David Hogg has had to put up with a lot over the last month and a half.
After a mass shooter killed 17 of his fellow classmates and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February, Hogg quickly started advocating for stricter gun control measures. Almost immediately, he was smeared by the far-right as a “crisis actor,” bought in to help make the shooting seem worse then it actually was.
But the attacks haven’t stopped. A few days after Hogg and fellow Parkland survivors led a massive gun control rally in Washington, D.C., conservatives have started comparing the 17-year-old to Hitler.
The memes and comparisons started in familiar far-right spheres of the internet — pro-Trump subreddits like r/The_Donald, 4chan’s politically incorrect board, and Alex Jones’ YouTube channel on Saturday. Jones was particularly expressive, describing the March for Our Lives as the “Hitler Youth” invasion of Washington, D.C., where “young fascists-in-training were corralled into the nation’s capitol to demand that government authoritarians strip away the civil liberties of all law-abiding Americans in the name of “gun control.”
The comparisons made their way to more mainstream social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and were even picked up by a conservative lawmaker. On Tuesday, Minnesota Republican Rep. Mary Franson posted a series of now-deleted Facebook posts that referred to David Hogg as “Supreme Leader Hogg,” later sharing a photo of the Hitler Youth wearing swastikas, describing how the group brainwashed young children.
Ryan Saavedra, a reporter for the Daily Wire, also tweeted about the “little salute” at the end of Hogg’s speech.
— Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸 (@RealSaavedra) March 24, 2018
Meanwhile, in New York City, an aide to a Republican state Senator from Brooklyn was fired for posting a photo on Facebook that compared Hogg’s clenched fist and armband to a Hitler salute and a swastika. “The Democrats are doing exactly what Hitler did,” Anthony Testaverde posted. “He used the youth to disarm and control the people. This is scary.”
“Anthony Testaverde is no longer employed by my office,” Sen. Marty Golden said Tuesday. “While freedom of speech is a right that all citizens enjoy, what occurred in this instance was wrong and cannot be tolerated.”
Hogg isn’t the only Parkland survivor to be continually smeared by the far-right. Over the weekend, a photo circulated of Emma Gonzalez ripping up the Constitution. The photo was fake, and had been altered from a photo taken of her ripping up a target poster for Teen Vogue.
Emma Gonzalez is a member of Antifa. That is a domestic terrorist organization. One of their stated goals is to destroy the United States and the constitution. pic.twitter.com/IwS4nfwtbs
— Jim A 🇺🇸 (@weneedjobsnow) March 24, 2018
The far-right has proven incredibly effective at spreading rumors and disinformation in the wake of mass shootings, to help confuse the narrative and sow distrust among Americans. As Ryan Broderick from Buzzfeed noted, after the Las Vegas shooting a popular thread on 4chan emerged called “CONTROL THE NARRATIVE. DON’T LET FAKE NEWS TAKE CONTROL” which emphasized making sure everyone knew that the shooter, Steven Paddock, was a “Commie”.
However, the staying power of the Parkland teens — focusing attention on gun control well past the attention span of a regular news cycle — has proved somewhat of an aberration. Traditional right-wing outlets don’t know the best way to cover the teenagers, leaving the door open for more crude and vicious trolling, like the comparison between Hogg and Hitler.