Broward County

'Let's see who I can piss off': David Hogg was born a pest, now it's his job, book says

David and Lauren Hogg, authors of #NeverAgain, discuss their experiences following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during an interview in New York, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Fourteen students and three staff members were fatally shot and multiple others wounded during the school massacre, on Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Fla.
David and Lauren Hogg, authors of #NeverAgain, discuss their experiences following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during an interview in New York, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Fourteen students and three staff members were fatally shot and multiple others wounded during the school massacre, on Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. Associated Press

To his enemies online and elsewhere, gun-safety advocate and recent high-school graduate David Hogg can be seen as a pesky mosquito that happens to be buzzing into a microphone for the world to hear.

In the four months since a mass shooting at Hogg's high school rekindled the gun debate in the United States, the sharp-tongued Hogg has become a leading voice of the student-led Never Again movement — and a lightning rod for contempt from opponents on the right.

That wasn't an accident, he says.

In a new mini-memoir written by Hogg and his 15-year-old sister, Lauren, a rising sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hogg writes that he's been "difficult" since he was a kid. He explains how his struggle with a reading disorder and being treated like he was "defective" turned him into an activist eager for self-assurance.

"Like one morning in second grade, I distinctly remember getting up and looking at this striped shirt in my closet thinking, 'I'm just gonna be a little shit today. Let's see who I can piss off,'" Hogg, 18, writes early in the book. "I guess you might say that I am a born contrarian."

Student Gun Protests(2).JPG
David Hogg, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., speaks during the "March for Our Lives" rally in support of gun control in Washington on March 24, 2018. Andrew Harnik AP Photo

The 163-page book, released Tuesday by Random House, chronicles the Hogg siblings' childhood growing up in California as the kids of a gun-toting FBI agent father and an elementary school teacher mom and how the threat of mass shootings followed them as they uprooted and moved to Parkland.

The siblings appeared on "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday to discuss their book. They went on Jimmy Fallon's show after the TV host surprised the graduating class at Stoneman Douglas High a few weeks ago as commencement speaker.

"This book is a manifesto for the movement begun that day, one that has already changed America — with voices of a new generation that are speaking truth to power, and are determined to succeed where their elders have failed," reads a publishers' description for the book.

Hogg said profits from book sales will go to "taxes and charity," including to the advocacy group Change the Ref, which was started by Manuel Oliver, the father of slain Stoneman Douglas student Joaquin Oliver.

Lauren and David take turns writing about the fear of almost losing their father in the 2013 airport shooting in Los Angeles (he was stationed at the airport during the shooting, but was not involved directly), the trauma of living through the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland and how they became involved in the Never Again movement. The memoir ends with a 10-point (11, if you count voting) plan to curb gun violence and a tribute to victims of school shootings dating back to Columbine.

That includes banning "assault weapons," funding gun violence research and starting universal background checks.

The book also attempts to explain how a small group of well-educated and hard-headed teenagers, some of whom were not friends before, banded together to demand change. With their debate skills, social media fluency and a 'Let's see who I can piss off' attitude, the students came to redefine the conversation around guns. They also raised millions of dollars for their cause and embarked on a voter registration tour ahead of the midterm elections.

"People always ask us how we came up with our 'publicity campaigns.' The answer is, we didn't. We really didn't. We're really disorganized. Plus we're teenagers, so none of us likes to be told," Hogg writes. "Nobody asked for permission or approval — if they thought of something that seemed like it could work, they just did it. Some people did a lot of interviews; some people were really good at Twitter; other people focused on organizing and coordinating."

For Hogg, his advocacy began inside a classroom with a cellphone camera and an interview. He thought back to something his teacher said about the vastness of the universe and how few living people are remembered after their death. All others, he thought, just melt back into "the nothingness of time and the universe."

So, during the Parkland lockdown, he recorded an impromptu news broadcast and interviewed students hunkered down next to him about school shootings and what needed to happen for change to take place. Once the school was cleared, and 17 students and employees were fatally shot, Hogg became among the first students to appear on TV, imploring adults to save children like him.

"What I didn't know was that while I was talking away on TV, determined not to allow this to become a typical two-day story, Cameron [Kasky] and a small group of his drama-department friends were quietly planning to rewrite the entire national dialogue about school shootings," Hogg wrote. "Two days after the shootings, I went over to Cameron's house for the first official meeting of the group."

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky addresses the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

For Lauren, who had lost close friends in the shooting, transitioning from grief to activism took a few days. She writes that she felt inconsolable, spending her days crying and sleeping as she mourned for her classmates. But then she took to Twitter to bash conspiracy theorists who labeled Parkland students "crisis actors" and the shooting itself a "false flag" hoax, and soon became a member of the Never Again group.

"There was so much love in that room. So of course, I had to join, too," Lauren Hogg writes. "And now looking back, I realize it was the best thing I could have done. Just to go out and try to make change, it's therapeutic."

Lauren includes remembrances for students Gina Montalto, Jaime Guttenberg, Alaina Petty and Alyssa Alhadeff.

Through carefully worded and sometimes searing social media posts on Twitter — Hogg called it seizing the "memes of production" — the Never Again teens built an online following and, quickly, every slam of a GOP senator warranted news coverage.

March for Our Lives organizers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland announce that they are taking their advocacy on the road this summer.

"The point is, none of that was planned. We didn't hire consultants and focus groups. it's just the way our generation has communicated our entire lives, and it turned out to be the perfect way to deal with them," he writes.

"When people make their voices heard in numbers like that, people in power listen."

Despite the achievements Parkland activists helped secure — like the passage of a sweeping school safety and guns bill in the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature and the March for Our Lives demonstrations — Hogg stresses toward the end of the book that his team cannot let entropy, or the gradual decline into disorder, doom them.

"But just like we learned in class, when progress starts, entropy rears its ugly head," he writes.

In late May, two months after the March for Our Lives, Hogg kept the movement in the news by successfully leading a protest of Publix's political contributions to Adam Putnam, an NRA-supported gubernatorial candidate. The supermarket chain conceded, stating they'd suspend all political contributions.

And on Friday, Hogg and his fellow activists kicked off the first leg of their national and statewide summer bus tour to register teens to vote in time for the midterm elections. Rapper Chance the Rapper and singer Jennifer Hudson made appearances at the March for Our Lives: Road to Change rally.

"Entropy is what the NRA wants," Hogg writes. "Let's not give it to them."