On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) attempted to demonize opposition to transgender activism and Drag Queen Story Hour by connecting it to white nationalism and neo-Nazis. The article appears to focus on white nationalist threats to transgender people, but demonizes “far right” dissent on transgender and drag queen issues.
“White Nationalist Threats Against Transgender People Are Escalating,” the headline screams. The SPLC’s Cassie Miller begins, “Transphobic rhetoric, some of it violent, appears to be increasing among white nationalists and neo-Nazis as the fight for transgender rights gains visibility and public support.”
The article claims to reveal “a Hatewatch review of internet chatter, social media posts and recent news events shows hate groups ramping up their efforts to demonize the transgender community, going as far as calling for the deaths of trans people.” Yet the article only mentions one Telegram user who explicitly called for the death of anyone and a vague reference to an angry Christian group calling for the government to execute gay people — and one post from a virulent white supremacist calling for people to dox parents who bring kids to Drag Queen Story Hour.
These threats are disgusting and most opponents of transgender activism and most opponents of Drag Queen Story Hour would condemn them. But Miller seeks to associate the much more broad dissent with white nationalism and violence.
The SPLC article mentions a Detroit event where a dozen members of the National Socialist Movement shouted “F**k you fa**ots” and ripped apart a rainbow flag, then it refers to a disgusting conference featuring “preachers” claiming that God “hates” lesbian and gay people. (These so-called Christians seem ignorant of the redemption of homosexual sinners mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:11.)
By starting with these references, and peppering in references to white nationalists, the SPLC casts a pall on opposition to transgender activism and Drag Queen Story Hour.
“It’s not just white nationalists who have become more vocally transphobic,” Miller explains. “Many on the far right argue that the transgender rights movement is a sign of out-of-control political correctness, not as a fight for equality.”
Yet the SPLC author undersold her argument. A broad bipartisan coalition of lesbian feminists, pro-life activists, religious freedom advocates, and more have united against the pro-transgender Equality Act. Lesbian feminist Julia Beck — an outspoken Democrat — condemned transgender activism in law as a “human rights violation,” since it would remove protections for biological women.
Miller continues to cast a pall on critics of transgender activism, referencing “members of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web” and mentioning Jordan Peterson, whom she stigmatizes as “popular among the racist ‘alt-right.'” Peterson has repeatedly condemned the “alt-right,” but the SPLC author makes no reference to those condemnations. Instead, she notes his criticism of the legal enforcement of transgender pronouns.
“I’ve studied authoritarianism for a very long time – for 40 years – and they’re started by people’s attempts to control the ideological and linguistic territory,” Peterson told the BBC in 2016. “There’s no way I’m going to use words made up by people who are doing that – not a chance.”
Immediately after quoting Peterson, Miller writes, “Members of the far right and overt white nationalists have both cheered on the Trump administration’s rollback of transgender rights. The administration has effectively banned transgender people from serving in the military, introduced a policy that would allow homeless shelters to turn people away based on their gender identity and reversed an Obama-era rule protecting transgender people from discrimination when seeking health care.”
Each of these policies are far more reasonable than the SPLC author suggests, and her decision to connect them to “overt white nationalists” is quite telling. The military policy prioritizes biology over gender identity. The homeless shelter policy merely allows shelters to restrict their clients to biological women or men. Finally, the Trump rule allows religious health care providers to refuse to perform transgender surgeries in violation of their beliefs on biology — beliefs that are very defensible from a scientific perspective.
Miller quotes Daily Stormer editor Andrew Anglin’s support for Trump’s military policy as proof that only racist far right figures support such a thing, ignoring the fact that liberal Democratic radical feminists like lesbian veteran Miriam Ben-Shalom and Women’s Liberation Front lawyer Kara Dansky have also supported the policy.
Perhaps the worst mischaracterization comes with the discussion of Drag Queen Story Hour, however. As activists have convinced taxpayer-funded libraries to host events in which men dress up as overly sexualized women in order to read to children, concerned mothers have raised multiple objections. At least one Drag Queen Story Hour advocate has described the goal of the program as “grooming the next generation” of kids. He seemed not to understand the terrifying connotation of those words.
In fact, many moms have condemned drag as a form of misogyny, not unlike blackface. As blackface involves a white person “dressing up” as black and adopting an offensive caricature of blackness, so drag involves a man dressing up as a woman and adopting an offensive caricature of femininity, the moms say.
Yet the SPLC author merely mentions Drag Queen Story Hour protesters as an aside. By contrast, she features long quotes from white supremacist Paul Nehlen.
Miller references a June 15 Drag Queen Story Hour event in Spokane, Wash. That event terrified many concerned moms, as it involved a team of snipers on the roof, who intended to protect the drag queen advocates. According to reports, the 400 pro-drag queen protesters were allowed to stand in front of the library, while the 200 protesters had to stand across the street. When a pastor tried to enter the library, police arrested him.
Rather than attempting the impossible and claiming that the peaceful protesters in the sights of the snipers were the true aggressors, this SPLC author reached for Nehlen, a white supremacist who did not even attend the event.
“Events like the story hour have become a big draw for far-right extremists who are increasingly intent upon invoking violent, or harassing, solutions for what they deem ‘degeneracy,'” Miller claims.
Yet the violence comes from the other side of the ledger. Last week, men seemingly affiliated with antifa harassed some concerned moms near Seattle, Wash. The moms were attending a “teen pride” event complete with drag queens and explicit things unfit for the preteens who attended. The moms wanted to protest, but they had heard that antifa was prepared and would respond in force, so they merely went to document the event on video, instead. They were escorted out and threatened by police. Then the men threatened to dox them, following them to their cars and jeering at them. The local antifa group tweeted about the event, calling for protesters to target the moms.
Rather than acknowledge the very real concerns people have about transgender activism and Drag Queen Story Hour, the SPLC author engages in guilt by association to tar critics as in league with white supremacists.
“For far-right extremists, the increased visibility of transgender people is a sign of the growing ‘degeneracy’ of the nation, wrought by ‘cultural Marxists,’ leftists and Jews as part of an assault on white, Christian families and strict gender roles. They believe that trans people, like immigrants and non-whites, are hastening the destruction of an idealized white, Western culture,” Miller writes.
In this inciting paragraph, she lumps legitimate complaints in with racism and anti-Semitism, acting as though there is no difference between a local mom concerned about drag queens or a lesbian military veteran who opposes transgender activism and violent racists.
This guilt by association is par for the course for the SPLC, which is notorious for accusing mainstream conservative and Christian organizations of being “hate groups” and listing them along with the Ku Klux Klan. Former employees have exposed this “hate group” list as a fundraising scam.
Worse, the SPLC recently fired its cofounder amid accusations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
Media outlets and major companies parrot the SPLC as if it were an arbiter of “hate.” Articles like this one prove once again that it is a partisan smear factory. After all, the SPLC has rushed to blame Trump for terrorists who hated Trump.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.