In the dark corners of the internet, student activists are being dubbed as willing participants in a game controlled by conniving liberals. Conspiracy theorists have accused survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting to be crisis actors – actors paid to bring attention to crises like mass shootings. One trending YouTube video in particular asserted that Douglas student David Hogg is being paid by leftists to prod a movement for stricter gun control laws. The video was posted by a YouTube account run by a user named “mike m,” who later revealed himself to be a 51-year-old man in Idaho.
In an online interview with The New York Times, the user claimed to have been inspired to upload the video by posts on the conspiracy site Godlike Productions. Users commented on the site that Hogg had been coached to give interviews and advocate gun control. Like so many other users, “mike m” fed into the speculation and posted a video of his own, accusing Hogg of being a crisis actor. Over the course of one day, with the help of the websites 4chan, Twitter, and Facebook, the video had gained over 200,000 views.
The accusation surrounding the Parkland shooting is not an isolated case. Rumors about protesters’ dishonourable motives have plagued civil rights movements as early as the Civil War.
As the Reconstruction era began, African-Americans were invited to come before Congress and call for the civil rights they were being denied. The per diem they were offered to cover the costs of travel was ultimately used against them, and they were accused of accepting money to tell false stories.
Almost a century later, in 1957, this tactic reared its ugly head once again. The nine Black students who enrolled in an originally white-only high school in Little Rock, Arkansas came under fire. These students, called the “Little Rock Nine,” were accused of being paid to take a stand for equality. Rumours surrounding civil rights activists permeated the Civil Rights Movement in an attempt to alienate protesters, and reject the causes they stood for.
In 1963, Birmingham newspapers used covert and overt language to label Martin Luther King and other activists “outside agitators.” The press swayed public opinion in the hopes of undermining and misconstruing their efforts. In 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, newspapers denoted the anti-Klan marchers as “other,” and condemned their presence in the community. More recently, internet rumors followed the 2016 Orlando shooting, the Las Vegas shooting last October, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
The internet age of the 21st century has amplified the reach that conspirators have, and crises like mass shootings are more easily subjected to accusations like these. In a CNN interview, Hoggs responded to the conspirators with the simple statement, “I’m someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that. I’m not acting on anybody’s behalf.”
PHOTO OBTAINED BY NBC