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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Right-wing extremist provocateur threatens to ‘hunt’ LGBT supporters

He has a history of right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients

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Ethan Schmidt (Screenshot/Twitter)

PHOENIX – A twenty-four year old right-wing extremist based in the metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona area, Ethan Schmidt, posted a short video of himself accompanied by Kyle Clifton who describes himself as “authoritarian Christian nationalist,” driving in an undisclosed area announcing that he and Clifton will be “hunting ‘LGBT supporters” and people in area Target retail stores.

The video captured by Twitter account Patriot Takes, which describes itself as a group of dedicated researchers monitoring and exposing right-wing extremism and other threats to democracy, first posted the video clip Saturday.

Schmidt has a history of making right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients.

Sunny’s Hair and Wigs, specialize in making wigs for women who have lost hair while getting treated for cancer and the store had implemented coronavirus pandemic protections including strict mask guidelines to ensure safety of their clients who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Lisa Memberr, the owner of the shop had explained to local media outlets: “My customer base is very diverse,” and she added, “Not only do I have Caucasians, I have Afro-Americans, I have Asians, I have Latin Americans.”

Schmidt, who has ban banned by nearly all social media platforms including Twitter for spreading false and misleading COVID-19 pandemic information had been visiting numerous retail stores in the Phoenix area including Sunny’s Hair and Wigs targeting those businesses that still require customers to wear mask. He invariably creates videos of his encounters which he uploads to right-wing social media and web sites that he hasn’t been banned from.

In addition to his anti-mask campaign he has made videos with extremist conservative lawmakers including one with Arizona U.S. Republican Representative Paul Gosar telling antivaxxers “to stay the course.”

He also filmed a short with Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers who has established herself firmly as an anti-vax, anti-LGBTQ, right wing extremist.

Clifton is a leader of the America First Union, an openly white nationalist, antisemitic, “conservative youth” organization. He also promotes former President Donald Trump’s big lie about the 2020 Presidential election being stolen by Democrats and President Joe Biden. Clifton also participated in the Arizona audit of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County, which state Sen. Rogers, had raised the visibility of her own political profile by insisting that Arizona’s vote was stolen.

Last Fall Schmidt posed with Trump endorsed Republican candidate for Arizona Governor Kari Lake as he burned a LGBTQ+ Pride flag.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Right-wing media exploit monkeypox- retread anti-vax misinformation

These anti-vax talking points are intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – As monkeypox presents an ever-increasing threat to Americans, predominantly gay and bisexual men, conservative media figures are exploiting the global health emergency to stoke fears of the COVID-19 vaccine and related health measures and to attack queer men. 

These anti-vax talking points are often invoked alongside AIDS-era rhetoric intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease and gay and bisexual men as culprits in — rather than victims of — the growing outbreak. This stigmatization has already reportedly resulted in violence against gay men.

During the last week of July, the U.S. reported both the fastest rise in and highest number of monkeypox cases worldwide, leading the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency on August 4. The virus, which is endemic in certain African countries, is usually rare in Europe and the U.S. However, the virus recently found its way to men who have sex with men (MSM), where it has proliferated primarily through sexual contact. The gay community has emphasized the need to warn about the risk the virus poses to MSM while not feeding into anti-gay rhetoric that depicts gay sexuality as immoral. 

Despite this plea from those most affected by the ongoing health crisis, right-wing media quickly responded to the spread of monkeypox with homophobia – recalling the vilification that gay men experienced during the AIDS epidemic. In addition to being impacted by the latest right-wing media smear campaign risking targeted violence against LGBTQ people, queer men are also less likely to seek medical care for monkeypox in countries where their sexuality is stigmatized.

Conservative media figures invoke COVID-19 conspiracy theories and criticism of health measures in coverage of monkeypox

From early on in their coverage of the monkeypox outbreak, right-wing media figures used the story to renew efforts to sow vaccine hesitancy and undermine COVID-19 health measures. Some far-right figures have even spread conspiracy theories that falsely assert the COVID-19 vaccine is directly responsible for the monkeypox outbreak. 

On May 24, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said on her show that “the first person who lines up to get a monkeypox vaccine, I’m going to laugh in your face.” Owens then suggested the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci were involved in the spread of both diseases as part of “attempts at authoritarianism” and “globalism.” This claim coincides with the recent conservative conspiracy theory claiming the U.S. was ceding power to the WHO.

From the May 24, 2022, edition of Daily Wire’s Candace

Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought anti-vax conspiracy theorist Dr. George Fareed onto the August 8 edition of his radio show, where Fareed falsely claimed “the mass vaccination with these gene therapies, COVID vaccines, have the ability to weaken the immune system and make people more vulnerable to viral infection,” suggesting the vaccine could precipitate the spread of monkeypox. 

Far-right blog American Greatness posted an article on August 3 promoting the work of Shmuel Shapira, an Israeli scientist pushing similar claims as Fareed. The article claimed “Twitter censored Shapira” after the platform flagged a tweet of his as misinformation. Shapira’s tweet read, “It is well established the mRNA vaccines affect the natural immune system. A monkey pox outbreak following massive covid vaccination: Is not a coincidence.”

Right-wing media figures have also taken advantage of the recent health crisis to reignite their crusade against public health measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative commentators claim that a double standard exists between government reactions to monkeypox and COVID-19, ignoring differences in how the two diseases spread. 

Podcaster Steven Crowder, amid a longer homophobic rant suggesting gay men were engaging in bestiality, claimed on August 2 that COVID-19 health measures were “politically motivated” and that masking and social distancing “didn’t make any difference whatsoever.” Crowder then contrasted those measures with the fact that Pride events still took place this year despite the spread of monkeypox, saying, “They won’t even cancel their gay San Francisco fuckfest.”

From the August 2, 2022, edition of Louder with Crowder, streamed on YouTube

An article for The Federalist titled “Americans Lost Fundamental Freedoms During Covid — But Halting Gay Orgies To Stop Monkeypox Is Too Far?” bemoaned COVID lockdowns and claimed, “We shut down the world for a virus that had no traceable transmission, it was entirely random. It really isn’t too much to ask for gay men to stop engaging in orgies and public sex events for their ‘mental health,’ their ‘self-esteem,’ and to continue ‘having fun.’”

On Twitter, right-wing personalities expressed a similar sentiment. 

Alt-right troll Mike Cernovich tweeted his criticism of public health advocate Dr. Gregg Gonsalves:

Far-right YouTuber Ian Miles Cheong continued his online anti-gay tirade on monkeypox:

Right-wing radio host Dan O’Donnell similarly tweeted:

Gay men are targeted with violence while right-wing media continues to depict them as threats

After the first cases of monkeypox were found among children in the U.S., LGBTQ advocates reported right-wing figures were using the news to falsely claim that gay men were guilty of abuse. This was a part of a larger attempt by right-wing media to use the monkeypox outbreak to depict LGBTQ people as a threat to society. By attempting to evoke the sort of stigmatizing rhetoric pushed during the AIDS epidemic that frames the MSM community as vectors of disease, right-wing media is feeding a culture of prejudice that has already resulted in violence against gay men. 

The above-mentioned article from The Federalist fearmongered that “as gay men spread the virus within their population at startling rates, the chances of it escaping into the mundane world through close contact in stores, crowded streets, or buses increases,” claiming that gay and bisexual men were spreading the disease through “truly selfish behavior [that] is endangering the rest of us.”

Right-wing talk show host Erick Erickson tweeted, “‘My orgy doesn’t affect you,’ said the man who spread monkeypox to the lady who worked at the gas station. Two weeks of no orgies to stop the spread is just too much to ask.”

On Hannity’s August 8 radio show, guest Dr. Brian Tyson said the virus would “spread to the heterosexual community if we don’t get a handle on the gay community to stop the transmission,” and claimed “the CDC and the NIH, they’re afraid to come out and tell the gay community to stop having intercourse until this pandemic goes away.”

On the August 5 edition of his show, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk characterized the government response to monkeypox as an attempt to avoid offending “the alphabet mafia” of the LGBTQ community, saying, “You can’t go after the gay community for maybe doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” before declaring he would “not live through another lockdown or an erosion of our civil liberties by a corrupt or usurpatious government because we’re afraid to offend people. Don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.”

From the August 5, 2022, edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, streamed on YouTube   

The effects of right-wing media’s misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine put their audience at serious risk. However, these conservative figures are now jeopardizing the health of millions of LGBTQ Americans as well by seeking to stigmatize their sexuality during a public health crisis.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

YouTube’s failure to moderate anti-LGTBQ hate speech

False accusations of LGBTQ people abusing children remain on YouTube, one of the few major platforms refusing to address the problem

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Graphic by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – In a brazen violation of YouTube’s policy against hate speech, right-wing influencer Tim Pool spuriously claimed in a video released last Friday that “the LGBTQ community is now dominated by pedophiles” and levied the same slander against a Daily Dot journalist.

The fact that this video remains up nearly a week later, accumulating more than a quarter of a million views, is emblematic of YouTube’s systemic failure to crack down on even the most egregiously hateful content. 

Last week, following mounting pressure, Twitter told the Daily Dot it would ban targeted use of the term “groomer” to spread unfounded accusations of child abuse against LGBTQ people. Use of the word “groomer” as a way to disparage LGBTQ people is a part of a larger strategy by right-wing figures to co-opt language about child abuse to malign gay and trans people — a tactic that has led to harassment and violent threats against the LGBTQ community. 

In response to the Twitter news, Pool took to his YouTube channel (which has well over 1 million subscribers) on July 22 to disparage Claire Goforth, the Daily Dot journalist who has covered the issue, calling her a pedophile while also admitting he lacked any evidence to support his claims. Pool also falsely claimed that the LGBTQ community had been “taken over” by pedophiles. 

From the July 22, 2022, edition of Timcast, streamed on YouTube

Despite the fact that YouTube’s hate speech policy bans content “promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on protected characteristics, including gender identity and sexual orientation, the video remained up as of publishing.

Meanwhile, YouTube continues to reap financial benefits from Pool’s presence on the platform. Pool, who previously admitted he believes YouTube is more concerned with retaining advertisers than combatting disinformation, recognizes this incentive and is clearly exploiting it.

YouTube’s refusal to crackdown on Pool’s extremism reveals deeper problem with permitting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

Baselessly accusing LGBTQ people of being “groomers” and “pedophiles” has been a consistent problem on numerous social media platforms. However, in response to the recent push for platforms to more closely monitor this smear, TikTok, Reddit, and Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) all took the step of clarifying that such rhetoric violates their hate speech policies. According to Goforth’s article from July 20, the only company that did not respond when asked by the Daily Dot about this rhetoric was Google, which owns YouTube. 

By allowing its rules against hate speech to remain nebulous, YouTube is refusing to take responsibility for a problem that goes well beyond this latest example from Pool. As previously reported by Media Matters, YouTube is rife with false accusations of LGBTQ people grooming children, with a particular focus on drag performers and those discussing LGBTQ topics in school. 

James Lindsay, a far-right author who has been instrumental in perpetuating this false claim, said that his use of the term started in October 2021 with his series titled “Groomer Schools,” which he streams on YouTube. Lindsay belongs to YouTube’s partner program, which allows him to directly financially benefit from his presence and following on the platform. 

Pool is not the only content creator with a large YouTube following who has recently maligned the LGBTQ community with false accusations of wide-spread pedophilia — Daily Wire’s Candace Owens, whose channel has more than 750,000 subscribers, falsely claimed in April that “pedophilia is around the corner” during her discussion of Disney’s commitment to LGBTQ inclusion. This plays into the slippery slope conspiracy theory pushed for years by extremists on 4chan, which falsely claims that the fight for LGBTQ rights will lead to more pedophilia. 

Owens went on to call a teacher who lamented having to hide her marriage due to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law a “mentally unstable adult predator who has access to children, our children,” and ended the segment by saying, “We must not give these freaks and predators so much as one inch.” Owens’ video remained up as of publishing.

From the April 5, 2022, edition of The Daily Wire’s Candace, streamed on YouTube

YouTube fosters extremism by failing to acknowledge prevalent and escalating anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

By not only failing to enforce its current policy on hate speech, but also refusing to even state that its policy covers prevailing hateful rhetoric, YouTube is signaling to increasingly extreme users that its platform will host their hate. 

In previous instances, YouTube has shown that it is perfectly capable of confronting this rhetoric when it decides to do so. After Media Matters revealed last year that YouTube was hosting multiple channels belonging to adherents of QAnon — a conspiracy theory that similarly seeks to wield false accusations of pedophilia for political ends — the platform responded by removing at least 18 of the flagged channels. 

Failing to address the problem of falsely accusing LGBTQ people and their allies of child abuse not only increases the risk of violence against LGBTQ people, it also hinders the efforts of those genuinely seeking to protect children from exploitation.

By letting the dangerous and inflammatory claims of Pool and others go unchecked, YouTube is directly profiting from the sort of rhetoric that is inciting violent acts in real life — a far cry from the “ongoing commitment to the community” it espoused just last month.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

 

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Daily Wire host says: “There is no such thing as same-sex marriage”

Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “If Pete Buttigieg and Chasten can be married, then marriage has no concrete meaning”

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Screenshot/YouTube - The Michael Knowles Show

By Media Matters Staff | WASHINGTON – From the July 25, 2022, edition of The Daily Wire’s The Michael Knowles Show:

Transcript:

MICHAEL KNOWLES (HOST): What I suspect — I don’t know, I don’t talk to Marco Rubio — what I suspect it is is that Marco Rubio doesn’t think that gay marriage is real. I think Marco Rubio believes that marriage — he believes as virtually every single person for all of human history everywhere in the world — that marriage is between a man and a woman and that there is no such thing as same-sex marriage. And that Pete Buttigieg, though he keeps calling his relationship with this guy Chasten a marriage, it’s not really a marriage. He has a long-term relationship. He has gone through a technological and financial process to purchase the eggs of a woman and then to create a child in a test tube with the intention to deprive that child of his natural mother so that he and Chasten can feel more like they’re in a real marriage, a real marriage that has the possibility of generating children. But I suspect what Rubio thinks is that none of that is real. And that, actually, marriage does have a meaning and it has the same meaning it’s always had. And we can’t just radically change that. 

It’s just that Pete Buttigieg isn’t really married. And it’s hard — I know it’s hard to say that in our politically correct culture. But it’s not because two guys can’t be married to each other. Marriage is the union of a man to his wife. A perpetual union of a man to his wife for the sake of the generation and the education of children. That’s what it is. And that’s not possible between two men and two women. Marriage essentially has sexual difference at the heart of it. And so, if we call things that don’t have that marriage, we don’t expand marriage, we just get rid of marriage. If Pete Buttigieg and Chasten can be married, then marriage has no concrete meaning. 

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The preceding post was previously published by media Matters for America and is reposted by permission.

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