#NeverAgain: Student Movement Faces Adversity

February 14th, 2018. Valentine’s Day. In Parkland, Florida, 17 people were gunned down by 19 year old former student Nikolas Cruz. Between Columbine and Parkland, it’s been estimated there have been over 75 school shootings in the United States. The #NeverAgain campaign has suddenly sparked a gun control movement previously unseen in the wake of disasters such as
Sandy Hook and even Las Vegas.

Leaders such as David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez have stepped up to take the fight to congress when no one else has, but the thing is this: They’re not politicians or celebrities. They’re students, like you & me, American citizens who have suffered a tragedy greater than any of us could even imagine.

After a lack of response from Congress and little action from their adult counterparts, these children took the streets to protest. They formed the #NeverAgain movement, a campaign set on preventing future school shootings through gun control and reviewing the second amendment. They also founded the organization Never Again MSD (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School), a student-led gun control group.

However, with the rise of students protesting the lack of initiative from their government leaders, a frightening new movement has risen: The Crisis Actors Conspiracy Theories.

Conspiracy theories demeaning tragedies are nothing new; but what sets the Crisis Actor Conspiracy Theory apart from the rest? It’s the internet and its influence through enabling. Youtube, the most popular video-sharing platform, received much backlash after it failed to remove a video labelling David Hogg, a Parkland survivor and gun control advocate, as a crisis actor hired by CNN.

The video depicted many pictures of him on the set of CNN smiling, claiming he did not feel affected by the tragedy and was profiting off the deaths of innocent classmates. The video amassed 200,000 views in simply 3 hours and reached #1 on Youtube’s trending page before several users flagged it resulting in it’s deletion. However, this was not the only conspiracy video on Youtube concerning Parkland tragedies and will not be the last one. Videos such as these date back to even 2012, many questioning Sandy Hook’s authenticity and providing claims saying many of those killed in the shooting are hidden away by the FBI, with the whole incident simply being a “smoke-and-mirror” production orchestrated by anti-2nd amendment zealots.

The main issue concerning these videos are the people behind their production, or much rather, the people rallying behind them. A quick search of #CrisisActors on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or Instagram will quickly display results with articles with headlines such as “Was David Hogg REALLY at the shooting?” or “Emma Gonzalez was NOT enrolled at Stoneman Douglas High School.” As opposed to absurd 9/11 conspiracies, these threads are gaining hundreds, if not thousands, of retweets and likes. Even President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., was slammed for liking a tweet accusing David Hogg’s father, a former FBI agent, of working with his son to spread misinformation and to deprive Americans of their guns.

These accounts often promote desentization to the violence behind the shooting and try to minimize Nikolas Cruz’s actions. Many of these accounts are linked to the radical alt-right, similar to the ones Nikolas Cruz followed. These accounts are also associated with the death threats and online harassment many #NeverAgain campaigners face.

Despite the consistent harassment and allegations the Parkland survivors face, they seemed unswayed by it all. They continue to relentlessly campaign for stricter gun control laws and justice for their classmates’ deaths. In an interview with MSNBC, David Hogg stated “The only time you’re ever doing anything that actually matters is when people try stopping you.”