Mr. Missdirection (or: How Berlingske learned to stop worrying and love the violence)

Findings

This is a tough post to write for two reasons.

First, it’s just one more example of something I’ve chronicled many times already.

Second, it makes me so angry I have to fall back on my Clemens quote:

“A man can’t write successful satire unless he be in a calm judicial good humor,” [Clemens] remarked to Howells in 1879 apropos of Old Masters and Wagnerian opera. “I don’t ever seem to be in a good enough humor with ANYthing to satirize it; no, I want to stand up before it and curse it, and foam at the mouth — or take a club and pound it to rags and pulp.

I don’t feel that way about everything, but I certainly feel that way about Berlingske’s USA correspondent Mikkel Danielsen.

Cops stopped a moving car near Pride Party: They got an eerie surprise when they opened the back door
Mikkel Danielsen, Berlingske.dk, Jun 15

The subject of the article is certainly worthy of coverage (although it quickly wanders away from defensible news coverage to leftist propaganda). What’s striking is the date: June 15th was one full week after the foiled assassination of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and Berlingske’s USA correspondent Mikkel Danielsen still hadn’t (and still hasn’t) mentioned it once.

That’s especially egregious here, insofar as he uses the bust in Idaho as a springboard to a broader contemplation of the rising threat of political violence in America as a function of the rising amount of violent rhetoric… from the right.

June 8: Leftwinger Nicholas Roske, who has traveled all the way from California to Maryland to assassinate Brett Kavanaugh, is arrested lurking around the justice’s home with guns, ammo, zip ties, duct tape, and other tactical gear.

June 11: A van full of “Patriot Front” rightwingers on their way to disrupt a Pride parade in Idaho is arrested: the van contains “bulletproof vests, shields, long metal pipes, a smoke grenade.”

June 15: Berlingske publishes an article by their chief US correspondent about the June 11 event.

They’re both newsworthy, obviously, but their political significance isn’t even on the same scale.

Nicholas Roske has been charged with attempted assassination. The crew in the van has been charged with “conspiracy to start a riot,” a misdemeanor, which Danielsen himself describes as “a minor offense.”

I’ve never heard anyone describe assassination as a minor offense.

So let’s be clear: in the crazy, mixed-up world of Mikkel Danielsen and Berlingske, the story of a “minor offense” having to do with a parade out in Idaho is bigger and more important than the attempted assassination of a Supreme Court justice.

Here’s how Danielsen segues into the bigger picture:

Something has happened in the right wing chat groups

On Saturday, five men belonging to the right-wing nationalist group Proud Boys stormed into a library on the outskirts of San Francisco.

Here, drag queen Panda Dulce was in the process of holding an event where she reads books to kindergarten children.

Proud Boys members shouted at Panda Dulce and accused her of being a “pedophile,” writes ABC News. Police are now investigating whether it was a hate crime.

Earlier this month, scuffles and heated arguments erupted when several right-wing groups—not necessarily extremists—showed up at a bar in Dallas where drag queens danced with children during a so-called “family-friendly drag queen brunch,” writes the local media WFAA .

One of the protesters was wearing a megaphone wearing plastic gloves, so he “did not get AIDS,” as he shouted. He accused both drag queens and the participating parents of being “groomers.”

Jon Lewis spends many working days trawling through 4Chan, Telegram and other forums and messaging services where the far right communicates.

“There is a war rhetoric against LGBT people—and especially trans people—that I have not seen so strongly before,” he warns.

“It looks like a spillover from the national debate.”

Got that? A bunch of guys interrupted a drag queen story hour to shout mean things, and also a nasty bunch of protestors said mean stuff at a family-friendly drag queen brunch at a gay bar. (Danielsen doesn’t identify it as a gay bar, but the bar itself does.)

That’s “war rhetoric.”

It seems to me there’ve been plenty of other recent examples of fringe political extremists injecting themselves into otherwise peaceful events to shout mean things and wreak havoc: for example, the throngs of protestors congregating outside the private homes of Supreme Court justices. Or the thugs who wreaked havoc across the country in the summer of 2020. Or the maniacs who disrupted the Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett nomination hearings. Or the criminals who’ve been vandalizing and firebombing pro-life pregnancy support centers since the Dobbs opinion leaked. Going further back there was the guy who showed up at a Congressional Republican baseball game and opened fire… but those things all happened under the radar, I guess. Just like the attempted assassination of Brett Kavanaugh.

Before I go on, here’s a picture of Panda Dulce, courtesy of Buzzfeed:

What guy doesn’t want to be surrounded by children when dressed like that?

And is that actually even supposed to be drag, or are we looking at Fido, the San Francisco Giants Fan Dog?

Which could be kind of fun for kids, I guess, except: why is Fido stacked? And why the exaggerated human lips instead of a snout? And why bring a canine baseball mascot to a drag queen story hour?

Panda Dulce may be a little freaky, but he’s perfectly entitled to fly his freak flag without fearing for his safety. I have no doubt there are anti-gay and anti-trans extremists crawling around the dark corners of the internet; it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on any of them that seem inclined to violence.

But the anti-conservative extremists don’t need to use encrypted or hidden messaging platforms: they come right out and preach their hate and thinly-veiled incitements to violence in White House press conferences, at massive public rallies, in press releases, in statements from the well of the senate, in newspaper editorials, in news broadcasts. They do it on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram.

There’s a “war rhetoric” against conservatives like I’ve never seen before, and what’s most chilling about it is how normalized it’s become.

I quoted the senate majority leader last week (“I want to tell you Gorsuch. I want to tell you Kavanaugh… You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price! You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions!”), but that was merely a drop in the bucket.

Whether Schumer walked it back later is irrelevant: he wouldn’t have had to if he hadn’t said it in the first place—in public and to the cheers of his crowd. Did the people cheering him on—the people he was inciting—walk back their cheers?

Can Jon Lewis point to the Republican legislators, politicians, celebrities, pundits, or other high-profile figures actually advocating violence against homosexuals or transsexuals? Or anyone else, for that matter?

Is there a soundbite from a Republican Senator warning any Americans that “they will pay the price,” and “won’t know what hit them?”

Of course not: if there were, it would have been the only thing we heard about for weeks, if not months.

And by the way: the very existence of “a (gay) bar in Dallas where drag queens danced with children during a so-called ‘family-friendly drag queen brunch,’ ” strikes me as a whole lot stranger than the idea that there’d be people objecting to it. Whence this sudden rush to normalize drag among children? To bring them into bars?

Berlingske’s man in the USA has some thoughts on that.

The fight for transgender rights is right now one of the hottest front lines in the American Cultural War.

Do tell.

Conservative parents, Republican politicians and Fox News stars accuse the left, which is heavily preoccupied with sexual minorities, of destroying American family values. They fear that schools are “indoctrinating” their children through the increased focus on sexual identities in education and family events such as “drag queen brunch.”

Say what you will about Danielsen, but you almost have to admire how much dishonesty and misdirection he can cram into a single paragraph.

Notice, for example, the weird construction of the first sentence: “heavily preoccupied with sexual minorities” is tossed off as an appositive, but what does it actually mean? He doesn’t say. The phrase “sexual minorities” is supposed to sound clinical enough not to warrant further investigation. I understand the use of that phrase with respect to homosexuality: that is, indeed, a sexual minority. But are drag queens a “sexual minority?” Because “drag queen” isn’t a sexuality. Draq queens can be gay, straight, bisexual, whatever. Theoretically, anyway. Because drag isn’t a sexuality; it’s just men dressing up as women—and most often as absurd caricatures of women.

What does it actually mean that the left is “heavily preoccupied with sexual minorities,” and why is Danielsen content to acknowledge it so breezily? I don’t disagree with him, but I suspect our interpretations of the phrase may differ.

We know the global left is pushing very hard right now to normalize drag and transsexuality, and to redefine sex, sexuality, and gender. We know it because they say so. Out loud. All the time.

They’re really quite insistent.

So when Danielsen’s antagonists—conservatives, Republicans, Fox News stars—”fear” that schools are “indoctrinating” children in the ways he describes, he’s a little off the mark. They don’t fear these things: they notice them. They see them happening. And they object to them.

A “drag queen brunch” is not a thing any child needs. What are children doing in bars, anyway? The bar in question was Mr. Misster—see what they did there?—and the event that caused all the fuss was their “Drag the Kids to Pride” event two weeks ago:

I’m old enough to remember when telling someone you were looking forward to the weekend because you were taking your kid to a drag show at a gay bar would get you a visit from child protective services.

Now it’s the hot new thing that only monsters and neanderthals could possibly oppose.

If a man wants to wear a dress, that’s a fashion choice. I don’t care. High heels, earrings, whatever. It starts getting weird, though, when you get to the point where men are pretending to be women—especially when the very people and institutions telling us that drag is good clean fun are simultaneously calling drag queens a “sexual minority” and telling us that it’s impossible to define what a woman is.

(Drag queens: the sexual minority of men pretending to be something that cannot be defined but inevitably has massive breasts.)

I concede that anyone showing up at a gay bar in gloves and shouting that it’s “so he won’t get AIDS” is a nasty piece of work. There’s at least one jerk out there. Did he or any of his accomplices have any weapons? Were any of them violent? Did any of them threaten violence?

I guess not, or we’d have heard about that.

Eighteen Republican states have banned transgender girls from practicing girls’ sports in schools since transgender swimmer Lia Thomas broke several records in Pennsylvania.

Fifteen states have enacted or are considering laws banning sex reassignment therapy for people under the age of 18—that is, hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery.

In Texas, the governor has issued a decree ordering the authorities to investigate parents who allow their children to receive sex reassignment treatment for child abuse. The decree has so far been kicked to the corner by a court, Bloomberg writes.

Fox News’ biggest star, Tucker Carlson, and several Republican politicians have often accused opponents of these laws of being “groomers”—a term that covers abusers who build relationships with children to sexually abuse them.

“If you do not want to be called a groomer, do not sexualize six- or seven-year-olds,” Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance said the other day.

This is the stuff Danielsen delivers right after the last chunk quoted above. There’s nothing in between.

Let’s review: 18 states have banned biological men from competing against biological women in scholastic sports (breaking news: the world’s governing body for swim competitions, FINA, just did the same thing); fifteen states want to ban legal minors from sex-change surgery until they’re legal adults; the governor of Texas tried to have parents who permit sex-change operations on their underaged kids investigated for child abuse; and some Republicans call opponents to these laws “groomers.”

We were talking about violence, weren’t we? About incitements to violence? About the unprecedented “war rhetoric” coming from the right?

And we get a laundry list of policy initiatives.

None of it strikes me as radical or hateful; it sounds more like concern for the welfare of biologically female athletes and for confused children. We don’t let minors drink, smoke, vote, or join the army, but we’re supposed to let them mutilate themselves for life? Reasonable people can disagree on these things, as they do on so many other issues.

Then we get to this:

During the election campaign for a recent Republican primary election for a congressional seat in South Carolina, a Republican candidate—Rev. Mark Burns—proposed “executing” the “LGBT and transgender people who groom our children.” He received 23 percent of the Republican vote in the district.

First of all, the video is embedded in the article and while it’s certainly loopy it’s not quite as cut-and-dried as Danielsen makes it sound. I don’t want to defend Rev. Burns, but it seems from the clip as though he’s saying that the crowd Danielsen euphemized as “heavily occupied with sexual minorities” is somehow committing treason against the United States, and if he were elected he would bring back HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee) and hold trials to hold any traitors accountable and put those found guilty of treason to death “just like we did in 1776.”

That’s crazy talk, no question, and I don’t support any of it, but it’s not a simple proposal to round up and execute gay and trans people who groom children, as Danielsen’s phrasing implies.

Also, as Danielsen notes, the guy lost. The Republicans in his district rejected him. It’s a hell of a reach to pull one rejected congressional candidate’s unhinged rant into an article purporting to trace the outlines of inciteful rhetoric emanating from prominent conservatives.

Right-wing rhetoric seems to be picked up by the extremist groups, says Jon Lewis.

“Look at the 31 radicalized men in Idaho. They showed up because established politicians and right-wing media had determined that Pride celebrants are dangerous groomers.”

Jon Lewis knows why the guys in Idaho showed up: because of all the things conservatives said.

Danielsen plops that quote out there without any editorial adornment, as though it were a legitimate point that could stand on its own, unsupported by anything else (for example, evidence).

Let’s assume that’s true. Let’s assume that the only reason they wanted to disrupt the parade was because of things that Tucker Carlson and JD Vance and other conservatives had said. Let’s join forces with Jon Lewis and Mikkel Danielsen in their assertion that there’s a clear, direct, causative line between conservative rhetoric and the wicked intentions of the guys in Idaho who were charged with misdemeanors. And the jerks disrupting all those family-friendly drag brunches.

And suddenly we understand why Mikkel Danielsen can’t write about the assassination attempt four days earlier: because he himself is to blame. By his own logic, it was his leftwing rhetoric that caused Nicholas Roske to load up his murder kit and cross the nation to kill Brett Kavanaugh.

Jon Lewis praises the police in Coeur d’Alene for intervening quickly.

“But the pride season has only just begun,” he warns. Throughout the summer, a large number of large and medium-sized American cities hold Pride festivals.

“We have to hope that the police are ready next time too.”

Indeed we do: we cannot have Pride parties disrupted.

But here’s hoping the police can take some time away from their vigilant protection of Pride parades to prevent Supreme Court justices from being assassinated.

And that Berlingske’s USA correspondent can take some time out from covering the scary rhetoric inspiring parade disruptions to start covering the scary rhetoric inspiring Supreme Court assassinations.

NOTE: On June 17, Berlingske ran an opinion piece by Troels Heeger entitled “The American right wing has a hate problem with sexual minorities.” It is virtually indistinguishable from the Mikkel Danielsen article discussed in this post, citing all the same examples and making all the same points—but spends a few paragraphs describing how much better things are in Denmark.

A Berlingske search on the word “Kavanaugh” still returns only the wire service article posted on June 8.

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