They’re not even really bothering with the “thoughts and prayers” or expressions of regret at the violence after the mass shootings they inspire any longer. No, the people who have been targeting the LGBTQ community with classic stochastic terrorism—dehumanizing and demonizing them, describing them as worthy of violent expulsion, and then leaving the violence to the angry extremists they inspire—are just making the briefest of nods before moving straight ahead with the narrative that really, the victims had it coming, and the perpetrators were entirely justified.
That, at least, was the narrative emerging from the more influential quarters of right-wing media after Saturday’s mass shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs—on Fox News with Tucker Carlson, and on social media among major influencers like Tim Pool. They seem to have reached the point in their campaign of eliminationism against the LGBTQ community generally, and the transgender community specifically, where the restraints of the civilization they claim they’re defending are disposable, and they can just get straight to the business of directing vigilante mob violence against them.
Carlson—who has been leading the stochastic terror campaign against transgender people in recent months, notably in inspiring bomb threats against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care, which he has described as “sexual mutilation of children”—provided the most egregious example of the right’s utter lack of common decency in responding to the violence in Colorado. He invited Jaimie Michell of “Gays Against Groomers”—the kind of liberal-hating liberal who always turns up on Tucker’s show, for some reason—onto his nightly Fox News program Tuesday to talk about how there’s some kind of conspiracy underway to “attack children.”
First, Carlson brought up the Balenciaga ads featuring children whose teddy bears are attired in BDSM wear—which he claimed “promoted pedophilia, I don’t think anyone disputes that” (though, in fact, Balenciaga, which has apologized for the ads and yanked them, does dispute that). That created an opening for Michell to denounce “everyone who’s behind this push to sexualize and indoctrinate and mutilate kids.” She regularly describes gender-affirming care as “mutilation,” in fact—making it clear that, even if Michell is presuming to speak on behalf of gays and lesbians, she is clearly opposed to the transgender component of the queer community.
Michell went on to suggest to Carlson that there’s a conspiracy afoot by “powerful interests” to subject children to sexual assault:
The floodgates seem to be open, and people are just full steam ahead trying to attack and assault children, which is a red line for everybody, it should be—well, you would think for everybody. For the majority of people it is, and that’s why there’s such a strong visceral reaction coming out against it, just as much as there is in support of it.
And I do love that you’re saying, and I appreciate your saying that not all of us in the gay community support this, it’s actually quite the opposite. There’s the fringe minority within our community that does, but they are so loud because they have the backing of every powerful institution in this country as we’re seeing, and we’re doing everything we can to stop it.
I want to be clear that being anti-’groomer’ and anti-child sexualization and mutilation is not anti-gay, it’s not anti-LGBTQ. It shouldn’t have to be said. What is anti-LGBTQ that these people need to understand, and what is putting our community in great danger, is claiming that all of us support this, and associating us all with this. Saying that ‘groomer’ is an anti-LGBTQ slur, that is doing irreparable damage to us as a whole, and it’s putting a really large target on our backs.
Michell appears blithely unaware that it’s not the transgender or drag-queen components of the queer community who are labeling their outreach efforts—part of an explicable campaign to gain acceptance and normalization—“grooming” or “innately sexual.” It’s the homophobic right that sees nefarious “sexual content” in merely acknowledging the existence of transgender people (see especially Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law) that has been doing so—along with their neofascist troll hordes online, and their neofascist Proud Boys and other street thugs who show up to threaten violence, wearing “Kill Your Local Pedophile” T-shirts.
Moreover, it’s also coming from right-wing shills like herself who buy into the whole bogus “grooming” narrative, which is based on the lie that all LGBTQ folk are pedophiles. Perhaps she hasn’t heard the hate preachers who declare their death wish (“Shoot them in the back of the head!”) for every member of the queer community because they are, by these bigots’ definition, pedophiles.
“Put them to death. Put all queers to death. They die,” proclaimed one fundamentalist preacher, adding: “When they die, that stops the pedophilia. It’s a very, very simple process.”
When she tells Tucker, “What’s being done in our name is putting us all in danger,” she’s throwing the entire transgender and drag-queen communities under the bus. But this is not surprising; on her social media accounts, she regularly refers to transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual people as “the infiltrators.”
It’s a shared animus. Carlson has advocated for vigilante violence in response to the presence of transgender children in schools. “You would have to hate children in order to sexualize them. Because sexualizing children screws them up for life. Ask anyone to whom it has happened, period,” he said earlier this year. “No one should put up with this. No parent should put up with this for one second, no matter what the law says. Your duty, your moral duty, is to defend your children. This is an attack on your children and you should fight back.”
Carlson told his audience that in a “healthy” country “with an intact social fabric, neighborhood dads would give out instant justice to anyone who even thought about sexualizing their kids.”
So he and Michell were on the same wavelength on Tuesday, as she gave Carlson’s audience a public justification for armed men to walk into drag-queen shows and open fire:
And unfortunately, you know, the tragedy that happened in Colorado Springs the other night, uh, it was expected and predictable. We all within Gays Against Groomers saw this coming from a mile away. And sadly, I don’t think it’s gonna stop until we end this evil agenda that is attacking children.
That’s their position: Either stop providing children with material that might make them think of LGBTQ people as normal, and stop providing gender-affirming care to children who need it, or expect to be mowed down at random by one of the terrorists who agrees with us that you’re a bunch of pedophiles by nature. Fall into line with us or prepare to face the consequences.
This was the position of a number of right-wing influencers, notably YouTuber/podcaster Tim Pool, who has an audience in the millions. To them, it was obvious that family-friendly drag-queen or queer events were, in fact, attempts to recruit children into sexual behavior. “We shouldn’t tolerate pedophiles grooming kids,” Pool tweeted. “Club Q had a grooming event. How do prevent the violence and stop the grooming?”
Far-right pundit Kurt Schlichter, who frequently indulges fantasies about inflicting violence on “the left,” chimed in: “I don’t think we have to tolerate pedophiles because some asshole shot up a gay bar,” he wrote. “Frankly, a lot of people trying to convince us we need to tolerate pedophiles seem to be happy to use any excuse to silence our opposition.”
Pool added: “the grooming of children is not stopping. people are calling for more violence. I do not think legislators will stop the grooming. people will not stop calling for violence. so you tell me what happens next.”
He went on: “it seems that around 10 pm Club Q posted they were having an all ages drag show the next day. About 2 hours later the shooter came in. People keep calling for woodchippers and this is what happens.” His posts inspired a round of celebratory “woodchipper” memes from his fans in the replies. One person in the replies asked: “Does the shooter have a Go Fund account?”
Newsmax host Jenna Ellis, a former Trump attorney, argued that the victims’ lives were forfeit anyway:
The five people killed in the nightclub that night, there is no evidence at all that they were Christians. Assuming they have not accepted the truth and affirmed Jesus Christ as the lord of their life, they are now reaping the consequences of eternal damnation.
This is, again, how stochastic terrorism has always worked: Announce and identify the target with eliminationist rhetoric, and then let random actors inspired by the surrounding hateful rhetoric conduct the acts of violence it’s intended to inspire. Statistically predictable, but individually unpredictable.
“The way they soften up the support for this kind of violence is essentially by making it seem morally justified in the minds of people who believe this,” Alejandra Caraballo of Harvard Law School told NBC News. “The way they do this is by constantly painting LGBT people as pedophiles and ‘groomers,’ and so people feel morally justified in carrying out this violence.”
Caraballo noted that a worrisome context of this rising tide of anti-LGBTQ speech on social media is that it’s occurring as Twitter, under Elon Musk’s ownership, is now rolling back suspensions of major anti-LGBTQ accounts, which now have been “let off the leash.”
“This is an ‘In emergency break glass’ moment for social media,” Caraballo said. “This is priming some very violent people to do shocking acts of violence, and this is all being pushed on social media and on Fox News, on Tucker Carlson.”
It won’t be ending soon, either. A group of Proud Boys in Ohio has announced that it plans to show up Dec. 3 to a drag queen story-time event in Columbus. Their post warned: “It’s gonna be wild!”