Washington, DC – The horrific shooting at Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ+ Club Q this past weekend follows a sustained and growing pattern of vile right wing rhetoric that dehumanizes community members and courts political violence: the same dangerous pattern we’ve seen in attacks against the immigrant community and other violence inspired by white supremacist conspiracies. Weaponized rhetoric and easy access to guns have again combined to end the lives of people the Republican Party and right-wing media have identified as threats throughout the campaign season, with anti-LGBTQ+ messages and anti-immigrant messages backed by tens of millions of advertising dollars.
America’s Voice’s ad tracking project found hundreds of paid communications that employed transphobic and anti-LGBTQ+ content, with many specifically demonizing drag shows and hundreds more that echoed the white nationalist conspiracies of multiple domestic terrorists.
Preceding the Colorado Springs attack, two important stories captured the dangers of mainstreaming such dangerous rhetoric.
An important New York Times editorial, “There Are No Lone Wolves,” highlighted the right wing’s continued mainstreaming of white supremacist ideology, including the great replacement theory, and its link to real-world violence:
“Extremists succeed when they have access to power — be that positions of power, the sympathy of those in power or a voice in the national conversation. They should be denied all three … During his time in office and in the years since, Mr. Trump and his political allies have not only encouraged political violence, through their silence or otherwise, they have also helped bring explicitly white supremacist ideas like the “great replacement” into mainstream politics and popular culture.
…Stephen Miller, a senior official in the Trump administration, once recommended the [racist and nativist “The Camp of the Saints”] book to the staff of Breitbart when he was a Senate aide, according to emails obtained by the A.D.L. [Anti-Defamation League]. A former Iowa congressman known for defending white supremacy, Steve King, has said that everyone should read it.
The idea of hostile replacement by immigrants has gained currency and some acceptance around the world, even after inspiring mass killers in New Zealand and Buffalo, Norway and South Carolina. Extremists driven to murder are a tiny fraction of those who subscribe to racist ideologies, but the mainstreaming of their ideas can make the turn to violence easier for some.”
In the Texas Tribune, William Melhado writes: “Gov. Greg Abbott embraces “invasion” language about border, evoking memories of El Paso massacre,” following Abbott’s official declaration last week that Texas is being “invaded”:
“To many Hispanic and Latino Texans, the word ‘invasion’ brings a particular horror to mind. It’s the same word the gunman in El Paso invoked in 2019 in a hate-filled manifesto about immigration — posted just before he killed 23 people.
…for many who remember the racist attack in El Paso and the shooter’s manifesto, the word still held meaning. Then, Abbott faced criticism for the rhetoric he used in a fundraising letter sent one day before the shooter targeted and shot Hispanics at a Walmart. The letter called on supporters to “DEFEND” the border against efforts by Democrats to “transform” Texas through illegal immigration. Abbott later apologized about the mailer and said ‘mistakes were made.’ He said he talked to members of the El Paso legislative delegation in the shooting’s aftermath and ‘emphasized the importance of making sure that rhetoric will not be used in any dangerous way.’
… ‘He knows what he’s doing, and he’s courting political violence for his own political fortunes,’ said Zachary Mueller, a political director with immigration rights group America’s Voice.”
Following the Colorado Springs murders, observers have been highlighting the context of the deadly attack. As the Washington Post noted, “Club Q shooting follows year of bomb threats, drag protests, anti-trans bills,” including the observation that, “an independent analysis by the research group Crowd Counting Consortium shows that right-wing demonstrators have increasingly mobilized over the past year against the LGBTQ community.” In a detailed assessment at Daily Kos, David Neiwert calls the attack, a “predictable result of the right’s anti-LGBTQ stochastic terrorism,” with example after example.
The following is a statement from Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“Our hearts go out to the victims in Colorado Springs, their loved ones, and the broader LGBTQ+ community again targeted with horrific violence. This latest terrorist attack didn’t occur in a vacuum and took place after a sustained effort by right-wing activists and too many Republican lawmakers to falsely portray the community as a threat.
In fact, during this election cycle, the GOP and allies like Stephen Miller spent tens of millions of dollars on a politicized version of anti-LGBT messaging, with a particularly vile focus on drag shows and the trans community. It’s not a coincidence that Miller and many of the same voices are also among the leading anti-immigrant agitators, helping to move the white nationalist movement from the margins to the mainstream.
We all need to recognize the throughline between the recent violence against Paul Pelosi, the shootings in Buffalo and El Paso and Pittsburgh, and this weekend’s attack at Club Q. Dehumanizing individuals and entire segments of society with hateful rhetoric courts political violence. Republicans have a choice whether they will expel those in their party who continue to espouse the rhetoric that has a real and growing body count or remain silent as others are killed and the terrorist attacks continue.”