The Conservative Media's Obsession With the Parkland Teens, by the Numbers

The Conservative Media's Obsession With the Parkland Teens, by the Numbers
Illustration: Jim Cooke, Photo: Getty :

On March 30, the conservative site the Daily Wire posted a column by blogger Matt Walsh titled, “I Have An Idea. Why Don’t We All Just Ignore David Hogg?”

Ironically, Walsh’s post was one of at least 24 articles about Hogg posted on the Daily Wire between March 12 and April 2. That’s an average of about one post a day about a 17-year-old who, less than two months ago, survived a massacre at his high school. Two days later, Walsh—clearly failing to follow his own advice—wrote a new column about Hogg’s boycott of Laura Ingraham for the site.

The Daily Wire is far from alone in its obsession with Hogg. An analysis of that and four other right-wing sites—Breitbart, the Daily Caller, Gateway Pundit, and Infowars—shows that the five sites combined have published at least 145 posts about the high schooler-turned-gun control activist since February 19 (five days after the shooting), when Gateway Pundit White House correspondent Lucian Wintrich alleged that Hogg was coached on media appearances by his retired FBI agent father. Similarly, at least a dozen posts were published between the five sites about fellow Parkland students Cameron Kasky (20 in total) and Emma Gonzalez (14). There was some overlap, as a few of the posts focused on multiple students.

After the publication of a Splinter piece on the Daily Wire’s coverage of Hogg last week, a reader named EJ Gibney contacted us with a spreadsheet he’d made documenting the number of posts about Hogg on the five sites. We’ve verified those posts and added more in recent days, using the website search functions of the Daily Caller, Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and the Daily Wire, and through a Google site search for InfoWars.

Our count does not include posts about the pro-gun control students as a whole, or about other students who haven’t found themselves in the spotlight as much as Hogg, Gonzalez, and Kasky. That’s not to say that other students haven’t been targeted by conservative sites’ coverage: On March 10, for example, Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft breathlessly covered a Twitter spat between Hogg’s 14-year-old sister Lauren and the 70-year-old actor James Woods with the headline: “Parkland High School DNC Activist Lauren Hogg Deletes Tweet After James Woods Schools Her on History of Armbands.”

Nor does our count include posts that are only tangentially related to the students, such as one Daily Caller post about a student in North Carolina who was receiving death threats because he had the same name as Hogg, which would likely have driven the total much higher. Daily Caller editor-in-chief Geoffrey Ingersoll told us that, according to his numbers, his site has written over 60 posts containing the exact phrase “David Hogg” and “just about 30” about conservative Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Kyle Kashuv.

The amount of personal coverage that Hogg and his classmates have received represents a new phase in the conservative media’s ongoing war against perceived threats to personal freedom—even when those perceived threats are teenage survivors of one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

Some of the posts have legitimate news pegs, such as coverage of the shooting itself, the March For Our Lives, and Hogg’s boycott of Laura Ingraham. Others, not so much:

Ingersoll—whose site has published at least 27 articles focused either solely on Hogg, or on Hogg and either Gonzalez or Kasky, since the shooting—told Splinter in an email that he recently “put a moratorium on ‘Parkland kids’ headlines because the site was absolutely saturated with them,” particularly those about Hogg and Kashuv, the conservative student, unless it was “original work or particularly outrageous.” (Splinter reached out to all five sites, but Ingersoll was the only one who responded to requests for comment. He did not elaborate on what qualified as “particularly outrageous.”)

“I blame the saturation primarily on two things,” the Daily Caller editor told Splinter. “1. Digital media reporters tend to write a headline for every incremental change in a media dominant story. 2. These young adults are very active on Twitter and in the media, and active personalities that are central to a prevailing subject can induce several headlines a day.”

(For the sake of transparency: Splinter has 14 posts tagged with “David Hogg.” Using the same criteria we applied to the conservative sites, we’ve written about Hogg eight times: a post from the day after the shooting, the aforementioned post about the Daily Wire last week, a post about Frank Stallone calling Hogg a “pussy,” and five posts about the Laura Ingraham controversy. We’ve written two posts about Gonzalez and two posts about Kasky. We also produced a video about Kasky’s interaction with Marco Rubio at a CNN town hall in February. Apart from an offhand mention of Kashuv in a post about conservative outrage over a March for our Lives-themed Time cover, we’ve never written about him.)

It’s obvious why Hogg has received so much coverage, considering he’s one of the most vocal and visible members of the #NeverAgain movement. According to media monitoring site TVEyes, Hogg has appeared on or been mentioned in CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News broadcasts over 200 times since the Feb. 14 shooting. (Ingersoll called him a “mascot for the movement,” adding that “his status is largely a result of establishment media plucking him up to be a central figure representing their general approval of the movement’s goals.”)

Not surprisingly, Hogg has been targeted the most by sites that position themselves as outside and opposing the mainstream media. For example, posts on Breitbart, Infowars, and Gateway Pundit have promoted videos or Twitter users calling Hogg a Nazi.

In fact, an entire website—aptly titled—was created in recent weeks as an “addition” to, a conspiracy theory site whose stories are often crossposted to Infowars.

While Ingersoll emphasized that the Daily Caller’s overall editorial bent is skeptical of gun control, he hinted that traffic is also a factor in its frequent coverage of the Parkland teens. “Some of our most successful videos and stories so far in the Parkland shooting thread have featured Kashuv,” he said. A YouTube video posted on the Daily Caller’s channel on March 28 titled “Parkland Survivor Face-Off: David Hogg vs. Kyle Kashuv”—in which the two were described as “Zero vs. Hero”—has over 100,000 views.

The number of posts about Hogg in particular have rapidly increased in the past ten days, mostly due to Hogg’s boycott of Ingraham. More than half of Breitbart’s articles about Hogg have been published since March 28; twice in three days the site posted opinion columns about Hogg’s spat with the Fox News host.

The stories range from posts critical of the students, to stories highlighting viral criticism of Hogg, to commentary that accuses the 17-year-old of being complicit in the destruction of Western civilization. On March 30, Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak wrote in a post titled “David Hogg, Lord of the Flies” (emphasis added throughout):

The grownups guiding (and funding) Hogg and his classmates seem to have failed to impart one of the basic rules of Judeo-Christian society, which is the importance of forgiveness.
Without it, as Hannah Arendt observed in The Human Condition, our society becomes trapped in a cycle of unintended harms.
In abusing their newfound power, Hogg and company are tugging at the threads of our civilization, unraveling the social fabric that holds us together, exacerbating our common, but divided, pain.

Two days later, columnist James Delingpole wrote:

There is not a scientific device in existence capable of measuring how little how most of us care that this frankly sinister kid was rejected by UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine. You can bet that had he got in, he would have spent most of his time campaigning to decolonize the curriculum, transgender every bathroom, Occupy every lecture hall…

Not to be outdone by Breitbart’s histrionics, Gateway Pundit has been relentless in its coverage of Hogg. Since the Parkland shooting, Gateway Pundit has posted at least 30 articles about him, with titles like “HOGG WILD,” “HIGH ON THE HOGG,” and “WILD HOGG.” “One hilarious video spoofs angry David Hogg as Adolf Hitler. YouTube posted a viewer warning on the video,” Hoft wrote in a post called “HOGG HITLER,” of a video which showed footage of Hogg’s speech at the March For Our Lives dubbed with audio from a speech given by Hitler. “Google-YouTube will not allow David Hogg jokes. It’s off limits.”

It bears repeating that Hoft was talking about a 17-year-old high school senior.

Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory site Infowars, meanwhile, published at least 35 articles and videos about Hogg as of Tuesday, a number which includes shares from sites like Natural News and the Daily Mail, a right-wing UK tabloid. On March 24, Infowars posted “VIDEO: DAVID HOGG ATTACKS ALEX JONES FOR GAY FROGS ON CSPAN,” and followed it up later that day with “ALEX JONES RESPONDS TO DAVID HOGG GAY FROGS CONTROVERSY.” At the end of the video, Jones runs an ad for Alexapure Pro, a water filtration system sold on the Infowars website for $177.

The week after the March for Our Lives, Infowars posted a seven-plus minute video of Alex Jones’ teenage son Rex challenging Hogg to a debate about guns. After the video appeared on the site, Jones’ ex-wife Kelly Jones threatened legal action on Twitter, saying her ex-husband was “endangering” their son.

The most recent Daily Caller piece specifically about Hogg—Ted Nugent: David Hogg Has Been ‘Brainwashed’ And Is ‘Consumed With Hate’, written by entertainment reporter Katie Jerkovich—was posted on Tuesday afternoon. Ingersoll said he began implementing the new policy of ‘summarily spiking’ headlines about the Parkland kids in earnest late Monday night and early Tuesday, and that it takes time for his directives to filter down to editors and staff, particularly those in different time zones. (The Daily Caller also published a piece Tuesday night about the company MyPillow not pulling its advertising from Ingraham’s show, which wasn’t included in our count.)

“Had I seen the Nugent post in the pitch process or in file, I would have spiked in all likelihood,” Ingersoll wrote to Splinter. “Also, tbh, it was a certain kind of story I was looking to keep off the site. Any Twitter slapfights or media appearances, anything that seemed tawdry or worn out.”

It’s unclear whether the other conservative sites will follow suit, but given the actors involved—Gateway Pundit wrote triumphantly on Monday: “VICTORY! Fox News Stands By Laura Ingraham; Slams David Hogg Led Boycott as ‘Agenda-Driven Intimidation’”—and the Parkland students’ refusal to let this issue to fade from the public eye as it always does, the obsessive coverage likely won’t stop anytime soon.

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