Is 2018 over yet? It feels like it's been going on for, oh, centuries. So much has happened this year, and with 2019 around the corner PolitiFact combed through all the terrible public lies that spread through 2018 and found the worst of the bunch. PolitiFact's 2018 Lie of the Year is a troubling look at just how bad things are. So again, is it over yet?
While there were a lot of terrible lies and misinformation that went around this year, per PolitiFact, there was one that too the cake, and it was the series of conspiracy theories and slanders that surrounded the student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. The tragedy, in which 17 people were killed, mobilized the students who survived into activism, and they created the #NeverAgain movement and began the fight for gun reform. They even organized March for Our Lives, a protest in Washington D.C. (with sister events worldwide) to demand the government take action on gun reform. Their activism put them in the public eye, where they became fodder for the internet, or what PolitiFact calls the "online smear machine." The conspiracy theories and trolling of the Parkland survivors is PolitiFact's 2018 lie of the year — and rightfully so.
At the forefront leading the wave of activists are Parkland students David Hogg and Emma González, who in the spotlight the most and therefore received the brunt of the internet's wrath. The most infamous of conspiracies surrounded Hogg, who was falsely accused by multiple people online of being a so-called "crisis actor" who was paid by anti-gun campaigners to show up on the scene of a tragedy and fight for stricter gun laws, according to CNN. At the time, Hogg told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he's not a crisis actor, he's "someone who had to witness this and live through this."
But conspiracies and false accusations targeted at the Parkland students didn't end with Hogg. You might remember when the internet went abuzz saying that González ripped up the U.S. Constitution — which she did not. González posed for the cover of Teen Vogue back in March. In the actual photo, González is tearing up a shooting target, but a now-deleted Twitter account doctored the image and instead made it appear to show the Parkland survivor tearing up the Constitution. The image went viral and gathered around 1,500 retweets in a few hours, according to CNN.
Regardless of the lies being spread about them, the Parkland survivors brushed it off and continued their work. Before Election Day 2018, the students remained vocal and urged people to vote. Following a shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Nov. 3 that killed two people and left five injured, González spoke at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. "Our lives are in the hands of the people that we elect," she told the crowd. "Vote in every election like it's your last — because it very well could be."
The Parkland students created a movement and fought for gun reform after seeing their fellow students gunned down — which makes the smear campaign against them all the more terrible. When it comes to this kind of badge of dishonor, there's not much that's more fitting of PolitiFact's 2018 Lie of the Year.