A Media Blackout on Anti-Queer Violence

A story in the LA Times says “violence erupts” at a school board meeting in Glendale, California, over LGBTQ rights. If this seems weirdly passive for a news report about political violence, that is because it is. A fascist gang was upset the school board decided for the fourth year in a row to recognize pride month and its queer students, and some of those gang members assaulted the parents and friends of queer youth who were there to show support. You wouldn’t know that from the paper’s framing – violence, to them, is something that just sort of appeared, as if magma were emerging from earth, and was certainly not planned and advertised by a group of far-right influencers and media figures who are mobilizing anti-queer violence as an election strategy.

The paper’s weird passivity in the face of this violence reveals some broader shortcomings of how American media is covering the rise of anti-queer fascism in America – and puncturing the myth that the news media is, despite the myths to the contrary, capital-L or lowercase-L liberal.

This isn’t the only incident, and I’ll pick on Los Angeles a bit to show that this is not just an artiface of the east coast media giants. When the LA Dodgers, who were in hot water for letting Florida Senator Marco Rubio veto their pride partners, finally hosted their actual pride night, there was a big gathering of fascist queerphobes in protest. A whole panoply of violent extremists organized and then attended the protest march, many of which helped to storm the Capitol on January 6.

These “protesters” (who, let us be clear, are consumed with hatred for queer people merely existing, not for anything we do as people) even got a fun little signal boost from the Harry Potter lady:

JK Rowling is now retweeting 3%ers

And yet, the involvement of fascist gangs in organizing and then carrying out these “protests” about acknowledging queer people simply do not appear in media coverage. And it’s part of a larger pattern of dismissing queer lives and the violence being openly organized against us. Consider this story in the Washington Post:

Washington Post headline portraying state persecution as feelings

It takes a rather serious phenomenon – a state passing laws specifically to persecute queer people for existing – and reduces it to a matter of personal feelings. Buried in the story are examples of people being directly harmed by laws and fleeing, but it is bracketed with quotes from Ron DeSantis dismissing their concerns and calling it a stunt. The reality of Florida’s laws – a genocide of queer people, as Daily Wire personality Michael Knowles said, to cheers, at CPAC last year – is missing. Where is that context for these laws? Why is it framed as a personal struggle for the people who are harmed by it?

There are exceptions. ABC News actually framed this story accurately: genocidal state persecution. But it’s notable for how rare such clarity is!

The tendency of national media, especially but not exclusively on the east coast, to downplay or even ignore anti-queer violence is disquieting. The New York Times saw a wave of bomb threats and personal threats of violence against Target employees and decided to call it “criticism and backlash” without acknowledging the goddamn bomb threats. The AP went to so far as to edit out references to violence in their coverage – deliberately choosing to not highlight the fact that this is not some abstract debate but a campaign of terror.

The AP erases anti-queer terrorism

I mean, look at these stories by retail employees having to decide whether to risk getting murdered at work or keeping silent while bigots insult and abuse them. It should be unacceptable in a modern society, yet it is covered by major news organizations like some college debate.

At this point, there is no excuse for declining to cover the violence. (Edit: After posting, I saw this New Republic piece on the Dodgers rally, which dryly observed that the hate-filled statements shrieked by a crowd openly agitating for violence “have not made the headlines they ought to have after this protest.” No shit, but I’m glad they’re noticing it too, at least.)

Anyway, mainstream press outlets to ignoring this open campaign of violence is deliberate – it is telling LGBTQ Americans that our lives do not matter in the newsroom. America is in the midst of a campaign of terror against queer folk – openly organized by right wing influencers – and it still barely merits a brief mention at the bottom of a story, if we are lucky.

I desperately want to write about something, anything else. But… I also am furious that I now have to risk bludgeoning and death when I go buy paper towels at a retail store, because no one is treating this seriously. To call this journalistic malpractice, as I have for the previous years the east coasties spent trying to downplay the fascism of the Trump administration, is not enough. Calling it a media failure is not enough. That’s too passive. This is deliberate. The editors of the major newspapers will not acknowledge the terorrism against us. They will not accept that we are people and deserve to live in peace – and they are actively siding with the fascists. It is simply unacceptable. Infuriating. And we will not forget how badly the press has betrayed us.

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