Today it was reported that an entire website has been started with the express purpose of trolling and hating a teenage shooting survivor who has dared to call for more gun regulation. It is only the latest of a long list of such attacks by Conservatives and pro-gun forces against him and the other teens who survived the Parkland shooting....
Are any of these survivors lambasted as "soulless liars"? Or compared to Hitler? Or told that they should be learning first aid instead of talking out? Or pronounced that they should have been smacked more as children? What sort of person says such awful things to victims, survivors, or their families?
And what if they are saying these things about child survivors who saw dozens of their friends killed and injured, and had to run past their bodies to escape?
Yet I see this all the time when the issue is gun violence-related. Survivors and victims are ignored by the Conservative gun-loving crowd ... until they call for sensible regulation to keep the shootings from happening again. And then the gun crowd comes out shooting, so to speak, attacking the character of those survivors who dare to speak out. The right-wing hate machine starts up. It happened to my friend Colin Goddard after he survived the Virginia Tech shooting and advocated for stronger laws. It happened to Lucy McBath after her 17 year old son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death and she called for justice and change. It happened to David Wheeler, who lost his 6 year old son in the Sandy Hook shooting and testified for change. And so on.... Anyone who speaks out about gun violence and calls for change is immediately trolled, smeared, and threatened. It's even happened to me.
Sadly, we are seeing it again. This time, they have come out to troll and hate on the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The fact that these are children makes the attacks even more pitiful.
These teen survivors are brave, well-spoken, and passionate, and we need to respect them, not tear them down.
There have been so many attacks on these teens by the far right that I've started to lose track. So I decided to make a sort of laundry list of them, here, though it is by no means complete (for instance, I didn't bother going to all the pro-gun blogs to see their reactions) and is just a sampling. Read them and tell me if this is a sign of an intelligent reaction. When the facts don't support the extremists, they resort to name-calling, conspiracy theory, and outright hate speech.
How have the teens handled it? Far better than many adults would. In fact, I'm impressed how they cope with the constant attacks and remain focused on the need for change. In the words of teen survivor David Hogg, when asked what he thought of the attacks on his character and the conspiracy theories:
“I don’t care,” Hogg said. “I don’t. I have bigger, more important things to focus on than these stupid conspiracies that aren’t true in any way, shape or form, have no validity, and don’t hold their weight. At all … these people are going to keep trying to take us down but that’s how we know what we’re doing matters … whenever someone tries making a change that matters, and a change for the better, there’s always someone that tried stopping them.”
And the teens have been wildly successful in their effort: The nation's largest-ever one-day march and rally; State legislation pushed forward; Conversations on gun violence in nearly every living room. Their passion, honesty, and progressive attitude is very much at the heart of it all.
Here's the list I have so far (which I will update when I find more), more or less in chronological order, of some of the major attacks on the Parkland teens. As you can see, a great many of them target Emma Gonzales and David Hogg, the two most outspoken teens:
- A GOP staffer, and many more extremists after him, falsely declared that teen survivors Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are "crisis actors" who weren't at the shooting, aren't students at Douglas, and are merely acting the part of survivors. The conspiracy theory may have started on online bulletin boards, but soon spread, even by Donald Trump, Jr. Then NRA board member Ted Nugent echoed the "crisis actor" conspiracy theory.
- A far-right journalist called teen survivor David Hogg "clueless," a "pawn" for the FBI and "anti-gun" forces, and coached into saying what he has.
- A far-right blogger suggested the Parkland teens are too mentally undeveloped to have an opinion on gun violence or any matter of political importance.
- An ex-GOP lawmaker and Trump campaign organizer accused the teens of having been "hijacked" and coached by left-wing groups and are unable of organizing their own movement.
- NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch accused the teens of being "too immature to make policy about firearms" and being used by "pro-gun control organizations."
- Former GOP senator Rick Santorum suggested that the teens should take CPR classes instead of focusing on gun violence, in essence blaming the teens for their friends' deaths because they didn't know first aid. The students and others pointed out that CPR cannot save a shooting victim, as it will not heal bullet wounds or stop bleeding.
- A fake photo was created and spread of teen survivor Emma Gonzalez tearing up a copy of the
- A GOP congressman and his team mocked teen survivor Emma Gonzalez and her Cuban heritage.
- A GOP representative compared the Parkland teens to Hitler Youth.
- FOX News commentator Laura Ingraham mocked teen survivor David Hogg on Twitter for having been rejected by some colleges, citing a far-right online publication that did the same. Hogg retorted by calling for companies who have ads during her show to boycott the program. The outcry forced an apology by Ingraham and at least a week off the air. To date, at least 17 companies have pulled their ads from her program. (update 4/13/18: now up to 26 companies)
- A GOP candidate called teen survivor Emma Gonzalez a "lesbian skinhead" and David Hogg a "bald-faced liar."
- TV star and Trump supporter Roseanne Barr tweeted a doctored photo of teen survivor David Hogg that suggested he was giving a Nazi salute. After being called out on it, she deleted the tweet.
- NRA board member Ted Nugent once again commented on the students, calling them "soulless" liars and "mushy brained." After a backlash against him for his statements, Nugent doubled down on his statement, once again saying they have "no soul," and said his critics were engaging in "hate speech" against him and were "dishonest, lying idiots." (see Nugent's own history of hate speech and other deplorable behavior, HERE).
- Internet rumors were spread accusing the Parkland teens, or even Emma Gonzalez specifically, of "bullying" the shooter, suggesting they were to blame for the shooting.
- Michael Flynn, Jr. (the son of the Trump cabinet member who pleaded guilty) tweeted the teen survivor David Hogg wasn't "smacked" enough by his parents as a child, after Hogg refused Laura Ingraham's apology.
- A Conservative pundit wrote that teen survivor David Hogg needs a "rhetorical spanking" and called him a "bully" and "dictator."
- A far-right journalist called the Parkland teens "demagogues" who are "making our public debate even more poisonous and less civil."
- An NRA spokesman and YouTube star taunted the teens by saying "no one would know your name" if the shooting had never happened or if the shooter had been killed by a guard, and that their story would be "completely and utterly ignored."
- A website was created for the purpose of trolling teen survivor David Hogg, created by a conspiracy theorist tied to the infamous hater, Alex Jones, the conspiracy site Infowars, and the anti- and fake-science site Natural News. The trolling webpage, which I won't link here, is filled with name-calling, conspiracy theory, and vitriol against this brave teen.
- A GOP candidate for the Massachusetts House and current county commissioner, Ronald Beaty Jr., has attacked David Hogg with a Twitter rant (after blocking Hogg), calling the boy "inept", a "twit", an "insect", a "clown", an "opportunistic rat", "a communist pig", a "fascist wannabe", and a potential "drug addict or worse." And he's made fun of his name, calling him "HoggBoy and "The Hoggster." It should be pointed out that Beaty served time in a federal prison in the 90's for making death threats against President H.W. Bush, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and others, and as a result cannot own guns himself.
- A Conservative TV show host on a Sinclair station posted a tweet threatening to "ram a hot poker up David Hogg's ass." He was subsequently forced to resign from the network.
- Multiple far-right bloggers spread false information in an attempt to make people think that David Hogg was not actually at the school at the time of the shooting.
- The new NRA president, Oliver North (remember from the Iran-Contra scandal?), accuses the Parkland teen activists of being "civil terrorists" and suggests they are oppressing NRA in the same way that racists oppressed blacks during the civil rights movements of the 60's.
This sort of hatred, trolling, and conspiracy theorizing isn't just rude and disgusting, it's dangerous. Weak-minded (and armed) people who listen to this may believe it and act out violently as a result. It's happened plenty of times before (remember the "Pizzagate" shooting?).
I think you can see how toxic these extremist Conservatives are to their own cause. I applaud the Parkland teens for their courage, and thank them for trying to make a new trajectory for our communities and nation away from gun violence.