Last weekend’s March for Our Lives was a vivid and powerful moment in the quest for sensible gun legislation in America. The kids who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, became a political force to be reckoned with, getting up on stage in Washington D.C. and, with considerable grace and aplomb, electrifying a crowd of nearly a million people. They eloquently stated their case that the time has come to put our children’s lives ahead of the profits of weapons manufacturers, “calling BS” on the rhetoric of the NRA. In fact, 17-year-old Emma Gonzalez gave a speech that is likely to be remembered for generations, featuring perhaps one of the loudest moments of silence in American history.
Unfortunately, much of the right-wing media and second amendment fetishists don’t see it that way. Apparently, however, these right-wing media groups have no decent or logical arguments to counter these passionate survivors of the tragedy, so have chosen instead to begin attacking the kids themselves.
As of this writing it appears that Fox News host Laura Ingraham could be on the verge of losing her show after advertisers began abandoning her and the network after she had the poor taste to make fun of the grade point average of Parkland survivor David Hogg and mock him for failing to be accepted by a major university.
Just yesterday, such culturally relevant luminaries as Ted Nugent and Frank Stallone decided to attack the kids, with the latter calling them a rude euphemism for the female genitalia and threatening them with physical violence, and the former, who once adopted an underage girl as his daughter with the express purpose of having sex with her, telling them they had “no soul.” The fact that probably none of the Parkland kids have any idea who these “superstars” are doesn’t make the attacks any less odious or nonsensical.
They have been called communists and anarchists and fascists and Nazis and compared to Hitler youth. The claim has been made that they are merely actors pretending to be traumatized. Still, this hasn’t done much to alter the public consciousness that these kids are heroes and inspiring leaders on the rise. Thus the right-wing media has had to take it a step further.
The new narrative emerging in places like Breitbart News and Infowars and on right-wing Twitter is that Nikolas Cruz is the true victim of the Parkland shooting and that he was driven to commit his 17 murders by the merciless bullying he received at the hands of Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Delaney Tarr and the others. Guns aren’t the problem, this absurd leap of logic goes. The problem is that high school kids (in particular, these high school kids) don’t reach out to and befriend the disaffected, alienated and violent among them. It’s not that weapons of mass murder are easy to obtain, even for those who are known to have issues with mental illness, it’s the kids’ own fault that they are getting killed.
Check out the comments section of any Breitbart post about any Parkland kid now, and you will find nothing but people who believe, as if it’s gospel, that these kids are evil bullies who basically deserved what happened to them.
How did we get to this ridiculous and reprehensible point?
This silly talking point seems to have been born when the American Spectator decided to cherry pick a line from Emma Gonzalez’s March for Our Lives speech and use it out of context to “prove” that she admitting to bullying Nikolas Cruz. They published a snippet of her speech where she appears to say that she and others arbitrarily ostracized him.
“Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him, that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him? You didn’t know this kid! OK? We did!”
Taken in the larger context of her speech, however, that little snippet takes on an entirely different meaning.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again. We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.”
Snopes has already done an excellent job of debunking the American Spectator piece so I won’t take the time to do it again here but I will say that, even in the snippet produced, Gonzalez says Cruz was “ostracized,” not bullied. These are two very different things. It takes a long logical jump for which no evidence is ever produced to move from “we ostracized him” to “we bullied him.”
Logic matters very little in these situations, however, when your goal is not to tell the truth, but instead, to demonize and discredit these kids in any way possible. So naturally, right-wing Twitter was quick to jump on this talking point and flog it as if they had found some fatal flaw in the burgeoning anti-gun youth movement.
Parkland students now admit to bullying Nikolas Cruz now that he snapped they feel justified.— ⏰1⏰ (@0H0UR) March 26, 2018
The thought process of these kids is ass backwards.
You kids helped create the monster.
It’s not the gun it’s the culture.
Emma Gonzalez of the Parkland, Fl school shooting, openly admitted that SHE bullied Nicholas Cruz...— Peggy A Hubbard (@pahubb43) March 30, 2018
The TRUE weapon here was BULLYING! You abuse, put down, make fun of a person, cruelty. Listening to that Hogg kid and her? The attitudes. There is only so much a spirit will take
The intellectual dishonesty and illogic of this argument is almost beyond comprehension. The logical extension of it is that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas kids deserved to die. It presupposes that being bullied (or ostracized) is a valid excuse for committing mass murder and that it’s perfectly reasonable for anyone who is bullied (or ostracized) to behave similarly.
Putting aside for a moment that billions of kids throughout history, gay, lesbian and transgender kids, bookish kids and kids who are bad at sports, awkward kids and kids who can’t figure out how to conform, have been bullied without resorting to mass murder, let’s take this argument to its logical extreme. It can be argued that all murderers have been bullied or abused in some way. This is what warps them and turns them into murderers, right? If Nikolas Cruz is not responsible for his crimes, than neither is any murderer.
Are these right-wing thinkers ready to claim that an African-American gang banger or an MS13 member who murders a police officer is not responsible for his actions because of the trauma that led to their act of violence? Are they willing to give Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson or Adolph Hitler the benefit of the doubt because of the hard lives they led before the heinous acts they committed? We all know very well that they are not. They aren’t even willing to understand why African-Americans might want to kneel in protest of their brothers regularly being gunned down by police.
No, this talking point and growing right-wing meme is being trotted out for this one occasion only. It will be put back in the box as soon as it’s no longer needed, never to be mentioned again. They have resorted to this nonsense for one reason. They are bereft of ideas and have absolutely no logical or moral ammunition with which to mount any kind of rebuttal against these powerful Parkland kids.