Last week, a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It’s the second deadliest elementary school shooting in United States history, behind only Sandy Hook. Like that 2012 shooting that claimed 27 lives, the Uvalde massacre is already inspiring conspiracy theories.
Tuesday morning, a moderator of the popular Conspiracy subreddit posted false information to the group’s 1.7 million subscribers. The forum has 13 moderators.
They claimed that there must be a “major glitch in the mainstream news narrative” because one of the victims had both a father and a stepfather.
“CNN and NBC interview two completely different individuals posing as the grieving ‘father’ of 10-year-old victim Amerie Jo Garza. Neither is remotely convincing,” Sabremesh wrote.
“This is a major error. Either one or both of the men posing as Amerie Jo Garza’s father is a fraud. The networks can’t get their story straight.”
The explanation is quite simple. As her obituary states, one of the men was her stepfather, the other her father. Both have the same last name, Garza, which is common in the community.
None of this is evidence of a conspiracy or, as Sabremesh put it, a “glitch” in the narrative.
Sabremesh remains unmoved by the facts. “Low credibility ‘debunk,” they replied when someone corrected them. “Both of these ‘Mr. Garza’s’ claimed to be her father, not step-father.”
Sabremesh didn’t respond to an inquiry sent via direct message on Reddit Tuesday afternoon. They moderate seven other subreddits, some of which focus on conspiracy theories, such as conspiracy_commons and 911Truthers. Conspiracy_commons has over than 100,000 subscribers.
Although the truth about the girl’s father and stepfather is easy to find, many on the Conspiracy subreddit are convinced that something foul is afoot. Some contributed additional and equally dubious reasons to doubt the men’s relationship to the slain 10-year-old.
“I’d be storming in there. It doesn’t make sense,” wrote one, seemingly ignoring reports that police used force on worried and grieving parents to keep them from entering the school.
Others called it a “psyop” or psychological operation and said that the men were “crisis actors.” Another suggested that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was behind the shooting.
“The FBI really do suck at their jobs. And by their jobs I mean putting on school plays to shift policy narratives and strip Americans of their rights,” they said. “Fuck the Feds.”
Within minutes of Sabremesh’s post about Garza’s parentage, a popular QAnon channel on Telegram posted the same theory.
The false information about Uvalde made its way to the Parler Watch subreddit, which tracks far-right content online.
People there are disgusted. “You have to love the complete lack of logic, ‘The networks can’t get their story straight… so imma just make some shit up,'” commented one.
Another redditor pointed out that Sabremesh previously spread disinformation about Sandy Hook.
In one of their posts from 2015, they falsely claimed that the “true perpetrators” of the school shooting had left a “geographic signature” behind.
In another post that channeled conspiracist Alex Jones, Sabremesh called it the “Sandy Hook hoax.”
To redditors on Parler Watch, Sabremesh’s long history of spreading false information shows Reddit’s unwillingness to intervene, even when potentially harmful lies are spread by the moderator of one of its largest communities.
“The posts there start 9 years ago. If somebody was gonna do something about this, they’ve really been dragging their feet,” wrote one.
Reddit didn’t respond to an inquiry sent via email Tuesday afternoon.