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Reading the Far Right: Antigay Theories in Wake of Vegas Tragedy

MANDALAY

Some wingnuts are pushing the idea that the gunman was with ISIS or wanted to kill Trump supporters, or that the massacre was part of a shadowy plot.

Calling for gun control in response to the tragedy in Las Vegas is inappropriately "politicizing" the tragedy, say members of the far right -- but apparently, they're just fine with blaming liberals for it.

Soon after Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 at a country music festival in Las Vegas, extreme-right media outlets were excoriating Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and others for backing additional gun regulations, although they were eager to push false stories about the shooter being a "social Democrat" (or, alternatively, an ISIS sympathizer), or to even say the whole thing was orchestrated for some nefarious purpose.

That's one of the main threads in our recent reading of the far right, all so you don't have to. Also, there are plenty of wingnut pundits denouncing NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, defending Donald Trump's handling of hurricane relief in Puerto Rico (or blaming others for the inadequate response), and overflowing with joy at homophobe Roy Moore's clinching of the Republican nomination for U.S. senator from Alabama.

Unsurprisingly, the most reprehensible comment about the Sunday night shooting in Vegas came from Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who runs the Infowars website and has an eponymous radio show. From a Monday clip of The Alex Jones Show excerpted by Media Matters, a watchdog group that keeps an eye on right-wing misinformation:

The literal grandchildren of the folks that financed the Bolshevik Revolution out of New York and London are now bragging saying Bolshevik 2 is launching. I told you over and over again that I believe their November 4 launch terror date was a smokescreen for them to begin launching terror attacks in October. They will get successively more intense until you basically come punch-drunk to them, then they'll launch their main attack.

Here's the other big news. On Saturday night, Monday morning -- Sunday morning, they released O.J. [Simpson] just 20 hours before the attack took place so all the media would come and be in place to cover this event. The whole thing has the hallmarks of being scripted by deep state Democrats and their Islamic allies using mental patient cutouts.

If you find that hard to make sense of, you're not alone. It sounds like he's saying that the "deep state" (as Newsweek put it, a "figment of the right-wing imagination that invokes a network of career federal and military officials seeking to bring down Donald Trump") orchestrated the attack and the coverage ... for some reason. As a pretext to declare martial law or set up a totalitarian government, maybe.

Another bit from Jones: "ISIS took responsibility for the attacks, and the police have confirmed that he had -- the reported shooter had recently personally threatened them and posted videos threatening them, saying that he had joined ISIS, joined al Qaeda, and that he was basically a leftist, just like [alleged NSA leaker] Reality Winner, and just like so many others that had converted to Islam, that was so angry about Trump and everything that was happening that he went out and carried out this attack. Now, again, clearly it looks like he had help, but we saw the October 1 event of the 100 years of the Bolshevik Revolution coming up, and I had been predicting starting October 1 that we'd see terror attacks."

OK, Jones's dates are all over the place, al Qaeda and ISIS are hardly "leftist," and the whole thing, like much of what Jones says, is so deranged it's hard to know if he actually believes it or if he's just doing "art performance," as his lawyer once said. This is a man who sunk lower than low by claiming the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged (he eventually had to back off from this, a bit) and that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex-trafficking ring from a pizza parlor (ditto, at least the pizza parlor part). But a lot of people listen to him and believe him, which is very, very sad and scary.

The claim that the shooter was a "social Democrat" who wanted to start a "communist revolution" originated with a 4Chan message thread known for drawing the fringe elements of the right, Media Matters reports. The thread identified the wrong man as the shooter, and its spurious information was picked up by Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog, which published an article that continued the misidentification and described the man, based on his Facebook page, as a supporter of MoveOn.org and a fan of Rachel Maddow. The article was eventually taken down, but it lives on in the internet's archives.

Media Matters later excerpted a Jones rant from Wednesday in which he urged his followers to arm themselves: "Everybody needs to be packing, like I told you on Friday and on Sunday. Get ready -- Democrats are going to be killing people, a lot of folks. And obviously, just like you don't see conservatives going out and doing mass shootings, they don't want to blame the Second Amendment, they don't want to go out and kill people. It's almost always drug-head Democrats, devil worshippers, you name it. That's their M.O. The Democrats know when they mass-kill now, they know to not say they're Democrat operatives. They just want to use that to get the Second Amendment and get a civil war going."

Editorial comment: This man is a menace to society.

Also Wednesday, Jones associate Paul Joseph Watson posted a story on Infowars quoting an interview that former Army intelligence officer and veteran conspiracy theorist Anthony Shaffer gave to Fox News, alleging that the Las Vegas shooter targeted a country music concert because he knew "there was gonna be a lot of pro-gun folks there, Trump supporters at this concert." Shaffer added, "The left has now encouraged the use of violence as an extension and use of political speech," citing the picture of Kathy Griffin holding a prop that looked like a bloody, severed Trump head.

And World Net Daily published an article late Tuesday night with the clickbait headline "Shooter in Bloody Vegas Gun Massacre Was Longtime Federal Agent." The article revealed that the gunman, by then correctly identified as Paddock, had been -- gasp! -- a letter carrier, an Internal Revenue Service agent, and an auditor for the Department of Defense, all back in the 1970s and '80s, followed by a year and a half with Lockheed Martin, a major defense contractor. So it's not exactly evidence that he was part of the "deep state," if there even is such a thing. By Wednesday morning, WND had changed the headline to call the gunman simply a "longtime fed."

Some other articles on far-right outlets limited themselves to promoting the dubious theory that Paddock was an ISIS sympathizer or saying the likes of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, Tom Brokaw, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, etc., should refrain from "politicizing" the tragedy with calls for gun control. Or saying that further gun restrictions will do no good and will just take away our freedom, as Erik Rush did in a WND column:

Those on the left who are driving the exploitation of the Las Vegas massacre to advance gun control are not interested in measures that might reduce gun violence, because no manner of precautions are capable of deterring a determined perpetrator with a gun -- or a knife, a bomb, or any other weapon one might obtain or devise. They are interested in neutralizing the Second Amendment and disarming the American people. Hillary Clinton and her ilk would probably adore a nationwide ban on firearms and mandatory electronic gunpowder sniffers in every home (wherein a "hot" reading would result in a visit from the local SWAT team), all to ensure our safety, of course.

Jesse Watters, a host of Fox News Channel's The Five, took the Vegas tragedy as an opportunity to get in some digs at NFL players kneeling during the national anthem -- an action they've taken to protest racism, including police violence against African-Americans. But he actually suggested that people kneel in a show of respect for police, who undeniably engaged in plenty of heroics during the shooting. (Note to the far right: Most of us on the left, along with those in the center and the reasonable segments of the right, recognize that the police do a dangerous and vital job, and most of them do it well -- but we must call out excesses and brutality when we see them.)

Since there's so much to report about reaction to the Vegas attack, we'll just provide a quick summary of the far right's take on kneeling football players and Trump's suggestion that those SOBs should be fired. Basically, commentators are saying the players are a bunch of spoiled, overpaid, America-hating ingrates, that Trump is right, and that blacks aren't oppressed in the U.S. anymore anyway. Really.

Plus the anti-LGBT, antifeminist Linda Harvey said the protests are happening because LGBT activists and feminists have taught men to hate manhood. Colleges, she wrote in a WND column, are partly to blame because of their "fight against 'toxic masculinity' and 'male privilege,'" a fight being waged "mostly by feminists and 'queer' identifiers." She added, "The homosexual/transgender activist community is on board with discouraging manhood, unless expressed by a gender-confused woman posing as a man," and that both feminists and NFL protesters "hate their heritage, they hate our Founding Fathers, they hate their own fathers."

On another big story involving Trump, his administration's handling of hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, some on the extreme right are trying to blame anyone else for the inadequacies in the response. Gateway Pundit and Conservative Treehouse, for instance, pushed a fabricated story that unionized truck drivers in Puerto Rico were refusing to deliver relief supplies. Relying on social media rumors of a strike and what PolitiFact called "selectively edited and mistranslated interviews," the right-wing sites claimed the Teamsters Union was sabotaging relief efforts and that supplies were rotting at ports.

In reality, PolitiFact reported, "Union truck drivers have been trying to move aid shipments across Puerto Rico. There are multiple logistical problems slowing down transport, not the least of which is that some drivers simply can't get to the port, or drive on impassable roads. Bloggers are misrepresenting a real humanitarian crisis by blaming trade unions. That drives this rating to Pants On Fire!"

Lastly, many far-right commentators can barely contain their joy that Roy Moore is going to be the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in a special election in Alabama. Moore is the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, booted from office for actions related to his efforts to block marriage equality in the state, and well known for his opposition to abortion, gun control, Obamacare, Islam, and other pet hates of the religious right, including all things LGBT. He defeated Luther Strange, who is nearly as conservative but more measured in his rhetoric, in a primary runoff, and will face Democrat Doug Jones in December.

Most right-wing pundits hailed Moore as a hero of their cause, while lamenting that more mainstream Republicans are distancing themselves from him. The particularly noxious Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association implored his brethren to stand up for Moore, saying in a BarbWire column, "The simplest and most effective way to defend Judge Moore is simply to point out that he believes just what the Founders believed and what the Scriptures teach about homosexuality, marriage, judicial activism, and the threat of counterfeit religions like Islam."

Well, the founders had many great ideas, but some of them also had beliefs that we today recognize as repugnant -- like that it was OK to keep black people in bondage and deny rights to women. They did, however, believe their new nation should not have an established religion, and while most practiced some form of Christianity, a few of them thought aspects of it were counterfeit -- witness Thomas Jefferson cutting references to miracles and the resurrection of Jesus from his copy of the New Testament. Happily, in the U.S. we can practice whatever religion we please or none at all.

If Fischer wants to go ahead and defend Moore, fine -- we hope the candidate's extremism will turn off a majority of Alabama voters.

That's it for now. We will be back soon with more intel gleaned from reading the far right so you don't have to.

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