the idea at an intellectual level will be ineffective.

Patterns

It is perhaps part of our humanity that we are like this. The pattern seeking engine between our ears jumps to rapid conclusions as an attempt to explain what we encounter, and we then grasp that emotionally. Being able to do that gave our species a distinct survival advantage, hence that attribute has been naturally selected. If we are really going to address this and overcome it, especially now in an age when the flow of information has been greatly increased, then we need to start thinking things through, not just at an emotional level which often leads to incorrect conclusions, but to also think things through analytically.

Nudge

You really can’t tell people what is and is not actually true, but becoming conscious that we can all slip enables us as individuals to seriously question things that we have previously assumed. In other words, when faced with such claims, don’t make statements, but instead ask questions, not just to others but to ourselves and work through things at an analytical level. We truly do need to equip ourselves to be able to rise to the challenge of this new age of myth-information and work out what is really true.

Questions to Ask yourself?

When faced with such ideas then here a few questions that might help.

  • Is this really true?
  • What actually convinces me that this is true?
  • What would change my mind about this? [If everything you list for the previous question has a solid rebuttal, and yet you still believe, then you need to seriously work out what is going on and why you actually believe]
  • Am I simply embracing this at an emotional level or do I have good solid robust facts that convince most rational reasonable people?
  • What is the full conversation here, am I inside a bubble listening to just one side?
  • What do those that do not agree with this idea actually say, and why do they hold a different position?

If indeed you do truly believe and wish to label me a “fucking idiot” for not believing what is apparently obvious, then you should seriously pause and ask yourself why I don’t believe.

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