Civil discourse is vital to democracy

Morgan Hanson
Senior Staff Writer

I went to listen to David Hogg, an activist and student journalist, when he visited Brookhaven College Jan. 29.

Hogg entered public view when he was interviewed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

I was expecting to be demonized for supporting the Second Amendment. What I heard was an insightful, evocative speech, one that has reinvigorated my faith in the possibility of civil discourse.

In the public debate surrounding guns in America, conservatives must speak up. When he visited Brookhaven, Hogg spoke about guns, government.

He was one of several students from Marjory Stoneman who seized the opportunity to advocate for gun law reform. “Blood is being spilled on the floors of American classrooms,” Hogg said in an interview with The Washington Post. The Parkland students organized a demonstration in Washington, D.C. called March for Our Lives, which was attended by over 200,000 people.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Parkland activists became targets of right-wing vitriol online. A YouTube video labeling Hogg as an actor gathered over 200,000 views before it was taken down for violating the platform’s revised harassment policy, according to The New York Times. “This video should never have appeared in Trending,” a YouTube spokesperson said, according to CNN. Articles debunking conspiracy theories like the ones in the YouTube video also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications.

But internet trolls were not the only ones who targeted Hogg. Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted a story from The Daily Wire mocking Hogg for being rejected by four colleges. Hogg responded by organizing an advertiser boycott of “The Ingraham Angle.” Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutual, Office Depot, Expedia, Nestlé and Hulu were among advertisers that made public statements about pulling commercials from the show, according to CBS News. “I’m glad to see corporate America standing with me and the other students of Parkland and everybody else,” Hogg said.

The 18-year-old may be influential, but the press can sometimes be over-eager to defend him.

When disgraced comedian Louis C.K. told jokes about the Parkland students in leaked audio from a comedy set in late December, he faced criticism. “You’re not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot,” Louis C.K. said. In an article for The Daily Beast, Kevin Fallon wrote that this set illustrated Louis C.K.’s reinvention of himself as an alt-right comedian. “His actions are inexcusable,” Fallon wrote.

Joy Behar, co-host of “The View,” said it was inappropriate to mock the students. “Why do you pick kids who are suffering because of gun violence?” she said. “We call it punching down. There are so many targets to punch up to – there’s Trump, there’s so many things going on in the world.”

But Hogg may not be so powerless. He plans to run for Congress as soon as he is legally eligible, according to The Hill.

Modern public discourse is so chaotic that I had begun to doubt whether communication between people who don’t already agree was worthwhile.

Hogg is, and will continue to be, a central figure in America’s discussion on gun laws. To preserve their Second Amendment rights, gun rights advocates must not let extremists on the internet speak for them. They should use the First Amendment to defend the Second.

What Ingraham and the internet trolls tried to do was discredit and silence Hogg. What they should do instead is join the conversation.