Right-wing media figures responded to news that the gunman who committed a mass shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, on Saturday had an account on a Russian social media website where he posted neo-Nazi material, calling the discovery a “psyop.”
Many conservative commentators attempted to discredit the information by claiming the researcher who found the account, Aric Toler, was acting as a cut-out for the CIA or other intelligence agencies attempting to control the U.S. population through disinformation. Toler is the director of training and research at Bellingcat, an award-winning open-source investigative organization widely cited in journalistic and academic publications.
These commentators argued that Toler’s investigation couldn’t be trusted because of Bellingcat’s supposed ties to the U.S. government — it is in fact an independent organization — and also because the shooter’s alleged account often shared content from right-wing media figures including Tim Pool and anti-LGBTQ activist Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok. They claimed that some sort of conspiracy was responsible for the fact that the media found and reported on the Texas shooter’s posts quickly, while the supposed “manifesto” written by the perpetrator who committed a mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27 has yet to be released.
In fact, the head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in mid-April that the Nashville shooter’s so-called manifesto was not a statement of political ideology and was closer to a collection of notes praising other school shooters. Regardless of its content, it bears no relation to Toler’s ability to find and post open-source information that is not controlled by law enforcement.
Toler posted his findings about the Texas gunman’s account in a May 8 Twitter thread which included a screenshot showing episodes of Timcast IRL, leading Toler to comment, “The Allen shooter was apparently a @timcast fan.” That news was widely shared online throughout the course of the afternoon.
That evening, Pool responded on his YouTube stream, saying the profile “does not seem to be real” without offering any evidence to support his claim.
“So there's a tragic story coming out of Texas, a mass shooting, and leftist researchers and the corporate press are running with this story that they've discovered the profile of this individual and lo, this Mexican man is actually a white supremacist,” Pool said. “Now the thing is, it seems like researchers have dug through this profile, it does not seem to be real. This person was posting weird things in the past couple of weeks to no followers and to no one, but of course the media's going to run with it.”
“On this profile, there are posts about Libs of TikTok and I believe it’s four clips from this show from one particular episode,” he continued.
“You see, here's where we get into the psyop: No one knows if this Russian social media profile is — actually belongs to this guy,” Pool said several minutes later. “A Bellingcat researcher named Aric Toler just said, ‘I found this profile that looks like it’s his.’ In fact, I’m pretty sure he even said, ‘I didn’t verify it, I don’t know.’”
Pool is incorrect. Toler did verify that the account belonged to the shooter, as he detailed in a Google doc to supplement his original thread. Pool may have been referring to a tweet Toler deleted about being unsure if a photo of Nazi tattoos showed the gunman; Toler clarified he deleted it because he had later verified the photo.
Pool’s unsubstantiated accusations that the social media account was a “psyop” were widespread in conservative media.
Steven Crowder echoed that line on the May 9 edition of his Rumble show, Louder With Crowder.
“We also have some information that's, I should say, curious regarding the Allen shooter,” he said. “We have more information now, and the more information that comes out, the more you don't believe said information because the purveyors of information are CIA plants.”
After incredulously listing off Toler’s findings, Crowder contrasted it with the relative lack of information about the Nashville shooter’s writings, clearly insinuating that a conspiracy is afoot.
“All of that, but still nothing on the Nashville shooter? Oh, it's for our safety,” Crowder said. “Alright. Let's just buy it wholesale. Curious coincidences, don't you think?”
Anti-LGBTQ right-wing pundit Allie Beth Stuckey made a similar argument on her Relatable podcast.
“The media believes that they have landed upon what the motive is for this — very quickly they turned out a narrative,” Stuckey said, before immediately discussing the “Nashville shooting” and subsequent delayed release of that shooter’s writings.
“The media hasn't even surmised why this person who went to Covenant Christian school grew up, decided they were the opposite sex, clearly rebelled against her Christian upbringing, went to this Christian school, shot it up, and killed nine people,” she added. “Like they can't even put those pieces together but they think they've landed on the clear motivation for the shooter who committed these acts of violence on Saturday, two days ago.”
Like Crowder and many other right-wing figures, Stuckey also suggested that the Texas gunman couldn’t hold white supremacist beliefs because he had a Hispanic surname.
“His name is equivalent to — and I'm sorry, this is just a fake name that I am making up, OK, this is not a real person, this is not the name of the shooter — his name though is equal to Pablo Rodriguez, OK?” Stuckey said. “So they're saying that someone apparently named something like Pablo Rodriguez, who looks like a Pablo Rodriguez, was a raging white supremacist.”
Fox Corp.’s Outkick Media founder Clay Travis also argued that the media has concocted a narrative that supporters of former President Donald Trump are uniquely violent, and when the evidence doesn’t support that, mainstream outlets will “manufacture” it.
“This guy is Hispanic, as you have mentioned, his parents do not speak English,” Travis told his co-host. “They have tried to turn him into a white supremacist.”
“All of the shootings that are happening, they don't really seem connected to Donald Trump and they certainly don't seem by and large connected to far-right-wing ideologues,” Travis later said. “So they're trying to manufacture them now. That’s what I see coming out of this coverage so far.”
These conspiracy theories spread far and wide on Twitter, in part from amplification by the site’s owner, Elon Musk. He responded to several posts claiming Toler’s work was a “psyop,” including at least three from Josie Tait, who works at Timcast and tweets under the handle “The Redheaded Libertarian.”
Right-wing troll account Catturd2 also said it was a psyop, somehow related to the authorities decision to delay releasing the Nashville shooter’s writings.
Misinformation activists Andy Ngo and Ian Miles Cheong similarly cast doubt on Toler’s findings without providing any counter evidence.
Toler’s findings have been corroborated by other researchers, and no one in conservative media has presented any evidence to counter them or to support their “psyop” theory. All available evidence shows that the Allen shooter was a neo-Nazi who consumed right-wing media, despite the baseless claims to the contrary.