Wednesday, December 28, 2022

History Has a Stutter

So Chaya Raichik--the insurrectionist, stochastic terrorist, and all around sick fuck behind Libs of TikTok--went on Tucker Carlson's show, and the result was as vile as you would imagine: For those of you who aren't among The Olds, Anita Bryant was a middle-of-the-road pop singer who, in 1977, channeled her hate into overturning Dade County's new anti-discrimination ordinance (her campaign was, alas, successful) and then took her anti-gay vitriol nationwide.

As Caraballo notes, Raichik is fully as hateful as Bryant--and the parallels don't end there. The poisonous core of Raichik's message--that LGBTQ people are "grooming" children--is exactly what Anita Bryant was saying 45 years ago:
"The recruitment of our children is absolutely necessary for the survival and growth of homosexuality… for since homosexuals cannot reproduce, they must recruit, must freshen their ranks."
And both Bryant and Raichik illustrate the point that when reactionaries are losing, they escalate. Things were changing rapidly in the '70s: homosexuality was removed from the DSM-II in 1973; shows like All in the Family and Maude had awkward but ultimately sympathetic portrayals of gay characters (though casual homophobia was still a staple of TV); and equality had some political successes, including the anti-discrimination ordinance in Dade County. Bryant embodied the angry backlash to all of this.

Today's climate is the result of further rapid change in a positive direction. A majority of states have some form of anti-discrimination laws on the books; marriage equality is the law nationwide, for now; and substantial majorities support most aspects of LGBTQ equality.

So Raichik and her cohort turn the hate up to 11, and we see the kind of aggressive bigotry we that we last saw in the late '70s. But this time there's an insidious twist: where Bryant attacked LGBT people in general, Raichik targets individuals--with predictable results. They can't win the culture war, or (probably) the political war, but they've figured out that at little cost to themselves they can try to make the rest of us live in fear.

The Anita Bryant story had a happy ending: she immolated her career (and eventually went bankrupt) with her reactionary crusade. Chaya Raichik is a niche player who never depended on mainstream acceptability, and the right-wing media ecosystem is now sophisticated enough to sustain her indefinitely. (Plus, she still has people like Bari Weiss running interference for her.) In other words, she's going to be around a while, and even if her base is shrinking (as I hope it is), with her model she can keep doing a tremendous amount of damage.

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