Months after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are seeing little response from Congress on the gun control legislation they call for; they are however becoming increasingly harassed by gun control supporters and falling victim to fake news.
These Florida high school students are being attacked on social media and in the mainstream press. Survivor Emma González, who has become one of the faces of advocates for gun control has faced false accusations and ultimately become the subject of multiple fake news reports or posts on social media.
A doctored image of González recently went viral. The fabricated image depicted González ripping the U.S. constitution in two, where the original depicted González ripping a poster in half. The fabricated image was originally posted on twitter by Gab, a “free speech social network,” which is popular amongst ultra-conservatives. The image received thousands of shares on Twitter, many users taking the image to be truth.
This manipulation is unfortunately only one example of how those against gun control legislation have continued to spread fake information about the Parkland survivors. These students have fallen victim to multiple conspiracy theories, false reports, victim blaming and blatant name calling by many on social media and by professionals on networks such as Fox News.
One post shared on Facebook includes an image of González with the caption, “this girl needs locked up for her roll [sic] in the shootings. She openly admitted to bullying Nikolas Cruz for 3 years for being wierd [sic]. Now she is the spokesman for gun control.”
Not only does this post contain multiple grammatical and spelling errors, but it is untrue and is victim blaming. This type of bullying is occurring to other victims as well.
Laura Ingraham shared an article on Twitter with the caption, “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.).” The article posted by Daily Mail did reveal that the Parkland survivor and activist David Hogg was rejected by four colleges that he applied to, but there is no evidence of whining. Hogg is quoted as saying that the rejections have been “not too great for him,” but he went on to say, “I am not surprised at all in all honesty. I think there's a lot of amazing people that don't get to college, not only that do things like I do but because their voices just aren't heard in the tsunami of people that apply every year to college …”
Ingraham’s tweet is not only inflammatory but it’s also a form of bullying. Not only does she shame the teen for not getting into the colleges he applied to but she shames him for, and exaggerates, his reaction to the rejections.
The fake reports surrounding these survivors are plentiful, and whichever side you are on it is your responsibility to fact check. What is painfully ironic about these fabricated posts is that they are shared by a large number of Donald Trump supporters, who are easy to back Trump’s attack on “fake news.”
Irony also arises in those who call out shooting survivors for “bullying” their own attacker, but who ignore and share posts that actively verbally assault the survivors who are children of the same age.
These fabricated or exaggerated stories lead to cyberbullying and are manipulating the cause of both sides.
I understand that gun control is a heavily weighted issue with extreme opinions on both sides. I understand that the Parkland victims are privileged to have the platform that they have been afforded. I understand that they have put themselves in the public eye by becoming activists for gun control, but I also understand that they are teenagers and they are human.
Stop bullying these survivors and survivors like them. If you share or are eager to believe posts with heavy claims against these activists without fact checking or posts that bully these activists, you are not only enabling fake news, but you are the bully that you claim creates these mass shootings.
It is important to remember that these survivors are just that – survivors. While they shouldn’t have to, they will survive every false headline and every cyberattack thrown their way. Bullying these young activists will not stop them; in fact I believe it will push them to work harder.
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