Some Parkland Survivors Are Not Amused By David Hogg's Pillow Venture [UPDATED]

Some Parkland Survivors Are Not Amused By David Hogg's Pillow Venture [UPDATED]
Image:Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

Parkland survivor and gun control activist David Hogg has launched a pillow company in the hopes of becoming a direct competitor to MyPillow, whose right-wing CEO Mike Lindell is convinced former President Trump won the 2020 election. But what began as an adventure in pettiness quickly morphed into a business venture which Hogg is marketing as a righteous political cause, and some of his fellow Parkland survivors find the whole thing a bit cringe.

On Tuesday, Hogg finally announced the name of his pillow: Good Pillow.

“Seven days ago they said it could not be done,” read the statement by Hogg and his business partner, software developer William LeGate. “Seven days ago we joked online about just how powerful a pillow company could be. To the believers – those who dared to imagine a pillow company could be about more than just pillows – thank you for turning our wildest dreams into reality. Rest assured, Good Pillow is well underway :^)“

The message notes that Good Pillow will be sustainably sourced, made in America, and manufactured in unionized factories. Good Pillow also pledges to “fill the Board of Directors with people who actually represent America.”

“We’ve seen companies rely on symbolic gestures as a substitute for real change,” the message reads. “We commit to ensuring our actions demonstrate the depth of our commitment.”

Hogg has been launched back into the spotlight recently due to newly circulated footage of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene harassing him through the streets of Washington, D.C. in 2018, before she was a congresswoman. At the time, the QAnon queen was furious about Hogg’s fight for gun control legislation following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead and Hogg—as well as hundreds of other students—traumatized.

Somehow, this spiraled into Hogg throwing himself into a one-sided beef with Lindell, who, like Greene, wrongly believes that former President Trump was the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Last week, Hogg, currently a student at Harvard and board member of March for Our Lives, tweeted that he and Le Gate are “going to prove that progressives can make a better pillow, run a better business and help make the world a better place while doing it.” Hogg also said that this venture will be separate from his work as a gun control activist.

Several subtweets from Parkland survivors and representatives for March For Our Lives followed Hogg’s pillow name reveal Tuesday evening.

“To those of you who marched, donated, lobbied, and called for change… I’m so sorry this is what it turned into,” tweeted Cameron Kasky, a Parkland survivor who helped organized the historic March for Our Lives student protest and is the co-founder of Never Again MSD. “This is embarrassing. But, welcome to America, everything ends up a grift.”

He later wrote, “I spent so much time promising people this wasn’t going to turn into a cash grab. I am applying my clown makeup with the shame I deserve.”

Matt Dietrich, a MSD graduate and board member of voter registration apparatus HeadCount, tweeted, “gotta clown the clown shit.”

He also wrote the following micro-screed: “You can’t fight capitalism with capitalism and anyone embracing capitalism as it perpetuates mass exploitation, genocide, child labor, slavery and destroys the world, needs to be savagely criticized for the savagery they stand for.”

In that vein, Elena Perez, regional director of March For Our Lives, tweeted, “I honestly don’t know what is appealing about fighting capitalism with capitalism.”

Linnea Stanton, another regional director for March For Our Lives, tweeted, “friendly reminder that @AMarch4OurLives continues to work tirelessly every day to end gun violence in all forms with an amazing network of young people across the country and that shouldn’t be erased 🙂 <3" Jezebel has reached out to Hogg, Kasky, Dietrich, Perez, and Stanton for comment and will update this piece if they respond. On Twitter, Hogg is already playing defense. “I am more than my trauma,” he tweeted. “I am more than an activist I’m a human being that gets to decide what I want to do with my life. If I want to start a pillow company to help people, feed myself and create jobs I’m going to do it.”

He added, “To all those questioning my intentions sincerely fuck off I refuse to feel guilty about wanting to help people and feed myself and pay for therapy.”

He thanked those who have reached out and supported him, and continued to condemn his skeptics.

“To all the people that hate us for trying to make the world a better place I hope you get the help you need because happiness is not gonna come from hate,” Hogg tweeted. “It comes from working hard, doing good and having great friends. Hate all you want- we will prove you wrong.”

But here’s the thing: Hogg will always be associated with his advocacy, whether he likes it or not. It may not be fair, but it’s true, and it’s naive of him to believe that enthusiastically engaging with his 1.1 million Twitter followers—who follow him because he is an activist and survivor—to solicit pillow names and garner support for his venture wouldn’t be seen as capitalizing off of his activist work. However, judging by the enthusiastic replies in Hogg’s mentions (and the scolding replies to his critics), many people have bought into the notion that buying one of Hogg’s pillows is a kind of activism.

Besides, it’s 2021, not 2013. The era of the compassionate CEO is over. In the last decade, we’ve seen companies that touted themselves as empowering, revolutionary, and worker-friendly employ the same exploitative business practices as any traditional company, the only difference being a minimalist, Helvetica-like ad campaign. Los Angeles Apparel is made in America too; that didn’t stop 300 factory workers contracting covid-19 by July 2020 because CEO Dov Charney allowed health and safety guidelines to be skirted. Four workers died, but hey… made in the U.S.A.

Hogg is right, though, that he is more than just his trauma from the events of February 14, 2018. Maybe he just wants to be a businessman—that’s not a crime. But it’s easy to see why some of Hogg’s fellow Parkland survivors are deeply cynical about the way Hogg approached this business venture, and the language he has attached to it. It’s never been easier to profit from a morsel of media attention or viral stardom, and it’s especially grim when that celebrity stems from a tragedy.

There’s no denying that he and the other Parkland survivors have been traumatized, and it’s important to be empathetic to the ways in which trauma can play out. Hogg is also only 20 years old. But that doesn’t mean he’s above critique, and starting a “progressive” pillow company in an attempt to clown the MyPillow dude and saying it’ll change the world is precisely the sort of thing that should spark measured commentary.

Update, February 11, 12:30 p.m.: David Hogg has decided to “step back” from his board position with March For Our Lives.

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