Lunatics Are Blaming the Parkland Teens for "Bullying" Mass Murderer Nikolas Cruz

Photos by Emilee McGovern

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:
A few other journalists, chiefly Jeet Heer from The New Republic, have already noted this seems to be a burgeoning line of attack:
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.

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 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.
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 gun control. Robinson directly addressed #WalkUPNotOut adherents and said their ideology is "deeply dangerous" and misunderstands the sort of forces that affected Cruz.

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.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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