This is after two separate incidents in which far-right provocateurs sought out conservative-targeted events with violent intent. In Idaho police arrested 31 members of a violent fascist group who had piled into the back of a rented truck with the intent of starting a riot; police found an assortment of weapons and documents outlining the would-be plan. In San Francisco, a group of “Proud Boys” stormed a public library’s “Drag Queen Story Hour” event, yelling slurs and attempting to initiate violence against the performer in question.
An attempted attack on a “Pride in the Park” celebration in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, didn’t come out of the blue. The event had been singled out by the high-profile anti-LGBT Twitter account “Libs of TikTok,” run pseudonymously by aspirational influencer Chaya Raichik. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that white supremacist David Reilly and the possibly-Reilly-linked junk news site Idaho Tribune both targeted that specific event, as did other far-right hate figures.
Those figures may themselves have been acting in response to the rhetoric of Idaho Republican elected officials like Rep. Heather Scott. There are many, many Pride events around the country this month, but it was those singled by Raichik that drew violent nationalist groups.
These various threats of violence follow a mass murder in Buffalo, New York, by a far-right terrorist who also ranted against “pedophiles and groomers” targeting children—mirroring the precise new rhetoric promoted by Republican lawmakers and conservative media figures. These threats are not theoretical. The rhetoric being promoted by so-called conservative figures is resulting in violent fascist groups shifting their focus away from previous targets and towards the newly named ones. Republicans are singling out groups to be targeted; paramilitary groups allied with those Republicans are providing muscle in putting the new targets “in their place.” It is, and it’s difficult to count the number of times we have had to say this of late, a hallmark of fascist regimes.
You’ll also notice that these newest hoaxes are the result of a change of targets in Republican “groomer” panics. That might have come about due to the relative staleness of recent attacks against schools, teachers, and public libraries for allegedly “grooming” children by providing books written by Black authors, history lessons that reference America’s long history of racism, or being insufficiently hostile toward LGBT teens in their care, attacks that smothered news cycles and led to large-scale censorship campaigns led by Republican elected officials but have not led to many ballot-box victories.
The shift from claiming schoolteachers are predators to claiming drag queens are predators might also be a temporary one—an adjustment made in response to the murder of two teachers and 19 children in Uvalde, Texas. The national conservative campaign to label teachers “groomers” turns more incoherent still when paired with new demands that those teachers be made to carry weapons.
Whatever the reason, Proud Boys members and other violent fascist groups are now targeting Pride events and drag performances as they did school board members a few months ago. The ground thugs of fascism are flexible in who they target, and are more interested in targeting an enemy than the specifics of who that enemy should be. It was once “antifa.” Now it’s colorfully costumed performers reading picture books to children. When Pride Month is over, it could very well shift again.
But for now, the language that embedded itself into a far-right terrorist’s brain in the days before a Buffalo mass murder is being repeated, verbatim, by others in the fascist mob.
Again, though, this is a very intentional shift of Republican rhetoric, and there’s simply no question that it’s promoting violence against the chosen targets. You don’t create hoaxes about the supposed dangers of marginalized groups for any other reason. And it’s omnipresent.
It’s primarily being created by Trump allies, the anti-democracy, pro-fascist group responsible for mainstreaming nearly any hoax you can think of in recent years.
It’s being used specifically to muddy the news cycle so that pro-Trump Americans and Republican allies have something to hyperfocus on while the rest of the nation hears daily new evidence about a Republican-backed attempted coup.
Again: It’s being used specifically to muddy the news cycle to give Republicans something new to focus on, a new fear to put into their supporters’ minds, as pure distraction. It’s intentional.
… and none of the ambitious self-promoters involved appear to have any qualms about using the template for stoking hate crimes that has proven more effective than any other. A hoax is created, claiming this or that group is a danger to your children, your family, or your very soul. The movement floods America with the new hoax, finding specific targets to use as supposed examples and publicizing them. The base is worked into a new froth, with no time given to recover themselves from the last froth, and some significant percentage of that base genuinely believes the hoax and believes the new danger to be real.
And then one of those people picks up a gun and starts shooting at people.
This is Pizzagate and the various shapeshifting QAnon hoaxes all over again, and once again only the bare minimum of changes are made to freshen up the same hate campaigns. We once were told that it was Hillary Clinton and an assortment of excruciatingly boring Democratic allies that were either “grooming” our children or just eating them outright. Then it became school teachers who were “grooming” children by teaching them even the unpleasant parts of American history. Now Fox News is absolutely horrified by the presence of drag queens …
… a gaudy manner of crossdressing that every last one of the conservatives involved knows full well dates back to approximately forever. None of these people were in a froth about Bob Hope appearing in a dress. Or Rudy Giuliani. Drag performances have been a staple of entertainment since long before Shakespeare, there’s perhaps not a vaudevillian in America who did not have it in their repertoire, and the number of present-day entertainers who have never donned outrageous wigs and color-saturated dresses is not much less. Everyone currently bleating about drag performances grew up with them.
The Proud Boys remain loyal to Rudy Giuliani despite his own drag performance. This isn’t about people in full makeup and wearing inch-diameter faux pearls while batting their eyes at an audience who came to see exactly that. And nobody’s getting “groomed” by a giggle-inducing children’s performance at a library. There are a lot of children being “groomed” into becoming threatening bug-eyed dumbasses forever latching on to whatever new paranoia the idiot box tells them to.
There’s only one of those two Americans that I’d feel comfortable leaving preschool kids with for an hour, and it ain’t the twitching weirdo in the assault rifle t-shirt.
Again, though, the promotion of violence against these groups is intentional. It’s planned. It’s a campaign. For Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, it’s part of an upcoming presidential campaign, and just as DeSantis chose to turn mask-wearing into a culture war issue as a million American died pandemic deaths and attempted to turn Americans away from vaccination with a host of considerably more ridiculous would-be pandemic solutions, whether Americans die because of the rhetoric appears to be entirely beside the point. He doesn’t care. Nobody involved here cares.
And yes, DeSantis and the crackpot conspiracy theorists he surrounds himself with are founding members of these new “groomer” hoaxes, and it’s entirely because Republicanism, now firmly a fascist movement, cannot function without singling out American “enemies” that can act as targets for base aggression. There is always an enemy. There is always, always, a group that can be blamed for all of the nation’s ills, even imaginary ones.
It is impossible to imagine a version of conservative that does not include these enemies—in the United States, it is the very foundation of the movement. Segregation was the rock on which the modern movement was built; contempt for non-white, non-protestant, non-straight Americans was at every point predicated on imagined futures in which those other Americans would run roughshod over the white race if white cultural masters relaxed, even for a moment, in enforcing necessary oppressions.
This is the foundation of Fox News, and this is the reason why Fox hosts are suddenly of the very earnest opinion that it “drag queens” that are truly threatening America, not multi-layered Republican Party attempts to topple the United States government so that a dimwitted bellowing crank can continue his campaign of petty national corruption. The “groomer” talk was previously focused on educators, first for an alleged plot to teach every child in America complex graduate-level theories on the role that racism has played in the U.S. legal system, but shifted to claims that teachers were “grooming” kids in the sexual sense because conservatism is too stupid, as a movement, to keep away from QAnon-laced pedophilia claims for any measurable length of time.
Now the attacks have moved on to parents who support trans children instead of abusing them, public events in which LGBT Americans have the temerity to merely exist, and children’s performers. Of course. Naturally. And with the Proud Boys tagging along to make sure each of the new named targets knows that the death threats against them are not merely theoretical.
We’ve talked before about how the QAnon claims are themselves a thin veneer over the antisemitic propaganda of neo-Nazis, with “globalists” now replacing “Jews” and randomly named Democratic figures standing in as new allies of a secret globalist (Jewish) movement of literal child predators. It stands to reason that a Republican Party now deep into fascist beliefs would find those “secret predator” theories to be more compelling than any others; they are, after all, hoaxes that have lasted a century.
And all of it is intended to be threatening. Suppression of the named targets is the whole point; whether it is done by aiming Republican legislatures at those to be suppressed or it is done stochastically, through enough random acts of violence to cause the rest of the out-group to voluntarily hide themselves, is of no concern so long as the targets are “removed” from the discourse. Fox News did not decide to suddenly begin attacking trans Americans because anyone on staff suddenly developed new, strong feelings about trans Americans that they did not have six months ago. They did it because the news cycle needed a new enemy. Someone who could be paraded in front of the base as the problem.
And what happens after that, as Fox News has shown in every past cycle in which a network-named enemy has been targeted by its hosts, is irrelevant. If there is no remorse over turning pandemic safety into the ravings of a partisan death cult, if Republican figures can continue to brush off the attempted capture and assassination of Trump-disloyal members of government as insignificant, something only being probed and harped upon now as further anti-Trump conspiracy, there will be not a speck of hesitation over threatening the lives of these new targets.
And then a new target will be chosen.