Parkland student protesters become right-wing targets

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer

In the wake of Saturday’s massive rallies calling for new gun legislation, the student survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have themselves become political targets.

Republican state Rep. Mary Franson of Minnesota spent Saturday evening posting a series of messages to Facebook comparing the Stoneman Douglas students leading the Never Again movement to the Hitler Youth. Franson later deleted her account, but the City Pages Minneapolis captured screenshots of the images, which included a quote from Adolf Hitler discussing the Hitler Youth movement. Franson did not respond to a request for comment.

Students and school shooting survivors hold their fists and hats aloft in solidarity at the conclusion of the “March for Our Lives” event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Franson was joined in her Hitler Youth comparison by the far-right conspiracy site InfoWars, which has repeatedly compared Saturday’s March for Our Lives to a Nazi movement. In a video posted to its verified YouTube page, InfoWars overlaid the audio of a Hitler speech and the crowd from a Nazi rally with footage of Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg’s speech on Saturday. The site — which has interviewed President Trump and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the past — has also posted videos with the titles “Democrats Use Nazi Style Propaganda to Brainwash” and “Cult Minions March Against Guns in Austin Texas” over the past few days. The site also promoted the conspiracy theory that there were multiple gunmen during the Parkland shooting.

A Republican candidate for the state legislature in Maine dropped out of his race earlier this month after calling Hogg a “moron” and a “baldfaced liar” and his fellow Stoneman Douglas student and activist Emma González a “skinhead lesbian.”

On Monday, the right-wing blog Red State promoted a story that Hogg was not at Stoneman Douglas during the shooting only to follow up with a correction of that assertion that blamed a “confusing” CBS News video. Hogg was in the school during the shooting — including interviewing his classmates while they hid from the gunman — and returned later that day to talk to more of his classmates at the scene.

Even before Saturday’s rallies, the Stoneman Douglas students have been attacked by right-wing media since the Feb. 14 shooting. A number of outlets accused them of being “crisis actors,” paid performers who were never actually in danger. It’s a similar tactic that repeats itself after most mass shootings, with InfoWars host Alex Jones’s claim that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was “completely fake” among the most notorious lies.

A screengrab from InfoWars portraying Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg as Hitler.

Over this past weekend, doctored images of González went viral, and a video of her tearing a gun target Photoshopped to make it look like she was tearing the Constitution was shared across social media. She was also targeted by the campaign of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, for wearing the patch of a Cuban flag on her jacket. González is part Cuban and was defended by GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban native who represents South Florida.

The reaction to the march also included CNN contributor and former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum suggesting the teenagers would be better off learning CPR than marching, an idea that was rebutted by a multitude of medical professionals, who pointed out that CPR doesn’t help with the treatment of gunshot wounds. The conservative magazine National Review added its own stories to the mix, with one piece referring to the rally organizers as “Teenage Demagogues” and another questioning if Hogg was an “Oracle, or Useful Idiot?”

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