Opinion: A campaign of hatred

Published: 12/5/2022 6:00:34 AM
Modified: 12/5/2022 6:00:11 AM

Jonathan P. Baird lives in Wilmot.

The Club Q shootings in Colorado Springs that left five dead and 17 injured were horrifying but not that surprising. For the last few years, there has been a campaign of hatred directed against LGBTQ people. In 2016 when the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando happened that was genuinely unexpected. Q Club felt more in the category of a likely event.

The best take I have seen on the Club Q shootings comes from the writer Jay Kuo. He said the Club Q attack was an “extremely foreseeable and statistically predictable result of hateful and dangerous rhetoric spewed by politicians and right-wing pundits against the LGBTQ community.”

Kuo used a term: “stochastic terrorism.” He defined it as “...the public démonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.”

The Club Q shootings did not come from nowhere. They precisely fit the category of stochastic terrorism. There has been an escalation in the campaign to dehumanize LGBTQ people. Particularly over the last year, an organized effort of far-right influencers has pushed the idea that LGBTQ people are “groomers” and pedophiles. A connection is asserted between queer and trans people and the exploitation of children.

I would describe what is a QAnon-type conspiracy logic. QAnon says Democrats are pedophiles and blood drinkers. There is no proof ever presented. An unsupported charge is repeated over and over. In spite of an absolute paucity of evidence, some people are won over to the QAnon worldview by the repetition of the allegation. A similar dynamic is at play in the anti-gay, anti-trans campaign.

Just the use of the term “groomer” is incitement against LGBTQ people. A groomer is a term for someone who attempts to sexually abuse children. Grooming is a set of manipulative behaviors sexual predators use to gain access to potential victims to coerce them to agree to the abuse and to reduce the risk of getting caught. Since there is no evidence of grooming, I would suggest that the goal of the far-right is to intimidate and erase any queer or trans presence from schools, libraries and public places.

The far-right is objecting to the existence of LGBTQ people.

Many Republican candidates in the last election cycle ran on a platform that characterized queer and transgender people as groomers and many of their candidates won. Prominent politicians like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have played to these prejudices as have notable influencers like FOX host Tucker Carlson. The accumulated prejudiced comments and actions of these bigots lead crazies to act.

2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Also, nationally, the number of legislative bills targeting LGBTQ people is at an all-time high. You see nutty things going on like Boston Children’s Hospital facing bomb scares for its work with transgender youth. None of this is an accident.

The stochastic terrorism directed against LGBTQ people is not that different from the racist hate attacks on Asian Americans or the antisemitic attacks on Jewish Americans. Xenophobia produced the massacre at the Young’s Asian Massage spa outside Atlanta. Antisemitism produced the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Repetition of homophobic, xenophobic and antisemitic memes and tropes on social media emboldens the unhinged to act. It has been well-demonstrated that there is no shortage of mentally unstable individuals who are armed with AR-15-type semi-automatic rifles out there. Some are working on their manifestos and are ready to pull the trigger.

I place responsibility for the increase in hate crimes on the MAGA Republican movement. There is a causal link between their dehumanizing rhetoric and the rise in hate crimes. At this point, the MAGA movement should be recognized as the fascist movement it is. Fascism always creates an “us” and a “them.” MAGA divides the world into the good white Christians and “the other,” comprising minorities, immigrants, non-Christians and LGBTQ people.

Fascist politics are a politics of hierarchy. Making America Great Again is about restoring the power of white Christian men. Any progress by a minority, women or LGBTQ people stokes feelings of victimhood among the MAGA faithful.

Sexual anxiety plays a big role in the MAGA fascist movement. There is much concern about declining white birthrates and the need for more white babies. Fascism thrives on the fantasy of a mythic past where everyone was assigned a place in the hierarchy. Men remain in charge and women are subordinate, tasked with the job of procreation. Gender equity and women’s rights are taboo as they threaten patriarchal dominance. LGBTQ people fall outside the stereotyped roles. Their existence poses a theological challenge to the MAGA evangelical Christian base.

Ironically, MAGA worships a leader who faces multiple allegations of sexual wrongdoing. If anyone was serious about an evidence-based view of sexual abuse and domestic violence, the largest group of perpetrators are clearly heterosexual men.

Behind the campaign of hatred directed against LGBTQ people is the most cynical calculation by Republican politicians. In the pursuit of absolute power, they will go very low. They made a coordinated decision to vilify a group despised by at least part of their evangelical base.

Dark money is financing much of the anti-LGBTQ advocacy. Christian right billionaires with close links to MAGA have fueled the hate campaign. This dark money story has been very inadequately explored.

The historian of fascism, Ruth Ben-Ghiat has written that “the persecution of LGBTQ individuals is a constant of authoritarian governments around the world.” The fascist narrative in America is anything but “live and let live.” Positive values like tolerance and empathy have been replaced by a theology of hate.

All who support democracy and oppose autocracy must stand against the disgusting and dangerous campaign of hate MAGA Republicans have unleashed.




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