The Propaganda Supporting David Hogg

The OpsLens social media feed recently ran a story that provided almost hagiographic treatment of Parkland activist David Hogg. The in-question article was ridiculous on its own, but compared to the fawning pro-Communist press I’ve read, its even worse.

Key primary sources for the early Communist insurgency led by Mao Zedong and Zhu De include the accounts of American journalists such as Edgar Snow’s Red Star over China, and Agnes Smedley’s The Great Road: The Life and Times of Zhu De. These are known in academic circles as being incredibly slanted. The latter book in particular produced many guffaws when I read it in graduate school. After reading the piece praising David Hogg, I took down the book from my library and could barely contain my eyerolls at the similarities. Smedley ignored the brutal tactics of the revolutionaries, euphemistically describing one violent robbery as a “contribution” (221). Smedley’s first visit with Zhu read like she visited the Pope. And in answer to charges of banditry, his reply was, according to her, like an American folk ballad, “some rob with a gun, some with a fountain pen” (2).

Like all good liberals trying to lionize dictators, Smedley claimed that Zhu read biographies of George Washington and essays on liberty by Montesquieu (86). During the rebellion against the Nationalist government, Smedley claimed their march “became a triumphal procession, with peasants pouring out from all the villages to help carry the wounded and the supplies” (239). Presumably, that didn’t include those that made involuntary “contributions” at gunpoint. Again trying to make audiences sympathize with the Communist leader, she uses a piece of Americana and compared his portable hymn book to slave spirituals and one that was even sung to the tune of Dixie (229-232).

The next paragraph reminded me of the song Shenandoah and my time as an undergraduate studying in that valley:  “thumbing tenderly through his booklet of songs wrapped in a faded, ink-stained red cloth and crudely stapled together, General Zhu recalled the wild crags and lush green valleys of Jinggangshan, the bamboo and fir forests, the shrubs and fragrant flowers and the clouds that shrouded it almost the year round.” The end result is a biased, glowing account that doesn’t report the facts accurately or critically, doesn’t reflect the life and times of Communist leaders, and is actually barely concealed propaganda.

Similarly, the fawning piece on David Hogg is actually worse in creating propaganda for the individual. The article praised him as “furious and unflinching.” Synonyms that aren’t uncritically praising him might include obstinate and pugnacious. They called him surprisingly “wonkish,” though the article doesn’t provide any examples. When Hogg’s travelling circus came to Las Vegas, he commented on the Nevada’s mandatory background check bill. Even though it was poorly written and lacks both enforcement and funding mechanisms, Hogg could only muster an angry tweet that was factually incorrect with spelling errors, which sounds the exact opposite of wonkish.

The article tried to compare Hogg’s experience to a soldier by saying, “like so many young men in fox holes before him.” Even though there is a case to be made that he was nowhere near the shooting, they are trying to valorize him as a brave foot soldier in the revolution. New York Magazine called him “surprisingly composed…[for the] historic moment,” yet in the article itself it describes how often he relies on the f-word, and his signature move seems to be unleashing inchoate ideas in between hurling invective and swear words at his enemies. By the first day of news interviews he was called “smoother, self-assured and armed with facts.” Yet the facts mentioned turned out to be wrong or at best highly suspect. The report that there were 18 shootings is inaccurate due to negligent discharges, suicides, and various violent incidents on or near campus.

Much like Zhu De, who violently rebelled against the government and spread the wealth but was turned into some kind of folk hero, David Hogg is a supposedly self-assured and wonkish individual who doesn’t get his facts straight, was not a soldier in a foxhole, and whose popularity relies upon angry screaming in front of a fawning media. That is disgusting propaganda. There are legitimate arguments to be made about the proper security of schools, a need for a change in culture, and how to keep guns out of the hands of potential mass murderers. But David Hogg is not helping that discussion.