Memes, conspiracy theories and support for Brian Laundrie emerge in new subreddits
Two new subreddits to support Petito's boyfriend have emerged, drawing in over 3000 members with conspiracy theories about baldness and Petio's death
With the eyes of the nation on Brian Laundrie, two new subreddits have emerged to support the embattled Florida man. As of September 27, the subreddits r/brianlaundrie and r/friendsofbrian have collectively obtained over 3k followers, with memes, conspiracy theories, and messages of support for Laundrie. While most of the posts appear to be harmless theories, several have disturbingly trolled Petito, while offering odd messages of support to Laundrie.
Since September 14, Laundrie has been on the run, sparking a nationwide manhunt. on September 26, the FBI collected items for DNA matching from the family home in South Port, Florida. The hunt for Laundrie has spurned many conspiracy theories over the past few weeks, from claims his family handed him a cellphone so he could listen to Spotify, to allegations he used a black tarp to wrap Petito's body.
Now even darker theories have emerged from two subreddits, including allegations Laundrie is being treated as a "second class citizen" because he is bald. The subreddits have allowed bizarre theories to thrive unchecked, but even more disturbingly paint Laundrie as a "victim".
Bizzare theories swarm Reddit
The 'Friends of Brian Laundrie' community, created on September 18, describes itself as "dedicated to seeing that Brian receives the treatment that he is entitled to by the Constitution of the United States of America." Worryingly, it also claims "Brian Laundrie is a victim of domestic abuse who is being unfairly maligned in the court of woefully uninformed public opinion." Backing up those claims are some truly odd posts.
One post on September 27 asks "Do they (Redditors) think the fairness of the criminal justice system as a whole is subordinate to the emotional needs of one white woman's family?" Another on the same day claims, "Anyone who knows Brian knows that Gabby killed herself in spite of Brian because Brian was starting to show signs of Male Pattern Baldness." Another on September 26 says, "just hoping that brian is staying warm on his camping trip."
It's not just such claims though, but other weird conspiracy theories that the community is home to. One theory claims Petito is a "white supremacist" who "knowingly disappeared herself to divert resources and attention away from missing POCs." That post claims the case is "a neo-nazi plot to draw American attention away from people of color who are missing." Another theory says Laundrie is "an American hero who testified to the FBI about years of abuse by Gabby and her transphobic father," and claims he is in witness protection.
The 'Justice for Brian Laundrie' group (created on September 17) is similarly filled with disturbing theories and comments, but not as widespread as the 'Friends' community. Most posts appear to be genuine links to updates on the case, but we did spot a few concerning posts. One post appears to meme 'Avengers: Infinity War', showing Laundrie with the infinity gauntlet and Petito being "blipped" away. Another post captions a photo of the couple "felt cute, might delete her later".
There is no doubt many of these posts appear to be in poor taste, which some users seem to have noticed. A handful of Redditors have slammed the communities and individual posts, but they appear to be a minority. Most posters appear to be genuinely supporting Laundrie, with one post even asking for donations to a 'Free Brian Laundrie Foundation'. There also appears to be a lot of focus on the fact Laundrie is bald, and that appears to have something to do with the case.
The deeper down you go the two communities, the more disturbing theories and claims you find. The Daily Mail also reported that some of these theories have made their way to Q-Anon circles. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Reddit doesn't usually maintain strict control on content, so it is likely these communities will only grow over time and be home to more dangerous conspiracy theories.