Honestly, I’m not trying to pick on Hogg, Kasky, and the rest of the postmillennial YouTube superstar survivors of Parkland. I can’t fault them for exploiting a tragedy, as so many others have done before them. Let’s be fair—they learned that behavior from us. But I can blame the media for its hypocrisy. The December 1997 Heath High School shooting in West Paducah, Ky., was a seminal school shooting in that it was one of the events that influenced the Columbine killers. The Heath shooter, 14-year-old Michael Carneal, was an awkward, introverted atheist who opened fire on a school prayer group, killing three girls. Prior to the shooting, the prayer group’s leader, 17-year-old Ben Strong, a literal son of a preacher man, had befriended Carneal. They were an odd pair, to be sure, but they were both in band class, and they had several shared interests. On the day of the shooting, as Carneal unloaded on the prayer group, Strong fearlessly ran up to him and demanded that he stop the killing. Carneal fell to the ground, apologetically pleading with Strong to kill him.
Initially, Strong was hailed as a hero. But it soon came to light that he had embellished his role in stopping Carneal. Yes, he had charged the shooter, but Carneal had already dropped his weapon by the time Strong got to him (Strong had previously claimed that Carneal only disarmed once he was confronted). Alerted to this discrepancy, the media took great pleasure in tearing down the Christian “hero.” No one denied that Strong had raced toward the gunman as everyone else ran away, but once it became known that Carneal had already put his gun down by the time Strong reached him, the press eviscerated Strong as a phony. “Hero? Bah. By the time you confronted the gunman, he had already ended his attack.” No points were given for the fact that the kid ran toward the gunfire to try to end the carnage.
Strong is a Christian who, in the aftermath of a school shooting, used the publicity he received to spread a message of faith. And the media destroyed him. Hogg, Kasky, and their pals are, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, using the publicity they’ve received to spread a message of gun control. And the press has decided that they must never be criticized, even if they falsely claim to have been “on the receiving end of an AK-15” when, in reality, they were taking cover in their classrooms behind locked doors.
I’m not a fan of the online generation. In the course of my work, I’ve seen the damage done by millennials as they were hired in droves by “respectable” news outlets hoping to attract a younger demographic. From The Washington Post’s in-house millennial Caitlin Dewey, a self-described “idiot” who was hired to write about “fake news” but who got punked by trolls who exploited her ideological bias, to Vox’s Dylan Matthews, a self-identifying “autistic millennial” who, in his inaugural piece, was gulled by a phony scientific study, millennials have proven themselves more of a menace than a blessing.
I somehow think the postmillennials will be worse. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. But the Parkland “survivors,” aided by a media that coddles them, don’t give me a lot of hope.
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