ISD OSINT Senior Analyst Elise Thomas spoke to The Guardian about the ‘false flag’ and ‘cover-up’ conspiracies that began to emerge online in the days following the deadly shooting of two police officers and a concerned neighbour by three suspects in rural Wieambilla (Queensland, Australia).
Conspiracists have reacted to the news attempting to frame the three suspected shooters, who later died during a police shootout, as the true victims who ‘knew too much’. The suspects are associated to online profiles that were posting videos about killing “demons and devils” on the property, expressing a hatred towards police and referencing an evangelical apocalypticism and conspiracy theories. Those defending the suspect’s have posted online echoing some of the same conspiratorial narratives.
Elise explained to The Guardian that reactions to stories like these often leave the public in a position where they may prefer to shy “away from the uncomfortable truth.”
“To realise that, actually, some of the people they’ve been communicating with are quite violent and very, very strange people – who they would probably cross the street to avoid in person – I think that is a bit of a shock to the system,” she said.
“These conspiracy theories help explain away that uncomfortable feeling [of] ‘What have I gotten myself into here?’”
When assessing the suspect’s online activity before the tragedy, Elise points that it isn’t that easy to measure online activity and know that it could lead to real-world harm.
“As weird as what they were posting was, it wasn’t that different and that extreme from what others are posting online,” she said.