When tragedy strikes, the trolls come out.
Less than a week after the shooting at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., right wing trolls are doxxing outspoken student survivors like David Hogg, claiming Hogg is a “crisis actor” paid to promote political agendas after national tragedies. Conspiracists have made the charge with such fervor and frequency that Hogg had to deny the charge on CNN despite its readily apparent absurdity.
One of the videos fueling the fire is a news clip from CBS Los Angeles. Hogg and a friend were the focus of a news report about a dispute with a local lifeguard. According YouTuber Systemic Divide, the report lines up conspicuously with the bizarre rumor that Hogg is actually from Redondo Beach, CA and graduated in 2015. But while he claimed he didn’t endorse the crisis actor narrative, Systemic Divide’s responses to fellow conspiracy theorists differed greatly from responses to those who weren’t.
The news clip itself is hardly damning. It’s dated August 7, 2017—Parkland’s classes didn’t begin until early September. Hogg is identified by his name, which seems unusual for a crisis actor who’d want to keep his identity a secret. When I commented asking how the video proved the rumors, Systemic Divide took a neutral approach.
Before I’d arrived, however, Systemic Divide had agreed with several commenters who believe Hogg is a crisis actor.
Systemic Divide ripped the video (with permission) from MGTV Truth, a YouTube channel with about 4,300 subscribers that usually posts videos about pedophilia rings, flat earth and other conspiracies. Its copy of the Hogg news report had thousands of views and hundreds of comments. Before the video was removed “for violating YouTube’s policy on harassment and bullying,” MGTV Truth implored viewers to copy it and post it to their own channels. MGTV Truth admins even appeared in Systemic Divide’s comments to thank him.
MGTV Truth, Systemic Divide and other right wing YouTube trolls claim YouTube is trying to censor the video to hide the truth about Hogg. That’s how the economy of these videos works. They’re boosted on sites such as 4chan before making their way to YouTube, bouncing from channel to channel and never fully die. By the time YouTube has stomped all of them out, the rumor has made the rounds and the schmucks who posted the video have done their jobs.
When I asked Systemic Divide about his agreement with commenters who thought Hogg was a crisis actor, the account deferred again. It said I had to make my own judgement.
A little logic and easy Googling, however, and you’d find exactly what fellow commenter LeftEyeless pointed out. After the second dose of (simple) reasoning, Systemic Divide declined to reply.
Systemic Divide is just one thread in a network of seedy YouTubers and internet trolls spreading ugly rumors. The simple interaction I had with the account shows the intellectual dishonesty these uploaders operate with. On the bright side, it seems like people are more aware of it than ever. But even after a full day’s worth of media coverage, a similar video about Hogg was the No. 1 trending video on YouTube. Back in December, Google hired 10,000 new employees to clean up the platform. After all the vileness surrounding David Hogg, it’s clear they have plenty of work to do.