By Ben Collins via The Daily Beast
Trolls told Chris Hurst that his grief over losing his girlfriend in the Roanoke murders was a lie. But I’ve known him for years. Maybe, I thought, I could get them to listen.
Chris Hurst spent the last two weeks trying not to cry on television while telling the world how beautiful his life with his girlfriend was before she was murdered for no reason. Chris was the boyfriend of Alison Parker, who was shot and killed on live television in August by a mentally ill man who had an invented grudge and easy access to firearms.
Chris is a friend from college. Chris and I hosted a radio show together.
Or, according to millions of conspiracy theorists online, Chris Hurst is a part of my imagination.
In the minds—and YouTube videos—of some conspiracy theorists, Chris is not a news anchor at WDBJ in Virginia. Chris, the videos say, is a “crisis actor” invented less than a month ago by the United States government as part of a false flag operation that will eventually allow the New World Order to take away every American citizen’s guns and force them into a life of subjugation and tyranny.
Every day now, Chris wakes up to find strangers’ hate on his Facebook wall that he has to personally delete. Or he’ll Google Alison to find the people he has to thank for donating to her scholarships and he’ll see, instead, another conspiracy theory YouTube video, viewed 800,000 times over, that says Alison was in on it all along, and that she’s been given a new life and maybe plastic surgery by the government.
“It happened again about an hour ago,” Chris says. “It’s hard for me to manage that because I hit land mines when I do. They have all these details I don’t want to know.
The most recent one says Alison was dating someone else and that she and Chris were never together at all. That person is really Alison’s ex-boyfriend, who conspiracists found by looking through her old Facebook photos.
Two weeks after he lost the love of his life in the most gruesome and devastating way imaginable, this is what he has to sit through when he turns on his computer each morning.
“The hoax theories have taken a toll for sure,” he says. “I’ve definitely felt it more than anyone. I’m the one with the Facebook and Twitter page.”
It is simply easier for some people to believe that the United States government has concocted a vast conspiracy to take away all of our guns than it is to believe that it is too easy for a mentally ill person to acquire one and shoot anyone they want.
And now those same people are taking it out on the families of the victims of gun violence after a tragedy.
The last decade has seen a boon for “crisis actor” conspiracies on the Web and—along with them—a new set of psychologists and philosophers are trying to understand how people get dragged so far away from reality.