Who would have thought that the 800 lb gorilla in the room on the gun control debate would be a scrawny, baby-faced teenager who has yet to graduate high school? I was skeptical when Time magazine ran a cover story a few years back about how the “Me Me Me Generation” would eventually save us all from society’s egregious errors and set us on the right path. But now I understand what they were getting at.
David Hogg looks like a stiff breeze could blow him over and that he wouldn’t hurt a fly. But this kid has the might and the muscle to fling the National Rifle Association across the Capitol Rotunda like a rag doll. And in the first elections following the shooting that took the lives of 17 people that is exactly what the #NeverAgainMSD movement is aiming to do. That’s why I’ve been calling this kid “Boss Hogg.” And that’s why Wayne LaPierre has been shitting his pants and shaking in his boots since the first time we all saw Hogg being interviewed after the harrowing Parkland gun massacre. The very things that the elder generations have seen as weaknesses are exactly what makes Hogg and his protesting colleagues so powerful that they may actually pull off what decades of debate and a litany of legislative initiatives haven’t.
We could actually get the ball rolling on gun safety policy this time. This flicker could become a flame and then who knows, maybe we can go a season without a single mass shooting in America. And the reason is simple: policy battles take place first in social media and then make their way to state-houses across the country. It is the exact opposite of what it used to be when Facebook was in its infancy and Twitter was just a twinkle in some technology geek’s eye. Information travels at warp speed and is highly effective regardless of accuracy. Boss Hogg and his colleagues grew up in this environment and so every battle that takes place in social media is a home game to them. HE is the 800 lbs gorilla in that fight. The NRA and their Twitter trolls ain’t got shit on him. Unlike the impotent and ineffective legislators who say they want gun safety measures passed, these young people can’t wait to have this fight.
Even when a Generation X’er knows his way around the platforms, he is no match for the legions of young folks who use them as their primary source of information.
And beyond the technology, it is impossible to miss that Hogg and his colleagues feel absolutely ENTITLED to what they want- it is something that “Generation Y” has been roundly criticized for but could wind up saving our lives. The reason is simple: in this case what they want is a stop to mass shootings and they will not take “no” for an answer. That sense of entitlement is a major strength in this instance because it is more than a match for the toxic entitlement that those in the NRA feel to purchase any kind of weapon they want without even reasonable restrictions. That energy is critical to starting this fight and to enduring until the triumphant end. The journey will be neither quick nor linear so every ounce of energy counts.
Lastly, consider that all of these Parkland kids are far more media savvy than your average 50-year-old man. Their Facebook page is effectively their own personal 24 hour infomercial where they communicate with thousands of people about who they are and what they are doing every day of the week. Russian bots are not going to deter or distract them as they’re sophistication level exceeds the bots, unlike your average hayseed Twitter provocateur. Note that the very first underhanded attack thrown at Boss Hogg backfired horribly. When some conspiracy nut-jobs posted the story that he was a “crisis actor” all it did was drastically elevate his profile and energize his community. So this time the NRA picked a fight with the wrong one and it shows. The world they are in belongs to Boss Hogg- and their asses are just visiting. They are going to find that out sooner than later.