It was less than one week after the deadly school shooting in Florida that the smear campaign began.
On the shadowy alt-right corners of the internet, posts started to take aim at the group of students who have become outspoken advocates for stronger gun control, including accusations that they are crisis actors and that the school shooting may have been faked (echoing the arguments made by Sandy Hook truthers).
Reddit’s Donald Trump fan page, The_Donald, was leading the charge. On Monday, the subreddit was flooded with posts criticizing the students, including one showing a picture of some of the outspoken students smiling during a television interview.
The comments attacked the students for their activism, with many accusing them of being SJWs (which stands for social justice warriors, a derogatory term from the right referring to those who advocate loudly for equality).
“Ive seen this little chicken neck kid and the rest of the sjw gang on every news channel for the last 48 hours,” one commenter wrote. “Exploiting a good tragedy is the m.o. for SJW scum and that will never change.”
Others attacked the looks of the Florida school shooting survivors, calling student David Hogg a “cuck boy” and “soy boy.”
“little bald t**t looks really broken up about it all,” another commenter wrote about student activist Emma Gonzalez.
The_Donald was not the only hub on Reddit to launch a smear campaign against the school shooting victims. The site’s subreddit for conspiracy theorists — which during the 2016 election became a hub for right-wing propaganda like Pizzagate and rumors that Hillary Clinton was dying of a disease that came from eating human flesh — also had a number of top posts accusing the students of being crisis actors.
It appears that The_Donald was following the lead of another notorious corner of the internet, the alt-right haven that is 4chan. The site’s /pol/ board has become a popular hub for white supremacist posts and appeared to be on the forefront of the campaign to smear the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Posts that first appeared on 4chan were re-posted — sometimes verbatim — onto The_Donald.
Others have picked up on the smears, including other right-wing publications and conservative media personalities.
It is not clear if the efforts to smear the Florida high school shooting victims are part of any larger effort, but The_Donald has been identified as a major hub for sharing Russian-based propaganda during the 2016 campaign. The subreddit linked hundreds of times to Twitter accounts now identified as Russians aimed at interfering in the election by smearing Hillary Clinton and backing Donald Trump.