How conservatives launder their hate into the mainstream

How conservatives launder their hate into the mainstream
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Sometime earlier this year, I asked my sister what a “woke” and “anti-woke” person was. She didn’t know. She had some vague sense of what it meant to be “woke” and tried in vain to derive “anti-woke” from that starting point: “Is it … not being woke?”

Of course, I knew what the terms meant. I had been raving like a madman about the problem of “anti-wokes” – people who are against what they see as the excesses of social justice – for months!

I asked my sister about critical race theory (CRT) around the same time. Again, she didn’t know. Of course, I did. The year before, I had already been a part of several conversations. I even had one with the Editorial Board’s own Mia Brett on my YouTube channel.

Yet my younger sister, a high school math teacher, was oblivious to these terms. I suspect I could have asked her what “gender critical” was. Or “viewpoint diversity.” Or “immutable characteristics.” The answer would have been the same.

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In this fragmented media environment, she had not stumbled into the communication spaces that trafficked these ideas. She doesn’t read publications like Quillette and Areo. She doesn’t listen to podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience. She does not subscribe to Jesse Singal substacks. She doesn’t support organizations like New Discourses.

These spaces are occupied by PhDs, doctors, lawyers, accomplished writers and successful podcasters. They say they want to have honest conversations and get at the truth. They often talk in terms of science, logic and reason. To avoid a conservative label – a label that is often at odds with science – they may call themselves “true liberals.”

But many of the narratives produced in this space have the impact of undercutting disadvantaged groups they focus on. These narratives also become talking points for conservatives, even those people on the far right. In this way, they launder hate. I’ll give two examples.

“I am a gender-critical person with concerns about rapid-onset gender dysphoria”
If you’re like me, and you’re not in tune with the evolving discussions around gender, you may consider yourself gender-critical in that you believe it’s a critique of how gender has been used to oppress people.

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But no.

Being gender-critical means that one is against legal reforms that would have sex or gender be a matter of self-identification. Gender-critical people maintain that what makes someone a man or a woman is materiality – do they possess a penis or a vagina?

They claim this is not about hurting trans people, but instead protecting what they see as actual women. Do you want someone who only says they are a woman leering at women in a bathroom?

You will rarely see gender-critical folks make any claims to be anti-trans. Instead, you might see video clips of Abigail Shrier or Dr. Deborah Soh speaking with Joe Rogan about the controversial concept of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). ROGD, in simple terms, is a social media-influenced “contagion” spreading among young girls, where they are being influenced into declaring themselves as trans and taking steps to transition. Well, clearly this is not about hurting trans people, the logic goes. Instead, it is about using science to protect vulnerable youth from making disastrous decisions.

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But there is a lot of harm in this narrative that may not be obvious if you are a neophyte to these conversations. By clinging to the notion that only people with vaginas are women, or only people with penises are men, you are, in effect, erasing people who don’t fit that criteria.

Or consider people who believe the ROGD narrative. By denying a young person’s request to begin transition, they are forcing that person to suffer, simply because they believe the young person has watched too much YouTube. As a side note, there is significant controversy surrounding ROGD – to the point where the research underpinning it had to be retracted and republished, emphasizing that ROGD was not an established diagnosis. Gender-critical folks have cleaned a dirty anti-trans narrative for the general public.

“This is true equity”

The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, or FAIR, claims it is “a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all Americans, and promoting a common culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity.”

The organization’s main page uses images of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Its highly accomplished supporters include Daryl Davis, the Black musician who deradicalized Klu Klux Klansmen, and Coleman Hughes, the Black podcasting Manhattan Institute fellow on the Forbes “30 under 30” list.

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This group is ready to push us forward as a society. Right? I mean … King! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is right there on the main page!

A recent video released by FAIR shows that even with King on the main page, or especially with King on the main page, hateful ideas can be cleaned and presented to the public. In the video entitled “Misguided ‘Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion’ Harms Science” Colin Wright, once in the academy but now an editor for Quillette magazine, narrates his frustration with being asked by universities to care about diversity:

As an academic, I care more about fostering diversity of thought and advancing science than caring about people’s immutable characteristics.

And later:

I hire candidates who happen to be the best candidates for the job. That’s true equity.

This sounds wonderful! But we know from research that Black candidates are often overlooked despite being equally qualified. I suspect this may be the case for Hispanic candidates. We know one’s social environment impacts educational outcomes, such that people growing up poor or lacking social networks will do less well in school. True equity actually means recognizing these conditions and addressing them through diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

FAIR is advocating against these efforts, as a consequence arguing for perpetuating systemic racism. And what of the notion that it is harming science – the video’s original premise? To my knowledge, there is no evidence that scientific production has been damaged by the last few decades of diversity efforts on college campuses.

My take on hate launderers
The people in these spaces will claim to be liberal and find conservative ideas problematic. They are often pro-choice, pro-legalization of marijuana, and many of them would support raising the minimum wage. They are accomplished, educated and make a big show of being rational. For this reason, the narratives in which they traffic do not have the stink and grime of hatred or bigotry.

But hate or bigotry wrapped in a patina of intellectualism is still hate or bigotry. And the thing is, the Republicans know it.

We don’t have to look further than how the term “woke” was leveraged. The negative narrative surrounding this term germinated in the spaces I am speaking about in this essay. You can do searches from 2019 and earlier and see podcasts and publications talking about the horrors of wokism well before Republicans began using it to smear anything they do not like. (As a side note: I lost a valued colleague in part because their research was smeared by conservative outlets as a “woke.”)

The same phenomena will occur with the anti-trans narratives honed in these spaces. It will be no surprise to me if suddenly, in 2022, Republican politicians will be scaring their voters with fears that their children will be tricked into wanting to cut their penises off.

And the hate cycle will continue.

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