Voice of change: MSD student David Hogg stands behind Never Again MSD movement


Provided by David Hogg

MSD student David Hogg sits in front of posters advocating for gun control after the Feb. 14 shooting. David is a leader and founder of the Never Again MSD movement.

by Winged Post Staff

For our Issue 5 spread on the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and the Never Again MSD movement, Winged Post staff had the opportunity to speak with MSD student David Hogg. An owner of a Jack Russell-Westie mix named “Tater,” David also heads MSD’s Drone Club.

WINGED POST: Parkland is the eighth school shooting in 2018, but it spurred a national movement, mostly on the part of you students. What do you think is different about this time and the country’s reaction this time?

David Hogg: People are still talking about it, and I want to say they’re kind of mad and angry. It’s almost like the kindling’s been here; we just needed the spark, and that’s what we provided. Now there’s a lot of smoke; we just need that fire.

WP: How did you and the other students involved in Never Again, like you and Emma, get started? Did you have a concrete plan that this was going to happen from the beginning?

DH: No, it kind of just happened. We all just kind of got together and it kind of just really happened.

WP: What in the very beginning prompted you to speak up?

DH: I don’t want anything like this to happen again. And honestly, to be quite frank with you, I didn’t want to be around my sister while she was crying, as awful as that is. I hated the fact that I couldn’t do anything about her friends that had died and everything like that. As d**kish as that sounds, that’s really what it was. I just wanted to be out there, out of my house. I wanted to be out there taking as much action as I could, so that I could prevent something like this from ever happening again.

WP: Ms. Falkowski told us that for a lot of students, speaking out about it or covering the event as journalists themselves was helping them process. Have you found that to be true for you?

DH: Absolutely. It’s helped me speak out, be more eloquent. A lot of people called me an actor because of that. Yeah. It’s definitely—being a journalist has definitely helped me with kind of the coping and being able to be tell the stories of these individuals. Had I not been in our school’s TV program, I would never have interviewed those people during the shooting. I would have just been a bystander, and people would have totally forgotten about this by now, to be quite frank with you.

WP: When people say things like,“You’re an actor who’s been planted here,” how do you respond to them?

DH: To those people, I say, “I’m sorry that you’ve lost faith in America, because we certainly haven’t.” And they’re creating advertising. They’ve quadrupled my Twitter following and kept us in the media, so they’ve done a great job of that.

WP: What state and federal reforms are you advocating for?

DH: Literally any at this point. Ones that allow people that are mentally stable individuals, without a criminal background, without a history of domestic violence, to own a gun but puts limitations on the Second Amendment, so that if you’re a mentally unstable individual, in the same way you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theatre because of the “clear and present danger” part of the First Amendment, you shouldn’t be able to get an AR-15 or any weapon of mass destruction that can do so much damage if you’re a mentally unstable individual.

WP: What is the most important message overall you want to convey to people when talking about gun control? What do you want them to keep in mind?

DH: This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is an issue of lives. We need to work together on this if we want to save our future and our children’s lives. Because if we don’t, how many more are going to have to die?

WP: What would you say to people our age, teenagers, who either want to send support to MSD or want to be more politically active?

DH: Get registered to vote, first off. Make sure you’re registered. I believe in California you can probably get registered at 16—the Motor Voter Act. Often times, when you’re getting your driver’s license, you can register. I think California is a closed primary, so you have to be registered to vote to even be able to vote. Then, obviously, get out there and vote. Make sure you become a politically active individual by sending letters to your congressmen, calling them every single day until literally any legislation has passed, and holding your elected officials accountable. Doing your homework on them, making sure you know how they’re funded and things like that.

WP: How many people have been contacting you per day?

DH: Probably around 500. Just journalists in general. I was at the point at the beginning of this where I hung up—I accidentally hung up on the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, some regionals. I’ve been getting an insane amount of phone calls from journalists. I had to put you guys on hold because this person I’m doing a documentary with from CBS is calling me. I just met with the publisher of Random House Publishing, like their president to talk about a book deal, and work on a bunch of stuff like that. It’s just been insane. Literally, I woke up to a call this morning which was like, “Hi, I’m Bjorn from Norway. I’m a journalist. Yadda yadda yadda, please talk to me, such and such. At this point, it’s just like, “Yes, I want to talk to you.”

There’s only one journalist that I haven’t talked to, and that is Brian Williams. And it was because they called me and they were like, “Hi, we’re from X Show from MSNBC with Brian Williams.” And I interrupted them and was like, “Hold on. Brian Williams is the host? He’ll be the person asking questions?” and they were like, “Yes” and I said, “I will absolutely not talk to him” and just hung up. Because he was on our Wall of Fame in our journalism class, and we tore him down. Some of his previous stuff where he lied about his position in the Iraq War and things like that, that’s just something that really disturbed me. But I’m trying to talk to as many journalists as I can. If Alex Jones wanted to have me on, I would absolutely come on, because he clearly cannot do his job as what he would call himself, as a talk show host—I’m not even going to call him a journalist really. He’s somebody who emits fake news and gets sued for emitting propaganda, for calling people who have been victims of a mass shooting actors.

WP: Besides talking to all these hundreds of journalists, what are you working on right now? I know there’s organizing the march and the walkout, and now I guess your potential book deal and documentary.

DH: Well, right now what I’m working on is the documentary, the book deal, being a press secretary. Right now, I’m packing up and flying out of here to get back to Parkland for a day, and then I have to fly to L.A. to get on Bill Maher, then back to New York City to do more heads, and then I have to go back to Parkland, then probably to Dubai, then D.C., then New York City and then probably back to L.A.

WP: In this movement, what’s played a large role is your guys’ use of social media. So what’s your strategy for engaging people?

DH: Honestly, pointing out the bulls**t that these people are (sorry for my language). Yeah, just pointing out how these people are absolutely fake. Turning them into memes, essentially, because that’s a great way to communicate how stupid these people are. Like Marco Rubio, at this point, he’s just like an idiotic shark that thinks he has power, but is actually owned by the NRA.

WP: I know you’ve said that your journalism skills have helped you a lot in talking to the media and dealing with all of this. Were you nervous going into this, in the beginning, when you started talking to major news outlets? How did it feel?

DH: No, absolutely not. I felt empowered and happy, because I knew people were going to start paying attention. My first interview I did was on the Ingraham Angle with Fox News. If you watch that interview, you can kind of see that she tried framing this and tried turning it into like, “Oh, this is a mental health issue,” like that’s only it. I immediately stopped her and as such, they aren’t really letting me on Fox News anymore, because they don’t want to hear my opinion, because they know I can curve their anchors and manipulate the conversation to what it actually is, not what they want it to be, which is just a bunch of right-wing b***s***.

WP: Our school and other schools are planning to participate in the walkout and in the marches. How do you feel that has fed into the whole movement that has spawned?

DH: I feel happy. I’m super happy that students are standing out and taking action, but if you don’t get registered to vote, if you don’t constantly vote for the rest of your lives, none of this matters.

WP: A lot of people have had criticism of you guys speaking out and talking so soon after it happened. What would you say to those people?

DH: You’ve done a great job of advertising, to be quite frank with you. They’ve advertised us really well, they’ve quadrupled my Twitter following, kept us in the mass media, and we’re able to point out a lot of the flaws in the logic of our opponents. The fact that these people can’t even agree on sensible gun reform—that they can’t even agree on the fact that someone who is mentally ill shouldn’t be able to get an AR-15 or any weapon of mass destruction—is a testament to how disgusting the political situation has gotten in this country.

WP: One of the things that I’ve read from that very difficult and tragic day was your presence of mind to actually think like a journalist in the moment. How did you do that? How did you find that in yourself?

DH: Honestly, I don’t even know. I realized that if I was about to die, I wanted to tell a damn good story. And one that people wouldn’t forget. Even if I died on that floor and my blood with 65 others was spilled out and splattered across our floor, we needed to have our voices echo on, even if our souls couldn’t carry on.

WP: What do you feel like the school community needs now, especially in terms of schools that want to help?

DH: Schools that want to help first need to help themselves by having active shooter drills and making sure that they know what to do in these situations before they do anything to help us. If your school could have an active shooter drill where you guys know what to do, where you should hide, how you should hide, and honestly just know that you don’t expect this thing to happen to you but it very well could even happen today. Not a single law has been passed to prevent these mass murderers from getting guns. Even in my school, our glass is being replaced with glass that’s not even bulletproof, it’s disgusting. They’re allowing the same thing to happen again because they want to have it happen again. They want more people, they want people like us calling out the NRA so that they can sell more guns because crazy-a** people think that, “Oh, they’re coming to take my guns.” We aren’t, we’re coming to save our lives and take back our future because to be honest, our f***ing parents won’t.

WP: I know the Never Again movement was co-founded by several students at your school. Do you have an idea of how many students are speaking up and getting involved in this movement?

DH: Around 20. Don’t ask me to name names, I don’t know all of them, but they’re mainly TV and drama kids that are honestly the misfits of the school that have been bullied, people that have always been called out for their uniqueness like Emma and things like that. And that’s part of what’s kept us strong. We don’t give a s***, we don’t care what people think about us. We know what matters. And what matters is our future and our lives. Sorry for my language.

WP: Just to clarify, what grade are you in?

DH: I’m a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and no, I’m not an actor.

WP: Do you know what your post-high school plans are?

DH: I’m probably going to take a gap year and work on midterms. I hope to go to Harvard for either political science or go to Northwestern for journalism, or both. I don’t know.

WP: How old are you?

DH: I’m 17, and I’m a student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am not a paid actor, I’m from Florida. I moved there after my father was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. You guys can read some of this stuff on my Wikipedia page. I was reading it last night; it’s pretty good.

WP: Are you okay with us including that information about you in our article?

DH: Yes, it’s fine. It’s on Wikipedia—anyone else could find it.

WP: Where are you right now?

DH: I am across from the Time Warner Center, and I’m right by the St. Columbus Circle subway station in front of the 60 Columbus hotel. It’s a really sh*tty hotel, by the way. It’s a boutique, don’t go in there. I’m supposed to be on my way to some airport in New York. I don’t even know which one because there’s multiple, but I’m going somewhere, getting on a plane, going back home.

WP: You’ve talked to us a lot about your immediate goals of the movement. Do you have or do the other students have any long-term goals or vision of where you see this going?

DH: Midterms, honestly. That’s where this is going. These sick politicians aren’t going to be around for much longer, though we will be. So, we got to take hold. You guys know when you’re dealing with your parents, and they’re like, “Honey, how do I send a photo over iMessage, it’s not working,” and you’re like, “Give me the phone.” That’s how we need to be because these politicians are just f***ing idiots.

WP: You said you’re going to be taking a gap year to work on midterms. Do you know specifically what you want to get involved with?

DH: It’s a candidate-basis. I don’t want to be any part of any political party. I just want to make sure the people that are getting elected are actually good people, as unreasonable as that sounds. Just good people that care about the lives of children, not about their reelection, not about the money, about literally just our future because we need to save that.

WP: You talked a little bit about this earlier, but how do you feel about the roadblocks that are currently being presented, the bill that didn’t pass? Also, you talked about how they’re not replacing the school’s glass with bulletproof glass, so how do you feel about those kinds of things that are happening right now?

DH: They’re a great symbolism for the disgusting state that this country is in. Even after we’ve spoken out, nothing’s happening. But that’s fine, that’s why we have midterms, and that’s why we’re getting all these people riled up and pissed off because they have to be to take any action. The politicians won’t, they don’t care.

WP: Why do you think they don’t care?

DH: Because they care about money. They’ve been habituated and manipulated by power. And they’ve succumbed to the illusion that power even exists. That’s really what’s going on here. I want you guys to feel the blood coursing through your veins right now. These people don’t have that. They have cold, hard cash, and that’s the only thing that they see or feel.

WP: Are you travelling with your parents right now?

DH: No, I’m just with my mom.

WP: In terms of your goals, how are you evaluating whether candidates are “good” or not?

DH: Looking at their campaign donations. That’s what you guys should be doing too. Researching the politicians in your area, making sure that they’re actually good people and not taking money from the NRA or huge companies that are trying to manipulate their policy because there’s something called Citizens United, which is something that you guys should definitely look up, it’s a really f*cked up Supreme Court decision that essentially says you can spend as much money as you want to bribe politicians because it’s your right as an American because of freedom of speech, which is bullsh*t, but that’s what’s going on, so essentially you can bribe all the politicians you want and it’s completely legal.

WP: Are you considering any political future? Do you think you might ever want to run?

DH: Yeah, I’ll probably run for president or vice president with Emma. And that’s after we work through midterms and get through local elections, move our way through the Senate and just chew out every single stupid a** shark that’s out there taking money from these sick lobbyists. Again, we don’t have any foreign policy experience, but these politicians only know one thing, and that’s money. And we know one thing. We only care about lives.

WP: How do you think that we can change the NRA because as you said, it’s so entrenched in the politics of today, and so many politicians are taking money from it?

DH: Getting these individuals out of office and holding our elected officials accountable for the rest of our lives. Realize this. When you guys go to vote in midterms, make a cheat sheet. Know why who you stand for matters. It’s not like stupid standardized tests, which are actually even more bulls***.

WP: Ms. Falkowski talked to us yesterday about how they didn’t want anything specifically pertaining to guns inside the school because there are students who might feel differently, since Florida is a place with a lot of gun rights. Do you think that you’ve seen people change their minds about that because of this event?

DH: Yeah, we’ve seen a few people turn in their AR-15’s, their weapons and stuff like that. But, the problem is, what we need to have here is a discussion, not a debate. Because when you argue with someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum, regardless of whether you’re arguing with the Democrats, because you’re a Republican, what ends up happening is people get further pushed on their side and then not even taking action just because they’re pissed off. What do you think that’s happened with the Republicans? They’ve continued to be debated by Democrats and what happens is they’re like, “I’m only for gun reform,” but then they don’t give a s*** and don’t do anything about it, and then honestly nothing happens, and people continue to get murdered as such.

WP: How significant do you think historical events and historical advocacy are in inspiring you to take action? Are there any specific activists?

DH: Of course, last year in AP U.S. History, most of the people that I’m working with, including myself, we got a 5 on the APUSH exam, and that’s only because of our amazing teachers and learning just about these people and the actions that they took to promote their causes. Like W.E.B. DuBois or whatever and just so many different historical figures. Learning from these individuals on how to take action, how to stand up to idiots in Congress in politics. If you guys have heard Dana from the NRA speak, she’s not really saying anything, she’s just trying to convey a propaganda tone to her followers at the NRA and to the nation. And that’s the disgusting part of this. You know it’s bad when literally the NRA turns against law enforcement.

WP: Could we actually get a comment from your mom if she’s free about what this has been like for her?

Rebecca Boldrick: I think you’re going to change the world for better.

WP (Ms. Austin): As someone in her 50s here, behind all of you young people being interviewed are a whole lot of parents who are backing you up. I’m wondering what they’re saying about all of this in addition?

DH: They say they’re really proud of us. That’s mainly it. We’re sorry our generation’s failed you, and that’s the thing that hit most. The older people are still alive, your votes still count. Take action and support us, don’t just be like, “Yeah, we suck, we give up,” because when you do that, you’re killing our future.

WP: One thing that President Trump has talked about in the recent weeks is the idea of potentially arming teachers—what do you have to say to that?

DH: I think it’s a terrible idea, personally. Considering the fact that law enforcement officials wouldn’t step in, why would a teacher? Why should a teacher have to step in? I don’t think the answer to this problem is more guns, because that’s what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to sell more guns and scare more people so that they buy guns and support the NRA. That’s what they’re trying to do.

WP: What forms of activism would you recommend for people who are not old enough to register to vote or to vote?

DH: Working on political campaigns. Writing letters to congressmen. Congressmen love listening to children; actually, they don’t, they don’t care, but when they get a s***load of letters from future voters, that scares the crap out of them, so letting them know that you’re coming for them, that’s what you need to do. And making sure that you guys always get out and vote. I know in Florida, you can register at the age of 16 to vote, when you guys get your driver’s license you can vote. Let me answer the BBC and tell them to f*** off. Hold on.

WP: As a journalist who reads, what news outlets would you suggest?

DH: All of them, honestly. You need to hear the Fox News side of things, which as insane as that sounds, you do same way that I do. I don’t agree with them, but you need to listen to the other side, and you need to be able to argue both sides of it. Listen to CNN, listen to NPR. People like to say that they’re biased. They’re really not. They’re just really good news sources.

My daily conception of news goes like this: I wake up, I listen to the politics podcast from NPR, and then I watch VICE News Tonight on HBO or 60 minutes, and then on my way to school I listen to NPR radio, even though my sister hates that, and then after that while I’m at school, I’ll listen to Morning Edition on NPR, and then after school, I’ll come home and watch videos from Vox, and watch videos from people like Philip DeFranco, watch some stuff on Fox to understand both sides, and then watch CNN. Then, I watch ABC before I go to sleep, and then just go back to sleep and repeat the same process. Also, watch Al Jazeera and BBC so you can see what the hell is going on not just in America.

WP: What kind of student organizations were you involved with before Never Again?

DH: I’m the president of our drone racing club, as nerdy as that sounds. I’m trying to start a hydroponics and aquaponics program with our school to work on sustainable farming so that we can colonize Mars in the future. I unsurprisingly am in speech and debate. A couple of months ago, I finished a documentary that took me two months to make. I’m trying to submit that to the student Emmy’s but can’t because my computer’s still at school, two weeks later. I also just finished my Eagle Scout project in our school’s garden, called Marjory’s Garden. And I also do stuff with astronomy to do astrophotography with them—we’re building an observatory right now that I’m helping out with—and I do some volunteer work over the weekends. I probably spend 8 to 12 hours every weekend volunteering in our school’s garden, and then I also work with some people at an old folks’ home to help them with technology and get them in contact with family members. Before this, I was trying to study aerospace engineering because I was interested in going into that field and helping colonize Mars like SpaceX and Elon Musk. But obviously that’s changed; now I still want to report on them.

WP: How have you used or taken advantage of social media?

DH: Just really attacking our political opponents with humor and realizing what an insane situation we’re in.

WP: How do you think that the Internet more generally has influenced how activism works?

DH: Oh, it’s revolutionized activism, it’s made us way more connected. During the 60s—I’ve talked to a bunch of civil rights activists from the 60s—and they’re all like, “Yeah, we had to use telephone trees and have an entire line of people that we’d communicate with to get everybody into D.C.,” and that’s insane to even think about. They didn’t even have Twitter back then, and now that we do we can communicate with so many others; at the touch of a button, I can tell over 300,000 people what to do, what action should we be taking, what I’m doing, things like that. Emma has over a million followers; she can tell all those people what the hell is up, what they should be doing, how we should be taking action, that’s how it’s revolutionized it. If you’ve noticed in America, the two things that you need for a revolution are communication and an economic surplus like the one we had during the 60s, just part of the growth of the military-industrial complex during the Vietnam War and such, and I guess that was kind of the semis. We’ve seen the stock market grow so people have more time to spend and fix society. If you look back at any time for a second, at the first or second Great Awakenings, at the Gilded Age, they all revolve around an economic surplus, and they involve improvements in communication, and that’s what we’re seeing here. It’s an improvement in communication and an economic surplus. We’re coming together to revolutionize America and fix our country more because we certainly can.

WP: Could we, just for the record, get your dad’s name?

DH: My dad’s name is Kevin Hogg, H-O-G-G.

WP: And where does he work?

DH: He’s not in the car. He’s at home walking the dog right now.

WP: What’s your dog’s name?

DH: My dog’s name is Tater, as in “dictator.” It’s T-A-T-E-R, instead of O-R, but yeah, his name is Tater. He’s a Jack Russell-Westie mix. He’s the cutest thing you have ever seen in your life, but just like our politicians, he’s all bark and no bite.

WP: How old is Tater?

DH: I would say he’s about six. He’s a bad a**, though. He loves chasing after squirrels.

WP: Where do your parents work?

DH: My mom is an elementary school teacher. Wow, that’s f****** cool. Hold on. Sorry, I’m on some big bridge in wherever I am in New York City. Wow. Anyways, my mom is an elementary school teacher and she has been for the past 30 years or something. It’s a long a** time she’s been a teacher. My dad was an FBI agent for 18 years, and he worked in L.A. and in Fort Lauderdale.

WP: Could we ask what school your mom works at?

DH: I would prefer that’s not out there.

WP: With your mom being a teacher for children and your dad having worked in the FBI, has that impacted your conversations with them? Have they offered different perspectives and such?

DH: Oh, absolutely. My dad is a registered Republican, and he’s pretty conservative. My mom is a bleeding-heart liberal. I see both sides of it.

WP: Your life’s been—I can’t even fathom how much it’s been turned upside-down. How does that feel? How have you been dealing with the day-to-day with all of these interviews and traveling everywhere?

DH: I don’t even have time to think ahead, I had to turn my mom into a momager and she just schedules everything for me at this point along with our publicist. That’s really what’s going on, it’s, ‘I’m just there, tell me what to do, tell me what to say—just get out there and keep speaking.’

We’ve come a lot closer together because we have everybody from like super-conservative kids, some of which are even racists at our school, as terrible as that is. And there’s super-liberal kids, some of which are essentially Communists, and we have everything in between. But yeah, we’re coming a lot closer together and realizing we can make a lot of beans out of this and turn this into a main great change. You know, like we’re pissed off, so we just got to learn to live, laugh and learn how to get through this together.

Yeah, you guys are f****** awesome. We need people that are journalists out there to check the government. You need to get out and vote, you need to get out there and tell your story. Make sure you guys are hearing both sides of it. Don’t get into a debate. Learn to love each other because that’s what this country needs, and just be f****** nice to each other, okay? It’s a lot easier to hate than love, but we need people to love each other for who they are, and we need to make this a discussion for reform and change in America because if it’s another debate, nothing will happen. So keep doing your job, keep kicking a**, journalists. It’s not easy, it never will be, but anything that’s worth it isn’t easy. So get out there, kick a**, and let’s save some lives.

A shorter version of this piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on March 6, 2018.