The Crisis Actor Conspiracy Theory Has Moved Beyond Mass Shootings and Terrorism

There's a conspiracy theory for every occasion.

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By now, you may be familiar with the crisis actor conspiracy theory, as it’s been popularized to the point that its application to Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg became a top trending video on YouTube in February before the company was able to remove it. If you’re not familiar with internet trash, the baseless theory always goes like this: A terrorist attack or mass shooting rivets the nation. A political movement builds in response, for something like gun control. Conspiracy theorists and trolls attempt (consciously or not) to undermine that movement by claiming the events victims are “crisis actors.”

The term appears to have been originally coined by the company Visionbox, which issued a press release in 2012 offering crisis actors to use in “active shooter drills and mall shooting full-scale exercises,” according to Motherboard. Less than two months later, 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. By the new year, the Memory Hole Blog had posted a theory that the Sandy Hook massacre was actually a “relocated emergency drill” staffed by “crisis actors.” Since then, the theory has been applied to the massacres in Aurora, Boston, Oregon, Paris, Manchester, and Florida.

Donald Trump Jr. likes one of the weirdest, darkest conspiracy theories on the web, and now he’s applying it to the child migrant crisis. While he hasn’t issued an official statement on the matter, a bot tracking the president’s son’s Twitter activity shows that Trump Jr. liked a Breitbart story pushing a variant of the child actor conspiracy theory that has been used as an attempt to undermine the veracity of multiple mass shootings.

Trump Jr. previously liked a tweet accusing David Hogg of being some sort of plant or actor.

To many, Coulter’s allegation and Trump Jr.’s liking trigger-finger are examples of the same old conspiracy theory, but the movement from terrorist-related theories to completely unrelated political issues illustrates a frightening acceptance of a disturbing form of deflection. No longer is the outlandish idea of crisis actors used in our nations most frightening national crises, but now it’s also an accepted political diversion for other issues involving any form of human suffering.