Just when the people who escaped the horrific shooting in the Las Vegas Strip on October 1 were starting to heal, the emotional and mental wounds have been opened up once again. A cabal of “truthers” has stooped to trolling and threatening survivors on social media.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, it’s become disturbingly common for conspiracy theorists on both sides of the spectrum to claim that survivors of mass shootings are “crisis actors” on the government payroll. But the aftermath of the Vegas shooting has seen some of those who follow these bottom-feeders go beyond just peddling lies and claptrap.
Braden Matejka of Lake Country, British Columbia found this out the hard way. He was shot in the back of the head while fleeing from Stephen Paddock’s onslaught; had the bullet gone just one inch further, it would have gone into his brain and killed him. Jacqui Heinrich of WFXT in Boston did a feature on him.
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) October 4, 2017
Matejka’s parents flew to Las Vegas so they could drive Matejka and his girlfriend, Amanda Homulos, back home; his injuries were so severe that he couldn’t drive for 10 days.
Before heading out on the 22-hour drive back to Canada, Matejka and Homulos gave an emotional interview to the Associated Press about their experience. Watch it here.
Homulos said she was surprised that she didn’t get shot; a number of people “directly beside” her were hit. She had police flag down a car who drove them to the hospital just in the nick of time.
But another nightmare began when Matejka’s brother, Taylor, started promoting a GoFundMe campaign on his Facebook page. Soon afterward, the trolls started rolling in. Here are some of the comments.
“Obviously a TERRIBLE CRISIS ACTOR. HE’S SCAMMING THE PUBLIC … This was a government set up.”
“YOUR A LIAR AND THEFT PIECE OF CRAP”
“You’ll pay on the other side”
“I hope someone comes after you and literally beats the living fuck outa you.”
“You are a lying piece of shit and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head.”
“Your soul is disgusting and dark! You will pay for the consequences!”
One of the trolls posted 26 consecutive comments saying that based on her two-decade experience as a nurse, Matejka was making the whole thing up.
The bottom-feeders also created a meme showing a picture of Matejka calling him a “lying cunt” who couldn’t show any wounds. On YouTube, one of the top results in a search for Matejka’s name was a video entitled “How To Spot Crisis Actors & Fakest News Ever.” The trolling ultimately forced Matejka to shut down his social media presence. Incredibly, the trolls took this as evidence that they were right all along.
Other survivors have had to endure similar treatment. Mike Cronk, a retired teacher, saw his best friend, Rob McIntosh, get hit three times in the chest during the early part of Paddock’s barrage. Cronk and others helped get McIntosh to safety. Watch him tell ABC News about what he saw here.
Soon afterward, both Cronk and McIntosh were bombarded by trolls accusing them of being crisis actors. Many of them slapped together YouTube videos calling Cronk a fake–so many, in fact, that if you search for “Mike Cronk” on YouTube, two of the autocomplete choices are “Mike Cronk crisis actor” and “Mike Cronk fake.”
This doesn’t sit well with McIntosh, who is appalled that after going through “something traumatic and terrible,” he has to be deal with people “attacking your honesty.” He blames YouTube for allowing this dreck to fester. After The Guardian started asking questions, at least one video targeting Matejka was deleted as a violation of Google and YouTube’s harassment and bullying policy.
It looks like this is the second time that the social media giants have been asleep at the switch on this issue. If you’ll remember, conspiracy theories about the shooter’s identity, supposed victims, missing persons, and other topics ran wild for much of the day after the shooting. Facebook, Google, and YouTube claimed to have fixed their algorithms to promote legitimate sources about the shooting. Obviously, that tweak hasn’t worked.
I hope these bottom-feeders are proud of themselves. They have inflicted more pain on innocent people who have already gone through a terrible ordeal. These bottom-feeders need to suffer some real-world consequences for their depraved actions, if possible–including losing their jobs. I have absolutely no problem with the hammer coming down on people who find it acceptable to harass and torment innocent people in this way.
(featured image courtesy Jacqui Henrich’s Twitter)