Imagine being a teenager—a child, really—and having not only to contend with the fact that 17 of your classmates and teachers were murdered a week ago, the way that student survivors at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school must, but then also to convince a slew of conspiracy theorists that you’re telling the truth about what you just experienced.
The latest disturbing development for the kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas is conspiracists accusing them of being “crisis actors.” In keeping with the long legacy of Alex Jones, a Florida lawmaker’s aide was fired on Tuesday after telling a reporter in an email that two student survivors of the shooting in Parkland “are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.” Benjamin Kelly, who was district secretary for Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison, was referring to Douglas seniors Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, who both made the brave decision to speak articulately after a tragedy. Conspiracies about Hogg in particular have been floating around on the far-right dredges of the internet, with the enthusiastic endorsement of Donald Trump, Jr., a stout, excitable parrot belonging to the First Family.
“I am not a crisis actor. I’m somebody that had to witness this and live through this and I continue to have to do that,” Hogg, 17, told Anderson Cooper.
One visible impact of the conspiracies—which have been forcefully and brutally rebutted by its teenage targets, the commanders of the internet—has been to help keep the Parkland tragedy firmly in the news cycle, a feat that past mass shootings have not managed to achieve. Today, Douglas students traveled to Tallahassee, Florida to speak out at the state capitol in favor of an assault-weapons ban while hundreds of Florida students staged a walkout in solidarity, and later today school shooting survivors including Douglas students and parents are scheduled to meet with Alex Jones superfan Donald Trump for a “listening session.”