Faced with the likely possibility that yet another mass shooter was inspired to kill by his far-right beliefs, right-wing grifters and media personalities are rallying around conspiracy theories to explain the massacre that took place at a mall in Allen, Texas, over the weekend.
The shooting, which left eight dead ― including three children, ages 11, 8 and 3 ― was allegedly perpetrated by Mauricio Garcia, who was himself shot dead by police during the attack. Garcia reportedly maintained a social media presence rife with neo-Nazi, misogynist and other far-right beliefs.
All available evidence suggests the shooting was yet another in the seemingly endless wave of right-wing extremist shootings in recent years.
But rather than confront that evidence head on, prominent right-wing voices ― most notably Elon Musk, the world’s second-richest man and owner of one of the largest social media platforms in the world ― have instead propped up an alternate reality about a government conspiracy. As Musk, the government-subsidized tech billionaire, told his millions of Twitter followers Monday, “Assume you’re always being manipulated.”
What We Know About The Suspect
Garcia reportedly wore a patch during the shooting with the text “RWDS” ― short for “Right Wing Death Squad.” And multiple news outlets reported on a hate-filled social media profile that they say investigators believe belonged to Garcia.
While the suspect’s precise motive for the attack is still unknown, “We do know that he had neo-Nazi ideation. He had patches. He had tattoos. Even his signature verified that,” Hank Sibley, North Texas regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said at a press conference Tuesday.
An FBI spokesperson declined to comment on the details of a Rolling Stone report that said an FBI review of Garcia’s social media footprint had “revealed hundreds of postings and images to include writings with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist rhetoric, including neo-Nazi materials and material espousing the supremacy of the white race.”
“The bulletin that is mentioned is a leaked confidential law enforcement report,” Melinda Urbina, a public affairs officer with the FBI Dallas field office, told HuffPost in an email Monday. “I am not sharing that document with anyone since it was not meant for dissemination to the public.”
Nonetheless, Garcia’s social media footprint has been reported independently: Investigators are probing a Russian social media account “rife with hate-filled rants against women and Black people” believed to belong to the gunman, according to The New York Times. Later on Monday, Aric Toler, a researcher at the open-source research outlet Bellingcat, claimed to have found the profile in question, a diary-like presence on the Russian site OK.ru.
In a lengthy Twitter thread and article showing his work, Toler documented the details he used to show that “all available evidence points to it being tied to the shooter,” including numerous photographs, identification documents, a speeding ticket, and evidence that the alleged shooter surveilled the mall days before the attack. A photo of a tattoo on the suspect’s body also matched months-old photos and videos on the account. Another photo on the account showed a swastika tattoo with a caption reading, “Here’s what I think about your diversity you fucking loser’s.”
Toler also shared a picture from the account of a tactical vest with a “RWDS” patch on it ― matching descriptions taken from unnamed law enforcement sources to other reporters. The patch appeared to match one previously for sale on the neo-Nazi apparel web store Anime Tobacco Firearms. The store said on its Facebook, Twitter and Gab pages Monday that “as a result of certain events,” it’s closing “for the time being.”
It’s not unusual ― at all ― for people of color to participate in far-right politics, including endorsing the views of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The social media page reported by Toler addresses this numerous times. In one meme posted to the account, a cartoon child labeled “Latino children” stands before two paths: one labeled “act black” and another, “become white supremacist.” “It’s funny cause it’s true,” the account commented below the meme. “I think I’ll take my chances with the white supremacist.”
Toler noted that the account included clips from Tim Pool, the prominent conservative YouTuber, and that one post on the page began, “This post was inspired by Libs of TikTok,” referring to a prominent anti-LGBTQ hate account.
Faced With The Violent Result Of Fascism, Grifters Turn To Conspiracy Theories
Musk, who isn’t shy about his own ultra-conservative politics, has worked for months to make Twitter a welcoming place for far-right grifters and ideologues. And in the wake of the shooting in Allen, he eagerly promoted a just-asking-questions credulity to insane assertions that, actually, the suspect’s well-documented history of neo-Nazi beliefs were in fact a front for some kind of Deep State false flag operation.
“[T]his is either the weirdest story ever or a very bad psyop!” Musk wrote Tuesday, after falsely saying Bellingcat “specializes in psychological operations.”
That phrase, “psychological operations,” or “psyops,” is a rich one among conspiracy theorists, in part because governments throughout history have engaged in the tactic in the past. But applied to modern-day mass shootings, the theories aren’t grounded in any evidence ― just ask Alex Jones, who owes over $1 billion to the families of victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting for claiming it was a hoax.
Nonetheless, Musk’s thinking was representative of the Twitter far right.
“The regimes two biggest priorities are disarming law abiding Americans and silencing people who tell the truth,” wrote Mike Cernovich, a career conspiracy theorist and far-right activist. “Coincidentally, a Mexican with a swastika on his chest committed a mass shooting and said he was inspired by LibsOfTikTok, and he posted this all to Reddit.”
“Absolutely nothing suspicious about the fact that we know all about this guy’s alleged motivations a day later and yet more than a month after the trans terrorist killing in Nashville we still haven’t been told a single thing about her motives,” wrote Matt Walsh, the broadcaster who jokingly refers to himself as a “Theocratic fascist” on Twitter.
For conspiracy theorists, the value in sarcastic rhetoric spiked with “absolutely nothing suspicious about…” and “coincidentally…” is its ambiguity: The observations require no evidence, nor any alternate explanation of events.
Greg Price, a political operative and Substack writer, offered a pristine example of that sort of response to a mass shooting. “You’re telling a Mexican guy just happened to have Nazi tattoos and by total coincidence posted about Nazis, along with prominent conservatives, on a Russian social media account with zero followers and this discovery was made by a guy who works for an org bankrolled by the CIA?” he commented sarcastically.
Ian Miles Cheong, an online culture warrior who, years ago, reportedly praised Hitler, was slightly more direct, calling the reported biographical details of the shooter “suspicious” ― apparently because the suspect’s internet habits included engaging with Cheong’s peers.
“The alleged shooter’s alleged profile claims that he was inspired by Libs of TikTok. Between this and the Tim Pool references, this thing is suspect. Where is his Twitter account? Why was he using a Russian social media site to write [what] was essentially a diary to zero followers?” Cheong wrote.
“So that I’m clear on this, a Jewish lady and a milquetoast fence sitter radicalized a Mexican neo nazi from a Russian website into slaughtering white Texans according to the CIA operative who broke the story,” snarked Josie Tait, who goes by The Redheaded Libertarian on Twitter.
Twitter’s new owner pushed the conspiracy theorizing further.
“Very strange,” Musk wrote in response to Tait, whose Twitter feed he apparently subscribes to. Separately, Musk commented, “This gets weirder by the moment” after Tait amplified Cheong’s post.
Some journalists attempted to push back on the “just asking questions” campaign.
“So @elonmusk – tell us your theory. The feds did this shooting to spark outrage at white nationalists and launch a gun crackdown? That what you’re hinting at?” prompted Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief at The Intercept, in response to Musk’s “This gets weirder by the moment” comment.
Musk didn’t respond, but Grim pointed out that right-wing activists often claim mass shootings are actually government creations, even though none has prompted any serious change in gun laws ― one of the supposed justifications invoked in the conspiracy theories. “To take it seriously for a second: why would that work for the feds this time? There have been endless mass shootings. Why would the FBI think one more would do the trick?” Grim wrote.
Anna Merlan, who tracks conspiracy theories at Motherboard and authored the book “Republic of Lies,” commented on yet more conspiracy theories about the alleged shooter’s tattoos by invoking an illegal experiment the CIA carried out decades ago: “Is the idea that someone forcibly tattooed him and then MKUltra-ed him into— god I’m gonna give these people ideas.”