Florida mass shooting survivor David Hogg has borne the brunt of some alt-right online conspiracies since his school, Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida found itself under attack by a former student on Valentine’s Day. The 17-year-old outspoken activist has been accused by conspiracy theorists of being nothing more than a “crisis actor,” coached into sharing his post-shooting anti-gun message with the nation and the world. According to Hogg, the attention spawned by the brutal and baseless online attacks have actually helped to amplify his true message of common-sense gun reform in the United States.
As CNN reports, David Hogg said during a recent interview that he wants to say “thank you” to all of those who have spent the better part of the last two weeks blasting him all over social media. According to Hogg, despite their inaccurate claims and all-around negativity, the largely right-wing conspiracy theorists are “great advertisers” for talking points.
“These people that have been attacking me on social media, they’ve been great advertisers. Ever since they started attacking me, my Twitter followers are now a quarter of a million people. People have continued to cover us in the media. They’ve done a great job of that, and for that, I honestly thank them.”
Speaking with Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources, David Hogg addressed the pervasive conspiracy theories that have flourished on a variety of social media outlets. Seeming to begin on alt-right online message boards, such as Godlike Productions and some sections of Reddit, shortly after Florida shooting survivors began speaking out against lax gun laws, baseless theories that Hogg and other concerned students were paid “crisis actors” began to spread. The situation became so pervasive that platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook were forced to remove videos and posts claiming that David Hogg was the poster child for a massive anti-gun conspiracy.
According to the conspiracy theories, the Florida school shooting survivor was either “coached” by his ex-FBI agent father, being paid by “anti-gun” activists or even not a victim at all but merely a paid crisis actor playing an anti-gun role.
Despite the widespread conspiracy theories and hoax claims, David Hogg is indeed a student of Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School and a lucky one at that. He was able to escape the shooting allegedly planned and carried out by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student of the school armed with a legally-obtained AR-15 assault rifle, without injury. Cruz was arrested and later reportedly confessed to killing 17 students and teachers and wounding dozens more.
As CNN reports, the Parkland, Florida school shooter was able to legally purchase firearms despite multiple warnings to the police and the FBI about his unstable and potentially dangerously explosive behavior. According to David Hogg and his fellow student activists, Cruz should never have been able to legally obtain the gun he used in the shooting. Since the shooting, many survivors (David Hogg included) have unapologetically taken their anti-gun message to anyone who will listen, from legislators to the media to the POTUS himself.
It was this anti-gun campaign led by Hogg and fellow Florida shooting survivors that apparently made the 17-year-old a target for alt-right conspiracy theorists. According to Hogg, the baseless nonsense conspiracy theories targeting himself and his motives have done nothing more than force conspiracy theorists to be exposed for how “disgusting they are.”
“The fact that they’re calling out me, as a witness of this horrifying incident, that I’m a crisis actor?… I feel for those people, honestly. They’ve lost faith in America. But we certainly haven’t. And that’s ok, because we’re going to outlive them.”
David Hogg is not the only Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School shooting survivor that has suffered from massive backlash for their anti-gun stance following the so-called “Valentine’s Day massacre.” As Daily Mail reports, 17-year-old Cameron Kasky, who is credited with creating the #NeverAgain hashtag following the deadly shooting, has quit Facebook after receiving death threats.
“Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the cultists are a bit more graphic than those on Twitter.”
According to his mother, David Hogg and his family have also been the target of social media death threats. However, the massive amount of attention and media coverage given to some right-wing conspiracy theories labeling Hogg as a “crisis actor” have also dramatically increased his social media following and fame and thus his platform for delivering his anti-gun message.
Despite (or perhaps because of) a massive alt-right backlash, the Florida shooting survivors-turned-activists have already made major strides toward their gun control goals. As USA Today reports, David Hogg and his fellow teen activists have already convinced Donald Trump to crack down on bump stocks and even speak out in favor of more comprehensive background checks for gun buyers, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to call for congressional hearings, and prompted nationwide gun control walkouts, marches, and protests.