Warning: offensive and potentially triggering language
On May 6th, 2023, Mauricio Garcia murdered eight people at a mall in Allen, Texas. In the following days, a GPAHE analysis of Garcia’s social media activity and hand-written diary revealed his propensity for violence, Nazi ideology, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry.
Not everyone, however, was willing to believe the evidence showing Garcia’s white supremacist beliefs. Far-right figures across borders have subscribed to numerous conspiracy theories centered on shifting the narrative away from the violent repercussions of fascist ideology. A number of far-right hate groups and influencers, including the Proud Boys, have taken to social media to deny Garcia’s status as a white supremacist, spread disinformation, mock Latino people, and even claim that the entire shooting was a “psyop” (psychological operation) backed by the government.
The Proud Boys
The white supremacist Proud Boys especially were quick to respond to the events in Texas, as Garcia was wearing a patch at the time of the shooting labeled RWDS (“Right Wing Death Squad”) which they had popularized. Numerous Proud Boys attempted to distance themselves from Garcia by saying that since Garcia was Hispanic, he couldn’t possibly be a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist. Multiple Proud Boys accounts also distanced themselves from the RWDS patch, like the Mid-Missouri Proud Boys, who claimed that they were being made into the “boogie man” when media outlets attributed “RWDS” to them. But the same group was displeased when media and watchdog groups compared Garcia to the Proud Boys, whose leader Enrique Tarrio is Afro-Cuban, with one post reading, “Hispanic legal and illegal immigrants [are] taking over the white supremacy movement.” The Proud Boys Texas group denied Garcia’s ideology through the creation and publication of racist memes, including one image of actor Danny Trejo saying “do you even know the 14 words, ese.” The Sacramento Proud Boys, like a number of far-right individuals on Twitter, referenced a mugshot of someone with the same name to show that Garcia could not be a neo-Nazi. Mid-Missouri, Texas, and the Sacramento Proud Boys all endorsed a conspiracy theory claiming the mass shooting was part of a “Deep State” scheme outlined in an article by the Gateway Pundit. Initially, there were few endorsements of the shooting, but the Cape Fear Proud Boys, who in response to a tweet about the group including token Black and brown members said, “You call them ‘POCs’, we call them our brothers.”
Interestingly, nearly every talking point made by the Proud Boys following the exposure of Garcia’s social media was reflected by “mainstream” far-right individuals on Twitter.
“Mainstream” Media and Influencers
Frequent Fox News guest Michael Tracey and conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck asserted that Garcia couldn’t have just been motivated by “political ideology,” and that reports on Garcia’s white supremacy were a “political conclusion.” Similarly, Bill O’Reilly published an opinion on why the mass shooting happened, without mentioning Garcia’s ideology once. Instead, he attempted to blame violence on the media, which he coined as “John Wick culture,” a reference to a movie series known for its action scenes and excessive violence.
Many mainstream far-right and white supremacist commentators used deliberately obtuse reasoning to deny any proof that Garcia was a white supremacist, spurring their own followers into making racist and conspiratorial claims in their wake. Ann Coulter, who has repeatedly pushed the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, said that a “2nd generation immigrant” cannot be a white supremacist, which was responded to by her followers with unfounded allegations that Garcia is a DREAMer alongside a racist comment that he was “livin’ the dreamer.”
Racist comments were also shared by psychologist-turned far-right commentator Jordan B. Peterson, who sarcastically asked, “Are Mexicans white? It’s getting so hard to keep track,” while linking to a tweet making a racist joke about white supremacy being “outsourced to the Mexicans.” Referencing Garcia’s OK.ru social media profile expressing admiration for far-right podcaster Tim Pool, who is infamous for hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes on his show, Lauren Southern, who was once one of the “alt-right’s” key figures, questioned whether anyone “actually thinks Tim Pool radicalised a Mexican Neo Nazi,” only to have her followers spew racist comments like “It’s the beanie” followed by “beanie is not the same as beaner.” In an attempt to protect speech which encourages white nationalism, self-proclaimed “theocratic fascist” Matt Walsh and Ian Miles Cheong, known for his praising of Hitler, attempted to distance Pool from Garcia.
Far-right Conspiracy Theories
Attempts to separate mass shootings from white supremacist ideology by spreading unfounded allegations and common right-wing conspiracy theories were also common on Twitter. Many of these included claims that Garcia was part of a Mexican gang or cartel, along with attempts to deflect the conversation into an attack on the LGBTQ+ community, which is part of a far-right campaign in response to the March Nashville shooting, where the assailant had recently begun using male pronouns. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for example, claimed that “only dumb white people would believe that a Mexican gang member is killing people for white supremacy.” Britain First leader Paul Golding ascribed to this conspiracy as well, using a mugshot of a different Mauricio Garcia to suggest that he is a gang member, rather than a neo-Nazi.
Golding continues the trend of far-right leaders distancing themselves from white supremacist violence by claiming the media attributes any crime to the ideology, despite a supposed mountain of evidence to suggest otherwise. Alex Jones, who peddled the conspiracy that the Sandy Hook shootings never happened, once again found a way to lie about a national tragedy. In similar fashion to Rep. Greene, Jones published an “Emergency Terrorism Alert” claiming a Mexican cartel was responsible for the shooting. This sentiment was further corroborated by Donald Trump Jr. and Log Cabin Republican Ambassador Isabella Moody. Under Moody’s tweet, her followers posted racist memes showing a combination of a KKK robe and a poncho. Another follower posted a “comparison” of white supremacists, putting Hispanic men and Klan members in the same image. Attempts to lead the public away from the violent results of neo-Nazi ideology manifested in The Blaze columnist Auron MacIntyre’s post denying Garcia’s white supremacist history and spewing transphobic rhetoric, as he believed the focus should be on “transgenderism [being] a dangerous and violent ideology.” Similar attempts to attack the LGBTQ+ community were made by far-right commentator Ben Shapiro, who retweeted a post questioning why law enforcement chose to “hide the Nashville shooter’s detailed plan,” far-right Twitter account End Wokeness, and far-right Italian newspaper La Verita, who reported that far-right shootings are quickly reported on while the Nashville shooting still has information “yet to be released”.
Perhaps the most shocking widespread conspiracy theory based on the mass shooting is the claim that the entire event was a “psychological operation,” referred to in-short as a “psyop.” This conspiracy theory was amplified numerous times by Elon Musk, as he replied multiple times to Josie Glabach’s (who works on Tim Pool’s podcast titled Timcast) assertions that the shooting was a “psyop” with claims that “this is the weirdest story ever or a very bad psyop!” and cast doubt on Bellingcat’s reporting of the shooting. Musk’s followers spread comments about the alleged ‘unreleased’ manifesto from the Nashville shooter, claimed the Texas shooting was a “false flag,” and insinuated that Bellingcat is a pawn of the World Economic Forum (WEF), United Nations, and European Union, which plays into the far-right Great Reset conspiracy theory. On his own show, Tim Pool directly addressed Garcia as a fan of his with claims that the shooting was a “psyop,” but also that he just “think[s] it’s funny” and he “really just [doesn’t] care.”
Endorsement of conspiracy theories and protecting the image of white supremacy has become a transnational phenomenon. Jayda Fransen, formerly of Britain First and now-leader of the British Freedom Party, also denied that Garcia could be a Nazi because he was Hispanic. Her tweet was accompanied by the same photoshopped racist picture of the KKK robe and poncho combination shared by some Americans. Mark Collett, a British neo-Nazi whose content is spread by the white nationalist White WellBeing Australia, also denied any evidence relating to Garcia, leading his followers on Telegram to a number of antisemitic comments and claims that the shooting was a “psyop.” Other examples of the exportation of extremist rhetoric include Canadian neo-Nazi Kevin Goudreau sharing a racist meme of someone in a KKK robe and a sombrero in response to reports about Garcia. In addition, Leigh Stewy, member of Canadian extremist group Diagolon, whose posts are reposted by white nationalist media network Red Ice TV, made similar claims to that of Alex Jones and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying Garcia is a member of the “Tango Blast” gang and therefore cannot be a white supremacist. She, like so many of the others, based this on a mugshot of someone else.
Far-right Brazilians, like their American counterparts, also used the wrong mugshot to identify Garcia and make baseless claims that a Hispanic person cannot be a Nazi. In an attempt to proactively defend former Brazilian President and far-right extremist Jair Bolsonaro, whose supporters previously stormed the Brazilian capital, one user said that Garcia will be made out to be a “Bolsonarist” based on the claim that media outlets used the same tactics “with the Hispanic gangster who went shooting in a Texas mall.” The “false flag” conspiracy theory is also popular amongst far-right social media users in Brazil.
The internet remains a place filled with ways to radicalize the public into hateful ideologies. With every extremist mass killing in the United States in 2022 linked to far-right extremism, as long as these hateful ideas are allowed to proliferate online, we will only see more violence.
Updated on May 15, 2023