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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Radicalisation in real time

Trans people and allies have been warning about the links between anti-trans activism and the far right for several years now, and this weekend has delivered a frightening example. The whole story is detailed here, but here’s the executive summary (updated a day later with additional details):

  • An evangelical Christian blogger produced a video claiming that a trans woman had been exposing herself to multiple children and adults in an LGBT+ friendly spa in LA.
  • There is no evidence to substantiate any of her claims.
  • Her video contains no evidence that the event happened.
  • Despite significant publicity, nobody has come forward to corroborate her claims.
  • The spa appears to have been the subject of online anti-LGBT+ activism for the last several months.
  • Far-right goons decided that a local trans woman was the culprit (in an event that does not appear to have happened) and sent her multiple death threats. The woman had not been at the spa.
  • Far-right and neo-Nazi groups spread the video, as did anti-trans activists.
  • Far-right and neo-Nazi groups organised a protest at the spa. Many of them turned up in military-style armour and carried weapons including metal bars, knives and pepper spray. One of the thugs was carrying a baseball bat with the Trump logo on it.
  • Far-right thugs including members of neo-Nazi group the Proud Boys attacked journalists and counter-protestors.
  • Two people were stabbed by one far-right thug, a middle-aged white man dressed in military-style gear. He stabbed a counter-protester multiple times in the leg; that person is now in hospital.
  • The same man accidentally stabbed another far-right protester in the arm. Images of the stabbing have been shared by multiple “gender critical” accounts claiming that the woman was the victim of a trans person or trans ally, not one of her fellow fascists. This is not true.
  • In addition to images of the stabbing, UK anti-trans activists have been sharing doctored footage by notorious far-right figures to try and perpetuate lies that the violence was perpetrated by trans people or allies rather than fascist or fascist-adjacent thugs. Some of the earliest such posts were on Mumsnet; they’re now being spread by UK journalists.

I’m reading a lot about QAnon and other right-wing conspiracies right now, and this has frightening echoes of Pizzagate: the baseless claim that a child sex ring was operating out of a pizza parlour in Washington, a claim that lead a heavily armed man to visit the parlour intent on using violence to free the non-existent victims. Many people still believe that such a ring existed.

As the Trans Safety Network article linked above puts it:

Anti-trans tensions are reaching an incredibly worrying threshold, where instagram videos alleging wrongdoing, without any actual evidence of wrongdoing are enough to conjure right wing lynch mobs. In the wake of the protests, prominent UK anti-trans journalists and organisers have shared information from curated far-right sources… misrepresenting events is a well known tool of radicalisation and recruitment for the far-right. Extremist right wing provocateurs are creating partisan versions and hiding behind gender critical women and talking points to provide cover while they harass and terrorise innocent transgender people.

The people sharing the far-right posts are not far-right activists: they’re liberal journalists who write for papers such as The Guardian. This is how radicalisation happens.

Writing in The Herald, Neil Mackay quotes Dr Joe Mulhall, a leading expert on the far right.

MULHALL notes that the culture war is also radicalising many – often online – and leading them towards far=right politics. “If someone gets tipped one way on the trans issue, for example, you start to see them echoing anti-Black Lives Matter stuff,” says Mulhall. “We see more anti-trans content from within the far right than against any other minority today.”

English Defence League (EDL) figures “disproportionally talk about trans rights way more than Muslims now”.

“There’s a debate to be had,” says Mulhall, about issues like women-only bathrooms although he personally says he’d leave that to “trans people”. “However, at a base level, wherever you fall on those debates, the trans community is being attacked by the far right. Whatever you think about trans athletes in the Olympics, it’s unacceptable trans people are being attacked.”

The far right sees trans hatred as a “route to the mainstream. Talking about Jews isn’t. It ostracises you. But if you talk about trans issues it opens the doors to the mainstream. The far right are saying things they know will be echoed in the comment pages”.