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  • Fox News marks Transgender Day of Remembrance by airing two anti-trans segments

    Laura Ingraham and Shannon Bream give platforms to transphobia

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    November 20 marks the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, an observation held in memory of trans people who have lost their lives to anti-trans violence over the past year. It’s a solemn occasion, where trans people and allies hold vigil for those lost and hope for a better future -- a stark contrast to events like Pride.

    But Fox News marked the occasion this year by airing two segments sympathetic to anti-trans causes. Fox host Laura Ingraham interviewed Isabella Chow, a student senator at the University of California, Berkeley, about backlash she received after speaking out against a resolution in support of LGBTQ students. Chow is linked to extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council and has appeared on its leader Tony Perkins’ radio program.

    From the November 20 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Take us through these past few weeks. We first want to establish what happens. This is a student government kind of proclamation stating what exactly?

    ISABELLA CHOW (BERKELEY STUDENT): Yes, so, the main bill that I abstained from opposed Trump’s proposed reform to Title IX and specifically one clause where a person's gender is defined as a person's biological sex. Now the bill that I abstained from, not only did it say, you know, we support freedom from discrimination and harassment for all individuals and especially LGBTQ individuals, but at the end there clauses that asked me to promote and LGBTQ identity and lifestyle and to promote organizations whose primary purpose is to promote the LGBTQ identity and lifestyle. And I said because of my Christian views and because I represent the Christian community on campus, I cannot fully support this bill.

    INGRAHAM: OK, so and for that, being a Christian and being unapologetic, you were labeled some pretty terrible things. The Daily Californian said the following: “Isabella Chow made transphobic and homophobic statements during an ASUC meeting, publicly dismissing the identities of individuals on campus. Chow’s language erased and dehumanized individuals,” et cetera, et cetera. How do you respond to that? Did you dehumanize people because of your faith?

    CHOW: Yes, I’d like to go back to my original statement on the senate floor on October 31. And what I said was, one, I think that discrimination and harassment is never ever OK. But where I cross a line between, you know, where I can protect you as an individual and where I can promote your identity is a very fine line for me to walk, right?. And so my response is, I don't see a conflict between being able to accept, love and validate you as an individual and yet not fully agreeing with how you choose to identify yourself sexually.

    While Chow framed the issue as simply about her decision not to vote on the measure, The Daily Californian’s editorial board wrote:

    She chose to abstain from voting on the resolution — and then went beyond simply removing herself from the conversation. Chow, a former member of the Student Action party, also chose to voice her personal — and highly problematic — interpretation of Christian scripture, stating that any “lifestyle” outside of male and female and heterosexual identities was not “right or safe.”

    The rest of the segment involved Ingraham lamenting the fact that people will call you a “hater” for saying that you disagree with who they are.

    “I think where they are coming from,” Chow told Ingraham, trying to reflect on what her critics think, “is because we can't understand how you can love us and not accept our sexual identity, therefore, we’re going to say your words about love and acceptance are completely worthless. And we are just to take your words about not accepting us and twist that to mean you are a hater and a bigot.”

    It’s odd that the most watched news station in the country devotes time and energy to things like student government, as there’s certainly no shortage of newsworthy stuff happening in the world. It’s moments like these when Fox shows itself for what it really is: a conservative advocacy organization.

    Later that evening, Fox host Shannon Bream interviewed Robert Oppedisano, a Florida gym teacher who claims that he’s being mistreated for opposing his school’s policy to allow a trans boy to use the boys’ locker room, and his lawyer, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver. Liberty Counsel is another extreme anti-LGBTQ group, and Staver regularly traffics in extreme rhetoric such as comparing LGBTQ people to pedophiles and saying that trans youth experience higher rates of suicide because they are defying God.

    From the November 20 edition of Fox News’ Fox News @ Night:

    SHANNON BREAM (HOST): We are talking about Pasco County, FL, and they actually had a school board meeting today where this came up. A lot of people, Robert, showed up on your behalf to speak out. So let’s clarify a little bit about what happened. There is a student who was born biologically female, now identifying as male, wants to use the boys locker rooms and restrooms in the school. What were you told about having to watch or supervise or be involved with this process in the locker room?

    ROBERT OPPEDISANO (PASCO COUNTY PE TEACHER): I was told that this student was going to have full access to the locker room, that it was my job to supervise, and that it was her right to be able to use any part of the locker room, whether it be the locker room, the open showers, or the bathroom.

    ...

    BREAM: The school departments are saying, “We don't know exactly what to do. We are trying to do our best. We have to think of the rights of these trans students.” But others have said, “What about the parents, what about the other students, the boys in this locker room, what about their privacy rights?” What position are you in now with regard to this case?

    OPPEDISANO: I was told that the parents and the students had no rights, just this -- the female student. She was the only one to have rights in there. I had mentioned something that they could get sued, and they said, “We are the largest employer in Pasco county. If we get sued, it's no big deal.”

    BREAM: OK. Mat, I want to give you a chance to respond to something, that is in Pascocounty’s  best practices guide for working with LGBTQ individuals. This one has to do with questions about whether students come to a teacher or someone to say, “I'm uncomfortable, I don't feel safe because a transgender student is in my bathroom or locker room area.” They are told this, quote: “A student's discomfort does not trump a transgender students right to use the school facility that is consistent with their identified gender identity. If it’s a comfort issue, you may offer an alternative facility to the students experiencing discomfort.” So, here they are saying if a student doesn't want the trans individual in their locker room area, they are the ones who need to leave. Is that a solution that works?

    MAT STAVER (CHAIRMAN LIBERTY COUNSEL AND OPPEDISANO’S ATTORNEY): That is not a solution that works and in fact in this particular case, you’d have to have all the boys  go to some other place because this girl undressed in front of these boys and the boys came running out. They were disturbed that a girl was in their locker room undressing. So apparently, only that girl can use the boys facility and now all of these boys that ran out have to go someplace else. That’s not workable. That same guideline that they have also says that you should not, in fact you are not authorized to let the parents know what’s happening with their son or daughter in these situations.

    In recent days, far-right websites like Lifesite News, The Daily Caller, and The Federalist have been pushing this issue hard, citing information almost exclusively from Liberty Counsel’s complaint, which claimed that the teacher was being persecuted for his refusal to monitor the locker room. Their headlines, which include language like “School Punishes Male Teacher For Refusing To Watch A Naked Girl In The Boys’ Locker Room” and “Male Gym Teacher Allegedly Punished by School for Refusing to Watch Girl Shower,” are more than just misleading: They’re lies and outright propaganda.

    As with so many of the too-shocking-to-be-true stories about trans people you’ll find in far-right media, local reporting rebuts the motivated smearing by conservative groups. In Oppedisano’s case, the Tampa Bay Times tells a different story, quoting the district’s superintendent:

    Superintendent Kurt Browning told the board Tuesday that the internet is "burning up" with misinformation.

    "I want the board and the public to be clear. The teacher coach has not been disciplined at all, in any way shape or form," Browning said, noting the Chasco Middle administrators have monitored the locker room for Oppedisano, whom he called an excellent teacher.

    Students "do not undress in the locker room," Browning continued. "There are showers but no one takes showers. … There have not been any issues on this at Chasco Middle."

    He said the district provides services to all students who need them, as do districts throughout the nation. He called upon School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso to explain the legal framework for the district's procedures and rules relating to transgender students.

    These conservative groups fought hard against the Obama administration’s attempt to clarify what Title IX meant when it came to the treatment of transgender students. The Obama guidance would have put an end to many drawn-out lawsuits brought against schools or students. The argument against it has been that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is almost never the right way to dissuade discrimination (ignoring that the country has “one-size-fits-all” rules when it comes to discrimination on the basis of religion, race, disability, and so on).

    A February 2017 piece at The Federalist argued the case for schools to make their own policies when it comes to trans students. And in the letter announcing that the administration had rescinded the Obama-era guidance, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (née Prince) wrote, “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level.” Yet, when states and districts do try to provide solutions to accommodate trans students, groups like Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) swoop in to mount a public pressure campaign and file lawsuits against districts that won’t change their rules to be anti-trans. The heavily funded groups bank on the fact that most school districts won’t want the bad press or have the funds to spend defending their policies. Both the DeVos and Prince families have donated substantial amounts of money to ADF, in particular.

    It’s reasonable to be sick of hearing about bathrooms. I am a transgender person. Believe me when I say that I am sick of hearing about bathrooms and locker rooms. But the reason these stories are still in the news, that this continues to be talked about at all, is because the groups that claimed they wanted these issues to be handled at a local level don’t seem to actually believe the argument themselves.

    But for Fox News to air both of those segments on the one day in a year set aside to mourn people killed by those who believe the negative stereotypes about trans people they hear on networks like this, that’s just shameful.

  • White supremacists directly linked to pro-Trump media figure Jack Posobiec. Here’s what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jack Posobiec, a conspiracy theorist and consummate pro-Trump media figure who often boasts of his access to the White House and other MAGA celebrities, worked as recently as 2017 with white supremacists who advocate for violence. Posobiec has a long record of extremism and ratfucking: He was an outspoken advocate of the “alt-right,” published a book with the help of an “alt-right” figure, and pushed all kinds of smears and misinformation for political gain.

    Posobiec reportedly had links to Jeffrey and Edward Clark, two white supremacist brothers. Jeffrey Clark was arrested by federal authorities in Washington, D.C., for gun charges after relatives contacted authorities about his support for last month’s mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. As reported by HuffPost, Posobiec teamed up with the brothers in 2017 to film documentary footage; a source provided an image of Posobiec alongside the brothers. HuffPost also reported that anti-fascist researcher Laura Sennett said Jeffrey Clark had told her Posobiec both knew of his Nazi beliefs and was sympathetic to them.

    Posobiec is currently a host for One America News Network, a right-wing news outlet that specializes in sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump and conspiracy theories. He previously worked for far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media. Posobiec achieved his standing in the MAGA media universe by embracing the “alt-right”​ and its public figures during the 2016 presidential election and, like many other grifters, eventually rebranding as a member of the “New Right” after the extremism of the “alt-right” made associating with it too toxic.

    Despite his continued efforts to sanitize his role in spreading the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, Posobiec repeatedly broadcast to his social media followers and to Infowars audiences the baseless claim that a D.C. pizza restaurant served as a front for a child trafficking ring, showed up at the pizza parlor himself to “investigate,” and then claimed that the arrest of a gunman who also showed up at the pizzeria was a “false flag.”

    Posobiec’s ratfucking record includes spreading forged documents tied to Russia purporting to be then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s emails; planting a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump protest to smear activists; and doxxing one of the women who reported that she was sexually assaulted as a minor by defeated Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Posobiec was an administrator in a racist Facebook group that promoted Republican candidates and pushed far-right conspiracy theories.

    He has built his brand by promoting attention-grabbing stunts that masquerade as activism, such as disrupting a theater presentation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that he deemed to promote political violence, filing a civil rights lawsuit over all-female screenings of Wonder Woman, and trolling a congressional press conference on net neutrality to demand that Democratic senators disavow “satanic” internet pornography. He also gleefully participated in an online harassment campaign that resulted in CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski receiving death threats.

    Posobiec has ridden every controversy and subsequent media coverage to increase his visibility and online followers. He’s used that branding for political access and promotion of his personal business endeavors, which include his self-congratulatory book about the movement that took Trump to victory, and his most recent book, published with the help of with “alt-right” figure Theodore Beale, who writes under the pseudonym Vox Day. Posobiec promoted this book by linking to Vox Day’s website, a depository of white supremacist grievances.

    Posobiec’s clout in the MAGA social universe has risen high enough to earn him a retweet from Trump himself (when Posobiec wrote an accusatory tweet aimed at the media for focusing too much on the 2017 white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA) and allow him access to the White House. He used temporary White House press credentials in May 2017 to push the debunked conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered for leaking DNC emails.

    In his role as OANN correspondent, Posobiec regularly showcases his access to pro-Trump celebrities (including Donald Trump Jr.) and his presence at White House and Trump Hotel social functions. Meanwhile, he’s used his OANN platform to hype smears from the defendant in the Seth Rich lawsuit, as well amplify the wild conspiracy theory known as QAnon, giving virulent far-right troll Microchip a platform and taking his word at face value that he is the anonymous poster known as Q. Microchip is an anonymous and prolific user of Gab -- the social media site known for being “haven for white supremacists” -- where he constantly posts white supremacist grievances and anti-Semitic and racial slurs and invites followers to “fuck shit up” legally by pushing and spreading the misinformation campaign QAnon.

    It is clear that Posobiec’s history of extremism, peddling of conspiracy theories, and ties to white supremacists are not a problem for the network that employs him, nor for the pro-Trump universe that has enabled his professional career. In that universe, misinformation and extremism are not deal breakers. They’re assets.

  • After Florida misogynistic killings, online incels call shooter “legend” and complain he “only killed two”

    Incels praise Tallahassee shooter by downloading his online footprint of misogyny and claim “there’s no stopping” hate-inspired rampages

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Scott Beierle, a man with an online footprint of far-right misogyny and a police record of groping women, opened fire at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, FL, on November 2, killing two women before shooting himself. As reported by Buzzfeed, in his online videos, Beierle had openly praised Elliot Rodger, who went on a misogyny-fueled killing rampage in 2014 and has become a hero for the women-hating “incel” (involuntary celibate) community online. This is the fourth incident of violence connected to far-right extremism in the U.S. in just the past two weeks.

    In reaction to the shooting and reports of Beierle’s record of misogyny, members of the anonymous online forum incels.is -- a new domain established after the forum reportedly got suspended for violating its past registrar’s anti-abuse policies -- shared and gleefully consumed the content of Beierle’s YouTube videos; and at least one person claimed he downloaded Beierle’s video presumably as a contingency in case social media platforms took it down. The same poster claimed to have found the shooter’s website and promised to post it to the forum.

    Another poster claimed that comments on the shooter’s YouTube videos that denounced his misogyny are the sort of thing that radicalize white men.

    In their comments about the shooter's rants in which he condemned white women who date Black men, some posters underscored the intersection between misogyny and white supremacy: One claimed that Beierle’s “views on race mixing are not wrong,” and another questioned how many white incels would follow the shooter’s example in response to interracial couples. As shown in the screenshot, one poster is already using a picture of Beierle as the profile's avatar.

    A member of the forum characterized the shooter as a “legend,” while another complained that he "only killed 2" women:

    Another thread warned readers that nothing will stop sexually frustrated men from going on rampages. The thread featured “an open letter to cucks” (the far-right’s go-to insult against those perceived as weak for embracing political correctness) supposedly explaining “why you can’t do shit about people going ER,” using incel shorthand for Elliot Rodger.

    The poster warned “cucks” and “foids” (a dehumanizing term incels apply to women) that they will “NEVER, EVER, EVER” stop men who are frustrated sexually from seeing “blackpill content online” and getting inspired to go on killing rampages. “Blackpill content” refers to messaging telling men who consider themselves involuntary celibate that the world is stacked against them and there “can be no personal solutions to systemic problems.”

    Replies to the open letter looked like battle cries: “We’ll get down every one of you,” one user wrote; another, who bragged about having an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, posted, “Come and take me”:

    Other posters called on other incels to build "muscular physiques" that make them strong enough to "hurt others":

    A member of the forum speculated about whether an account that had posted “going ER” on November 2 in a similar forum for incels, Truecels.org, belonged to the shooter. Truecels includes a board called “hall of heroes” that honors -- among others -- Rodger, terrorist Timothy McVeigh, and Yamaguchi Otoya, a far-right assassin who killed the leader of the Japanese socialist party in 1960. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes recently honored Yamaguchi Otoya by re-enacting the violent murder at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City.

    Accounts in these forums are anonymous, so anyone with an account can participate on different message threads. Members can also participate on Discord and Telegram chats after some vetting from the community. In the Truecels forum, posters also questioned whether the shooter had an account, expressing concern that screenshots of his profile could inspire a feminist “to stage a crisis to make it look like incels are violent … right before an election:”

    In just the past two weeks, four far-right extremists have gone on violent, hate-fueled attacks around the U.S. On October 24, 51-year-old Gregory Bush attempted to enter a predominantly Black church in Jeffersontown, KY, before heading to a Kroger grocery store where he shot two Black people, the first in the store and the second in the parking lot. Two days later, a man with a long record of posting right-wing content and threats online mailed explosive devices to prominent Democratic figures and the cable news network CNN. On October 27, a man who posted virulently anti-Semitic messages on the website Gab, known as a “haven for white nationalists,” went on a murderous rampage in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

    Given the violent posts about women, racial and ethnic minorities, and religious groups that can be easily found in online forums, and the common thread of far-right content posting among attackers, it’s not far-fetched to think that the next far-right violent attack might be brewing online. On mainstream social media platforms like Twitter, extremism is not particularly difficult to find: The incels forum links to its an official Twitter account, and accounts that post anti-Semitic and white supremacist content fly under the radar undisturbed. And yet, right-wing media figures refuse to either connect the dots between far-right rhetoric and the extremism it inspires or take responsibility for mainstreaming and empowering extremists.

  • “Guns Down at the Polls” to provide resource to report firearm-related intimidation at polling sites on Election Day

    Voters can text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990 to report instances of voter intimidation

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A group called Guns Down America is providing a voter resource that will allow people to report voter intimidation, including intimidation carried out with firearms, occurring at polling sites on Election Day.

    The project comes after a wave of attempted bombings of prominent liberals, including former President Barack Obama, and a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the weeks before the 2018 midterm elections. The project’s partners include Media Matters, the Center for American Progress, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, among others. It was first launched in 2016 following reports that several far-right and white supremacist groups were encouraging their followers to bring guns to polling locations.

    Voters who observe intimidation at polling sites are encouraged to text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990. The reports will then be forwarded to the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, which can take further action.

    As the project’s website explains, “It’s critical that we make sure all voters can access the polling places without the threat of intimidation. Voter intimidation is any concerted effort to coerce the voting behavior of a group of voters and it’s a federal crime. Intimidating someone with a firearm at a polling place is a federal crime.”

    Although it may come as a surprise, there is no federal law prohibiting the presence of firearms at polling sites. Instead, regulation is left to the states, and many do allow guns to be carried.

    There has already been a firearm-related intimidation incident at a polling site in Georgia this election season. WBTV reported that a man was arrested in Charlotte after he threatened a GOP campaign worker at an early voting location:

    Officials say when officers arrived on the scene, a black man said he was working at the voting location when he saw the armed man in the parking lot with a camera taking pictures or recording the polling location.

    Police say the armed man approached the campaign worker - a retired detective - and began hurling racial slurs, according to a report from CMPD.

    The report stated the campaign worker said the armed man threatened to assault him before lifting his shirt and displaying a handgun which was in a holster on his belt.

    Police reportedly found a BB gun when the suspect was arrested. An image taken during the incident shows that the assailant was wearing a “Punisher” T-shirt, referring to a comic book series that has been co-opted by the alt right:

    Disturbingly, National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch recently suggested that NRA supporters may need to bring guns to polling locations in order to fend off attacks from “anti-gun progressives.” During the October 23 broadcast of her NRATV show Relentless, Loesch attacked the Guns Down at the Polls project and falsely claimed that its goal is “intimidating law-abiding gun owners legally carrying their firearms by potentially sending the police after people who are doing nothing more than exercising their constitutionally protected rights.” Loesch then called the project “a moderate, soft form of swatting,” a reference to an intimidation tactic involving false 911 calls.

    Loesch went on to say, “If God forbid some unhinged maniac with an illegally possessed firearm were to show up at a polling location, something tells me a lot of people would be grateful that one of those law-abiding gun owners was there.”

    Leading up to the election, a major conservative messaging effort has argued -- without evidence -- that mobs of Democrats are planning to kill conservatives. The NRA has also been involved in this effort, with its media operation NRATV misrepresenting peaceful protests against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as violent.

    Permissive laws that allow firearms -- often including assault weapons -- to be openly carried in public have emboldened the far right to bring firearms to events where people are exercising their First Amendment rights. There were multiple instances of counterprotesters bringing firearms to the nationwide March for Our Lives gun safety rallies early in 2018. After a May school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, an armed man showed up outside the school to protest gun rights. And in October, the Portland Police Bureau acknowledged that, as The Portland Mercury reported, “Members of Patriot Prayer, a group of right-wing provocateurs from Vancouver, brought a cache of loaded firearms to the top of a parking garage in downtown Portland prior to the group's August 4th protest.”

    Guns Down at the Polls aims to counter people who think they can intimidate others and stop them from exercising their voting rights.