Safety and law enforcement expert say that the many “conspiracy theories” that were spread surrounding Travis Scott and the Astroworld tragedy are getting in the way of getting to the real root of what went wrong.
The festival, which left 10 dead and hundreds injured, was the tragic result of a disastrous lack of crowd control and general mishandling of the situation. It is still unclear what prompted the crowd to surge forward, but witnesses described a chaotic scene before and during the concert, with many people in the back trying to rush to the front. One concertgoer, Neema Djavadzadeh, said the event was “hectic from the beginning.”
However, many people took to social media with conspiracy theories, such as condemning the concert as an intentional display of demonic ritual.
Experts trying to avoid similar tragedies in the future say that theories like these, circulated on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok, downplayed the actual causes of the mass casualty event. These conspiracies overshadowed any talk of prevention strategies to avoid such a catastrophe in the future.
Pop culture’s dark fascination with conspiracies involving blood rituals and sacrifice speaks to a long and sordid history of fear. Historian Norman Cohn calls this phenomenon the “nocturnal ritual fantasy,” describing the sensationalist rhetoric Romans wielded against early Christians and Christians wielded against Jews and “witches,” just to name a few examples. Used as a political tool to demonize certain groups, this specter of elite, ritualistic violence still plagues the public psyche, running contrary to accepted modern notions of science, rational thinking, and industrial progress. This narrative always contains the same core themes: the sacrifice of innocents, perverse rituals, and the depravity of elite circles in our era.
Astroworld is only the latest manifestation of this mass compulsion to find organized evil in what is really just bleakly uncomplicated tragedy based on incompetence.
Some of the modern worlds’ “conspiracy theories” hold more weight than others. And today, “conspiracy theory” is often tomorrow’s truth; just look at the origination of the COVID-19 virus and many of the other so-called “conspiracy theories surrounding the pandemic.
However, the problem is that social media tends to capitalize on the possible “conspiracy” or underlying evil in all things because sensationalism often promotes clicks. But the one thing all of these “conspiracy theories” have in common is a reflection of the group pain experienced by a dissatisfied population looking for answers.
The aftermath of the Astroworld tragedy is a prime example of how easily communal pain can spawn ideas of demonic activity. Maybe recognizing this pattern will make it easier to separate fact from fiction while fostering more empathetic communication among all.