Unlike some weeks, this past week there wasn't an overarching theme in far-right media -- more of a mixed bag of oft-used tropes: homophobia, transphobia, defending Donald Trump (Jr. and Sr.), denouncing mainstream news sources, and demonizing liberal philanthropist George Soros -- although Alex Jones's claim that Soros wants to start a "race war" is new to us.
The homophobia comes from a familiar source, Michael Brown, who's carried on World Net Daily and Townhall, among others. A sampling of Brown's recent columns turned up these headlines: "Ex-Gay Is Here to Stay,""Yes, Gay Activists Are After Your Children," and "What Do We Do When Loving God Conflicts With Loving Our Neighbor?"
In the first, Brown asserted that "ex-gay" therapy works just fine, thank you, and that the shutdown of Exodus International and similar groups doesn't mean such "therapy" is on the way out -- more and more, individual churches are taking it over. Brown also made this disputable claim: "More and more people have friends, family members, and co-workers who are ex-gay, and so it's becoming increasingly difficult to deny their existence."
He further contended that as LGBT people increasingly acknowledge that some people have a fluid sexuality or gender, it's undercutting the argument that LGBT folks are "born that way" or can't change. Well, some people have a fixed sexuality, while others are indeed fluid. But in any event, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a disease, so it doesn't need to be "cured," and to force such "treatment" on vulnerable young people puts them in grave danger. Also, if Brown does believe in fluidity, he would certainly think it should flow only toward heterosexuality and cisgender identity. So obviously he's co-opting the concept of fluidity for his own reasons.
In "Yes, Gay Activists Are After Your Children," Brown started by acknowledging that the association of LGBT people with pedophilia is deeply offensive and unfair, but went on to say, "The homosexual movement seeks to grow by the indoctrination of our children, from toddlers to pre-schoolers, and from elementary school to college. LGBT activism thrives on indoctrination." Basically, his message is that teaching acceptance, even tolerance, of LGBT people is evil.
"It's up to us as parents and educators and pastors and leaders and young people and old people to fight fire with fire, to get more involved in our schools, to get our message out, and to indoctrinate kids with the truth," he wrote. "We can teach them to be loving and kind to everyone, especially those who seem different, without teaching them to affirm that which is contrary to God's design and plan."
Well, he's free to believe that, to preach that, and even advocate for that -- but we're free to fight back. And it wasn't so long ago that there were people objecting to racial integration of schools and to the idea that public schools should recognize that their students come from a variety of faith traditions or none at all, and therefore schools shouldn't sponsor prayer. Oh, heck, there are still people voicing those objections.
The message of Brown's third column is essentially that if you have friends or relatives who are in a same-sex relationship or making a gender transition, tell them you love them but that their relationship or identity is morally wrong. Again, sure, it's a free country and can believe that, but if that's what friends of LGBT people do, we sure don't need enemies.
And in case anyone wonders why we should care what people like Brown think and write, the answer is that we should know what we're up against. And groups advocating for LGBT acceptance, like Faith in America, are increasingly pointing out the harm done by faith-based homophobia and transphobia, especially to young people. Certainly, the government can't (and shouldn't) tell churches what to believe or preach -- but activists can (and should) work to change hearts and minds.
Some of the recent transphobia comes from Breitbart, which carried a piece by Neil Munro decrying the training being given to female soldiers on dealing with transgender women in their midst. Munro incorrectly referred to the latter as "transgender men," apparently on the basis that some have not had genital surgery. He denounced the materials handed out to cisgender women calling on them to treat trans women with "dignity and respect," saying the same expectation is not made of trans troops.
"The demand for 'dignity and respect' of transsexuals is shot through the Army documents because the 'transgender ideology' insists that normal Americans -- including American soldiers -- must respect claims by men who insist they are women, regardless of their visible genitalia, civic practices, law, and science," he wrote.
In addition to putting trans people outside the definition of "normal," Munro quoted such anti-trans -- and indeed, anti-LGBT -- activists such as Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council and Austen Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. The information provided by Sprigg included an estimate of the additional health care costs for trans troops that's far greater than any from more reliable sources and the assertion that the decision to lift the ban on trans people in the military was made without input from the armed forces (not true).
Let's face it, transgender people -- women and men -- are accustomed to navigating a hostile world. We don't think cisgender troops have anything to fear from them, and we have confidence they will treat their cis colleagues with plenty of dignity and respect. But readers who absorb articles like Munro's uncritically will undoubtedly see trans troops as a threat and get behind political efforts to stop the enrollment of trans recruits, which was supposed to start July 1 but has been delayed for six months. Trans Americans who were already in the armed forces, serving in the closet before the ban was lifted a year ago, have been able to be open about their identity since then -- and there's been no general uproar from the ranks.
One of the most out-there commentators out there, Alex Jones of Infowars, also delivered a dose of trans-related misinformation recently, calling trans people "mentally ill" and contending that trans women are just gay men who want to attract more male attention.
"It's not that I hate mentally ill people," Jones said on his radio show Monday. "If somebody wants to go be a woman or be a tranny, if it's a gay guy and wants to go pick up more guys, you want to go get breast implants and doll your hair up, knock yourself out. I'm all for freedom."
Jones has had, unsurprisingly, unhinged rants on several other topics lately. Also Monday, he accused George Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund manager and philanthropist who makes grants to many liberal groups, of seeking to start a "race war."
"George Soros and the globalists know there is a rebellion against the corrupt government; they know there is a mass awakening," Jones said. "They want to short-circuit it with a bunch of race-baiting, race-fighting, and everybody killing each other." Jones said he wouldn't "feel good" about killing nonwhite people -- "I'm trying to keep you from aborting your children" -- but is "going to light up whoever I've got to, to defend my family."
You know who really wanted to start a war between the races? Charles Manson.
Credit where it's due: Media Matters pointed out these bits of Jones wisdom, along with his worries about pig-human and gorilla-human hybrids, which he asserts are a real thing. Oh, and his statement that by meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have government ties and incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was just looking for spies.
Several other far-right media types have tried to excuse Trump Jr.'s action, with the likes of Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh calling the meeting a setup to give the appearance that his father's campaign was colluding with Russia. And before Trump Jr. released the emails relating to the meeting, Breitbart's Joel B. Pollak cast doubt on The New York Times' reporting on the subject, noting that the Times had not actually seen the emails. Well, it turns out they existed.
We'll counter the predominant right-wing spin with a summation from a fellow conservative, Townhall political editor Guy Benson. "The emails show the president's son eager to gather negative intelligence from a foreign operative, and arranging a meeting to facilitate that exchange," Benson wrote Tuesday. "Many Americans may be willing to countenance a 'win at all costs' mentality, even while viewing resulting moral compromises as unseemly. What many of them may not be as open to forgiving is being lied to. Leaping from 'absolutely no collusion' to 'okay, fine, there was collusion, but...' is a serious problem. As one Twitter pal puts it, it may not be incriminating, defined narrowly, but it's damning."
There will undoubtedly be more news emerging about the situation in the coming week. And we'll still be monitoring the extreme right's take on it, so you don't have to.