I don’t need your condolences you fucking piece of shit, my pals and academics had been shot. A number of of my fellow classmates are lifeless. Do one thing as an alternative of sending prayers. Prayers received’t repair this. However gun management will forestall it from taking place once more. — Sarah Chad, Marjory Stoneman Douglas scholar, on Twitter, February 14, 2018
The courageous college students of Parkland, Florida, who noticed seventeen of their classmates and academics murdered on Valentine’s Day, are doing one thing astonishing: brave grieving—and a strategic counteroffensive within the twin fogs of disinformation and gunsmoke. Their rebellion offers a brand new mannequin for all of us who dwell in two worlds: The actual one, the place the blood is, and the digital one, the place the lies are.
Virginia Heffernan (@web page88) is an Concepts contributor at WIRED. She is the writer of Magic and Loss: The Web as Artwork. She can be a cohost of Trumpcast, an op-ed columnist on the Los Angeles Occasions, and a frequent contributor to Politico. Earlier than coming to WIRED she was a workers author on the New York Occasions—first a TV critic, then columnist, after which an opinion author. She has a bachelor’s diploma from the College of Virginia and a grasp’s diploma and PhD in English from Harvard. In 1979 she stumbled onto the web, when it was the again workplace of bizarre clerics, and he or she’s been within the thunderdome ever since.
The scholars of Marjory Stoneman Douglas are civilian youngsters, not educated troopers, however their presence of thoughts as residents of those two worlds kicked in in the course of the bloodbath. They despatched texts whereas beneath hearth—not simply expressing concern and love, however creating contemporaneous notes about what was taking place to them. “Sam,” one brother texted one other, “My instructor died. And he’s sitting within the doorway.” A scholar named Kaitlin Carbocci acquired a textual content from her sister, additionally a scholar at the highschool: “kaitlin I’m not joking they simply shot via the partitions somebody in my class is injured.”
Many of those messages have been introduced as heartbreaking—and they’re—however their specificity additionally appears keenly designed to thwart future efforts to rewrite historical past. A tweet by @Luvanth at 2:42 pm was the primary to set off a newsroom alert. “There’s an actual college capturing happening proper now i am not even enjoying i simply heard 10 gunshots there’s police every thing i am shaking.” Later, one other scholar tweeted: “Simply to make it identified, for many who won’t know Douglas or be close to Parkland, that the constructing the shooter selected was properly often known as the ‘Freshman constructing’ its wasn’t all ninth graders however had the best quantity of younger college students. He knew that, everybody who went right here knew that.”
And the scholars not solely famous info, they made video, which immediately constructed an evidentiary archive to counter the disinformation that now pounces on each mass capturing. No Alex Jones was going to say that the buddies, classmates and academics of those college students weren’t murdered in chilly blood by a young person wielding an AR-15 military-style rifle. Movies by college students appeared on social media whereas the assault was nonetheless underway. In a single, college students, some shaking with concern, increase their arms whereas cops storm the room. In one other video, a harm scholar is carried out of a classroom.
Their notes, video, and testimony is already, simply days after the occasion, making a fuller and extra direct document of this bloodbath than any earlier than it.
However telling the reality isn’t sufficient on the damaged and contaminated web of 2018—and the scholars, who had been barely born when Fb launched, know this. They needed to rapidly transfer to counter lies, half-truths and hypocrisy which may obscure the reality of the day. (Certainly: Disinformation, a lot of it pushed by pro-gun Russian teams and botnets, appeared instantly, a few of it connecting the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, to far-left teams and spotlighting his psychological sickness, which the president promptly picked up and tweeted about.)
The scholars didn’t stand for this. In interviews, posts, and tweets, they introduced antibodies to the data pathogens. Newtown dad and mom, Las Vegas adults, and different survivors of current mass murders haven’t been digitally assured this manner: They’ve been slower to acknowledge memes as memes.
Telling the reality isn’t sufficient on the damaged and contaminated web of 2018—and the scholars, who had been barely born when Fb launched, know this.
However on day one the Parkland college students pulverized weak memes like “ideas and prayers.” And when Tomi Lahren, the rightwing firebrand, tried the same old palaver about how liberals and lunatics—not weapons—are responsible for the deaths, tireless Kyra, as @longlivekcx, tweeted: “A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatized my pals. My whole college, traumatized from this tragedy. This might have been prevented. Please stfu tomi.”
It takes unusual braveness and readability to set celebrities like Lahren straight, to not point out the president of the US. Possibly the type of braveness and readability that solely an adolescent conscious of her energy on-line, her thoughts sharpened by tragedy, can lay declare to.
So the scholars are making their incontrovertible document. They’re distributing it in social media and mainstream media, giving interviews, publishing editorials and saturating the airwaves with the reality. Within the meantime, they’re crowding out lies and dismantling them: calling bullshit on gibberish from the GOP and the president.
As one scholar who tweets as @sighnatasha mentioned, “to the republican legislators who will proceed to disregard the american individuals and their cries for gun management and gun legal guidelines simply to proceed to obtain cash from the NRA: a giant fuck you. your individual persons are being killed each day. the elections in november shall communicate.”
And as Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior, put it, “The whole lot I’ve heard the place we are able to’t do something and it’s out of our arms and it’s inevitable, I believe that’s a facade that the GOP is placing up.”
In a remaining step, the Parkland college students are refusing to retreat. Whereas excoriating Congress and President Trump for hypocrisy and cowardice, they’re additionally demanding concrete reforms. In lots of circumstances, they’re asking for the outright dismantling of the NRA. On Friday, at a neighboring highschool in Parkland, dozens of scholars protested the NRA and Trump’s gun insurance policies, warning the president, who has introduced a plan to go to, to remain “distant” from their city.
This rebellion may be simply getting began. Two days after the Parkland capturing, on Friday, particular prosecutor Robert Mueller introduced a grand jury’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for waging “info warfare,” since 2014. Utilizing pretend American personas, social media platforms and different digital media to advance their infiltration and affect, defendants allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the US, sow cultural and political divisions and defeat Hillary Clinton. Because the Parkland college students appear to know intuitively, the battle has been on the web for years. Smear campaigns, propaganda and disinformation have change into the web’s inventory in commerce.
However the Parkland college students additionally see the web as a spot to defeat lies with fact. It’s testomony to their brilliance and their bravery past measure that, of their darkest hour, they’ve taken up the struggle for fact. Could the remainder of us have the sense to affix them.
When Tragedy Strikes
by WIRED/Getty Pictures