It has become a familiar pattern: Something happens — a positive event, a moment in time, a day that makes us feel hopeful. We swear we can see change on the horizon. For a day, or maybe two, we almost feel we can breathe.
And then an army of trolls slithers up from the bowels of perdition to take a giant dump all over the fleeting scraps of goodness we so cautiously cherished. People like this:
Yes, they’re real, we checked. We won’t include a link because that page doesn’t need more traffic than it already has. (Yes, it has been properly reported. Many times over.) It has over 800,000 followers already.
They like to say things like:
“Kid, you better get an armed detachment of men soon, just saying!”
“Hunting season might come a bit early this year…”
“Ok, I’m just gonna say it, too bad this piece of shit wasn’t number 18.” (In reference to the 17 students who were murdered in Parkland, Florida.)
WHO THE FUCK TALKS LIKE THIS ABOUT CHILDREN? How is this a thing that actually happens? And, even more terrifying? They aren’t acting alone.
They say these kids are crisis actors, and their followers believe them and spread their lies. They say these kids are ripping up the US Constitution, and their followers believe them and spread their lies. They say these kids are communists, and their followers believe them and spread their lies.
And their followers make threats of bodily harm. I want to ignore them, except I can’t because these people own guns. They have the necessary tools to carry out their public threats.
I do not want to be outraged. I do not want to write this essay. I do not want these people to derail me from my mission.
The mission, by the way, is not and never has been to get rid of all the guns. The mission is to enact commonsense legislation to prevent gun violence. At Moms Demand Action, I work in conjunction with hundreds of others in my little town in Florida. I can say with confidence that none of us want to do away with the Second Amendment. Never once have I heard anyone say that their ultimate intent is to remove all guns from circulation. That has never been the intent, and yet this is the lie fiercely and relentlessly propagated by the NRA.
The NRA’s statement on Facebook after the march:
Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.
Like the many kids who spoke so eloquently at the March For Our Lives, I am calling bullshit. No, of course the protests were not spontaneous. No protest is. They take time to organize. The kids had been planning this march since Valentine’s Day when so many of their fellow students were gunned down by a weapon legally purchased by a person who never should have had the right to own any weapon.
They watched their friends die. They feared for their own life. They have been forever changed by gun violence, and they want to prevent these tragedies from continuing to play out over and over again. These teenagers are rising up, despite their pain and trauma, and taking action to help our nation. To save their peers. They are heroes. They should be celebrated and revered for their courage and bravery. Nobody should have a bad thing to say about them, period. Yet, there are adults (many of whom likely have children of their own) wishing them bodily harm and death?
Disgusting. Terrifying. Unacceptable.
Nobody wants to “DESTROY the Second Amendment,” folks. This untruth, fabricated by the NRA and dispensed by right-wing media, that we are somehow manipulating these kids because we’re hell-bent on taking everyone’s guns is just absolute bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
So, yes, I am enraged. I am furious.
I want to try to speak diplomatically. I want to stay calm, to avoid inflammatory rhetoric, to remain levelheaded so as to form a more persuasive, articulate argument. But I am furious at the lies, I’m furious at the threats, and I’m furious at the apathy of those who allow all of this to fester.
Responsible gun owners, where are you? Come collect your people.
I personally know folks who believe these lies. Who spread them. Not because they’re bad people, but because they don’t know any better. Because the truth is hard to recognize when you’re swimming in a sea of lies. When you see a video of Emma Gonzalez tearing up the constitution, if you don’t know any better, that can feel real. That can feel enraging. That can feel share-worthy.
The spread of false news has to stop. Remember, here’s how you can report a false news story: In the upper right hand corner of a post, there are three little dots. Click on those. One of the options in the drop-down menu will be “Give feedback on this post.” Choose that. Facebook will then prompt you with the option to report the post as fake news. Do that, and keep doing it every single time you see this harmful, violent propaganda.
Also, if you’re not absolutely sure something is reputable and true, do not share it. If you see that someone else has shared something you know to be untrue, point it out and ask them to delete it. Refute it. Report it.
When you see threats of violence against children online as referenced above, report them immediately. This should go without saying.
What infuriates me more than anything else is knowing that the threats against these children very likely come from people who own firearms. Do you feel safe knowing that the kind of person who would make a threat against a child owns guns? I don’t! I’m not okay with this. None of us should be. People, LOTS of people, making threats of harm against children is unacceptable, full stop. There are not two sides to this one, I’m sorry.
If you would like to contribute to the movement to reduce gun violence in America, text READY to 64433.
If you would like to learn more about the harmful nature of conspiracy theories and ‘fake news’, and how to properly report it, go here.