by Brie Stimson March 28, 2018


Candles in memory of the victims

A few days after 17 students and faculty were killed in the horrific Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, there was more terrible news.

Just as these students were beginning to grieve the loss of 17 friends and mentors, conspiracy theories about the students themselves began to pop up. One video that got millions of views on Youtube alleged student David Hogg wasn’t a student at all but actually a “crisis actor,” which I’m assuming is supposed to be someone who pretends to be a grieving student in front of TV cameras. Does that even exist?

Another conspiracy theorist’s tweet said: “Start looking for [Jewish] numerology and crisis actors.” Others said the students who became outspoken on gun control after the shooting were coached by liberal activists and that the #Neveragain movement the kids started out of their living rooms in the days after the tragedy was really a George Soros led project. (George Soros seems to get blamed by conspiracy theorists for everything).

A tweet by David Clarke, the former Milwaukee County sheriff and Trump supporter, read, “the well organized event by Florida school students ‘has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it.”

Of course, I’m not going to dignify their disregard for humanity with any sort of discussion of the validity of their claims. They’re not true – obviously.

But Parkland isn’t the first shooting to spawn disgusting and heartless conspiracy theories. For years, some people (including Infowars radio host Alex Jones) have claimed that the Sandy Hook shooting was a “hoax” created by gun control activists – because having to lose your six-year-old child isn’t enough. Twenty six and seven-year-olds died in their school that day – as well as six adults. How can someone be vile enough to suggest it didn’t happen? Grieving parents (obviously) shouldn’t have to listen to people claiming their child was an actor who didn’t even die.

And then there’s the death threats. Sandy Hook parents, the Parkland students and I’m sure survivors from most other shooting tragedies all receive death threats for having the audacity to suggest that maybe we could do something to stop this from happening again.

This column isn’t about gun control – although that deserves many columns (please read Saul Levine’s January 2018 column, “American Tragedy”). This column is simply about human decency. When a 16-year-old girl loses 17 of her friends, when she has to literally walk over the bloodied bodies of her classmates to get out of her school and to safety, when a student has to text their parents, “If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me” (that’s a real text from a Parkland student), then any decent human being would conclude they have been through more than any person (let alone a child) should have to go through and they should receive nothing but our empathy, our love and our ear.

I’m not saying people have to agree with everything survivors of shootings have to say and for the purposes of this article I’m not even suggesting legislation has to be changed (that’s a discussion for another column). What I am saying is that when people go through something more horrific than most of us can ever imagine, we should act like the decent, good human beings we hope to be. If we want a decent world we need to practice decency and empathy – whether we agree with what a survivor is saying or not. Period. Α


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