As of this weekend, this group of idealistic young people have officially become the right’s leading hate figures
No issue unites the American right more than their opposition to gun control. The spectacle of hundreds of thousands participating in the #marchforourlives, led by young people, was always going to draw a full-spectrum response.
And as of this weekend, this group of idealistic young people have officially become the right’s leading hate figures.
The first and most repugnant strategy was to directly attack high-profile campaigners, especially students David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez.
Running short of reasoned arguments, many attempted to push conservative buttons with high impact visuals. Alt-right social media company Gab was one of many that disseminated a doctored animation of Gonzalez in which she falsely appeared to be tearing up the US constitution. Cartoonist and Trump sycophant Ben Garrison depicted Hogg as an assault rifle, wielded by CNN, and loaded with Marxism. Breitbart re-published a round of tweets accusing Hogg of throwing a Nazi salute.
On Front Page – an outlet led by David Horowitz, whose main stock in trade is virulent Islamophobia – Bruce Thornton decried Hogg’s “profanity laced tantrums” and reduced him and his fellow students to political “shock troops” being manipulated by a progressive “ideology of melodrama and moral exhibitionism”.
Along with Hogg and Gonzalez, the right found some new targets among the Parkland survivors. The one who got the most scrutiny was Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Delaney Tarr, who spoke at the Washington rally. In her speech, she suggested that bump stock bans could be expanded into further gun control. Many rightwing outlets drew the inference that the movement would not stop at an assault weapons ban, but would try to ban firearms altogether.
Would-be rightwing media monitors, Accuracy in Media, said that she was given a pass by mainstream outlets, and that the movement wanted to “eventually take law-abiding citizens’ lawfully purchased firearms and rifles”. Breitbart also used her comments to buttress a version of the right’s familiar scare story about creeping regulation and “gun-grabbing”. Infowars’s Paul Joseph Watson featured Tarr’s speech in a piece which also used some protester placards to make the case that the movement was not just after assault weapons, but all guns.
Others broadened their focus, looking to discredit the movement as a whole.
At Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, affectionately known as “the dumbest man on the Internet”, was one of many who griped about the fact that a large protest led to some rubbish being left in the street, under the headline “little hoggs”.
Infowars signal-boosted videos from Campus Reform and independent live streamers that tried a variation on “gunsplaining”, screening interviews with protesters whose understanding of assault weapons was less encyclopedic than that of the average conservative media consumer. (This, it seems, somehow counts against their expressed desire to not be shot by one).
The Federalist was one of many outlets who ran stories about a candidate in the hitherto low-profile sheriff’s election in Buncombe county, North Carolina. R Daryl Fisher’s badly judged joke about being OK with prying guns “from the cold dead hands” of their owners was cited as evidence of a dark and murderous undercurrent in the gun control movement. The Federalist thought this was important enough to merit signal boosting a tweet on the issue from alt-right news site, Red Elephants.
Finally, some chose to quibble about numbers. It was difficult to argue with the scale of the crowds depicted in aerial photographs of the Washington march. But the Daily Caller tried to make a fist of things by saying that the crowd was lower than some early estimates, and ripped some commentary from MSNBC suggesting that only 10% of the marchers were children.
And while other conservatives were training their barrels on Stormy Daniels, who last night did an interview about her alleged affair with the president, others found a porn star they could like. Jenna Jameson, who entered adult film in the 1990s, was celebrated by over-caffeinated conservative snark site Twitchy, among others, for tweets attacking the Parkland students, and supporting the Second Amendment.
Reeling from a mass mobilization on gun control, pro-gun conservatives will take any help they can get, no matter how surprising the source.
Emma Gonzalez and the Parkland students: