The national gun debate is in full force these days, but on Wednesday night, one particular person won the attention — and praise — of many Americans across the country. He survived the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine's Day, and was present at CNN's Town Hall meeting when survivors and grieving family members of victims spoke to local politicians about sensible gun laws. The young student strongly criticized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, over National Rifle Association donations. Now, Cameron Kasky says NRA trolls on Facebook have forced him to logout until the heat dies down.
On Twitter, Kasky said, "Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the @NRA cultists are a bit more graphic than those on twitter [sic]. Will be back when I have the time for it. Busy getting my feelings hurt by fellow teenagers at Br**tb*rt." Kasky's asterisk-censoring referred to the far-right website, Breitbart.
On Wednesday night, Kasky looked directly at Rubio and said, "Can you tell me you won't accept a single donation from the NRA?" The crowd erupted into applause, cheering, and whistling for the student. Rubio, at this point, did not have a direct "yes" or "no" to Kasky's question but said, "The positions I hold on these issues of the Second Amendment, I've held since the day I entered office in the city of West Miami as an elected official." He added, "People buy into my agenda, and I do support the Second Amendment."
The senator also said, "I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda." On the same day, the student took to Twitter to talk about getting virtual threats by NRA supporters on Facebook. He called the content "graphic death threats" coming from the organization's "cultists."
While Kasky says that he was being trolled on Facebook, he is not alone in apparently facing a virtual legion of angry opponents who seem to love their guns. As NBC News reported, surviving students, including Kasky, Emma Gonzalez, and David Hogg, have been wrongly called "crisis actors" by far-right conspiracy theorists online.
For Hogg, who is only 17 and has been a vocal student reporter against gun violence, the online harassment on YouTube got so intense that the website's administrators had to take down trending conspiracy videos directed at the student. NBC News reported that a YouTube official explained that the videos were wrongly categorized by the website's algorithm into the Trending section. The spokesperson said,
This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it. As soon as we became aware of the video, we removed it from Trending and from YouTube for violating our policies. We are working to improve our systems moving forward.
While internet trolling can be vicious and push people into silence, the young survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have shown exemplary resolve in the face of such a brutal attack. In spite of having lost 17 members of their school, including teachers, the students have taken to social media and the streets to be heard. Their dedication has not gone unnoticed. New Yorker writer, Evan Osnos, tweeted about the students on Wednesday night with a powerful message. He said they're the generation that'll "call [bullsh*t]" after feeling sick and tired of the way America's government has handled such tragedies.
As for Kasky? The Parkland student doesn't seem fazed by the trolls. In fact, keeping an upbeat disposition, Kasky said he and his fellow students aren't going anywhere. "We're here," he said on Twitter, "to protect you and your children whether you're with us or against us."