Lies about Lewiston shooting pushed by online skeptics

Nov. 10—LEWISTON — As soon as news began to spread about the shooting spree in Lewiston last month, online purveyors of balderdash and bilge latched on.

For them, the murder of 18 people in Lewiston on Oct. 25 either didn't happen at all or was an elaborately planned "false flag" operation meant to advance the agenda of gun control advocates, assist the Deep State or maybe further a plot by globalists to take over the planet.

Another alternative, Restricted Republic video host Lisa Haven told half a million subscribers, is that maybe the Lewiston massacre happened to distract Americans from some "big, big, big information" that she said had just come out related to President Joe Biden's finances.

In the days since Robert Card opened fire in Lewiston, there have been thousands of often unhinged social media posts, dozens of kooky videos and a host of absurd articles posted online that seek to undermine what they see as a fictional cover story that a mentally ill Army reservist gunned down innocents at two of the city's entertainment venues.

Spurred by a distrust of government and the news media, this wave of disinformation and bizarre conspiracy theories is nothing new. It's become a staple following every mass shooting since a gunman in 2012 massacred 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Amanda Crawford, a journalism professor at the University of Connecticut who has researched conspiracy theories surrounding mass shootings, said that after a horrific crime like the shootings in Lewiston, there are people "who don't want to believe that they are true."

"Misinformation and conspiracy theories give them something else to believe," she said.

Stephanie Kelley-Romano, a Bates College professor who has studied conspiracy thinking, said most of the people who spread this material probably believe it.

What happens, she said, is that when terrible things happen, they "create some sort of horrific reasoning for it" so they can feel better "about literally the randomness of our lives."

Kelley-Romano said QAnon and other internet sites that cater to conspiratorial thinking tell people to "do your own research" rather than believe what they're told by the news media and politicians.

That might sound good, but, "the problem is, unfortunately, many people are doing their own research in these echo chambers of conspiracy and violence. So what they're finding is absolutely affirmation" for things that aren't true, she said.

They also frequently think they can see "something that no one else sees" because they won't accept the version of reality provided by authorities and the media, Crawford said.

Crawford said they build on the idea that there is a "shadowy, nefarious, Deep State that's trying to control us in some way" and connect those notions to gun ownership.

She said as many as one in four Americans harbor doubts about mass shootings.

One reason they are dubious, Crawford said, is that there have been so many shootings over the years that they don't seem real.

"These acts are unbelievable. They're shocking, right?" she said.

Because it's so hard for anyone to fathom that someone "would go shoot up a bowling alley or an elementary school" it opens room for doubt, Crawford said. The resulting conspiracy talk can "kind of play on our preconceived beliefs — and our fears really can take hold."

Most of the conspiracy crowd has been explicit in the belief that powerful figures had a hand in putting Lewiston in the crosshairs.

On a far-right site called The Burning Platform, it took only hours for a post to emerge scoffing at the Lewiston deaths.

"Oh really," it began, "the very day after conservative Freedom Caucus member Mike Johnson is elected Speaker of the House, the homicidal Deep State gun control freaks stage a mass shooting in the independent-voting state of Maine where gun ownership is very common throughout the rural areas.

"The bottom line is that every mass shooting over the past many years is specifically designed to forever take all assault rifles off the streets of America post-haste," it said.

"The globalists know that a well-armed U.S. citizenry is their biggest impediment to the implementation of their New World Order agenda," it added, "especially to their civilization-ending Great Reset."

Need to Know News dismissed "these crisis acting patsies in their special useful idiot roles as Deep State" in Lewiston as dupes who "always comply with their orders laid out before them, obliged to follow the mind-controlled, scripted tradition in US false flag folklore."

Need to Know News also cited Joachim Hagopian, allegedly "trained at West Point," with the observation that "incidents" such as the Lewiston shooting, "if they're even real, are a regular recurring, now permanent fixture in America with virtually all of them eventually exposed as gun-grabbing false flags."

There is no evidence that any of the mass shootings that have afflicted the United States for a quarter century were "gun-grabbing false flags."

Most of the barrage of online doubt came from people using monikers and fake names that make it impossible to tell who they are. Some are, no doubt, automated bots merely repeating chaotic themes while others may be foreign agents deliberately sowing discord.

But most appear to be misguided Americans trying to make sense of senseless acts of violence.

One person going by the name "AmericaFirst" on X, the new name for Twitter, claimed to live 30 minutes from Lewiston, where he has family.

"I know 2 people that are deceased from BOTH locations," he posted the day after the massacre. "This DEFINITELY happened, but was it a False Flag? Who knows. But the timing makes your hair stand up."

Another X user, Jennie Johnstone, said "the Lewiston event was a false flag."

Johnstone blamed it on "a NWO/globalist mafia that want to take over the planet."

"Fathoming it," she said, "the evil is the challenge. Expand your capacity to imagine the reality. Sorry, it sucks to know this."

Another social media commentator, calling himself "The Original Acadian Shepherd," wrote on X that the "Lewiston staged event may be the one that gets fully exposed if we get a few people together and go there."

"It doesn't seem like Maine knows what they are doing with false flag operations and if pushed it will all fall apart," the Acadian Shepherd insisted.

A video posted by OP Freedom, who has 60,000 followers on Rumble, called the shooting a hoax because so many details are "very fishy."

"These hoaxes always happen in small towns. All Freemasons involved, I bet," it concluded.

OP Freedom said the media's portrayal of events in Lewiston is full of "bad actors and fake heroes," including sections depicting witnesses and survivors who spoke during television news interviews as actors because they appeared too emotionless or too amped up.

Crawford said conspiracy touters often seize on conflicting statements from witnesses and the inevitable small reporting errors in the early hours of a crisis to paint a confusing picture which they say portrays reality better than the more settled version provided later by the media or government officials.

Another video, called "The Lewiston Maine Strong Hoax" uses the public's generosity toward the victims' families to make its off-kilter case, citing the many GoFundMe campaigns as "a glimpse of a con."

It also claims to be suspicious that merchandise became available soon after the shootings, or, as the video put, "this psychological operation."

JustSomeGuy321 was happy to see the video.

"Thank God for discernment," he said. "I knew it was fake from the start, but hardly anyone believed me. The contradicting photos are the biggest giveaway. Now that Card is supposedly dead, they keep adding more and more details to the story that don't make sense."

Nanaganks expressed the view that the whole thing was just "another try at the gun-grab."

Someone posting under the name Sandra blamed Shannon Watts' Moms Demand Action and Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety for circulating "false narratives" and using "these fake events to petition for gun control, mental health evaluations, increased surveillance and access to data."

"They back every UN/Jew agenda on the menu," she said. "These demons work tirelessly to change policies and help accelerate their JWO goals through psychological warfare."

Another poster, RJ Vick, said, "I would bet money the FBI knew about the Lewiston shooter and knew exactly what he planned to do. They purposely let him perpetrate the shooting so we have yet another false flag to use as a pretext to take the guns."

Kelley-Romano said that while some political leaders "deliberately deploy" conspiracy illusions to foster extreme positions, most of the people who believe them are simply mistaken by slippery rhetoric and fear.

Crawford said changing their minds won't be easy.

Those pushing conspiracy claims, she said, generally have "this bigger worldview which is partially motivated by beliefs and guns and distrust of media," along with deep worry about the government, especially when Democrats are in charge. It's a worldview not easily revised, Crawford said.

Kelley-Romano said she likes to think of countering it in terms of how you would talk to a grandmother at Thanksgiving who has slipped into "the rabbit hole of QAnon."

"We have to try to be compassionate," Kelley-Romano said. "We have to try to understand" where they're coming from and why.

There are going to be times when it's "going to be really, really difficult," Kelley-Romano said, but it's a path back to reality.

Photos: Lewiston Strong steps up to the plate

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