Travis Reinking, the 29-year-old suspect in Sunday morning’s mass shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, Tennessee, may have believed in a widespread conspiracy theory popular on the far right-wing of the political spectrum, based on a Youtube video that appears to have been the final status update Reinking posted on his Facebook page.
Reinking, originally of Morton, Illinois — a suburb of Peoria — is believed by authorities to be the man who entered the Waffle House at about 3:30 Sunday morning clad only in a green jacket, opening fire on customers and employees with an AR-15 rifle, according to a report by WLS-TV News in Chicago, Illinois.
Little else is currently known about Reinking, who is described as a white male about 6-feet, 4-inches in height and weighing 180 pounds, according to the Tennessean newspaper. Other media reports said that Reinking, at some point prior to the shooting, had some sort of contact with the FBI, but the nature of that encounter was not clear.
But the Facebook posting may give at least a clue as to the views held by Reinking. The “Illuminati” conspiracy theory is the belief that a small, secret group of elite individuals controls all major world events. The apparent final post on a Facebook page believed to belong to Reinking was a Youtube video with his comment, “The Illuminati is real.” The video linked from the Facebook account has been taken down, but the following video is believed to be the clip posted by Reinking.
“The internet is awash with theories about the Illuminati, a mysterious group that conspiracy theorists believe is seeking a ‘New World Order’ that would impose a totalitarian world government,” explained an article in the news magazine The Week, from March 29. “Among the alleged members of the secret society are not just politicians and religious leaders, but actors and pop stars.”
The post on the Reinking Facebook page is dated March 30, 2018.
While the “Illuminati” theory has gone through numerous changes and modifications over the years, the original conspiracy theory dates back to the 18th century, when a German professor named Adam Weishaupt founded a secret group comprised mainly of his fellow intellectuals, with the aim of creating a philosophy that would offer human beings freedom “from all religious prejudices; cultivates the social virtues; and animates them by a great, a feasible, and speedy prospect of universal happiness,” according to a history of the Illuminati published by National Geographic magazine.
Weishaupt’s “Illuminati” group quickly disbanded. But in recent years, the Illuminati theory has become extremely popular in right-wing politics, according to author Kurt Andersen who writes about the Illuminati belief in his recent book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.
The theory was adopted by Robert Welch, founder of the far-right John Birch Society in the 1950s, according to Andersen’s history of the conspiracy theory. Rather than use the exotic term “Illuminati,” Welch chose to call the secret group that he believed ran the world simply “The Insiders.”
Fundamentalist Christian leader Pat Robertson, who ran for president in 1988 and actually won four states in the Republican primaries, argued in his 1991 bestselling book The New World Order, “that the Illuminati contrived to make Russia communist so that 75 years later it would fail and thus become dependent on the Illuminati-run global financial system,” Andersen recounted.
Whether the Illuminati posting on what appears to be Reinking’s Facebook account indicates that the Waffle House mass shooting suspect was actually a right-wing extremist is not yet clear, as of early Sunday afternoon. However, over the past decade, 71 percent of killings related to political ideology in the United States were committed by far-right wing extremist and white supremacists, with only 26 percent attributable to Islamic extremists, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.