From Donald Trump Jr. to the Republican Congress, conservatives waited no time at all to start calling the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fake.
The fake-victim story spread fast and furiously because it’s familiar. Alex Jones, who runs the mad website, Infowars -- where Donald Trump appeared as a candidate -- said the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was rigged to benefit gun-snatchers. After a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year, scores of videos turned up on Youtube claiming the victims were hacks.
The more the Parkland students spoke, the more the Right said they were getting secret, shady help — from the leaders of the Women’s March, from Democratic donor George Soros. Because most progressives don’t spend their time perusing Infowars or the fringe right site Gateway, they don’t tend to notice this stuff until it seeps into the media’s center stream. Which this story did. Almost immediately Fox News was running on the “huge controversy” to which they said Parkland was contributing. CNN invited former Georgia Congressman John Kingston to opine: “Do we really think 17-year-olds, on their own, are going to plan a nationwide rally?” he said.
Kingston was rebuked. At least one person has lost their job. But that’s not the point. The Smear’s the thing, And it doesn’t take a Russian.
Years before anyone had heard of Russian bots riling up Americans for profit, Americans were doing it. We’ve seen smear tactics used against everything from desegregation to single payer health care since the founding of the Republic. Remember the nefarious Gay Agenda. The phony Feminist Hoax?. Emmett Till was dead before he was exonerated of assault on a white woman. Why was Emmett Till killed? He was smeared. By the time we’re debating whether equality extends to sex with animals or whether grieving students are Soros plants, the damage is done. Honest people are doubted, precious airtime's eaten up.
Lies spread further faster today, thanks to social media. Maybe also, they can more quickly be stopped. The Parkland survivors smear was caught inside of a couple of news cycles. Could the response to this massacre be a turning point not just for weapons of war, but words of war too? One good way to squash a smear would be to join the students March for Our Lives March 24, in Washington DC and around the nation. Show that this smear won’t stick. Find out more at Marchforourlives.com