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The fascist circus comes to CPAC Texas

Republican politicians joined Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for speeches laced with antisemitism and overt Christian nationalism

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Steven Monacelli | DALLAS – Hundreds of die-hard right-wing activists descended on the Hilton Anatole in Dallas for the Conservative Political Action Conference this week. It’s the third CPAC event this year alone, following prior events in Orlando, Florida and Budapest, Hungary. It’s also the third CPAC event in a row which featured explicitly Christian nationalist and fascistic speakers.

Before the speeches kicked off on Thursday, Christian musician Natasha Owens—who wore an American flag dress branded with the logo of a Christian mobile phone company—gave a brief concert. 

“You know, President Trump coined the term ‘America First,’” she said. When she attempted to launch into the eponymously named song, the wrong music began playing instead. Incidentally, the term America First was initially popularized by pro-Nazi groups in the United States and was also used by the Ku Klux Klan. 

Though only two of the speakers on Thursday were Texas politicians, the introductory session—”Texas: The Start of the Big Red Wave”—placed the state at the center of the American conservative movement.

“There are two big red engines to our politics and economy,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of CPAC. “As many of you know we had CPAC Florida, and it’s right to be here in Texas.”

“IF YOU WANT TO PITCH IN AND HELP OUT, YOU CAN BUY YOUR OWN BORDER BUS.”—GREG ABBOTT

Governor Greg Abbott was the first guest brought to the stage, where he spoke in front of a more than half-empty room about the border, Elon Musk, California liberals, critical race theory, the ongoing program to bus undocumented immigrants to Washington, D.C., and why he thinks Republicans will win big with Hispanics and Latinos in Texas. 

“If you want to pitch in and help out, you can buy your own border bus,” Abbott said to the crowd. “You can help fund sending all these folks to Washington, D.C. and make them deal with the problem.”

Out of all of Abbott’s statements, this one seemed to garner the most excitement from the crowd.

A major theme among speakers at the conference—aside from the officially stated one, “Fire Pelosi: Save America”—was Christian identity and nationalism. In addition to leading the crowd in prayer, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick took a page right out of the John Birch Society playbook by proclaiming that the Constitution was literally written by God.

 

“We’re a nation founded upon not the words of our founders, but the words of God because he wrote the Constitution,” Patrick said to the crowd. “We were a Christian state and lost that for many years.”

So much for James Madison. But if Patrick is correct, one has to grapple with the difficult questions of whether God also wrote the Articles of Confederation or perhaps signed off on the deeply racist Three-Fifths Compromise, as well as how this all squares with the notion that God doesn’t make mistakes.

“WE’RE A NATION FOUNDED UPON NOT THE WORDS OF OUR FOUNDERS, BUT THE WORDS OF GOD BECAUSE HE WROTE THE CONSTITUTION.”—DAN PATRICK

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—who recently gave a speech criticizing “race mixing” which caused a long-time advisor to resign and describe it as a “pure Nazi diatribe”—spoke severely about the ostensible Judeo-Christian roots of his nation and urged Christian nationalists across the world to unite together in a struggle against the so-called “woke globalists.” 

Orbán’s language dovetailed with the John Birch Society-tinged talking points around “globalists” and Christian government that have become so common in contemporary politics, and the crowd was so excited by what he had to say that Orbán had to pause for uproarious applause on several occasions. One young man from Oklahoma told me that Orbán was the only speaker he was excited to see, and an elderly couple said they particularly enjoyed Orbán’s speech.

“Globalists go to hell, I have come to Texas,” Orbán bellowed as he concluded his speech.

But not everyone was thrilled with the Hungarian’s presence in Dallas. In the atrium of the hotel, two groups of protesters expressed their displeasure. One group covertly hung a banner and dropped flyers condemning the conference before dashing away. Another group, which included a legendary civil rights activist who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Peter Johnson, held banners specifically condemning Orbán’s presence before being escorted out by Dallas Police.

“Dr. King told me that as long as I’m alive, I ought to stand up against bigotry, antisemitism, and racism,” Johnson told the Texas Observer. “So I’m standing up.”

Johnson was joined by Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk, a socialite from Dallas, who also spoke out against Orbán. “It’s very important for people to know that Orbán stands for Holocaust denial, antisemitism, racial purity, and is against interracial marriage,” Thompson-Frenk said. “I don’t think a lot of Republican people actually agree with that, but they need to speak out and let their leaders know they don’t endorse that.”

Former Republican Congressman Alan Steelman issued a statement in response to Orbán’s presence as well. “Is this what the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush has come to?” Steelman wrote. “Orbán’s record and spoken word during his 12 years in office are clearly those of a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and anti-immigrant leader.”

A sense of subtle antisemitism pervaded a number of comments made by speakers, Orbán included. Orbán claimed that all the worst things in history were orchestrated by people who hate Christianity and juxtaposed these comments by describing George Soros—a Hungarian-Jewish investor and philanthropist who is a common boogeyman among the far right—as his “opponent.”

“Papa John” Schnatter told the crowd there are “five evil entities” that own the processed food and pharmaceuticals industries (suggesting the former make you sick so you take the latter) as well as media and academia. But he was not talking about the recently released conspiracy-theory themed Mike Myers show, The Pentaverate. He claimed this all somehow ties back to the Frankfurt School, a group of primarily Jewish left-wing intellectuals and academics founded during the Weimar Republic in the lead-up to Nazi Germany that has become the villain of the far-right “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory, which itself is a rehashing of the Nazi propaganda term “Cultural Bolshevism.”

RAMBO-TRUMP CUTOUTS, BEDAZZLED PURSES IN THE SHAPE OF .45 PISTOLS, AND EVEN A MOCK JAIL CELL COULD BE SEEN ON THE EXHIBITION FLOOR.

Friday and Saturday will feature other guests and speakers that have their own histories of antisemitism, including Jack Posobiec, a fascistic media figure who the Southern Poverty Law Center reports has “collaborated with white nationalists, antigovernment extremists, members of the Proud Boys, and neo-Nazis in his capacity as an operative.”

The speakers are only one part of the CPAC experience. Rambo-Trump cutouts, bedazzled purses in the shape of .45 pistols, and even a mock jail cell could be seen on the exhibition floor. Nearby, our federally indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton—who recently teamed up with other Republican attorneys general to sue the federal government for the right to take lunch money from LGBTQ+ kids—mingled with an AM radio host. Toward the end of the day, Posobiec spoke in front of the Patriot Mobile booth with Leigh Wambsganss, a woman who has played a major role in the PACs that have helped elect far right school board candidates across Texas.

This is all to say that the mask of this movement has slipped, if not fallen off completely. It has revealed its illiberal, anti-democratic, deeply prejudicial tendencies, even if it comes across as completely absurd. The entire scene, a veritable circus of far-right fascistic kitsch, brings to mind what legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote about Las Vegas: “The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich.” 

An exaggeration, certainly, but an apt one. But don’t just take it from me. Norm Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, described the event as the “Neo-Nazi movement in America.”

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Steven Monacelli is an investigative journalist in Dallas. His reporting has been featured in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, The Real News, Dallas Observer, Dallas Weekly, and more. He is also the publisher of Protean Magazine, a nonprofit literary publication. Follow him on Twitter @stevanzetti.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Observer a nonprofit investigative news outlet and is republished by permission.

The Texas Observer believes that journalism is crucial to holding the powerful accountable and essential in the development of a world that protects the lives, and rights, of all human beings. It’s with this spirit that they hope to partner, collaborate and share resources with news outlets also working in the public’s interest.

Sign up for the Texas Observer’s weekly newsletter, or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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California Politics

Race to the Midterms: Christy Smith & Tony Hoang

Karen Ocamb & Max Huskins along with the Los Angeles Blade present a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms”

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Screenshot/YouTube

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The unimaginable is happening. Two years ago, Marc Elias, founder of the voting rights and elections-watcher Democracy Docket, warned that “we are one or two elections from losing our democracy.”

Complete and comprehensive voting rights legislation was needed to prevent that. Nothing happened and now several states are running slates of Trump cultist election deniers and MAGA Republican are “flooding the system” with anti-voting lawsuits. “It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better,” Elias told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace on Friday.

“The real threat to America’s electoral system is not posed by ineligible voters trying to cast ballots. It is coming from inside the system,” the New York Times Editorial Board wrote Friday, Sept. 23

“All those who value democracy have a role to play in strengthening and supporting the electoral system that powers it, whatever their party. This involves, first, taking the threat posed by election deniers seriously and talking to friends and neighbors about it. It means paying attention to local elections — not just national ones — and supporting candidates who reject conspiracy theories and unfounded claims of fraud. It means getting involved in elections as canvassers or poll watchers or precinct officers….And it means voting, in every race on the ballot and in every election.”

A warranted panic is slowly moving through minority communities across the country — but there is still little concerted national outreach to LGBTQ voters who have our very lives, rights and future at stake in the upcoming Nov. 8 midterm elections. Not that LGBTQ organizations and candidates don’t want to reach out – it’s just incredibly hard to break through all the news noise.

That’s why we — Karen Ocamb and (ally) Max Huskins — have teamed up with the Los Angeles Blade to produce a limited YouTube series “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.” Our intention is to bring visibility to candidates and organization leaders and encourage LGBTQ people to get engaged, donate, do whatever they can to ensure a huge turnout for both local and statewide candidates and ballot measures, as well as electing candidates who will keep the US House of Representatives and the US Senate in Democratic hands. 

If MAGA Republicans win, Trump wins and we can kiss our democracy and our freedom goodbye. Think this is an exaggeration? No one really thought the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade and put politicians in charge of women’s bodies – but they did. The unthinkable is happening. 

Meet Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. During the height of the AIDS crisis, the disease was perceived to be isolated to the gay community and gay meant “white.” The result was that many people of color avoided seeking prevention and help. Today, California is a minority-majority state and EQCA has a rainbow staff that reflects that. “We really want to make sure that we reflect the diverse communities that we serve, whether that’s around gender, gender identity, race and ethnicity,” Tony says during the Zoom interview. 

Equality California Votes, their new 501.C4 political action committee, just posted their first ad for out gay candidate Will Rollins (see our interview with Will in Episode 1). “Obviously, this is one of the most consequential election cycles in our lifetimes. And if we want to protect the pro-equality majority that we have in the House, that road runs through California. And so, CA-41, the district where Will Rollins is in, is one of the most important congressional flip opportunities in California. His opponent, Congressman Ken Calvert, for 30 years has voted against things like lowering prescription drug costs for seniors, against abortion rights and reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality.” 

It would be a “sweet irony” for LGBTQ voters to turn this red seat blue. 

Tony also talks about working with Planned Parenthood to explain why abortion rights is an LGBTQ issue and the importance of voting for Proposition One on the California ballot.

Tony is our first interview in tomorrow’s show. 

Full disclosure: since I am no longer a journalist, I get to express my own opinions and make endorsements. My first endorsement was for former EQCA executive director Rick Chavez Zbur, who I’ve known forever and who’s now running for the state Assembly. My second-ever endorsement was for Christy Smith

Meet Christy Smith, candidate for the CA-27. Christy ran for Katie Hill’s seat after she resigned. That race against Mike Garcia was so nail-bitingly close, she ran again. That race was also heartbreakingly close. But Garcia has gone from a dullard Republican to a major Trump fanboy, hanging around with cultists like Marjorie Taylor Green. He was among the MAGA Republicans who signed the amicus brief to the US Supreme Court asking them specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“Subsequent to that,” Christy says in our interview, “he’s one of the people who coauthored ‘The Life Begins at Conception Act, which — don’t let them fool you — is their roadmap for a national abortion ban. So, while my opponent now tries to hide in safe spaces and say, ‘Well, abortion is safe in California — why are you so upset?’ Really? They have clearly signaled — and Lindsey Graham the other day just doubled down on the fact that they plan to pursue a national abortion ban. 

“But even aside from that,” she continues, “we should never live in the kind of dystopian country where any person’s rights vary from state to state. And you and I both know — we saw that for a very long time with gay marriage rights in this country, right? Where depending on where you live determines whether or not you can marry the person they love.”

Flipping this seat is a necessity. 

But one of the aspects about Christy Smith that folks may not know is that she’s a policy nerd – and a policy nerd who likes to get things done. 

Here’s a quick clip of Christ talking about how climate change is a paramount national security issue. Please check back here Sunday for our full Episode 2 show of “The Time is Now: Race to the Midterms.”

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Politics

Pennsylvania Republicans advocating broader ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

“The intent of these bills seems to be to wipe out any discussion and pretend that [LGBTQ people] don’t exist”

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Pennsylvania State Capitol building (Photo by Michael Key, The Washington Blade)

HARRISBURG – A conservative self described ‘Christian Mom’ Republican lawmaker along with other members of her party championed a anti-LGBTQ ‘parental rights bill’ Tuesday during a rally at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Centre/Clinton) along with Republican Cumberland County Rep. Barbara Gleim as co-sponsor introduced House Bill 2813, Bororwicz telling rally attendees that the measure is set to guarantee parental oversight and control over the availability of school materials that she portrayed as increasingly obscene.

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Centre/Clinton)
(Screenshot via Office of Rep. Borowicz)

“Many of the mothers joining us today in the state Capitol Rotunda have discovered sexually explicit content and pornographic images in children’s books in school libraries,” Borowicz said. “Passage of my (bill) will fundamentally guarantee that our children can remain children by allowing parents to vigilantly protect their innocence for as long as possible.”

“This is a bill to protect our children from gender ideology and sexual orientation being taught in our schools,” Borowicz added. 

Critics of the measure labeled it another Republican “don’t say gay” law effort, arguing the language goes even farther than the controversial Florida legislation which inspired it.

“It is patterned after the Florida bill, but mine goes further,” Borowicz acknowledged.

Pennsylvania Patriot News reported that the key part of the bill states that any public or charter school “may not offer instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to a student in kindergarten through fifth grade.”

Florida’s bill, which became law earlier this year, contains nearly identical language, but applies it only through third grade. Borowicz made it clear Tuesday that her desire would be to extend the prohibition all the way through high school, even though the current text of her bill goes only through grade five.

“It really needs to be protected up through 12th grade, we need to go all the way,” she told reporters, voicing support for the similar Senate Bill 1278, which would allow schools to be sued for material that is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” at any grade level.

“This will really add to the existing targeting and bullying of LGBTQ kids in schools,” said Sharon Ward, senior policy advisor for the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania. “The intent of these bills seems to be to wipe out any discussion and pretend that [LGBTQ people] don’t exist.”

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a Harvard Law school researcher who authored an independent United Nations Human Rights Council study titled; ” “Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” in his research noted “The adoption of comprehensive sexuality education inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity can significantly reduce physical and psychological health risks for LGBT and gender-diverse youth.”

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Far-right influencers are creating new barriers to trans health care

Right-wing media’s campaign against children’s hospitals is making it harder for trans people to access lifesaving medical care

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – Just days after the FBI arrested a suspect in the bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital, Libs of Tik Tok and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh resumed their campaign against children’s hospitals that provide lifesaving care to trans people, directing followers’ attention this time to Akron Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Right-wing media have established a playbook for inundating hospitals with harassment and forcing them to delete information intended for trans patients from their websites — thus creating yet another barrier for trans people seeking medical care. 

Libs of TikTok first targeted Boston Children’s Hospital on August 11, sharing a video about gender-affirming hysterectomies with an incendiary caption claiming that the procedure was available to “young girls.” The hospital was forced to quickly delete the video, but the narrative had been set in right-wing media, and criticism of the hospital intensified.

On August 15, Walsh made the false and incendiary claim that children’s hospitals across the country were “butchering, mutilating, and sterilizing their young patients.” These attacks were followed by violent threats including threats to “execute” doctors and at least one bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital.

Members of the right-wing media initially dismissed the threats, with Infowars’ Owen Shroyer calling it a “false flag,” Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok, asserting it was “probably a left-wing person trying to get me suspended,” and Walsh suggesting that it could be a left-wing hoax. It apparently was not. On September 15, the FBI announced the arrest of a suspect who allegedly called hospital operators from her personal cell phone, calling them “sickos,” saying that a bomb was on the way, and demanding that everyone evacuate.

By September 18, Libs of TikTok had returned to the campaign against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care, posting a tweet disclosing that Akron Children’s provides puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones before misleadingly noting that the hospital treats patients as young as 7.

On September 20, Walsh made similar claims about Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, saying it makes “lots of ‘services’ available to children, including chemical castration.”

Misinformation about treatments is rife on social media and in the right wing media, but 7-year-olds do not receive cross-sex hormones and are given puberty blockers only if another underlying disorder is causing precocious puberty. Cross-sex hormones are safe, studied, and effective treatments for gender dysphoria that dramatically reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in trans people.

Information about where to seek out medical care is vital for trans people. Nearly half of all trans people report experiencing mistreatment from medical providers, including verbal or physical abuse. According to a 2016 study, the biggest obstacle to obtaining safe and effective health care for trans people is a lack of knowledge by medical providers. 

The removal of public information intended for patients in the face of a vicious hate campaign creates a new barrier. In addition to Boston Children’s and Akron Children’sChildren’s National in Washington, D.C., and Vanderbilt Children’s in Nashville, Tennessee, have recently been forced to remove information for trans patients. Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago canceled in-person meetings of a support group for trans youth because of security risks.

Without resistance, the barriers to effective care for trans people could grow further. According to freelance journalist Sydney Bauer, multiple medical providers have said that their worry is that these tactics will lead hospitals to drop gender-affirming care, shifting coverage to private clinics with less resources that could then be endlessly picketed and threatened — exactly the tactic that the right has used against abortion providers. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Raichik has targeted multiple hospitals this year. After earning a weeklong suspension for violating Twitter’s policies prohibiting hateful conduct, Raichik only vowed to double down. “We are not just reporting on this,” said Walsh in a tweet. “We are going to put a stop to it.”

Among the items posted by Libs of Tik Tok about Akron Children’s Hospital is an article with a photo of a 13-year-old girl. Her hair is long and blonde and she’s posed, smiling, next to a horse. They’re sharing a blanket — red, with a white snowflake pattern. The article says that this teenager knew from age 3 that she was transgender, and that with the help of the providers at Akron Children’s, she was able to become her true self. 

She’s a cheerleader. She rides horses. She says that she didn’t want to develop facial hair or for her voice to deepen. This is a story familiar to many trans people. A 2022 study from Stanford Medicine showed that trans people who accessed gender-affirming care as teenagers were less likely to experience major mental or substance abuse disorders than those who were denied care or forced to wait until adulthood.

But for Chaya Raichik, this is a horror story, and her 1.3 million followers flooded the article with hate, misgendering the trans girl and calling her “Buffalo Bill in the making,” a reference to the serial killer from the 1991 horror film The Silence of the Lambs. The article from Akron Children’s closes with a line from that teenager: “If you’re transgender, show it. Tell people,” she said. “It will help other transgender people feel not so alone.” The article has since been deleted.

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Ari Drennen is the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, where she has worked since January 2022. She has a bachelors degree in political science and economics from Middlebury College. Previously she worked at the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters

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

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