The pro-Second Amendment right wing officially broke its brain last month. Instead of civilly disagreeing with the Parkland survivors who organized the March for Our Lives, Breitbart has accused David Hogg of giving a Nazi salute (didn't happen), commentators and sitting lawmakers have utterly misrepresented Cuban politics and accused Emma Gonzalez of supporting the Castro regime, the Daily Wire wrote an article making fun of David Hogg's very good 4.2 GPA, and social-media users have spread all sorts of memes comparing the school-shooting survivors to Hitler.
Did you assume that photoshopping Hogg's face onto the body of a Hitler Youth member was the lowest the public discourse could go? Think again! A burgeoning take on right-wing pockets of social media seems to be that the Parkland teens actually caused the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre by bullying poor, poor Nikolas Cruz.
To be clear: There's little evidence that Cruz was bullied. Douglas students have consistently described Cruz as a frightening individual from whom most people steered clear, and he was evaluated multiple times for psychiatric issues and threats of violence.
And even if any students had bullied someone, that doesn't give anyone the right to walk into a school with an assault rifle and murder people. The meme here seems to stem from one of Gonzalez's speeches, in which she said she and others "ostracized" Cruz — but the clip is ripped out of context. She was very clearly explaining that Cruz's actions (threatening others, posting tons of photos of his guns, drawing swastikas on his belongings) terrified people and made them want to avoid him.
Still, this hasn't stopped some fairly prominent social media users (some with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers) from blaming the school shooting on Gonzalez, Hogg, and their friends:
Is there a level above nuclear takes? pic.twitter.com/crIaYlKMFS— 1984 reader (@NormsRespecter) March 30, 2018
MT @Education4Libs: Emma Gonzalez, pro gun control student, now admits she bullied Nikolas Cruz. Perhaps the blood on her hands not #NRA #PJNET https://t.co/3dA68OED3N— Leigh Storz (@LeighStorz) March 30, 2018
Emma Gonzalez admits to bullying School Shooter Nikolas Cruz & Says She Was Justified In Doing So. I am concerned some teachers thought bullying & ostracising was OK. Agencies that ignored. That Emma used other victims name when family asked not to. Other victim family bullied. pic.twitter.com/Y0LRES5xa4— Trad American Angel™ (@RightWingAngel) March 26, 2018
Emma Gonzalez admitted on camera that she bullied Nikolas Cruz starting in middle school.— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) March 29, 2018
Hey @Emma4Change, look down at your hands. The blood is on your hands. Not the NRA’s.
She admits she bullied the shooter! That a lot of kids did! And she’s not sorry?!?!? Are You Kidding Me??? https://t.co/73i1KRXSwv— David Harris Jr (@DavidJHarrisJr) March 28, 2018
A few other journalists, chiefly Jeet Heer from The New Republic, have already noted this seems to be a burgeoning line of attack:
Imagine Nikolas Cruz being bullied for 6 years in middle and hs his brain being formed for rational thinking.— 1 (@0H0UR) March 26, 2018
I now believe this kid Nikolas spent 6 years in flight mode.
Where was the school he was labeled the problem
It wasn't him it was his peers
they rejected and bullied pic.twitter.com/M3P1gqkete
Of course, the entire argument is obvious nonsense. The students who dealt with Cruz have not described him as a bullied teen. Most have instead described him as someone with mental and family issues, but also someone who took pleasure in bullying others.
I keep saying this but people don't want to believe it: emerging meme on the right is Nikolas Cruz is victim & martyr who only became shooter because he was bullied by vile anti-gun students. https://t.co/eecEHrLAcO— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) March 30, 2018
Isabelle Robinson, a Douglas student, wrote an entire essay debunking this idea for the New York Times last week. She noted that many commentators had brought up the fact that other students "should have been nicer" to Cruz. Instead, she described how she tried to be nice to him but he continued to torment others anyway:
My first interaction with Nikolas Cruz happened when I was in seventh grade. I was eating lunch with my friends, most likely discussing One Direction or Ed Sheeran, when I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. The force of the blow knocked the wind out of my 90-pound body; tears stung my eyes. I turned around and saw him, smirking. I had never seen this boy before, but I would never forget his face. His eyes were lit up with a sick, twisted joy as he watched me cry.The meme seems to be the logical metamorphosis of the #WalkUPNotOUT movement, which blamed Douglas students for not being nicer to Cruz. People sharing the hashtag have been trying to encourage students to "walk up" to bullies or disaffected teens to befriend them instead of "walking out" to demand
The apple that he had thrown at my back rolled slowly along the tiled floor. A cafeteria aide rushed over to ask me if I was O.K. I don’t remember if Mr. Cruz was confronted over his actions, but in my 12-year-old naïveté, I trusted that the adults around me would take care of the situation.
Five years later, hiding in a dark closet inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I would discover just how wrong I was.
Now the amorphous human centipede of internet kooks have taken that idea to its most insane endpoint: The Parkland teens themselves were the actual bullies who caused the massacre, because that scenario is apparently easier for a certain subset of Americans to cope with mentally than the idea that Cruz just shouldn't have been able to obtain an assault weapon with high-capacity magazines.