In the cosmos that we live in, with universal access to the Internet, a lie can be halfway around the world before the truth catches up with it.
If someone is out to get you, they can randomly orchestrate a social media attack against you in no time at all. If they know what they are doing, there is no limitation to the harm they can cause and the havoc they can wreak.
It doesn’t have to be Russian hackers conspiring to sabotage a presidential election. It can be a sophisticated political consulting company operating out of a Virginia office building five minutes from the White House. Or as the president himself said, some “400-pound guy lying on his bed home at night.”
Immediately after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, angry and grieving students mobilized a strong media presence.
The students of the Stoneman Douglas have risen to the occasion. Many who are members of their theatrical classes are compellingly articulate and accomplished, enraged and energized.
They have demanded that their voices be heard and they want assault weapons outlawed. Their message has not only captured the attention of the national media at home, but simultaneously stirred the conscience of communities across the globe.
Even as I prepare this column, they are organizing a national rally and a march on Washington, D.C., the likes of which America may not have been seen in 50 years. But just as their movement is being galvanized, so too are dark forces of opposition seeking to turn them away and sabotage their effort.
The gun rights lobby has now made the students, the sheriff and administrative failures along the way, their new targets. They are attempting to stall the momentum and magic of these student soldiers.
Already being laid bare on the Internet is an orchestrated series of disparaging videos demeaning these young men and women as ‘crisis actors,’ who were paid to market their ‘message.’
Correspondingly, poorly edited and distorted videos of their on-air interviews are being presented to the public as ‘scripted.’ David Hogg was their first target, simply because as an aspiring journalist, some of his past work could be resourced and altered.
There is nothing false about these young men and women who lost their friends on that fateful Valentine’s Day. They are speaking out for those who can no longer speak for themselves. There is nothing false about what they are doing. There are only those who would falsify their authenticity. We need to expose those fraudsters for who they are.
The students are stirring a national spirit, proving as Gavroche did in Le Mis, ‘what little people can do.’ They are impressing Americans in small towns and large cities with their candor and commitment; their willingness to be confrontational, not co-opted.
Consider Emma Gonzalez, the young woman whose interviews and speeches have been visceral and gone viral, the girl with the cool cropped buzz cut. Emma already has nearly a million followers on Twitter. She did not even have an account two weeks ago. This is what our technology can do today.
But now as lines of this debate generate into a national discussion of gun control, these young students have become the targets of right-wing saboteurs. Not just the NRA, but CPAC and powerful conservative lobbies, hidden on the Dark Web are going to fight back and play dirty. They know how, and they have the money and media savvy to do it. Morals, don’t count on those. That is not in their arsenal.
When these countervailing political forces see that Oprah and Ellen, Hollywood and George Clooney have lined up with Emma Gonzalez and Cameron Kasky, they are going to fight to keep that AR-15 in their closet, the same place they prefer their gay kids to be. Lines will be drawn. Every piece of dirt they can muster will surface.
The Internet campaign the students have launched is taking off like an Elon Musk rocket, and it represents the future. The NRA is going to use every musket in their barrel to bring it down. If the kids are casualties, they will care less. So be it. In their mind, it is ‘acceptable losses.’
The NRA does not want the students to be media ‘darlings.’ They want to make them their own media’s targets. The NRA has time on their side. Their archaic views have survived Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Vegas. This is just a new battleground for them.
These are young students who were not preparing for political warfare. They still have not graduated from high school. They must first must go back to class, take tests, and study required subjects not pressing against their heart right now. These are young students who also must deal with the catastrophic and emotional loss of some of their closest friends.
I dare say their life experiences today may prove to be more valuable then knowing World War I started when a Serbian nationalist shot an archduke who was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
I am thinking David Hogg and Cameron Kasky would rather know who the Republican whip in Congress is that shepherds bills through committee. But hey, that won’t get you an ‘A’ in world history.
Those who oppose gun control initiatives will latch on to any lever they can push. In Florida, the government has appointed a commission to investigate the sheriff more quickly than he has selected a panel to deal with mental illness, despite Pulse, the airport shooting, and now Parkland.
Welcome to the blame game where we now see politicians turn our attention from raising the age of access to guns to arming the school teachers.
You will hear more about the failings of BSO to intervene sooner. You will hear how the FBI tip center is woefully incompetent. You will hear how only if we give more cops more weapons we will discourage and defeat more shooters.
Why didn’t we all do more when we knew so much about how screwed up this kid was? Every excuse will come our way. Hell, we are fighting simply to keep deadly and murderous assault rifles out of people’s hands. We are not even talking about hand guns. It seems that gun control advocates are so beaten we have come to accept you have a right to kill with those.
Demanding that Sheriff Israel resign simply hijacks the debate. Sure, if only the sheriff in Parkland quits today, no kid on the Pacific Coast will ever pick up a gun again. Be real. If a thorough investigation reveals his agency failed to do its job, the voters will do theirs in two years.
This shooting should prove to citizens everywhere and to the NRA that it may take a lot more than a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Or arming your typing teacher, for that matter. Maybe what it takes is making the guns inaccessible, illegal and unavailable.
The fundamental issue for America to debate is not the police response to shootings that never should have occurred. The fundamental issue to discuss is why these events transpire at all and end them altogether. Of course, we must plan tactical responses which can successfully reduce fatalities, but the principle purpose is to end the madness, not brag about how quickly we got victims to a hospital.
SFGN and this publisher will do all it can to support the students, soldiers called into battle when they should be in Biology. Their passions and their voices must be aired. The distractions and the deviations must be denounced.
This story is more than just about a missed call to the FBI tip center. This is about an entire generation of lawmakers failing to take the tips from Columbine to Stoneman Douglas. These students are so eloquently and simply stating that weapons of war have no places in our malls or movie theaters, community centers or classrooms.
They are stating the legislators are already accountable for their failures and omissions. They don’t want apologies and they don’t want prayers. They want action, and they deserved it years ago.
I went on Facebook this weekend with my 50th anniversary class of Lawrence High School from Cedarhurst, New York. Many are retired and living here now. Like me, they have friends and relatives at Stoneman Douglas.
A half-century ago we had issues, race divisions, and drug problems. But our principal worried more about a group of us scooting out of school to go to Nathan’s in Oceanside for the Senior Breakfast Club than an active shooter. The world is not what we intended, not at all. This battle is about changing the culture. Woodstock, we did not become.
When emotionally charged students arrived in Tallahassee last week to demand a debate on assault weapons, our legislative moralists were in a hardened debate that could not be interrupted, about, of all things, pornography. Unreal.
Let me tell you what is obscene, and it is not the pornography you can rent in almost every hotel room in America. It’s not about the violent video games, sold from Australia to Alaska. What is obscene is that we elect leaders again and again who doing nothing about something, but always do something about nothing. And we should be ashamed of ourselves because we let it happen.
Don’t worry, the legislators in our state have preserved ‘National Crocodile Day.’ Somewhere a gubernatorial proclamation is celebrating a citizen who fought to save a sea turtle. But your safety in a school classroom, don’t push them. That takes time.
Margaret Mead, the famed anthropologist once wrote, ‘Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ Maybe those voices, fresh from the wounds and losses heard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, will finally be so.
How appropriate it is that the school is named after a woman who lived to be 108 years old; who moved her generation and Floridians to think of the environment and this Earth as a planet we must protect rather than exploit. Maybe the school named after her will do so for our children as well.