A Bright Red Flag for Democracy

Sun, 2018-03-04

A week after the fatal shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, some of the high school’s surviving students traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, and Washington, D.C., to protest lawmakers who failed to pass gun-control legislation. These teenagers have become passionate advocates for change.

Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had a memorable explanation for why she and others had to speak out: “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving,” she said. “But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

Another group is speaking out, too: people who believe the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was staged, and that students like Gonzalez are actors, not victims. Far-right provocateurs have focused on David Hogg, a 17-year-old student who had the self-possession to interview his classmates while the shootings were taking place. Hogg’s composure in interviews, his criticism of President Donald Trump, and the fact that his father is a retired FBI agent have fueled a conspiracy theory that claims Hogg has been paid—by Hillary Clinton, George Soros, or favorite figures among conspiracy theorists—to promote an anti-gun agenda. Supported by media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, the conspiracy theories have received a big boost from YouTube, with its algorithms that push videos targeting Hogg to the top of trending video lists.