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Paranoia and Death Threats in Vegas

In the aftermath of the mass killings in Las Vegas, many people have been harassing and hurling death threats at victims of the killing spree. It seems that conspiracy theorists have come up with a theory that the whole event was staged by the government in order to provide another reason for gun control. By staging this event in which 58 people were killed and more than 500 wounded, the deep liberal state hopes to push Congress towards enacting gun control laws.

“You are a lying piece of s**t and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head,” someone posted to Braden Matejka’s page on Facebook, one week he had been shot in the head by the Las Vegas shooter. “Your soul is disgusting and dark!”

Conspiracy theorists, who believe the government or others staged the shooting on October 1, have targeted survivors and victims’ loved ones on every social media platform. Their posts are replete with misinformation and are always abusive and often laced with death threats. Facebook and YouTube contain viral posts and videos referring to people like Matejka as “crisis actors,” and taunting them with accusations that they were hired to pose as victims.

Matejka’s brother, Taylor, began a GoFundMe to help raise money for Braden Matejka. One woman posted 26 messages in a row in response to Taylor’s request for donations, saying she had been a nurse for more than two decades and that she was certain Braden Matejka was “a liar and con artist.” Another poster, who called herself Samantha, quipped “Obviously a TERRIBLE CRISIS ACTOR. “HE’S SCAMMING THE PUBLIC … This was a government set up.”

Mike Cronk, a fellow Las Vegas survivor, was widely targeted by conspiracy theorists after he did interviews with ABC and NBC news. He too was referred to as a “crisis actor.” Indeed, when you search for “Mike Cronk” on a search engine, you will come up with articles about “Mike Cronk Crisis Actor” before you do the original articles by ABC or NBC news.

It appears that every victim that receives any kind of publicity also becomes the target of harassment and death threats. This is an indication of the deep feelings of anger that are brewing out there, particular among members of the pro-gun group. Indeed, the conspiracy theories appear not only to be associated with the anger about gun control but also about but about the sense by extremists on the right that they are being marginalized by “Trump haters.” The assumption seems to be that the Las Angeles shooter himself was a “Trump hater” who wanted to kill conservatives at a country music festival. The question that arises is, why do we have this deep anger?

The clash between extremists on the right and extremists on the left was most evident in Charlottsville a few weeks ago, when those on the right (dubbed white supremacists by the radical press) and militants on the left had a violent confrontation. This confrontation, in which so-called “alt-right” protestors were attacked by leftist militants ended up getting out of hand and leaving several people dead and injured. This conflict has been simmering in one form or another for years.

It is evident that anger is at a high pitch in the USA right now—and perhaps in the world as well (i.e., North Korea). When anger is at a high pitch and people aren’t talking about their feelings in a constructive way, the anger turns up and becomes a kind of craziness. It was a form of craziness when Stephen Paddock opened fire on thousands of people attending a country music festival, and it was a kind of craziness when rightists began coming up with conspiracy theories targeting victims with their hateful and unreasonable threats.

Anger, which is the underbelly of hysteria, jams up people’s thinking and when their thinking is jammed up their words and actions become more and more simplistic and one-sided. Individuals can become hysterical, but groups can become even more hysterical. History is replete with hysterical events, such as the Spanish Inquisition, when those who said or did anything that seemed against Christian dogma were burned at the stake, or such as the Cultural Revolution in China when Mao Zedong started a violent political movement against anticommunists (Capitalists) during which millions of people were persecuted, imprisonment, tortured, harassment, robbed and sometimes executed. When people are caught up in hysterical times, they are no longer able to think reasonably.

The current trend to see a conspiracy in the Las Vegas shooting spree also has the earmarks of paranoia. Thinking that a person would allow himself to be shot in the head (as Matejka was) in order to fight for gun control is a little much. It tells us the far right and its reaction to the far left.

And it tells us a little about where we are as a nation right now.

Paranoia and Death Threats in Vegas

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2017). Paranoia and Death Threats in Vegas. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2018, from


Last updated: 29 Oct 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Oct 2017
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