Welcome back to Media Matters' weekly email. As a senior researcher with Media Matters, I monitor and analyze right-wing content across a wide variety of platforms, trying to understand what makes the ecosystem tick. Each Friday I'll go through all the main narratives, craziest clips, and dumbest moments from conservative media over the past week. If you want this delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.
Right-wing media figures are ramping up their apocalyptic political rhetoric that demonizes LGBTQ people, perceived political enemies, and progressive causes. This is not merely rhetorical hyperbole. Some right-wing media pundits are literally claiming that their enemies are actually demons.
Here are some examples of right-wing pundits using this kind of language:
- Salem media host Charlie Kirk said that “we’re in the midst of the most consequential spiritual war” in millennia because “there is no other way to explain the campaign of arson and destruction against our country other than diabolical, spiritually dark influences that are fighting for dominion over this nation.”
- Conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones warned that the European Council for Nuclear Research had used the Large Hadron Collider for “satanic rituals” which he claimed “definitely has opened up a gate” to hell and let demons into the Earth “like paratroopers.”
- Daily Wire host Candace Owens called trans people “demons in our society.”
- BlazeTV host Steve Deace said people who advertise drag story hours are “literally inhabited by a demon.”
- Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed that viewers should be afraid of “demonic teachers” interested in “turning their classroom into a drag show.”
The kind of conservative rhetoric that frames political issues as a spiritual war stems largely from a right-wing Christian movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation. This is occurring in the context of an ascendant Christian nationalism movement in the country and a greater conservative movement that is increasingly wedded to theocratic tyranny.
As Media Matters’ Payton Armstrong and Noah Dowe warn, “Fiery rhetoric of a spiritual war coupled with demonization of opponents has created an atmosphere in which violence appears permissible and justifiable to followers.” We witnessed the real-world consequences of this on January 6, 2021. With this kind of rhetoric only escalating, the stage is being set for a potentially dangerous political atmosphere ahead of the 2024 election.
The extremist group, Moms for Liberty, recently held its conference in Philadelphia. The group has a sordid history of pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation, threatening and harassing teachers, and quoting Adolf Hitler at least two times. During the conference, the group’s notorious reputation for rabid conspiracy theorizing and radical rhetoric was on full display.
Speakers at the conference warned of teachers unions seeking to “undermine our republic” and “trying to get rid of our Constitution.” Speakers warned that “Marxists or globalists” running public schools are trying to “replace parents.” Some warned of impending microchips being embedded in children. And many also warned of “dark money in education,” which is ironic considering the amount of dark money likely funding the Moms for Liberty conference itself.
Over 700 people attended the Philadelphia conference. Major speakers to the event included former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Salem radio host Dennis Prager. The major figures spoke at general sessions while less prominent figures spoke at break-away sessions.
Media Matters’ Olivia Little attended the Philadelphia conference, focusing mainly on the break-away sessions. Olivia’s been covering Moms for Liberty for over two years and has been at the forefront of exposing the group’s dangerous influence on American politics. I asked for her take on the event:
“Moms for Liberty’s summit confirmed one major thing about the group for me — it would not exist if not for its ability to craft imaginary existential threats. Without terror and fear, they’ve got nothing. It’s how Moms for Liberty recruits, maintains, and mobilizes members. The summit proved that the group’s leadership doesn’t actually care about parental rights, they care about terrifying parents and using that terror to gut public schools.”
This week in stupid
This week in scary
- Fox News host Rachel Campos-Duffy said she doesn’t trust any vaccines.
- Newsmax hosts agreed that transgender Americans are one of the biggest threats to the country.
- Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said people who move from Democratic run states to Republican run states “shouldn't be allowed to vote.”
- Fox News hosts call for retail businesses to arm their employees to stop shoplifters.
- Fox Business correspondent said the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action will lead to fewer “transgender males like in beer commercials.”
- Salem’s Eric Metaxas defended Moms for Liberty quoting Adolf Hitler.
- In an unhinged rant, BlazeTV host Steve Deace described the LGBTQ community as “undesirables” and LGBTQ rights as “state-sanctioned debauchery.”
In case you missed it
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham recently switched from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. She's long been a purveyor of white nationalism, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and conspiracy theories. We've compiled a non-comprehensive list of her worst moments which you can read here.
- Fox News host Jeanine Pirro recently appeared on a podcast hosted by Michael Scheuer, a virulent antisemite who has called for the assassinations of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Obamas, and “most” of the media. During the interview, Scheuer told Pirro that prior elections were “rigged” and he thanked God that “the Second Amendment remains in the Constitution because I don't know how else to take care of these vermin.”
- BlazeTV’s Steve Deace said Donald Trump is in “serious jeopardy” legally.
- After the DeSantis campaign released a widely derided anti-LGBTQ ad, including from right-wing personalities, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles attacked the “squishes on the right” who criticized the ad.
- Charlie Kirk said affirmative action does not address the “real problem” of “Black crime” and Black fathers abandoning their children.
- After cocaine was discovered at the White House by Secret Service on July 2, right-wing media and Fox News have been blaming Hunter Biden.
- Right-wing media outlets and pundits responded to Monday’s mass shooting in Philadelphia by claiming, with little evidence, that the alleged shooter was transgender. This is part of conservative media’s dangerous and false claim that there is an epidemic of trans people committing acts of mass violence. Interestingly, these same pundits failed to mention that the suspect had previously praised former President Donald Trump.
- Jesse Watters, who was recently crowned Fox News’ 8 p.m. host, has been spreading a baseless conspiracy theory that President Joe Biden was groomed and blackmailed by the FBI as part of a long-running intelligence operation.
- Major TV networks have almost entirely failed to report on the links between climate change and extreme weather while covering the record-breaking and deadly heat wave across the American southwest.
- After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Fox News host Jesse Watters played a pivotal role in denying the existence of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who traveled to Indiana to receive an abortion due to Ohio’s draconian anti-abortion laws. The rapist has now been sentenced to life in prison.
- Ads from major companies that claim to support LGBTQ rights are appearing on Rumble videos that spread extreme anti-LGBGTQ rhetoric.
- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his organization Children’s Health Defense are fans and promoters of a Sandy Hook and 9/11 conspiracy theorist who claimed that “Hitler was a Rothschild” and “Hitler and the Nazis were one hundred percent completely and utterly set up.”
- Right-wing media are using the end of affirmative action to push for school privatization and school choice, a set of policies that would undermine the public education system.
- Alex Jones was permanently suspended from Twitter five years ago. Despite that, his content remains widely available on the platform under Elon Musk’s management.
- The Independent Council on Women’s Sports, an anti-trans sports group, is now identifying high schoolers for its supporters to stalk and harass.