With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

This Isn’t the First Time Conspiracy Theorists Have Accused Student Activists of Being ‘Paid Actors’

In the week after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, conspiracy theorists started spreading lies about it. They said that some of the surviving students giving media interviews had not, in fact, been present at the shooting. Instead, they were “crisis actors” brought in and paid to argue for gun control after the shooting.

One Florida legislator’s aide has already lost his job after emailing a reporter that two of the students “are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis [sic] when they happen.” But this theory’s baselessness, not to mention its tastelessness in the wake of a mass shooting, hasn’t stopped people from spreading it to discredit the students as they speak out about current gun laws.

On February 21, Princeton history professor Kevin M. Kruse took to Twitter to remind America that it had seen these types of tactics before. His viral tweet shared a 1957 clipping from the New York Times about the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of black students integrating an all-white high school in Arkansas.

In the article, the NAACP repudiated false stories that it said had been circulating about the students. These included “that the Negro children were being paid to attend classes at the newly integrated school,” and “that the children had been ‘imported’ from the North.”

Read entire article at History channel