Florida Shooting Conspiracy: Victims or “Crisis Actors”?


By Laura Lassen and Jaclyn Levendusky

Among the tragic news of the recent Florida school shooting emerged a fast-spreading conspiracy theory regarding David Hogg, 17, a victim who has taken initiative and spoken out against gun violence.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Florida was under attack after a former student shot and killed 17 people on February 14, 2018. Following the crisis, several students are taking action through interviews and protests to reform current gun laws.

However, speculation regarding Hogg began after a YouTube video titled “DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR” was trending. The video, now deleted, was a news segment from 2017 where Hogg was interviewed following an incident at Redondo Beach, California. Other videos and posts on social media accusing Hogg of being an actor have also been deleted.

Conspiracy theorists believe that Hogg was an actor sent by anti-gun interests to advocate for stricter gun laws, taking advantage of the emotional vulnerability of many Americans at this time. The video claims that Hogg is not actually a victim of the shooting, but rather a “crisis actor”—someone employed to visit sites of recent tragedies and take part in interviews with the ultimate goal of portraying a particular political view.

The theories gained more popularity on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well. A tweet that went viral stated that Hogg actually graduated from Redondo Shores High School in 2015. Another tweet of a Classmates.com profile for Hogg that supported the claim received over 3,000 likes and retweets. However, both posts were proven to be fake.

Although many individuals, including the students themselves, have debunked the conspiracy theories, there is still some concern regarding news outlets and the authenticity of their coverage. After CNN’s town hall meeting that discussed gun violence, student Colton Haab said, “CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted.”

In a series of emails between them, CNN eventually asked Haab if he would read a given question based on what he reported and experienced. Haab’s father decided that his son would not speak at the town hall meeting on behalf of CNN. However, CNN has denied that they provided questions to Haab.

Sophomore Colette Cutrona speculated, “Maybe it could be true because news outlets want certain people to say things to project a certain image.”

Other students still believe that victims like Hogg and Haab are authentic despite the recent controversies.

Senior Mason Smith believes “I think they are being real because with something as tragic as this, it would be hard to fake emotions,” and Senior Carly Sklar agrees, “What happened was real, so to think that people are acting is ridiculous.What they went through was so traumatic and no one would ever want to go through that.”